After all this time away, two looong posts in one day? It probably breaks some sort of blogging commandment… but tough. I thought this piece from the love of my life was just so good that I just had to share it.
As I pushed through the large wooden original door of our 1860’s mill house a week or so ago, I was dumbstruck. The temperature the night before had dipped to single digits. Ice was forming on the upper mill pond, mist was billowing upward from the lower mill pond (below the waterfall) as the warmer temperate water clashed with the freezing air, creating beautiful yet foreboding wisps of lively moisture. The early morning winter sunshine had not yet graced the “holler.” As I crossed the threshold indoors, the dish of water for our rescue kittens “Rain” and “Boo” first caught my attention. It was four inches of solid ice. It startled me just how very cold the interior of our home was. It was as if our “Country Living” home had frozen and turned to lifeless stone. How could this be? I’ve always secretly prided myself on creating a warm, cozy, hospitable environment, regardless of our living situation, whether we lived in a post-WW2, Soviet, Stalin-era brick apartment building a beach-style bungalow on the Jersey Shore or a 50’s style split-level “mission home.”
Everything was in its place. Everyday household tools and antiques I’ve collected from around the globe hung starkly on the walls. The drying rack was empty of clean dishes, a few dirty mugs lay in the stainless steel sink, the cobalt blue canisters were lined up by height on the blue countertop, filled to the brim with flour, sugar and tea. A winter centerpiece of live greens and pine cones graced a hand-turned wooden bowl set prominently on the kitchen table. Everything seemed in its place – what was missing? WARMTH! And the life that it facilitates:
- the warmth of laughter, songs and readings shared just weeks before when, laden with musical instruments, well-wishers, friends, family and an assortment of dogs crowded into the Mill House to celebrate my January birthday.
- the warmth that permeated from my kitchen at Thanksgiving when I cooked a country breakfast of sausage gravy and biscuits for the more than 20 family members who joined us in our first extended family Thanksgiving gathering in Virginia. Jim, Marina and I especially enjoyed watching our eight great-nephews and nieces from Chicago and Baltimore climbing, jumping, running, swinging, exploring the boulders, hills, bamboo and wooded trails.
- the warmth of kindred spirits and unity shared as three missionary families gathered for a weekend in January, getting to know each other, sharing stories and dreams, praying and seeking God together for His wisdom and leading regarding possible future collaboration.
- the warmth of our family, gathered for the Christmas holidays: hugs, gift-giving, turkey dinner, board games around the kitchen table, as the newlyweds Priscilla and Jeff came from New Jersey to celebrate with Isaac from Washington DC.
- the warmth of the kerosene heater whose soft glow, the promise of heat, beckons our cats and dogs to prostrate themselves before it.
Still without a source of consistent heat, and with Jim in Berlin, Marina and I headed for higher (and warmer) ground (temporarily) when the mild Virginia winter turned frigid. We were able to sleep and stay warm at my sister Sarah’s house, eight miles away.
As we wait, once again, for several missing parts for our chimney in order to fully install a wood-burning stove which will be our source of heat in the Mill House, we are grateful for the family, friends and brothers and sisters in Christ who are taking part in helping us to get and stay warm this winter and in the future.
One might be tempted to allow discouragement to get the better of them, yet it seems that patient endurance, coupled with a grateful spirit are forged into something of substance by means of hardship, producing what Brennan Manning calls “ruthless trust.”
Jim has since returned from Berlin, the weather has temporarily moderated. His return from this trip has helped thaw the interior of our home with reports from the “front lines” of the streets of Berlin. I am deeply moved by accounts of how God’s people are actively reaching out to (primarily Eastern European) women being prostituted on the streets and in the brothels of the German capital. These women are caught in a web of greed, abuse and addiction. I can’t help but reflect on the years that I facilitated a Bible study in a women’s dormitory in Kyiv. I remember distinctly praying against such evil as it was evident that many young women had a prevailing sense of hopelessness. They were emerging into adulthood in the midst of social, economic, and political chaos that prevailed in the former Soviet bloc countries after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union. Many sought a “way out,” unaware of the horrors of greed and evil that would await them in the west.
Jim met and prayed with a former pastor who now runs a café staffed by volunteers, a warm and hospitable environment for these women to escape the sub-freezing weather, greeted with smiles and the warmth of the love of Christ. He also met and prayed with Patricia Green, a now elderly New Zealander who has been for decades befriending and loving these women on the streets of Berlin. Here’s a link to their ministry.
We thank God for the opportunity to know and partner with such heroes and heroines. Although we, down here in the holler, may be temporarily experiencing some discomfort due to the freezing weather, I am mindful that the life we live in the Spirit has turned our hearts of cold stone into a heart of flesh, one that we pray will beat with that of the Father who, because of his love gave his son for us. May you walk and serve in the power of his Spirit. Thank you for your love, support, and prayers.