Sunday, September 21, 2008


We’re getting back into the rhythm of life at L’Abri again. I think, since June, neither of us have really felt like we have been in any sort of pattern, or part of any community, except for “jade-and-me-ness.” Saying ‘hello’ and then ‘goodbye’ again, with so many 2 day to two week visits, is wearing me out. Jade copes better and seems to be more adaptable to the shifting environments we are in. This is what we wanted though…the feeling of freedom and mobility, and the ability to see many different people and places. But none of this comes without a price. The grass is always greener on the other side…in the Spring the grasses of this nomadic lifestyle were greener…and now the grasses of being settled and grounded in one place are sweet. For now, L’Abri is our “Home,” and we are happy to lay down our door mat here.

Now for a little over two weeks we have been waking up to a life of completing our new tasks and learning to love the people we live with. Jade spends much of his day tending to the grass, the unruly hedges, wood for our fires, finishing a new apartment, picking apples and pears and whatever else is growing out of the ground in this fertile soil that needs picking. I load the laundry machines, hang-dry the clothes, sheets, towels, table clothes, and then iron those things that need to be smooth. I make tea and coffee for the guests two times a day, assist in making two meals per day and prepare the rooms for new guests. On my luckiest days, Christa also asks me to hold and watch Gido, she and Rob’s happy one year old, while she runs her twin and youngest daughter around to school, soccer, birthdays parties or the grocery store. We all love Gido! I carry my recipe notebook around everywhere as I try to glean those secrets to making quick, healthy meals from scratch. Jade and I both enjoy hanging out and living life with the other guests here.

The first week and a half here was hard. My allergies were terrible, and I began to think that it was my fate to have an itchy, runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, and a scratchy throat 24/7. My head was achy and felt five pounds too heavy for my neck. Night times were miserable, as I woke up several times sneezing and blowing my nose, needing to leave the room, and even the house, as early as 4:00am so as not to keep the other 10 people living closely to me from waking up too. The house we are living in is 700 years old, and there are layers of mold so deep that it is impossible to get around it. The news in Holland also told us that the outdoor allergies were at a record high as well, with all of the fruit harvesting going on. Needless to say, being allergic to mold, dust, hay and many trees had become a problem! After a week of feeling at the end of my rope (and the end of roll after roll of toilet paper!) I made the issue a spiritual battle. I began to pray that God would help me to find Him in my struggle. I prayed that I would be able to learn lessons about being joyful amidst allergies. To be gentle and kind to others, hospitable to the point of them not knowing I was struggling. It became a personal challenge to rise above this “handicap.” I also asked others to pray for me, and they did more than that. Jade and Henk shampooed our carpet, fixed a large moldy area of our ceiling (complete with killing hundreds of termites!), took down our curtains and Riana got me a new pillow. Then our new friend Eun Mi let me borrow some medication that works! And a few nights ago we have our first freeze of the fall outdoors. New I am feeling much better…and I don’t take it for granted. I have so much empathy for those who are feeling sick, now. It takes so much energy and willpower just to be pleasant to others! God certainly had a lot to teach me from those first weeks here.

For now, six other guests are living at L’Abri for anywhere between one and three months. Rebekah, a 31-year-old Kindergarten teacher and artist from Quebec, Canada who has taken a year off of work to seek God’s direction in her life. Courtney, a 19-year-old student and farm girl from British Columbia, Canada. Eun Mi, a 30-year-old South Korean who is applying to design schools and is an amazing piano player. Kyle, a house painter and aspiring teacher and writer, 23 years old from San Francisco. Maria, a 27-year-old Mennonite (she wears long dresses and a head covering all the time!) from Pennsylvania who just finished teaching English in Poland for two years and is on her way home. Scott, a 41-year-old American who has been living in Europe for three years and is creating a new website for the Dutch L’Abri while he is here. And Jade and me, as well as the three other families who live here permanently. We have quite the eclectic group staying this term! We have also just finished the second weekend of at least ten other guests coming for the weekend for a series of lectures and film discussions. It is so exciting to have so many people here on the weekends, and the ages range from teenagers to people in their seventies, from Australians, Koreans, Dutchmen and Americans.

When we were back home in Omaha for two weeks, I marveled at the diversity of people I met at my family’s lake cabin. There were medical students from Creighton from all over the States, including John, a Korean-American from Portland, Oregon whom my parents met in Guatemala! A black family from Trinidad, a Refugee from Sudan, a youth worker from Florida, a Campus Crusade staff member who recently lost his wife in a car accident, and Chris, the guy who now feels like a brother. It’s Amazing! Until this term, I had never realized before how similar it feels to be at L’Abri as those days when so many people come out the lake to share a meal together. Being part of the meal preparation for 35 people here gives me a newfound appreciation for the amount of work and joy my parents put into their hospitality for others. I also admire that Rob and Christa, with their four beautiful children, have a small house for their parents connected the theirs. Wim and Greta live at the L’Abri branch in Utrecht, a bigger city nearby, but come to the country on weekends to spend time with their grandchildren. It is so beautiful to see them so connected and authentic, and at the same time so open and welcoming to the hundreds of guests they welcome into the their home each year.

Lord Jesus, we thank you for this opportunity. Thank you for allowing us to experience the abundance that comes in relationship with other people, and the freedom that you give us to use our gifts. Help us to look outside of our small visions to see the creative ways we can offer ourselves to others. I marvel at the beauty of your image in the lives of travellers passing through and those who live in one place. Please keep us moldable in Your hands, Great Potter. Protect the lives of the ones we love who are far away, and prepare us to joyfully receive each other when we can be together in celebration again! Thank you for the Your steady rhythm in our lives…

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Our (looooonnnnnng) Trip

Well, Jade and I are back in Eck en Wiel (pronounced Eck en Veel), Netherlands (aka Holland) for another three and a half months now. We arrived Friday night and are just getting over our feelings of jet lag. It is a nine hour difference from the time in Portland, Oregon; where we were coming from.

We had the most absolutely draining travel experience I can ever remember in my life. Kim (a good friend from college) drove us to the airport Thursday morning and from there we flew to Phoenix, layover, then to Newark, NJ, layover, then over night to Dublin, Ireland, five hour layover. The airline carrier we took from Dublin to Eindhoven, Netherlands has a weight restriction on check-on and carry-on baggage. We were much too heavy in our check-on luggage, so Jade had a great idea! We lugged our bags over to the giant scale near the check-in station where we proceeded to lay our 50 lb suitcases wide open on the floor and put on layer after layer of clothing! I think by the time we were finished we both had something like 6 layers of shirts and sweatshirts, plus things wrapped around our waist, two pairs of jeans each, big socks, our heaviest shoes, all the hats, belts and things to wear we could find. Then we stuffed ever pocket we had on with something small and heavy. It was insane! I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard in my laugh, and fortunately it was rainy and freezing in both Dublin and Holland that day, so we didn’t over heat. We looked like hockey players, and I’m sure I could have passed for a big burly man from behind.

But our story isn’t over. We then flied to Dublin and had to take a bus ride, then a train ride with three connections to a town called Tiel which is about 7 ½ miles from L’Abri. We arrived in Tiel at 9 pm (you can do the math on how many hours that is after leaving Portland a whole day and a half earlier…plus time change...) Needless to say, we were pretty tired! So we got to Tiel about 9 pm and realized that the buses had stopped running to the town where L’Abri is located two hours earlier. Neither one of us had the phone number to L’Abri, nor to the taxi service. Then we walked into town to try and find an internet cafĂ© or someplace with a phone book. EVERYTHING was closed already (on a Friday night! Can you believe it?) No cell phone, no numbers, no anything.
So we started walking. With our abnormally large roller suitcases and heavy backpacks. And we walked. We put up a few half-hearted thumbs to cars driving by, thinking maybe an empathetic person would slow down and be an angel from the Lord. But nope. Instead we got some honks and a few other fingers (I guess the middle one isn’t just an American thing).
And so we walked. And walked. And pretty soon we were all aching muscles and singing silly songs in a tired delirium and we planned how we could make “speed roller suitcase walking” the next Olympic sport. And we walked. For 7 ½ miles we pulled those suitcases. And in under 2 1/2 hours we arrived to L’Abri! And the last stretch of road into the house is either gravel or muddy apple orchard, so, like a scene from Rocky IV, Jade muscled our two bags in both hands and practically sprinted the 200 meters or so to the front door. It was crazy…and kind of fun in a sick kind of way : ) Robb told us he thought that story belonged in the L’Abri Hall of Fame.
The next day Christa informed us that there is a new button at the train stop that you can push and a taxi will show up in no time. I also found the L’Abri phone number scribbled in one of my journals. I think we were too tired that night to even THINK. You know that feeling? Anyways, I had to get that story out there…I hope you enjoy it! : )

We are thrilled to be back! We are slowly getting accustomed into our daily routine again, made much different now by the variety of jobs we were given for the term…but more about that later…I’ve got laundry to hang! : )