Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hospitality

I wanted to write a bit about new directions that God has been leading, now that our nest is more or less empty.

Earlier this year, our Pastor, Anita Kehr, did a series on hospitality.  She encouraged us to be looking for ways to give and receive hospitality.  The timing was good for me.

This year has been one of receiving a lot of gracious hospitality.  One of those "peak experiences"  I wrote about in the last post included a trip to see Tim last January.  Tim's host family welcomed us and made sure we were comfortable and our needs were met.  They provided countless meals and much conversation over terere, and transportation when it didn't work for us to take the bus.  They made Tim a part of their family for ten months, and are currently  hosting another Radical Journey participant.
 
We learned from them a little bit of how to set our agenda aside for the purpose of connecting with people and making them welcome.

One of the other host families also set aside an evening to spend with us and the whole Radical Journey team.  We enjoyed wonderful homemade pizza and pop as we got to know the team.

Andrew's host family

A former classmate of mine and his wife carved out some time on a Sunday filled with other commitments so that we could share our hearts and pray together.
Paul and Hildi Amstutz

So many relatives also changed their schedules and made space for us in their lives.  There were wonderful meals and meaningful conversations with all of them.

David, Chuck's cousin, and his wife Judy are the founders of Alto Refugio, the Christian organization that offers hospitality and support and so much more to those touched by HIV/AIDS.  Their schedules are unbelievable, and their phones are constantly ringing with more questions and needs, but they cleared an evening to spend with us.
David and Judy Schmidt
 Their daughter, Wendy, and her husband, Sammy, were our hosts at the hotel run by Alto Refugio.  The hotel provides funding to support the ministry.  Wendy and Sammy were in the process of moving in during our stay there, and still found ways to take time with us and make us welcome.
Sammy and Wendy Avalos


Both doctors, Wes and Ester Schmidt squeezed us in between checking on sick patients, and urgent phone calls to help patients find resources to pay for their care, to show us the retreat they are building for the spiritual renewal of pastors.
Felipe and Claudia Schmidt put together a delicious asado on very little notice, making for a wonderful evening of getting reacquainted in their back yard.
Then, this summer, after Tim had returned home, we decided to take a quick trip to Colorado (another peak experience).  Abby joined us and we contacted Riley, Tim's Radical Journey teammate, to see if we could meet up.  Riley told us we were welcome to stay with his grandmother, Faye Brenneman.  She had been out of town and arrived back home the same day we came, blowing us away with her relaxed and calm hospitality.
taken near one of Faye's wildflower beds, and showing their beautiful view
So we have begun making hospitality more of a priority now.  One Sunday morning in August, there was a request in our Sunday School class for lodging  for a pastor from Bolivia.  We offered our home.

It turned out that this pastor would have been closely relating to Tim, had their team been able to go to Bolivia instead of Paraguay.  As it was, he met them at the airport in Santa Cruz and took them home to meet his family during their long layover there.  Tim already knew him!  He was in town to visit sister churches, and to bring his daughter to a local college.

The more we talked, in our broken Spanish and his limited English and with help from our friend, Linda, and from Tim, the more we learned.  Another student at Bethel, where Tim was living, had also lived with this pastor for 3 weeks.  We decided to invite her to join us, the pastor, his daughter, Linda, and Tim and his roommate for a dinner together.

Since then there have been many more opportunities...just this week there were three meals with others in our home, and one coffee date in town.

It's exciting to see where this will lead.

I know already that I want to learn to be more prepared with some easy, tasty meals either frozen ahead or ready to prepare quickly.

I want to be able to be able to set aside my pride about whether the house is wonderful or not.  Hopefully I will get better at keeping it at a level where a 15 minute pick up is enough to get by.

I'd also like to remember that a warm welcome and meaningful conversation is more important than gourmet food made from scratch, or a house that could come from the pages of an Ikea catalog. 

There are days when I fall far short of that goal, but I'm having fun trying to get closer.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Moving On

As we have moved into the empty nest time of our lives, I've been hoping for new callings to make themselves evident.  That has been happening slowly, but first maybe I will write a bit about the transition.

Although I won't give details, some parts of emptying the nest were traumatic for everyone involved.  I posted about some of the lessons we were learning in the early part of that time here.  More than a year ago I did my annual review...reading through all my journal entries for the last year to see where I had been and what I had learned.  I was reviewing more than a year's worth of entries, however, because it was more than a year since things had turned rough, and I'd skipped some of my regular review points.  I usually review on my birthday and at the beginning of the year, but I was behind in that process.

Things had been rough in more ways than just with our immediate family.  Other parts of my life and my relationships had gone out of control.  My journal was very difficult to read.  It vividly brought up all the anger and grief I had experienced.  I ended the reading time furious, almost enraged, tied up in knots, feeling like a failure, hyper aware of all the ways I had not been the person I want to be. 

Usually my annual review is an uplifting time full of gratitude.  I'm reminded of all the ways God has been faithful and all the holy moments I have experienced.  Fortunately I had taken the unusual (for me) step of setting aside two days as a spiritual retreat for this annual review.  I took the second day to read the journal again.  Seems counter-intuitive, right?

The second reading was full of grace.  I still saw my failures and my pain, but this time I could also see how hard I had tried, how much I wanted to be on the healing side of the picture.  I could also see God in the picture.  I can't say how thankful I am for the hard Psalms, the not-so-joyful ones.

Psalm 90 in particular really resonated with me during that time period.  It is a tough Psalm recounting a sense of the futility of life.  It ends with a plea:

"Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble...
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us---
yes, establish the work of our hands."

That last verse especially was a cry from my own heart, and probably still is.  It seemed that the things I had worked for had failed...partly because of my own mistakes...but also because of how life just seems to happen.  The things I had wanted for the people I love were good things, things I still want for them, for me.  I hope that those things will be established.  But it's not so much in my hands anymore.

Reading through all of that stuff a year ago seems to have been a turning point for me.  It was less like walking through a doorway into a new and brighter room, and more like driving to Colorado.  In the year since that retreat, the landscape has changed.  We got to higher ground without realizing we were climbing.  The hard parts got easier, and other joys took over.  There have even been some peak experiences.

At the end of the two day retreat, the Psalm that I read was Psalm 71, which, coincidentally, is the Psalm of the week for me this week.  It is a psalm the recognizes the hard times but has so much more hope and resolve in it. 

As for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.

Gradually, that is the space I have moved into.  I'm still pretty aware of the hard parts, and of my role in those hard parts.  I'm also aware of God's deep deep love.  And I'm getting involved in things that I love, things that I seem to be made for.  Last week's Psalm was 103, which I've decided to memorize.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
As far as the east is from the west, 
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

My role has shifted now from active parenting and living through crises of both parenting and of other life issues.  Now I'm more of a cheerleader/sounding board/background prayer provider.  As that has happened, new possibilities are opening up. I'm looking forward to seeing where they lead.