Archives for the month of: October, 2013

Although not universal for the nation, here are a few photos of how keeping clean at my flat differs from what I knew at home.

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Clockwise from top left: dishes by hand; washing machine in a kitchen cabinet; bathtub with shower attachment but no curtain or wall socket; over-the-radiator drying racks.

I realized yesterday as I bathed how quickly these things have become part of the normal routine of life! The smallest thought of wonder then trickled into my brain: will I have reverse culture shock when I return to the States (for visa purposes)? Or will I just really, really enjoy a shower and a dishwasher? Hmm…

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Those that know me well are probably amazed it has taken me so long to address this topic! Overdue though it may seem, it’s actually a testimony to the grace and favor of God in my life that the issue hasn’t presented itself in a stronger form. Tonight it bears acknowledgement, however, as a sweet surprise “royal” high tea – a belated birthday treat – put circumstances in better light.

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I had the joy of sitting beside Pastor Lois Gott, world revivalist and personal mentor via the HOP internship. She has a way of putting me at ease with her warmth and vitality – and yet I seem to come away from her company more contemplative than I entered it. She is much more extraverted and gregarious than I tend to be when I am at my most natural. On most occasions this wouldn’t be particularly remarkable. I’d talk if I chose, or silently observe if I’d prefer. But as my superior and one I hope to honor, I challenge myself to draw up out of my comfortable internal nest and engage. This runs counter to the ease I feel in her presence – on the one hand, I am loved and accepted as I am, but on the other hand, I am challenged to behave in ways which are not indicative of who I am.

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I think my relationship with Pastor Lois is part of the wider fractal of living in community and culture here. There is a tension between being myself as the contemplative observer and the mandate to rapidly become part of an integrated unit. On the one hand, I must be true to myself in order to be truly known. On the other hand, I cannot be known unless I behave in ways that are inconsistent with who I am.

The result of living in such tension is, to be honest, a seemingly permanent state of semi-exhaustion. My closest friends – those with whom long history of mutual appreciation and similar temperament has provided the immeasurably valuable gift of peace – are far from me. Thankful as I am for social media and technology, ain’t nothing like the real thing. My heart longs for the rest found in those longstanding and life-giving relationships. The effects of being apart seem to be cumulative – each day feeling a bit more laborious.

Would you call that homesickness? I’ve shed tears for the lovely Tennessee autumn I’m missing and the swimmable rivers that I could wade in endlessly, but this is a different sadness.

I never realized what a privilege it was to know and be known among others with ease and tranquility of soul. The challenges of my current context makes those friendships all the more precious and their absence more poignant.

You know who you are. I love you dearly and miss you acutely, and I am so thankful for the treasure you are in my life.

I had a birthday this week! Celebration began on Monday when a box of treasure from my favorite red-bearded man-wonder arrived. I didn’t wait for my birthday to open it!

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My actual birthday began with a couple of solo hours on the keys at the HOP. Such a beautiful way to begin a new year’s adventure! Later, I went for a walk and found an excellent tree to climb. (This remains one of my favorite activities!)

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My doppelgänger is also an intern, and as we have the same birthday (though different years), we celebrate together as the “twinterns”. We had cake and chocolate together, then sweet presents and cards. I’ve already eaten all my birthday chocolate – yum!

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Last night was our final bit of celebration. A third intern’s birthday is this coming Wednesday, so we joined forces for a three-in-one party at a teppen-yaki restaurant in Newcastle. For such a special occasion, we put extra effort into our attire – even the lads spiffed up! It was so much fun, and quite yummy, too. Sushi was what I’d expect (not bad for being outside California or Japan), miso soup was full of delightful memories, and the entertainment was a joy!

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Altogether, I had a wonderful birthday! Of course, I still missed friends and family from home, but circumstances being as they are, I really couldn’t have asked for a sweeter celebration. Thanks to all for your love, kindness, well-wishes and friendship! This looks to be a year of special magnificence, I’m sure!

A few turns and 25 minutes’ walk from my flat is Hendon Beach on the North Sea. What a joy to walk alongside the surf this morning! Don’t let the name fool you – it’s not exactly a beach – but there were folks about walking dogs and casting lines into the waves. One gentleman and his grandson were particularly concerned for my well-being as I perched on the wet boulders, eventually encouraging me to clamber back up on the concrete. I tried to explain I’m “from the States” where we do that sort of thing (i.e. hike right to the edge). “You’re from Florida State?” he replied, surprised. I laughed, said “yessir” when he adjured me to look after myself. I did – no slips or trips while questing for photos. Hope I run into those fellas again. Hope their kindness is repaid in joy!

As usual, none of my photos have been edited. Enjoy!

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Rise up on wings like eagles… Isaiah 40:31

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Painted over the last few weeks in the House of Prayer, Europe.

I’ve been in Northern England for well over a month now. In this time, there have been many surprises and unexpected circumstances. The most significant for me personally has been gradually developing over time, but that time began about 2 weeks after my arrival.

It happened this way: all the interns were gathered around Pastor Lois Gott, one of the pair who spearhead the House of Prayer. I first met Pastor Lois in Tennessee when she and her husband Pastor Ken came to teach a course on revival history. Now here she was, addressing the group and giving us our individual assignments. The worship leaders were easy to spot. They were the ones who came from Nashville with guitars. The singers, too, with their melodious lilts and blasting projection were assigned naturally. Then came the media and administrative roles. And then she came to me.

Now, by this time I was bracing for impact. I have a Master of Science in Early Childhood Education. I’ve taught school and worked with young children in cognitive neuroscience. And I’ve volunteered with children’s ministry. In fact, the last time I saw Pastors Ken and Lois, I was babysitting for their grandchildren in Tennessee. So I was expecting her to say, “Mary, you’ll work with the children.” Not because I dreaded it, but because it’s how I’ve been known professionally.

Imagine my shock, then, when out from her mouth came, “And Mary is our artist!”

What? Really? I’m sure I smiled, but I was stunned. I listened to hear if she would add on anything about children. After all, her granddaughters loved painting and creating with me. But no.

Instead, Pastor Lois began describing how she wanted the walls filled with art. “We’ll get you some canvases and an easel! You’ll paint in the prayer room and we’ll hang them around the HOP.” I’m sure I smiled. I know my eyes filled with tears.

Because, you see, I studied education believing I would eventually be a missionary, and as such, teaching would be a marketable trade. My mother always said, “Mary, you don’t have to move anywhere to be a missionary. You can be a missionary right here at home.” And sure enough, she was right. I taught children of poverty, I served pagan faculty, I prayed for suffering coworkers. But my heart’s passion is in creating – whether through fabric, yarn, or pigment.

So finally, here I am, a missionary. And God’s sweet kindness is this: I have given Him what He asked of me, and He has given me what I scarcely dared ask Him and hardly believed. I am the house artist. The HOP is my studio and gallery. Now my job is to create from the overflow of my relationship with Jesus and from the joy of my heart.

I have fulfilled many childhood dreams in my life already, but now I get to do what makes my heart sing! I am overwhelmingly appreciative of the opportunity, and in the spirit of it, I now begin to share my art with you.

The painting below came about during that course on revival history. While Pastor Ken was teaching, this image dropped into my spirit. I pulled out my paint at lunch. As I did so, a young man asked about my process. Another interested girl sat across from me. Little did any of us realize we would all move to England to serve under Pastor Ken – both onlookers are worship leaders. And little did I realize I was painting intercession – standing with our Father, staring at a mountain, and calling for it to pick itself up and be thrown in the sea.

So here is my mission in watercolor form. For Sunderland and the North!

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Sweet city, the morning light looks lovely on you. Father, may I fall more in love with this land every day!

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So apparently cloth napkins are not the norm over here. I had some fat quarters set aside for another project, but realizing the scale was a bit big in some of the prints, they were prime candidates for napkins.

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I also went to work with some Yorkish wool and came up with a new toboggan and neck warmer / headband. The latter I lined in a bias-cut swath of cotton to keep the itch factor at bay.

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It’s the little details that make a house a home or a culture your own. Nothing like a little handmade something to feel settled in!

I went for a ramble in Sunderland this afternoon and reveled in the sweet colors and sunlight!

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Art on the walls makes it feel like home.

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Now what’s the trick to making my boiler work?