Archive for November, 2012

There was a Moment…

. Thanksgiving Dinner Ready to Eat

Most of the time, to be honest, holidays don’t turn out exactly the way we’ve planned. Someone is sick, or the food doesn’t turn out as we wanted, or the weather is bad, or Uncle Grumpy sets everyone’s teeth on edge. You know what I mean. We’ve all had high hopes for joy and unity that were dashed at some family gathering.

But it doesn’t always happen that way.We had high hopes this year, ourselves. One of the hardships of missionary life is separation from families at home. We came back from Guam this past year after serving for nine years on that beautiful island. One of the things we pictured about life back on the mainland was having holidays together again.

This Thanksgiving would be our first big one. Our son and daughter-in-law from Colorado decided to stay at home with their four children to be with his parents, since they’ll be here for Christmas. But all three sons, including our youngest, who still lives on Guam, were going to be with us, plus a nephew who teaches here in Arizona a few hours away. Our oldest granddaughter reminded us of how grown-up she is getting to be when she came with her pleasant and helpful boyfriend for the first time.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I cooked the foods that could be prepared ahead, and then on Thursday, the family gathered here in Holbrook. The turkey decided to be more than cooperative and was done earlier than planned, so we quickly prepared the last minute dishes. Various family members helped with setting the table, dishing up the food, and arranging the serving table. And then it happened.

There was a moment in the midst of the busy-ness, when our son Matt was playing the piano, I was slicing turkey, and Jeff and the others were chatting and helping put things together when I realized we were doing exactly what I’d dreamed we’d be doing at a holiday time–taking joy in working side by side, loving each other, being a family together instead of a family separated. It doesn’t always happen, I know. It won’t always happen for us. But there was this moment, a little perfect glimpse of joy. I don’t know when I’ve ever felt more thankful.

We Gather Together



Keeping the Wolf Away

If you are a tiny church in a little town out west, one of your problems is bound to be m-o-n-e-y. Keeping the lights on, the doors open, and the pastor paid can strain both nerves and pocketbooks, even in a congregation as generous as ours. This year, we decided to have a Christmas Bazaar and Rummage Sale over Veteran’s Day weekend to try to refill our depleted coffers. We didn’t know if it would work, but we thought we’d try.

We began collecting saleable items months ago from members, friends, and other churches, storing them in every nook and cranny in the church building and eventually borrowing storage room from a nearby rescue mission. Last week on Wednesday, a crew of our friends and members gathered to prepare the sale. The men took everything out of storage and deposited it in the front of the huge room where the sale would be held at the local Elks club.

The pile of boxes, old furniture, books, and other “treasures” was ENORMOUS, and none of us knew exactly what to do with it all. But a member who came in late offered to run things. “I’m bossy,” she said. “But I know how to organize a sale.”

It wasn’t false advertising, either—she did know, and we obeyed orders. All of us later confessed we had moments when we doubted the job could even be done. But by the end of two days, all the boxes were empty and their contents were organized on long tables. Various aches and pains afflicted the membership, but we were ready for our customers.

Drawn by curiosity and reasonable prices, customers came in steady streams. We offered a hot lunch, a craft bazaar, and tables and tables of inexpensive household, maintenance, and clothing items. Holiday music played in the background, and all of us were committed to the idea that it was better to sell our items inexpensively than to put them back into storage. We wore silly Christmas hats and name tags. We got to know many people in the community that we’d never have met any other way. Furthermore, we had a lot of fun working together.

We earned nearly $3,000 dollars for the church and its mission in the community—more than we ever expected. The wolf won’t be at the door this month, or next month either. Our customers want us to do it next year. And if our aches and pains heal by then, we may even try it!

Making Memories

Jaren and Mom enjoying tomatoes from the garden

Yesterday, Jeff received a call that shocked us both. A local man in his sixties,  who had befriended Jeff almost as soon as he came to Holbrook and who, with his wife,  planned to have dinner at our house this week,  died unexpectedly during the night. His physical self-care had been exemplary because he feared the heart issues in his family history.  There were no signs of illness or discomfort when he went to bed, but he awoke in the early morning in distress, woke his wife, and died before anyone could reach him with help.

Holbrook lost a positive, friendly, out-reaching member of its community with his death and of course, his family lost husband and father. I’m sure they’re still unvelieving and in shock. Jeff will preach the funeral sermon on Monday.

When someone dies in this quick, unexpected manner, the reminder of our own presence here as resident aliens who have no permanent home on this earth is vivid. We don’t expect lives to end so abruptly, leaving our plans and projects unfinished. We ask ourselves what we’d better get accomplished just in case, what item on our bucket list seems the most urgent, what we want to be sure to do or resolve in the time remaining to us. In a few weeks, I’m sure we’ll have let this sense of urgency slip away, but we talked quite a bit yesterday evening, in between trick-or-treaters, about what we want to do with the unknown segment of time that remains to us.

One of my goals, I decided, was making memories with people I love. For instance, right after we finished our vacation this fall, our daughter, son in law, and their four children came to visit. We had a lot of ripe tomatoes in the garden, so I asked if they’d like to help pick them. A couple of the children discovered that even if tomatoes in general are not their favorite vegetables, the sun ripened versions direct from the vine are a different case. Two year old Jaren ate and ate and ate, leaving the evidence around his mouth, as you can see in the photo. In fact, the next morning when I got up and went looking for him, I found him next to the tray of tomatoes we’d brought inside, munching happily. We dug a few tiny potatoes, too, and the kids were astonished to see where and how they grew. I think they’ll remember this experience with the garden for a long time–a positive memory of their grandparents’ home. I liked that. I want to do more of it.

It’s wise not to worry too much about the possibility of unexpected death, of course. We don’t want to be morbid. But it’s also good to be reminded sometimes of the simple brevity of life, to focus on things that need to be done while there is light to do them. Obviously, our spiritual lives are first priority; if we have not made peace there, we need to do so without delay. But beyond that highest priority, there are things we may want to do and changes we may want to make in the way we live.  So let’s remember that our time is not unlimited. Let’s do those things and make those changes now. Just in case.