Thursday, May 28, 2020

It never occurred to me that we’d have to live without pavement

The next morning, our first morning in Lomalinda, we awoke to a swishing, whooshing noise outside. Dave got out of bed to investigate.

I sat up, my heart singing because of the sun beaming through the windows—a luxury for Seattle natives.

I peeked through the curtains. Bent low to the ground, a local Colombian swung a machete, shearing grasses in our yard.

Dave knew only enough Spanish to say buenos días (hello), but he stepped outside and struck up a conversation. Manuel had a ready smile, bright white teeth, bronzed skin, and hair as black as the Colombian midnight sky.

A flock of birds flew overhead—raucous, squawking green parrots. We soon learned those calls would greet us every morning and again at the end of each day.

My precious little kids tiptoed out of their bedrooms rubbing their eyes, looking around the house, looking at me, looking at each other, looking as if they felt like I so often did—Where am I? . . . Oh, now I remember. . . Lomalinda.

Outside, Manuel continued to stoop over and swing his machete. His back must have ached something awful.

Minutes later the vast eastern sky loomed gray and soon turned pewter. It was as if we were living Isaiah 41:22, “God sits enthroned above the circle of the earth. . . . He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out. . . .”

Soon, sharp wind gusts forced shrubs and palms and bamboo to bow westward. The heavens grew black, and a blast of wind whipped the curtains off our living room windows.

Dave invited Manuel into our screened-in porch and, while they watched the turbulence approach, Manuel taught him that rain is lluvia, and the big storm a chubasco.

Then it hit. Rain pounded our roof, hard and fast, and we had to shout if we wanted to hear each other.

Rivers gushed off our roof and, even though our house had wide eaves, rain blew inside through the glass window slats. We could only gape in disbelief—we’d never seen downpours like that in Seattle.

In half an hour the storm had blown beyond us, leaving thick layers of mud in our yard, our drive, our road—everywhere, everywhere—and for the rest of the day, our shoes brought it into the house, orange and sticky.

It had never occurred to me that in Lomalinda
we’d have to live without pavement.
(from Chapter 7,

Friday, May 22, 2020

You won’t get it right every time

I often feel ashamed when I think back on how much I struggled upon arriving in Lomalinda.

But now, in my old age, I am inclined to extend a dose of grace to myself. Instead of focusing on all I did wrong, perhaps I should give myself credit for doing some things right.

Despite my emotional, mental, and physical groaning on our first day—such a very long day!—I had smiled at a lot of people. I had made conversations with people. I had thanked a lot of people.

I had noticed and appreciated Lomalinda’s clean air. And safety—no need to obsess over thugs stealing our luggage.

I had watched over my two little kids as they got acquainted with the house, yard, and new friends.

I had worked—hard—to unpack and begin creating a nurturing home for my kids and husband.

I hadn’t given up.

And I had talked to God—often in gasping snippets, but at least I was aware He was near, had a listening ear, and cared.

That first night in Lomalinda, Dave and I tucked in Matt and Karen and then settled into our own bed—a handmade plywood platform with a thin foam pad for a mattress. The sheets felt damp and had a musty, fusty odor, but at least they weren’t cold like the sheets in Bogotá had been the night before—these were warm.

Exhausted, I took a minute to thank God for safe journeys and reminders of His presence during that long day of many new beginnings, relationships, and challenges. He had gone before us, cared for us as a parent cares for a child, and brought us to that place.

I thanked Him for the Rushes and the people who welcomed us at the hangar. I thanked Him for Lomalinda’s safety and clean air and David Hockett and the nice house and substitute aunts and uncles and Grandma Miller for my kids. And for the McIntoshes and Connets and Holteens. And for the beauty of the night sky. And I apologized for hollering at Glenny. (from Chapter 6, Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go)

On that night, little did I know what the next couple of days held.
It wouldn’t be pretty.

But today, all these years later,
I think the time has come
to finally extend a little grace to myself.

You won’t get it right, all the time,” writes Kelly Balaire.
“Some of us need to hear this loud and clear today: you won’t get it right all the time. You’ll yell when you meant to be sweet.

You’ll sweat when you should have stayed cool.

You’ll be anxious when you determined to have peace.

You’ll doubt when you determined to believe.

You’ll say to yourself, ‘Why can’t I do better? Be better? Act better?’

You may put your head down, in defeat.

Yet, I imagine, God lifts it up again,
whispering in your ear,
‘Child, I still love you. Even though . . . Always . . . .’
Let that relief sink in. . . .”

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Longing for a familiar sight or sound or smell

Our first day in Lomalinda had held some high highs and low lows for me. (Click on those links.)

It had started before dawn in the crowded, noisy, air-polluted capital city, Bogotá, high in the Andes Mountains. We’d spent all morning in a taxi, careening around steep curves, gasping at drop-offs, and begging God to preserve our lives—grasping barf bags and trying not to throw up.

Then, from the eastern foot of the Andes, we had flown in a custom-made little plane to our new home, Lomalinda, a mission center in the middle of nowhere.

The day had been challenging and exhausting, physically and emotionally and mentally. And all day, I had subconsciously longed for an anchor, a familiar vista or sound or smell—the sight of towering evergreen trees or the call of a foghorn or the fragrance of salty sea air.

If I were still back home in the Pacific Northwest, apples would be crisping, and I’d have been making applesauce by the gallon, chunky and cinnamony and buttery.

Sweet wild blackberries by the hundreds of thousands would hang heavy on vines, and my fingers would wear purple berry stains for weeks, my hands and arms scratched from thorny vines.

Peaches would be ripening, and I’d have been making pies and cobblers.

But I lived a continent away and everything told me I stood on foreign soil. I had no familiar sights or sounds or smells to comfort me, no anchor to steady me.

That evening, I stepped outside into Lomalinda’s still blackness. Neither smog nor city lights nor skyscrapers competed with night skies, and the brilliance of the stars took my breath away. I’d never seen them shine so clearly.

Then I turned and spotted the moon. The moon! I’d found that familiar something I yearned for.

And then—!

And then I realized, with a start,
that our loved ones back home
could look at that moon at the same time we did,
not only at that moment but every night—
a tie that bound us.
My heart lurched, and then soared.

(from Chapter 6,

Thursday, May 7, 2020

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me”

I snapped the picture, turned, and willed my wobbly knees to take me back into the house. Only then did I realize that dear Glenny probably didn't know prim, proper women from upscale suburbs don't like snakes in their homes. (If you missed the Glenny-and-the-snake story, click on Have you ever been standing in front of a mirror when you yelled at your kids?)

Back in the kitchen, I trembled, still feeling sick to my stomach, overwhelmed by dense, humid, equatorial heat, and feeling terrible over yelling at Glenny.

But I told myself, “You have to pull yourself together. Get back to work.”

Numb, I stooped over the open suitcase on my kitchen floor, pulling out tightly packed kitchen equipment, towels, sheets, shoes, clothes, and books, traveling from room to room putting them in their proper places.
Karen, Tim, Ron, and Phil McIntosh

The pilot who had that morning flown us into Lomalinda, Ron McIntosh, and his wife, Karen, had invited us to dinner that first evening. Karen Mac, as everyone called her, drove to our house on her Honda 90 motorbike, scrunched my little Karen on the seat between the two of us, and called out, “Hang on, and don’t be bashful about it.”

By then Ron had arrived on his motorbike and Dave and Matt hopped on with him. We were off on our first moto rides.

Karen drove down and around and up several hills but, partway up a two-tiered one, she stopped and called back, “Now I have to drive up the steepest hill in the center. Hold on tight—and don’t wiggle!

I surveyed the hill. Steep? An understatement. And it was strewn with loose stones.

I couldn’t believe she’d try that incline with the three of us on her little putt-putt motorbike, but we followed her instructions, and she knew what she was doing. We made it to the top without a problem. We stayed on the peak for only seconds, passed by the radio tower, and then zoomed down the other side.

Karen served homemade pizza with precious mushrooms she’d hand-carried from Bogotá. We felt honored to share in a birthday party for their son, Tim.

Having welcomed many newcomers, Ron and Karen knew how tired we were and offered to take us home early, and we didn’t argue.

But the evening wasn’t finished. Lyle and Carol Ann Connet stopped by with Paul and Jennifer, my kids’ future classmates. Carol Ann handed me homemade cinnamon rolls. What a treat!

After the Connets left, Garnet and Barbara Holteen stopped by with a loaf of Barbara’s bread.

Everyone’s thoughtfulness and generosity
blessed my weary heart.

Through those people and their gifts, our family experienced Jesus’s words, “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35) (from Chapter 6, Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir)

On that first evening in Lomalinda,
little did I know what the next couple of days held.

And little did I know that Karen McIntosh
had spoken words of wisdom that evening:
Hold on tight—and don’t wiggle.”

My first week in Lomalinda would have been
so different, so much better,
if only I had recognized Karen’s words’ broader significance,
if only I had applied those words’ meaning to my hour-by-hour living.

Noticing the good stuff, finding the joy

I began to notice more good stuff going on in Lomalinda .     God was offeri ng me new opportunities. He was offering me a new perspectiv...