Thursday, June 6, 2013

Castles in the Sand

 I think all children love going to the park, playing outdoors on equipment that's different from that in their own back yards. Slides, swings, see-saws and merry-go-arounds: the stuff of dreams!

Zaya and Mim ran first to the old equipment:  a brief spin on the merry-go-around and one climb on the monkey bars.

They bemoaned the fact that the "exciting" slides were gone, the same steep slides that had been there forever.. (Their uncle tumbled over the side of one and bashed his face at the bottom of the other when he was three. Well I tried to be a good mother, but I was never able to keep up with him.)
However, their disappointment didn't last too long. There, in the distance, on the other side of the park, stood the amazing, new playground recently installed by the Lions' club.

It was meant to be a child's dream world, creative, and safe. My grandchildren soon introduced themselves to other children and began to rush from one activity to another:
 Swaying drawbridges

Scaling walls and--rather anachronistically--a courthouse dome, and horseless carriages in the fiefdom.

A peep-hole and a portcullis, 
stepping stones across the moat.

Great attractions for all the little children in town, and comfortable benches for parents and grandparents to sit and visit at the entrance. Perfect.

But the children soon saw something even better outside the new park: A wide expanse of damp sand over under the volleyball net.

Where they played...


for...the rest of the morning.



Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Not Really Alone

The worst part of being pastors in a small town for years on end, is that eventually you have to bury your closest friends. A month ago, to be exact, we lost one of our deacons, and I'm just now feeling up to writing anything about it.

He was a farmer. He loved land...and wheat...and cows, driving a tractor for hours alone under the burning sun and the unrelenting wind of Western Oklahoma, and it was a farming accident that finally took him, alone, beside a green field--seventy nine years old and still working as if the whole Western bread supply depended on his faithfulness.

He knew every thing about this part of the country, where to buy the best convenience store pizza, who to call when you needed an antiquated part for the combine or the drill. He spoke his mind and didn't really mind when other people spoke theirs. In fact, just about the time you thought he didn't hear your opinion, he would reach out his hand and invite you to discuss  it over a snack.

He was the superintendent and teacher of the adult Sunday School class, served on the Mennonite Disaster Service board, sang bass in the choir, and held a position on the school board for years and years. Last summer he noticed broken tile in the corner of my classroom and a baseboard that came unglued from the outside wall every time it rained. That fall I had a newly tiled corner, and the board was properly attached for the year. He had installed it with his own hands. It mattered to him and it mattered to me. He was passionate about supporting missions, praying for peace in Israel, a land he was proud to have visited, and serving Christ like an honest disciple. More like Peter than Thomas, he was open, honest, and eager to charge right into the fray.

He was Turtle's special friend. Every pastor needs someone like this man, someone who will drop in for coffee, speak his mind, brainstorm solutions, give advice, and be a sounding board for crazy ideas and an ally for good ones. Whenever there was a conference, he insisted that the pastor be sent there, even accompanied him and sat through the inspirational meetings and the boring ones. He drove Turtle into the city for hospital calls sometimes, and traveled eight hours to be at Turtle's father's funeral in another state. Turtle, even yet, pulls into his shell in shock some days and says he misses the man.

He didn't trust the internet, especially facebook, and would never have wanted me to mention his name for all the world to admire, so I'm not. God's admiration was enough for him and woe to the well-meaning soul who tried to give him open praise for his gifts and labors. Many a student who attended school on his scholarship never knew. Many a church family was helped financially, even at a time when there was little or no money left in his own bank account. He lived simply--no extravagance, no flashy, new equipment; the old would serve just as well for him. So he was able to give. Magnanimously. With great love he gave.

To his children and grandchildren and church family he left a fine example:  How to live. How to die. His heart was right with God above; There was nothing to confess, nothing to amend. He died alone out under the Oklahoma spring sky--but as with all God's true children--
he was never really alone.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Land of Wedding Enchantment

We finally arrived at Albuquerque to accomplish our foremost purpose for the trip--witnessing a family wedding. My cousin had invited us to visit many times, and we felt the wedding of her daughter would be a great reason to finally take a trip in that direction, and we were glad we made that decision...for lots of reasons. Seeing family that you haven't seen in years, affirming a couple's choice to sanctify their marriage before God and witnesses, enjoying meals together and catching up on the whereabouts and whatabouts of each other's lives: It's all worth the travel.

This sanctuary was a beautiful setting for the wedding, with light pouring in from outside and soft lamps filling in the shadows.

It had been the intention of the church staff to change to banners to red ones--to commemorate Pentecost, rather than Easter--but they waited until after the wedding, making the bride happy since her main color was peach..Here are the bridesmaids and the maid of honor--twin sister to the bride. .

The greenery of the foyer made a great backdrop for pictures. Here, two very lovely ladies take a moment to be photographed together--the bride and her grandmother, my mother's only sister.

Here's the couple, all smiles, as their minister signs the all important document in the background.
 And here, again, at their reception, which was held in the ballroom of the balloon museum. It was a clever idea to hold it there, really, because the guests were given access to the museum and were allowed to roam throughout, looking at exhibits and visiting the gift shop while the wedding party was being photographed.

The museum was constructed to look like a hot air balloon on its side (at the entrance) and later  upright (in the ballroom).

Standing on the balcony gave one the feeling of riding in a basket far above the city.

Inside were fascinating balloon displays and interesting facts about their history. Several varieties were on display. 

It was light enough for my camera to capture a few of the shots from the grand staircase that bore us aloft. Of course the food tasted wonderful, especially since I had stopped counting calories for vacation excuses. We were treated to a variety of foods--from brisket to enchiladas--with all the trimmings.

The next morning was Sunday. Turtle and I found a church near the hotel and enjoyed being anonymous worshipers. Later, we joined my cousin's family for lunch where we got a rare chance to sit and visit for the afternoon. We chatted with the newly married couple, watched the wedding video and posed for a picture in the kitchen.

Turtle and I both admired the neighborhood park--which looks bleak in this picture, but is actually a wonderful maze of hiking trails which ascend and wind around this mountain.
It looks a little more to scale here. We were tempted to take the afternoon climbing, even though the wind was whipping steadily around us, but our time in the Land of Enchantment was running out, so we abandoned the idea. Now I'm wishing we had stayed over another day. I could have clambered all over these rocks with my cousin and her little dog Bailey, and we could have had a good visit before she settled down to putting everything back together from moving her daughter out to an apartment.

I think this is my favorite picture of her neighborhood in Albuquerque. The ground is dry, but just look at that sky--all clouds and shade and fresh-smelling breeze!

We saw rain in the distant hills as we drove out of town, but never felt a drop ourselves.

We ate at this little restaurant along the way home on old Route 66. Across from us sat an odd trio of foreigners who had arrived in this vintage car. One was dressed in what looked like the uniform of a Confederate soldier, another like a cowboy, and the third like a Western rancher.. They spoke English, but their accents were very different from everyone else, and they seemed to be role-playing a part, like actors getting into character before a shooting.

In fact, I questioned my assumption that they were from abroad until I saw the "cowboy" surreptitiously sniff the bottle of Heinz 57 that was on his table, wondering what kind of sauce it was.

Anyway, I'm sure they found New Mexico a great adventure...unless they were from Australia, in which case they probably thought it looked a little like "The Outback"