Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thoughts on marriage after 15 years…

1. Marriage is a choice. You don’t make that choice once. Rather, you make it everyday, possibly every hour.

2. Ultimately, marriage is about community: sharing space; trying to find consensus; listening for understanding; push and pull.

3. Varied philosophy on parenting, spirituality, change, time, and transition can both strengthen and hurt us.

4. I am sometimes cruel, and you forgive me anyway.

5. I sometimes think you are funny, even when I don’t laugh out loud.

6. We both need encouraging words, opportunities for change, development of self, hope, grace, security, and empathy.

7. Marriage has rhythm; habitual patterns of behavior that are sometimes a blessing, and sometimes a curse.

8. There are sacrifices: yours and mine.

9. Laughter heals.

10. Sensory experiences enhance love (music, beautiful landscapes, savory foods, a gentle touch).

11. Love grows. On December 30, 1994, I did not think I could love anyone or anything more. I was wrong.

12. I sometimes don’t think it is funny, even when I do laugh out loud.

13. When we commit to marriage, we commit to changing ourselves and our understandings of the world; seeing them through the lens of another.

14. Six months of dating is not enough to know someone completely. Fifteen years is still just a beginning.

15. It is a gift to be able to go to sleep and wake up with a loved one. I will not take this for granted.

Monday, December 28, 2009

My sister Wendy gave me this song to me 20 years ago, and then again brought it back to me.

And another I have been humming today...

Helpless and hungry, lowly afraid,
Wrapped in the chill of mid-winter
Comes now among us, born into poverty's embrace,
New life for the world

Who is this who lives with the lowly,
Sharing their sorrows,
Knowing their hunger?
This is Christ, revealed to the world
In the eyes of a child, a child of the poor.

Who is the stranger, here in our midst,
Looking for shelter among us?
Who is this outcast? Who do we see amidst the poor,
The children of God?

Who is this who lives with the lowly,
Sharing their sorrows,
Knowing their hunger?
This is Christ, revealed to the world
In the eyes of a child, a child of the poor.

Bring all the thirsty, all who seek peace;
Bring those with nothing to offer,
Strengthen the feeble, say to the frightened heart:
"Fear not, here is our God!".

Who is this who lives with the lowly,
Sharing their sorrows,
Knowing their hunger?
This is Christ, revealed to the world
In the eyes of a child, a child of the poor.

From "Sing the Story"
(Sing with What Child is This?)
Christian / Scott Soper

Sunday, December 27, 2009

I hear them all

Earlier I posted a link to a song that I intend to learn, and since have sung with my friend Doug over Skype. It is a song by Old Crow Medicine Show called "I hear them all." I knew this song before I left for Colombia, but only here did I feel touched by the song in a way that I cannot express. It felt like a new song.

It is difficult for me to describe how I have shifted in my experience and intuition regarding sensory experiences. I am completely aware that it sounds strange, but I feel a deep and profound change in how I see the world, how I hear things differently, taste things differently, etc. Sometimes, I feel this shift when I am more emotionally vulnerable, perhaps depressed. Sometimes, it comes when I am just overwhelmed with the world, pain, suffering, death. Sometimes I feel it when I am most grounded spiritually, or feel closest to God.

Anyway, this was significant to me this Holiday season as I heard traditional Christmas carols, and heard them differently. In the context of war, of a culture that has been repeatedly and communally traumatized, these songs sound different. When we are surrounded by stories of massacre, murder, fear, the words shift, the notes do too. They ring true in ways far beyond what I could have expected, and I sing them with more reference and longing than I ever have in the past.

"Comfort, comfort, O my people, speak of peace, now says our God. Comfort those who sit in darkness, mourning 'neath their sorrows' load...Hark, the voice of one who's crying in the dessert far and near."

"Joyful is the dark holy hidden God, rolling cloud of night beyond all naming, energy of love, word-in-flesh proclaiming. Shadowed stable floor, angels flicker as with exultation Mary hails the infant cry of need and blessing. Joyful is the dark depth of love divine, holy haunting beauty. "

"Ever o'er its Babel sounds the blessed angels sing... and warring humankind hears not the tidings which they bring - O hush the noise and cease the strife and hear the angels sing! Rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing."

"No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground - he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found. He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the wonders of his love."

"O come desire of nations, bind all peoples in one heart and mind. Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease, Fill the whole world with heaven's peace."

"Come, long-expected Jesus, born to set your people free - from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee."

"In the bleak midwinter frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone. Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain; in the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed. What can I give him? give to him my heart."

(Thank you, Deb Bergen for bringing many of these songs to my attention via Facebook Status Updates). Lyrics are from the Mennonite Hymnal.

Christmas Crafts

The children were excited to get involved making some decorations for Christmas. Our friend Laura graciously offered to come paint with them one Saturday morning. We also made various Christmas tree ornaments, including these popular Colombian seeds that are dyed with natural dyes and used in jewelry and other decorative items.


As I described in my earlier post about Christmas, it is very common for Colombians to practice "the Novena," which are celebrated the nine nights before Christmas. I have learned from my Catholic friend that there are hundreds of "Novenas" or, prayers for grace. However, this Christmas tradition runs strong among Colombians, and as far as I can tell, is specific to December 16-24.

We were privileged to be invited into two homes of Colombian friends. On the other nights, we celebrated at home, sometimes with my parents and sometimes with other MCC friends.

Elements of this celebration/ritual vary, but some common activities included lighting individual candles from the "Christ light," praying the Rosary (incredibly fast), reading 1/9 of the Christmas story from the bible, singing carols in both English and Spanish with maracas and instruments under the tree, children sitting on pillows by the tree, prayers and intentions, spoken and silent, intergenerational games with candy prizes, food to share: bunuelos (fried dough with cheese) natilla (sweet, gummy pudding), fresh fruit, sliced ham or turkey, cheese, Coca-Cola, wine, Sangria with tropical fruit.

During one of the celebrations we shared with Colombian friends, I heard the most moving prayer I have ever heard from a nine year old boy, as well as from his 80 year old Great-Grandparents, who are devout Catholics.

Our family found this to be a moving reminder of what was to come on Christmas Eve, and a way to center ourselves in the rush and excitement of the season. I know we will continue this tradition in some form for a long time.

We were also asked to share part of a Christmas tradition from our home, so we brought cookies to be decorated and eaten. They thought this was very fun (and had not done it before).

Best Christmas Present Ever

Our visit from Grandma and Grandpa.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Praying Our Goodbyes

I give you praise, God of my journey,
for the power of love, the discovery of friends, the truth of beauty
for the wonder of growth, the kindling of fidelity, the taste of transformation
for the miracle of life, the seed of my soul, the gift of becoming
for the taste of the little dyings which have strengthened me for this moment
for the mystery of journey, the bends in the road, the pauses that refresh
for the faith that lies deep enough to permeate discouragement and anxiety

I give you thanks, God of my journey,
for all I have learned from the life of Jesus of how to say goodbye
for those who have always stood near me and given me spiritual energy
for your strength on which I can lean and your grace by which I can grow
for the desire to continue on, for believing that your power works through me
for being able to love so deeply, so tenderly, so truly
for feeling my poorness, my emptiness, my powerlessness
for believing that you will care for me in my vulnerability

I ask forgiveness, God of my journey,
for holding on too tightly
for refusing to be open to new life
for fighting off the dying that's essential for growing
for insisting that I must be secure and serene
for ignoring your voice when you urged me to let go
for taking in all the goodness but being reluctant to share it
for doubting my inner beauty
for resisting the truth of my journey home to you

I beg assistance, God of my journey,
to accept that all of life is only on loan to me
to believe beyond this moment
to accept your courage when mine fails
to recognize the pilgrim part of my heart
to hold all of life in open hands
to treasure all that is gift and blessing
to look at the painful parts of my life and to grow through them
to allow your love to embrace me on the empty and lonely days
to receive the truth of your presence
to trust in the place of "forever hello"

—By Joyce Rupp

Friday, December 18, 2009

Justapaz Christmas Retreat in a Cloud Forest with a Castle

Liceo Boston Christmas Program

Well, I think we have mentioned that Colombians like to do things in a grand fashion.

All three of our children were involved, along with 597 others in a huge Christmas production. It was a gift that Elizabeth and Neil agreed to accompany us to this event. We were excited to go see their singing and dancing, and were surprised to see how much of a big deal it actually was. The children did not even come home from school. Instead, they went directly to the theater for the production, which made for a very long day.

Of course, I was touched to tears by the beautiful singing, in both English and Spanish, and the inclusion of children with special needs. We laughed at the 80's music and dance proudly exhibited by awkward youth.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Noche de las Velitas

This special night celebrates the Immaculate Conception of Mary. In addition, folklore tells that putting candles out to line the streets helps her find her way to Bethlehem. The national holiday for this day is December 8. We were confused, because all of the celebrations/firecrackers/music/special mass services happened on the afternoon and evening of the 7th. Later we found out that the Festivo day is intended for recovery from all the late-night events of the night before.

Silent Night in Spanish:
Noche de paz, noche de amor,
Todo duerme en derredor.
Entre los astros que esparcen su luz
Bella anunciando al niñito Jesús
Brilla la estrella de paz
Brilla la estrella de paz.

Noche de paz, noche de amor,
Todo duerme en derredor
Sólo velan en la oscuridad
Los pastores que en el campo están;
Y la estrella de Belén
Y la estrella de Belén.

Noche de paz, noche de amor,
Todo duerme en derredor;
sobre el santo niño Jesús
Una estrella esparce su luz,
Brilla sobre el Rey
Brilla sobre el Rey.

Noche de paz, noche de amor,
Todo duerme en derredor
Fieles velando allí en Belén
Los pastores, la madre también.
Y la estrella de paz
Y la estrella de paz.