MIA & Community

I’ve not been posting lately. E’s parents were in town, then we flew to Seattle for a dear friend’s wedding, this weekend was spent building raised beds for gardens and in the midst of that I’m writing about everything from methodology to Israelite religions and hope. We’re always dreaming, hoping for the future and trying to live well in the moment: whether there are children under foot in the kitchen at a friend’s or the sun is turning my skin to shades of pink while preparing to disappear for snow the next day.

In all this, I find more and more that community is important. Community, like missionality or incarnational ministry, has become this “in” word in the last several years. The strange thing is, there’s nothing sexy or exciting about how we do it, and how we find we need it more and more each passing day.

This weekend, E built raised beds out of huge logs of sweet smelling cedar. We were at our friends’ J&P with their little ones, three and 15 months. Another family had come as well and while the men were building 12x2x2 boxes, we sanded a table to be re-stained, talked about pregnancy and kept children away from saw blades and the little cliff at the edge of the yard. We will go over each week this summer and work with J&P in that garden, take dinner, play with their kids, send them away on much needed dates while we put the little ones to bed beneath summer stars. They apologize for having kids, for always needing us to come to them. We laugh and remind them that we love them and we love their children and this is just how family does things.

A friend at school has been going through a hard time, on an email I sent about class I told him I was thinking of him, that E and I were praying for him. He wrote back and told me no one has said that; they empathize in the moment and move on as soon as he’s disappeared from sight. I thought to myself that was the strangest thing I’d heard in a long time, that we can’t care well enough to think and pray for those who aren’t right in front of us.

Someone yesterday said they want to take me and E for a hike, then lunch. They want to talk with us and hear about our hard places, our edges that need smoothing, our holes that need filling. The amazing thing is that on Saturday, in the midst of scrubbing paint and varnish from the rounded edges of that now newly stained table, I had said to J that I want this same couple to walk with us, listen and speak to us.

So, God answers prayers, yes.

But here there’s more than that. This is our little community: school, work, and a church we’ve left but from which we still have friends. It isn’t flashy, there’s not curriculum or structure. It happened around gardens that save money, enjoyment of nature and friends being honest about crummy times. It’s willingness to listen, to adjust plans, to play with small children and learning to love that we’re all in different stages, with different needs and different wisdom.

And as I live in it more, some days it feels like nothing has changed in 150 or 200 years. I said to J as we made lunch in the kitchen and the men were building in the hot sun that it reminded me of an old-fashioned barn raising — if only I’d brought an apple pie! We laughed and then I asked her questions that you can only ask a married woman and she smiled and listened and outside I know that P was reminding Ethan that marriage is good but hard and so worth it despite the upward climb past selfish tendencies and drowning sin.

And we need community. And it isn’t sexy or exciting. It’s dirty and messy and beautiful as we’re walking through life together. I know why it’s a big deal in the church today, in the post-modern west. But sometimes I wonder if in making it such a big deal we’ve lost the simplicity and ease with which we step into something that will take us for a fast and wild ride.

What are your thoughts on community? How do you create or find it? How do you maintain it? What sacrifices come with keeping community? How does your community and family help you and yours?

Best Weekend So Far

I  mean, it really has been my best since coming back to Colorado. Let me give you a short run down of the awesome-ness.

Friday: Coffee with Melissa, Doctor’s office with Ghena and kiddos, phone date with Sarah, baby shower with City Group!

Saturday: mother-daughter date, worked for Scarbroughs, desert with Scarbroughs, Dvoraks and friends, slept like a rock for almost 6 hours!

Sunday: Set up crew at my awesome church, shopping with Mum for Thanksgiving, phone call with Aunt Becky, phone call with Josh, work at Grace, Cafe with Holly and family, catching up with a long lost friend!

God is so good and so full of blessings! I mean, he is so good.

 

ps: I set up communion at church this morning, and despite spilling the wine (thank God for dark table cloths!), it was the most sacred experience I’ve had in a while.

Old City, New City

today, as you may have noticed, is Sunday. I think that most of the Western world think sSunday is another day to sleep in. It should be, in my opinion. Especially when I got up yesterday early and stayed up late last night playing hearts and 041708_17121laughing to the soundtrack of the Beatles with my awesome family.

It seemed unfortunate at the time that I was rolling out of bed in the dark at 5.45 am. You heard me. And I wasn’t just up to hug my brother before he set off in his T-6. I got up that early so I had time for a latte before leaving for church at 6.45. Of course, I don’t run on time, so I arrived at 7.10 instead of 7. But Aaron and Tye said it didn’t matter and put me to work right away.

You see, I’m on the set up and tear down crew, on a bi-weekly rotation.

Today, I unloaded one of these huge black rolling cases that must be six feet tall two feet thick and five feet wide. I almost got run over on the way down the ramp, even as I tried to hold it at bay with all the strength of my comparably weightless little self. I helped set up the children’s room with Tye and he asked me question after question. And after service, we did the same thing in reverse. I am the only girl on our crew, it was great fun. We laughed about my betrayal of Denver–due to occur tomorrow night when I cheer for Roethlisberger and Palomalu. I told the guys they had to do the heavy lifting and smiled my way through the manual labour that was more fun than anyone should have been allowed.

At the end, Aaron stood in the back of our trailer and throwing his hands to the wind, spread eagle, he grinned: “that’s basically it Sara,” he said. Tye hugged me and called me “sister.” John said I managed to weasle my on to the “good crew,” and I said that I only work with the best.

Tonight, I went to my old church, which is a great place too. I sat in the nursery, hugged a few children, handed out toys, wiped noses–the usual. I even went to “cafe” and socialized with some people over dinner. But there was something missing. No fault of the people there. Maybe it was the lack of sweat, or the plush chairs or the way I ignored someone I knew, or just the awkwardness of being there again–three years later and totally different than I was. Or maybe, it just wasn’t right, in a totally unexplainable way.

But I like my new church. And do you know, I didn’t think that was possible. But I LIKE my church. I like the people. I like the crummy donuts out front. I like the theatre seats that almost put me to sleep this morning. I like my pastor and his very cheerful wife and their three beautiful children. I like my church. I could have shouted it from the rooftops today! I have been so irritated with the church lately. But this was beauty at the early hours of the morning. My pastor knows my name! People give me hugs! People caaaaare about me. People love me here.

And the picture? Well, that, my friends, is how I feel about the church right now. And I don’t mean mine, I mean the whole big world wide church.

Days in the Kitchen

When I woke up this morning, sunlight was blazing in through my closed blinds and the doorbell was being rung incessantly by small grimy fingers. It was Caden from next door. I sort of played with him in the snow yesterday. But when he came round today it wasn’t hardly ten o’clock and I had no intention of gearing up and heading out into the fluff I shovled off the driveway yesterday. No, no, it simply wasn’t going to happen. I let the doorbell ring, heard the screen swing open and the small fist knock against the wood. But I rolled over and decided to catch at least a few more winks since last night I was startled from sleep by my own frightened and strangled yells. It was the first nightmare I’d had in months, but thankfully, I went back to sleep after Caden disappeared. I finally rolled out around ten, didn’t glance at my greasy complexion and headed straight for the basement for a four mile run that left my knees cranky.

And then, there was an adventure to be had in an afternoon of cooking. Chicken soup was first, water boiling and waiting for boullion. Brownies were a quick mix–cake style with an extra egg and some flour to make up for Colorado’s delightful problem with altitude. The soup came together quickly, plenty of scrubbing and dulling of knives on vegetables. My mum made up chicken nuggets, perfectly bite sized for kids. There was homemade bread, honey butter, carrot sticks and powder sugar sprinkled on the brownies cut into the shapes of ducks, flowers and hearts. We packaged it up, two paper bags, with the soup swallowed up by jars that once held spaghetti sauce.

We drove to a friend’s house. We crossed Santa Fe at Hampden headed west towards the mountains. West towards run down, humbler dwellings than the places where I nanny. The cars had rust, I’m sure half the pickups we passed had rebuilt engines–engineered by strong brown hands. My mother looked at me, “are you sure this is right? I feel like we’re back in LA.” I shrugged, this matched the directions from Joy, even if it was leaning a bit away from our normal surroundings. We caught the turn, whipped right, then left, then right again and up a muddy road with gruesome Halloween decorations. We pulled in at the drive next to a white pick up, in front of a plain white house. There was a trail down around the side to the basement apartment. The latch on the gate was stuck. I stood, hands full of bags while my mother leaned over the fence, fiddling with the lock. “I thought, well you know, that we left this all behind years ago,” she said softly, still struggling with the lock but noticing my muddy shoes and the sludge around the gate.

Joy had to run to get her son from the school bus stop. But we stayed with her daughter for a few minutes, taking off our shoes and stripping our coats. When Joy reappeared we went to the kitchen and sat down to tal kfor nearly fourty minutes. It was perfectly wonderful. I haven’t been with someone so real in a very long time. Joy told us how it was, long days without her husband while he’s at work (16 hour shifts!), and the kids being sick, and her being sick, and everything else. But she smiled through it all, said that God was working and was actually genuinely sincere. I mean really, she was honest but not in a complaining way. It was delightful. She was real and the house was lovingly humble and cozy. It makes me want to move that way, where the people are a little less concerned with money and frivolities.

On the way home we went to the post office, khols and ulta, gabbing all the way about our pefect afternoon with such a wonderful family. I mean, truly, I can’t say it enough, it was great to be at home with people who are honest and genuine and even in trusting God, aren’t afraid to tell it like it is.

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My only question for the evening: Why the heck do panties have to cost so much? I’m threadbare on the ones I own, and yet, I can’t imagine paying what it costs to replace them. Not to mention I can’t find any that aren’t entirely whore-ish or screaming 68 year old grandmother! I mean really people. It’s a basic clothing item, and hardly takes any fabric to make. Can’t you make something classy in green? Or even pink? I’d take all pink at this point. But not at $10 a pop. Heck-a no.

Dear Grandma, Please Don’t Write Me Out of the Will

Tonight I smoked on the Left Bank. It seemed like a very French, Parisian thing to do. So I took a couple “drags” on someone else’s cigarette. It was… interesting. I didn’t cough, but I think I did inhale. So that’s something to be proud of?

Today was my last day in France. Tomorrow I leave for England. And I’m actually kind of sad to leave. I haven’t entirely enjoyed my group always, but I am sad to say goodbye to so many people. It was hard this morning when three people left early. I almost teared up.

I did tear up.

Today I went up L’Arc de Triomphe. Mum, I am so proud of you doing those steps with your hip. I hardly know how you did it. You are amazing. It was the most beautiful view, the Champs-Elysees, the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Cure. I loved it. I think tonight was the first time that it occured to me where I was.

This morning I went to Saint Chapelle. The little chapel has the most gorgeous stain glass. It used to hold relics from the Passion. But in the lower chapel today, instead of Thorns from the Crown, or pieces of the Holy Cross, there were postcards, pillows, gargoyles for sale. I could have screamed watching the people buzz around and sell their cheap wares for far too much. I know now how Jesus felt when he entered the synagogue and found money changers and swindlers. But I’m one of the biggest hypocrites I know, so I didn’t feel like I could honestly turn over the booths and shout at people to leave.

I bought more stuff today. Mum, got you something awesome. Joshua, I got something for you too. Hehe. I love saying that, becuase you have to wait until Christmas!

I need to go as my friend Becca would like her computer to check about her reservations on the ferry across the Channel.

so much love to all

sara

I Can Drive a Stick. Again.

Dr. Davis taught some of us how to drive stick. Apparently, I’m a car athlete and I can be very proud to tell my brother that I’m practically an expert. We would get up to 40km and be in 3rd gear when Dr. Davis would say with sheer delight “We’re flying! Look at you! Stay on your side of the road when you shift! We’re flying now!” He told us that secretly, he builds up four years of the barrier between students and professors only to break down and teach us to drive an automatic and willingly admit that it’s his favorite thing to do. So, one year after I was originally taught, I now know how to drive a stick even better than the first time.

In other news, the south is hot. The sun is brilliant. I’m tanning somewhat. The wasps are incessant. I have curly hair. And the dishes are never ending. But by now, Sabrina, Becca, Susan and I have helped so much in the kitchen taht our names for dish duty routine have been torn up and let loose in the santa-anna-style wind. But there are such great rewards. Everyone is so thankful (Maggie [Mrs. Davis], April, Seth and Alex [the ‘grown up’ helpers]). And we get to have extra portions sometimes. I get free sorbet, and last night Sabrina and i enjoyed our shrimp crowded around the kitchen table with too much laughter, too much butter, and too much goodness all around.

Today I had to be the hero and pick up the kitten from next door as Matt and Brittany went running yelling about allergies. WHich is funny. I never liked cats. But this grey mangy excuse for a kitten has caught my heart. Maybe the way its chest was pounding furiously in terror when I took it home (three times!) has something to do with my compassion for the poor creature. But it certainly has to do with Anthony, Jonathan, Teresa, Jared, and a million other Indo people who love cats.

Yesterday was perhaps one of the best so far–in a miserably hot way. We went to Arles. First, we waited for Dr. Davis while sitting outside an Arena. The Arena is still functioning, they have bullfights this week. We sat on the steps, while people drove by taking postcard photos of us. And then we wandered inside with our single group ticket and barely ten minutes to walk the steps that are taller than the length of my calf. But this isn’t just an arena. This arena was built in the first century after Jesus Christ.

I walked on stones that are Two. Thousand. Years. Old.

I walked on stones that people sat on to watch lions and gladiators fight. I took pictures there and absorbed a view of the sand where people probably saw early Christians executed. Do you know what this means? There are great lives of saints that may have ended there. And I stood in it. I stood on something that might have been built while Paul was still scribbling out his letters to Thesaloniki.

Just down around the corner is a little catholic chapel. Beatiful, with thin Romanesque windows high in the walls that curve overhead into a ceiling style that would eventually give way to the gothic masterpieces like Notre Dame and Chartes. There were frescoes that have nearly vanished. There were pews, smoothed and worn thin by the faithul. Or the tourists. And behind a wrought iron gate there were dozens of golden boxes that reminded me of the gifts the magi brought to Jesus and his parents. But there was no incense, gold or myrh in these delicate cases. There were relics.

I saw a man’s skull in its own alcove. St. Antione of the Desert–in Egypt. He gathered hermits together for instruction, fellowship and prayer. He encouraged saints who were on their way to the arena–like the one I stood in–and exhorted them to hold fast, to be strong in the Lord. He was wise and gentle and kind. He lived to 106, he cast out demons and forever kept the faith. He is sitting or standing or dancing in heaven right now. And I saw his skull.

The dark interior of the church smelled like every Catholic chapel–mildew, crevices that absorb water from somewhere, wood, incense and old age. There were saints over the door to guide our entrance. There were sinners being dragged to hell, and Stephen being stoned to death while his soul escaped–through the mouth–to heaven. There were tombs, the names worn away by the feet of the saints who have walked over them for hundreds of years. And all this religiosity down the street and around the corner from an arena built by the Roman Ceasars who called themselves god and had a cult to worship them. All this just five minutes walk from a place where Christians likely died for the faith that the monumental church is dedicated to.

And some people don’t appreciate history…

Dancing, Smoking, Dukes and Saints

Okay, okay.

I danced last night. For probably three solid hours. It was great. Bastille Day is so much better than the Fourth of July. I’m sorry America. But the fireworks were so close, and the band was so loud and the parade was so small and quaint; everything was wonderful. It was the best fireworks show that I’ve seen. Of course, Laura and I pointed out that since Sarkozy said France is going bankrupt, this must be where the last of the French budget is: fireworks. But heck, they were worth it.

The dancing was good. Maggie (prof’s wife) wouldn’t hear of anyone not dancing. So we held our own purses or sent them home with someone else and we were crazy Americans who practically started the dance party in the Plaza. It was great too, a couple of our girls were grabbed by Frenchmen who wanted to tell their grandchildren a story about the time they danced with an American. And some of our girls dragged French boys over to our group. They then turned out to be creeps. Or just good teenagers. Instead of dancing, they stood and stared at us, and then pulled out some weed. Mm. I love the smell of weed mixed with body odour and cigarettes. But our young men put themselves in between us and the creepers and finally they wandered away.  And we danced until I thought my feet would fall off. Vive la France!

Today we went to Rouen and Giverny. Giverny is Monet’s home and garden. I saw a print of the painting that gave the title to the Impressionist Movement and it was gorgeous! Becca and I frolicked through a field we saw in another painting too. It might have been illegal and we might have jumped a little wire fence. But it was worth it. I felt free and happy dancing in that field of brown wheat and red flowers. If only I’d had a white dress like the women in the painting!

Rouen should have a post of its own. This is where Jeanne d’Arc was tried and burned. It’s also home to a beautiful cathedral (where she was put on trial) which has the tallest spire in France, which Monet painted several times at different hours of the day to catch different lightings. And there’s a massive clock.

The church is Gothic, and everything that you expect in an old world cathedral. Walking up to the door is intimidating. Saints stare down at you from their pedestals that cling precariously to the church’s walls. Inside, your eyes have to adjust to the light, dim and musty. But when the sunlight from outdoors fades, you are in an entirely different world. The ceilings are so far above, so perfectly curved, so intricately designed that you stand in a moment of dumb stupor. What can you do but stare? People are coming in behind you, pushing and waiting impatiently while their own eyes adjust and they suddenly come to to the same glorious realization that you have just discovered.

Becca said it’s humbling. I think this is what church is supposed to be like. I was so overwhelmed I didn’t know what to feel. There were dukes buried there, from the 11th century. I saw their sarcophagi and walked over their tombs in the floor of the apse. I saw Joan of Arc’s sword and I prayed where countless saints have before me.

I stood beside a stone sculpture that was from the 11th century and had been damaged (I believe during WW2). It was of St. Simeon and the presentation of Jesus at the Temple on his eighth day. You could hardly make out the faces, the stone is so worn away. But their robes were flowing and wide, and the stone was grey and ancient and I felt this weight lay on my shoulders. My chest tightened as I thought of my nephew, Isaac, who is not even a week old. So I took a deep breath. I reminded myself that the Pope and the Catholic church can be good, I dropped a Euro in the box and I light a candle. I light a candle and I prayed for Isaac. And I think, standing in that massive hall, with my heart pounding in my head, and the candles tingling around me, I think I felt the presence of God. I think I heard the saints whispering and the ancient Dukes smiling and St. Simeon in his alcove listening and praying for me.

But maybe it was the French laughing at the non-Catholic trying to light her candle. Maybe it was the dim accordian playing outside. Maybe it was the shuffling feet over ancient polished stone.

But I think it was the Spirit.