I’m enjoying time with Don and dear friends from the other side of our beautiful country.
Friday, on a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark in Kentucky!
Saturday, in Branson, MO watching a marvelous and incredibly well-done performance of a musical of Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection. It didn’t hit me emotionally as I anticipated, until the Resurrection – and then I welled up. “That’s my God!”
More to come on all that. Here are a few photos of trip memories so far.
With our friends Fritz and Frank Buschman, their daughter Kim, and her adorable three children aged five, eight, and ten, we took our own boat ride up the Ohio River in Cincinnati.
Roebling Bridge, prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge, during the day … and at night.
And, below, the home of Daniel Carter Beard, founder of the Boy Scouts.
We have so much history in this beautiful country of ours, and seeing more of it is a joy and privilege.
Do you have a favorite state, or meaningful site, from your travels within America?
There it sat, a stark white bench, alone on the inner edge of the school playground, next to the basketball and tether ball courts.
My third-grade Kids’ Club students and I were talking about honoring others, prior to hearing the story of David and Jonathan’s friendship. Jonathan honored David by putting his friend’s needs–for safety and protection from Jonathan’s father Saul–above his own. I asked the kids when they, or someone else, had honored them. They told me about the “lonely bench”.
If someone is lonely, feeling isolated, they can sit on that bench. The school has taught students to watch for children who feel lonely, and to reach out to include them. I heard about times when my kids invited children on the lonely bench to play with them. One told of a time when he sat on the lonely bench and another child invited him to play, and how good it felt to be included.
I love this idea. It’s awesome that some children are vulnerable enough to admit when they feel lonely or left out, by sitting on that bench. (One girl called it the friendship bench. Either works!)
What if we adults could be this open, this vulnerable. Instead of putting on a brave front, of masking our fears, insecurities, and/or loneliness, we had “lonely benches” at our churches, universities, community centers? And what if those in leadership fostered a culture in which we looked for and reached out to those on lonely benches, and allowed others to reach into our lives when we were the ones on the benches?
CS Lewis said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
How about such a bench in our homes? So that husband or wife or child or sibling or parent could sit in that one place, indicating we felt lonely, needed some extra conversation, hugs, presence, time. How would this deepen our friendships within our marriages and families? Our communication and openness to each other?
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”
Eccesiastes 4:9-10 NIV
And while a lonely or friendship bench is a small thing towards increasing compassion and understanding between people, it is a step. Would having such a bench help those who think they’re worthless to feel more special? To feel included? To pass on to others the kindness they experienced from one who invited them to play, who sat and listened to them?
Today is Veterans’ Day, a day to thank those who have served our country in military service. And there are many stories of veterans who have been heroes, caring for children in war zones, helping their companions, often separated from family members for long periods of time.
Like me, you’ve probably teared up at some of the TV news spots showing a serviceman or woman surprising a spouse, a child by walking into their place of work or school. Or the one where the soldier’s dog greets him with unabashed joy, whole body wiggling, tail wagging.
My favorite veteran, my husband Don Loewen, was part of the cleanup efforts in Okinawa for sixteen months at the end of WWII. While others within our Mennonite peace culture did significant alternative service like teaching or working in hospitals, building artificial limbs for returning soldiers, Don believed he had a responsibility to serve within traditional means and trusted God to guide him in that. Don was assigned to the medics and worked in mosquito abatement.
My husband doesn’t like to talk about his service. Like many who have been in war zones, he doesn’t want to relive the memories that have never left him. But there are some stories he has told me, like the time in 1945 he hung onto the bottom of a cargo truck for eight hours while a typhoon rocked the island with wind gales up to 180 mph.
Or the times he went into a bar with his best bud. Don would order a Coke while Ray drank hard liquor. But when Don told him he’d had enough, Ray stopped drinking.
Don carried his pocket Bible with him at all times. I didn’t know him then, but I like to think back of that handsome young soldier who stood for God, country and family. Who wasn’t afraid to walk into a place that was foreign to his upbringing (like a bar) and do the right thing, because of his commitment to Jesus Christ. Who was willing to confront Ray when his actions jeopardized his health and decision-making.
So while I know there are abuses of power in the service, I am thankful for those men and women who serve(d) with honor and integrity. I also ache for those who came home with tremendous scars, missing limbs, PTSD, broken families.
To each of you, starting with my husband, Don, thank you for your service!
Computer problems prevented my posting the last two weeks. My apologies … but I’m back!
Before leaving for Mexico I determined that on our return I would make a concentrated effort to lose weight. And so I began a weight loss program that has worked for me in the past.
I’m encouraged to have started. But a dear friend reminded me that there is a bigger picture involved.
I want to lose weight.
I want to encourage and bless my husband in every way possible.
I want to help and serve my mother.
I’m writing a novel that’s been in the works for awhile. I want to finish it before next year’s Spring Christian Writers’ Conference.
As we talked about these goals, Grace looked at me with love and said, “And in order to finish that book, Carol, you need energy. So is weight loss the overriding purpose?”
And I realized it’s not. My purpose, for which weight loss is one part, is to become healthier so that I can complete these other goals…supporting and encouraging those I love, completing my novel…all for the glory of God.
How often do I set targets and stay focused on little goals without putting them in the context of a bigger picture. In what ways do I sabotage my overall purpose in life, which is to honor God and delight in Him forever? Is it by eating foods I know are unhealthy for me (i.e.too much sugar, too many carbs)? Is it by staying up too late (although there are nights, like tonight, when I can’t sleep and so I do get up and work or relax), by filling my mind with unwholesome reading or TV? Is it by filling my schedule with “good” projects that prevent me from doing the best thing(s)?
Being challenged to look at a purpose beyond losing weight or finishing a novel helps me prioritize, determine how and where I expend my energy, and make wise choices along the way. In order to accomplish what God has called me to, I need to take better care of myself in the ways that I can, not out of selfishness or ego, but for the glory of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
I’m trying to look at each day in light of this larger purpose of increased health, and I look forward to what I will learn in the process.
Is there an area where you need to review your deeper purpose and put it in writing to help you remember?
*I apologize for not posting the past two weeks. I had a glitch in my program that took awhile to resolve. I’m back!
I wish I could capture mornings at Rancho Santa Marta. The air is crisp and cool—cooler than we expected! Birdsong of different species fills our ears with the hope of a new day. I look out our door to see three horses in the paddock. Somehow, because of different environmental allergens, my vision here is superb and I can almost count the leaves on the Ranch’s trees.
We’re up at 5:30 am for group devotions at 6:00, followed by breakfast and the workday ahead. Don and I walk out of our room, down the cement steps and along the dirt road to the dining area.
Peter leads devotions for our group, talking about cracked pots–you and me, and some days, especially me! Each of us is a vessel (an “instrumento”) designed for service. The apostle Peter instructed that “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” I Peter 4:10 NIV.
We’re once again in a beautiful part of God’s world in Baja, Mexico, about 60 miles south of Ensenada, with people we love and a ministry to under-served children that touches our hearts.
And our team’s gifts are many and varied, including:
Project Management and
All pitch in to help cook and clean.
Some who have never worked in construction learn new skills as our team builds trusses, hoists them onto the roof of the last two high school classrooms here, and covers the trusses with plywood sheeting, ready for the next volunteer team to move the project forward.
About 38 children live on the property in four homes, each with house parents. Additionally, about 200 children are bused in for school daily from up to 60 miles away. Teachers who could earn much more in the public school system give of their hearts and minds to these children who need to know Jesus’ love, expressed through men and women who are His hands and feet on earth. The students are trained according to their special needs.
We’re getting tired. And yet every time Don and I come here we are so glad to be back in this place where children we have learned to love are given a safe haven in which to learn and grow. The needs for external and internal healing are great, and God’s love and grace are part of the curriculum.
This week’s projects, led by different team members, included the following:
Built and erected 38 trusses for the last two high school classrooms on the Ranch.
Led four craft sessions, one for each children’s residence.
Conducted puppet and chalk talk demonstrations in many of the elementary school classrooms.
Built and installed shelves in a new and expanded room for clothing and shoe distribution.
Trimmed and thinned peach trees in the orchard.
Prepared, cleaned up, and ate three wonderful squares a day to keep us going.
Enjoyed games and music some evenings.
Had a Pinata and S’mores party with the resident children, followed by dinner in the four homes.
Saturday we leave RSM at 5 am to head for the border and back to our “normal” lives, a little bit richer for having been here once again – year ten for Don, and nine for me.
God bless the directors, teachers, staff, house parents and children at Rancho Santa Marta until we see you again!