Thursday, December 29, 2005


We just moved. We had all our belongings in storage for 3 months while we traveled and looked for a house. All but a few books and a week's worth of clothes. And you know what? I didn't miss my stuff at all.

Oh, there were a few times when Tabitha asked for her lion (a sit-upon toy that was too big to take on a car trip). And when winter came, I wished I knew which box held our heavy coats.

We were paying $150 per month at a storage facility to store our stuff. And we were paying $50 to use a space in someone's barn. And we left some things in Port Townsend. And we still have a few things left at Mom and Dad's.

I remember being in Uganda in 1990. Mark Berryman pointed out to us that Americans are stuff gatherers. We had left most of our belongings in the States. We had left some things in Eldoret, Kenya, still more in Jinja, and we had brought a backpack full of stuff with us. We didn't have much then. We were poor college students. But what we brought in our backbacks, our very most essential stuff, was probably about how much the people we were visiting owned-- total.

I am trying to learn to let go of stuff. Not just the things still in boxes in my office and garage, but anything that is temporary. Job, identity, house, car, time... It's all going to burn in the end. It's all a wisp of air and then it's gone. I want to spend time on what matters-- people. And at this point, that means getting down on the floor and playing with Tabitha even when I have dishes to do, or kissing the girls goodnight even if they get slobber on me.

I'm fighting an uphill battle. Since moving to the city, I'm baraged with the message that the things I own define who I am. I want to believe it. I want to consume, to own, to possess. But it's just not true. I am not defined by what I own. I am defined by the one who owns me.

And that's enough.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

God Came Near

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know...

Christmas in the northwest is soggy and green, not like the white Christmases I enjoyed as a child and not like the white harmattan dust of Togo. If there's any whiteness here, it's in the clouds. Last week, though, it was clear and cold. Really cold.

Bethany and I bundled up in whatever winter clothes we could scrounge together and went downtown. We met about twenty people who live in the cold and damp, the wind and rain all year.

The homeless. We used to call them bums. Riff-raff. Drunks. We lumped them together, so we didn't have to think of them as individuals. Someone should do something about the homeless problem. The thing is, the homeless are people. And "someone" might be me.

The guy who sleeps in the doorway of the lamp store, sleeping bag over his head to keep out the light. The lady who sits on the ledge of the shelter window. The man with long white beard, the santa hat, shopping cart and tremors. The man who holds the sign that says, "Colon cancer. Can't pay medical bills. Too nervous to steal."

I don't know their names. Not yet. But this week, I looked them in the eye. I saw despair in some, greed in others, and hope in still others. Sounds like the rest of us, doesn't it?

"Would you like some cookies?" Bethany is so innocent. She doesn't know to be nervous. She just knows that she sees someone in need and she wants to help out. "Why did that man pretend to be asleep?" she asked. "Maybe he was ashamed," I said. "Why should he be ashamed?" She wondered.

They all wanted cookies. We didn't bake enough for everyone. "Take a card, too," she said. The cards she handed out read, "God Came Near."

God did come near. He came to earth as a helpless baby. He submitted himself to short-sighted parents, an opressive government, poverty. I had every reason to be ashamed, but he approached me and he changed my life.

I know it's nothing to give cookies to homeless people. But to look them in the eye and imagine their lives, I feel like I've gained a little more appreciation of what Jesus did for me.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Old Books, Old Friends

Books, books, books. Seas of books. Stacks. Mountains. Tunnels. I spent the afternoon at Powell's Books in Portland. A whole city block, four levels, and that's not the whole store.

I love the friendly, comfortable feel of an old book. The soft suede of yellowed paper reveals its secrets. An old book feels at home in my hand. Newer books with their never-been-read words arch their backs at me. They refuse to stay still. An old book, though, is an "I'll wait right here until you need me again" kind of friend.

That's the kind of friends that are good to have. It's great to get back in touch with Jenna and Sandi, Tracey and others. New format, old comfortable friendships.

Walt and Kay came for dinner last night. We hadn't seen them in two years. Not since they pulled up roots in Port Townsend and moved across the world to Botswana. The hours we spent with them were delightful. They were friends on one level, but now, with shared experiences, we take a step deeper. May God bless their return to Botswana and their work with the people there. And may God bless the country of Botwana with relief from the horrible AIDS epidemic.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Family Update 2005

December 19, 2005

If we learned anything in Togo, it was how to live life at a slow pace. So now, four years after moving to Port Townsend for a one year stay, we are finally moving on. We loved our time there. It was a beautiful place to live and we made some life-long friends, but now it’s time to be closer to family.

We put our house on the market by Owner in March, but a shady offer spooked us into hiring a realtor. The day before we were to sign papers with the realtor, we found an electrical problem in half of the house. It took Edwin 2 months to fix the problem. Thanks to Dad for his work patching the 80 holes Edwin had punched in walls to pull new wire through. And thanks to Jerry for doing the drywall work for us for free.

Our Port Townsend house sold in August and we took the opportunity between jobs and mortgages to do a little traveling. We drove from Washington to South Dakota by way of Craters of the Moon, Yellowstone National Park, Little Bighorn and Devil’s Tower. Our visit with Todd and Tammy Loomis was a blessing and a reminder of how precious our children are. They have grown so much this year as they’ve watched their son Alan battle leukemia and chemotherapy. After a few days with Edwin’s brother Steve and his wife and 5 kids, we headed south to New Mexico.

A month in Albuquerque was just enough time for Edwin to build a new entertainment center and bookshelves for his mom and for the kids and Patty to go on almost all the field trips they wanted to. Highlights of our time in New Mexico included playing with cousins (and meeting cousin Molly), fossil hunting, sliding down the dunes at White Sands, dressing up and throwing spears at the Pueblo Indian Culture Center, attending a harp concert, and visiting El Rancho de los Golondrinos, a living history ranch. Many thanks to Momma and Ted for their love, generosity, and flexibility.

We returned to Washington by way of California where we were able to catch up with the Christiansons (friends from the year we spent in St. Louis), Grandpa Wyatt and Naomi, Uncle Sam and Aunt B.J. and Mickey Mouse. We swung through Richland, WA on the way to Vancouver for the Together for Togo weekend. It was great to catch up on the work and on old friendships. It was a special treat to host the Bunners in Vancouver after the conference.

We stayed with Mom and Dad for a couple of months while we looked for a house. Thanks to them and their incredible generosity, we were able to keep a semi-normal schedule and keep the kids on track with their schooling. And, as last week… we are homeowners again. We found a little 4 bedroom house in Vancouver and are in the process of unpacking boxes and getting phone and internet services going.

EDWIN—Edwin worked a lot on house projects this year. He made time on weekends to go sailing with Gary Hooten. Their last sail before we left Port Townsend was around Indian and Marrowstone Islands. Thanks, Gary! Edwin found a job as a construction supervisor on the first day he went job hunting. He’s looking forward to learning the business side of the home building business. He hopes to set up a home shop to pursue his woodworking hobbies.

PATTY—Patty still stays busy with home schooling and is looking forward to getting involved in home school activities in Vancouver. She worked from home as a tutor for Sylvan Learning Systems. She has also been pursuing her dream to be a writer. Her first article was published in Wineskins magazine in March. She and her mom attended a Christian writers conference in Oregon in August which was a fantastic and fun experience. They are now helping launch a writers critique group that meets at the Vancouver church of Christ’s new building.

JESSICA—Jessica’s new love this year is the harp. She received a Venezuelan harp for Christmas last year (thanks to Michelle, the Burrous, and Uncle Geoffrey for the help getting it here). It turns out that harpists are born, not made. She has shown a great talent for hearing and playing. She surprised and delighted us by performing a short piece she composed herself at a harp festival after only 2 lessons!

BETHANY—Bethany’s first love is donkeys, but we can’t keep one in the suburbs. She is a sensitive child, always looking out to help others, especially those younger than she is. She found a new special friend this year in Eloise Gerard, daughter of some friends we reconnected with after losing contact for 10 years. Bethany recently adopted a hamster, Starfire. She loves science and aspires to be an inventor some day.

TABITHA—It has been fun watching Tabitha take a more vocal role in the family this year. She keeps herself occupied with her 3-year old interests like puzzles and picture books and she continues to charm people wherever we go. She loves to sing and dance and she keeps us all in stitches with her jokes. Her latest—“Why did the monster cross the road? ‘Cuz he wanted to eat the chicken.” Her blue eyes and uncontrollable curly hair draw comments wherever we go.

We hope that your holiday season is filled with joy and good memories and loving thoughts of the work God is doing among his people.

May God bless you richly throughout the year.

With love,

Edwin, Patty, Jessica, Bethany and Tabitha