Monthly Archives: May 2012

Photo of the Week – Our New Neighbor

On Saturday I had a chance to see the parsonage where we will move in a few weeks, as well as the churches Courtney will begin serving in July. We will live in the northwest part of New Jersey in a place called Warren.
I had the joy of meeting a couple who are long-time members of the Mt. Horeb congregation, and they let me admire the tractor they have owned since the 1950s. So that’s the picture of the day as it points a bit to what lies ahead.

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Memory and Hope: A Eulogy for Nonna

I had the blessed privilege of giving a eulogy at my Grandma’s funeral yesterday morning. I wanted to share it here.

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Memory and Hope

Today we remember Louisa DiFalco, who – either directly or indirectly – has affected all of us. She was known as – Flav’s, Maria’s, or Carolyn’s mom – Gram – Nonna – Mother – Cousin – Friend – Avon lady – and now, a member of the communion of saints.

To remember is to have memories, and, of Gram, we have plenty. Sometimes it is a difficult thing for me to think about Gram with the Alzheimer’s and how her memory continued to dwindle these past few years. However, her retreating memory also unearthed some beautiful treasures as she recounted stories from her childhood many people had never heard, providing a fuller picture of this woman who was so full of life for so many years. No matter how much she forgot, though, two of the things that she knew without a doubt until the end were these:
Her name was Louisa DiFalco, and she was 100% Italian.

Death is sad for many reasons, and today because of saying goodbye. However, remembering Gram is a joyous thing.

C.S. Lewis is a theologian and author probably most famously known for “The Chronicles of Narnia” stories. He also wrote some lesser known stories. In one of them he portrays a scene in which two characters need to say goodbye. Both are sad, one indignantly so. The response of the other character, though, provides a good perspective and, I believe, a bit of hope for us.

Here is the excerpt:

“A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking…as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing… What you call remembering is the last part of the pleasure… When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it…, what it makes in me all my days…that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it.”
Out of the Silent Planet (1938) Hyoi, p. 73

Some of the memories and stories of Gram that came to mind this past week had me imagine the following scene, so please indulge me for a moment as I share it with you:

After asking St. Peter if he has ever had Italian food, she inquires if the disciples were Italian. Peter responds, “No Louisa, they were Jewish.” She replies, “Well, I guess that’s okay, they seem nice anyway.” And then she proceeds to fill their bowls with homemade pasta and meatballs. When they politely decline thirds she nods ascent as she gives them just a little more of each in their bowls.

I remember Nonna’s hospitality and love: the ever-full cookie tins in the hallway, how she always had hugs to give, and how sometimes she would scratch our backs. In Colorado, when her arms became too weak to fully embrace, she would hold faces in her crooked hands – our faces and those of the staff where she lived – and she would give kisses on the forehead, cheeks, and eyes.

Gram’s hospitality reminds me of the hopeful reality that God invites all of us to come, receive love, and give it to others – even if we don’t think we are worthy of love or in need of love or capable of loving. Gram reminds me that all of us can love in our corner of the world each and every day, and in doing so, participate in God’s Holy work of healing the world

And so that is what we have, memories and hope. We have memories that will continue to deepen every time we see an Avon sign, hear someone talk about homemade pasta, or smell the sweet lemony fragrance of mammarrellas. And we have hope, that Gram’s story, just like each of our stories, belongs to a bigger story of God’s love for Creation. A love mirrored in the compassion and presence of friends and family in this time, and a love offered and possible to experience deeply in those dark moments when we feel alone.

Thank you, God, for allowing us to know Nonna. Please encourage us to know Your love as we remember her love. Help us to know Your presence as we now journey without her presence. Amen.

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Photo of the Week – Newly Commissioned Mission Servants

Two weeks ago Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church commissioned 23 mission servants whom, with their families will serve around the globe.
This picture captures most of them in Palma Ceia UMC just before their commissioning service.

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Photo of the Week – My Nonna Remembered

I took this photo two years ago when Ceara spent some time with my grandma, whom I call Nonna.
This past Friday, May 4th, at 4.30pm Mountain Time, my Nonna passed away. She turned 98 this past February, and spent the majority of those years cooking, baking, and demonstrating extraordinary hospitality. She also gave me, my brother, and my cousins awesome backrubs when we were kids. I am thankful for the memories of her.
(maybe I will write more later as I sift through the thoughts and memories.)

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Journey Into The Unknown

I wanted to share thoughts from a recent journal entry remembering a border crossing between Kosovo and Macedonia many years ago.

The story that came to mind the other night as I thought about our unknown future happened in Kosovo in 1999. The group I was with had left Pristina, Kosovo to travel back to Albania via Macedonia. On our way to the Macedonian border, in the middle of a mountainous route, the van ran out of benzine (gasoline). Prior to this, the gas stations along the route were either closed or ‘unfriendly’ toward outsiders. We pushed it about 1.5 kilometers to the top of the pass, then coasted the next 15km down the winding, mountain road, and then rolled to a stop at the checkpoint. We pushed the van through the checkpoint, past the NATO soldiers from Poland, and then waited on the Macedonian side.

None of the passing vehicles (not that there were that many) had any extra gas – and in fact most of them were diesel. Dusk was approaching, and because of the situation in the region at that time, it was not recommended for anyone – let alone a foreigner – to walk the 5km to the nearest gas station.

The ten of us waited and prayed and waited some more. I recognized an approaching car – actually, it only looked familiar because old Mercedes-Benz sedans were rampant in the region. Even so, as it passed through the border crossing I tried to glimpse who was in the car. I recognized the driver! He was the chauffeur for an acquaintance in Albania. I approached the car and driver, and I saw the glint of recognition in his eyes.

We exchanged pleasantries. He had just dropped someone off in Kosovo and was returning to Albania via Macedonia. Then I told him our situation. He said that he would take me to the next gas station. One of my traveling companions and I grabbed the gas can and hopped into the car. As we neared the station something seemed odd, and as we got closer we saw that this gas station had had its three gas pumps stolen.

While the driver spoke to the attendant in Macedonian (yes, there was an attendant even though there were not any pumps), I got anxious. My mind raced to find an appropriate cultural language to ask him to continue and not to turn around (even though we were already 10km out of his way). Yet before I could speak, he put the car into gear while telling us that he would try the next station the attendant had mentioned.

I sat on the edge of my seat watching the odometer and wondering how far he would drive before turning around. About seven or eight kilometers up the road we approached another station, yet it had no lights lit – it was closed. Again, anxiety started to rise. However with the wave of a hand and a smile the driver said that we would try for another station.

Really? Wow!

I realized that I had a choice: either I could on the edge of the seat and anxiously watch the kilometers tick by on the odometer, or I could sit back and enjoy the view of the star-studded night sky because this guy would drive us as far as we needed to go.

The stars were beautiful – wow!

Eventually we came to another station. The attendant started to wag his finger. I thought they were closing. The driver talked to him and found out that they were out of diesel, which was the fuel the current car needed. However, they had plenty of benzine, which our van back on the border needed. Further, after we had filled the gas can, he said that he would stay open and wait for us to drive back with the van to fill the tank.

Provision, faithfulness, answered prayers – alleluia.

I needed to tell and to re-member that story in our current circumstance with uncertainty for our future and next steps. Anxiety rises as we think of needing to search for housing, doctors, childcare, and community. I needed to re-member that story, along with others not written here, because they testify to God’s faithfulness and provision.

We need to search and seek, yet we also need to wait. “Actively waiting,” I call it, which is like looking for cars crossing the border and moving when the time is right.

And while actively waiting I have a choice of how I can live in the time of uncertainty and unknown: either anxiously or with joy and awe at the world around me.

Lord, please help us to live with joy!

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