Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Unexpected beauty~




I saw it yesterday in the face of a sixteen year old boy/man. Bravely, he held back the tears, but his trembling chin gave it away. I saw it in the face of my sobbing 10 year old cousin, raw grief coursing down his cheeks. I saw it the beautiful, strong face of my aunt, who had carried on so selflessly and tirelessly. I saw it in my uncle, the terrible ache of losing a mother.

It was heartbreaking. A husband shouldn't have to bury his only daughter and wife in seven years time. A son shouldn't grieve his sister and his mom . A grandson said goodbye to his grandmother, while standing beside the grave of his mother, who died seven years before, when he was only nine.



The raw grief and heartbreak was terrible to watch and experience. Kathy's life was so full of life and vitality. The slideshow playing during visiting hours were full of action and joy. She lived a full, rich life, and she was very loved. We laid her to rest, and celebrated her life, in a way that I think she would have approved of. In fact, I could almost hear her laughing and saying in compelling, Kathy-ish tones, "hey y'all, look down there!" as she saw it from heaven.




However, on the flip side of pain is a strange kind of beauty. The gut-wrenching pain is the result of having loved and having loved deeply. Love is beautiful, and in a sense, it purifies and beautifies the pain. How sad is the death of the unknown homeless man who dies in the alley, alone and un-grieved. Nobody grieves him because nobody loved him.

Pain is inevitable when one loves and so the two walk hand in hand. The stronger the love, the deeper the grief. Pain, the outworking of grief, is therefore a celebration of deep love. And when we grieve and shed tears and mourn a passing, it's our last way of saying, "I love you."

And speaking of beauty....the same juxtaposition of beauty and pain existed somewhere else, on a hill, on some boards, with some nails. We often see Jesus' crucifixion from His point of view and not the Father's. I think God knows a little something about heartbreak too, and about a love so huge that it gives itself away. I think His heart broke too, as He watched his only Son suffer away, for crimes He didn't commit, to make His family bigger still.

He understands pain, He sees the beauty, and He holds us close. That kinda gives me chills.

Vicki

photo credits go to Kelly, as always :)





Friday, February 7, 2014

An "I Do" Down Under part 1

 :David and Carolyn:
Their Celebration


So the story is told of a young man, a dashing young man who lives in Australia with his family. This young man, with jet black hair and a pleasant demeanor, is studying medicine. He follows in the footsteps of his parents, both doctors. This young man loves history and knows a lot about religious history. He picks up a book on nonresistance, written by Stephen Russell of Guys Mills, PA. This book is about Biblical Nonresistance, a position held by Anabaptists. He is intrigued and looks to see if there are any Anabaptist churches in Australia, and to his delight, he finds there is one not far from his home in Brisbane. He shows up at church and learns to love the beautiful, multi-cultured church. He soon notices a maiden. The maiden is very fair to look upon, and soon the handsome young man and the fair young maiden start a courtship. Their celebration of marriage was on 18 January 2014.

The maiden is a cousin of mine and the oldest daughter of my uncle Jason. I thought I had to go to the wedding and so I did!

I was thrilled when Melanie,  my cousin, decided she had to go too, so we made plans to go. These plans included many travel decisions. We found it was a lot cheaper to go the indirect route to Australia and so we chose that. If you to ask either of us right now, after going and coming back, we might choose another route next time :)

I had a 5 hour flight to Los Angeles, where I met Melanie. We also met our airplane, a whopping A380:

These are the biggest passenger planes there are and they are massive. Holds 644 passengers plus the crew. I hear there is a nice lounge upstairs as well as a gift shop, where you can be if you have $10,000 to shell out. The economy class is nice too, with fairly roomy seats, and nice entertainment screens to watch movies or see what area you are flying over. On Emirates they also greet you fairly soon with hot washcloths with which to refresh yourself. Quite nice!

So we boarded (they use up to three jetways) and thought we had it made in our seats in bulkhead (area behind the dividers, with extra leg-room), with nobody beside us. However, an hour into our flight, a flight attendant came back and said a mother and baby are moving back with us because she needs the bassinet. So Karim (15 months old) and his mother came back and we were promptly charmed by his curls and big black eyes. He was happy for awhile, and then after we settled down to sleep, he thought it appropriate to start screaming, which he continued to do for a long time. As in hours. So we didn't rest very well and were kinda exhausted when we reached Dubai, 15 hours later.

We got to Dubai in the middle of the night, but you would have thought it was the middle of the day by the crowds and the noise. I was amazed again at the money that is in the place:


 There were high end jewelry stores that were swarming with activity and many nice restaurants too that were filled. Since we had a nearly 7 hour layover, we walked around a while and then got a bite to eat and then looked for an adapter to use to charge our computers. We then looked in vain for a place to charge up. Everybody else was plugging into these outlets under floor tiles, so we eventually did too. It seemed unsafe and unsanitary, but it's all we had.

 
And then there was the funny Bangladeshi guy with very broken English who talked our ears off while we were trying to email our families. He would talk and laugh and so I would laugh and comment on every 4th English word I could understand. We finally got up and moved off to a more quiet space to enjoy some peace and quiet. Right before we left, he wanted to give his phone number to me so I could "remember to him" when I next come to Dubai. I politely laughed and thanked him and said "no thanks!"

We then boarded our 16 hour flight to Brisbane, with a stop in Singapore. Melanie and I had a good laugh over this screen in a Singapore bathroom:

I think we both gave it a good :)

Finally, many hours later, in the wee hours of the morning, we landed in Brisbane. Since it was such an unearthly hour, we hung out and tried to sleep until 7:00 when we saw the lovely faces of our dear cousins Heidi and Charity who had come to pick us up. Lolita and Hadassah H. had flown in from Poland for the wedding as well so we all headed to Gympie together where we reunited with the rest of the cousins and Jason and Melody. We each took long naps in the afternoons, while our weary, confused bodies tried to figure out where we were and what time it actually was.

The next day we hit the ground running with wedding prep. Carolyn had a very clear picture of how she wanted everything to be so that made it easy during the setup. Heidi, Melanie and I ran around collecting flowers and weeds for arrangements and may or may not have raided some beautiful flowering bushes beside a petrol station. There was nobody there to ask so we just kinda helped ourselves :)



 Janae, busy at flower arranging.

Carolyn had collected white ceramic containers for her wedding and she and a church friend planted a bunch of greenery in them. The effect was gorgeous. There was a symmetry with each white container and green plant, but the plants were varied and unique. 



 Jason built this beautiful white arbor as the entrance to the reception area, and  David and Carolyn also used it to take pictures with their guests.


 And now...the Big Day. It started off bright and early with a household of 12 family members and 6 guests to feed and dress. David's sister Daniella came over to help Carolyn get ready and so we got to entertain her sweet little Miriam. 

And then Carolyn got all dressed in her beautiful white dress, lovingly made by her mom. Her baby sister Charis was so proud of her own dress and looked darling as well. Jason's family enjoyed a last few, sentimental minutes together singing and praying and then we headed to the church.

 Is is customary in David's culture for the wedding party to be escorted into the church with singing. They chose not to have a bridal party and their families were their special people for the day so we all met in a side building until our cue to enter the church, whereupon the violinist came and led us into the church with beautiful, happy violin music. The service was beautiful, with Scripture readings by different friends and family of David and Carolyn. Carolyn's grandfather Frederick had a very nice devotional and Jason then had stimulating and fatherly things to say in his message. He and a Hungarian pastor officiated the vows and then Carolyn and David said their hand-written vows to each other. And so they were married! We snapped a few pictures before heading off to the reception.







Melanie and I quite unknowingly matched David's family that day. We felt bad after we discovered it but they were pleased as pie and kept commenting on how glad they were that we matched them, cause they were so outnumbered :) 
His family is wonderful! They pitched right in and helped with everything and were so respectful and nice.
We then headed to the reception and I regret that I have no nice pictures of that. I took a few but most ended up blurry. 
The meal was delicious: grilled chicken and kufta (a Lebanese meatball), rice pilaf, potato salad, a salad bar, homemade rolls made by Carolyn's grandma, and then a dessert table with different cakes, pavlovas, etc. The children from church did such a good job of keeping everybody's cups filled and the tables cleared. During the program part of it, Heidi and Matthew, (David's brother) gave nice speeches about their older siblings, and then both parent sets got up and talked. There was lots of music: Heidi, Janae, BethAnn and Charity sang a beautiful song to the couple, Lolita and Hadassah sang a song with Hadassah accompanying on the piano, Carolyn sprung a surprise on David by singing "the servant song" to him, and David returned the surprise by playing a cello piece along with Matthew and a husband and wife team. Another special feature was playing video messages from the grandparents who couldn't be there.


 
David and Carolyn gave a speech and then soon afterward, it was over and the happy couple drove off into the almost sunset to take their pictures and then head off to their honeymoon in a beautiful rain-forest town.
Coming up next:
our adventures to the beach
a visit to the honeymooners (don't worry, we were invited!)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

King Solomon Takes on Pinterest

I think sometimes we are too hard on King Solomon. True, he was rich, was probably spoiled, but was also very human, meaning that he too, had those days.

 You know, where his gold rimmed chariot developed a funny rattle and his two hundred talent sandals tore a strap and where the chef served roast fowl when he had specifically ordered fried.

 We have those days where we could write our own Ecclesiastes. And so I wonder about him. Was he really as dour and negative as his only biblical book suggests? Or was he uncannily wise with some hunch about the future? He kind of reminds me of C.S. Lewis' PuddleGlum who would go out of his way to find something negative to say about everything. PuddleGlum is a favorite character of mine, not because I admire negativity, but because I like the pluck and enthusiasm with which he carried out these ridiculous quests. He was enthusiastically negative, which I find compelling in the literary sense.

And I kind of have to wonder if Solomon could foresee the Pinterest of 2013. Would have that impressed him at all? Remember, he says, "there is no new thing under the sun." And so I wonder what he would think of this: 

 
It's a used dryer sheet wreath, in case you can't tell. I pinned it onto my "create" board on pinterest. You basically tie a couple hundred used dryer sheets onto a bent wire hanger that is shaped in a circle. 

Try not to be too impressed.

And all the other useful, resourceful things out there that are being showcased.

But he was sort of right. 

I get all excited about a neat idea or recipe or tip and go show my mom or tell my grandma and they just nonchalantly say, "Oh, I've been doing that for years." And then I feel small and all 2013ish again.

It's interesting watching life cycles. Ten years ago home decor' was all about cow themed kitchens and everything matching just perfectly. Now it's all vintage and eclectic and DIY.

Blogs are abuzz with chevron everything and ruffles and shades of grays and yellows and appliqued mustaches on little boys onesies and healthy eating and trim and healthy mama. And it feels so modern. But then those cow themed kitchens did at the time too.

Which just goes to show that these things really don't matter. In 50 years, these babies are going to look back at instagram pictures of themselves lying naked in a brown bowl with a crocheted hat and are going to roll their eyes and say, "that was so 2013."

I always get amused at old tattered books that boast titles such as "Modern Medicine". Each generation's besetting problem is their idea that they have it together, they have attained and silly 'ole previous generation.

So I think Solomon had it right. Things come and go. In the light of eternity, they really don't matter, and even narrowing it down, in 50 years they won't matter. Which  proves his subsequent point; that there is no lasting meaning in them and those who place all their energy into them at the expense of what's truly important will live very empty lives.

So I'm thinking he was sort of wise, even though at that point he didn't know that you could clean your headlights using toothpaste.

Vicki
 
 


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

:On my bedside table:

Have you ever read a book that has left its mark on you so indelibly that you can't stop thinking about it? Those books are few and far between for me but this one has:



I read Andrew's Heart Mender months ago, loved it, and promptly got my hands on as many others as I could. I have an amazing library system here that can get me books from all over the state so i usually go that route and then buy from there. The Noticer  is about Jones, a man who has always been old and shows up in time to help people in dire needs. He meets up with Andy, a young homeless man who lives under a pier at the beach and invites himself into Andy's life and they start talking. Andy spreads a meager supper out on the sand and the two start talking and eating. Jones asks Andy, "So what are you eating right now?" Puzzled by such an obvious question, he replies kinda bitterly, "I am eating sardines and vienna sausages out of a can on the beach." Jones then looks at him and says, "Well, I am dining on surf and turf with an ocean view." He then talks to Andy about perspective and how that can change one's life. He leaves a few books for Andy to read and then goes on his way. The rest of the book is about his encounters with other people, a workaholic businessman who is neglecting his family, a suicidal man in despair, a couple who is on their way to get  a divorce, intertwined with his further encounters with Andy. The key to his success in working with difficult situations is his careful attention to detail and perspective.
It's a different sort of book, which I happen to be partial to. I keep thinking about that surf and turf bit and wonder what all would be different if we could see things from other perspectives.

Other books on my bedside table:
 
A review of some of them:
  • When Jesus Came to Harvard by Harvey Cox- I haven't finished this one. I got half way through and then stalled. Cox started an undergraduate class at Harvard on the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The book tells of his experiences in the class. It's thick stuff and somewhat interesting but since I didn't finish it I can't review the whole thing.
  •  
  • The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. He fluctuates between random and brilliant in his writing. His style is distinct and if it wouldn't be for those one liners every couple of pages that leave me going, "Wow!", I probably wouldn't keep reading.
  •  
  • Desiring God and Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper. I haven't read a whole lot of these yet but the whole Christian hedonistic concept is mysteriously intriguing. I don't know how I feel yet so please don't ask :)
  •  
  • The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I just finished the first chapter here and love it because I know what these views and beliefs cost this man (the movie about him is really good!).
  • Finding an Unseen God deserves its own picture:

What drew me in initially to this book was the great design and layout. Seriously! A crossword puzzle title?! It even has a crossword puzzle inside to fill out. This is not a story book. It's a book about a former atheist's life and her journey to the Lord. Interwoven in this too is practical tips for dealing with nonbelievers and a condensed course on apologetics, which happens to be one of my very favorite subjects. I highly recommend this book to anyone who rubs shoulders with nonbelievers and feels like there is no way to connect. All the chapter titles are in crossword puzzle form too which I love. 

And lest you think I spend all my time wallowing around in this deep, thick stuff, I may or may not have just read a Karen Kingsbury book about autism. I typically don't care for her work; it's too fluffy and the plots too predictable, but this book was good. 

And then there's O.Henry. How I love that man!  Reading a chapter in his book is like eating a slim piece of cheesecake. Rich, delicious and filling. You can't read too much without feeling all full but he is always a treat and never disappoints. One of my favorite O.Henry stories is A Cosmopolite in a Cafe.

Have I mentioned on here before how much I like Chris Fabry's books? June Bug in particular is great. A friend thought it ended a bit anti-climatically which is true. However,  I would rather have a sad sort of ending that leaves you reeling, then a happily ever after ending that you saw coming after the first two paragraphs. 

So those are what are gracing my table. What are y'all reading?

And this is just a bit of nonsense to finish this off. If O.Henry in desserts is a cheesecake, what would these be?:
  • L.M Montgomery
  • Karen Kingsbury
  • Francine Rivers
  • Harold Bell Wright
  • Louisa May Alcott
  • Dr. Seuss
  • Jerry Jenkins
Utterly silly I know, but kinda fun too, huh? :)

So tell me, what are you reading? And list a dessert that embodies one of the authors, just for fun :)
 
Vicki

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Family times

A lot of my posts are my ponderings, what goes on inside my brain, and what I am reading and so consequently I have very few pictures on my posts. You wouldn't want to see my brain insides or ponderings in photography so that is something to be thankful for :) I come to you today with a post full of pictures. Now, I'm no photographer. Most of these were taken by Kelly and my cousin Melanie. Kelly did the editing so most of these photo credits go to them.

I present to you:

:My family:
from Australia, Arkansas,Turkey, Georgia, Florida
My uncle Jason and his wife Melody, and their youngest five children, came back to the U.S. recently for a short vacation and to attend a family wedding. They live half way around the world in Australia so their visits are far apart and very precious. We stay in touch via email and etc but there's just nothing like being together in person. We dearly missed their girls and the spice they add to our reunions. There are five girls, then four boys, and then God decided to add some icing to the cake in the form of another baby girl. Charis (Greek word for grace) is 14 month old and was not intimidated at all by her position of only little girl at our get together. Quite the contrary, she enjoyed lots of cuddles and love.

We missed others as well and the circle was far from complete. David and Toni couldn't make it from Florida, Doug is in nursing school in AR and couldn't come, and Kenneth is in Turkey. We missed everyone and yet understand that as life moves on, it will be harder and harder to make things like this work for everyone.

We rented a beautiful house in the north GA mountains from Friday through Sunday morning. This place happened to have a heated pool that was enjoyed all weekend.
 
 We are a big, happy, loud family when we get together. At the breakfast table one morning, there must have been 4 conversations going simultaneously. We'll chalk it up to the fact that we live so far apart we have to talk fast to get everything said :)

When Kauffmans get together there is often a good bit of reminiscing from the siblings of things that were done in their childhoods and there is much ensuing laughter. What's as funny to us grandchildren is watching them laugh. They laugh almost silently, faces all contorted as they gasp and hold their sides.

 We also enjoyed games, mini-golf, discussions of various and sundry subjects, eating and a fun ladies' time in the hot tub. The children kept the pool occupied every chance they got.

  We had to be out of the house on Sunday by 11:00 so after breakfast and a worship service we headed over to a nearby state park for a picnic lunch before heading to our various destinations.

We wanted some pictures of the little boys, who were a big part of the group. What's with boys and pictures? Is it like girls and snakes? There is a very real distaste for it so the biggest deal that can be made out of it is certainly the best, even though it takes twice as long as it would have needed to thanks to this:



Alex is going for the cool four year old snoot while Christopher looks on in patronizing amusement and Josiah pretends to not be related.





 Meanwhile Matthew is seeing how many cameras he can see with crossed eyes and Jeremy looks on in disturbed consternation. Matthias is rubbing his eyes with the tired hand of an 11 year old remembering what it means to be six and woefully immature.



 Jeremy's cuteness merits it's own snapshot and we then notice Matthew has ditched the crossed eyes and is beaming benevolently at the world.
And after forty eleventy two pictures, we end us with this and call it good enough:





And then we add a beautiful baby girl to the picture, just because we can. Precious little thing, her! And to these boys' credit; they are a great bunch of little gentleman. I loved to see how careful they were with the baby and how they liked to hold her and take care of her. They are going to be amazing dads one day, once they outgrow the snoots and crossed eyes. Bless them all!




   

"And I'm just like, what's going on? I've barely known these girls two days and they are all six inches from my face making these stupid kissing sounds. Dumb Americans!"


There is a good chance we spoiled her in those two days. She got lots of cuddles, was followed around by her ever present picture taking cousins which meant we got a ton of cute ones:

  
 Other snapshots:
 
 
Photo- bombing uncles.  RuthAnne had no idea until I showed it to her :)

 Trying to duplicate the 2003 look, you know, the chic little head bump pose. Nailed it totally! :)
This sums it up well:

 
I love my family and can't be thankful enough for them. In a world of pain and broken relationships, hurt feelings and rejection, healthy families are a gift. I'm reminded of that when I see pain first hand, or when I see the homeless man who wanders the streets, or read stories of little children who don't know what love looks like. I am blessed beyond measure and am also accountable for this gift. Am I making the load a bit lighter when I can, to some struggling soul who needs help? Do I begrudge my time to those less fortunate, or even look down my nose at them?

On a lighter note, it's been a good Saturday. The house is clean, I caught up on my sleep, and my stomach is full of a good, home-cooked meal of Swedish meatballs and baked potatoes. What more could a girl want? :)
Vicki