Monday, August 30, 2010

Europe on Next-to-Nothing a Day

My handsome honey was stationed in Germany when he was in the Army.  It was a fine place for an artist to be, and he took advantage of the opportunity to see much of Europe.  (He'd been there a couple of years earlier as a college student so he took some of his GI friends to places he'd discovered earlier and explored many new places as well.)

Lately he's been scanning the slides of his Army days and telling me the stories behind them.  Here are a few we wanted to share with you.

Here he is, Sergeant Tom, pressed and polished, showing off his new stripes.

Sergeant Tom

One day some American tourists stopped Tom and his buddies and told them that they were going home and needed to get rid of their Combi.  Would the guys like to buy it for $1.00?  Why, of course!  They gave the tourists a dollar and transferred the title and became the proud owners of Mordicai, their transportation through Europe!

Sometimes they ventured a little too far, such as the time they were on on the Czech-German border.  Looking down from the guard tower at them were two guards, one holding a pair of binoculars and the other a gun, trained on Tom and his friends.

But mostly he enjoyed the enchanting sites of life in the cities and countryside of Europe.  In Amsterdam he spotted this woman fishing from her back yard.

Here his friends are trying to get a glimpse into the eternal flame torch stand at the stadium in Berlin where Jesse Owens won a Gold Medal in the 1938 Olympics.

In Munich, he toured the Neuschwanstein Castle, which Walt Disney used as the prototype for his Disneyland Castle.  The second photo shows the view from the castle window.

One day he and his friend had so little money that, when they looked over the menu in the restaurant they had so little cash that they had to ask if they could just have a plate of noodles.

When you're 22, it doesn't matter to you at all if you are long on adventure and short on cash!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Igpay Atinlay

Ymay adday isway ilingualbay; ehay eaksspay Englishway andway Igpay Atinlay.  Ifway ouyay ancay eakspay Igpay Atinlay, ehay ightmay enjoyway away onversationcay ithway ouyay.

(Translation: My dad is bilingual; he speaks English and Pig Latin. If you can speak Pig Latin, he might enjoy a conversation with you.)

Friday, August 27, 2010

When God Makes a Way

I am identifying today with the Children of Israel in an amazing scene recorded in Exodus 14.  Moses had repeatedly asked Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt.  They had been slaves there for 400 years and God had chosen Moses to bring them deliverance.  Finally Pharaoh relented; he let the Israelites go.  They hadn't been gone long, however, until he changed his mind.  "What have we done!  We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!" Pharaoh cried, and sent his chariots after them (verse 5).

God specifically instructed Moses to camp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea (14:1).  When Pharaoh's armies approach, there they were -- trapped between the army and the sea! (Is that where we get the saying, Between the devil and the deep blue sea?) There was no way out -- and it was God Himself who led them there!

Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.  They Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still" (13-14).  And I will gain glory, said the Lord (17).

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind an turned it into dry land.  The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left (21-22).

We've been standing on the edge of the sea lately, the chariots bearing down on us.  The Lord had taken us to the edge of the sea, with no possible means of doing what we felt He had put in our hearts to do.  But last night He parted the sea and made a way for us!  We are overwhelmed by His provision for our family, and are giving God the glory!

Who among the gods is like you, O Lord?
Who is like you --
majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
working wonders?...
The Lord will reign
for ever and ever.

Exodus 15:11,18

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Keep me from going to sleep too soon
Or if I go to sleep too soon
Come wake me up.  Come any hour 
Of night.  Come whistling up the road.
Stomp on the porch.  Bang on the door.
Make me get out of bed and come
And let you in and light a light.
Tell me the northern lights are on
And make me look.  Or tell me clouds
Are doing something to the moon
They never did before and show me.
See that I see.  Talk to me till
I'm half as wide awake as you
An start to dress wondering why
I ever went to bed at all.
Tell me the walking is superb.
Not only tell me but persuade me.
You know I'm not too hard persuaded.

Robert Francis
Image by Rick Russill

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nursery Duty

Sunday Tom and I were in the nursery.  Rather than the houseful that we have when we serve during the Seekers service (when most families with kids attend), the Mosaic service nursery is usually very small.  We just had one child, a little girl who turned two at Easter.

She must have gone down the slide twenty times, on her bottom, on her feet, on her tummy, head-first, feet-first, a different, more creative way each time.  She'd move an adult sized chair right up next to mine so that we could look at books together, but she'd flip the pages so fast you couldn't begin to read the story.

We sang "Jesus Loves Me" to her and she opened a book to a picture of Jesus and started singing her own sweet melody of praise.  She dropped the book and, still singing, went to the toy piano to accompany herself.

The most endearing thing about her was her names for us.  "Daddy, watch!" she'd order as she was about to try out a new trick.  "Daddy, play ball!" and she'd careen the red ball off the table and around the room.  "Mom, sit here."  She pointed to the chair beside her and had me sit down so that she could play ball with Tom.  I believe her only intention for me was to fetch the balls that she missed!

She made me laugh so hard at her charming antics.  Being with her was as cathartic as a good cry, and the Lord knows I've really been needing a good cry!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Caring for the Details

Tom's cousin from upstate New York is revising the Brant Family Book that she wrote several years ago, a book of family history and photos.  She mentioned that she'd like a photo of Tom's grandfather's gravesite.  Since he is buried at Washelli in Seattle, we volunteered to take a picture and send it to her.  So Saturday afternoon we set off in search of Grampa Kauffman's headstone.

The cemetery is huge, but even after many years Tom drove right to the grave.  We pulled out a few weeds with very long runners which, over the years, have been the cause of some deterioration of the cement border around the marker, and blew away the dirt.  Tom placed a rose from our garden on the stone and we got photos for the book and for family members.

Everybody dies; there have been only two people in history who haven't.  They were Enoch and Elijah, men from the Old Testament whom God chose to take from this earth.  So I can be pretty sure that one day this body will be finished and my spirit will shake it off like a worn-out, tattered garment.  Death, our final enemy, has been overcome through Christ, so I do not fear it.

But I have been concerned about what happens to my family in the event of my death.  So last week Tom and I made our final arrangements; now our family will not be burdened by the details of the funeral and burial.  We know that they will not have to figure out what to do or to guess what we would have wanted because we are making those decisions ourselves.  And they will not have to figure out how to pay for necessary services because we are caring for that as well.  All of the important data (financial information, family, health information, veterans benefits, etc.) will be recorded in a booklet that came with our plan, saving our loved ones the added grief of having to collect this information at the time of our deaths.

I was surprised by the reasonable cost.  Although funeral and burial costs rise regularly, once the arrangements have been made the price is locked in.  And if anything happens to our children before they turn 21, their costs will also be covered.

I don't mean to sound like an advertisement, but it was a relief to take care of this.  It got Tom and me talking about something we'd just as soon avoid.  And it provides peace of mind for us now and for our families down the road.  If it is something you haven't explored, I recommend you do.  It is well worth it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Maybe Next Year

My friends Deanne and Sue went camping last week at Hurricane Ridge and invited me to join them.  I wasn't sure I was up to it.  They sent these photos as an enticement for next year.

Notice how the carefully selected photos address two of my very particular concerns about the trip -- sleeping on the ground (is that a BED inside the tent?), and the difficulty of the hike (it appears quite flat).  My other concern -- being quiet for an extended period of time -- cannot be documented in photos.  I do believe even I could remain silent just for the joy of seeing those wild flowers in bloom!  And they'd make the hike a lot more inviting as well.

Photos by Deanne Lessley

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Last Words on Turning 60

Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. 
The real milestones are less prepossessing. 
They come to the door of memory unannounced, 
stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and 
simply never leave. 
Our lives are measured by these.
Susan B. Anthony

I still find each day too short 
for all the thoughts I want to think, 
all the walks I want to take, 
all the books I want to read, 
and all the friends I want to see.
John Burroughs

The older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune.
Irish Saying

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
Groucho Marx

Friday, August 20, 2010

Until the Whole World Hears

We heard Casting Crowns in concert last night at the fair in Lynden.  We were almost at the top of the grandstands and from there I could see not only the musicians but much of the fairgrounds. As the evening grew darker the lights onstage took on more drama, and I thought about the team behind the scenes and the precision with which they do their jobs.  Beyond the stage, bright lights outlined the rides against the dark sky.  The Ring of Fire burned brightly in the night.

From our seats I could also see much of the audience.  A daddy a few rows ahead of us who faced his little son as they joyfully sang the words together; a gal near the front with an enthusiastic dance step; a middle-aged woman with her hand upraised for much of the concert -- it was an animated, responsive group who loved the music.

Samuel sang his heart out beside me and performed his own lively choreography.

All the musicians are youth workers who are home in their churches Sunday through Wednesday but travel on weekends to do concerts.  They were fine instrumentalists and vocalists, and they have a strong, clear testimony.  The lyrics of their songs challenge believers to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to praise the Lord in the storms of life, to let their lifesong sing to Him.  They are on their Until the Whole World Hears tour.  The show ended with the title song and, as we were all singing along with them, "until the whole world hears," they quietly walked off the stage.  All that was left before us was smoke.  The audience continued the musical phrase, "until the whole world hears, until the whole world hears..."

And I wondered how Northwest Washington will be impacted today because we were all at that concert last night.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Lord our Provider

Dad at his store, 1981
Dad and Mom bought their business in the early 80s, when most folks their age were planning for retirement.  They bought it during a recession.  One by one the other businesses in their building closed up, but they kept plugging away and after several years of operation, they were finally starting to see a profit.

At a dental appointment, Dad was told that he had very high blood pressure.  The dentist's office set up an appointment for him with a heart specialist.  When Dad returned from the cardiologist's office, Mom had a customer, so all he could tell her was that he couldn't go to lunch as they had planned; he needed to go to the hospital for some tests.  And off he went.

Later that day, Mom found him at the hospital -- checked in and awaiting an angiogram.  She went to the hospital.  Later that evening a doctor told them that they were going to skip the angiogram and do bypass surgery the next morning.

In a daze, Mom went hom and got ready for bed.  "Lord, we don't have any money to pay for heart surgery," she prayed.  "We don't have insurance or any other means of paying.  Do you have any ideas?" and she went to sleep.  When she woke up, the words Jehovah-Jireh were on her mind.  Jehovah-Jireh -- The Lord our Provider (one of the names of God used in the Bible).  She thanked the Lord and never worried about it again.

But she did do her part -- she checked into every resource available.  She spent a couple of months filling out paper work, digging up obscure information requested by government agencies, and following up every lead.  No help came through.

In the meantime, Dad's surgery was a success.  He made steady progress by six weeks off work, long walks through the community, and a great attitude.

One day he said, "I'm going to go back to the Social Security Office and see if I can get signed up."  He'd been there several months earlier but his request had been denied.  At that time he'd been told that he would need to sell the store before he qualified for benefits.  Now they told him that he had been misinformed earlier and he did, indeed, qualify.  Not only did they begin Social Security payments, they made it retro-active to the date of the earlier visit.  The amount of back pay he received covered the costs of the surgery!

Jehovah Jireh -- The Lord our Provider.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Celebrating Sixty

Just thought you'd like to see some of the fun things I've done in celebration of turning 60.

In April I joined three college friends for a weekend in the Portland area where we celebrated our 60th birthdays together.  We were all friends from our freshman year on at Seattle Pacific College.  Lots of fun!

A couple of months ago we bought our new camera.  I gave it to Tom for his birthday and he gave it to me for mine.  It's been a wonderful reason to go out together, enjoy a Saturday afternoon, and take a few photos.  It's a birthday present we've been enjoying all summer long.

This past Saturday we went to Larabee State Park on Chuckanut Drive and enjoyed the spectacular views of the San Juan Islands from the rocky outcroppings along Puget Sound.

We've had a family celebration, of course.   But one other event took place just a few days ago at a park in Snohomish.  My high school graduating class had a 60th birthday party.  There were about 35, along with spouses and other guests, gathered under the cover on a drizzly Saturday afternoon, getting reacquainted with folks from 42 years ago!  It was quite a lot of fun.  Among our group was a great-grandfather, and also the daddy of a 4-year-old.  You can start the boat ride at the same spot in the same river and end up in such different places.  


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On Reckoning Age

Tomorrow I turn 60.  It's caused me to do a lot of thinking lately about reckoning age -- you know, figuring out how old you are.

Typically, of course, we start counting when a baby is born and add a year to his or her age when the child reaches the same day in the next calendar year, and we celebrate with a party.

But in traditional eastern Asia, the baby is considered one year at birth and marks the second birthday on the next Lunar New Year.  So a child born in December can already be considered two-years-old within weeks of his or her birth!

Some folks say you're as old as you feel.  That is such a flexible standard that I'm not sure I could handle being such divergent ages one day to the next.

When is middle age? According to the US Census, those who fit into the 35-44 and 45-54 age categories are considered "middle age."  Tom's sister Carol, however, insists that the new middle age begins at 60.  And one guru I read about says it begins at 75!

This is confusing.  Have I been old for the past six years and didn't know it, am I on the verge of middle age, or do I still have 15 years of youth left?

Some people lie about their age, refuse to say it out loud, or just plain quit counting.  My mom took a more pro-active approach.  She shifted paradigms.

When Mom got to be the age I am now, she found it impossible to utter any age that started with the letter s.  She tried, but the word wouldn't come out.  "S-s-s-s-s-s-s-s..." she'd say, but that's as far as she could go.  So she switched to Celsius.  On her birthday she did not turn 60, she turned 15.56 Celsius!  You don't age so quickly when you reckon with Celsius; Mom is now a mere 27.22 years old, a long way from middle age no matter who's definition you use!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Good Advice

Live in such a way 
that you would not be ashamed
to sell your parrot to the town gossip.

Will Rogers

Saturday, August 14, 2010

There's Always Monday

It's Saturday morning.  I get up, check my mail, and start breakfast.  I straighten up the dining room and put on a fresh table cloth and a centerpiece.  After some gardening we plan a trip to Bellingham via Chuckanut Drive.  We'll spend a little time at Larabee State Park, one of my very favorite places in the world, and then just see where we end up.

As for the piles of projects that cluttered the dining room table for several days this past week, some finished, some not, but too much stuff to deal with on a gorgeous Saturday morning -- I scoop them up and put them in a box out of the way.  They can wait.  After all, there's always Monday.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Samuel Has a Question

Curious Sam
It's pretty cool having quirky kids.  They are imaginative and funny, often adding a totally unexpected dimension to the conversation.  They also love information and Samuel, in particular, has a lot of questions.

"How long would it take to count to one million?" he asked.  So we figured it out.  First we estimated how long it would take to say each number.  We figured three seconds each (considering how long it takes to say 277,349, for example), and determined the entire experience would take 3,000,000 seconds.  There are 86,400 seconds per day.  It would take 3.47 days to count to 1,000,000.  That's three and a half days, assuming you don't need to eat, drink, sleep, sneeze, or (pardon me) use the bathroom.

Samuel's questions come out of the blue.  One day, with the whole family in the car, Samuel asked, "Is there any boy, that you know of, that has bypassed the 'girls are icky' phase of life?"

We recently heard someone say, "I came, I saw, I conquered!"  So Tom repeated it in Latin, vidi, vini, vinci, and wrote it down for us.  Only thing, the v sounds like a w, so you actually say weedy, weanie, winkie.  Samuel thought for a moment then said, "Was the artist actually named Leonardo da Winkie?"

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Good (Duck) Egg

My eyes
on chicken eggs
In an allergy test, I tested sensitive to chicken eggs.  Too many of 'em and my eyes get dizzy and out of focus.  My doctor told me that some people do better with duck eggs, so I tried it.  Yahoo!  I can eat duck eggs and my eyes don't do any crazy tricks.  As for why, all I can find out is that water fowl eggs have an enzyme that does not exist in chicken eggs, making them easier for some people to digest.  If you know more, let me know.

Getting duck eggs is a bit of a problem.  I've been fortunate to find local sources of eggs (I get mine from Adam and Joscelyn, friends with a mini-farm in Silvana), but generally I've found that you have to know someone who knows someone who has ducks.  In the winter, when duck eggs are harder to come by locally, I get them from Whole Foods or PCC in Seattle.  They are pricey, but worth the trip and the price to me.  I've heard that you can get them at Asian markets as well, though I haven't checked that out myself.

One of the girls who provides my eggs!

Duck eggs are bigger than chicken eggs and have a tougher shell.  The yolk is deep orange and the eggs are richer than chicken eggs.  They also have a higher nutrient count than chicken eggs, as well as being higher in fat and cholesterol (uh-oh).

Chicken egg on left, duck egg on right

Duck egg on top, chicken egg below

A one-egg omlette is all I need on a Saturday morning.  Some sautéed vegetables, maybe a bit of ham, one duck egg and Tom's wrist action and I've got a very satisfying breakfast (especially with a muffin and a slice of melon on the side).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hymn of the Month -- Praise You in This Storm

This is my favorite song from Casting Crowns.  Mark Hall was so impressed with 10-year-old Erin Browning when she was in her final stage of cancer -- with her confidence in God, and with her mother's faith -- that he was inspired to write I'll Praise You in This Storm.  You can read the story here, and in Mark's book, Lifestories.

In the midst of some of the most difficult storms of our lives, I first heard this song.  It spoke to the deepest part of my heart.  I am learning to rely on the utter faithfulness of God, rain or shine, and learning to praise Him in the storms.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Everett's Street Tunes

Downtown Everett is offering a creative, interactive art form this month -- several pianos, brightly painted, set in front of businesses around town.  Inspired by a similar project in New York City -- Play Me, I'm Yours -- where 60 colorful pianos are scattered around NYC, Everett commissioned local artists to paint the pianos which are now available for anyone to play!

I had my camera and a few minutes when I was downtown the other day, so I checked out a couple of pianos.  On the corner of Colby and California I found this young mother with her son on her lap sitting at the Music Leopard Lounge.  As she played scales with her right hand, he concentrated on the bass notes, his eyes darting around as they played.  A father and his two young daughters waited their turn to play.

Down the street, in front of Pave on Colby sat New Life.  The happy pianist was about 20, playing chords and runs with no particular tune in mind, making his own music.

On my way to my car I passed the Music Leopard Lounge again.  At the piano sat a boy, probably 12-years-old; his big sister stood near their bicycles.  While he played a dissonant, jazzy version of The Adams Family she provided the accompanying finger snaps.  I suspect it was a recent piano recital piece.  When they finished their number they headed for their bikes.

Later we took Tommy to the Everett Station where he played the Sun in Raven in Whale piano.  He did some amazing improvisation and drew a bit of a crowd.  One young woman stood just inside the door of the Station, where she could activate the automatic door just by moving her foot, getting it to open each time it closed.  After a while she came out onto the sidewalk to listen to him play.  I was quite impressed with his music!

The pianos will be on display in eight locations until August 25.  I wonder, if I come across one of those pianos and no one else is sitting there, will I have the courage to make a little music of my own?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Glad to Be Back

Nice to be blogging again, after a week off.  I got some much needed rest and cared for a few matters of business that I'd been putting off.

Bruce and Glenda
My cousin Glenda and her husband Bruce, from Washington DC, were here for a family reunion and we had dinner with them.  They fell in love and got engaged when the three of us were teaching English and Bible in Japan.  We reminisced about one particular December evening when we were trying to keep up with Bruce's long strides on the way to a Christmas party, but I was winded and made Bruce slow down.  I had trouble getting a good breath all that night.  The next morning, at the hospital, I learned that keeping up with Bruce had not been my problem -- a collapsed lung had!

Last Friday we had a party with my family to celebrate Samuel's completion of his high school academics.  He just has a math test to take this Thursday, and a couple more credits to earn through the 18-21 Transition program.  He has wanted a job for yeas, and now he'll be getting job training and other preparation for moving toward greater independence.  We are so proud of his accomplishment!

Gram, Gramps, Auntie Peach and Samuel

My friends Deanne and Sue invited me to go camping with them on the Olympic Peninsula.  I haven't been there for years and it sounded wonderful -- thee days in the mountains.  The trip would include two nights in a tent, a hike ("Oh, no, not a strenuous hike," said Deanne, who walks you straight up the steepest hill in town before she feeds you lunch!) and seasons of silence, just time to be alone with God.

I had to decline the invitation.  I wasn't sure I could handle sleeping on the ground and being quiet all in the same trip, not to mention Deanne's idea of a hike.  Maybe next year...

If the weather permits, they will be leaving tomorrow and returning on Thursday.  I wish you gals a wonderful time.