Wednesday, January 29, 2014

They Grew Up--Full Circle

A favorite camp spot. It is a tiny spot of Oman in the province of Fujairah, UAE.

The magic of the silver tube that hurtles through the skies. Its doors close on one place and a few hours later they open on another life entirely. Monday we were with Dan and Eda in Dubai. Tuesday afternoon we lit the woodstove to warm the week-empty house on the rocky hillside overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

We're here, but the presence of dear ones in Dubai hangs in the air all around me. The magic lingers.
Dan and Eda. Typical for them in all the ways they are so different. Dan comfortable on the cool-breezy day in simple t-shirt, Eda happy in several layers and a wool cap.

Dan and Eda Bibaj Bidinger. Our tall son who builds world-record high flagpoles. His passport is the thickest I've ever seen with multiple visas for Jordan, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Albania and...well, you get the picture. His wife of six years (already?), Eda is our Albanian beauty strong in character and presence, assertive, humble in serving, and a loved teacher of very small ones. Their home on the 28th floor of a skyscraper overlooks Dubai Marina. Two rooms, decorated with exotica and leftovers from our years in Abu Dhabi--the heavy copper wedding tray supported by Turkish legs; hand-tied carpets from Afghanistan and Turkey and the soft hand-woven kilims of Albania; our ancient microwave table at the end of their massive sleepable sofa; that old easy chair we recovered in Abu Dhabi, and the wine cabinet we bought there catching keys and phones in their entry; wrought-iron Albanian eagles behind the stove on the kitchen wall; a closet stuffed with tools and craft supplies and camping gear and car parts; Eda's handmade throws and wall art, and photographs of love. 

"Would you guys like to go camping?" asked Dan when we skyped a couple of weeks ago. Would we? "Hello! We would LOVE to go camping! Do you have gear for all of us?"

"We'll manage," said he.

Dan was a babe in diapers on his first camping trip. He slept by our heads in the back of the old Suburban. Rainy cold camps by creeks and river mouths where we fished. 

At the ripe old age of eight Dan bounced with us through the Sinai in the back of an old Landcruiser. Or sat hands-on-wheel on the lap of the bedouin driver, freckled little face beaming in every direction except the way in front of him as they negotiated dunes, narrow wadis and rocky flats in the Sinai. The desert camping of the Middle East, an opportunity we grabbed while on a trip to Israel so that our kids would have a chance to know its freedom and joy. 

Dan was 19 when he first drove dunes. It was in our brand new Landcruiser in the corner of the Rub al'Khali called as Liwa. "Sure, you can go down that," coached Curt at the top of a precipice. "I know you can't see. Just take it slow." Which Dan did. Thump. Crack. Bumper connected with subka at the bottom...and broke. Curt chuckling. "It's okay, Dan. That's what these vehicles are for. Bumper was too low anyway." They later removed those parts of the trim from both front and back and threw them away. Together.

By Eda's first visit Dan was an experienced 4x4 driver with skills. We took them out together. In our car, with our gear. I planned the food and improvised bedding; Curt packed the jig-saw puzzle of provisions and gear enough for a crowd as only he could. Testy if someone interfered with his process. 

Their wedding brought gifts of tent, cooler, lantern and camp chairs. By then Dan was driving his Emma, the Pathfinder decorated with Albanian eagles on the door panels. We began to camp together. Their car and our car. Their gear and our gear. Joint food plans and shared cooking and cleanup. Curt in the lead through tricky sands, or Dan in the lead with his more agile vehicle, skittering ahead, then circling back to give our heavier truck a tow out of whatever hole or edge had caught us.

"Would you guys like to go camping?" asked Dan when we skyped a couple of weeks ago. Would we? "Hello! We would LOVE to go camping! But do you have gear for the four of us?"

"We'll manage," said Dan.

Those words hang in the air today. They shimmer and vibrate, throw off joy. An emblem of a new passage in the sometimes-treacherous journey called parenting. They managed, all right. We contributed nothing but our presence and camp-appropriate old clothes and tennis shoes, and Dan and Eda took us camping. This time it was they that made lists and scurried to organize, plan meals, pack gear, choose the route, drive, and provide everything necessary. Eda shopped and did the pre-work to make cooking easy. Dan packed his HiLux meticulously, while Curt lent a hand now and then and admired Dan's work. Dan drove the dangerously washed-out road while we road confident in his skill and his care. 

They do many things just like we always did. Lamp chops and grilled peppers for first-night dinner, and sweet bread and coffee for breakfast. Camp kitchen near the fire, shade shelter up, tents on the other side and further away. Chairs arrayed upwind of the fire. Books and kindles to the ready. Headlamps, too. And yes, they do some things differently. Better ideas. A heavy-duty spray bottle to rinse dishes. Fire lit with Dan's blow-torch from work. Differences in taste. They use paper plates and plastic cups. We never do. Dan is a minimalist who enjoys seeing what he can make do without. We tend to have more things handy "just in case."

It has been three years since we last camped together, not long before Curt and I moved from the UAE. We returned to a favorite remote spot. 

Everything was familiar, so easy and comfortable. And yet we marked an entirely new passage in all of our lives. Parenting that introduces, teaches, celebrates good and beautiful places and ways of seeing them...several years ago gave way to parenting that shares the journey. Two couples did stuff together, though mostly we remained the models and leaders. This past weekend we become the receivers. A profound movement. Still two couples that love doing life together, but now we visit Dan and Eda's place and they take care of us. They do for us what we once did for them. They introduce us to new ideas and ways of seeing. And they do it so well.
We did the odd "helping" chores...

...but had time to read and nap.

Last weekend's camp stands for me as emblem of a bigger journey. We are coming full-circle. From childhood dependence to adult mutuality. And now glimmers and shadows of adult mutuality moving toward the dependence of advancing years. Our children established in their own families. Productive, loyal, adults of integrity. Creative, responsible, and generous. Grateful. Growing in insight, tough, spiritually committed and invested. We begin to fade as they take root and advance in fruitfulness and grace. They begin to see themselves as people who sometimes take care of us.

The circle is indeed coming round. And, though not nearly complete, we know ourselves blessed to experience it as full, pressed down, and oozing out goodness, health and love.
A glorious sunset--on so many levels

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Tuesday Report--interrupted

The New Year has included a decision to rise earlier. Which means I see the sunrise every morning. I love it!

FB posts as Christmas decorations came down and the holiday was packed away for another year carried a common theme: "The house feels empty, and I feel a bit down." For me, however, the day after Epiphany involved simply removing the baby cradle from the entry to its storage space under the stairs. With that same sort of the relief that follows the joy of guests and family and an overfull house and the quiet return of useful space to normal. The nativity remains because I think that little family and those shepherds and wise men continue to marvel and rejoice together and I don't want to rush them.

It was 3:30 pm January 3rd when Curt and I sat down to our traditional New Years Day brunch of Curt's Farmer Eggs, waffles, fruit salad and mimosas. That captures the randomness of a Christmas season where Christmas is unknown and yet Jesus has given us so many to treasure and love and give time and space to. 

Tuesdays? Christmas Eve Tuesday we worked around the house and started at last to hang the curtains in the studio. We've had them since April but the shop failed to provide the one of the corner pieces needed to mount the rods. After checking back many times over several months I finally got the picture and asked Süleyman (the world's most delightful carpenter) if he would make me something that would do the job. Which he promptly did, and then refused to charge me for it. Mid afternoon of Christmas Eve we ventured into Kaş for a late lunch of spinach pide. Not a Christmas acknowledgement anywhere. No decorations; no greetings. Just a quiet off-season day in a small town by the sea.
I think a spinach pide looks like Christmas food, don't you?

New Years Eve--much the same. Ayşe came to clean as usual, though New Years IS a major holiday and celebration here and she would later host all of her teen-aged son's friends for their all night fun. We, too, were invited to various shindigs, but preferred our own quiet and company to see in the new year. Once again we ventured into town in the late afternoon for our weekly pide and were out and home long before celebrations got underway. 

Christmas Day we drove the three hours to Antalya to be with believing friends and enjoy a meal together. Spent the night so that we could take in the new Hobbit film--so very worth it! New Years Day we hosted friends for games, Mexican food, and the first Lord of the Rings film in Turkish. We've been gathering the bits for a home theater system in our studio, and this was the inauguration. I think we were thirteen that day. One other American and the rest Turk, with the delight of two of our favorite children thrown in. The new system was pronounced a success. It is even better now because I've had a boatload of floor cushions and pillows made. Chairs abandoned: guests lounge with cosy throws. 

Christmas gave way to preparation to receive 16 women from up and down to Mediterranean coast for a new years retreat at Spa for the Soul. Hint: that could be why we finally got going and hung the curtains in the studio/meeting room. The women's ministry team at the international church in Antalya had booked our space and invited participants. Program by me. Support and food service organized by me and spearheaded by Curt with our dear Gül and Halil, who lent their restaurant expertise and 3 days of work. Retreatants ranged in age from 23 to 80, and came from six nations. Our neighbor and my language helper Çiğdem joined us for one session and a meal, and delighted that so many of our foreigner guests spoke good Turkish. Five year old Yasemin appointed herself greeter and she, too, delighted in foreigners with whom she could chat away. Especially Jennifer, who is her new best friend. Dobby the retreatant dog did his retreat with the guys in the kitchen. Mild sunny weather meant women at prayer in quiet spaces all over our property. Incense rising to the heavens. Enthusiastic song resonated down the hillside from our times together. David, Haggai, Zechariah, Hosea and Mary prodded us. Gül and I tied placecards to napkin rings with pretty ribbon. I pulled out favorite dessert recipes and enjoyed the rare chance to prepare them. Pitchers of drinking water beside tables, an After Eight on every pillow. Programs printed on the last of my pretty paper, and the basin and the towel prepared for Curt and me to wash the hands of our guests in blessing on that first evening. 

And then it was over. By 3pm yesterday all were on their way to their own towns, and we'd delivered Yasemin, Gül and Halil to their place for a well deserved rest. Curt and I settled into the studio on the cushions, opened a potpourri of thoughtful little remembrances from our guests, consumed the chocolate cherries, and watched Invictus to honor Mandela's passing. Then Star Trek just for fun. Then Curt put on something else but I was asleep. I woke on those cosy cushions at 5am this morning, studio dark and quiet around me, and made my way to our bed. Twelve hours asleep both of us, with glad and praise-filled hearts. 
Like God's love, fresh and distinctive every morning