Wednesday, May 23, 2007

SHELIA'S NEW WATERCOLORS FOR CBF GENERAL ASSEMBLY 2007

I have attached photos of the 4 new watercolors that I have just completed and taken
to the framer. They will be included in the CBF General Assembly Art Auction to be held in late June in Washington, D.C.

Macedonian Village

Albanian Poppies No. 2
(No. 1 was sold at last year's CBF General Assembly Art Auction)
This one is a bit different.

African Mother & Baby
(I did this one for my daughter, Amy, who will be adopting a baby boy from Ethiopia late this year or early 2008.)
Kwumde
African Village - Burkina Faso
(This one is done from a photo I took while we were
living in Burkina Faso, West Africa, from 1981-1992.)

ALBANIAN NEW BRIDE CELEBRATION


Part of our orientation to the Albanian culture is learning all of the customs and traditions of family life. One of these important celebrations, after the marriage itself, is the first visit by the nusja (bride) to the homes of other immediate family members. Agim's brother was married this month to a lovely, young woman named  (Linda). So last Thursday evening, Kathy Smith and I were invited to this very special celebration when Lindita came to Agim & Habibe's home for the first time.


Custom says that Lindita had to serve (in proper Albanian fashion) all of the guests. Between each course, she would change her dress. This is the reason that you see her in several different costumes throughout the evening. All of the women in the family (which included Kathy and I) were to determine if she was serving correctly and to help her be confident in the fact that she knew what she was doing. Kathy and I learned as much, if not more, than Lindita did about the "correct way to serve."

Habibe prepared all of the food that was served that evening; all Lindita had to do was properly serve it. We had a welcome candy and a drink (our choice was CocaCola Light, by the way) to begin the festivities. We made mention of the fact that we found it very amusing that we were drinking CocaCola Light and then eating all of this rich food. All the ladies said, "Oh yes, we understand. You save the calories where you can so that you can eat like this at special occasions. Women are alike all over the world!

We ate appetizers, followed by a beautifully arranged plate of byrek, Albanian pancakes, salads and other vegetables. We then had a delicious torte, hot caj (tea) served in traditional Albanian tea glasses, and strawberries (which are in season in Macedonia now) and bananas. What a meal!! Then there was the traditional Albanian dancing to complete a spectaular evening. This is a dance where everyone forms a circle and does the same dance step (oh well, Kathy & I tried to do the same step, anyway!). It is a family event and SOOO much fun.

As we were leaving that evening, Habibe said to Kathy and I that her home would be the highlight of all of Lindita's servings. Nobody could top having 2 American women as part of their family! How very privileged Kathy & I feel that we are part of the Iseni family.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

THE SYNCHROMESH STRUGGLE

by Arville Earl----------


Hearing that terrible, abrasive, thumping sound, coming from my car’s transmission was a disgusting experience, to say the least. The mechanic’s explanation was that the synchromesh system “isn’t syncing and meshing the way it’s supposed to”. Translation: The synchromesh system, when working properly, allows the automatic transmission to change gears smoothly and without the unwelcome noise, as described above. In the case of my vehicle, the teeth on one of the sprockets inside the transmission had worn down; it would not engage when the gears changed.

The solution, of course, was to replace the transmission since this part could not be repaired. The car would be ready around 6:00 pm and either cash or credit card would be acceptable.

On the way home that evening, I was listening ever so intently for the slightest irregularity, but was thoroughly relieved to hear only the quiet, unobtrusive hum of the transmission’s synchromesh system “working the way it was supposed to”.

Well, here I am struggling again. Two passages of Scripture keep demanding my attention, and I want them to coalesce, to interweave “synchromesh” style.

First there is the Acts 1:8 passage: “And when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and all over Samaria, and to the ends of the world.” In the second passage, I Corinthians 9:19-23, we find these words: “I have voluntarily become a servant to one and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, non-religious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized, whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I keep my bearing in Christ. But, I have entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I have become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempt to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the message. I didn’t want to just talk about it. I wanted to be in on it.” (Scripture quotations are from Eugene Peterson’s New Testatment paraphrase, The Message).

The questions are by no means new, and even though I am not the first to ask them, the questions do still remain and loom very large indeed. How can I live my life in this place, among these people, in such a way that the message of the gospel comes through as authentic, desirable, and applicable? I cannot shake off this unmistakable calling as a witness to God’s grace and truth, as revealed in Jesus Christ. Yet, when it comes to the actual implementation, in such terms as the Apostle Paul describes, I am hesitant. What kind of risks will be involved if I accept this role of servanthood? Can I allow myself to be vulnerable? Am I prepared for this life-changing experience?

If I do this, I will be embarking upon a journey that will take me over unpaved roads and unmarked trails, the destination of which extends far beyond what I have come to know as my comfort zone. Is this a test of faith? If so, am I willing to have my faith tested to this extent. Am I ready to take the steps necessary along the way that will engage my faith and stretch it to new limits? Is more faith or a different kind of faith needed, as compared to those days, back then, when I first heard Jesus say, “Follow me”?

Yes! The struggle continues, but just now, I am remembering something else that Jesus said, as if he were anticipating all this anxiety. I hear him saying, “Trust me”. That’s it, isn’t it? I hear it again, just as clearly, “Trust me”; whatever happens next, “Trust me”.

Oh! What’s this? The gears are shifting more smoothly now. I don’t hear that grinding noise as much anymore; I think the synchromesh is beginning to work.

AMY & FAMILY ARE MOVING TO:

INDIANA



Our daughter, Amy, and her family are moving to Jasper, Indiana, on May 31.

Christopher has accepted the call to be pastor at Trinity UCC there. The church family at Trinity have been so kind and welcoming, and they have felt right at home from the very beginning. Jasper is a beautiful, small town, and is a wonderful place to raise our children. They will have a hard time saying goodbye to San Antonio, their friends there, and what has been "home" for them for 6 years, but they are excited about the new possibilities that face them in Jasper.

Since they close on the sale of their home in San Antonio on May 31st, they still have lots to do to be ready to make the move. It is times like these that I wish we were closer in time and space (couldn’t be any closer in mind and spirit) so that we could lend a helping hand. This is an area of struggle for me, as well: the physical separation from family.


Trinity UCC, Jasper


Anna, Sophia, & Elijah


Side picture of their new house - the parsonage

The Breedlove Family at Trinity UCC

MY FIVE-YEAR-OLD GRANDDAUGHTER


I just couldn't resist posting this conversation that our daughter, Amy, had with our granddaughter, Anna. Reminds me a bit of how I must sound when I communicate with God. It is a good thing that God understands our utterings (or jabberings, as the case might be).


The Jabberings of a Five-Year-Old


This conversation took place in the span of about 3 minutes...tops! Anna was in the bathtub and started jabbering...here's how it went...


Anna: "Did you have friends when you were little?"

Mommy: "Yes, I had lots of friends."

Anna: "What did they look like?"

Mommy: "They all looked different."

Anna: "Why do we have different colors of skins?"

Mommy: "Because God made us each special and different...it would be boring if we all looked alike."

Anna: "Our baby brother is going to have white skin, right?" (Amy & Christopher are planning on adopting a baby boy from Ethiopia)

Mommy: "No, he will have brown skin, but it is doesn't matter if he doesn't have white skin...he will still be your baby brother."

Anna: "Why did God have to die?"

Mommy: "He died for US...He loves us."

Anna: " Is he invisible? Is he watching me in the bathtub right now?"

Mommy: " Yes...he is with us, but he doesn't care that you are in the bathtub."

Anna: "Do fish tee-tee and poopy?"Mommy: " Yes, Anna!...Everything that eats has to do that."

Anna: " At school yesterday, Miss Lucy saw this little guy...I think it was a leprechaun."

Mommy: "Really?"

Anna: "Do cockroaches live outside?"

Mommy: "Yes...lets get out of the tub now."

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pictures of Our Grandchildren on Mother's Day 2007


Amy just sent these pictures of the children with her on Mother's Day. They are SOOO cute that I just couldn't resist including them on our blogpage, too. Tonight (afternoon San Antonio time) I got to talk to Elijah, Anna, and Sophia and they wished me a Happy Mother's Day, too. What a thrill it is to have access to this computer, blog sites, and webcams!!! I wonder sometimes how my mother ever made it when we lived in Africa and didn't even have a phone for a large portion of that time. Today, I can see and talk with the children, watch them grow and change, and we aren't strangers when we are together again.


Amy has made my life so much better (because she is the one who has taught me to use the blogpage, webcam, photo share, etc.) and even though we are separated by miles, we are able to keep in close contact every week.


HABIBE'S BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION

Today (May 13) was not only Mother's Day in the US, but also Habibe's birthday in Skopje, Macedonia. Darrell, Kathy, and Alex Smith, as well as the Iseni family (Agim, Habibe, Sara, and Jehona) celebrated her birthday over lunch (starting at 3 pm) at our apartment.

We had Mexican food (actually Tex-Mex) with homemade tortillas, fajitas, all the trimmings, and strawberry cake with homemade strawberry ice cream. We talked, laughed and had a wonderful time together. In the midst of all of this celebrating, Darrell even made some much needed repairs on my computer for which I am very grateful.

Here are some pictures of the day's events:
Kathy is carrying the cake to Habibe
Habibe blows out all the candles as we sing "Happy Birthday" to her
 Sara and Habibe Iseni in our living room

MY MOTHER"S DAY GIFT

I just couldn't resist posting this Mother's Day Writing from my daughter, Amy Breedlove ---Just in case some of you might not have seen it on their family blogpage. What a GREAT gift and what a precious daughter! Thank you, Amy.



Happy Mother's Day ...tomorrow!

Happy Mother's Day to all you moms. I have to say a special "Happy Mother's Day" to my own mom.

My mom is the most gracious, hospitible, caring person. She has taught me so much in my life. Much of who I am is because she taught me so well. Many of you may not know, but my mom is not only my mom.

She is also...

1. One of the funniest people I know (you can asked us about those things in person:)

2. Someone that will cry with you...even if she doesn't know what is wrong.

3. A humanitarian

4. One of the BEST grandmas (Babas) that has ever exsisted.

5. A friend to me as I have gotten older.

6. A supportive and strong wife.

7. Someone who loves movies...we have this in common :)

8. A mother that not only tolerated my music as a teenager, but listened to it with me.

9. My teacher.

10.Someone that I can talk to for hours and not even realize that time has gone by.

I love my mom. As the years go on...she means more and more to me. Her influence in my life is priceless!

Monday, May 07, 2007

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY


We just received Darrell & Kathy Smith's newsletter today. They are our CBF colleagues/team members who also live and work in Skopje. With her permission, I am posting Kathy's Mother's Day article:



Women’s Day


On the occasion of Mother’s Day this Sunday (a hint for anyone who forgot!), we wanted to tell you more about the Women’s Day celebration at the kindergarten. Truly, as you can tell by the photo, hugs are universal! Women’s Day is celebrated around the world on March 8. Inexpensive flowers are available everywhere as gifts for the women in your life—wives, teachers, moms, co-workers.

The mothers of our kindergarten kids, however, do not often receive even these small tokens of appreciation and affection. A flower is an extravagance that their families cannot afford. Instead, this year over 30 moms received a hand-made, heart-shaped card from their child. The pride and love can be seen in the faces of these moms. The party also included cake and punch, as well as the children reciting some of their lessons. Music and dancing, and more hugs and smiles, completed the joy of the day. For some of these moms, this is one of the few times they are allowed to come to the kindergarten. Their lives are spent within the immediate confines of the home. Thus, the event was even more meaningful for them.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

SPRING IS HERE



My friend, Habibe, gave me these beautiful roses (trendafil - in Albanian) today. I thought I would share them with everyone. Her friendship means the world to me -- she is just as beautiful as these roses. Thank you, Habibe.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

MAY DAY PICNIC








May 1st is a big holiday here in Macedonia. We went on a picnic with Agim & Habibe Iseni and Darrell, Kathy, & Alex Smith to a beautiful park on the outskirts of Skopje. Our guesses at how many people were in the park ranged from 7,500 to 10,000. Agim went early to reserve us a place and start the campfire to cook all the food that we brought with us. We even had caj (Albanian hot tea) after the meal.

The pictures are of us visiting while Agim and Habibe prepared the food we all brought to eat, some of the other families seated around us, children playing, musicians with traditional Albanian instruments, and even mothers rocking their babies in Albanian-style cradles. Pictures really do speak a thousand words! Enjoy!