Still There

When Tony’s Dad died in Texas year before last, we had the sad job of gathering up all the memories he and Mom had accumulated over the years, sorting them carefully and the either (1) shipping them to our home in Australia, (2) giving them to friends and family here in the States, or (3) throwing them away.

It was a joy to wrap up so many things that had been “them” and handing them over to those who treasure them for years to come. I have to say, I was especially happy to part with Dad’s elephant foot! I hear it’s been consigned to a glass case  at a church where a group of boys and girls had sat through hours of his tales of life in Africa. We really had no choice, since Australia would not allow it in, and in fact we might have been looking at criminal charges had we tried! No matter that when Mom and Dad had served in Rhodesia, there was no such stringent laws on animal parts and ivory back then.

Tony was a little sadder to say goodbye to Dad’s 18-foot python skin, but as Australia customs put it, “You can’t bring it in, and if it looks like you tried to hide it, you’re looking at jail time.” Oh well, I think Cousin Kim is going to make a saddle out of it.

Yesterday, we had a chance to visit their house at Holly Lake, Texas. What a flood of memories, to visit the place where so much love and joy had abounded! The house had been bought by a friend, who had completely remodeled it with the intention of selling it for a profit. When I say, “remodeled”, I’m not exaggerating! Driving up to the place, I though at first we’d gotten lost and come to the wrong address. It was a different color, different shape, and bigger! The friend took us through the house (it’s still for sale), and I was astounded. The living room had expanded into an adjoining bedroom. The kitchen had pushed out into the hallway, which had in turn stretched into the carport. Dad’s office had become a garage, and part of the back yard was now an extension, allowing for another bedroom.

“It’s not here anymore,” I exclaimed. “Dad’s place is gone!”

“Not entirely,” Tony said, heading for the new pantry door. Opening it up and moving some cleaning supplies aside, he pointed triumphantly to the breaker box, still where it had always been. “They couldn’t move that without a lot of building code revisions. And if I’m not mistaken,” he said, moving across what was left of the hallway, “the water heater pretty much has to be here.” And sure enough, it was still in the same place, happily heating water for any and all.

That started me thinking, and I went back to the bedroom. It had been completely revamped, but opening the closet, I saw the old dark wood paneling Mom and Dad had been so proud of. It had covered the whole house, but now could be found only in this one place.

It’s a beautiful home. It was beautiful before, but in a different way. I can’t help but think of a verse in Samuel where the Lord says to him, “……man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart”.

Here’s to looking beautiful inside and out.  Have a great week!

On another note, I’ll probably be unable to blog for a week or two, don’t worry, I’ll be back in a while.  We’re stepping into the funnel of our departure (to Australia and retirement) and the whirlpool may get pretty strong.

Into the Wind

This last week I actually found some time to be bored. Tony’s working almost 24/7 on his doctorate in preparation for the next big seminar, so that leaves me to entertain myself.

I was sitting outside on this beautiful clear day. There was a slight breeze blowing…..all was well. That is until along came a spider.

She landed on a leaf near me, carried by a gossamer hang glider made of spider web. I immediately went into a ‘little Miss Muppet dance” until I realized that she had no intention of involving me whatsoever. She was on a mission and I was merely an observer. Still, I kept a careful eye on her, reminding myself that I could dispatch her at any time with a flick of a shoe or send her on her way with a good whack on the branch she sat on. Instead I chose (since I was bored anyway) to watch her.

The first thing I noticed were several strands of web that must have come with her.  Or maybe she came with them. I batted them away from my face and kept watching.

I never could figure out exactly what she was doing with such great determination, but she continued running up and down the leaf, working feverishly.

Suddenly, she and I both noticed a shift into the wind. She turned into it while I kept watching.

Then, without as much as a nod of goodbye, she seemed to ‘cast’ some silk into the wind, and the next thing I knew she was being drawn up and away, finally gliding out of sight.

….leaving me in wonder. As I sat there, a couple of things occurred to me

She came, she worked, and she went.  I could almost be certain that she didn’t spend a lot of time being confused, scared or catatonic with introspection. Whatever she was doing, it seemed to have an intentional purpose and she succeeded in her next ‘leap’ with all the grace and style that left me confident that she had no qualms whatsoever.

I had fun imagining that maybe, thanks to spider instinct, she (1) knew who she was and what God given gifts she had, and (2) trusted in God, along with His wind to take her on her next juncture.

As you may know, Southern Baptist missionaries have very recently been given a “challenge” from our Mission Board.

Due to continuing financial shortfalls, the Board is asking that at least 800 of the older and wiser will consider taking this opportunity to ‘retire’.  And to make the “offer” clear, they have until sometime in early November to decide before the parachute incentive packages dissipate into the wind.

If you’ve ever prayed for we missionaries, please do so now.

Before you worry about us, be assured that we are just fine. After all, we’re 65 and 67 and have been planning this step for some time now. The Board has been very good to us over our almost 40 years of service and we’re looking forward with great anticipation to the next chapter in our lives.

No, we’re praying for our fellow missionaries in their 50’s and early 60’s, most who have the language and culture and many of whom are finally starting to see some fruit from their labors.

We rest assured that God is not in the business of letting people down. He knows what’s happening and is in control.  We all know that.

And today I want us to pray that like that spider throwing her silk into the wind, these folks are going to be able to know who they are, know their gifts and have the encouragement and faith to let go and let God take them where He will.

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee” (Isa. 26:3)

Have a wonderful week,

Always, Marsha

Too Much Help

Have you ever driven anywhere with a cat in the car?  If so, then maybe you can relate to our journey these last couple of days across the endless miles from Maine to Michigan.

You see, we had the unlisted help of four ‘ladies’ in the car. We’ve named our various GPS systems “Nelda”, (the original Tom Tom model we bought when we landed in America), “Stephanie” (the onboard one installed in the rental car,) and two unnamed iPhone apps. I think they would be great, except that they don’t work just anywhere since they no longer have a phone service connected. That means we have to stop somewhere and hook up to the internet before they’ll talk to us.

Stephanie set us out on what she considered a 14-hour route to get us to Michigan before Tony was due at an online seminar (for his doctorate) and then will be preaching as you’re reading this (in Japanese). Two easy 7-hour driving days. No problem.

We left the parking lot bolstered with courage, but there were already issues between the girls.  One wanted us to go left, the other wanted us to go…….you guessed it, right.  Of course most of these devices are very lady-like in that they won’t show you all their secrets until you stop, find an internet, promise them something and then find out what they intended to reveal about their ultimate plans, assumably later.

Eventually we found ourselves on an ever-narrowing dirt road somewhere in Vermont. I will admit that the scenery was breathtaking, but we needed to stay on task.  We retraced our steps to the pavement and found a diner with a kindly waitress.  “Oh, GPS’s don’t work here, too many trees”, she said as she used an archaic tool (her hand) to point the way.  Off we went, full of blueberry pancakes and hope…….again.

I’ll spare you the rest of the details, but we gradually developed a routine: Drive about 2 hours, look at all the beautiful scenery, stop and find a place with internet and then have a consultation.

Attending the battle/travel planning meeting were our three “GPS Girls” while built-in Stephanie remained stuck in the car, pouting and plotting.  We would of course ask her opinion when we came back to the car, but she claimed to have a “safety feature” that refused any discussion as long as the car was moving.  So she said.

So off we’d go for another 2+ hours, craning our necks out the windows in search of moose or anything else of note. We did see a lot of trees and lakes……

Finally we came upon an Alfred Hitchcockian motel, complete with a set of “nere-do-wells” lounging in the dark along the railings.  I went straight for our room, slammed and locked the door behind us After checking the shower while whistling the theme from “Psycho”, I collapsed on the bed. We’d been on the road for 13 hours and weren’t half way there.

Bright and early the next morning we dashed down to the office to check out the “free continental breakfast”. The “nere-do-wells” (who it turned out were some very nice middle-aged bikers trying to rediscover their youth) were already lined up, but we managed to grab a roll and a cup of coffee before hitting the road again. The sleep had renewed our resolve to ‘get this done’, and since Lake Erie was lapping to our left side, I didn’t think the GPS girls could squabble any today.

Wrong.  Nelda insisted we were 7 hours from the goal, Stephanie? 14.  The iPhone cheerleaders backed up Nelda, so we followed her lead.

Before the day was out, we had gathered BOTH our laptops, both phones and Nelda into the rest stop for a final summit meeting. Canada has lovely rest stops called ‘Enroute’.  They’re clean, predictable, decked out with fast food and tourist information, and a real comfort when you’re going nuts.

All the girls agreed, except of course for Stephanie, who kept insisting that we needed to circumnavigate Lake Erie, adding about 700 miles!  We’ve came to the conclusion that she’s all looks and no brain and we’ll be glad to send her back with the car when the rental is finished.

After just under nine hours, we arrived in Detroit, found the motel we’d booked online, and Tony managed to log into his seminar on time. While he was pontificating, I called our Japanese friend and found out that he was still in Kentucky, having missed his plane home from a business trip! Hopefully we’ll see him and his wife tomorrow, at least at church if not before.

So it seems getting from “point A” to “point B” is not always a simple matter. It often comes down to where you put your faith. For this trip, we were “loaded for bear” with a total of two GPS units, two iPhone map apps and two laptop computers. As I think about it, I believe we would have had better success if we’d found more friendly waitresses along the way to ply us with pancakes and point us in the right direction.

When the writer of Proverbs tells us, “By wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Pro. 24:6), I don’t think he had GPS devices in mind. There are those whose counsel is good and helpful, and those who if given the chance will take you down a dead end dirt road. We need to know whom we can trust, and who will lead us in the right direction.

Jesus said it well: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). If we’ll follow His lead, and the lead of those He provides, we can’t go wrong. Let’s keep our eyes on Him, read His Word and listen to His counsel.

And speaking of the journey, some Aussie friends are going to sell us their old car for $2000! I’m hoping at that price it doesn’t have a built in GPS!

Happy Travels, Marsha

Lovin the Light

I still remember the first time our family experienced New York City.  It was about 1996 or so and we’d wandered across the States as far as New Jersey.  We could see Manhattan across the water from the cheap motel we were staying in, but frankly we were a little shaken by the bullet proof glass in the lobby. Then when the manager said it would be best to drive the one block to Dennys because walking could be dangerous, we went to bed, clutching each other and realizing that visiting the ‘city’ might be a bridge too far.

But the dawn came and we awoke unscathed, so I suggested to Tony that if I promised to navigate, could we please please just drive up one of the main streets a little while and have a look?

With fear and trepidation we maneuvered our little beat up Subaru onto Manhattan Island and started the gauntlet up 5th Ave.  After a few minutes, 15 yr old Nathan piped up from the backseat.  “Wow, this is cool and we haven’t been shot at yet!”

Call us country bumpkins, but this was our image of NYC in the 80s and 90s.  And we weren’t alone. Checking the internet, I read now that from 1970-1990, 31 people out of every 100,000 were murdered annually in the downtown area.

And yet…….

Last month we spent a glorious 5 days in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.   We walked the streets day and night, rode the subway often, wandered thru Central park and ventured into Brooklyn on one of the city’s many free tours, this particular one to experience a plethora of ethnic food.  I guess we could say we basically had a ball.  Yes we were still country yokels, but what a wonderful and welcoming city we found, complete with polite and charming people!

So what happened since the 1990s?  I can answer that in one word:

Light.

In the book, “The City That Became Safe”, author Franklin Zimring explains some of the things that were implemented that resulted in an 89% drop in crime.

Of course the police cracked down, specifically on the ‘open air drug markets’ that filled Times Square and surrounds. Apparently Times Square was only safe on New Years Eve, and even then it was iffy.  The famous 42nd street was labeled ‘the most dangerous street in America’.

But the key to reclaiming the city was to turn on the lights.

I think there’s a verse in the Bible about that……

In the case of New York, Mayor Giuliani had some meetings with the Disney people. They agreed to come to downtown NYC, renovate the theater area and supply constant Lion King genre shows and what not …. IN EXCHANGE for the city agreeing to light up the place. To seal the deal the city made several square blocks of the Midtown area mandatorily lit up 24 hours a day 7 days a week for the NEXT 99 YEARS.

The bulk of these lights are called “Fascinators”…….just imagine the neon cataclysm of dancing and descending 2 and 3 story neon light cascades that are virtually everywhere.  You have to stand and search for that little icon we call “Times Square”.

What’s the result?  No drug deals in sight, very little crime. No dark alleys. (Tony would say there’s a sermon in that)  Thousands and thousands of gaping tourists gawking around, flashing cameras and spending money on hot dogs, trinkets and designer everything.  The experiment is thriving.  Tony and I sat in the open air of Times Square just enjoying the parade of nations wander by. Several on-duty policemen chatted with us and even gave us a special badge to pass on to our Australian constable son.

And then to punctuate my euphoria, we met one of our precious Japan missionary kids and her husband who actually live there. Through their work, we were treated to a Madison Square Garden spectacular.  Christian singer Chris Tomlin and several other very high profile singers and speakers held the first ever “Night of Worship”.  The stadium holds almost 20,000 people and it was packed out.

How do I describe it? Suffice it to say that we were blown away. Tony said he had a lump in his throat from the first chord to the last amen 3 hours later.

But what really brought crusty ol’ me to my knees was the song,  “God of this City”.  I’ll enclose the link if you’d like to listen and shed a tear of hope with me:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEFGr1S8SkA

Light.  Light can change the bad guys (perhaps turning them into tourist touts) and Light can save the world!

God IS the God of NYC and He’s the God of your life and mine. Miracles can happen when we walk in the LIGHT.  Couldn’t say it any better than our friend John:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

Lovin’ the Light, Marsha

PS:  On a housekeeping note, this next week is our last one in Maine.  We will be so sad to leave, it’s been such a great experience.  We want to thank all the “Main-ers” that made it unforgettable…….especially Ann and Keith Lawrence who are the directors of missions here.

On Thursday at dawn we will begin the ‘race’ to the next stop in Michigan.  There Tony will have another doctrinal seminar online most of Friday night (this has been going on for some time now), and be preaching his first sermon in Japanese in the last 4 months, so IF you don’t get a blog next week, just say a prayer that the words will flow from his heart and the people will understand.  Who’d ever thought that the USA could be a mission field!

Kindred Spirits

Hello everyone,

I hope you got my blog that we sent out from a parking lot somewhere in northern Maine last Saturday.  The internet is a wonderful thing unless you are “out of range”.

We’re happy to report that we spent last weekend with a lovely bunch of people from a little church in Baring, Maine, which is pretty far north….and east, right on the Canadian border.

We were told that we’d be staying at a ‘camp’ and so we prepared accordingly.  Imagine our dismay and delight to find that a ‘camp’ is just a Northeastern word for what we call  ‘cabin’.  Apparently if it’s on “saltwater”, it’s referred to as a “cottage” as was FDR Roosevelt’s little 37 room place. (which we were also able to tour).   But if the structure is “lakeside” it’s referred to as a ‘camp’ and this camp was as lovely as the even lovelier couple, who have summered there for the last 40 years.   They regaled us with such wonderful stories of adventure, excitement and love of each other and the Lord. It was so interesting we all sorta staggered to church in the morning! Such fun, such a beautiful setting, such a sweet church.

Last week I mentioned that I was a bit of a tomboy. I remember pressing my nose on the ironing board as I stood on tippy toes supervising my mother as she ironed Davy Crocket logos on my frilly hankies…….

Alas, Davy and I never met, but I may have finally found a kindred spirit in Anne…….of Green Gables.

We visited Prince Edward Island after our church responsibilities were finished. The locals refer to it as “P.E.I.” and as the ferry pulled into port, I knew I was not going to be disappointed.  Every direction you looked just had a picture book wonder to it.

Somehow this place had caught my imagination when I was just an ornery little girl.  I can’t remember why, but maybe it was Anne and her pigtailed ‘tomboyishness’ that reached out to me.  I could certainly relate to the pesky boys like Gilbert harassing me in return for my distain for them.

As we drove along the coast, the scenery took my breath away….and THEN we got into “Anne-land” as our B&B host called it.

For two days my imagination was abducted into the world of fiction.

A lot of you know the story of “Anne of Green Gables”, but I knew nothing about the author, a woman by the name of Lucy Maud Montgomery. She wrote the whole series and several more spin offs in the early 1900’s. The “Anne” stories are fiction….. but are they?

As we went thru old homes, churches and museums, we realized that most of the stories she wrote actually seem to mirror the REAL life of Lucy, the author.

Lucy was almost an orphan (her mother died and the father couldn’t seem to cope so she was shuffled off to the grandparents at 22 months old).  She lived on a farm, worked hard, was taught to be thankful and respectful to her elders and God……..

And somehow thru that seemingly rough beginning, she was able to see the WONDER of it all.  She wrote about apples and frost and scampers in the forest and love and death and just everything.

And by way of her series about an orphan girl named Anne who came with nothing, but everything, she was able to capture our hearts.

As our visit drew to a close, I felt like I was leaving a good friend.  I wanted to stay in all the ‘loveliness’ of living a simple God-centered life on an isolated island.  Even tough ol’ Tony was seen wiping an eye as we sat thru the musical rendition of the story on our last night.

Lucy Montgomery once said, “I’m always hesitant to reply when people ask me if Anne is real……….because even though I made her up, she IS most definitely real”

And then I thought about our walk with God.  This last week I got a sweet message from a new friend who said, “I want to be a fragrance to others, I want people to look at me and see Christ.”

The character Anne Shirley is not real……….but God IS most certainly real.

And we learned so much about the author Lucy M. Montgomery because we experienced Anne. We could see and know Lucy thru Anne.

It is my prayer, as well as my friend’s prayer, that people looking and enjoying us can see through us to OUR author, God himself.

Have a great week, real or imagined.

Marsha

That’s IT?

Hello Friends, Before you pinch yourself and think it’s Sunday, be assured it’s only Saturday.  You’re receiving this blog a DAY early because this morning we’re headed off for a church many hours north and won’t have internet for a few days.

First we’re going to Baring, Maine, which, if you look at the map,  you’ll see that it’s very near the town of Lubec, which is the most easterly spot in the USA.  We’ve been promised a night in a Baptist camp, which the proprietor tells us is ‘like a tent’.  On Sunday Tony’s preaching in a little church in Baring and then we’re going on into Canada (we hope, with our rental car) to see Anne of Green Gables land for a couple of days. If you’ve seen the movie or read the book, then you can imagine our anticipation at seeing this beautiful place. I remember as a child dreaming blissfully about life on Prince Edward Island, although I don’t remember reading the book.  I think I was too busy looking for arrowheads and imagining I was Davy Crockett’s sidekick.  At any rate, I’m  looking forward to some great scenery.

I have to say, our sojourn here in Maine has been a real blessing.  It’s so rewarding to come across fine rock-solid Christians eking out a good and strong witness up here so far north.  Tony delights in asking the locals, “Does it ever snow here?” then watching the hollow-eyed stare that comes over their faces.  Last night a ‘Maine-er’ (as they call themselves) said, “We have 4 seasons; summer, almost winter, winter and still winter”.  We have greatly enjoyed this summer and are glad that the Mainers are sharing it with us.

The other day we thought maybe we’d take a day trip down south to see the famous “Plymouth Rock”.  After all, as Americans we must have had a relative out there somewhere who purportedly put his foot on this rock when he disembarked from the Mayflower back in 1620.

But after googling the map and then looking at the web site, we abandoned the plan.  Apparently we’re living 4 hours NORTH, which would make for an 8 hour round trip in the car.  That’s not un-thinkable for us, as I’m sure you know, but we read online that the most common remark  visitors seem to make is, “That’s IT???”……….hummm.  Looking at some of the pictures, we see it’s apparently only a few feet across, and has been moved and broken a few times. And actually, no one is really sure that anyone in history ever actually stepped onto it. We’ll pass.

On a another personal note, we had a (self imposed) gut-wrenching week, waiting on the FINAL decision from the Australian Town Council on this kafluffle with our property.  Most of you have heard me ballyhooing about it.  Long story short, building a required retaining wall could end up costing us more than our wildest fears and could have a serious impact on our retirement plans. We’re holding onto that promised peace of God, but it keeps slipping out of our hands.

The other big ‘if’ was my medical report.  WHAT virus hit me so hard three months ago that the effects are still lingering? More blood tests are due in any day now, which hopefully will confirm that Chikungunya has run rampant and has now run out. (they do agree that I’m on the mend!). But then the doctors always want to leave the back door open for other nefarious problems…  Tony tried to educate himself online, but concluded that the internet is NOT your friend when it comes to self-diagnosis.

As I try to be brave, I can’t help but think of Amanda Cook’s beautiful song and the lyrics that go straight to my heart:


I have heard the song of love that You sing
So I will let You draw me out beyond the shore
Into Your grace

You make me brave

You make me brave…

No fear can hinder now the love that made a way

So like Plymouth Rock, God must look at me and all my worries and say to Himself, “That’s it?”.  Yes, I’m confident today that the issues that surround us today will be tomorrow’s reasons to praise God, and ask forgiveness for ever taking it out of His hands.  He continues to be so good to us, and we can thank Him for the reality of  ‘non-eventful’ weeks, wasted in part by way too much time worrying about what might have been.

God bless and remember to hang loose!  Marsha

The Bonded Word

IMG_6603

It’s been a quiet week here in Maine. Tony’s had his head down doing doctorate work and I’ve just putzed around, doing some fiddly office stuff like figuring out our schedule for the last weeks of our time in the USA.

It’s actually quite warm……..we were told that a Maine summer was only on the 4th of July, but we’ve done better.  It actually got up to 90 degrees last Sunday and with the humidity we were thankful for the window A/C that had been given us a few weeks ago. I’ll have to admit that when we got it, I couldn’t imagine being that warm, but it’s really helped, especially at night.

Anyway, this week we were talking with our Aussie friends and mentioned that we’d been to see the LL Bean Store.  Of course to call it a store is sorta a misnomer.  I guess I should have called it a ‘town’. Our friends had never heard of LL Bean, and knew nothing of it’s history.

Until our visit to Freeport Maine, where the whole thing is, my association with LL Bean had been to order one rain coat from their store when we lived in Japan (where they have 19 stores, as well as 53 in China……..However all their merchandise is made in the USA).

The coat was so ‘heavy duty’ that I could barely move my arms.  Every time I put it on I pictured myself standing on the bow of a whaler, eyes shut tight against a nor’easter!  It just wasn’t a city girl’s well…….. “slicker”. I can’t remember what happened to it, maybe it’s covering a roof somewhere.  I can guess it’s still in the same great condition though.

But let me tell you about what I learned as we wandered thru several of the stores scattered around the center of Freeport.  A visit to wikipedia gave us the missing information:

It seems that Mr. Leon Leonwood Bean, was an avid hunter and fisherman……..from Maine, you could have guessed.  He invented a great product and opened a supply store in 1912.  And as they say, ‘The rest is history’

LL Bean is now a clothing and outdoor sports store, with an annual revenue averaging 1.5 Billion dollars.  It is still completely family owned and has been (get this) open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 64 years.  I can’t imagine any Maine hunter who’d need to shop at 2:00 am but I guess if you’re off to the hunt and need shoelaces, LLBean’ll be there for you.

He’ll be there for you.  Apparently his flagship item, what got him started was the ‘Bean Boot’. Something he’d dreamed up and created with a stout laceable leather upper and an encompassing rubber sole.  All of us have seen this shoe, We called them Sorrells in Colorado……. but I guess the first rugged rubber boot was  patented as a Bean Boot.

He sold a lot, but wait……….90% of them were returned!!  It seemed they leaked. As I look over these moosey Maine marshes, I’m guessing that’d be the last thing you’d want in a boot up here!

Give up?  Curse the gods and say it’s someone else’s fault? Ask the government to bail you out?

No…….he made good on every single boot and after a trip back to the drawing board, replaced them with watertight ones……  thus earning the love of the northeast.

As I heard this remarkable story, I was reminded of the verse in scripture that says, “Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37).

I don’t want to complain, but it seems these days there are more answers as to why your boot leaks rather than what anyone’s going to do about it.  Recently we were told by our traveler’s insurance that the money we laid out for our Nepal trip (which obviously had to be cancelled) is not going to be reimbursed because it was an “act of God”……….seriously?  WHY do we have insurance; isn’t everything an ‘act of God” really?’.

Ah, but there I’ve got you in the wrong mood for this Sunday Morning. I’m so happy that, in the words of the ol’ Black lady of the 60’s “God don’t make no junk”….. and apparently neither does L.L. Bean!

Keep your Bean Boots Dry!

Marsha

Lost and Found

So hopefully last week you missed me. I didn’t post a blog because we were “in the thick of it” in NYC! What an amazing place …. I told Tony I could live there, but of course I’m told that when the money runs out it ain’t that much fun!

I managed to find the cheapest place to stay that had a bed and a door.  We dabbled at every cheap entertainment and food group we could find, even taking a (free) walking food tour of Brooklyn.  In the end it wasn’t so free, because the guide book ‘suggested’ that each person TIP the guide $20-25.  I remembered after I tipped the guy $40 and saw the look of incredulousness on his face, that Tony had been pre-tasked with the job of giving the tip.  Sure enough, he’d just given him $50!.  Well, we may live cheap, but we know how to tip! ha  He was a really nice family man, who gave us not only a food tour but a lot of history, so we weren’t too upset.  Maybe we gave missionaries a good name.

There were so many highlights, including an “almost daughter” whom we watched grow up in Japan! I’ll have to blog later about some of them……..but strewn in between were several inconvenient bumps as well.  We both had fiddly little health problems that found us learning to line up at “urgent care”.  Later when they asked for a survey of our experience, we wanted to quote the verse “He who is first shall be last” (Matthew 19-30)

Another small drama was that our laptop decided to break, forcing us to ‘jump a generation’ and begin to exist on our single phone for all communications  e-mail, business transactions etc.

For our last 3 days we moved on from NYC to Philadelphia and got to work seeing more of our history.  After all, we ARE Americans and this stuff is important.  We were able to get out to Gettysburg to ‘revisit’ the site, since 21 years ago, Nicki was having a bad day.  The Japanese have a saying that she had her belly button twisted, and I’d have to agree, sometimes there’s no explanation for a child’s behavior.   Well, apparently that day I was oblivious to her state, but Tony (I do remember)  ended up taking her to wait it out in the car.  Little did I know till years later that he was really INTERESTED in the museum, so this was sort of a ‘make up’ tour!  We mentioned this to Nicki (who’s 26 now and has learned how to handle her belly button days) Her kind response (she says she doesn’t remember the incident, imagine that) was “Sorry Daddy”.  Priceless.

So I guess you could say this trip was peppered with ‘’Loss”, but the penultimate attack came when I so blithely hopped off the bus the last evening we were there.  As the bus pulled away from the curb, I realized that I didn’t have the phone.  Now, as I mentioned above, phones these days are lifelines.  In our case, our ONLY lifeline.

We sprinted after the bus about 12 blocks but to no avail.  The bus, on it’s last trip of the day was like the horse back to the proverbial barn.  After we borrowed a phone from a stranger, we called the bus line only to realize that the office staff had vacated hours earlier.  There was nothing to do but…….

So we headed for the “Down Home Diner”.  We had eaten in there the night before and it was, well, “down home”.  It also had a functioning toilet, which in a big city is a plus, so off we went, dragging our spirits behind us, self flagellating ourselves with “Stupid me, why didn’t I check my pockets, etc”  Thankfully Tony kept his thoughts to himself.

We sat down and ordered up.  I determined to punish myself by ordering Scrapple. It worked………ug (google this if you don’t know what it is). Tony rewarded himself for the 12 block jog and ordered Southern Fried Chicken, complete with mash potatoes and gravy.  That worked better, especially since he had to share it with me.

But as we sat there, I noticed someone I’d seen the night before.  She was sitting in the same booth, in the same place.  Last night I’d thought she was a homeless person but tonight I was sitting at a better vantage and could see that actually she was quite regal.  Yes, she had a rather tattered wig on, but her face, the beautiful skin, the carefully applied make up, if a little shaky, spoke of a better time.  She wore layers of stately old clothes that had obviously been expensive once, leaving me wondering about her past.

I studied her as she ate.  She was eating what looked to be a modest set meal when we arrived and was still carefully eating it when we left.  She carried herself with such dignity, taking small dainty bites and staring into the distance, but with no anticipation whatsoever in her gaze.  It was almost as if this meal was her whole day. Who was she, what was she thinking about or remembering. WHAT had she lost?

I wanted so much to approach her and ask her….well, everything……..but I had had such a defeating afternoon, I didn’t know if I could hold up with the news.  She never spoke to anyone while we were there, but was treated kindly by the staff.

As I left, I thought about LOSS.  Yes, we lost the phone, and if you tally the time we’ve been on the road these last 2 months, we’ve lost about everything from wallets, clothes and medicines as well.

But we haven’t lost our minds, our shelter, or our security in the love of God or our love for each other. Our children still feel like ‘ours’ and they outdistance our expectations of them every day.  We may have temporarily laid aside some of our health, but that’s not lost either.

This may seem like you’re bailing me out here for a job I didn’t follow thru,  but I’d like you to pray for the diner lady.  Shall we call her something grand like Althea? Maybe add a historical ‘Rockerfeller’ or such for her last name?  Only God knows her name or her story, but that’s enough.  I wish I could tell you I’d be back to ‘check’ on her, but that’s not humanly possible.  Only God can comfort, Only God can heal.

The next morning we left our room at 4AM to walk the many blocks to the downtown subway.  I was ‘armed’ with two ball point pens, one in each hand, after careful consideration deciding this was the only fierce weapon I had to be “ready” for the assault from the inner city.  Tony was carrying his knee brace (see above doctor visit) under his arm shotgun style…………Ironically, the only derelict that we encountered gave us timely directions.  I guess life isn’t that bad after all.

When we returned home to the internet, we were able to Skype the bus company and the phone is on it’s way back to us.  We will remember Philly as a nice city.

Happy trails, Marsha

As I write this, we received the news that our dear dear missionary mentor and friend Betty Faith Boatwright has gone to be with the Lord.  I can’t help but feel LOSS, even though she’s suffered for years, apparently gazing out like the lady in the diner, regal and gentle, waiting to see her Savior.  We are sad…….The Boatwrights made us what we are.

This week also marks the one year home going of another dear friend, Noguchi Sensei.  He and Betty Faith will be catching up at the feet of Jesus.

At the Feet of Jesus

Life has tended to crawl along at a snail’s pace (very restful) these last few weeks as we travel to retirement on what we’ve named the “Grand Tour”.

But the pace has radically speeded up lately, as if someone had hit the fast forward button.

First there was the reunion with my sister and then our “long lost” cousins here in Brazil.

Now it’s our last week of travel before hitting the ground running in Maine. Some of the things we did are already blurred, but I DO remember that on Thursday I found myself at the feet of Jesus!

Not literally (although you might not be surprised, since we’ve spent a lot of time whining about our mishaps, aches and pains!), but this time it was at the great stone edifice called “Christ the Redeemer”, that well-known icon that reaches out high above the city of Rio de Janeiro.

I guess for most of my life I’ve been exposed to this statue through every media angle imaginable I’m sure you have as well, and my only thought was “cool!”.  I don’t think I ever thought fate would have it that I could actually see it.

However, I found myself almost in a Catholic trance as I looked up at him.  I just never…….

Maybe it’s the pain pills, my advancing age, or just my debilitated condition, but I literally almost wept.  Not only is it beautiful, but it’s really symbolic, isn’t it?  The designer, whose name naturally I forgot, commented about his ‘art deco creation’, saying, “I want to bring Rio to the feet of Jesus”

Maybe some people are moved to tears at an art museum, (nope, not us), or if they’re Japanese, maybe a cherry blossom in spring. I find that no matter how I try, I tend to be pretty cynical and ‘above it all’.

But as I stood there looking up, I was reminded again that I am a created being helpless and small under the open arms of a loving God.  I hope I can always stand in awe at “His” feet.

As we were waiting for the elevator (yup, you don’t get up there honestly) we heard a little boy saying excitedly to his mom, “Look Mom, over here, it tells how they MADE Jesus!”

It’s my prayer that I’m never guilty of “Making” Jesus.  I know this is just a statue, some might even say a ‘graven image’, and while I didn’t worship it, I may have been so in awe that I forgot that this Jesus was ‘made’.

The rest of this next week will spin by and hopefully you’ll hear next Sunday from us at the firework ceremony at one of the birthplaces of our nation, Boston.  The next day we’re going to ‘get to the business’ of being missionaries on assignment in the States for the next 4 months.

I plan to tell you more when I have time about our wonderful catch up with cousins working here in Brazil for the last nearly 50 years, as well as other observations……..but as I speak, Tony and my sis are tapping their feet waiting to charge off to Iguassu falls. I plan to be impressed, but since it’s winter down here, I may be more interested in keeping body and soul together in the cold.

Praying that you have a wonderful week with the LIVING Savior,

Marsha

Contentment

Nesting CloseNesting

This last week we’ve been driving around in Portugal.  We rented a car, drove to a timeshare we had reserved, and prepared to set up camp there for the week. Unfortunately the ‘timeshare’ was not quite up to par with others we had visited. Instead, the byline for the week seemed to be, ‘let’s see how much we can irritate you’.  Tony became convinced that it was actually a front for Russian money laundering. Most of the staff were Russian, and every question, such as, “Is there internet?” “Can we take the towels to the beach?” “Do you ever change sheets or towels?” was met with a sneer and a heartfelt “NYET!”

On the good side, after all the physical ailments we’d been suffering, from Tony’s broken ribs to my Chikungunya virus, it was encouraging to see that we’re finally recovering enough to be offended.  Then we set about deciding what to do.  True, this place was virtually ‘free’ in the sense that timeshares are ‘free’, but after all the admin stuff, they’re not really free.  From that point of view, we were able to take a fresh look at the place, laugh at the 1950’s elevator, where you have to close the door by hand, and actually made friends with Anna, the one Russian girl who spoke some English. We chose to ‘enjoy’ the place for a few days and then hit the road.

If you’ve been on Facebook, you may have seen that after leaving the timeshare, we discovered a lovely farm stay that more than made up for the week before.  Now we’re sending this from a medieval  town called ‘Sintra’ up in the cool forests above Lisbon.  Then tomorrow we head off for the airport and the 7-hour hop over to my missionary cousin’s place in Brazil and the last few days of our trip before starting a series of church camps up in the state of Maine.

Last night we made our way to ‘The End of the World”……..or so they thought in Columbus’s day.  It’s called Cabo da Roca, and it’s located at the literal westernmost edge of Europe. People used to think that from their vantage point they could actually see the ocean falling over the edge off on the horizon. Looking at the mist over the water yesterday, I could really see where they might have thought that.

But the ‘theme’ this week for me seems to be ‘adaptation’, and it was illustrated appropriately by the many storks we’ve seen driving thru the countryside.  I’ll enclose a picture of one of the more adaptable ones (although truth be known, her selection has become the norm, we only saw about two in natural habitat, i.e.; dead trees). This adaptable girl and many others had built a huge nest right at the top of a cell phone tower at the edge of town, and seemed quite comfortable. What with all the concern expressed by the hazards of phone signals, I couldn’t help but wonder how those stork babies were dealing with the stimulus overload.  We didn’t see any on the power poles, probably by trial and error they realized that never ended well!

I’m reminded of Paul who said so aptly of his life, “I’ve learned to be content with whatsoever state I’m in”. (Phillipians4:11)  Paul didn’t have the opportunity to stomp his foot and change lodging, which was often prison (no clean sheets and towels there!) …….so he settled in, sang songs and was ‘content’.  I would hope this could be the lifestyle for all of us.  No dead trees?  How about that MUCH HIGHER and minimalist cell tower?  Settle in and have babies!!

Til next week, from Brazil, Marsha