Kibrothhattaavah

May 20, 2020 – Bavaria, Germany

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My husband and I, along with our German neighbors, and military friends on nearby bases, have all been under a mandated “shelter at home” quarantine now, for over two months, due to an outbreak of the dreaded caronavirus. That, in itself, is not newsworthy, as this state of affairs spread rapidly to many other parts of the world, and at one time Europe was considered “ground zero.”  I’m not sure what the status is now, as things are slowly beginning to open back up. However, I am endeavoring to document our experiences while here in this country, so I am making an attempt (albeit a rather feeble attempt) to reflect on these happenings, if for no other reason than to be able to look back, years from now, and have some kind of perspective.

I say “feeble attempt” because it is such an overwhelming topic, and I along with others, have grown weary of the daily news and even the mention of the word. Social media quickly reverted to jokes and lighthearted memes, even divisive political debate about what measures should be taken. I am just as guilty as the next person when it comes to enjoying a little comic relief, but can’t help feeling shame at the thought of laughing when I had friends in the hospital who had been infected and were on life support – multiply this scenario thousands of times throughout the world. The world reeled in agony, and many of us sat back and laughed? God help us. Don’t take me wrong. I’m not standing in judgment over anyone. I totally understand the old adage…sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying. I experienced that roller coaster many times during the years I took care of my mother, whose mental and physical health were slowly ravaged by dementia.

I guess the hardest part for me to understand is how quickly the world panicked. It only took a week or so, after hearing about the rush on toilet paper in the US, before shelves here in Germany were wiped out as well…no pun intended. Why, everyone wonders? It is, after all, a respiratory virus, not a stomach flu. Once it hit the toilet paper aisle, other aisles quickly followed: meat, bread, flour, sugar, peanut butter and jelly, ramen noodles…ramen noodles? Seriously? There must be a lot of people out there who don’t like to cook. On second thought, that was the Commissary on base where a lot of single soldiers shop.

Well…this brings me to my topic, Kibrothhattaavah. Recently I was reading in the book of Numbers (not my favorite part of the Bible), so when I get to this part, I tend to skip and skim. I landed in chapter 11.  The children of Israel had been delivered from slavery and bondage in Egypt, and had just experienced one of the most amazing miracles of God ever witnessed by man – the parting of the Red Sea. So, what was their response? Murmuring and complaining. God’s anger was kindled against them. He had delivered them from bondage and the mighty Egyptian army; He had fed them with heavenly manna (which they had hoarded), but that wasn’t good enough. They wanted meat!!!!! (Ah yes! That seems to be the on-going hot commodity lately, and meat counters continue to remain sparsely stocked.) God got so tired of their complaining, He decided to send them their meat…tons of meat! God said He would send them enough meat not for one or two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days. He sent them enough meat for a whole month, to the point He said it would come out of their nostrils and be loathsome to them. God sent a wind from the sea that brought quail and let them fall in the camp. According to my Bible commentary, the quail was stacked three feet deep around the camp, as far away as a day’s walk.

So, what did the people do? They HOARDED. (Evidently the temptation to hoard has been a common human trait since the beginning of time.) They gathered quail all day, all that night, and all the next day.  The least any one person gathered was 10 ½ bushels of quail. There was a total of 6,720 quail to each of 3,000,000 people. There was a total of 2,520,000,000 gallons or 20,160,000,000 quail. (In my mind, I’m picturing the scene of all this quail in a desert environment without refrigeration, and thinking the stench would  be unbearable.) Well, it was picnic time in the camp, but the story doesn’t end well.

While the quail flesh was still in their mouths, before they had even chewed, the Lord smote them with a very great plague. We are not told how many died, but the name of the place where they were buried was named Kibrothhattaavah – Graves of lust and greed.

In the New Testament we are taught to pray the Lord’s Prayer – a part of which is a request to the God of Heaven…Give us this day, our daily bread. Another core teaching of the New Testament is…Do not worry about tomorrow. In other words, be happy, satisfied and content with your provision for THIS DAY! This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! Tomorrow will take care of itself, when you leave the control in God’s hands.

So, how will our story end? Pray for those in authority; our President, our governors, our mayors, that God give them great wisdom. Pray for our business leaders as they struggle to get our sinking economy up and running again. Let us continue to pray and have compassion over the sick. Continue to pray for healthcare providers and those working exhausting days and nights to provide for our basic needs.

Remember, life is 10 % what happens to you, and 90 % how you respond. May God help us not to fall into the trap of grumbling and complaining and hoarding, and find “Kibrothhattaavah” engraved on our tombstone.

Tips for Shopping at an IKEA in Germany

 

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IKEA is a global company known for its ready-to-assemble DIY “flat pack” furniture, the innovation of its Swedish founder Ingrar Kamprad – from which IKEA gets its first two letters – the last two initials representing the two places where he grew up. (I didn’t know this, and found it to be an interesting little tidbit of information.) I also found it interesting that Kamprad began his business career at the age of five when he started selling matches to neighbors. Eventually, he began to sell other items that ranged from seeds, to fish, to Christmas décor. I’m fascinated with the stories of entrepreneurs that start out selling some small item from their garage and end up making it big in the world!

My husband Steve and I had shopped at an IKEA in Bloomington, Minnesota, but I don’t think that properly prepared us for our experience in Nuremberg, Germany. Before leaving on our adventure, I searched the internet to see if I might be able to find some time-saving tips. I thought that might be helpful as I was traveling with a non-shopper. I did find a few comments that made me feel a little uneasy:

“IKEA is one of those places that can save you a ton of money on home décor and furnishings if you make the most of it…or, it can make you lose your religion. Having a plan insures a successful visit.”

“You can always count on seeing couples fighting at IKEA. Be prepared for a breakup.”

“You haven’t really experienced shopping in Germany until you have gone to IKEA. It almost feels like you’re a mouse in a science project and you can’t get out once you get in.”

Steve and I had a plan. We wanted to pick up a nice desk/work table for my office. That was pretty much it. Simple plan. The other part of the plan was to leave immediately after his Christmas office party to head to Nuremberg. It is this experience that inspired me to share a list of tips with any other prospective shoppers out there planning a visit to IKEA.

#1. Under no circumstances, EVER, shop at an IKEA in Germany on a Saturday! (Maybe not an IKEA anywhere!)

#2. Under no circumstances, EVER, shop at an IKEA during the Christmas season! (If you do find yourself combining #1 and #2, you COULD very possibly lose your religion and your marriage – as previously warned.)

#3. Review #1 and #2

#4. While your husband is parking the car in the last spot, of the far corner of the back 40, don’t bother wasting your time trying to study the large layout map at the entry of the store thinking you’ll gain any advantage. You’re going to run into words that look like kleideraufbewahrung, schneidebretter, and zeitschrifensammler. Better to spend your time scouting out where the restrooms are.

#5. While you’re still waiting on your husband who is finding his way through the maze of thousands of cars, and a Christmas-tree throwing contest, don’t bother grabbing a shopping cart, thinking that will give you any kind of advantage. You won’t be able to get it up the escalator.

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#6. Once you relocate your husband and head up the escalator without a shopping cart, don’t think you’re being smart to grab another abandoned cart in the far corner when you reach the next level. No one, and I mean NO ONE else was pushing their cart through the throngs of people, except us! We grabbed a few small items to place in our cart just so it didn’t look foolishly empty. The first floor is mainly a showroom area arranged in attractive layouts. If you find an item of interest, jot down the number. You’ll need this later.

#7. If a small, panicky child comes running up to you with imploring eyes, crying “Mama! Mama!” – do not try to console the child in English as it will only make matters worse. Flag down the nearest store clerk. When she looks at you with a blank expression as you’re trying to explain in English that said child is lost, just point to the child and say, “Mama! Mama!” She’ll catch on quickly.

#8. Do not under any circumstances pick a lost child up in your arms and try to console them. When the distressed parents come running and see you holding their child, they might think you were trying to kidnap them. (I played it smart and resisted the urge.)

#9. When you are finished with your shopping and ready to pick up your selected furniture, you must stop at one of the computer kiosks and look up your item. When you are staring blankly at a screen full of German instructions, you just wait until you hear someone walking behind you who is speaking English, then you kindly grab them and ask for help. They will also be kind enough to tell you to take your information to the lady standing under the blue sign.

#10. When the blue-sign lady starts speaking to you in German and you don’t understand, try a different language you might know, such as Spanish. My husband tried this, and it worked! This young lady actually understood a little Spanish! Europeans are multi-lingual. So, if you do speak another language, it’s worth a try. Spanish is actually quite helpful in Italy.

#11. When you have finished your shopping, don’t just automatically make a bee-line for the shortest check-out line. It’s probably going to be the express lane, and you may have too many items to qualify. Fortunately for me, my observant husband had already found an appropriate line. Unfortunately, I had inadvertently cut a man off in the express lane and received a tongue-lashing in German. The nice thing was, I didn’t understand a word. He had a cart piled to the ceiling with flat-pack boxes. It was kind of fun to watch him when he, too, realized he was in the express lane and had to go looking for another line. This is not easy to do when there are five lanes with hundreds of people, and you’re pushing a cart with enough boxes to build an entire house.

#12. Resist the urge to stock up on cookies while you’re waiting in line. Once you get through the line (an hour later) there is still more shopping on the other side. There is a nice little mini-mart with a better selection of cookies, along with juices, cheese, sausages, and all kinds of jams and jellies. I am told the IKEA ginger snaps are a favorite. That will have to be on my list for the next trip.

#13. While in Germany, you need to take your own shopping bags – even in the grocery stores. While in line at IKEA, decide if you need to pick up one of their super-sized, inexpensive shopping bags. This may make it easier for transferring items into your car, and later when you arrive home.

#14. At this point, you’re still not finished with your IKEA shopping experience. It’s now time to go get a number and wait in line at Customer Service to submit your VAT form (Value Added Tax.) My husband estimated that we would be saving forty dollars by submitting our form. I was beginning to wonder if it was worth the forty dollars to have to stand in line for another hour to hour and a half. IKEA provides a very nice waiting area with comfy seats and even some foosball set up for your personal entertainment. However, when you are shopping on a Saturday during the Christmas season, you will not be anywhere near a comfy seat. There were hundreds of people milling around, and our number wasn’t anywhere close to the number being flashed on the screen as “next.”

#14. If you are lucky, really lucky, as we were – you’ll meet a nice American family while you’re waiting and enjoy a friendly visit. They blessed us with an extra number tag they had that saved us about a 40-minute wait in line. Later we found out…they’re assigned to the same military base where we are located, and within a few days, we met up again just like we were old friends!

Well, hopefully these tips will be helpful to anyone planning an upcoming visit to IKEA. When I was doing my internet search, I read that when IKEA first opened their store in Shanghai, China – 80,000 customers showed up! I wouldn’t be surprised if our visit to Nuremberg topped that record. Just joking, of course, but maybe not. One small glitch. When we got home with my desk/work table, my husband decided he liked it so well, he wanted one for his office, as well. So, we had to plan another visit to IKEA. This time we decided to play it smart. We decided to try out the IKEA in Regensburg, which is a little smaller store. We also shopped on a Monday. Well…it was WUNDERBAR! We were able to park close, managed to get to the café for a lunch of Swedish meatballs and potatoes, and even got a table by the big window with a “scenic view” of the Autobahn! (This would not have happened in Nuremberg. We wouldn’t have even been able to locate the cafe for the crowd.)

And my desk/worktable? We couldn’t find another one just like it, so my husband took mine! I didn’t mind, though. I got one bigger and better! I must say, IKEA furniture is good, solidly built furniture, and we are very pleased.

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First desk/table

 

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Second desk…bigger and better!

One last tip…

#15. Make sure your husband is handy, as mine is, at putting furniture together!

On the Stage of Life

Words. Words have power.

The power of the word is real whether or not you are conscious of it.

Behind every word flows energy.

– Sonia Choquette

 

Picture4Think back over your life. What words have defined you? What words have you ALLOWED to define you? I know children whose parents have told them they were “a mistake.” Do you think that child is capable of ever forgetting those words? Then there are others who’ve been told, “You’re a mess; you’ll never amount to anything in life; you’re not smart enough; you’re not good enough; you’re ugly; you’re dumb; why aren’t you as beautiful and talented as your sister”…and the list goes on. Those words are hard to forget – they leave a scar. They haunt you for life.

Someone once told me she wished she had just a fingertip of my artistic talent. I reminded her that all it takes is the desire, and it sounded to me like she had that. She replied that she had been told by her parents that she didn’t have any artistic talent at all. For years she had accepted those words spoken over her. I talked her into signing up for oil painting classes, and she produced amazing paintings that now grace the walls of her home, but she wasted some beautiful, creative years to get to that point.

In thinking over some of the “defining words of life,” I decided to come up with a list of some of the power players, and then turned the list into a play. Maybe you’ll recognize yourself as one of the main actors. This is literally a WORD PLAY. I’ve entitled the play:

 ON THE STAGE OF LIFE

SCENE ONE:

Abused, battered, bruised, judged, scorned, afflicted, despised, disdained, condemned, heartbroken, abandoned, unwanted, broken, intimidated, demoralized, oppressed, immobilized, paralyzed, confused, discouraged, threatened, defenseless, deficient, inadequate, rejected, insulted, mocked, rebuked, bashed, slammed, blinded, injured, scarred, debilitated, rattled, caged, sickened, condemned, tortured, denied, overlooked, blamed, shamed, accused, embittered, trampled, shattered, emptied, drained, undone, destroyed, defeated…..

 SCENE TWO:

JESUS (enter stage left)

Faithful, loving, compassionate, accepting, saving, forgiving, healing, gracious, cleansing, purifying, understanding, guiding, uplifting, encouraging, gifting, filling, affirming, inspiring, supporting, powerful, competent, abounding, sufficient, unfathomable, unsearchable, unlimited, boundless, victorious, sustaining, upholding……..

SCENE THREE:

Loved, wanted, created, rescued, cleansed, healed, restored, delivered, chosen, filled, inspired, sustained, cherished, forgiven, redeemed, embraced, cradled, covered, protected, soothed, comforted, supported, accepted, uplifted, encouraged, strengthened, rested, refreshed, revived, gifted, enlightened, empowered, enabled, fulfilled……..

Curtain call.

Standing ovation!!

We’re all players on this stage of life. In which scene do you find yourself? I hope you’re allowing the energy of positive, affirming, God-inspired words to flow through your life.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Deuteronomy 8:3

He sent forth his word and healed them. Psalm 107:20

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis 1:3

The very breath that God used to speak forth the creation of the world, and bring light out of darkness, is the same breath He breathed into you to speak forth your words. They can be creative, illuminating, life-giving words, or they can be dark, haunting, destructive words. The power is yours; choose wisely…and remember… “Men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

 

 

My God

Here is how I describe my God…how do you describe yours?

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GOD DESCRIPTORS

His position is SUPREME Col. 1:18
His greatness is SURPASSING, UNSEARCHABLE and UNFATHOMABLE Psalm 150:2; Phil. 3:8; Psalm 145:3
His majesty is GLORIOUSLY SPLENDID Psalm 145:5
His garments are SPLENDOR, MAJESTY and LIGHT Psalm 104:1-2
He lives in UNAPPROACHABLE light. 1 Tim. 6:16
His presence is BRIGHTNESS Psalm 18:12
His image is INVISIBLE Col. 1:15
His splendor is ABOVE THE EARTH AND THE HEAVENS Psalm 148:14
His glory is GREAT, ALL-SURPASSING, ABOVE THE HEAVENS, and ENDURES FOREVER 2 Cor. 3:11; Psalm 104:32; Psalm 8:1; Psalm 138:2
His kingdom is GLORIOUSLY SPLENDID and EVERLASTING Psalm 145:13
His throne is FOR EVER AND EVER Psalm 45:6
His righteousness is EVERLASTING, ENDURING FOREVER Psalm 111:3; 119:142
His kingship is ETERNAL and OVER ALL THE EARTH 1 Tim. 1:17; Psalm 47:7
His reign is FOREVER Psalm 146:10
His renown is EVERLASTING and ENDURES FOREVER Isaiah 63:12: Psalm 135:13
His wonders are REMEMBERED Psalm 111:4
His dominion is ENDURING Psalm 145:13
His name is HOLY and AWESOME Psalm 111:9
His name is GLORIOUS and HOLY Isaiah 63:14; Psalm 145:21
His name alone is EXALTED ABOVE ALL THINGS Psalm 148:13; Psalm 138:2
His name alone is EXCELLENT. Psalm 148:13
His name is ABOVE EVERY NAME Phil. 2:9
His name is REMEMBERED IN ALL GENERATIONS Psalm 45:17
His name ENDURES FOREVER Psalm 72:17;135:13
His creation is BEFORE ALL THINGS Col. 1:17
His voice is POWERFUL,  MAJESTIC, UPON THE WATERS, THUNDERS, BREAKS THE CEDARS, DIVIDES THE FLAMES, SHAKES THE WILDERNESS Psalm 29
His Word is FLAWLESS and ETERNAL, and EXALTED ABOVE ALL THINGS Proverbs 30:5; Psalm 119:89; Psalm 138:2
His Words are TRUE and RIGHT Psalm 119:160; Psalm 33:4
His fear is THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM Psalm 111:10
His law is PERFECT, RIGHTEOUS, ETERNAL, ENDURING, TRUE and DELIGHTFUL Psalm 19:7; 119:91,142,160,174
His statutes are RIGHTEOUS, TRUSTWORTHY, LASTING FOREVER and FOREVER RIGHT Psalm 119:138,144,152;19:7
His truth is ABUNDANT Exodus 34:6
His right hand is FULL OF RIGHTEOUSNESS Psalm 48:10
His counsel is EVERLASTING Psalm 33:11
His promises are FAITHFUL and THOROUGHLY TESTED Psalm 145:13; Psalm 119:140
His faithfulness REACHES TO THE SKIES; ENDURES FOREVER and CONTINUES THROUGH ALL GENERATIONS Psalm 57:10; Psalm 117:2; 119:90
His compassion is GREAT Psalm 119:156
His kindness is MARVELOUS and LOVING Psalm 17:7; 31:21
His teaching is LIGHT Proverbs 6:23
His precepts are RIGHT, TRUSTWORTHY, STEADFAST, FAITHFUL, UPRIGHT and SUSTAINING Psalm 19:8; Psalm 111:7-8; 119:93
His commands are TRUE, DELIGHTFUL, RIGHTEOUS, BOUNDLESS (Even though all other perfection has its limits.) and UNFORGETTABLE Psalm 119:151; 119:143; 119:172;119:96,176
His ordinances are SURE and ALTOGETHER RIGHTEOUS Psalm 19:9
His judgments are UNSEARCHABLE Romans 11:33
His power is MIGHTY, ALL-SURPASSING, INCOMPARABLE and MAJESTIC Psalm 147:5; 2 Cor. 4:7; EPH. 1:19; 2 Thes. 1:9
His works are GREAT, POWERFUL, WONDERFUL, AWESOME, MARVELOUS, FAITHFUL, JUST and TRUE Psalm 145:6; Psalm 111;6-7; Psalm 9:1; Psalm 33:4
His acts are MIGHTY Psalm 145:4
His ways are RIGHTEOUS and PERFECT Psalm 145:17; Psalm 18:30
His deeds are GREAT, GLORIOUS and MAJESTIC Psalm 145:6; Psalm 111;3
His riches are UNSEARCHABLE and GLORIOUS Eph. 3:8; Eph. 3:16; Phil. 4:19
His mercy and grace are GLORIOUS, INCOMPARABLE, SUFFICIENT, ABUNDANT, RICH and FULL Eph. 1:6; Eph. 2:4,7; 2 Cor. 12:9; Romans 5:17; John 1:16
His patience is UNLIMITED 1 Tim. 1:16
His peace TRANSCENDS ALL UNDERSTANDING Phil. 4:7
His energy is EMPOWERING Col. 1:29
His hand is MIGHTY Exodus 32:11
His gift is INDESCRIBABLE 2 Cor. 9:15
His goodness is ABUNDANT Exodus 34:6; Psalm 145:7
His understanding is INFINITE and LIMITLESS. Psalm 147:5
His paths are BEYOND TRACING OUT Romans 11:33
His Church is HOLY and WITHOUT BLEMISH Col. 1:22
His praise is ETERNAL, ENDURING FOR EVER AND EVER Psalm 111:10; PSALM 45:17
His covenant is ORDAINED FOREVER Psalm 111:5,9
His love is UNFAILING, SURPASSES KNOWLEDGE, ALL-ENCOMPASSING, RICH, PRICELESS, EXCELLENT, REACHES TO THE HEAVENS and ENDURES FOREVER Psalm 32:10; Eph. 3:19; John 3:16 ; Psalm 145:8; Psalm 36:7; Psalm 57:10; Psalm 136:1
His help is EVER-PRESENT Psalm 46:1
His arms are EVERLASTING Deut. 33:27

STAND IN AWE OF GOD. Eccl. 5:7

A Fork in the Road

In the way of a little introduction…

It was the summer of 2019. My husband Steve, and I, were sitting in our modest little apartment on the third floor of an older, red-brick apartment building in Rock Island, Illinois. A retired Army veteran, Steve was months away from retirement of his civilian job with the Department of Defense.  Some years before, I had taken early retirement from my teaching career. We had talked about various retirement options involving major moves, but we kept coming back to the dream of getting a cabin in Arkansas with a big front porch, some rocking chairs, and a couple of good dogs.

We had just finished watching a movie when I turned to Steve and casually announced, “We need an adventure!” A few days later, Steve came home from his job at the Rock Island Arsenal and surprised me with, “What would you think of moving to Germany for three years?” I didn’t have to think twice. I’ve always loved travel. Living in Europe for three years? What was there not to love about that idea? I would now be able to claim having lived on four continents. It was more than I could have dreamed when I had suggested an adventure. A position had opened up at the military base in Vilseck, Germany. Steve submitted his application, and that’s where it all began.

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Good-bye, Illinois

When Steve received the news he had been hired for the position, a whirlwind of activity ensued. We still had a furnished house on the market in Decatur, Illinois. Plans were made for the military to come and pack our apartment, as well as the house. Steve made plans to leave for Germany in mid-September, leaving me with a legal pad filled with last minute detailed instructions for packing, shipping of the car, closing of various accounts, etc. To complicate matters, I had already planned a mid-October trip to Peru, South America, which also demanded the full focus of my attention. My return trip from Peru would give me less than a week to prepare for my departure to Germany the early part of November.

Steve felt relieved that I would arrive later as it would give him time to find a place to rent. We both agreed we would prefer a house, over an apartment. Friends were asking me, “What if you don’t like the place he picks out?” It didn’t matter to me, one way or the other. It was a temporary arrangement and I knew I could be happy just about any place. My biggest concern was our health. Here we were retirement age and making plans to move to the other side of the world where we didn’t know a soul, nor did we know the language. Somehow, I found it all rather intriguing. Hadn’t I asked for an adventure? I comforted myself with the thought that if Abraham and Sarah could have a baby at 100 and 90, Steve and I could move to Europe at our age! Time and age are not a factor in God’s scheme of things. After all, we had prayed and asked God for wisdom and guidance, and the door had swung wide open. All we had to do was trust God and take a step of faith. If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that you can experience the most amazing adventures when you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.  – Yogi Berra

I’ve always loved writing.  The power and imagery of words intrigues me. I’ve had various friends encourage me to write a blog of our life in Germany. Others have suggested I write a memoir, but according to my husband, only dead people write memoirs! 🙂  Be that as it may, I agree with my friend Rhonda’s take on it:

How precious are our days on the earth! How marvelous the journey through! Where do they go if not jotted down onto a page or held together in a song? Too much is lost and forgotten! And the dripping of the blade of ice hanging from the sun- drenched eve? The laundry flapping on the line, the dust that gathers too quickly on the bookshelves, and the brilliant sunrise illuminating the steam rising from the roof of the corncrib shed? Who will hold it still and sure for me, if not the page? The sea of fading memories is greedy to take the velvet voice of the three-year-old and the sweet things he’s said so sweetly. It dilutes the sight of his chunky hands and his quick moving feet. There is so much I would forget if not hung up for me on the forever-page. I feel we must write as much down as possible. – Rhonda Gunn Drain

So much is easily forgotten if we don’t hang it up on our “forever-page.” I’m reminded of one of my mother’s favorite sayings, “That day, that special moment, hangs in the art gallery of my mind.” I don’t ever want to forget those special moments in my life, so I choose to blog. If you choose to come along with me on this adventure…all the better!

I took my flight to Germany on November 7, 2019. My friend, Suzie, drove me to the airport early in the morning…early enough to see the most amazing sunrise. It’s one of the pictures that hangs in “the art gallery of my mind.”

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Good-bye, America!

 

Male vs. Female Driving Instincts (In Germany…but actually, just about anywhere)

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To begin with, let me just tell you that my husband, Steve, is a motorcycle aficionado. He finds great delight in motorcycle challenges that involve riding 10,000 miles in under 13 days. He claims it is painful and brutal, but soo much fun! I, on the other hand, cannot comprehend any situation in which those words would fit well together. And therein lies the key to understanding the difference between male and female driving instincts.

Case in point. Steve accepted a job assignment here in Germany, working for the Department of Defense. He arrived mid-September; I came a little later, arriving early November. So, it is fair to say he had the advantage of getting acclimated to his surroundings for several weeks before I arrived. I might add, due to his military training, situational awareness is one of his strengths. He can learn his way around in some of the most bizarre situations and remote areas of the world, in a matter of hours, or a day or two, at the most. I have not had the luxury (or trauma) of being thrown into the middle of the Alaskan wilderness and told to find my way back. So, I am truly lacking in that skill set. I think I would be looking for the nearest hunter’s tree stand and asking for directions. However, for a man, that is a sign of weakness and also causes you to lose some of your masculine hutzpah.

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Upon my arrival in Germany I was enchanted with this fairy-tale land; I wanted to absorb and record every detail of this beautiful country, and its people. We live in the quaint little village of Edelsfeld, which is fifteen minutes from the military compound. Other than the one-hour ride from the airport, my first outing involved the drive to Rose Barracks chapel on a Sunday morning. Steve is driving and thinking: It will take us fifteen minutes to get to the Rose Barracks chapel. Period.

I’m riding along and thinking: Wow! I love that little village nestled in the hills. I wonder what kinds of trees those are. I’ve never seen trees like that before. This seems to be an agricultural community. All the houses are built pretty much in the same style, cement block with stucco siding. All the roofs are tile with lots of skylights and solar panels. There are some windmills. The Germans seem to be very energy conscious. Lots of wood stacks and piled logs. Looks like maybe some of the homes are heated with wood. I see smoke curling out of a lot of the chimneys. I would love to take that little side road just to see where it goes. I LOVE those lace curtains in everyone’s windows. I’m going to have to find out where I can buy some of those. Oooh…that looks like a nice little shop. I need to find my way back there. Oh… that looks like a good restaurant, right next door. I love how the mist drifts through the trees. I’d like to try and do a watercolor of that scene. Those old barns are just charming. Oh…there’s a horse out in the meadow wearing a blanket… and on it goes. Mind you, I’m only thinking these things quietly to myself. If I were to verbalize all of this, I would have been left by the side of the road miles back, but you get the picture.

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Now, fast-forward to the week after I get my German driver’s license, approximately two months after my arrival. In case you are wondering what took me so long, I had to study a 98 page “Drivers Handbook and Examination Manual for Germany,” and learn 186 new road signs. Some of these signs have German words, such as Einbahnstrase (one way) and Ausfahrt, which identifies an exit. (That is one of the easier ones to learn!) Then of course, you need to learn how to convert Kph to Mph. There are guarded railroad crossing signs, and unguarded railroad crossing signs, distance to guarded railroad crossing signs, and distance to unguarded railroad crossing signs. Then there are posted signs letting you know you have 160 meters before the railroad crossing, etc., etc…and yes, you better remember that it is 160 meters because that will be on the test. You need to remember how many meters to stop before a crosswalk and a bus stop. You also need to learn that there are roads where POVs (Privately Owned Vehicles) are not allowed; there is the Autobahn (German version of the Indianapolis 500); there are Priority Roads; skinny roads (Steve’s term); super skinny roads; military roads (forbidden access); roads for cyclists and pedestrians only, and Rollsplitt – gravel roads. (GPS doesn’t know any difference. A road is a road.) Mind you, road signs are hard to remember when you’re cruising at 100Kph. If you ruminate too long on a passing sign, you’ll miss your turn. Well…you get the picture. It is quite overwhelming, but I study and I pass the test.

The first Sunday after claiming my driver’s license, we’re headed back to Rose Barracks for the Sunday service at the chapel. Steve says, “You’re driving.”

“OK, but you’ll remind me where to turn, right?”

“No. You’ve already been on this road 100 times. You know where to turn.” In my head I was calculating my response: That’s not possible. I’ve only been in Germany eight weeks; that is less than 100 days. Not counting round trips, that wasn’t even close, and most of those trips I was absorbed with trees, horses, and lace curtains. I didn’t say anything. It would take too long to explain myself.

“Well, maybe I should use the GPS.”

“No. Don’t ever rely on the GPS. It can lead you astray and put you on a skinny road, or a super skinny road, or a gravel road, or an off-limits military road.”

Me: Blank look on my face as I’m pulling out of the driveway.

“I want you to learn how to find your way in case you get lost some time. If you make a wrong turn, you’ll learn from your mistake.” (Somehow, I felt his military training was kicking in. I was being thrown into the wilderness to find my way out.) At any rate, I wasn’t feeling comfortable with the idea, and if you’re not feeling comfortable about something, it can affect your judgment. A few miles down the road, I was pretty sure a left turn was coming up. Oops! There were three places to turn left. Rather than make a snap decision, I drove on by and found a place to turn around. I could feel the “eye-roll” from across the seat. I recalibrate and get back on the right track. A few miles down the road, a big yellow sign comes up. Yes, this is an important sign, but a little confusing. There is an arrow pointing to the town of Vilseck and another arrow pointing to the Vilseck Military Community. Somehow my brain fixates on the word “military,” and I envision myself taking a forbidden military road with live ordnance flying over our heads, and Steve screaming “Stop!” In the time it takes me to think through this scenario, I miss my turn. I must turn around and come back.

 

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The following Sunday, I get smart and insist on using the GPS. On the way back home, Steve tells me to make an unexpected turn, not shown on the GPS. I find myself on one of the “skinny roads” – skinny road meaning it is very narrow, with little room to pass and ditches on either side. “Why did you do this to me?” I ask, just slightly irritated.

“I wanted you to learn what to do in case you ever find yourself in this situation.” (His military survival training is kicking in again, and I’m not liking it.) He smiles. “Don’t worry. It’s going to get worse.” The skinny road then turns into a super skinny road. By now, I’m praying I don’t meet another vehicle or I will have to back up to Timbuktu. I’ve always loved adventure, and I’ve always enjoyed taking the road less traveled, but by now, I’m feeling a little stressed. Then it happens. We pass a magical looking, tiny little structure on the side of the road. It looks like a gnome house right out of a Grimm Fairy Tale. As I drive by, I see an open door with two wooden benches inside, with just enough room to seat maybe four people. It appeared to be a little roadside chapel.

“Wow! Did you see that?” I exclaim.

“See! You would have never gotten that surprise if we hadn’t come this way.” He’s right, of course. I make a mental note to myself: I want to come back here someday. I’m still thinking about the magical little chapel when I miss the next turn.

“Why weren’t you paying attention to the GPS?” Steve sighs.

“You’ve told me not to depend on the GPS,” I counter. Despite everything, I manage to get us home.

Tomorrow morning I’m taking my first solo flight to Rose Barracks. Hopefully, I don’t find myself on a skinny road, but if I do, I’m going to be on the lookout for the magical little chapel by the side of the road. It’s calling me back. I’m afraid my female driving instinct is here to stay. I hope I never lose that sense of wonder and adventure, but I also need to remember my husband’s common-sense advice and driving instinct: “Stay focused. Stay alert and maintain situational awareness.” Sounds very military, doesn’t it? In retrospect, I think a nice blend of the male/female instinct is probably the ideal. Balance is the key to a safe, but adventurous life.

An Angel to the Rescue

e458e80815dc3632c2f5e6e09b7faf35I had pulled up in front of the local Thrift Store to deliver a rather large box of donations. As I lifted the box out of the trunk of the car, I set it down on the pavement. I knew it was too heavy to carry in, so I decided to drag it. I was stepping backwards and failed to see a slight raise in the sidewalk, and down I went. There I sat by my box, feeling rather sheepish, when out of the corner of my eye I spotted someone approaching. How nice, I thought. Someone’s coming to help me. My next thought was that this person reminded me of Aunt Bea (from the Andy Griffith Show.) She was a sweet looking older lady dressed in an old-fashioned coat. She had a look of concern on her face, but never said a word. She set down her old-fashioned purse and positioned herself behind me placing both hands under my arms. In one deft swoosh, she had me standing on both feet. I stood there totally amazed that anyone of her stature could pick up dead weight with such quick ease of movement. As I turned around to thank her, Aunt Bea and purse had vanished!

There is no other explanation than what I experienced was the help of an angel unaware. Yes, I believe, according to the Scriptures, that there are angels all around us and that they are sent to minister to us in the time of our need. Sometimes we recognize them as such, and other times they pass us by unnoticed because they tend to blend in with those around them. In Psalm 91:11 we read, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” I know this Scripture is true, for I have personally experienced it many times in my life. The rest of Psalm 91 reminds us that God rescues and protects those who love Him and acknowledge His name, and He promises to be with us in the time of our trouble. Yes! When you are down, He will lift you up!

Peruvian Journey

Peru_Pics-060It was October of 2012. I sat visiting with my brother, Ken, who was in the last stages of mesothelioma. “Promise me something,” he said.

“Of course.” (When your brother is dying, you would promise him the moon, if you could.)

“Promise me you’ll do something to help Sharron Hall and Abrigo Andino in Arequipa, Peru.

Sharron’s parents, and our parents, had been assigned to the same missionary post in Arequipa in the 1940s. Ken had always dreamed of opening an orphanage in Peru, as a memorial to our parents. When it looked like that was never going to materialize, he changed his focus to helping Sharron’s ministry. I had never met Sharron Hall, nor had I ever visited Abrigo Andino, (Shelter of the Andes, the homeless shelter she ran.) However, I felt morally obligated to fulfill my promise. Dear God, what have I done? I prayed. Please give me some direction. Soon I was sharing emails and phone calls with Sharron to get a little better acquainted.

In the meantime, I had been working on the manuscript of my book. The book is about my family’s missionary life in Peru, South America. It also includes my brother and sister-in-law’s amazing journey into the northern Andes Mountains to find our father’s grave site.  About halfway through the book, as I sat at my computer writing, the plan fell into place. I would publish the book and donate all proceeds from the sale of the book to Abrigo Andino.  I quickly communicated the idea in an email to Sharron, and she was thrilled. I felt relieved that I finally had a plan in place to fulfill my promise to my brother.

That was the year 2016.  It was in May of that year my mother passed away. To say that my manuscript was bathed in tears, is an understatement. During these past several years the book has gone through several rounds of editing, pruning, scraping, cutting, revising, and re-calibrating. This has taken a good deal of patience, not only on my part, but especially for my editor, who is a dear friend. I am forever grateful for her expertise and advice.

I felt the need to write this blog to update many of you who have been curious, and asking about the status of my book. I am still waiting on the “green light.” I felt a pause and hold button, and wasn’t quite sure why, until recently. Earlier this year, I received an email from Sharron Hall. She was conveying to all thePeru_Pics-060 former MKs (missionary kids) from Peru, an invitation to attend the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Assemblies of God in Peru in October of 2019. Finally, I understood the delay. This was a trip I was destined to make, and I needed to make it before the publication of my book. It would give me the closure I needed.  My departure date is scheduled for October 14th. I will fly to Lima, the capital, and city of my birth, and there I will meet Sharron Hall for the first time.  We will spend several days in Lima for the celebration, along with other missionaries and missionary kids, as well as many national Peruvians who will have gathered from all over the country. What an awesome experience that will be!

After the celebration, I will fly to Arequipa with Sharron and visit Abrigo Andino. I will spend a week getting a first-hand look at a ministry my brother had such a desire to help. I can only imagine the excitement my family would feel to make this journey with me. They had such a passion and love for Peru. It will be my great honor to go and represent them, and be their ambassador.  Once I return from my journey, I will feel I have come “full circle” and it will be time to launch a book!

The Music of the Far Away

Ken _001I turned onto Interstate 35 North to begin my long journey home to Illinois from Olathe, Kansas. I had just said my final good-bye to my brother, Ken. I knew it was probably the last time I would see him this side of heaven. It had been four months since he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 mesothelioma, a slow growing lung cancer. It became painfully obvious that he had contracted this dreaded disease as a young sailor aboard the aircraft carrier, the USS Ranger, during the Vietnam war era.

I couldn’t hold the tears back as I watched a train pass by. Trains had been a big part of Ken’s life as a dispatcher for the Burlington Northern Railroad.  How would I break the sad news about my brother to our 92-year-old Mom? As of yet, I hadn’t told her about his illness. I knew I needed to, I just didn’t know how to go about it. Not only did Mom have dementia, she was almost completely deaf, and it was extremely difficult to communicate with her. My husband Steve had stayed home with her as she was unable to travel. Mom had lived with us for twelve years at that point. I remember how many times she had asked to see her son, and I tried the best I could to explain to her he wasn’t able to travel. I was always amazed that, for the most part, she remembered who I was, and remembered she had a son.

I dreaded the hours of travel ahead of me. I reached for the radio hoping for some distraction. If only I could find a good Christian station. I needed some “soul comfort.” Amazingly, the most beautiful, quiet, soothing voice came on announcing a familiar song about heaven. I was mesmerized by the voice. I felt a blanket of peace fill the car as my eyes welled up with tears. I began singing along. Then another song about heaven followed. That was beautiful. How come I’ve never heard that song before? Then came a beautiful rendition of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, followed by Beulah Land….then other magnificent songs of heaven I’d never heard before….followed by an inspiring version of The Holy City, and When We All Get to Heaven….and the songs went on and on, mile after mile, one song after another about heaven. From time to time the calming, quiet, male voice would come on sharing a few remarks and announcing the next song…..another song of heaven.

Had it really been six hours that I had been driving? It seemed only a few minutes. The soothing, peaceful voice had never left me. The songs of heaven, the sweet, comforting music of the far away, had followed me all the way home. Traveling through four different states, I never once lost the station; there had never been any static interference; there hadn’t been one station break for commercials, weather or news. As I pulled into the driveway of our home, the final strains of a beautiful hymn faded into the quiet of the moment….

1016127_396260830492929_732820389_nI sat and listened to the end…

O Love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee…

O Joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to Thee

I trace the rainbow through the rain,

And feel the promise is not vain,

that morn shall tearless be.

 

Ken passed from this life October 27, 2012, embraced in the loving arms of Jesus, and slipped into the warm, waiting arms of his earthly father whom he had dearly loved and missed so very much. They were joined by our sweet Mom on May 25, 2016. Some tearless morning, I will see them all again.

Thirty Minutes in Hong Kong

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My year of teaching English at a university in Shanghai, China was quickly coming to an end, and I found myself swamped with grading final exams, reports to be submitted, sorting and packing, and a round of farewell dinners and parties to attend. It finally dawned on me that I needed to make reservations and purchase a ticket for my flight home. I had waited until the last minute, not realizing the mass exodus of teachers and other foreigners leaving during this same time frame, let alone Chinese travelers.

One evening, as a group of teacher friends were sitting around visiting at our apartment, the topic of everyone’s travel plans came up. I shared that I had purchased the last available ticket for the next two weeks which only allowed me a thirty-minute layover in Hong Kong before catching my connecting flight to Los Angeles. It got really quiet, jaws dropped, and everyone looked at me as if I had lost my last ounce of common sense. I could certainly understand why they would think that, but for some reason I was rather nonchalant and unconcerned about it. Everyone shook their head, “That’s impossible! You’ll never pull that one off.”

“Well, it was the only flight I could get out for the next two weeks, so I’m going for it,” I shrugged.

The day of my departure I left without the least bit of apprehension. (Looking back at the scene now, I have to wonder at myself. For international flights, they usually advise you to arrive three hours early.) When my flight from Shanghai landed at the busy international airport in Hong Kong, I knew I needed to exit my plane and move fast. There would be no time to waste. I walked out onto the crowded, bustling concourse and didn’t have a clue in which direction to turn. It was then that I noticed a very official looking Chinese lady dressed in what appeared to be an airport uniform. She was standing in front of me, holding a clipboard and surveying the passing crowd. I walked up to her, and not knowing for sure if she even spoke English, I simply showed her my ticket. She looked up, didn’t speak a word, and motioned me to follow her.

For the next fifteen minutes I followed my Chinese guide as she led me up one escalator and down the next; down one long corridor to the next. Then we walked across a balcony. As I looked down over the railing, I noticed what seemed to be hundreds of people waiting in line to have their baggage inspected. We went down another escalator, through a back door and a back corridor, and across another long concourse, when my escort stopped and pointed to a door being closed by an airport attendant. I hurriedly gave my thanks and scrambled across the departure lobby now full of empty seats. The assistant kindly opened the door and allowed me to squeeze through. I managed to barely enter the cabin of the plane before the door closed behind me. It wasn’t hard finding my seat as it was the only vacant one left. I looked around and it seemed everyone was sitting there staring at me as if to say, “Where have you been? Hurry up and sit down!”

As I sat down and buckled my seat belt, the plane began to back out of the gate. The stewards had already gone through all the required safety procedures. Within minutes, we were airborne and on our way to Los Angeles! I sat back and relaxed, rather pleased at how smoothly everything had gone. My friends would be incredulous. No problem. Piece of cake. Then it hit me. I hadn’t gone through customs, baggage inspection, or even security. I didn’t even have a boarding pass.  How did I manage to get on this flight, anyway? The prospect of arriving in Los Angeles without my two suitcases began to sink in. How could they possibly be offloaded and transferred to another flight in the space of half an hour? I was planning an overnight stay before catching a flight home the next morning. Would my suitcases remain in Hong Kong? How would I even track them down?

Arriving in Los Angeles many hours later, I made my way to baggage claim with the other passengers and waited anxiously at the carousel. Did my suitcases even make it? I held my breath. Soon the familiar hum of the conveyor belt kicked in. Everyone’s eyes (especially mine) were glued on the chute, when out popped my two suitcases – first ones onto the belt! I was beyond thrilled and relieved, and breathed a prayer of thanks to God. It was obvious. He was the one who had orchestrated this incredible journey, this amazing year, from beginning to end. Thirty minutes in Hong Kong? My friends were right…I couldn’t do it, but God did!

Oh yes…there was one thing that did get left behind in China — my heart!

 

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