Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Merry Christmas 2018 from SE Asia!

Friday, December 21, 2018
We have a nice dinner out at the end of the day. The fish says hello from the center plate in the Chinese restaurant. Claudia and I enjoy a visit with Jane, an architect working on a big Bandung project.

We light the fourth Advent candle (PEACE) before W speaks at the international church. He uses Dr Seuss' The Grinch who stole Christmas" as the parable and reads about Jonah in scripture.

"Is your heart two sizes too small?" he asks us. Peace comes from serving others with an open heart, which only God can give us.

After, we hang around in the sunshine, snacking, talking, loving on each other.
When W and I walk into the house, it's aglow with Christmas lights. It's become a bit overwhelming after a month of decorations. A few more days, I tell myself, but I don't light the tree in our bedroom. I have to think through details for the next few days - that takes visual and auditory quiet.

Monday: Christmas Eve
Someone gave us 4 rattan chairs without cushions. We head out early to the "foam street" and purchase a double mattress and a leftover piece. The shop cuts the longer pieces into cushion size, and W cuts the rest with box cutters later.
By 10, we've left traffic behind and are home. My trusty Bernina sewing machine comes out of the case. I check the bedding-fabric scraps Tessa and Veronica gave us. Some pieces are big enough for seat covers. I have a stash of zippers in a box. Ready or not, here we go.

The first three covers take a few minutes each. We break for lunch after I finish the third. Bad move.

With  the last one, a shape as easy as than the rest, it's fussy from start to finish. Grrr. I piece together smaller scraps. Oops, the fabric bunches and catches in the zipper seam; I have to rip it out and start over. One edge of fabric is 2" smaller so it needs a long scrap on one side. And then the cover is too big overall. I pull it tight on the foam form, pinch the overage with my fingers to approximate what I have to cut off, and go back to the machine. It fits well in the end.

All in all, it takes less time to sew than to explain the curves and rectangles to someone else, a few hours for custom-fitted covers. They'll eventually be the foam liners under upholstery fabric. There's time for a nap in the afternoon, so all is well.

We have some overnight visitors but I need to snooze. (I must rest between energy surges.) W greets them before we leave for a Candlelight Service.

Guests make up for the regulars who are traveling to celebrate with family. Eleven readers tell the Christmas story found in Matthew and Luke - they're old and young, from every continent but Antarctica.
The first reader is Caron. She's highly pregnant, appropriately reading Mary's part.

Except that she goes into labor in the afternoon, a few hours before service. It takes her and her husband an hour in traffic to reach the hospital. When they arrive, the nurses catch little Susy on her way into the world. She's too quick for a doctor.
And so I read Caron's part, after letting the congregation know what happened. We sing carols between scriptures. Then the lights dim and one candle is lit from the center of the Advent wreath. We pass the light back, candle to candle, row to row. "Jesus is the light of the world," we say to each other.
And we hang around the community snack table for another hour with family and friends, old and new.

W picks up my Christmas gift from the office: two lovebirds raised by Reza. They're beautiful - but I catch only a glimpse of them when we get home, put away everything from the evening out, and fall asleep.

Tuesday: Christmas Day 2018
By 5:00am, I give up on sleep and get to work in the kitchen. With no idea who or how many will show up, I have to cook a lot of food. The menu is finished by 9:30am (so I can nap again before people arrive).
I make a few dips for crackers so people can munch before the meal, too.
At 11:00, guests start arriving for the Open House Potluck. Everyone brings food to share.
Slowly the house starts to fill up. There are about 80 people, from 17 nations.
And of course, we have the annual White Elephant gift exchange. There's a lot of swapping and yelling and laughter.

 For quite a few, it's their first Christmas. Many of them have gotten to know each other at our place, and they're like our own kids.
  One group hauls out Uno cards and has a friendly competition.
 Others relax on the porch.
 The new chairs are great.
 "Can we do this again next year?" many guests ask us. We hope so! We plan to wrap up at 4, but first we shoot a group photo with whoever wants to be in it. We pile off the porch onto the lawn.
Young Ben plays fearlessly with Gypsy and Coco before his parents take a picture with us. Love this young family!
 The last group leaves just before 7pm. W and I are exhausted. We put most things in order and bring in the cushions so they don't get rained on. God was good - there was only a brief shower under a thunderous and dark sky. It is rainy season so the mostly-dry day was a gift from God.
One of the beautiful bouquets from BIC (flowers provided for decades by Fenny and her friend -  thank you!)
Two helpers arrived at 10:00am. By 8:00pm, they finish washing dishes and leave happy - with double Christmas pay, their White Elephant gifts, and lots and lots of leftover food to share with neighbors.

We can't leave food on the counter because of roaches and ants, so every day the kitchen has to be completely washed up and put away. (We would have worked until midnight without them.) The hot weather - 80+oF days, low 70oF nights - means food left out will spoil, too. Our candy canes on the tree have melted to a puddle of sugar at the bottom of the wrapper. "Baby, it's warm outside."

Before bedtime, we open a gift from WuJin, a dear Chinese friend. It's a beautifully packaged box of teas. Can't wait to try them!

Wednesday: Boxing Day
"Go to the bird market for any supplies," we're told. So we do. The two lovebirds have temporarily been in one of our two long metal canary cages; they'll eat through a wooden cage. Here, birds are not kept inside. The cages are hung outside on the porch, near the front door, or around the courtyard. We love the songs of our canaries, but the squawk of the bright little parrots adds a new dimension.

There's a section of town where you can buy birds and worms to feed them, lizards and rodents, civets (cats that poop out the famous Java coffee beans) and more. I inhale feather dust and bird poop and cough and cough. A drink of tea helps.
 A 2' lizard bakes in the sunshine.
 Civets eat fruit at the side of the road.
Maggots swarm a bucket, soon to be bird food.
W and I eat lunch at D'Cost overlooking South Bandung. We love this city.
Back home, the birds seem to enjoy the big cage we found at the bird market. W sets it up, adjusting the clips to make sure it won't fall apart.

Read more:
*And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
Nativity of the Lord — Isaiah 52:7–10; Psalm 98, Hebrews 1:1–4,(5–12); John 1:1–14
*In the Lord my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. Psalm 28:7
*An angel of the Lord stood before the shepherds, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:9-10
*[After rushing to Bethlehem to see what the angels said,] The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:20
*[When Jesus was dedicated in the temple as a baby,] Simeon took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation.” Luke 2:28-30
Moravian Prayer: Heavenly Father, the shepherds followed your signs to the manger to see your blessed Son and share the good news of his birth. May we continue to sing your praises as we experience your deep and abiding love for us. Thank you for this beautiful gift of Christmas, the truest form of grace.
Lord of heavenly armies, you are powerful enough to bring fear as you enter our lives. Yet, too, you are balm for the wounds of the world. Calm our fears to hear your message; send us forth to discover your good news and give us courage to share it.
Thank you for holding us so dearly. Stay with us always, for we cannot live alone. Embrace us when we need your touch. Gaze into our souls each time we need reassurance, and speak your promises until we see your salvation. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Almost Christmas - full of joy

WOOHOO - Christmas is almost here!

Sunday, December 16, 2018
The talk is simple today, since we have all the children in the hall, along with the adults. It's art Sunday, too. JOY is our topic. We put four tables around the hall and fill them with supplies for drawing, painting, and making ornaments.

Ibu Teti brings out her stash of crafts - and holds the mike to sing on the worship team ... from the back table.

The creativity is quite something

When we get home, I check on the 4.7 Kg (10 lb?) turkey brining in salt water in a stockpot. I make the stuffing for tomorrow.

There's a reason why we don't have turkey at every feast - it's imported and expennnnnssssive. This little one cost our friends $50US. Thanks for the generous gift, Bob and Riga! (EEEK. I'm missing Safeway or Albertsons of the past, where we bought a 10kg (22 lb) turkey for under $5?

I start before 6am, cooking the turkey, peeling potatoes, arranging plates, and doing other kitchen chores. Tabitha ties the cutlery into Christmas napkins and finds lots of ways to make the morning easier.

It's birthday time for three participants - plus we're hosting our annual Christmas lunch for study members. Everyone brings something along. I take a break between for an online call, which concludes after 9.

The peeled potatoes are smothered in the slow cooker by cream, garlic, and seasonings. I prep vegetables and - while the study wraps up - cut the turkey and make gravy.

The group calls me outside. They hand W and me an unexpected gift: an overnight stay at a local hot springs and resort. Oh my! I blink back tears at their generosity and love - it is just what W and I need.

Once everything is laid out and the table set, people stream into the kitchen. 17 of us sit around the dining table and squeeze into the nook (small compared to most of our home events). It's a party to fill the heart. Those we've come to love as our Indonesian family relax with us and we eat way too much together.

Ibu Sumi bakes 4 loaves of bread for us to take along on tomorrow's trip to Jakarta. The kitchen smells of fresh bread later into the night. We resist temptation and don't even pick at the loaves.

Tabi and I talk until after 9pm. When I get to our bedroom, I see a message reminding me to hop online for a meeting. Oh oh! I'm SO late. The host - my spiritual director - graciously comes back and spends over an hour with me. We wrap up at 10:45 - I am soooo tired! but by the time I get to sleep, it's almost midnight.

First thing, I pack up breads, jams, baskets and liners, and three White Elephant gifts. W carries our contribution to a fun event into the car. Waldemar, Tabitha, and I are on the way at 6am for Jakarta. Pak Gum drives as we snooze and read.

I've filled a bag with sliced apples and crackers, and have a thermos of tea to enjoy along the way. We curl up in the back seat but it's only 4.5 hours to the city. Not bad. There are construction holdups, accidents, and other slowdowns on the toll road and in the city, about 110 miles (160km) away. (Coming back takes five hours.)

IES Center is hosting an annual Christmas lunch downtown for staff and volunteers from various branches. It is SO good to see our friends again. There are many sweet little ones, babes in arms or little people running around - many of the young adults have married and started their families. We chat and laugh a lot: one of the activities is a White Elephant exchange - everyone takes a gift from under the tree in the lobby. Then the real fun begins. "You can open your own gift or take someone else's," Gigi explains.
W kindly bargains for something I like (not the unicorn costume, which is hilariously modeled by a teacher.) Tabitha, who no longer owns a CD player, gets a CD. (= a gift for our own Christmas exchange, I suspect.) With two beautiful bowls and a hand-painted nativity set in hand, we head out of the parking lot in the early afternoon.

Cars and motorcycles are honking at us: our rear tyre is flat. It thumps around and around until we find a place to pull over. The guys change the tire, and we're off again. We need to pump up the spare, so we pull into the first rest stop.

Meanwhile, the traffic is building. Cars and trucks weave in and out of lanes on the toll road. It starts to rain as we near Bandung. We're in the driveway before 7pm.

W and Tabitha walk to Alice and Dr H's, where the young adults are feasting together in their last meeting of the year. They're dropping off a fun "little something" with a group going to Australia to visit Scott and Sarah over Christmas.

When W and T return, we listen to "bad music" (yup, that's a genre in W's collection). And we laugh and laugh. Sometimes laughter is the healing response to a busy or heavy heart. We pray together about 10:30 pm and hug goodnight on the way to our rooms.
W says goodnight, walks to our bed, lies down, and falls asleep within a minute. I have to finish the blog - I'm so far behind. It's 11:30 before I wrap things up for the day.

I'm up at 5:30 with the light. The agenda is still not done for this morning's meeting at 9. But all is well when we meet in the office. W and I walk home, thankful for proximity to our neighborhood - that is such a blessing! Tabitha and Waldemar jump in the car for the airport after we have a short time together. She's on her way back home to Malaysia.

Tabitha was a very "easy guest," which we no longer take for granted. Guests can be demanding and unhelpful when life revolves around them and their needs. (You wanted "real" in the blog, right? Every host across the globe will say the same. "Please stay home if you're self-centered." Oops, was that too real or harsh?)

In contrast, Tabitha constantly surprised me; she found every opportunity to help, to hold something, or put food on a plate. What a great boost in a week where people were dropping by, where we provided hospitality for church, and where the unexpected kept popping up. What a blessing. I miss her already.
While W heads for town and a supper meeting, I sit on my bed and read. No, it's not uplifting or spiritual. I just read a novel and relax. I take a time-out.

At Monday's late-night meeting, I admitted to my spiritual director that high-intensity events and travels "cost me something." She noted my awareness was good; however, I needed to prioritize Sabbath in whatever form would help me recover. I do that easily. "Checking out" produces no guilt at all = I watched my dad nap after lunch and supper every day, and resume work in a "morning" mood. I also withdraw often in the busiest seasons, which keeps me refreshed for high surges of planning and activity.

We're up early but I can feel my knees are sore. While W walks in the hills with the dogs, I edit and send a book chapter to a publisher. I start in on a second chapter, but don't have it in me yet. I'll wait.

The helpers are going through the whole house one more time before Christmas guests arrive. Alice sometimes uses our upstairs rooms for Christmas overflow - she takes care of the needs and meals of her guests. When rooms are available, people come to stay for various reasons. It's part of our love of hospitality. And it's part of the giving season of Christmas, when God came among us as a baby, to love us and show us what the Father is like.

Read more:
*The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7 NKJV

*[Zachariah spoke over his son John:] And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. Luke 1:76-79 NIV

*[Simeon's words over the baby Jesus:] “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. Luke 1:68-75 NIV
*All who obey his commandments abide in God, and God abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us. 1 John 3:24
Moravian Prayer: Living Spirit, enter our hearts and stay for a while. Give us the simplicity we need to see you at work in the world and give us the wisdom we need to submit to you at work in our lives. Give us the sense we need to praise you forever. Amen

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Enjoying friends from abroad

The two Advent weeks of FAITH and JOY are past - and the final week of PEACE is coming this weekend. We've enjoyed so many friends dropping by, endless pots of tea and plates of cookies, crackers and dip, and other goodies. Here's how things unfolded the first week:

Sunday, December 9, 2018
W and I are happily back from Australia, and spoke at BIC about FAITH. Teti found some sheep hats for the nativity presentations (from past years) and after a goofy picture, we tucked them into the Christmas tree at the front of the hall. We'll have the kids look for them next Sunday.
After a good lunch, we drove across town with friends to cheer on a BIC family whose kids were marrying. The pool, the creative fashions, and the fabulous food made this an event to remember. Plus, there was no rain, an answer to prayer during rainy season.

Among other things, we get to see Suzan from the USA - she works for our alma mater and is doing teacher training workshops here. During an evening meeting, she has supper with Dr Hanna, who lives a few blocks away. After we're done, W and I stroll over to retrieve her and have tea together.

Suzan comes again - and we have lunch together with Wujin - a Chinese language teacher - and Paul, a high school teacher from town. 
In the afternoon, when we go shopping for supplies, it's hard to figure out how to get our buggy through the aisles. Boxes, carts, and supplies are stacked hither and yon - without space to get by. So we move what we can and squeeze past.
I join the walk for the first time in a long time. Today it's a tour of the Chinese parts of the city. We start from home shortly after 7am.

I'll post separately on what we saw. It's a large group - which means people wander off, dawdle while the rest wait, and generally there's a lot of standing ... between looking. Wonderful company though.
We have lunch together from 2-4:30.

In the evening, Waldemar picks up our Malaysian guest from the airport. It's wonderful to see Tabitha. We met a few times while W and I were teaching, and our kids love her. (She always makes tie for us and she knows pretty awesome food places in Kuala Lumpur!)

Baby Patricia bring her mom and dad and big brother Desmond over in the morning, along with another faculty family from a nearby university. What a precious gift this young one is!
We make sure to take a picture before they leave at 2.
One of our neighbors is flying to visit her family in Malaysia soon, so she wants to drop by to say hello. We're always missing each other, since she and we travel frequently. "It will take 5 minutes."

"Sure, how about 3 o'clock?" I respond.
And when she comes, we;ve grown to a group of seven. I thought I'd be catching up on paperwork, but a few others have gathered. We bring out a fresh teapot and a plate of baking. What an enjoyable visit.
 Much more happens, but I can't remember it all, a week later ... 

Read more:
*[God says,] "I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people." Isaiah 43:20

*This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:18-21 NIV

*Jesus cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me.” John 7:37
Moravian Prayer: Endless Spring, pour the cool water of your being into us—refresh our bodies, restore our spirits, revive our love and deliver us from everything dry and lifeless on our way—for you are the one we need; you are the one we adore forever. Amen.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

No Elf in sight? Oh wait!

It's hard to grasp that we are able to get to three distant places in a month: two in Indonesia, and then Australia. The world is a beautiful place. I'm still thinking about the "rivers" that run across the surface of the ocean. It's amazing to see the unity and harmony of creation on land, in the air, or in the sea.
Several people call to say they are praying for us. We appreciate that - and make prayer for others part of our daily routines. (This from Pursuit Church online. Good one, Angela.) 

Monday, December 3, 2018
We settle back into our city - with early conference calls, meetings, and unpacking. Of course, we have to go to the grocer: our fridge is pretty empty. The organic hydroponics delivery comes: 5 heads of lettuce and kale @$3.50, delivered. That won't be enough for movie night, but it's a good start. I count on the Monday "green" drop-off to fill our vegetable crisper for the week.

We're doing "Art as Worship" - on the Advent Sunday themed JOY. I look through some easy crafts, relaxing and getting back into my own body.

W heads for town for some groceries from the wholesaler. I'll be cooking tomorrow but I'm not in the mood today - I don't even want to think about a menu. We head to the office for our weekly meeting; there's a lot to discuss and a few things to decide for the Christmas festivities ahead.

Movie night tonight. Which means that whatever awful hour I wake up, I look at our groceries and decide what to make for dinner ... for about 70 people.

Today's menu:

  • spaghetti: first thing in the morning, I cook 3 kg of spaghetti, slather it with olive oil, and close the pot with a lid. It gets heated just before serving.
  • sausages in coconut curry - I bake the sausages, then make the curry and combine it in a big turkey roaster
  • nangka (jackfruit): picked yesterday and steamed by the helper. The glue-like sap requires gloves or newspaper under the hand as a barrier when it is peeled. It's not sticky after steaming. I open a package of pineapple sauce, add chili seeds and smoke flavor and a few more odds and ends. The foreigners love it; the local can't figure it out.
  • baso balls in Italian sauce: they look like meatballs and are usually eaten in soup. They're so filler-heavy that it's more like gnocchi with super-fine-ground meat. I boil them, bake them with sauce, and cut them up, before heating them in the late afternoon
  • the helpers make rice and cut fruit - and do the dishes I didn't get around to
  • chicken wings - already spiced, these just need to be baked
  • green salad - bright bowls of leaves, tiny carrots, cucumbers, mushrooms, bean sprouts, and cabbage with a sesame seed dressing
The guest list filled up Monday as soon as W posted the invitation. It gradually shakes out until today, to about 80 people. I think most of them turn up.

A bunch have December birthday, so they get to go first in the food line.
Clau asks if she should be the satpam nasa (rice security guard). Sure, good idea. She greets everyone with a smile and doles out a spoon of rice to everyone who wants it. Sometimes, the young men in line take 3-4 spoonful and the last ones get none. Within a few minutes, two big rice cookers are empty. She's planned well: there is one spoonful left at the end.

Some of the guests bring food - Dony even makes kimbap (sushi) and others bring snacks to share at break. Madeline takes pictures for me. Hands-free, I stand outside the kitchen and say hello.

We do our traditional readings, which we used to do with our whole family at Christmas. Each reader speaks clearly and gets a cheer at the end. And then we watch "Elf." Silly. Fun. With a message.

About 3/4 of the attendees are well known to us - we consider them our family. But there are many new people tonight as well. One student from Kazakhstan brings his guest over to introduce us. He laughs: "He didn't know why you were having so many people over. He didn't believe that you would feed us. And he didn't think it would be this much fun."

I ask the guest if he had a good time. He says he had a fantastic time. And he says he'll be back in January. Well, he will if he can sign up on time. Like the others who are practically shouting their conversations by the end, he finds friends, becomes part of several conversations, and can't wait to return.

At 10:30pm, the helpers desert us after wrapping up the garbage and mopping the floor - they'll be back to clean up properly tomorrow. (They're our lifeline - no way we could do this without staff.)

It's hilarious: in this selfie culture, the reaction to someone holding a camera is like tossing food in a koi pond. They swarm into the picture and make cute faces. I have to laugh.

After, there's quite a crowd waiting near the gate for Grab cars and motorcycles, a noisy and energetic meeting after the meeting. We remind them to go quietly through the neighborhood. The last group leaves around 11.
W and I putter until for a few minutes and go right to sleep.

I'm awake at 4:30 with a headache. I took a melatonin pill before sleep, forgetting that it always gives me a headache without any sleep benefit whatsoever. Anyone want the bottle? It's yours.

Might as well get to work. I clear out emails, have my devotions, and start sorting through the to-dos. ohhhh! I have a WhatsApp request from the masseuse - should she come today? She's in town. At $13 for 2 hours ... yes please, I'll splurge. It's just what I need after the long flights and yesterday's cooking marathon. My shoulders go down a little bit.

Read more:
*Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Luke 21:33
This week's readings — Jeremiah 33:14–16; Psalm 25:1–10
1 Thessalonians 3:9–13; Luke 21:25–36
*Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols. Ezekiel 14:6
*The scribe said to Jesus, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Mark 12:32-33
Moravian Prayer: Truest Love, our hearts cannot express our praise for you. Lead us away from the idols we falsely love. Steer us toward your desire for our lives and fill us with the desire to love you, your creation, our neighbors and ourselves. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.