Monthly Archives: July 2015

My story of finding love and being found by Love by Gini Bunnell

Gini my story

He was twenty, a senior in college, tall, athletic, gorgeous with amazing blue grey eyes and absolutely unaware of his own good looks.  Add to that he was a Sigma Chi, physics major and an alleged “woman hater”…..all of which added up to be the perfect challenge.  I met him on my nineteenth birthday. I was a sophomore in college, an art major, spoiled, shallow, and up for the challenge.  It wasn’t very long, with a little bit of luck and a lot of manipulating, before we were dating on a regular basis.  I may have been dumb but I was smart enough to know he was a “keeper”.

Happily, he was smitten too.  By the end of that school year we both knew that this relationship was for real and marriage was inevitable.  He vowed his undying love, gave me a diamond engagement ring and left the next day for a two year stint in the Peace Corps.

Those were the two longest years of my life, but I survived. I wrote a massive amount of air letters addressed to Malaysia and I lived for his treasured letters coming from that far-off place.  There was no email and it was impossible to connect with a phone call, so letters were our lifeline.

Half of my heart was a world away teaching science in Southeast Asia.  With the other half, I languished in college, longing for our reuniting and listening tearfully to melodic Harry Belefonte records, spending my senior year studying in Florence, Italy.  Those two years apart were bearable (but just barely) and without a doubt the wisest plan of action we could have taken.  We both had rich experiences with which to seed our shared garden of life.

He came home on August 14, 1964 and we were married in 16 days.

It was wonderful!  We embraced our new life with the joy of just being together. We jettisoned any ties to church or organized religion, with no recognition of God in our lives.  We were alive, we were together, and that was more than enough.  Besides, after 18 months of being married we became a threesome, and two years later there were four of us. Life was busy with two little boys and trying to stretch the budget of a graduate student’s income.  We were arrogant, we were ignorant. But God was there in the midst of our denial… loving us, protecting us, providing for us, and guiding us.  And we never recognized him.  We thought it was all our own cleverness.

Life was amazingly good until we hit a bump we couldn’t crawl over.   At the age of two and a half years old, our older son was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare childhood cancer of the eye. The pit of fear that lodged in my being took up permanent residence.  It was a level of anguish I had never experienced before; a pain in my mother heart that permeated every breath.

Even then, God guided. We ended up at the best hospital for this unusual disease and after our son’s right eye was removed and he endured a month of radiation and one more surgery, the cancer was contained.  I felt strong, a survivor. I had sustained my worst nightmare, and it was over. Yeah me! I had not prayed…not once.

A year later my husband was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  He was twenty nine years old, our sons were two and four, and we didn’t know where to turn.  We didn’t know God.  What we did know was fear, terror and anxiety and we started looking for  spiritual help in all the wrong directions.  And the very last thing I wanted to be was a Christian.

In the midst of this chaos, my dearest friend became a Christian and tried to share her new love for Jesus with me, with us. We mocked her, called her pontificating, rejected her faith.  And what was her response? Her response was to pray for us. She prayed faithfully for us for eight long years.  Eight Long Years!

Until one day, alone in my painting studio, I found myself on my knees saying petulantly to the God I had rejected, “OK God, I am willing to be open to the possibility that Jesus is your son.” That was it. No acknowledgement of my sin or awareness of my need, but it was enough.

God came in through a tiny little crack in my heart and my life was changed. I didn’t think a whole lot about what I’d done and I didn’t mention it to anyone (especially not my faithful praying friend), but six weeks later I looked back on our lives in awe.  We found ourselves going to a warm and genuine church. I had a surprisingly hungry desire to study the bible for the first time in my life and, though we didn’t know it until years later, our oldest son received Christ that first Sunday he went to the new church’s seventh grade Sunday school.

That was thirty seven years ago.  Thirty seven years of joys and blessings and sorrows and endurance, but always with the presence of Jesus reminding us of his love and sovereignty.  He never left us or forsook us but carried us, lifting us up with love and laughter.

I wore many different hats in the forty nine and a half years of my marriage to the man of my dreams, a godly man of great integrity. I was wife, mother, artist, bible teacher, grandmother, even great grandmother.  Now I am wearing  a new hat: widow. It’s not my favorite chapeau but even as I struggle with this new identity I find that God’s grace abounds and I praise him.

I still routinely thank my good friend for her prayers that changed a family and for her faithful prayers that saved my life.  I came kicking and screaming but by God’s grace, I came.  How can I do anything else but rejoice.

Don’t give up.  Your prayers do make a difference!  -Gini

The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. (Psalm 6:9)

Stop and smell the roses

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The four of us went on a hike on a desert mountain today. It was dusty and dirty and there were signs that warned of bears as we trekked toward what was said to be Paul’s tomb. Who is Paul, I wondered? Without knowing, we worked toward him anyhow. The trek turned out to be more miles than the Canadian kilometers we were promised. On the way back, our walk along the water’s edge slowed to a snail’s pace. Bella, my daughter was wearing ridiculously vain hot pink sandals. My husband wondered what I was thinking allowing such a fashion statement on a hike. This is to assume my daughter’s wardrobe points to my common sense. If that were so, she would have been wearing a jean skirt and a sequin tank with some cute dangly earrings and maybe even a flower headband in her hair!

In the last mile or so after we had listened to some whining and attempted to console it with piggy back rides and promises of a yummy lunch, I slowed my pace and held her hand. We walked down a hill and round a bend and it was then that I saw the most beautiful peachy pink, roses. I invited Bella to “Stop and smell the roses.” They were too high for her nostrils to play. I took note of the green branch and where my fingers could grasp and avoid the thick thorns. I pulled one down that had bloomed three roses, one of which lay at the end, big and boisterous. Bella with her golden tan skin leaned in and allowed the air to enter her nose taking in it’s notes. As she did, I asked her if she knew what this phrase “Stop and smell the roses” meant? She thought it meant to stop and smell the roses, literally. The rest of our walk, we held hands, walked slowly and together talked about what this phrase really means and then thought of stops we could and should engage in life. Here, I share some of those with you.

Stop and Smell the Roses

Stop and buy an ice cream cone from the ice cream truck.
Stop and play pretend.
Stop and think about the lyrics you hymn.

Stop and hold their hand.
Stop and say sorry for what you know you haven’t.
Stop and put bright red lipstick on.

Stop, put your camera down, and live a moment you’d otherwise try and capture. Then, you have actually captured it.
Stop and embroidery again.
Stop and write a thank you card, in your best cursive.

Stop and dance in your living room, playing that song over and over again.
Stop and stand in the rain allowing it to wash you clean. Use your umbrella another day.
Stop and ask the waitress her name. Order her story more than your chicken kiev. It will taste better.

Stop and feel the place your breath draws from.
Stop and notice the color of their eyes. The differences in shades. The yellow hue next to the sable round. The white in contrast to the brown and how they meet. The way their eyelashes trace lines that fashion what stare at you.

Stop and light a candle to remember them.
Stop and grieve. Write down everything you lost when you lost.
Stop and feel with your entire body the power of the train as it passes you by.

Stop and study the willow branches sway and weep.
Stop and belly laugh.
Stop and smell the nave of their neck. Inhale and promise your memory, this smell you won’t forget.

Stop and smell the tomatoes, looking for the one that actually smells like tomato. That one is yours to take home.
Stop and invite the neighbor over that you have told yourself you would for far too many years. Your good intentions keep letting you down and they don’t have to keep doing so.
Stop and make your own chicken noodle soup when one you love is sick. Feel deeply good about the healing properties of what you took part in creating.

Stop and buy the bike basket you have always wanted. Then go to the farmers market and fill it with a gorgeous bouquet of sweet peas and purple and orange carrots and a card handmade by the 7 year old who sketched her dog playing with a dragon.
Stop and send the card to the first person who comes to mind that is lonely.
Stop and snip the sweet peas and place them in your most beautiful jar and put them above your kitchen sink. They are just for you.

Stop and smell the roses. They grow in grace and beauty even if you see them not. They smell delicious and enticing even if you smell them not. To stop and allow all else to wait for you to engage them, engages you.
Stop and go on a hike with the kids you think will complain the entire time. They just might surprise you.
And as my daughter says, stop and just stop. Sit on a bench and behold what colors are before you, the petals that fall, the waves that come to say hello, the skin that brushes yours. Life is found there and so is the Divine, found when you stop and smell the roses.

– Willow

Mercy by Kerrie Bauer

kerrie-my story

There are times when a collision with strangers startles you with the secluded mercy of God. I had such a collision in Paris. That summer in Paris, I was on the brink of a season of surrender that would scrape the illusion of control out of my hands. Our family- my husband and two daughters, ages 15 and 12- had been traveling in Europe for three weeks and we were now desperate to get home. Our 15 year-old was acutely ill and we all needed the stability of our medical and support community in Bellingham.

The logistics of travel demand a certain amount of control in order to make space for the variables that are out of your control. The standard wisdom of getting to the airport 3 hours ahead for an international flight is one of those maxims designed to protect you from risking long lines and missed connections. We arranged with our hotel concierge for an 8:30 a.m. shuttle to Charles de Gualle Airport for a noon flight. He assured us that by that late in the morning, traffic through Paris would be minimal and we’d be at the airport in less than 20 minutes.

At 9:15, we were still waiting for the shuttle. When it finally arrived, the four of us piled in and the driver explained in a thick accent that he had another pickup to do before taking us to the airport. We emphasized that we needed to be at the airport for a noon flight. At this point his assurance that he would have us there by 10 a.m. had to be enough.

The van rumbled through the tight, angled streets of Paris. At our first stop we waited for fifteen minutes for the passengers to appear. Meanwhile, the driver got a call for another pickup across town. Leaving behind our no-shows, we drove across town and filled the van with German tourists. Now it was 10 a.m. We assured ourselves that we’d still make our flight if we at least got to the airport by 10:30. Again, a discussion with the driver. And yet we kept circling the streets of Paris.

We stopped at another hotel and picked up two more French passengers. This time our teenage girls moved onto our laps to make room. The shuttle was now overcrowded. And yet, the driver still angled through Paris. Now it was 10:30.

“Sir, we pleaded we need to get to the airport!”

“I have one more pick up,” he countered.

A German lady with a kind face argued “No, these people have a flight. There is no room in this vehicle for any more.” From our crowded place in the back we heard him speak in a hurried tones on his cell phone, in a language no one in the van understood. He then proceeded around the same circuitous route. It was clear we were not leaving Paris but doubling back to the first hotel for the no-shows. Other passengers began to argue with the driver on our behalf but he shrugged and gripped the steering wheel. At 10:45 a.m. we picked up two disheveled tourists in their twenties. They had overslept and called the shuttle back. They flashed hung-over smiles and settled on the van floor.

“You must feel as if you’ve been kidnapped,” the German woman said. In naming our helplessness, she soothed our frayed nerves. As we pulled into Charles de Gualle at 11:05, the lines extended around the terminal, and the acid of anxiety stung in our core. We stumbled in, dragging our luggage, supporting our weak daughter, expecting disdain from airline personnel. This is Paris after all.

Desperate, I went forward and asked a women in uniform to help us. Her open smile and cheerful grace collided with my desperation. The mercy of her kindness and assurance astounded me. Throughout the airport, from ticketing to security, person after person greeted us with gentle assurance and hospitality. “We can get you home.” At 11:55 a.m. we arrived breathless at the gate, the last people to board the plane.

That morning was a forced surrender of control. In our helplessness, we collided with mercy. The memory of the empathetic woman from Germany, the advocacy of the other passengers, the bright assurances of the airport personnel, the relief of being met with assistance after being hijacked by apathy, all served as markers of hope in the battle with illness that we would face when we returned home. In the season ahead I would hear in my head the lyrics to a song by an artist named Sean Hall “mercy walks in the streets and I long to know her” and remember our collision with mercy in Paris. -Kerrie

our common thirst: a drink I got at a migrant camp

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I just ended a crazy ministry year with a trip to Spokane to speak to high school and college aged girls who are in the midst of transition and desiring faith in its midst. They were beautiful young woman who shared honestly and thoughtfully and listened with a deep desire in their hearts to seek Christ and His plan for their lives. It was a sweet time and I especially enjoyed seeing some old students from college ministry days who have since gotten, married grown a beard, bought a house, (you know-gotten old), and are raising two beautiful girls while doing youth ministry at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Spokane.

We left Spokane on Father’s Day and headed out to Tall Timbers Ranch and spent a week there speaking to families that came from a myriad of places in order to spend the week with their kiddos resting, playing, adventuring and growing. At the same time that I got to share story, I got hear story and it never seizes to amaze me how much God is chasing us all down and trying to love on each and every one of us. Near the end of the week, we got the option to go canoeing, zip lining, hiking, swimming or to go to a migrant camp near Wenatchee. It was a scorching day and we hopped in an old van, the kind creepers drive, and headed out with a couple of camp counselors and two other families to serve the kids of “pickers”. The van “apparently” had air conditioning but it was not far reaching and Rob and I had no windows in the very back row. People’s body odor smelt as though it was growing in size and stench by the mile and I was like that kid that wanted to know “Are we there yet?”, like every 5 minutes. Coupled with the smell and the sweltering weather, I began to feel like I was going to lose my camp lunch.

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We finally arrived and drove into this flat field with a lot of white tents lined up and down in rows. Each family that worked in the fields lived in one of those. That was their house. I hopped out of the van as quickly as I could noticing people might have wondered why a bunch of gringos were showing up on the scene. We headed to the center tent where people gathered under its shade. It felt dreadfully hot, silent and awkward. But as soon as we blew up a pool, got out the bubbles, gave up the super soakers and lined up the slip n’ slide, this party got started! Little by little kids from every age wandered around the corners, watched for a moment and then dove right in. They grabbed buckets and doused us. They super soaked us like it was the greatest thing ever. I poured bubbles on the plastic slip and slide and girls and boys ran down, fell on their stomachs belly flopping onto the slide as if they were penguins. They giggled and laughed and chased us. We got out the parachute and played Duck Duck Goose and Sharks and Minnows. It was a hoot!

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I screamed. I tend to be a screamer when people chase me or when I play games and people are after me and I am losing. I think because of my screaming, the young boys had decided I was the one to get. I hadn’t planned on getting wet and the next thing you know I was covered. Every square inch of my body was sopping wet and my jeans were eventually going to need to be peeled off my body.  I ran into the only other two gringos that I saw there by the bathrooms. They stared at me in a way that I haven’t been looked at like since college. I knew it wasn’t how good I look drenched. I noticed their matching orange hats and shirts which said they were prison inmates. It felt as though they hadn’t seen a female in years. That was awkward. I hurried back to the kids because my screaming was more useful there.

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These cute kids wouldn’t give up dumping buckets and buckets of water on me. If they didn’t have buckets or super soakers they found cups. I tried to say “timeout” and that didn’t work. I tried to ask to be “amigos” and that didn’t work. I tried out running these kids and that certainly didn’t work. I finally succumbed to being their target and this, for whatever reason, brought them much joy.

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My daughter met a little girl named Virginia and she immediately took to Bella. She hugged her and pulled Bella wherever she wanted her to go. They blew bubbles, played the parachute shark game and soaked in the muddy hose water. Though Bella knows no Spanish, her and Virginia hit it off as though they needn’t share a language because they already had one.

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Aidan started a scrap game of football. Of course he did. And the older boys came out of the shade and their tents and were playing as if they had played together in the neighborhood their whole life. Even if for a moment, they weren’t migrating anywhere but from offense to defense and loving just that.

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I needed this day. It refreshed my soul. I was scorched and tired, not just physically. And I saw something happen for all of us at the migrant camp. We all were parched and in need of relief and refreshment. And together we found joy and laughter and commonality around our need for the water. We needed its cool. We needed its joy. We needed its excuse to revert back to childhood. We needed its cleansing. We needed its invitation to play together. We needed its quench. And we got it.

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I think more amazing, beautiful, life changing, border breaking, class shattering, boundary busting, relationship building would happen if we would center around our commonality of need. It is when we realize we are all underneath the same sun. We all have skin, no matter the color that is adverse to sunburns. We all migrate and move though territory, circumstance or country. We are all torn asunder by economic injustice or economic oppression or economic idolatry. We all desire to play and laugh and connect. When we gather together, as unexpected as it might be to make friends, we can connect because our commonality is in our need and our desires. We are withered and we are thirsty. And water meets us all. It quenches our thirst. It cools our toil. It alleviates the piercing heat.

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When Jesus asked the woman at the well for a glass of water, she was alarmed at why He would even be conversing with her. She was a woman and a Samaritan no less. He was a man and a Jewish one at that. He then offers her water that He says will well up into eternal life and she shall never thirst again. I think He gave me yet another cup of that water when the young boy who had chased me all afternoon chucked another bucket of agua on my face and finally said we were “Amigos.”

Jesus’s water is for all who are thirsty. He gets out a hose and sprays it on the sun drenched. He migrates into the places and spaces that are a dry and weary land to quench those who think their circumstance and very life are too far from God. And the cup He hands out reminds us all that no matter who you are or where you have been, nor where you call home, you can be His friends.

Let us not forget our common thirst.

let us not forget our common thirst