Monday, April 20, 2015

The story in pictures

Too busy to write. Busy enjoying life with friends. Busy following the Call. Busy and happy. Life is good.

How many of these faces do you know?

Random Canadian: mukluks and parka. Yup, it's April.

Agreeing that the stormy 4'-square picture is a no-go in her dark apartment, Kirsten and I modified it with pastels.



We are enjoying Seattle so much that I haven't written. Doesn't mean we're not thinking about you though...
  • A friend received a special acknowledgement today. Hurrah!
  • We spoke at three venues in April and enjoyed each one.
  • We attended a few workshops.
  • Canada - especially, seeing our parents and siblings - was wonderful.
  • And girlfriends, thank you for making time to get together. My soul is filling up.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Kirsten in Austin

Easter Sunday we speak at TLC - The Living Church. It's an Indonesian gathering in Seattle with Pastor Herry Darmono as the host. I love the ending, a short play on the meaning and value of the cross.

We've made arrangements to eat with family, so we have to leave afterwards - with regrets. It's a wonderful time together.

We fly to Austin TX on Monday. It's our first visit together with Kirsten, our daughter. She makes a special late birthday effort with little pies from a local bakery. We eat at her favorite places, all of them interesting and yummy.

We have lunch with Ron Dugone, the 1970s NU alumni connector. He keeps everyone up-to-date on FB for birthdays, special requests, and other milestones.

Lunch is amazing and the dessert melts in our mouth.

The terrain of Austin is rolling hills. The parking lot stones look like nuts dusted with icing sugar.

And the plants are unusual.

We take pictures by an Austin landmark.

And have supper at a Thai - Southern fusion food stall.

The Sweet Chili Slaw - delicious.

 And the Mac and Cheese nothing short of stellar.

The week flies by - and then it's almost time to return to Seattle.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Friends and flowers

Pictures tell the tale:

Old but personal
I pack some artwork from the basement suite this week, to personalize our home in Indonesia.

Tuesday, March 31
We're at Northwest U in the morning and early afternoon for a seminar on balancing truth and grace for cultural hot-buttons such as sexual orientation and other issues. My takeaway includes the startling thought of how redefining words has historically been used to remove freedoms and abuse people. (For example, Stalin redefined those he intended to wipe out as "former persons" to be able to lock them away.)

Redefining marriage for the first time in human history changes the entire context and reason for marriage. It's also being used to persecute people of conviction and label them bigots and haters.

In the evening, we eat supper at Très Hermanos. Timo, Melissa, and the grandkids join us. Grandparents seem to be able to invent mischief without much repercussion. After a good meal, we let the grands splash in our water glasses to entertain them while we talk.

I can't believe I forget to take pictures with Marj and Julia, dear friends and writers. Julia and I meet at Starbucks and take goodies - gooey salted carmel bars of deliciousness - and tea to Marj's apartment. I love the time with these dear women!

W picks me up for lunch with another long-time friend, Rich. It's so great to hang out, to catch up, and get a great plate of pasta at the same time.

On the way back, we check out sewing machines at the local shop. Our daughter needs a lightweight model that's sturdy enough to last a while.

At 8am, Kim and I meet.

She has to leave early, but exchanges a few hugs and howdies with the other women at 9, before heading off to work.

These are women I admire and do life with, women of passion and calling.

After that, I drive to Molbaks for time with one of my best friends, Martha. Just over two years ago, we sat together and she asked if I was interested in moving to Indonesia. Well, yes, I was. That conversation - and her husband's subsequent one with W later that week - changed the trajectory of our lives.

She and I always have lots to talk about and this morning's setting is gorgeous. Lunch in the little café is refreshing. It almost feels like the tropics: the large leaves of vines and shrubs - and the orchids - around us make me feel at home.

I fill a bag with vegetable and herb seeds, looking forward to growing fresh greens when I get home! The gardener comes a few days a month to hack back the abundant foliage. I wonder what he'll think of the new plants.

Friday: Good Friday. 
That's always a special day on our calendar. Time to reflect, renew, to be grateful for Jesus. How can we imagine giving up our life for others? We look to the cross, our model of sacrifice and service.

W and I spend the morning with a family that hopes to stay with us for a while. Their hopes for SAFE travels together (Serve / Adventure / Food and Fun / Education) make our hearts sing. Plus Laura bakes fantastic banana muffins to enjoy with our cups of coffee and tea. She sends me the recipe later in the day.

After a quick stop at the Kirkland Library, we drive home. I need to unwind from this week's many conversations and sights. It's also my writing day - from newsletters and blogs to other interactions.

We work on the talk for Sunday before W heads out to coffee with a friend. Then he drives to Seattle to spend the night on a boat with guy friends. He'll have breakfast followed by another coffee group in the morning. It's safe to say that he's officially our socialite.

Our granddaughter jumps all over the bed, looking for the hot water bottle and her blanket as I hide them. It's so much fun to hear her squeal with joy when she finds them! and I'm tucking away memories, sounds, and the feeling of soft little-girl fingers and cheeks for when we're far away.

On this lovely day of remembrance, I take time for the contemplation I crave. The honor and the horrors of the cross fill my heart to overflowing.

Read more:
*Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, 

   and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:1-4 NIV

*And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” Matthew 20: 17-19 ESV 

*Darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus
cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" (which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?").

When some of those standing near heard this, they said, "Listen, he's calling Elijah."

Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. "Now leave him alone. Let's see if Elijah comes to take him down," he said.

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!" Mark 15:33-39  NIV

Moravian Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, as we come to you today in prayer and praise, we recognize you as our Creator, Defender, and Sustainer. Let us always remember what you suffered for the forgiveness of our sins. Amen.

From C. S. Lewis in The Great Divorce[One fictional character speaking to another about hell] 
"There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell choose it. Without that self-choice, there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek, find. To those who knock, it is opened.. . .

"Hell is a state of mind—ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly.” . .

"Hell is smaller than one pebble of your earthly world: but it is smaller than one atom of this world, the Real World. Look at yon butterfly. If it swallowed all Hell, Hell would not be big enough to do it any harm or to have any taste. . . .

“A damned soul is nearly nothing: it is shrunk, shut up in itself. Good beats upon the damned incessantly as sound waves beat on the ears of the deaf, but they cannot receive it. Their fists are clenched, their teeth are clenched, their eyes fast shut. First they will not, in the end they cannot, open their hands for gifts, or their mouths for food, or their eyes to see.”

“Then no one can ever reach them?”

“Only the Greatest of all can make Himself small enough to enter Hell. For the higher a thing is, the lower it can descend—a man can sympathise with a horse but a horse cannot sympathise with a rat. Only One has descended into Hell.”

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Passion Week begins

The stunning sky above on our travels
Western culture thinks of "passion" as a lustful surrender to our senses and desires.

For Christians, however, Passion Week means something entirely different. It is also called Holy Week, when we celebrate the surrender of God-with-us to his divine plan. As we move into Holy Week, let's focus on God's accomplishments - on our behalf.

Each year, I become more aware of the grace in which we live and move and have our being.

Sunday, March 29
We spend the morning with Ben and Lia at Elevation Church. We're on the front bench, always a strange disconnect for me. (I normally head for the back third of any gathering to take in the responses of those around me.) It's easier to focus on the music and the words this way though.

After we talk about the journey we're on, James gets up to speak. W was his thesis supervisor at Northwest U. It's encouraging to hear that James is planting a church in south Seattle. He reminds us that God wants us to respond to Him within the personality and setting He made. We may be quiet or exuberant, moving or still, singing or speaking or signing ... in the many ways we express our gratitude and praise to Him in worship, He is pleased.

Two toddlers MIA: one's napping, one's exploring
Our family lunch feels like the years of Sundays in the past. When we walk home from service in Indonesia, we are far away from this: our children and grandchildren are on the other side of the world. Our kids are busy - so this time is a treasured gift to us. Wonderful! But our daughter is missing from the circle. We can't wait to see her next week.

W looks at the calendar - almost full - and decides we should visit family in Canada. We're on the road early. The GPS shows 42 minutes for 45 miles. Amazing! (In Indonesia, we'd be delighted with100 minutes for 60 miles ... on a good day.)

Love my mom and dad!
We climb into the car on our regular sides: W's on the right, I'm on the left. However, the steering wheel has shifted sides, compared to our Indonesian vehicle. It moves from W's hands to mine on this trip  (thanks, hon) - and will shift back to his when we go home. (Indonesian traffic follows the British system of driving on the left.)

Women in the West take for granted the freedom of driving by themselves, of coming and going alone safely. I'm enjoying that and indulging in it - before we return to our new normal.

First we stop by my family in the Fraser Valley. Mom's tulips are in full spring bloom. My mom is thin and says she feels tired after a bad bout of flu this winter. It's great to hug her and Dad. They've purchased my favorite smoked sausage from the local butcher. Mom's baked apple pie! Oh yum! My brother and his wife drop by at lunchtime - of course we snap pictures to commemorate.

We pull out of the driveway without seeing my dear friend and a future partner. Next time.

A cheerful Kowalski selfie
Then it's off to a nearby city where W's family lives. His mom warmly welcomes us. I'm sleepy enough to catch a quick nap before we go to his sister's for supper. Sylvia plates up a thick stew and crisp salad and warm cake for her family and ours. We show pictures of our Bandung home. Talk about their life and ours. Pray. Hug. Create memories.

We are back on the road after dusk and home by 10. We tumble into bed with another cherished set of memories.

Read more:
*Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel. Deuteronomy 26:15 ESV

*Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?” Isaiah 29:15 NIV

*Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. Luke 1:68 NIV

*Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. Everything exposed by the light becomes visible. Ephesians 5:11,13 ESV

Moravian Prayer: King of Kings, your love for us can never be repaid. Let us praise your name and try to live the life that you offer us through the merits of your life, sufferings, death, and resurrection.

O Glorious Lord, free us from the blindness to your everlasting light shining before us, and never let us hide in darkness from the wondrous love and grace that you offer to us, your children. Amen.

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
[And this brings me to] the other sense of glory—glory as brightness, splendour, luminosity. We are to shine as the sun, we are to be given the Morning Star. I think I begin to see what it means. In one way, of course, God has given us the Morning Star already: you can go and enjoy the gift on many fine mornings if you get up early enough. What more, you may ask, do we want?

Ah, but we want so much more—something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves—that, though we cannot, yet these projections can enjoy in themselves that beauty, grace, and power of which Nature is the image. That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods.

They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can’t. They tell us that “beauty born of murmuring sound” will pass into a human face; but it won’t. Or not yet. For if we take the imagery of Scripture 
seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. 

At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of he door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in. When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A birthday week to remember

The days flew by this week. We've met so many friends already but the time with family is amazing as well. It's Sunday morning, and we're looking forward to being with Lia and Ben at Elevation in Kirkland.

Tuesday, March 24
It's the 26th birthday of our youngest, Jonathan. He's in our prayers all day. From the first surprise that we were expecting a baby (our fourth), we've enjoyed this child. He was always a connector, engaging with friends and family in a peace-making way.

Sad face, perfectly done
Miss K has a play date with a friend in the morning. She puts on a sad face for Oma (as opposed to her happy face) as I walk out the door for a trip to Costco with my friend Martha. Back home, Indonesians comment on the quality of goods that come to the West. It's true: plump meats, the best of spices, the size of food portions - the shelves groan with premium goods. Pecans, oils, peppers, cheeses, and vanilla. They're all here in bulk, neatly stacked.

I'm looking for a commercial tablecloth for our dining table back home. Found! and I graze the aisles for other things for hospitality. (W and I are already packing to stay within our luggage limit.)

M and I eat lunch at YehYeh's: Vietnamese soup and sandwiches. W and I have missed the breadth of Asian flavors and the varieties of restaurants in Seattle. Our friends are graciously meeting us at our favorite haunts. I try to squeeze in a nap in the afternoon, like a good granny should.

"Where are you going, Oma?" Miss K asks as we're once again standing at the front door in the evening.

"It's Oma's play date," I tell her. What a relaxing supper date with friends in Kirkland!

Afterwards, we pick up Jonathan at his apartment. It's time for his birthday treat - a Chinese foot massage. The Joy Spa in Kirkland is our favorite for excellent $25/hour foot and back treatments. We've gone there for years. By the end of an hour, we're relaxed. W prays a blessing over Jono on the way home. We want our family not only to be favored by God but also to serve where he places us.

The kids and I go for a walk. Then it's off to lunch with the Northwest University Women's group.

Kathleen's table settings are a feast for the eye. We get to meet the new Castleberry grandson. All I can think is, what an exquisite creation of God. Lucky boy, to be born into a tribe that loves him so!

The women have brought soups and salads - deeelicious. Many of these gals have invested in our lives over the years. Our friend Marietta explains to the group how she and her husband encourage their grandkids. When the child is between 12-13 years old, the grandparents spend a week with each, exploring faith and having fun. Wow - great idea!

In the evening, my friend Angela has invited us to Calvary in Seattle. Eva, a friend of years, surprises me by showing up. What a treat! I play a few songs - oh am I rusty or what! - and answer questions about our Indonesian adventure. It's a tranquil setting for reflection and conversation.

I'm under the weather. The cold W passed to the kids on the weekend filters down to me. Regardless, the morning starts at 6am. Jason our home pastor encourages us and catches us up on his adventures over a pancake breakfast. Then a few credentialed women hang out at Lake Forest Park while W rushes home to toss the bedding from the washer to the dryer. (It's one of "those days,"a Western schedule which would be impossible at home because of the traffic in Indonesia.) This is a group I miss more than any other: our Thursdays were precious when we lived here - and are even more dear to me on this visit.

The next stop is the university. Our NWMN leader is engaging in a region-wide "listening tour," stopping in various areas to get the pulse of the service teams. It's fun to meet with so many colleagues and coworkers. I take some strawberries, grapes, and scones home for the kids. Oh yum.

Lunch at the Crab Cracker with Don and Brenda is fabulous. They were our pastors when we left for Indonesia - and are now leading a larger group. They've supported us all along the way and do the same today. Lunch portions are so big I eat a third and pack the rest away (for Saturday's breakfast, as it turns out.)

My head pounds and my teeth hurt by afternoon. I have to cancel the evening run to Ellensburg. I'm supposed to be camping at a retreat center with 160 other women. My body says no. And sleeps from 8pm to 10am the next morning while W hangs out with our sons.

W accepts an invitation to an evening banquet but I can't imagine going anywhere when I awaken. He'll have to represent us. I sleep in and about about noon, my cold begins to clear up and my brain starts to de-fog.

Brenda asks whether I want to ride along to a missy tea at the women's retreat I bailed out of yesterday. YES please! Hurrah. I do get to go at least for a short part ... and it's with my lovely friend driving her Audi through the mountains. Oh - what a sweet bonus from God.

Melissa (not our d-in-love) puts on a beautiful spread. Teacups, fruit, goodies, flowers, framed quotes, and giveaways. We women are serving in Africa, Asia, and the West. It's fun to hear how everyone is coping with cultural adjustments and opportunities - even those who flew in earlier this week. We may be jet-lagged and weary, but we're happy and energized by being together. (Sonia's missing in the photo.)

The first shift of women eat supper together. I sit with old friends and coworkers: such a pleasure - before Brenda and I head home to our own beds and rest.

W's on the boat overnight and has coffee with his regulars in the morning. I'm looking through pictures of him with the kids. "Hey, the little ones will think I was never there," I tell him. "Please remember to take some pictures with me and them!" Though he's the "photographer" with the gear, I'm behind the lens of my IPhone, recording this trip. They look happy and we'll have a lot of pictures to enjoy when we're far away again.

It's my 59th birthday. I get early morning kisses and record Miss K singing Happy Birthday while refreshing my hot water bottle in the kitchen. Then I sneak back to bed for a few more hours, willing my cold into compliance.

Updating my profile on FB this week, I've noticed that my birthdate privacy setting is "me only". I unblock it for the first time. Hundreds of wishes pour in from around the world. I'm surprised and delighted throughout the day by kind and warm comments. W and I have made so many friends over the years. (No wonder Indonesia feels quiet sometimes!) Each name brings a memory or a prayer to mind. We don't take pics all day - I'm having too much fun to remember and W, also recovering from his cold, is tied up with business, from emails to tax prep to paying bills.

Melissa has put flowers, a gift certificate, and chocolates on the table from our kids. My family calls with birthday wishes. Miss K wanted to bake me a pink cake. She and Melissa are hard at work when I finally appear mid-morning. We sample the chocolate frosting and sprinkles. Melissa is an amazing mom: she makes life happen here, runs the household, and then tonight goes off to work while Timo puts the kids to sleep.

Meanwhile, W and I join Mel and Martha for supper. Oh yum. Such good Thai food at Silver Spoon! We go back to their house: the guys are working while Martha and I share memories and transitions. They're retiring from their present post soon so are in the thick of packing and reframing, just as we have been.

I am blessed beyond measure. Thanks everyone!

Read more:
*I made the earth, and created humankind upon it. Isaiah 45:12 ESV

*For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist. 1 Corinthians 8:6 ESV

*For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 ESV

*...and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:4 NRSVA

Moravian Prayer: Dearest Jesus, blessed are they who come in the name of the Lord. Let us humble ourselves before you and be always mindful of what you suffered, with great love, for us sinners. Hosanna in the highest. Amen.

From a letter by C.S. Lewis in 1954:
About death, I go through different moods, but the times when I can desire it are never, I think, those when this world seems harshest. On the contrary, it is just when there seems to be most of Heaven already here that I come nearest to longing for the patria. It is the bright frontispiece [which] whets one to read the story itself. All joy (as distinct from mere pleasure, still more amusement) emphasises our pilgrim status: always reminds, beckons, awakes desire. Our best havings are wantings.