Monday, May 07, 2012

One More, By Request

Joanie was looking over the pictures that didn’t make it into the last post. She really liked this one of Holly and Katie on the beach. Why didn’t that make it in with the other pics? I don’t know - just wanted to be brief and not bore anyone. But I take requests. Myself, I love looking at my girlies as they have freezing fun. I resisted the temptation to take off my shoes and freeze with them.

Catching Up To Today

Since Katie has been learning cello, she has tried learning other music than what her teacher assigns. She also had fun playing my bass.

We took Joanie's parents to Virginia Water, just adjacent to Windsor Castle, and found a great place for a family portrait.

Holly waits for us to catch up at Virginia Water.

This is the house used to shoot Downton Abbey, the popular series.
That's Joanie and her mom Helen.

Two years ago, before the series, the house used to get maybe 30 buses of
U.S. tourists a season. Now they get 300.

We took a two-day trip to Hastings. This is shopping on the high street in a nearby village called Battle. Well, Katie prefers to play games on her iPod to shopping.

Holly is outside the abbey at Battle, near Hastings, where William the Conqueror invaded England and took over in 1066.

Sunset at Bexhill, where we searched for a restaurant for dinner.
We found one eventually.

Morning at our bed and breakfast, Joanie's father Dick pours coffee for Joanie and Helen. It was a sunny morning and a pleasant breakfast.

On the way home we stopped and shopped and ate lunch at a village called Rye.
This is the city gate.

The last stop was the beach. Do the girls like the beach?

On May 5, while Joanie taught the women's retreat, Pastor Bryce Heard took my girls,
his girls, and me, to Rufford Abbey, where the girls played and ran around
and I talked with Bryce.

Sunday morning in Bryce's office at church. We had plenty of time to talk and pray.

In March and April Joanie’s parents visited us. Though we got to visit places we wouldn’t otherwise go, not being the fun types, the real fun was being together and loving one another. It didn’t have to be big fun; one of our little enjoyments was looking for the perfect custard tart. 

We visited the home used to shoot Downton Abbey, and stayed a night at a bed and breakfast in the area of Hastings, Battle, and Rye.

Things are busy right now. The family just got back from a weekend in Mansfield, where Joanie taught a women’s day retreat on Saturday and Rob taught the church there on Sunday. We got back last night, and are already preparing to fly to Siegen, Germany on Thursday. Rob will be teaching at a Brethren church in a part of Siegen called Achenbach. We will always appreciate your prayers for God to bless us and make us a blessing.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Visiting My Parents February 16-23

My first night in Bellevue, at my brother Dave's house, for the first time in my life.

Dave has set up his office in our old bedroom at Mom & Dad's.
They have the room, he has the gear. 

Petra and Doon Malekzadeh invited me to dinner before I left Seattle.
I did the wedding ceremony for them 17 years ago in Siegen, Germany.
We're down in Petra's basement workshop, where she makes and sells the coolest stuff.

On February 4 I was up in Norwich, getting ready to teach for my friend John Brown, at the church he pastors in Norwich. He was away in the United States for a time, and I was happy to be in his home preparing for the next day’s service. Then I got a call from my brother Dave in Seattle. He had just left my parents’ house and was a little emotional. 

“I’m not telling you what to do, Rob, but if you want to see Mom and Dad, sooner is better than later.”

Both Mom and Dad are in their eighties. Their health is good, but fragile. And it seemed more so to Dave at that time. So I figured that was the reason to go home. Only I couldn’t bring the whole family. We didn’t have the time or the money. I found the time quickly. Dave set it up for me to use his frequent flyer miles. Sooner than I have ever experienced I was on my way to Seattle, during February 16-23. 

It was so quick that it wasn’t clear where I would be staying when I got to Seattle. “Don’t worry, Rob, you’ll get taken care of,” said Dave. It turned out that I stayed at his place that first night. It was a shock to realize I have never stayed at his house in all the years I have known him. We always had a place with Mom and Dad, or with Joanie’s family (including Joanie’s sister Liz). So here’s a new twist: overnighting with my brother. He’s a great guy, so no complaints. 

The four of us siblings had determined not to tell the folks that I was coming. It might have sent them into “get the house ready for Rob” mode that they didn’t need to worry about. But at some point we had to tell Mom and Dad that I was coming. We had to say something to them as Dave and I drove over to their house. When I called, they assumed I was in London. I told them I’d been thinking of coming over and asked if that was okay with them. They said, fine. I said I was thinking of sooner than later. That was okay, too. Then the punch line: “Well, I flew in from London last night, and I am right now in your driveway because Dave drove me over!”

Pop came to the door, and we all had a great reunion. I spent the rest of the week with them, and with a little shopping, a chance to teach for the junior high school and high school classes at Calvary Fellowship, and seeing family and friends, it was over quickly. The timing was perfect. We are now praying to bring the family back in June.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Finally, A Piano

Mario Campanale tunes our new Bentley piano. Not connected with the auto maker, it is  nevertheless a respected piano maker.

Amazing to see the piano taken apart. Nice to have a professional doing the work.

It had been obvious that Holly was not enthused about piano lessons because she didn’t have a piano to play. We had a Yamaha keyboard that friends gave us. It wasn’t a weighted keyboard. It felt like a toy. I tried to tell her that if she wanted to play piano, she would have to get over that and just persevere. That didn’t really solve the problem. If she was going to continue, we would have to get a piano.

We looked and looked. We had friends praying for us. There are thousands of bad pianos on eBay, and Freeserve, and Gumtree. People give away pianos for free. That’s because they are so bad, they can’t sell them. We knew none of these were going to inspire Holly to practice. We almost bought one piano, but the auction time expired, and the seller wouldn’t respond to us. Frustrating.

On eBay Joanie found a piano owned by one lady, which was a four-out-of-five star rated brand. We bid on it and prayed that the Lord would close the door if it was not His piano for us. And then we won! This is the piano!

Joanie found a piano mover to deliver it. Then she called Mario Campanale, a piano tuner we knew. He brought it up to pitch and serviced it. He reckoned it hadn’t been tuned in twenty years. We replied we planned to play it and use it and wear it out. Joanie is playing more now. Holly is on it everyday. I love the sound in the house, and I can’t always tell who is playing. I love that, too.

A funny side effect: Joanie and I became aware that having a piano in the living room says to us, “Home”. We grew up in families that always had a piano there. So now we are home. That’s a funny feeling, twenty-five years down the road. You would think it’s about time. Thank the Lord for answering our prayers and helping us this far, and making our place a home.

Katie Exhibit

Holly, Joanie, and Katie rest in the exhibition room while I try for some art photography.

Katie's drawings are the two next to each other in the upper right corner. Just to show you a little of what the others were doing.

A group of home schoolers got an art exhibit together at the West End Centre in Aldershot, about a half an hour from where we live. Katie considered her drawing collection and chose two to enter. We drove there and viewed the exhibit. There were sculptures, drawings, felt art, and photographs. There was some genuinely good art there. Some of those kids have a future in art if they keep going on. 

Katie is firmly set on drawing manga (Japanese-style comics). For Christmas we gave her a book on how to draw manga style hands and feet, and recently followed that up with a companion book on heads and hair. Her drawings are growing in expression and skill. Hopefully this won’t be her last show.

Siegen Trip

Our first night in Siegen we went out for some real Siegerlander food at The Black Sheep. It was Schnitzel Night. Left to right: Conor Berry, Andrew Rann, John Golightly, Daniel Flores.

We slept at the Bible College dorms and walked in to the church for meals. This was morning, in front of the church, overlooking the Sieg River.

One of the guys scrapes his car at the Bible College villa. Overhead you can just see the tallest Autobahn bridge in Germany. 

From January 23-27 I got to take part in a pastor’s conference in Siegen, Germany, at the Calvary Chapel I used to work at before I moved to England. I had the idea to ask Conor Berry (pastoring in Bristol) if he wanted to come with me. He did, and we had a fun time being together. What a great guy!

When you go to a conference, you really want the Lord to speak to you. He did to me this time. I found myself admonished to not look for the approval or sympathy of others. I can offer those things where I am overlooked or suffering directly to the Lord as worship. Thank the Lord that His ways are higher and better than ours.

Conor and I had time to shop for German goodies for the flight home: dense German bread, Brötchen (nice bread rolls), Nußecken (triangles made of ground up nuts and the corners dipped in chocolate), Almdudler (an Austrian soft drink the girls love).

While the conference was on I was reconnecting with friends I hadn’t seen in years. One friend found me at dinner. He told me what had been happening with him, and we firmed up plans for me to speak at his church in May. I was able to pray with a friend who is battling cancer. The Lord gave me encouragement for him, to help him endure the treatment he was about to undergo.

Praise the Lord for letting me have this time, for blessing on so many different levels and ways. And the girls really liked the bread, too. Total score!

Glory Morning

One morning I was walking to Tesco, my home away from home, for some Bible reading, meditation, and prayer in the café. The wind was blowing cold clouds across the sunrise. Most days it’s not especially beautiful - it’s just cold and grey. This was one of those momentary bursts of glory that I get to see as I race inside. 

I praise God for making a beautiful world. I’m so glad that I get to see His glory in His word no matter what the weather is doing.