Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The beginning of the end


Last week we flew to La Paz, and yesterday we moved into the Hobbit Hole, a small apartment squished in between the New Jerusalem Friends Church and the large Friends school in back. The Hobbit Hole is directly under one of the school’s classrooms, and all morning long the kids have been reciting, singing, scrapping their chairs over the floor and, apparently, practicing for a violent overthrow of the government. I hope somebody is teaching Quaker peace-making. Some silence wouldn’t be bad either.
Last night we had a wonderful meeting with the people on the History Commission, the group we’re working with in this huge Bolivian Quaker history project. We’re encouraged by our team’s progress, initiative and motivation. And they’ve certainly given us a warm welcome.
I’m also encouraged by Jesus’ teaching on persistence in prayer: “Ask (and keep on asking) and it will be given to you; seek (and keep on seeking) and you will find; knock (and keep on knocking) and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9). Here are the prayer requests that I invite you to ask and keep on asking concerning our concluding five months of work on the project here in La Paz:
--That God’s Spirit would fill and motivate us by love (Phil. 1:9-11): love for God that fuels our obedience and hard work; love for the church with all her blemishes and challenges; love for and among our team members. Love.
--That God’s Spirit would fill our team, that relationships stay healthy and open, that we all be able to focus on Christ and worship and work together.
--That we might discover the missing pieces in this complex story.
--For truth; that God would guard us from error and presumption.
--For insight into all the questions our investigation has brought up; for discernment to see where the Spirit was (and is) moving in all the events and problems and people that make up this story.
--For good writing.
--For the joy of the Lord to be our strength.
--For a successful conclusion to this project.
--For it to fulfill its purpose to bless and encourage the church, both in Bolivia and in the Northwest USA.

Amen. Lord, hear our prayer.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Leaving home, returning home

Once again we’re getting ready to change planets. Our son David will pick us up at 2:00 tomorrow morning and take us to the airport for our flight to Bolivia where we will spend the next five months.
Our friend Timoteo Choque will meet us at the La Paz airport Thursday morning at 6:00. It will be good to see him—and so many others—after an absence of a year and a half. We will spend the next months with the marvelous team of Bolivian Quakers, men and women, who have been working with us these past five years to research and write the 100-year history of the Bolivian Friends Church.
We plan to compare our findings and try to fill in the gaps. I look forward to scores of interviews, long discussions and time to re-write and edit. We hope five months will be long enough.
But this time, apprehension mingles with excitement. We were in our 20s when we first flew to Bolivia in 1972. Obviously we’re no longer in that phase of life. Our bodies now struggle more to adapt to the high altitude. While every bit as motivated by a sense of God’s call, we’re more vulnerable and certainly not as energetic as we used to be. We depend on the prayers of our loved ones—which is not a bad place to be.
And we have a different sense of home. While in many ways we’re going home to Bolivia, our lives have shifted since those early days of following God to a far-off land. Last year we took the plunge into a new adventure and moved into Friendsview Retirement Community. It was a major change and it’s taken us a while to adapt.
But we have adapted. This upcoming trip has helped me realize this. When people here express alarm that we will be gone five months, I’ve sensed some grief myself. It is a long time to be separated from my new family, and that sensation has helped me see that this is now home, too.
(Concern over separation from kids and grandkids is, of course, a given.)
So tomorrow we both leave home (with a certain sense of sadness) and we return home (with a great deal of anticipation).
More than all that we know that we carry home with us. Thesese of Lisieux once gazed upon the face of Jesus and prayed, “Your Face becomes my home, the radiance of my days, my realm and sunlit land.”

Oh, Lord, may it be so.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

49 and counting


Who celebrates the 49th anniversary of anything?
49 is not special.
It’s “see if you can hold on for one more year”
or “almost perfect but not quite.”
It’s the California Gold Rush
which turned out well for a few
but disappointed thousands of treasure seekers.
We were looking for gold when we married.
I reckon we did better than California.
Who celebrates their 49th?
We do.

Eureka!


Friday, September 1, 2017

Saddle Shoes

Here is the prompt I followed in my writing time this morning: “That was the ugliest piece of clothing anyone ever had to wear in front of her friends.”

    They were called “saddle shoes.” The name evokes images of mules, dusty trails and rural klutziness , but my mom expected me to wear them. To school. In front of everyone.
I must have been in the fourth or fifth grade. My mom was the proverbial Good Mother, so sensible shoes were the order of the day. After all, they were “good for my feet.”
Sturdy, yes. Substantial. But also clunky and awkward. A white shoe with a large black band across the top—the “saddle”—that tied up and needed to be worn with ankle socks.
In those days little girls wore dresses to school. The saddle shoes definitely did not go with dresses. They were not feminine. They were not pretty.
Ugly.
I hated them. And I was angry at Mom for making me wear them.
Furthermore, I was skinny. One of my nicknames—what the other kids chose to call me—was Bird-Legs. Can you picture it? Top to bottom: a crop of unruly naturally curly blond hair, a frilly dress, two thin stick-like legs, stuck into a foundation of chunky sensible shoes.
No wonder I felt ugly and awkward.
It took me years to realize I was pretty.

Now, as an older person with strong, healthy feet, I get it. While I no longer have to wear saddle shoes, I choose sensible. Thanks, Mom.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Declaration of Independence, Interdependence and Total Dependence


Since the first shall be last and the last first, I’ll start with Total Dependence.

Declaration of Total Dependence
--I declare my total dependence on God. I want to say with the psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you, and on earth there is no one I desire who compares with you.”  “In God I live and move and have my being.” God alone is my source of glory (recognition, acknowledgment, and the fulfillment of my longings for beauty, love and belonging). God is my glory and the lifter of my head. Jesus is my companion on the road, my resting place, my home. The Spirit in me is the fulfillment of my dearest dreams. I live to love, praise, honor, rejoice in and glorify my Lord. “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory.”

Declaration of Interdependence
--Thank you God for providing me with a human companion on the road. Thank you for Hal, my best friend, my lover, my colleague in work, my prayer partner, my peer mentor, someone to laugh at my jokes and understand my tears, the human being I love above all else in ways that are ever changing. What a life you’ve called us to and what a joy now to be able to grow old together. We do depend on one another. In our case, two definitely are better than one. We walk forward hand in hand to the dawn of a perfect day.

Declaration of Independence
--In terms of the beautiful children and grandchildren you’ve given us, we declare our ongoing love and, at the same time, our independence. I’ve raised my children to be independent mature persons, and now they are passing it on to their children. I release you, dear ones. More than that, I not only get to rejoice in your independence from me, I get to declare my own independence. I will always love you, but I do not need you to keep needing me. I am even becoming free of any need for your approval. While I am still parent and grandparent, the roles have changed. I am free to be who I am with you and to go beyond the role. I don’t have to be “Super Grandma” or “Ancient Wise One” or “Whatever.” I can let the roles mature and meet you face to face.


Independent, yet interdependent. All of us together dependent on our Lord and the creator of all this joy. So help me, God.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Young Quaker artist from Africa


I realize that I’m walking the dangerous edge of a proud grandmother. But I think I have good reason to be proud. Gwen Emily Amahora Thomas, currently a senior at Newberg High School with only a few weeks before graduation, is sharing her art with the world. The lobby of Friendsview Retirement Community is displaying her African portraits, fruit of assignments from her AP art classes.
She describes her art in an essay accompanying the portraits:
“Home. That word has both enchanted me and haunted me my whole life. I was born and raised in Rwanda, Africa as one of the few white kids in the country. However, my skin color didn’t prevent me from finding my home in Africa. In recent years, I have had to leave my beloved home and live in America. Saying goodbye to my life-long friends, taking a last glimpse of my childhood home, and finally boarding that plane was the hardest thing I have ever done. But boarding a plane and living somewhere else doesn’t mean that I leave it behind. Rwanda will always be in my heart and a part of who I am. It’s no wonder that most of my art work reflects my love of my country. The portraits are all created as a reflection of the transition I was and am going through.
“I am currently a senior a Newberg High School. I spent my freshman and sophomore years at a boarding school in Kenya where my art began to improve. After graduation this June, I will be going to George Fox University to study nursing.”

Enjoy!











 Self portrait

Proud grandparents!


Monday, May 15, 2017

Devotional chocolate and Mother's Day

Yesterday my grandchildren prepared a Mother’s Day tea and invited their two grandmothers and, of course, their mother. We grandmothers received flowers but the kids presented their mother with a bar of Super Dark Matcha Chocolate. Very gourmet and very appropriate. My daughter-in-law, Debby, is currently drinking matcha tea every day and expounding its merits. The spirulina algae it contains helps make it super-healthy.
The packaging contained instructions on how to taste “an exotic chocolate bar,” and as a party activity, granddaughter Gwen read the instructions while we all attempted to have the ultimate chocolate experience. It was great fun, and the chocolate was quite good.
The kind of language used in the packaging of this product either angers or amuses me. In this case, the instructions, the information about the creator of this chocolate bar (a woman named Katrina) and her hopes for the effects it will produce are obviously meant to be taken seriously. It sounds like a new-age spirituality of chocolate.
I asked Debby to loan me the package, told her I was sure I could find a poem hidden in all the verbiage.
And so I did. A “found poem” (a real genre, by the way) lifts words and phrases from a text and rearranges them into a poem which, in many cases, plays around with the meaning of the original. I was definitely playing. But, at the same time, while this found poem may seem totally whimsical, it is actually serious literary/cultural criticism.
Please keep that in mind as you read.

Chocolate Devotions
Katrina, the medium of chocolate,
invites you to follow
as she travels the world
in search of a superior source.
Are you ready?
Take three deep breaths,
smell,
taste, and….
SNAP!
You will hear a crisp ringing pop
as your mind and spirit
open to new ideas.
Even though you have only
rubbed your thumb on the surface
of the chocolate experience,
a meticulous process has begun.
Your inner spices, nuts, roots,
herbs and liqueurs will be ground
by low friction, then fused
to bring you to the pinnacle
of your taste profile, thus
enabling you to harness
the power of storytelling.
Can you believe it?
At the end of the day,
if you have followed Katrina’s instructions,
you will have
an exotic chocolate movement,
thus releasing you
to enter the super dark
where spirulina algae
will swim through your dreams
spreading peace, love, and, as ever,
chocolate.

Celebrating Mother's Day with granddaughter Alandra