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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Other Tributes Worth Reading

Over the past few days, my husband Doug, my cousin Mike and his wife Susan have all written beautiful tributes to my mom.  I have the privilege of sharing my tribute at her memorial service on Friday, 3 May at 1.00 p.m. at Our Savior's Community Church in Palm Springs.  I will post my thoughts after the service.  For now, take a moment to see what these others had to say about the special person Rose Ann was in their lives.
From my sweet husband Doug:
A Tribute to the best Mother-in-law I will ever know!
Rose Ann Mullen died yesterday, and I'm heartbroken for my wife and for my father-in-law. I also feel the heartbreak big time! Rose Ann was a woman who has had a special way of showing me the difference between being hole-hearted and wholehearted. I'm not sure I've met a woman with a bigger heart. (I must be careful here. I'm married to her daughter, who also has a giant heart.)
We had our moments. Rose Ann used to drive me crazy talking about her golf game and how bad she would say it was. God knows, I only hope to play the game as well as she did in her prime and past her prime. Probably not gonna happen for me!
We had our moments when it came to politics.
“You're a dumb diddly” was the nice term she used. She had other expletives that can't be mentioned. Yet, I admired the fact that she sincerely stuck to her principles, even if she was sincerely wrong.
(As for the expletives, I'll let St. Peter take those matters up with her at the gates of heaven. But somehow I suspect she will hear St. Peter saying,“You couldn't be more right Rose Ann- that son-in-law of yours is a dumb #####. But remember, God loves him anyway!)
I particularly loved listening to Rose Ann reflect on the football years. She loved each team as much as Ted did. She surely would have called the games differently than Ted did, but at the end of each Friday night (win or lose) she loved Coach Moon and each player dearly.
Still, she did have some special favorites! Her favorite players of all were a boy named Bill who didn't play often, but when he played- he played his heart out. Her other favorite of the game was a Spartan mascot (a greek term meaning-one who is courageous in the face of difficulty and pain) Jodi has been, and always will be a Spartan to me, and countless others. She did everything she could do to inspire players on the field and fans in the stands way back when. And she's still doing it now. I'm a major beneficiary of her Spartan attitude.
Rose Ann and Bill are no longer with us, I'm telling you...this is a major, major loss! (I'm not talkin' football anymore!) They're gone, and no pep-talk is going to relieve the pain. Bill went to be with God six years ago, and Rose Ann went to be with God yesterday.
The hard part for us is the loss- especially for Ted and Jodi! Nobody likes to lose. Love makes it hard for all of us to lose (be it- love for a game or love for life). But love makes it especially hard for a husband and a daughter to lose someone they treasure at the core of their being.
Even in losing we need to be reminded the day after, of a love that never fails- God's love- and how it was manifested in a special way through Rose Ann. And we need to remain thankful. Why? Because God gave Rose Ann a special way showing us all the whole heart of God.
The truth is, Rose Ann didn't lose! She's with God! She's now marveling at her crown in heaven! She's seeing her son again! Both, big time winners! Another follower of Jesus named John describes this victory in the book of Revelation, and he uses a term we simply think of as a tennis shoe. Rose Ann is Nike/or Nikao- victorious in Christ! (a bit of serendipity here- not surprising a tennis shoe has a way summing up Rose Ann's life.)
For Rose Ann, she now knows the truth of 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, better than we do ourselves. She knows it so well I can almost guess at her interpretation of the Apostle Paul's words:
“I didn't give up! How could I? Even though on the outside, everything fell apart in the end, on the inside God made me new again! Not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. Don't you forget that!
Hard times? Even death? Small potatoes,when you compare them to a ribeye steak and baked potato- cooked up perfectly night after night by Jesus. There's more to life than meets the eye. (And I ain't talkin' ribeye) Lots of things in the here and now matter! (But don't be a dumb diddly.) There's so much more to life than than the here and now! There's a Nike (and I'm not talkin' tennis shoes) and I want you to be a part of it!”
-My interpretation of Rose Ann's take on this text.
Rose Ann's gone from us now. But her example, her legacy can live on:
-through people she counseled and cared for.
-through sisters and brothers in Christ who felt their heart expanding because of something Rose Ann said, or did, or didn't do.
-and through any person who has ever been impacted by her straightforward and frank- yet compassionate, and loving care.
Somehow, I suspect that everybody who knew her has a wonderful story to tell about Rose Ann. And surely these are going to be really good stories to tell. They will undoubtedly have a way of expanding our hearts, pointing us to the God she now knows in full.
So let's tell our stories.
Let's grieve our loss.
But, let's also remember to live into her legacy.
We too, can be wholehearted reflections of the love of Christ right now!
We too, can follow in her Nike/Victorious tennis shoes!
May God bless us all in the loving memory of Rose Ann Mullen, an outstanding, (and I mean a really outstanding) life coach!
Thank you Rose Ann for the many ways you've expanded my heart by revealing the whole heart of God.
Your favorite “Dumb-Diddly” son-in-law, Doug


And from my cousin Mike, my mom's oldest brother's oldest son, who shared a special bond with his Aunt Rose Ann:
My universe has a hole in it...a rather large hole.
It happens...it comes with age.
And for the most part I can accept it and move on.
But...as I said...this is a rather large hole.
A larger-than-life-itself hole that used to be filled by my aunt Rose Ann.
I was the first born in my family and therefore inherited all things that go with being the first born.
Next to my parents...no one enjoyed my arrival more than my aunt.
I don’t remember this, of course, but I couldn’t pronounce her name...
so I called her “Aunt Fo Fan”.
She, of course, always reminded me of this fact.
I didn’t mind it at all...it was part of the bond.
She was the youngest in her family...
the youngest and the only girl...
so she really didn’t have much of a choice...
she was going to be a great athlete.
Given a different time and circumstances,
she could have been a professional baseball player or golfer...
she was that good.
She accepted the Nelson mantra...
if you’re going to hit anything...
hit it as hard as you can.
That worked for baseballs...
golf balls...
tennis balls...
and the occasional football player.
She was the first in the family to graduate from college.
She was the first in the family to visit Europe.
She was the first in the family to go to graduate school.
And she was the first in the family to marry a bona fide football hero.
She was the loudest voice at all of Ted’s games...his greatest cheerleader.
She wasn’t just the cheerleader for her family...
she was a cheerleader for the human race.
We need more like her...
and that’s why we miss those voices more than others.
I’ll certainly miss...”Give your Aunt Fo Fan a hug"


And from Mike's wife Susan, who has her own blog called "A Desert State of Mind"

Aunt Rose Ann passed away yesterday.  She is technically Mike’s aunt, but I adopted her along with the rest of his family.  As most of my own family is gone or thousands of miles away, I’ve been lucky enough to actually like my husband's family. 
In this year that we’ve been living in the desert, I’ve had the pleasure of spending more time with Rose Ann. She was always up for a good joke or discussion, whether it be about politics, religion or sports.  We ate, drank, laughed and argued, but always left each other with a hug and a smile.  She was smart and caring and competitive and always left her mark on whatever she did.  She could play just about any sport and play it well.  She had great insight and whether you agreed with her or not, she could make you think. She met each challenge in life head on and even in a year filled with adversities, continually rebounded and inspired us all.     
She was one of the girls and one of the guys and will be greatly missed.


There are, no doubt, countless others who are making tribute to my mom's amazing life, but these three meant a lot to me and I wanted to pass them on.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Back Nine

When my parents lived in the community where Doug and I own our home, one of my mom's favorite things to do was to get out on the golf course, late in the day, when all the regular golfers were done, and buzz around the course, working on shots, and just generally having a good time on the course. The back nine of the Mission Lakes golf course were among her favorite holes, especially 10-11-12, the signature holes of the golf course. So today I felt like I needed to get out on the back nine and honor her memory and enjoy something that she truly loved.

It was a hot, sunny breezy afternoon.  I got off the 10th tee with a decent tee shot and as romantic and wonderful as it would've been to par the hole, I reverted to form and shanked a few before I finally got the ball in the hole. I didn't care. It was wonderful being out there thinking about my mom's love of the game. She was a great golfer and I always wanted to be as good as she was. I seriously doubt I'll ever get there but it's fun to think about it as I plod along. Hole number 11 is a gorgeous hole high above the rest of the course. It's a very challenging hole but lots of fun to play. I hit a perfect tee shot and then flew my second shot into the desert. But I took a little detour into the wilderness and found four other balls. It was so gorgeous up on the hillside. I just loved being up there. Hole 12 was easily my mom's favorite golf hole.  The tee towers above the green and it takes a solid shot to land it on the green far below. I was very happy that I did not scuff it into the desert! I didn't land it on the green, but I got safely down. I took a moment to look around. One day, we will scatter her remains on the desert landscape that surrounds this hole. That has been her expressed desire for a long time now.
Some close friends of my folks live on the tee at 13 and they were sitting on their patio so we sat for a moment and chatted about Rose Ann. They agreed that “dinking” around the golf course late in the day was one of her favorite things to do. When I got to 17, I had to laugh remembering the time when Doug first met my folks. He was thrilled that they lived on a golf course and glad that my folks were into golf. The first time we played with my parents, on 17, Doug was in a sand trap and he sculled the ball in such a manner that it flew out of the sand at a perpendicular angle to his lie and smacked my mom right in the belly! We were so glad that it wasn't a more dangerous hit. Doug was so embarrassed!
I hit a good tee shot on 18 and just smiled thinking about the way mom could belt the ball.  She was such a pro. In fact, my dad said to me yesterday that he felt if she had lived in this era, she could've been on the ladies pro tour. I think so too.
I ended my evening memorial round on hole no. 2, technically not on the back 9, but the hole that is close to our house and the place where mom had one of two of her holes in one.  I hit the first shot in the water. The second one made it over!  I doubt I'll ever get a hole a one.  My dad never did.  Doug has yet to.  It's just perfect that mom had 2.
It is likely I will not reach her skill level in my lifetime as she was a much better golfer at 52 than I presently am. But I feel inspired by her love of the game to keep at it and will always enjoy playing the back nine at Mission Lakes with her in my mind.
Today was near perfect. It could only have been better if Doug had been with. Oh, and well, mom too. Peace to her memory.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Waiting

I suppose I have a deeper appreciation of why medical professionals do not like to give a time frame for when someone is going to die.  There is always the mystery of death to contend with and that lies way beyond any human reason or set of bodily functions that begin to indicate that the end is nigh.  When my mom's nurse saw her on Monday, she predicted with great certitude that mom's passing was likely going to happen within the next 24 hours.  Here we are on Thursday morning trying to contend with the final stages of my mom's earthly life.  I have to admit that I am a bit shaken right now.  The nights are long and uncertain.  In my humble opinion, mom's spirit has left us and we are just waiting for the body to catch up.  She is truly gone in every single way, except she keeps breathing.  Her breathing is labored and difficult.  The nurse assures us that it is way more uncomfortable for us to listen to than it is for mom to experience but it's quite unnerving.
If I am to be totally transparent, a quality that my mom taught so many to embrace, I must say that I'm struggling with the notion that "God's timing is perfect."  While my faith is sustaining me during this difficult period, I also must admit that I do not understand why she is lingering in such a difficult place when all human interaction is now finished.  We are playing hymns, praying, loving her, talking with her, assuring her it is OK for her to go, and yet, she lingers on.  I wonder why and worry that somehow she is uncomfortable letting go.  I want release for her, for me, for my father.

Yesterday two friends sent quotes that have meant the world to me.  The first relates to patience and is from Henri Nouwen, a writer and theologian who I have gone to often in my own faith journey.  He writes, “A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”  I am seeking to "stay where we are", be in the moment and not seek escape from the reality of this situation but it is hard.  The irony for me in all of this is that I am least patient person I know.  I like to get things moving and make things happen.  And there is not one thing I can do right now to make mom's death happen in a timely and tidy manner.  And so we wait.  With great uncertainty and sadness and discomfort to be able to embrace her passing and move to the next stage of grief.

Another friend sent this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer.  It is so beautiful and so timely and so appropriate that I would ask each of you who read this blog to pray it with us several times throughout this day and on into the night if we are called to face another night with her hanging on.
"Keep watch, O God, with those who work, or watch, or weep today. Give your angels charge over those who sleep and those who wait. Tend the sick, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; all for your love's sake. Amen."

And again we pray, Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.

Thanks to so many of you who have left comments, written me or my dad, followed what's happening on Facebook.  Phone calls are exceedingly hard right now so we ask that phone calls be kept to a minimum.  My dad and I will update our networks as soon as anything changes.
The global community of care that is surrounding us right now is absolutely sustaining me as we walk this difficult road.  Thank you for letting me share my heart and journey with you.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Waiting For the Passage from Earthly Life to Eternal Life

The weekend brought us to a place of great decline with my mom.  Last Friday she was in quite a bit of pain and we were doing everything we could to get the pain under control and get her to a more comfortable resting place.  Sadly, this also meant that she needed to be sedated in order to rest quietly.  We didn't realize it at the time, but once she quieted down on Friday, it was the beginning of the end of her being alert on earth.  She would stir from time to time but often with groans and whines.  She seemed so uncomfortable that the most humane thing to do was to gently care for her through loving words and warm caress while administering more pain medicine.  My father and I began to accept that the days of interacting with her here on earth were likely behind us and we began to pray for God, in His mercy, to take her to her eternal home.  
I have never waited for death in quite this manner.  We are very blessed that she has been able to have home hospice care and her caregivers have been awesome.  There are no tubes or machines.  Just us trying to make her passage from earth into eternity as comfortable as possible.  
It is a strange and curious place to be, waiting, (wanting in a compassionate manner) for a loved one to pass.  I am deeply comforted by the events of the past week and by the future hope that we truly embrace.  I know that my mother is anxious to meet my brother, in whatever way the afterlife provides, and I know that she is ready to shed this earthly body which is now of no earthly good and only a hindrance to the glory that awaits her.  I cannot want her to continue in this fragile state.  It is so odd to think that while she is technically still alive, she is definitely no longer living.  I count it a huge privilege to be present with my father and with her as we wait for her death.  Both my father and I are ready for the next stage of adjustment and grief which will surely come.  But we are ready to release her from this current state and return to memories of her which include her broad smile, curly hair and winsome personality.  
I have thought so often of what we in clergy circles commonly refer to as the Nunc Dimittis, most often recited at the end of a funeral or a memorial, but something that has brought me comfort as I have sought to come to grips with my mom's departure from this world:


"Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;   
Your word has been fulfilled.
My eyes have seen the salvation
You have prepared in the sight of every people,
A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people, Israel."

My mom has been a great servant of our Lord.  The imprint that she has made on countless people's lives is immeasurable.   She has been a light that has helped so many experience the unconditional love of Christ in unspeakable ways.  She deserves to go in peace and so we are praying for that to happen soon.
Yes, it is a very strange place waiting for someone you love to pass from earth to eternity and yet the hope that is ours because of Christ's victory over death through his resurrection surely brings comfort and joy even as we sorrow.  Lord, in your mercy.  Hear our prayers.  Amen.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

(NO) Gun Control

Yesterday was a very sad day for most Americans.  The US senate voted down a measure that would close a dangerous loophole and require stricter background checks for all ways to purchase a gun.  I have no doubt that most of the nation wants this and yet our senators, alleged representatives of the people, couldn't muster the courage to take a positive step towards creating a more safe society while still allowing the average citizen to own a gun.  This failure by the senate proves to me that our democracy is really not for the people by the people anymore...it's more for the people who BUY the people.  The NRA's financial backing and political pressure has reared its ugly head in a profound manner in regards to this issue.  There was a time when the NRA supported broad background checks. Now they are just digging in their heels in pure rebellion against this administration.  And they do not care what the majority of average Americans want.  And it is very troubling to me that it's all about money and political pressure from special interest groups, many who have no special interest in what I happen to think.
So here are some my struggles as they relate to this issue.  The favorite line of the gun advocate is "Guns don't kill people.  People kill people."  OK.  So, if that is the truth, (which in my mind is logic that defies reason), then why aren't gun advocates willing to encourage background checks on PEOPLE?
Additionally, when another tragic event occurs because of gun violence, in addition to the above (il)logic, the attention often turns to the mentally ill and how we as a society must do a better job of identifying the mentally ill.  So again, why aren't gun advocates concerned with ensuring that a background check would help to identify those who are mentally ill thus denying them the right to carry a gun?  If we really believe that it is often the mentally unstable who wreck havoc in our communities through violent use of guns, then why would we not want to do everything we can to keep guns out of their hands?
You cannot have it both ways...You cannot say that guns don't kill, people kill and then not take measures to protect the people, both the mentally unstable and criminally minded as well those who fall victim to those who unsafely gain access to guns.
So to the US Senate, members of the NRA, gun advocates and others who are content with the current gun laws in the US, help me understand what yesterday's vote accomplished in any positive, helpful way for the American people.  You all are so afraid that your freedoms are going to be infringed upon.  Well, guess what?  The freedom that I desire to live in a non-violent, non-gun packing society has been totally undermined in the United States.
How do we return to a US Senate that honors the will of the people and finds the courage to stand up to big money and big pressure when it is clearly not in the interest of the general public to support it?  I hope we will all take a look at who we have voted for and be courageous enough to make a change next time around.  We have the power as the people. We just have to realize it.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

My Journey with Mom

I arrived in California late Wednesday night after a long trip.  For some reason the long haul just took forever and then I had an unexpected 3 hour delay in Dallas.  It was good to get home, even though it was after 11.00 pm on the west coast, 8.00 a.m. the next day on my body clock.  My mom was in good spirits.  I was looking forward to a shower and a good night of sleep which did ensue.  The weekend has been good and hard.  After being here for one day, it was obvious that my decision to come was the right one.  Whatever moments of rally my mom has left in her are short-lived and even her best days are just not very good anymore.  The pain of the cancer has created a scenario where my mom is now forced to live in a morphine induced state which is obviously quite mind altering.  She is still the same sweet, caring person that has always shaped her life but now she is also struggling with the side effects of the morphine which is most profoundly manifesting in chatter about some things real, other things imagined.  She is frail.  She is not eating much at all.  Her mouth has broken out with thrush-like symptoms so there is much pain in eating and drinking.  Not a good thing for someone who is already struggling to eat and drink anything at all.  She is sometimes frustrated that her choices are now quite limited.  She is still getting out of bed each day and, assisted by a walker and either myself or my father, manages to make her way out to the living room where she spends the entire day in her comfortable recliner, watching TV with us, attempting to eat something, sometimes lost in a world that isn't entirely connected to reality. She has a hard time walking later in the day so just getting her from the living room to the bathroom to the bed is quite a challenge.  The walker she uses has a seat as well but getting up and down is also quite a challenge.   Moving her is increasingly hard for my father and I wonder how these next weeks will continue to unfold.
I am so thankful that I listened to my initial instincts to come.  I am able to manage the cooking and the shopping, be present when my dad needs to get out to run errands, and help with getting mom from one room to another.
At this point, it is sweet to sit with her, to encourage her, to try to help her separate fantasy from reality, to assist my father and to simply be present for this part of this long journey.  I am praying for mercy to enfold my mom at this point.  This is not the way she wants to live.  Vibrancy has always been a hallmark of how my mother lived and so to see her struggle through each day without this is tough.  Even so, her joy, her sweet spirit, her laughter, her concern for others, it's all still there and manifesting in small ways.
It is 4.00 a.m. in California as I write this.  The combination of my mom's frail condition and jet lag have me awake with concern.  I am not worried or panicked or even overwhelmed by sadness at this point.  Mostly I just want my mom to feel free to let go of this amazing life that she has lived and go to her eternal rest where God and anyone else who has known her will proclaim with great enthusiasm, well done my good and faithful servant.  Until that day arrives however I am very glad to be here to walk beside both her and my father as we seek to embrace each new day that we're given together.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Long and Winding Road

Doug and I live an exquisitely beautiful life, filled with wonderful experiences and the opportunity to meet amazing people.  We've traveled the world, and have friends on just about every continent.  It is a blessed privilege and I love that it is my life.  However, the price for all of it is living far from family and far from one's home land and at times, that is exquisitely painful.   As many of you know, my mother has been on the "fighting cancer" road for the past 6 years.  She has been near death numerous times and also experienced full remission.  They have been able to return to Europe twice since her diagnosis which is totally remarkable and lovely.  But I have spent many sleepless nights tossing and turning, wondering about what tomorrow will bring, waiting for that dreaded phone call that the turn for the worse has come or even more devastating, that death has finally arrived.  At times, I have felt compelled to travel back to the US under difficult circumstances, seeking to navigate the complex road of what it means for a dearly beloved person to hover between life and death.  At other times, I have felt peace in not going, even when many others felt that I should.  I have sent out emails to close friends asking for prayer, thinking that death might be imminent, asking for wisdom and discernment on what I should do, as the only daughter of  beautiful parents who live on another continent.  And then time and again, my mom has rallied and decided that there is more life to be lived.  Which is great and true to her personality.  She is a fighter, a lover of life, one tough cookie!  But cancer fights back.  Hard.  And so we watch her health go up and down and recently, it has gone down more often than it has gone up.
Last Friday night via Skype, I shared one of the more emotional exchanges with my mom.  She was trying to say good-bye to me.  She was expressing a desire to go home to a better place.  She told me that she thought she was going fast.  There were tears and heartache and the whole cycle of being there/not being there started again.  After considering my options, I just felt that at this time, in this moment, I needed to journey with my folks once again.  I do not know when death will come for sure but I did know that going and not facing death was a lot easier to swallow than not going and having to face death.  I was supposed to leave for a conference in southern Turkey with Doug on Sunday.  As much as my heart longed to participate in this gathering, I also could not see being in Turkey when truly devastating news came.  I could not see how allowing a conference stand between seeing my mom alive once again would be helpful to me so as difficult as it was, Doug and I made the decision that I should take another unplanned trip and see what the next weeks bring.  So on Saturday morning I booked a ticket for Wednesday, 11 April and will be with my parents again by Wednesday evening, 7.30 p.m. California time.
Of course there are second guesses.  My mom rallied over the weekend and is once again doing OK. But perhaps the rally came in part as a response to the news that I was coming.  I know my dad is happy for some companionship on this journey and I love the opportunity to pour back into their lives a small margin of the care and support they have given me through the years.  Of course, I am sad to miss the conference with dear colleagues and my sweet husband in a beautiful spot. But as one dear colleague reminded me, there will be other conferences.  And I worry that I have not timed it correctly, that this isn't the "right" time to take more time away from my life in Sweden, my husband, my church, my dog and yet...what is it that defines the "right" time?  It is never wrong to want to be with loved ones.  And one of the greatest gifts of our life here in Sweden is that time away to tend to personal matters is valued and granted without question.  I grieve the losses that I will incur in being away but I celebrate the gains I will enjoy with my folks.  Of course, I am thrilled that my parents live in my "happy place."  That will help me to cope with whatever surprises I meet along the way.
I love my parents.  Both are remarkable folks who have given so much to others throughout their lifetime.  It is a privilege to give back a small part of my life and time to them.  I am thankful for the generosity of my husband, who covers at church and at home, my loving church community who support me, pray for me and surround me with hope and love, and the administrators of Immanuel who have only blessed my time away.
Yes, it is an an exquisitely beautiful life I live...it's just that sometimes the beauty includes some heartache.  The road is long and winding, not straight and even.  Sometimes I have to make difficult decisions without knowing the full story.  Sometimes I have to choose to leave behind certain loved one and loved things in order to go to others who may need that love more at any given moment.  I worry that in going now, I won't be able to go later, but wrestle with the reality that later might be now, if you know what I mean.
In the midst of it all, I'm thankful for the grace that surrounds me that allows me to pursue the promptings of my heart.  I'm thankful for the big jets that carry me across the ocean to my loved ones.  I'm grateful for your love, prayers and support, even if I keep asking for it, thinking we are facing the end, when in reality it is just another step in the whole process.  This is the great mystery of life and it is impossible to plan for these things.  One can only plan to be together when the time seems "right."
So please pray for me and Doug, my mom and dad, and our church as we go through yet another unplanned transition with a still uncertain future outcome.  What I am certain of is this: I love my husband.  I love my church.  I love my parents.  And the first two things are geographically very far from the last.  And that means that sometimes I am faced with exquisitely difficult decisions about which side of the ocean to be on.  And yet, in the midst of this journey, grace has abounded and I suspect that will be true now as well.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Ghanian Naming Ceremony

On Saturday we were invited to a Ghanian naming ceremony with a family from our church.  In Ghana, each child is given a name according to the day of the week that they were born.  Kofi is a rather well known Ghanian name due to Kofi Annan, the former president of the UN.  Kofi is the name that baby boys born on Friday receive.  Babies are also given names by their parents and this name is revealed in a wonderfully symbolic naming ceremony.  The baby is taken by a prominent member of the community and introduced to the world through a variety of actions.  The child is raised high above the head to be oriented to the sky, then brought down to the ground to know the earth.
This is the earth
The baby is given salt and sugar as a reminder that sometimes life will be bitter, sometimes life will be sweet.  The baby is given a taste of water followed by a taste of vinegar.  (The child does not like the vinegar!)
Salt, sugar, water and vinegar...representations of life itself
Call water water and vinegar vinegar as reflections of how important it is to tell the truth in life...call life what it is.  Do not mask it.  The baby is then taken around to all gathered so that he can meet those who will love him and support him throughout his life.  He is specially introduced to his parents!
The father, big brother and mother
It is a sweet and beautiful way to welcome a new born into the world.
In our case, because the grandfathers were in from out of town, we also did the baby dedication on the Sunday following the naming ceremony.
Preparing to dedicate the baby
 It was a wonderful way addition to our weekend activities.
Asking the congregation to surround the family and all the children of our church with Christian love as they grow up

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Easter Retrospective

We had a wonderful Easter weekend.  We have some nice traditions that we have come to greatly appreciate.  On Thursday night we go to a Pakistani family's home for dinner and communion.
Our hosts for the Thursday dinner.
The food is amazing.  No leavened bread, some dishes emulate the passover, other reflect their culture.
Our hostess making unleavened chapatis
I made deviled eggs with horseradish as a nod to ingredients used in preparing the passover meal.  Doug gave a simple yet profound explanation of what the last supper might've been like.  As stunning as his painting was, da Vinci did not get the setting or the seating right!  Then we shared in communion together as a family of faith.  It is a great night together.
On Good Friday we used 6 readers to tell the story of Christ's passion.  The setting is austere.  The lighting dims as the story progresses.  Candles are snuffed out.  We end in darkness.  It is powerful.
Saturday is a day of rest of preparation. We went out for brunch and took a long walk with Tanner.  The sun was out but the temperatures were chilly.
Easter Sunday arrives with joy as the sanctuary bursts forth with light and color.  We joyfully sing Christ the Lord is Risen Today and welcome the news that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.  We embrace the hope that is ours because death has been defeated.  It gives us strength to live as Easter people even when the hardship of Good Friday bears down on us.
We celebrated the day with close friends who we have come to treasure as family on these wonderful holidays.  A roast lamb dinner followed by a pavlova that I had made filled our tummies to overflowing!  Given that half the family is Swiss, we also had enough chocolate to sink a ship!
It was indeed the joyful feast of the people of God in so many different ways.