Friday, June 28, 2013

Rites of Passage

This spring we were loaded with celebrations.  Of course there were the usual birthdays and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and Easter and a wedding or two.  But there were 2 VIP Birthdays as the newest grandgirlies turned one, and then two VIP graduations for a son and a daughter.

In February, Tillie turned one year old.  Her folks had an “Alice in ONEderland” party with all the trimmings of a tea party. The invitation in the mail came in the form of a teabag complete with tag.

Here is Tillie dressed as Alice held by her Great Grandma:


The food was delicious and went with the theme.


The cupcake labels were edible, made with fondant I think.




One idea I really loved was having a ‘clothesline’ of her month-by-month progress through the first year:


Momma was the Queen of Hearts, Daddy was the Mad Hatter:



and a very interested group of young tea partiers:



A tired Alice Tillie rests in her new recliner at party’s end.  (Here she is wearing a dress that was her Mommy’s at this age, coincidentally quite like Alice’s also.)


In March, Margaret turned one.  The theme of her party was “A Very Hungry Caterpillar” based on Eric Carle’s book. A caterpillar made from Japanese lanterns hung between the living and dining room:


Margaret’s month-by-month development was displayed like this:


Her personal birthday cake was teeny tiny cupcakes disguised as that very hungry caterpillar.


And the menu was planned according to what that hungry caterpillar ate—and he was VERY hungry!


The birthday girl with her Momma:



There were games and crafts and friends and cousins and presents everywhere!




And a tired but happy girl at day’s end!


In between these two birthdays, Ron’s brother passed away and we had quite a bit of family time as the siblings gathered to be near him in his illness and then to make arrangements for the memorial service and burial.  This is also a rite of passage, but a much more sobering one. We also had a wedding in the family—a cousin—and that is a joyful statement of love and hope for the future as they enter into this new commitment. 

Then in May our daughter Amanda graduated with her Master’s in Teaching (MAT)and we had a happy celebration with her reaching that goal. She worked as a Resident Director for several colleges before following this career path.  We wonder where this training will lead her and are excited for her with all the possibilities ahead and the special gifts she has to bring to them.

Here we are at a pre-grad dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory:




Her friends gave her a lovely afternoon party filled with all of her favorite things.




Also in May our son Brett graduated from the Firefighters Academy, a rigorous program to complete and a hard one to get into. This has been a goal of his for several years, and along the way he trained as a paramedic, worked as an ER tech, worked for an ambulance service, and kept his eye on his ultimate goal. We are so happy for him to have reached this goal and are very proud of the man he has become!

The cadre he trained with developed very close ties:


He spoke (among others) in a video during the program:


Taking the oath:



Receiving his badge, pinned by his wife, Nichole. (Two years ago he had pinned her at her RN pinning ceremony):






And the next rite of passage that we know about will be the birth of Brett and Nichole’s son in the Fall!

Two days after this graduation we went to a wedding which I wrote about here.  And so it goes, one life celebration after another.  How good it is!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Grace: Unmerited Favor


During the Civil War a custom began of hanging a flag in the window of one’s home with a blue star on it for each of the family members engaged in the war.  If a soldier was fallen, a slightly smaller gold star was put over the blue one so that a blue outline still showed around the gold. This practice continued during WWI and was most prevalent during WWII.  Businesses and community associations also hung these in support of their members engaged in the war. They are known as Service Flags or Blue Star Flags.

The church I attend now is one that my parents and grandparents and great grandparents attended.  Many of the current members have ties that go back four generations or more, so we have a lot of shared history.  During WWII our little group of believers had a Service Flag hanging with a blue star for each of the soldiers that were fighting in the war. Some were Army, some were Navy, some were pilots and some were foot soldiers and some were in ships and submarines.  Over the course of the war  45 men and women from our church had a blue star on the flag representing their action in the war.  My dad is one of them, the sixth star down along the right hand side. Several of them are his cousins and most were close family friends.

The most amazing thing is that there was not one gold star among these 45.  They all returned home safe, and it was not because of having light duty.  There are harrowing stories of fights in the air, of emergency ocean landings when the fuel ran out, and horrible conditions in Africa, Europe, and the South Pacific.  But every one of them returned home without major injury.  The  odds against this are staggering from a temporal standpoint.  When you hear the numbers and percentages of loss from WWII it becomes clear that our 100% safely home is astonishing. It has been called a evidence of God’s faithfulness, of answered prayer, and certainly it was a blessing.  I have hesitated over that word “faithfulness”  because elsewhere, good men died.  Righteous men and women perished.  Was God not faithful to the ones who died?  Were the prayers of their family not good enough?  How can we say that our banner is an evidence of God’s faithfulness?

I have been thinking this over.  We know that it rains on the just and the unjust alike. [Matthew 5:45]  We know that good people hurt and suffer even though they pray. Everyone dies eventually. Every generation experiences 100 % death. Is God not faithful to the suffering? Is God not faithful to us when we undergo loss? I believe He is, but that we don’t understand His ways.  Job is a classic case in point and he says, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” [Job 13:15] David says in Psalm 23, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”

There are many books exploring the problem of evil, pain and suffering and ‘unanswered’ prayer.  I will list some of them  at the bottom for those who are interested.  For the limited purposes of my blog,  I resolved the issue by thinking of it as grace, not the faithfulness of God.  Grace is unmerited favor. God is faithful, no matter what.  He is consistent in His nature.  We experience grace without earning it, without doing anything to deserve it.  Our men and women did not “pray better” for their loved ones than the families who lost loved ones. The soldiers who came home did not fight better or outwit the enemy better than their counterparts who died, except by God’s grace.  I will say that this flag is a testimony to God’s great blessing on our little church and the families represented.  His extreme grace, unmerited favor.

The women  in the church had a Ladies’ Missionary Class which met regularly to pray for and write to the young men and women in service.  They included news from all the letters received from the other servicemen of the church and also bits about what was going on at home, who was getting married, and so on.  This practice of writing a group letter continued until the end of the war.   The letter of September 1945 says “…looking at our service flag, we see no gold stars, we know of no serious wounds, but we have heard of marvelous escapes on land, in the air, on the sea, and under the sea; proof of His ever abiding care.  His answer to our prayers…”

A few years ago I uncovered the Service Flag in a storage closet at the church.  I asked a friend who is a military history buff to write something about it to accompany it as a display on Memorial Day. His concluding paragraph says, “Even though nearly seven decades have passed, this banner continues to stand in testimony to the faithfulness of our God to the members of our fellowship who placed themselves in harm’s way but trusted in His deliverance…”


I am grateful to those who served our country and the Allies and I am extremely grateful for the grace shown to us in preserving those who came home.


Recommended Reading:

Lewis, C.S., The Problem of Pain

Elliot, Elisabeth,  A Path Through Suffering

Yancey, Philip,  Disappointment With God

Crabb, Larry, Shattered Dreams

Tada, Joni Eareckson and  Steven Estes,  When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty

Ten Boom, Corrie,  The Hiding Place

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Little Bit Country

We went to a wedding in Central Oregon on Saturday.  The bride and groom had chosen to be married in Tumalo State Park outside of Bend, Oregon, which normally is warm and dry country.  But this year, all bets are off, and the week before the wedding was rainy and cold with even a little snow early one morning. I had been encouraging my girlfriend, the groom’s mother, that the weather would be fine for the outfit she had chosen, but I was starting to be a little nervous, truth to tell.  I offered to bring our camping canopy as a small “chapel”….

Fortunately the day was bright and sunny although a bit breezy.  The tablecloths floated around and the flowers in bottles blew over a couple times,  but it was a beautiful spot for a wedding. It almost felt like the backdrop was done by Disney, painted rocks and tumbling water.13-06-01-14-23-08H

It was delightful!  I thought I would share some of the bridal couple’s ideas which made their celebration so unique and personal.

First I will confess that although I felt in a rush to get over the mountains, we stopped for a wonderful breakfast and an unexpected “Friends of the Library” sale in Sandy, Oregon.  Boy, those folks in Sandy really know how to put on a sale! I got art books and craft books and quite a few mysteries as well as some children’s books. I’m excited about that, but we did have to discuss which of the books in our existing library we are willing to part with.  Not many!


From the other side of the mountain, some of the Cascades:



We got to Tumalo about an hour before the wedding so I took some snaps of the setting before too many people were there.






The depository for gifts that came to the wedding:


A photo record of their courtship:



The tables were covered in white cloths with beige burlap and lace squares layered on top, and a mixture of bottles with wildflowers and votives and wood rounds.


A few hay bales with planks provided additional seating.




The altar was defined by a burlap swag over a lace curtain with a backdrop of the river behind.  A few uninvited guests floated past on inner tubes!



Pews were constructed of hay bales and boards.  Shepherd’s hooks with hanging bouquets marked the aisle:


The groom arrives:


Flower girls tossed feathers and flower petals:





One flower girl nearly abdicated:


The bride and her father emerge from the woods:




and closer…




The bridal party wore white and khaki-colored linen, the family wore charcoal (men) or white (women) with khaki linen.


The brides grandfather married them:


A prayer from the family members:


The kiss met with everyone’s approval:



Banner reads “Eat Drink and Be Married”


A wonderful barbecue followed the wedding.


Guests threw lavender at the departing couple:


Burlap bags with coffee beans stamped “Love is Brewing” were given to all as a party favor reminding us that they met working at Starbucks.


It was a happy and beautiful day!