Category Archive: Connections

From Red Carpet to Black Earth

It was just a week and a half ago that Don and I stood on the Red Carpet in France, where the Cannes Film Festival began today. The glitter, glitz and glamour of the movie world, stunning actresses and handsome actors in clothing that costs thousands of dollars, the rush of the crowd (we were told it’s hard to move in Cannes during the Festival) were easy to imagine.

The following day we traveled to Monaco where we watched the changing of the guard at the palace, and went into the Monte Carlo Casino – small but stunning. It was afternoon and there was little action at the tables. We got something to drink, sat and watched.

This weekend we’re in a very different environment.

Sunday morning, Don and I, along with the rest of our missions team, celebrated worship at Rancho Santa Marta in Baja, Mexico. After driving fourteen hours Saturday to reach the ranch, we settled in for a night’s sleep. This morning we joined the ranch’s resident children, parents and staff for a worship service in both Spanish and English. It is a joy to worship here annually.

Forty-five resident children include orphans, children removed from their homes because of abuse, several who have been left at the ranch’s doorstep, and others with learning disabilities. They live in groups with house parents, giving them a stable and structured environment in which to grow. Additionally, about 180 community children are bused in for school from up to 60 miles away.

Director Rod shared his testimony this morning; it thrilled me to hear him talk about how God has prospered them … not in terms of financial success or reputation; but in their five children, and the blessing on the Ranch’s ministry. He pulled out a Kobe Bryant LA Lakers’ jersey, a “Struiksma” jersey (his and Tina’s last name) and another jersey with the name of one of the children here. Tossing that one to the side of the chapel, he spoke: “The message these children have received is that they are junk – because of abuse, because of separation from their families. Our job, and yours while you’re here, is to love them and teach them they are of infinite value because of Christ.” He reminded us that our work here goes far beyond building gym walls; it’s to minister to and value the children here.

Don and I feel pain when children choose to leave the ranch, or must leave because of disruption to the community. Sometimes their desires and needs feed them the lie that life will be better, happier, easier outside, with less of the structure they need to become contributing adults. Sometimes children have to be removed because of their impact on others.

One family of seven children have all grown up at the ranch. Some are becoming productive adults. Other children are also here with their siblings. We have been blessed to see the love, education and training they receive. And there are young adults who came to the ranch as little children, and are now also ministering to others. While the ranch is a safe haven for these children, they are also taught about, and led in, taking the gospel beyond these 450 acres. Some learn that they too can bring the good news of Jesus to others.

Our team at lunch after church, at a local restaurant

Don and I feel blessed to see different parts of God’s creation, both in nature and in the people we meet. And we see our Father’s love and desire for relationship in myriad settings, whether obscured by wealth and fame, or shared with children who come with great needs. And we love Rancho Santa Marta, its children, staff, and teachers. Would you pray with us that our service this week will be a blessing, both among our team of 23, and to those we will serve.

How can I pray for you?

“Can I Win?”

Don cleared the table while Mom and I discussed the difference between the average time to remarriage of a widower versus a widow. A few years ago, widowers remarried on average one year after their loss, while widows on average waited three years after the death of their husbands. Mom suggested that in part, the difference could be that a woman generally must wait to be asked, while a man can pursue. Makes sense. I turned to Don.

“Don, why do men remarry earlier than women? What do you think?”

He walked toward us, his face thoughtful. “Is this a question my answer can win?”

Mom and I broke into laughter. Actually, I think I chortled.

Wise man! Too often when we question someone, we have a preconceived notion of what the answer should be–one that will enhance our sense of security or affirmation. Do I want to hear the real answer, or is the question no one can “win” by answering honestly? (Particularly if that person is one who lives with us and is most touched by our responses and moods).

Don’s response was that men need communication; that even though they’re big and strong and in charge in a work environment, at home they need a woman’s nurture and love. Makes sense to me.

The comfort of a friend

I think another factor may be women’s friendships, which are often deeper, more feeling based, and therefore more nurturing than those men share. So when a woman becomes widowed, she has a stronger support group than men do.

So, while we continue building our relationships with our girlfriends, let’s also communicate in ways that invite, rather than repel, open conversation–where an honest response is always a winner. And … let’s encourage the men in our lives to invest in friendships, Bible studies, activities with their male friends as well.

Why do you think men tend to remarry sooner than women? Is this a nurture or nature thing?

 

 

 

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Truth … in Love

I was speaking with Mom on the phone. “We had a nice restful weekend, which we really needed.”

“Your next four weekends are all booked?” Her voice lifted at the end of her question, clearly expressing her concern with my lack of planning for rest times.

Communication goes both ways–my speaking, her hearing. Due to an infection, my voice is a bit shaky and sometimes words drop away into nothing. Mom has hearing challenges. Together, we have some mighty interesting, and funny, conversations!

How many times do we misunderstand, either the words or intent, of a conversation? This morning I received an email asking if the writer was being deliberately left out of a communique. I hastened to answer, “absolutely not!” and to explain why only certain individuals received that particular message. It’s so easy to misread others’ intentions. And when that happens, I can get irritated, annoyed, or I can respond with love and patience to clarify.

Don and I drove to the shopping center together the other day. He was going to look for birthday cards at CVS; I for groceries at Nob Hill. As we drove, I asked him a question. I must have been feeling insecure that day because I wanted assurance of his love.

“Yes, sure.”

“Hmmm, a more ringing endorsement than ‘yes, sure’ would be appreciated.”

“My mind’s just not in the same place as yours.”

Oh boy. I could have flipped out. I could have cried. I could have thought he wasn’t attracted to me that day–or ever (you know how our brains sometimes take a statement and make it an impasse …) I’ve done all these things in the past.

Instead, I asked, “What do you mean by that?” Then, sensing his frustration, I continued. “I’m not trying to put you on the spot, honey. I want to understand so my mind doesn’t make your comment something it’s not meant to be.”

Don was thoughtful. “Well, I’m thinking of driving and the heavy traffic. I’m hoping I can find meaningful greeting cards. I’m wondering when I’ll get the rest of the lawn mowed. I’m just not thinking romance right now. But I love you completely.”

Ha! “Got it. OK.”

Such a small example, but so easy to get insecure, uptight, or angry, rather than seeking to understand the other’s point of view! Clarifying helps us to speak the truth in love as we mature in Christ…and in our relationships.

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. Eph. 4:15

When’s the last time you experienced miscommunication, and how did you respond? How could you respond better?

Gatherings

Sitting at breakfast, Don and I watched through the window as a quail flew onto our fence. Another flitted up behind the first; and a third soon joined them. We often see groups of quail, eight or ten little ones scurrying about collecting whatever worms or insects they find, while two or three adult quail sit on the fence, watching for trouble, guarding those focused on the earth.

My dear friend Susan Swain captured the beauty of our need for each other in her alcohol ink painting “Gathering.” (used by permission).

We gather for many reasons.

  • Celebrations like weddings and holidays.  On the July 4th weekend Twin Lakes Church provided a petting zoo, bounce house and slide, hot dogs and watermelon for all. Just a reason to be together as part of the family of God.

    Tents going up for conference

    Tents going up for conference

  • People of Faith gatherings – before moving to the Soquel hills, we were warned that this season was crazy along San Jose-Soquel Road because of the attendees at the Seventh Day Adventist conference grounds just down the road from us. In addition to the many folks who come with fifth wheels or trailers, rows upon rows of camper tents are put up in preparation, along with enormous white meeting tents. But we’ve always enjoyed this time. True, we’re retirees and don’t often have to be somewhere at a specific time. But the conference provides their own people to direct foot and vehicular traffic, and we’ve never been held up long. Rather, it’s lovely to see knots of people tailgating for meals around various trailers, walking in with their Bibles for worship and teaching.
  • Memorials – Last week I mentioned my brother-in-law, Wally, whose memorial we had attended. As family gathered, we told stories, shared memories, and reconnected with each other. We come from a variety of political, faith, and personal backgrounds; but we came together to honor one we all love.
  • And in tragedies like the recent shootings of young black men as well as the five police officers gunned down in Dallas; destruction by earthquake, fire or flood; we gather to grieve, to support, to help where we can, whether that’s rebuilding homes, or walking alongside those who are creating a new normal, changed forever because of loss.

We’re not created to live life solo, but in community. Whether married or single, we need each other–for fellowship, forgiveness, healing, accountability, support, help. “And one standing alone can be attached and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12, NLT.

Who are some of the cords in your life?

Histories – Our Own

“These photos are fabulous!” Mom and I were looking at clear copies of her original family photos, which my brother Arnold had restored.

“This one looks like it was taken in Russia,” I frowned. “Was Grosspa (Abram, my paternal Grandpa) married yet?” (he wasn’t)

My grandfather, 3rd from left, back row, before he was married. Photo taken about 1900 in the Ukraine.

My grandfather, 3rd from left, back row. Photo taken about 1900 in the Ukraine.

 

That photo (left) was taken about 1900.  Nine years later Abram married Margaretha, who gave birth to five sons (including my Dad, John) and two daughters. In 1921, at the age of ten years, little Anna died, leaving an especially big hole for her older sister, Greta.

Late in 1929, Grosspa learned he was on a list for deportation to Siberia, where the family would likely never see him again. Although he was reluctant to leave the flock he pastored, church leaders convinced Grosspa to go. Leaving their village in darkness, he traveled to Moscow, where the family joined him. After four months’ wait, Grosspa’s family of eight was in the last group to be granted exit visas near the end of the Bolshevik Revolution. Eight, among 5000 granted visas; the remaining 10,000 applicants were sent back to their villages, to work camps, to starvation, some to execution.

 

Mom and I moved on to more recent photos —

  • Mom’s and Dad’s families
  • Dad, probably in his twenties, holding a large fish
  • Mom, in her teens, exiting her father’s barn after milking. Her face is shaded by a large hat, and my grandfather’s overalls are much too long for her.
  • My parents’ wedding, and photos of my immediate family.

Precious, meaningful, leading to questions and conversation.

     How did you feel the day you married Dad?

     Do you know if this couple had a happy marriage?

     Who’s this in the baby buggy?

Last year Arnold, his wife Carol, Don and I, cruised the east coast of the US and Canada. At Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, we watched intently as a staff member pulled up the records of our family’s arrival, in April 1930. Each person’s name and age were listed on the hand-written document. Dad was twelve.

I felt chills as Arnold and I saw the record of Dad's arrival in Canada

I felt chills as Arnold and I saw the record of Dad’s arrival in Canada

Some of his relatives never left the Ukraine, suffering starvation and even execution as a result.

I’m deeply thankful for God’s faithfulness. Somehow, in His grace, my ancestors were spared much of the persecution following that tumultuous time. Two generations later, I was born to that German immigrant from Russia, John Froese, who met and married Helen Kroeker, a pretty Canadian farmgirl with a beautiful soprano voice.

Mom’s and my time together today, looking at old photos, gave me a deeper understanding of my history, and also of my mother. Best of all, it gave Mom and me time to reminisce, reflect, and enjoy each other.

The Old Testament is filled with family stories, both happy and sad, joyful and dysfunctional–sometimes all in the same family. What have you learned from yours?