A Granddaughter Remembers — A Guest Post from My Daughter

Visiting the blog tonight is my middle child, Joy Trautwein Stenzel. Joy is exactly what her name says she is – a joy to us. She and her husband Marcus are raising three good young men in Monrovia CA and are both special education teachers, working with blind students across the age span from pre-school to 22. (Our eldest daughter also does this good work.) Our children grew up with their paternal grandparents less than five minutes away and were often in their home, as you will see. I love the way this piece celebrates what some might call the ‘old-fashioned’ virtues. To me, there is nothing old-fashioned about any of it — it’s a heritage we are humbled and pleased to call our own. Interspersed throughout her lovely words are photos scanned for us today by one of our grandsons, Joel Fischinger. Here’s Joy:

IMG_0022Joy, Mama, Lisa – on vacation at Mammoth Lakes, an annual excursion for many years.

Solid, dependable, disciplined, hospitable, thoughtful, committed, consistent. 

My grandmother embodied these qualities.  In an increasingly chaotic and unpredictable world, such characteristics are on the decline.   And for an overly anxious and easily overwhelmed child, the unwavering reliability of my grandmother was a source of familiarity and comfort on which I knew I could rely.

IMG_0104The first in her family to graduate from college, at UCLA in the mid-1930s.

Mama was very steady and measured emotionally—quite the contrast to me.  She rarely (if ever) raised her voice, and I only remember seeing her cry twice—when speaking of a beloved brother who had died too soon, and when her only daughter and her family were pulling out of the driveway to move across the country.   Her level mood created an atmosphere of comfortable predictability for an emotionally volatile child—I knew exactly what to expect when I walked through her door. 

So solid.

IMG_0703Enjoying Crater Lake with Jean and Richard, early 1950s

I knew when I went to Mama’s that there would be no surprises in either her temperament or the physical environment.  Almost all of the furniture, toys, games, dishes, and appliances (no new-fangled microwaves for Mama!) stayed the same in their Wagner Street house from the time I was born until they moved to Santa Barbara. I played with my dad’s old toys, as did my children after me.  I took great comfort in the familiarity of it all. 

So dependable.

IMG_0113One of the last pictures of both Mama and Papa with all of their grandchildren, late 1990s

If we ever spent the night at Mama and Papa’s, we knew what we would find when we walked into the kitchen in the morning:  the two of them seated at their little blue kitchen table, drinking coffee, reading the Bible and praying for family, friends, and missionaries.

So disciplined.

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Same grandkids, several years earlier! On Kauai for M & P’s 50th Anniversary.
We hope to continue that tradition in the summer of 2015 – can you believe it?

We also knew that we would be well-fed when we entered their home.  Mama was a wonderful cook, and hosted frequent meals for family and friends.  She had a small but delicious repertoire of family favorites:  BBQ short ribs, lemon meringue pie, tapioca, homemade applesauce—terrific food served on the same dining room table with the same china, flatware and crystal goblets year after year.  To ensure that everyone would fit around the table, the piano bench served as a seat for the two smallest family members at one of the short ends of the table—no kids’ table at Mama Trautwein’s!  Every leaf of that table would emerge from the closet so that we could all be together.  That dining room set now resides in my own home, where I can only hope to entertain perhaps a quarter of the number of people she hosted so warmly over the years. 

So hospitable.

IMG_0556Gathering around that dining room table, about 1979 or 1980.

When birthdays rolled around, we knew there would be a dinner in our honor at Mama and Papa’s house.   Mama would let the birthday girl or boy set the menu.  We always picked our favorite dishes (which probably weren’t her favorites!):  orange jello packed with pieces of fruit, butter brickle cake topped with toffee pieces and hot fudge.   When we became teenagers, Mama made each of her grandchildren a treasured cookbook filled with handwritten recipes for the family favorites we all loved, complete with personal notes and anecdotes related to certain dishes—a gift we all cherish and use regularly.  My own children have even been fortunate enough to experience the anticipation of an unfailing Mama Trautwein birthday tradition—every year on their birthdays, she has sent them two dollar bills, the same number of bills as their age.  Needless to say, they have amassed an astounding number of two dollar bills! 

So thoughtful.

IMG_0174Not only did she host birthday dinners at her house, she also came to birthday dinners at our house.
We did birthdays up right in this family.
This picture cracks me up because the Birthday Boy almost got cut out of it.
And we just noticed tonight, he’s wearing doctor gear, of all things! And now he wears the real stuff. Go figure.

Mama established countless family traditions which were joyfully anticipated throughout the year.  Every Easter, we knew we would receive a heaping plate of bunny and lamb cookies decorated with pink icing with chocolate chips for eyes.  We dyed eggs every year at that little blue kitchen table, and Mama took us on annual Easter egg hunts at Descanso Gardens.  Mama decorated a Manzanita tree every Christmas with tiny ornaments, and she gave my sister and me our own manzanita branches when we were in college, with new ornaments for them every year.  Each member of our extended family had a stocking that had been lovingly decorated by Mama, unique to our interests.  Mama found a lot of joy in holiday traditions. 

So consistent.

IMG_0515This woman LOVED Christmas! 

IMG_0060And the Easter egg hunts at Descanso continued with the great-grands, too. The four oldest, about 15 years ago.

Mama and Papa also loved to travel.   They arranged annual extended family trips to Mammoth Lakes.  These vacations gave the cousins a chance to bond, and allowed Mama and Papa to share their love of fishing, jigsaw puzzles, and board games with their offspring.  Mama and Papa took exciting vacations without us as well, and invited us over for slideshows when they returned to share their adventures.  They always brought back trinkets and souvenirs for us and sent us postcards from around the world.  And Mama sent our own family off on road trips with boxes of cookies and wads of dollar bills to purchase souvenirs of our own.  She did these things every summer, without fail. 

So committed. 

D-68cMama, Papa & Jean visiting us in Africa, summer 1967.
I was 4 months pregnant with their first grandchild on this trip.

We will miss Mama, but many of the traditions she established continue in our own families, keeping her memory alive.  We have been blessed indeed to have such an amazing woman so actively involved in our lives, setting an example we all aspire to follow. 

Solid, dependable, disciplined, hospitable, thoughtful, committed, consistent. 

Old-fashioned qualities?  Perhaps.  But never out of style. 

Thanks so much, Joy. Beautifully said and right on target.

IMG_0103Kathryn Trautwein, in the early years at the Samarkand, before dementia.
A truly lovely lady in every way I can think of, a good, good woman.

A Delight, Not a Duty

We flew the coop yesterday.
Took off for parts north, ready for a break in the usual,
needing some beauty to refresh, to encourage,
to ready us for what comes next.

Worship was exactly what we needed,
a good send-off for four days away.
We have clearly moved into summer mode
at Montecito Covenant Church, 

with a more relaxed feel, a slight decrease in 
the numbers as college students return home, 
and vacation season begins.

Pastor Jon talked about hospitality,
about creating welcome,
about being the gospel for one another.
And about how our Good Book
paints a long series of pictures
to try and help us understand what it means
to be one who welcomes.
And every one of those pictures
centers on a table,
on shared food and drink,

on feasting and partying and living life fully.

DSC02040The delightful altar piece brought back strong memories.
In the 1980’s, I served as the first chairperson of a newly created

Worship and Arts Committee at our home church in Pasadena CA.
And for a similar service about hospitality,
I had created a table scene for worship,

and that was almost 30 years ago now.

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I am so grateful for those years,
for learning and growing,

for the freedom to try new things,
sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing,
but always hearing words of gratitude and encouragement. 

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Those dear friends in that dear place welcomed me,
they lived out the truth that Jon spoke in and around and throughout

his excellent sermon yesterday morning.
The truth that,

“Salvation is not a task to be done,
but a meal to be shared and enjoyed,
a delight, not a duty.”

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It is so easy to forget this,
to fall into the sinkhole of works righteousness,
or to forget to be on the lookout
for ‘angels unaware,’
as our text for the morning reminded us.

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We lunched with “The Moms,”
our practice on Sundays,

smiling and soothing,
encouraging and entertaining.
These good women are among those
with whom we try to practice hospitality
these days. 

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And then we began the drive north,
enjoying what’s left of the green-up brought

by rains in April but fading fast in the
extraordinary heat of May. 

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There are almost as many vineyards as oak trees now,
covering the hills with their sinewy spring growth,
their geometric precision in such sharp juxtaposition
to the wildness of oaks and chaparral.

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This is a favorite drive, bringing to mind
our monthly treks north for me to meet with Abbot David,

and how much I miss that man. 

We both acknowledged that
this a trip we needed to take.
I can feel the tension flowing out my husband’s fingertips
as he steers the car on these familiar roads.

And as we lug our stuff into our home for the next few days,
we are reminded again of why we do these things,
why we love to travel together,
why getting-away-from-home,
even a home we dearly love,
is good medicine.

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We sink with gratitude into the deck chairs
on our small balcony,
breathing in the salt,
and the sea,
and the shoreline.

And we remember.
We remember that marriage is also
a delight, and not a duty.
That traveling through life,
with all its circuitry, its ups and downs,
is richer because we do it together.

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We watched the sun setting on the sand,
enjoying an order-in dinner,
settling into this space-away,
welcoming one another.

And it was delightful.

 Joining this one with Kelli Woodford, who has kindly taken over from Michelle DeRusha’s weekly check-in, with dear Laura Boggess, and with Jennifer Dukes Lee’s Tell His Story, and for the first time, with Holley Gerth’s link up, which I just discovered.

And one last time with the wonderful Jen Ferguson and the Soli Deo Sisterhood.

And the Light Went Out . . .

I dressed in black,
ate my dinner earlier than usual
and drove one canyon over to rehearse.

DSC01442The sanctuary was filled
with evening light when I walked in,
heightening the lavenders and blues,
those deeply colored pieces
that fit inside the clerestory windows.
DSC01437 Musicians and readers met in the balcony,
our home as the sun made its way down,
down behind the hills and the sea.
No paper trail this night,
only the dark light of the screens
to guide us from scripture to painting, to silence.
Then to poem, to song,
to the loss of
one more layer of light. DSC01438 There is a sober feel to this night,
a quietness that invades our spirits

and guides our tongues.
Nothing is wasted.
No breath, no sigh, no syllable.
DSC01439 It is crowded and cramped where we sit,
bound by chair legs and mic stands,
script pages and surreptitious, hooded lamps.
DSC01440 The chandeliers,
hand-pounded
by an artist-blacksmith
in the valley,
remind me of crowns tonight.
Crowns fit for a king —
or one falsely accused. DSC01443 We begin with full brightness,
streaming in through the windows,

and shining out
from every light
in the house.  DSC01444 From my perch,
high above the worshippers,
I watch the space darken,
and feel the weight of it
settle into my bones.
My foot is aching this night,
tired from too much joyful standing,
baking and decorating,
standing beside my tall grandgirl,
who loves to try new things.
DSC01445And I’m glad that it hurts.
Not in a strange or masochistic way,

no. Rather, I am grateful to identify,
even in a small way, with
the pain of this day.
With the darkness,
the good and necessary darkness.
The darkness which brought us 
everlasting light;
the darkness in which the Good
was splayed out before us all,
absorbing our fallenness,
our brokenness,
our sinfulness,
our shame. IMG_4098 I am reading poetry tonight,
my partner a retired English prof

from a nearby college,
a wise and kind man,
who answers my queries
about
meaning and inflection,
about rhythm and pace.
DSC01446We hear the story,
the old story,
the true story.
We look at etchings,
beautiful, old etchings.
And we sing.
Sweetly, reverently, we sing. 
IMG_4097Seven times, a candle is snuffed out.
Seven words from John.
Seven songs are sung.

But only six poems.

For, in the end,
at the end,
there are no words.

Only the blessed darkness.

And then,
the Christ candle begins to move,

lifted high, cradled,
down the steps,

into the night.

And this time,
this time as I watch it go by
into the darkest space of all,
the one directly below my chair,

I weep.

This is a space where I cannot  be,
where I cannot see

the gleaming of His light.

And it hits me,
as if for the first time,
that this light went out.

The Light of the world willingly
went out,

was laid deep in the earth,
and did not shine.

How did any of us survive that darkness?

And yet . . . that very darkness
birthed
RESURRECTION.

Perhaps, I need to rethink
the meaning of the word,
the reality,
the gift
of darkness.

My deep thanks to Jon Lemmond for his wonderful script, to him and to Don Johnson for their masterful reading of the scripture, to Bob Gross, Jon Martin and Janet Spencer for such lovely musical leadership, to Tanner Gross for managing powerpoint and light level, and to my reading partner, John Sider. And special thanks for and to the poets – Richard Crashaw, John Byrom, Gerald Manley Hopkins, George Herbert, Christina Rosetti and Tania Runyon whose words graced this event with power, and with invitation.

A Muscular Savior

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So. It’s been quite the weekend. Beautiful weather on Saturday, with a little fog wiggling its way along the shoreline, clearing to bright blue skies above city and mountains. A drive by the Old Mission reminded me that spring has indeed sprung, with the Mission rose garden sending glory sparks all round. Brilliant blooms, redolent and heavy with sun and scent.

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And Sunday morning began, as it usually does with pre-worship on the bluffs. This week, there were dolphins. Dolphins! Creatures who speak to me of God with their beauty, grace and sense of fun. I loved catching this glimpse of a shiny tail, splashing the surface.

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Turns out, there was an entire pod making its way south, rolling and skimming along. As I watched them frolic, I had quite a lengthy conversation with God (courtesy of my iPhone notes app) about my own struggles right now. And for the second time during this Lenten season, I was reminded that sometimes resurrection requires death, healing needs a kind of dying first. Not exactly the answer I wanted to hear, but I tried to take it in with a semblance of grace and acceptance.

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Just before I left to drive up the hill for worship, an acorn woodpecker dropped onto a low-hanging branch and tapped away. His cheerful topknot doesn’t show against the intense morning sun, but I caught glimpses of it a few times. Woodpeckers don’t usually come so low, so close to the ground and us human creatures. They’re notoriously shy, despite their noisy presentation, so I was glad to see this guy at eye level.

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The sanctuary had been transformed for our Palm Sunday celebration. The dry branches of Lent gave way to deep green palms, potted plants, lighted lanterns, setting the garden scene beautifully as we walked into the sanctuary. 

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We’ve been creating our own lectionary this year, moving through the gospel of John since last September. John doesn’t tell the story of the triumphal entry; he enjoys playing with the timeline, shifting the emphasis, creating a beautiful, literary, deeply theological gospel. He puts the table-turning — an event which follows right after the palm procession in the other gospels — way back in chapter two, establishing early the picture of a muscular savior, moving steadily towards his final glory, on that hill outside the city gate.

This week, this beginning of Holy Week, we were at chapter 18 and standing with Jesus in the garden. That garden of prayer and betrayal and arrest, a scene painted in strokes of agony and grief and failure by the other story-tellers in our New Testament. But John? He gives us such a different picture! Jesus has prayed for all of us in the preceding chapter, a prayer for his friends and for us. So there is no praying in this garden scene. Instead of sweating-drops-of-blood, we meet a take-charge Jesus, a man who knows his destiny and strides toward it with commitment and energy. 

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It’s a seminal moment, this meet-up between Jesus and the soldiers. The soldiers who were led there by one of Jesus’s own. And Jesus meets them head-on, asking a clear question: 

“Who are you looking for?”

Two times he asks. And two times, they answer, “Jesus, the Nazarene.” Each time, he says clearly, “I am he.” The second time, he even adds these words: “If it’s me you’re after, let these others go. . .” releasing his disciples. In John’s version, they do not flee, they are set free.

They are set free!

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Peter — of course,  it would be Peter! — whips out his trusty sword and cuts of the ear of the servant of the Chief Priest. And Jesus will have none of it. NONE. He turns and says ferociously, “Do you think I will not drink this cup? This cup given by my Father?”

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This is one strong dude here. A man who sees his future clearly and embraces it, suffering and all. Not because he is a glutton for punishment; not because the Father is a sadist of some sort; not because the forces of Rome and religion are victorious and he is a loser. NO. 

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Those who arrest him, even he who betrays him — these are not the enemies in John’s rendition. They are the necessary implements who put God’s redemptive work into action, the players who take Jesus down that road to the cross and eventually, to another garden. The EASTER garden. The one where we learn the powerful truth that we are indeed free. Free at last!

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In John’s telling, Jesus is Christus victor, the one who triumphs over sin, death, the grave. Over brokenness, betrayal, pain. Over anxiety, depression, illness of all kinds. Over it all. 

And he does it without flinching, without second-guessing, without question. 

For me, this year, this is the picture I need. It is yet another reason why I am so deeply grateful for all four of our gospel accounts, for their unique vision, purpose, structure, story-telling.

Some  years, I need to read about Gethsemane — to weep with Jesus, to pray fervently, to try to stay awake, to be faithful.

But this year?

This year, I need to hear Jesus say, “Who are you looking for?”  And I need Jesus to tell me I am released — I am set free, I am blameless. And I need Jesus to model for me courage and commitment and unflinching resignation — no, scratch that. Unflinching welcome of the pain that lies before him.

An embrace of the dying that is to come, looking ever forward to RESURRECTION.

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Headed into surgery on this foot in early June to repair (hopefully) a badly torn tendon
and to break and reset a congenitally off center heel bone.)

I need to hear the “I am,” the clear, calm cry of identity that John puts into the mouth of our savior at least eight times throughout his gospel. “I am” — he tells those who will listen — I am the living water, the bread of life, the light of the world, the gate for the sheep, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way the truth and the life, the vine.

And here, right here in that last garden?  “I am,” says Jesus. “I am the one you seek.” 

That old, strong, breath-filled name that the God of Israel gave to Moses. That name that could not be spoken, but only breathed. That name, that name. “I am.”

Oh, Jesus.

Be the “I am” in my life!

Stride right through the pain and confusion, the uncertainty and the fear, the injury and the hard work of breaking and mending. Help me to see you, strong and steady. Help me to hear you, clear and calm. Help me to know you, to know you.

To see and remember the beauty of the roses, the joyous abandon of the dolphins, the cheerful tapping of the woodpecker, the green beauty of the palm fronds, the flickering lamps of the soldiers, and your gift of freedom and release to those who are your friends.

Thank you that you call me exactly that, your friend. I’m counting on that.

 

My deep thanks to Don Johnson, Jon Lemmond, Bob Gross, Martha Johnson, Jeanne Heckman and every member of the worship team and the office/administrative staff who contributed to yesterday’s celebration. I look forward to the events of this whole week because of your dedication and creativity. 

A Letter to the Girl(s) I Once Was . . .

The Story Sessions community issued an invitation to speak to and for the girls we once were. And Bonnie over at Faith Barista has Lenten prompt on “Remember.” This piece seems to fit both places! My story is not particularly dramatic — no abuse to report, no major trauma in my home. In fact, I would venture to say that it’s downright boring, especially when lined up with some of these sisters, whose lives bear testimony to both horror and redemption. Still, like every human who has ever walked the planet, I knew my share of sorrow and confusion. Also? I have lived longer than almost everyone else who will contribute today, so there are LOTS of ‘girls’ to address . . .

44Look at you! Such a big girl!

And you were, too.
A very big girl.
Tall, right from the get-go,
smart and talkative and quite the walker,
or so I’m told.

You loved life!
Loved it —
all the people,
the streets and houses —
. . . and the busses.
Oh, how you loved to watch 
the bus go by.
“There-sa goes da bus!”
you’d yell and point.

I think you’ve done a lot of yelling 
and pointing in me,
little one.
You want me to see things,
to pay attention.
And I’m trying, honey!
I thank you for helping
me to keep my eyes
and my heart O P E N.

37Just barely two years old and
an interloper appeared on the scene.

And he was SO cute, wasn’t he?
He didn’t have funny feet,
or terrible skin,
or stick-straight hair
that mommy always wanted
to curl, curl, curl.

Trautwein_Scans_2_054But you kinda liked him anyhow,
even though you did fight now and again.

Only trouble was, his derring-do
made you want to be ‘the good girl,’
and you’ve spent an awful lot of years
playing that role, haven’t you?

Maybe it’s time to let that one go?

29Your dad’s mama lived in downtown Los Angeles,
in a sweet little bungalow.

And oh, how she loved you!
But she was so old,
and she told stories

about the south, about her home,
in Arkansas.

And sometimes the way she talked
made you feel funny.
Especially the way she talked
about people of color,
even though you’d never
heard that phrase in your young life.

27Your mom and dad loved each other a lot,
didn’t they?
And sometimes, you felt like an outsider
around them.

Most of the time, their love
made you feel safe and sure.
But once in a while,
they shut you out,
and that was confusing.

19Oh, I see that dreamy look in your eyes!
And I salute it. Dream on, girl!

Live inside your head all you want to,
curl up in the corner and read, read, read.
Don’t worry if you don’t want to socialize,
no matter how your mom fusses at you.

And pay attention in 5th grade,
when Mr. Naismith tells you you’re a writer.
Believe him. Believe it.

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High school was kinda crazy, right?
Thank God for the church group,
because at school?
You were the resident nerd.
Choir helped, though.
You met so many different
kinds of kids, most of them
so.much.fun!
It was great to break out of the
molds that held you —
the brainiac and the church girl.

Yeah, singing was a good thing. 

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And then came college.
And the task at hand?

Meet a good, Christian man
and get married!
And you did that,
right on schedule.

Aren’t you glad you found a good one?
Even when he makes you crazy,
he’s such a good man.
You SCORED. 

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That talkative toddler,
and that displaced sister and daughter,
and that dreamy 10-year-old,
and that nerdy high schooler,
well they all showed up
on that December afternoon
when you tied the knot. 

And despite the baggage you
brought from a conservative,
complementarian home,
together you found a new way
to be a couple,
to share the journey 
as partners.

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Of course, it took a few decades to do that.
And along the way,
you traveled halfway around the world,
you found yourself pregnant (!!),
you taught school,
and you lived on a boarding school campus
in a brand-new African nation.

The bike came in handy, didn’t it?
It helped you cement the independence
you were finding in those early
married years.

It gave the 10-year-old just a little
bit of breathing space,
and the toddler a chance to
see new things.

Trautwein_Scans_2_019And when that beautiful girl was born?
Well, a whole new chapter opened up.
You had just turned 23,
and in the next four years,
you’d have two more babies,
and all those “girls” in there,
the toddler and the 10-year-old,
the one who played with baby dolls,
and the one who read through
the traveling library truck;
the one who was too tall,
and too awkward,
and too loud,
and too bossy,
and too. . .
well, they got a bit lost for
a while.

But today, you bless them all.
You call them out and say,
“Thank you!”
Because every age,
every stage,
every experience,
every relationship —
they are all part of who you are
right now.

And who you are right now?
Despite the infirmities of age
and injury,
well. . . you’re not half bad, you know?

Two years ago, I wrote a similar post, under the flag of my African Journey page. Here’s a link to that one.

Joining with Bonnie – click on over and read the rest.

Delving into the Mystery — Introducing Q & A

I will admit that this new year is already kicking my butt. I know that sounds rude, and, to tell you truth, it feels rude.

I have one more year in my 60s. One.More.Year.

And I’m feeling it.

My husband has already moved through that milestone. And he’s feeling it, too.

We’re tired, cranky at times, worry too much over our old, dementing moms and our beautiful, energetic grandchildren, and our joints ache almost all the time.

Yet, here I sit, staring out at the brilliant noonday sun on a winter day, grateful right into every aching bone for the life I’ve lived, the gifts I’ve enjoyed, the things I’ve learned.

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Yes, these joints hurt. But this heart and soul are still beating, still singing. I am grateful to be here, inhabiting this space for however long the Lord grants it.

And in between the groans and sighs, I’ve been listening. Paying attention. Reading. Learning.

Case in point.

This week, I took a walk on the bluffs near the University of California, Santa Barbara. I love that walk, the glorious views in every direction, the energy of a university campus beating its way underground clear out to Coal Oil Point, where the surfers hang ten.

So I took my very fancy new point-and-shoot camera and I walked. And I watched the surfers as they inhabited that immense sea.

Who knew that surfers could be such powerful teachers?? Here’s a little of what I learned on Tuesday afternoon:

To be a surfer requires dedication. These kids ride their bikes out the long, dusty pathway, holding their boards — holding their boards — close to their bodies.

DSC00569To be a surfer requires community. You will never see a lone ranger, waiting for the next set. Always, always, they do this thing together. Yes, their rides are individual, but the waiting? The learning from the water? The ebb and flow? This, they do together.

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To be a surfer requires patience, long stretches of sitting, watching, sensing, obeying the rhythm of the water. In between the thrilling stuff is a whole lot of boring stuff, but all of it is what makes an expert out of a beginner.

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To be a surfer requires flexibility, and a willingness to go with the flow. From straddling to crouching to half-standing, to a full-out-stand-up-look-at-this, you’ve got to be willing to change your position on a dime. Take a gander at these:

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DSC00554Dedication, community, patience, flexibility — all part of the surfing life. And all part of being obedient to what the water has to teach, don’t you think?

If we want to learn —

we’ve got to get wet,
we’ve got to find a tribe,
we’ve got to be willing to wait out the lulls,
and we’ve got to move with the rhythm of the water.

I’ve been following Jesus all my life, cannot remember a moment when I didn’t know him. And still, I fall off that board, miss the cues, lose the rhythm. I’m not there yet — not exactly a beginner, but not quite an expert, either.

All along the way, I have managed to learn a few things,  Some of them are painful, painful enough to leave scars. And though I would never seek it out, I’ve lived long enough to know that pain can be a place of profound growth, even of transformation.

Every surfer worth his or her salt has endured bruising, battering, humiliation and defeat. But the ones who choose to learn from all of that are the ones who become adept, adaptable, creative and committed. In short, the ones who yield to the mystery of it all, and accept that an occasional punch to the gut is part of the process — these are the ones who catch the waves, time after time.

DSC00508

This cross stands at the edge of the cliff that sits between the two primary surfing coves along the Coal Oil Point Reserve. It is glorious and sturdy, withstanding wind and weather for as long as I’ve been living. I like the juxtaposition of sturdiness and wildness that I find in this place, the unpredictable mingling of formed and unformed, hand-created and God-created.

It reminds me of life – this crazy mix of goodness and grief, beauty and horror, healing and brokenness that makes our four-score-and ten (if we’re lucky) the rich and remarkable thing that it is.

I am quickly approaching that number, on my way to three score and ten very soon now. Over the years that have been granted me, I have never been able to settle for the quick and easy. Don’t offer me truisms, cliches, pat answers or formulas, please. I’d rather hear a different way of asking the question! Because, here’s the truth of it: I am a person who loves the questions; I believe they are worth the patient work of exploration, prayer and lived experience that can sometimes lead to answers. In fact, I believe that my word for 2014, obedient, is as much about asking the right questions as it is about finding answers.

For as long as I pastored, there was a beautiful calligraphic print that hung in or near my various offices. It contains these words, written by Rainer Maria Rilke in his small book, “Letters to a Young Poet.” This is a truth I believe; this is a truth I try to live:

“You are so young, you have not even begun,
and I would like to beg you, dear one, as well as I can,
to have patience with everything that is unsolved in your heart and to try to cherish the questions themselves,
like closed rooms and like books written in a very strange tongue.

Do not search now for the answers, which cannot be given you because you could not live them.

It is a matter of living everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps you will then, gradually,
without noticing it, one distant day,
live right into the answers.
 

I would like to invite you to spend some time living the questions, beginning next Friday, January 17th. I’ll start us off with some reflections on a question that I’ve lived with for a while. And we’ll do that every Friday until there are no more questions to be asked.

Although I’ve got a list of about a dozen that I’ve discerned from my own life experience and from much of what I read on the internet, I am open to suggestions. Please leave them in the comments or email me directly at dtrautwein at gmail dot com.

Also? YOU are invited to link up your own reflections — either on the question that I raise or on another one that you’ve been living for a while. PLEASE NOTE that this is not an invitation to extended theological debate. There are lots of places to go if that’s what you hunger for. What I’m looking for are stories, experiences, concerns, points of conflict — anything that sets you down the road of wondering about the life of faith.

I think we’ll come closer to living an answer if we tell our stories and if we live our questions. Next Friday’s question set?

Why is there so much talk about ‘obedience?’
Does following Jesus mean I have to give up having fun?

Diana Trautwein - Living the Questions

Then, beginning the following Tuesday, January 21st, we’ll try our hand at discovering how we are living the answers. I will do some personal reflecting on truths I’ve been living into — perhaps connected to the question of the previous week, perhaps not. Sometimes I’ll look to scripture for help, sometimes to life, sometimes to both. And I can tell you right now, that some weeks there will be no ‘answer,’ just an encouragement to live with the un-knowing, to explore the mystery . . . to wait for the wave. 

Diana Trautwein - Living into the Answers

I have no idea if this will work or not! It is an experiment, one that I think is worth the risk. I hope you will, too.

I’m willing to get wet, are you?
I’m looking for my tribe, will you be a part?
I’m okay with the lulls, especially if I’ve got company.
And I’m willing to move with the rhythm of The Water.

So . . . let’s do a little surfing, shall we?

What I Did Yesterday: A Photo Essay

If you know me very well, you quickly become aware
that I am a mass of contradictions.
One minute, calm and self-confident,
the next minute, a mess of insecurities and fears

I’m working on it, but somehow perfection eludes me.

Case in point —
I live in fear that something I say or do
will embarrass my children.
Some days, this fear stays quiet
and seems to be fast asleep,
hiding comfortably under
a bushel basket of busyness.

Other days, however,
like these days — right now —
when I am living without a schedule,
without deadlines,
without commitments.
Well, on those days,
that fear gets loud and snarly.

We are vacationing at the same time as two of our three kids.
We’re not exactly vacationing together,
but we’re staying in close proximity and doing things
together from time to time.

Yesterday the whole kit and kaboodle of them
(one kid/wife/one of their two kids, one kid/husband/three kids,
one kid’s spouse’s parents (who NEVER embarrass their children),
one kid’s friend’s family of 5 . . .
if you’re counting, that makes a group of 15 so far)
decided to take a snorkel tour up the Napali Coast.

They invited me to go along,
and I said, YES, surprising us all.

Four hours long, beauty that stops the heart,
a chance to swim with tropical fish,
and a big old turkey sandwich and cold guava juice
to finish the day.
Oh, yes. And a one hour return ride
through the afternoon swells,
directly into the wind.

My husband gets seasick,
so he kept the 3-year-old and they had a ball.
I carefully sun-screened my entire body,
wore one of Dick’s t-shirts over my suit,
packed (as usual) more stuff than I’d need
and quietly clomped my way down the stairs
to join the crew.

So there’s this piece:
I have two bad knees
and a recently flaring achilles tendonitis.
Oh, and I’m old and a scaredy-cat.
So the opportunities for
being awkward, slow, and
so-much-less-than —
well, they abounded.
Yes, they did.
They ABOUNDED. 

But, I went anyhow.

And I am so very glad I did.

Getting there required:
driving down the hill from our condo
to the town of Hanalei,
parking behind the garbage container of a seafood restaurant;
(not the ideal aroma before a sea voyage of any kind);
waiting to sign in and get a waterproof bag for our stuff;
waiting four times for a 12-passenger van to shuttle
50 people to two 25-passenger boats;
riding said van to the river that flows into the bay;
then walking through knee-deep water
to board a six-passenger dinghy

which would take us out to the boat.

I, of course, was in the very last dinghy.

On board, I sat next to someone I did not know.
And out of all the towns, and all the rivers,
and all the boats in all the world,
I sat next to a woman who,
when I asked where she was from,

said to me: “Santa Barbara. Well, actually, Carpinteria.”
“Oh,” I said, “my kids are from there,”
pointing across the aisle,
“and my DIL practices medicine in Carp.”
“Omigosh,” she hollered.
“That’s my most excellent doctor right there.”

So SHE took that embarrassing moment I was so afraid of,
and captured it all for herself.
YIPPEE!!

The trip up the coast was magical;
there is no other word for it.

The captain set a leisurely pace,
stopping to look at caves,

waterfalls,
dolphins, hikers, kayakers
and green, green valleys.


At one time, about 3000 Hawaiians lived and fished
in these valleys, leaving only
when they needed medical attention
because of infections brought by explorers and traders.

When you look up these cliffs, you cannot imagine
how anyone ever lived here.
In the winter months,


40-foot waves hit these walls with such force,
they leave permanent scars of white calcium
and red-dirt run-off.

Parts of the Pali are open to campers,
with permits,
but the trail is rated a 9 out of 10 for difficulty,
and is often slick, muddy and very, very narrow.

If I were 40 years younger and a whole lot fitter,
kayaking to the first valley might be on my list.
(I say ‘might’.) But hiking it? Not a chance.
 
After we got to our snorkeling spot,
at the very end of the northern tip of the island,

I waited and was nearly the last person into the water.
Once all my children and their children
were safely looking down into the water through their masks,
I oh-so-gracefully,
slid myself over the side of the boat
and  plunged into the warm Pacific.

Maybe someday, I’ll have a photo from
my son-in-law’s underwater camera to
add to this story,
but for now, you’ll have to take my word for it:

God is a genius.
A GENIUS, I tell you.
Coral of all sizes, types and color,
tiny fish, mid-sized fish
and one midling sea turtle
yes, a real live sea turtle,
the sight of which made me say
through my snorkel,
“this is so cool, so cool, so cool.”
(So glad none of my kids can hear me through that snorkel.)

The trip home was. . .  how shall I say it?

Strenuous.


But  you know what?

It was tremendous fun.
We got bounced and bumped and WET.
But we also saw a pod of about 30 spinner dolphins,
three of whom jumped the wake of our boat.

Sittin’ on the bay, waitin’ for the dinghy to go home.

And that night, we all ate together, saw the best sunset yet,
and enjoyed watching some neighbors
sail paper lanterns,
lit with specially coated, biodegradable wicks,
while all the children around sang
that song from “Tangled.”

Magical.
That’s the word for the entire day.

And I didn’t embarrass my kids.

There was that one time I laughed a little too loudly, 

but they’re pretty much used to that.

And there was the fact that I cannot, in any way, shape or form,
manage to straddle a picnic table that’s low to the ground.
Other than that, I think I made it through
and lived to tell about it.
I’m glad I chose adventure
over my fears and insecurities.

And I loved every minute of it.
It was nearly completely dark, so this is very blurry, but I loved that lantern against the colors of the sunset.
It’s Monday, so I’m joining this one with Laura, Jennifer and Michelle, because even though it happened on Friday rather than Sunday, that snorkeling was the most wonderful worship experience in a long while.

 

The Welcoming Sound of Vowels: A Photo Essay

There was just a small spot of light on the pew, the one just below the open window.
The window made of green sea foam glass,
through which the strong Hawaiian sun filters itself into softness,
becomes invitation.
The breeze welcomed us to worship as the service began,
offering gentle reminders of the wonders outside the building
as we enjoyed the simpler ones within.

We’ve been to this place before, five years ago,
and remembered the gentle, sometimes befuddled, kahu (pastor).
He was sitting in the tiny choir loft
as we walked into this beautiful old wooden building,
the one so often featured on postcards and travel brochures;
he was pulling notes together,
readying himself to lead.

But Sunday morning is not a time for postcards,
and there is no paragraph about what happens here in any brochure I’ve ever seen.

Sometimes we need reminders that real people live in this place, this paradise.
Real people, with jobs and families, worries and hopes and dreams.
To sit with them, to sing and pray and listen,
to watch the keiki (children) hurry to the front to meet with the kahu
and then make a quick exit to the open-air Mission Hall for music and stories;
to hear the sweet sound of ukeleles and Hawaiian voices during the offertory;
to watch the graceful hands and hips of two middle-aged women
offering a hula at the same time . . .

All of this reminds us of how much we share even though the details may differ.

The sermon was not exactly a sermon,
at least not a sermon using the seminary definition of same.
No biblical exegesis, no story-telling.
Rather, a collection of verses around a theme,
a series of quotes found online,
a bit of stumbling here and there in the delivery.

But you know what?

It was a wonderful theme, and some of the quotes were funny and memorable.
And the pastor was sincere and kind.

“Show proper respect to everyone . . . ” I Peter 2:17 = guiding verse.

And these were the 5 main points:

When you speak, be tactful not just truthful.
When you are served, be understanding and not demanding.
When you disagree, be gentle and not judgmental.
When you share your faith, be respectful, not rejecting.
When people are rude to you, respond politely.

And these were some prime quotes for each point:

“Being tactful is making people feel at home when you wish they were at home.”
“Why are we most disrespectful to the people we’re closest to, our families?”
“We are not morally superior to anyone.”
“Righteousness does not equal rudeness.”
“Don’t be a blowtorch with your faith witness, all you’re asked to be is a light.” 

No, it was not the intellectual challenge that we’re used to,
that we enjoy on Sundays in Santa Barbara.

But here’s the thing:
the pastor knew his people,
and the people knew their pastor;
every person in that room was glad to be there,
every person in that room was friendly,
every person in that room exuded gentleness of spirit,
thoughtfulness before speaking,
and a deep gratitude for the presence of visitors.
Out of a worshipping congregation of about 120,
approximately 25 were 1st time visitors —
and every one of them got a handmade flower lei.

And over and around everything,
from the printed bulletin,
to the unison prayers,
to every song sung but one,
there was the soothing sound of this language,
this mellifluous, lilting language,
these words composed of so many vowels.
Only 8 consonants and each one must be followed by a vowel
or a double vowel.
Something about hearing it is soothing, welcoming.

 Aloha is more than a word in this part of the world.
It is a way of life,
and we are grateful for it.

For the first time in a long while, happy to be joining with Michelle and Laura:

Foggy Morning: Ruminations & Photographs

I spent Thursday morning at the Goleta Slough last week,
and I spoke into my phone as I sat there.
This is the transcript of that speaking. (Pretty much!)
I’m thinking this was an artist’s playdate of sorts. . . 

Cormorants, beautiful black and sleek, yet they wreak such havoc.
The trees above these birds are sticks now.
Ashen, dead.


I sit, staring.
The tide ebbs and flows, the horizon fades away.
An occasional gull, tern, cormorant, or duck flies by.
I can hear the chatter of children far down the beach.

And the, low  guttural tones of the men who drive these weary motorhomes.
What must it be like to live like this, day after day?
Chatting in the parking lot, slugging back a six pack.
Suddenly a dolphin surfaces very close by.
Oh, have I ever told you how these creatures speak to me of God?
I see he has a companion.
Somehow life is better with a swimming partner.

Summer must truly be here, a lifeguard walks by,
carrying his bright orange rescue pad.

Summer in Santa Barbara is often gray,
as the heat from the central valley of California rises,
it sucks the fog up to the beach along the central coast.
But today, instead of feeling suffocating, this cool, moist blanket is soothing.

My husband is flying to Chicago, once again attending meetings.
He gets so nervous before he travels, and so do I.
Neither one of us likes to travel alone anymore;
I’m not sure we ever did.
We have surely done it often enough,
and once we arrive at our destination, most worries dissipate.
But travel days are hard — and the days leading up to travel days.

47 years is a very long time.
We’ve had adventures, raised children, cared for grandchildren,
moved several times, each dealt with the stresses of our own individual careers.
And we’ve done all of it together, growing up together,
growing into marriage together.
So separation is both good and hard.
It’s good for us to remember that we are separate.
Each of us is an individual, with different gifts and interests,
and those gifts and interests need nourishment,
encouragement, outlet.

Yes, we still need
to do those things which nurture us as people as well as a couple.
But the other reality is this one: everything else in life is better together.

I just saw a plane take off in my rearview mirror, perhaps it was his.
He flies first to San Francisco, then on to Chicago.
Meetings all day tomorrow, half a day Saturday, then home again Saturday night.


I look forward to his return, but I also look forward to some space and time alone.
Taking an hour to sit and stare at the ocean is something
I find more difficult to do when I know my husband is at home.
Why is that, I wonder?

I think I still carry a lot of baggage from my early life.
I still hear the voice of my mother in my head,
the one reminding me to be ever present and careful,
to look out always for my husband’s interests above my own.

I have come around intellectually and on some emotional level to the belief that
each of our interests and gifts are important,
that decisions are made mutually,
that God’s call is unique to each one of us
as well as unique to our marriage relationship.

But I still hear my mother’s anxious questions.
“Does Dick think this is okay?”
“Are you keeping your husband happy?”
And I still remember, clear as a bell,
her words about one of her very best friends,
after her husband betrayed her with a member of his congregation
and left their marriage.
I still remember these words:
“If only she had taken better care of herself.
If only she weren’t so smart.
If only she had kept all that intelligence in check.”

It makes me physically sick to write those words.
Yet this is what my mother believed, and this is what she raised me to believe.
How sad is that?

The cars are starting to pull into the lot now –
it’s a summer day at the beach.
People will be here in droves.

My clue that time is up.
What will this day bring next?

It brought a lot of loveliness and a fair amount of pain, actually. Leisurely shopping for the first time in ages; lunch out, every bite delicious, while reading a favorite author on my Kindle; time at the beach at the other end of town as the sun was setting. Unfortunately, on my walk there, my ‘bad’ knee acted up fiercely, requiring a trip to urgent care the next day. Three x-rays and 1 shot of cortisone later, I am much better. Undoubtedly, this relaxing day helped to move that recovery along.

Joining this with Laura, Michelle, Jen and Ann:



The Gift of Travel — Part 10: Prague Views & Re-Entry — A Photo Essay

Before we left home, we purchased one optional tour
and it was scheduled for our last day in Prague.
With that tour, we had lunch, enjoyed a spectacular 25 minute concert,
and enjoyed the museum-quality collections of the
Lobkowicz family at their personal palace
located on the grounds of the large
castle on the hill.

We had gorgeous weather that day and this palace
provided views of the city that were breathtaking.

To re-trace our two-week trip, you can click through
to all parts of it here:

Part 1 is here,
part 2 here,
part 3 is right here, friends,
part 4, here,
part 5, here,
part 6, here,
part 7 is just a click away,
part 8, here,
and part 9, here. 

At the end of day 2, we walked down from the fortress/castle to the trolley,
and enjoyed the views from atop the hill and through
the trolley windows as we headed back to the hotel,
and then enjoyed a fine dinner at The Imperial Cafe,
with its glorious tile work on all surfaces.

On day 2, we also had lunch in this quiet cafe we found off to the side in the castle complex.
The food was so-so – but the views?
Amazing.

Trolley views!!

Loved the reflection of the sky on our hotel as we returned to it at the end of
exploring day 2.

Dinner that night and below, lunch the next day at the Lobkowicz palace.

This small room was where we ate ‘traditional Czech goulash & dumplings.’
You’ll see a photo of it below the ones of the view from the window of that room.

It almost looks like a different city from the hazy view of the day before.

The menu and the host – who grew up in Boston. When the wall came down,
his dad sent him to Europe with his savings – not enough – but a start.
They gradually have recovered many of their homes and possessions,
but live in a 1-bathroom rented apartment
and offer these special tours to try and make their treasures
available to the public. It was outstanding.
They own two original manuscript copies of Beethoven symphonies,
and a hand annotated script of Handel’s Messiah by Mozart
when he re-orchestrated it.
Also lovely artwork and a fascinating family story.

The best view of the Charles bridge that we had while there,
courtesy of our telephoto lens.

And the old Town Hall from miles away.

The dumplings look like plain old white bread to us.

On our way to the concert, admiring the ceilings and the view from
one floor further up.

Outstanding music – violin/cello/piano.

Private chapel.

I loved the concert room after it was all over – the light was just right.

Our last night we walked to a different MacDonald’s
and had TWO burgers and ice cream —
perfect way to end our time on the night we had to PACK.

Driving to the airport (courtesy of Viking),
we enjoyed one last view of the hill where we spent most of our time in Prague.

Leaving Prague, some reminders of the beauties we’d enjoyed the previous two weeks:
Yellow rape-seed fields, charming villages, shifting clouds and sun.

And landing in Zurich 90 minutes later, we saw similar views. . . through rain.

A two-hour layover, with only our backpacks to worry about. Going home, we checked those bags we’d carried with us from LA.

It was wet out!

Saying good-bye to Europe.

A glimpse of Greenland.

The TV screen that was in my lap for 12 hours while the guy in front of me kept
his seat fully reclined the entire trip. Ugh.

Coming into California.

And into Los Angeles.

These two books (gifts from our daughter) were terrific.
We highly recommend the Top Ten books for any travel.

 Here’s a postcard of that diamond I talked about in the post about Dresden.

And the downright gaudy toy-like setting August the Strong had in his collection.

And last, but not least, a 3 foot high carved piece of ivory, also in August’s collection.

Our son’s family came for a cook-out over the weekend of our return,
and the girls enjoyed the puppets we bought them in the Prague castle,
a charming toy shopped carved out of the rock.

Within 10 days, we were swept up into lovely family celebrations,
like Joel’s graduation from middle school and our son’s
and 2 grandsons’ birthdays.

Lisa, Joel and Karl prepared a gorgeous yard/house and table for
about 60 friends and family to enjoy as we celebrated everyone.

Traveling is truly a gift.
But home is an even greater one.
We are grateful for all of it!!

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