Sunday, July 31, 2011

home sweet home

10 states
13 beds
27 days
5839 miles

And now we're home.  It's a strange feeling to be "home" in a house with all of our stuff, but not remember where we put it.  Before our trip we had only been here for 12 days and hadn't finished unpacking.  We still have piles of pictures to put up, curtains to hang, boxes to unpack, and piles to put away ... somewhere!  We're glad, though, to have had the opportunity to be with family before entering another intense season of life.  We probably won't do this drive again.  It was LONG.  But we made the most of the miles.  Check out what we did/saw:

  • Painted Hills (North Dakota)
  • Ate dinner on a Montana ranch (my cousin Randy's house)
  • Drove up to Silver Lake on Mt. Baker in Washington State (with my grandma)
  • Met two of our nephews (Henry and Luke) for the first time
  • Camped near Mt. Ranier with Danny's mom and brothers and their families for 5 days
  • Checked out an enormous wind turbine up close near the Colombia River Gorge
  • Multnomah Falls, Oregon
  • I had LASIK surgery
  • Spent a weekend scrapbooking with my dear friend, Julie
  • Visited our sending church in Canby, Oregon and Danny's brother, Eric's, church
  • The kids attended VBS (Pandamania)
  • Attended Danny's Grandma's funeral
  • Craters of the Moon National Park (Idaho)
  • Upper and Lower Mesa Falls (Idaho)
  • Yellowstone (WOW!)
  • Drove over the Big Horn Mountains (Wyoming)
  • Mt. Rushmore (South Dakota)
  • Watched a crop-dusting plane and helicopter doing their work up close
  • Drove the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway and visited the sites of her childhood (in SD and Minnesota)
  • Spent the night in Mankato, Minnesota (where Pa used to go on big trips)
  • Found Maud Hart Lovelace's childhood home, about which the Betsy and Tacy books are written
  • Ate more peanut butter sandwiches and fast food than I care to see in a long, long time. :)
Yellowstone was absolutely spectacular.  We saw bison, elk, coyotes, deer, geysers, thermal pools, mud pots, waterfalls, stunning views, and license plates from almost every state in the Union (even Hawaii!).  Eliana loved the geysers and hot springs. Emma's favorite part was seeing deer.  Easton has been talking about bison ever since.  It was really fun experiencing it all through their eyes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

a life well-lived

When someone dies, our memories of them are magnified and suddenly the little things they did may be seen in proper perspective.

Grandma Dorothy was one of the most cheerful people we knew.  We got news several months ago that she was dying, so Danny called her right away to say goodbye.

"They tell me I'm dying," Grandma told him cheerfully.  "But I don't feel any different than I did yesterday.  It's kind of like a party.  All the people I love are coming to see me, and everything is taken care of.  I don't have to do a thing." 

She was ready to go.  Her faith was strong.  She spent a week at the Hopewell House, the hospice care facility where Danny's dad spent his final days back in 1995.  But then, against all odds, Grandma went home.  Not heaven, mind you.  Home to her earthly house.  The Hopewell House didn't really know how to handle a discharge.  All of their other patients leave in hearses.  But not Grandma.  They backed off her oxygen at her request, expecting that without a ventilator she would breathe her last.  But she didn't.  Grandma kept right on breathing, so they sent her home.  I don't know much about her last weeks and months, but I do know that she was at home, sleeping peacefully when she died.

We'll miss her bright smile and cheerful greeting.  We'll miss her double birthday cards (one for Danny and one for me in the same envelope since she couldn't remember when my birthday was and didn't want to forget me) with $5 to buy a milkshake.  We'll miss her faithful financial support, spanning the whole 9 years since we started ministering with SIM.  She was a dear lady.

We were in Oregon for a family visit when she died, but we just missed seeing her.  We're staying an extra week so that we can attend her funeral, and our kids will get to attend VBS at Calvary Mennonite Church, our home base here.  The community at Calvary is feeling sharply the loss of another dear soul this week: Bonnie.

Bonnie was quiet, but she had a fun giggle you could hear if you hung around her long enough.  For as long as I attended Calvary Bonnie came daily to volunteer.  Yes, I said daily.  All year round. She was not the up-front type of person, but now that she's gone the congregation is gradually realizing what a vital role she played here.  Bonnie died suddenly and unexpectedly this spring of complications from the flu.  Most of her volunteer hours were spent in preparation for children's ministry.  She kept attendance records, prepared supplies for crafts, organized classrooms, decorated bulletin boards, and did countless other things behind the scenes that the rest of the church is only now beginning to realize.  She was heavily involved in VBS every year, and without her help the team has been stretched very thin.  Bonnie didn't live for fanfare.  I don't remember ever hearing any public thanks or acknowledgement of her service.  She just kept on serving, day after day after day.  That's what faithfulness looks like. There is no shortcut.  It's a "long obedience in the same direction" as someone has said.

The measure of a life well-lived is not some great moment of faith or generosity or service.  It is the gradual accumulation of consistent faith, consistent generosity, and consistent service.  We will not be remembered for what we did once, but for what we did over and over, day after day, and year after year.  What does it take to be great in God's kingdom?  If we wait for our "great moment" it may never come.  Living well requires a thousand thankless acts of service, a thousand smiles, a thousand gifts given little by little.  Thanks Grandma, and thanks Bonnie, for living well and showing us the way.

Monday, July 18, 2011

the worn-out years

Our nephew Leighton (age 10) announced to us that his mom was done having kids.
"Me, too." I told him.
Danny asked, "How does your Dad feel about that?  Does he want more kids?"
"Oh, no." Leighton assured us.  "He's done, too.  They're in their worn-out years."

Now here's a kid who clearly has a handle on reality!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I think I get your cheese

We're enjoying some time with our extended family this summer.  Our nephew Leighton (age 10) is a total hoot.  He told us over lunch today that he was a "Christianish-type person," in distinction to those other type of people (he couldn't remember what they're called).

"You mean an atheist?" Danny asked.
"No, I mean an Israelitish-type person."  Leighton answered.
"Oh, a Jew?" I offered.
"Yeah, juice," he said.  "They don't make any mistakes at all.  Not even on accident."
"Really?" I asked.  "Have you ever read the Old Testament?"
"Yeah, I'm reading it right now except I lost my Bible and I can't keep reading until I find it."
"What's the last thing you read?" I asked.
"About Samson and all that."  He explained.
"Aha!  Now there's an example of a Jew who made a lot of mistakes."  I told him.
"But he never said God's name in vain.  That's what I've been trying to tell you this whole time." Leighton was frustrated at our lack of attention to his point. "Jews don't ever cuss.  Not even on accident."  He was on a roll now.

"How do you know?" Danny asked.
"Cause I had a friend in school who told me.  He's a believer, but he knows all about Jews.  They're higher than we are, you know, because they don't mess up.  I never knew that until he told me."

I waited a few moments.
"Did you know that I'm going to spend the next 3 years studying the command not to take God's name in vain?"
"Wow," he exclaimed.  "You're going to know a lot about it after all that."
"Some people think that the commandment isn't talking about swearing, but about being God's representative."  Leighton looked a bit puzzled.  I tried again. "In the Old Testament it says that God put his name on the Israelites, so it was like they were wearing it.  Whatever they did would tell people about who God is.  So if they behaved well, people would get the idea of what God is like. And if they behaved badly, then people would have the wrong impression about God."
"I think I'm starting to get the cheese about what you're saying."  The rest of us had to work very hard to keep a straight face, but Leighton was dead serious.
Eliana piped in, "So does that mean it's ok to cuss?"
"No.  What it means is that it's about more than just cussing.  ALL of our behavior is important becuase we're representing God in everything we do.  The Jews were really careful not to say God's name because they didn't want to misuse it, but they made lots of other mistakes.  If you keep on reading through the Old Testament you'll find lots and lots of examples of how they messed up.  That's why God sent Jesus."
Leighton looked surprised.  "I thought he planned that all along!"
"Well, yes.  I suppose God knew that the Jews would mess up so he planned to send Jesus to save them from their sins."
"Yeah," Leighton agreed.  "God knows everything."

We will soon know everything, too, because we're staying at Leighton's house all week.  Stay tuned for more wisdom from 4-feet-high.

no fear of fear itself

Easton (age 3), to his sister, while camping: "Emma, there's a lion!  Let's freak out!"

He then turns to me and adds, "That's a pretend scary game."

Friday, July 15, 2011

a delightful discovery

Emma (age 5-1/2) came up from under the surface of the swimming pool with her eyes sparkling.  She was bursting to tell me of her new discovery.  "Mom!" she exclaimed.  "I can think underwater!!!"

That, my friend, is a nice skill to have.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

eyes to see

For the first time in my adult life, I am typing without the aid of corrective lenses.  I've had glasses or contacts since the 5th grade (that would be 24 years!), and without them I could only see very poorly.  Street signs - even the biggest ones - were big fuzzy squares of light without words.  Without glasses, I could relate somewhat with the blind man in the New Testament who said that people looked like trees walking around (see Mark 8:24). 

But today, I had LASIK eye surgery.  It was Danny's idea to invest some of the equity from our house in my eyes, and when I discovered that the best LASIK surgeon in the region gave a 50% discount to missionaries how could I say no?!  As expected, things are looking a little hazy right now, but by morning my eyesight should be good as new.
I was delighted that the doctor prayed with me before surgery.  I can't imagine being an eye doctor and not believing in an intelligent creator God.  The eye is an incredibly complex and amazing organ!  May I use my newly restored sight for His glory.

"Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things from your law." Psalm 119:18