Category Archives: Relationships

We are interwoven – often more so than we know!

Taking pictures because a visitor came!

I was overjoyed to pick my mother-in-law up from the international airport today.  She had flown all the way from Washington DC – from DC to LA to Tokyo to Kuala Lumpur to KK.  The trip takes about 3 days.  She has the benefit of being a nurse, used to changing her sleep schedule.  We had the difficulty of traveling with two young kids who could not sleep once we entered our new hemisphere.

KK Airport - Terminal 1

KK Airport – Terminal 1

I had not been to the airport since we were picked up there.  I remember very little of that first trip… we were all overwhelmed.  But today as we drove, my mother-in-law was snapping photos and I realized how wonderful it is to have her perspective here, now.  She is not as overwhelmed, she has guides that already know her, and she only has to last two weeks here!  But her response to what she was seeing brought me a lot of joy.  It was the kind of time when you see your life through someone else’s eyes, and realize the wonder and excitement before you every day.

A very concrete set of buildings, with a hotel, apartments, and several businesses.

A very concrete set of buildings, with a hotel, apartments, and several businesses.

She took pictures of buildings that I now call ordinary.  She took pictures of palm trees.  She took a picture of me, driving on the right-hand side of the car.  She took a lot of pictures, and now when I see them, I think, these are far from ordinary.

Driving around Kota Kinabalu... tourist snapshots!

Driving around Kota Kinabalu… tourist snapshots!

Each place has its wonder, that doesn’t have to wear off; or at least, it can be rekindled.  An apartment building can be amazing in its weaving of culture, architecture, personal styles, and frankly, laundry.  It’s all there waiting to be beheld.

Yet at the end of the day, it was this picture that captured the spirit of the day:

Family, together.

Family, together.

We all want to come home, somehow, whether it’s to a familiar place, or to the arms of family.  This moment between our homesick son and his newly arrived Nana gave a context, a grounding, for all the other pictures.  Places have meaning because of what they tell us about ourselves or one another, and today this city of ours was a place where we embraced and were embraced.  All the memories we share, the wonders we behold, have meaning to us because they are how we connect to our world and one another.  We aren’t collecting images, we are finding life together.

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Cooking with New Friends

This gallery contains 1 photos.

 

Day 19 of 20 *Questions*: Are my thoughts hurting or healing?

Thoughts are important.  They can also feel as though they are beyond our control.  It’s hard, after all, to “make” yourself think something.  Thoughts also get bundled closely together with our feelings, so that the two become indistinguishable, especially in the heat of the moment (or as we re-live encounters when we can’t get to sleep….)

As I’ve learned to deal with the competing needs that happen in a relationships (family, household, or other), one of the things we’ve been practicing, in our goal of “slowing things down” (the Second Commandment for our family) is asking, “What was the thought before the feeling?”

With kids, when conflict arises, from whining to slugging, it does no good to ask what started the fight – that just starts a cycle of blame, and puts peace and solutions farther out of reach.  That probably describes how many adults approach a problem – by seeking blame/self-righteousness (win/lose), and by making peace less of an option.

Another option, in the midst of conflict, is to let people speak their feelings (without the words “he made me…”) AND then to ponder, what was the thought before that feeling?  Often the thought assumes blame so subtly that when the feeling is blame-centered, it feels like it came out of nowhere.  For instance, when I try to read with Dante, if he comes across a difficult word he immediately demands that I read it; if I suggest he try, then he shuts down and refuses to speak or read.  When I ask him for his feeling, it’s often anger at me, and sometimes that makes* me angry too. (remember how we’re not supposed to blame right away? Look what I just did… “that makes me mad”…)

But if I can hear his feelings and hold them carefully, we have time to ask, “What was the thought before the feeling?”  And then Dante can be honest, that he thinks I won’t help him when he really needs it.  A-ha.  He thought something that he didn’t have time to say, or that he was afraid of saying, and it got plowed into his feelings.  As Dante once explained, “The moment went by so quick!”

And that’s true for us as adults, too.  When we have a thought that we don’t know what to do with, we may think we’re burying it or hiding it, but in just a moment that thought wraps itself into a feeling, and we are left wondering why we reacted so strongly.

I think that we often do this with the people we love most, and we do it with God too.  Despite their past love and all of the reasons we have to trust them with our thoughts & feelings, yet when a moment arises, we think the worst of them – then hide that thought – then cry out because we feel unloved.

The question for today is “are my thoughts hurting or healing?”  When your feelings are hurting, especially when things feel out of control, see if you can ask yourself, “what was the thought before the feeling?”  Naming the thought lets you deal with the root of the feeling so that you can heal in body, mind, and spirit.  I saw the relief in Dante’s face when he could address the thought, and it helped he and I to heal our relationship from that point onward.  Today’s question gives us the opportunity to look at our thoughts courageously.

A = thinking
B = feeling
C = doing
Where are you most comfortable?
In general, the closer to the center of the diagram,
the healthier a person is (physically, mentally, & emotionally)

Day 17 of 20 *Questions*: Where should I break the rules?

I live with a 7-year-old boy who loves rules.  It’s a portrait of both the age (7-year-olds tend to be perfectionists, and they’re processing their world by noticing patterns, which are a type of rule) … as well as him being first-born, who tend to be more likely to stick to the rules (many second-born kids are rebels – certainly our Caedmon is, and many friends have the same “adventures” with their second-borns).  I find myself daily creating some rules while explaining why I break others.  I also have to restrain Dante from creating rules about every little thing, because I can’t keep track and I don’t want to seem to promise to follow the rules he deems essential (like getting a serving of sweet drink every day!)

Sometimes, I love seeing how he follows rules.  Especially when it comes to holding hands in parking lots and taking a “thank-you bite” of each food on his plate.

too many rules
…paralyzing…

But sometimes the rules are exhausting.  He can come up with so many rules, about so many different facets of life.  It makes me wonder whether he is imitating Eric and I… a scary thought, but probably a fair portrayal of how adults seem to come up with rules when and where it suits them.  Even the rules of the English language are exhausting to a kid just learning how to say verbs right or spell anything at all.

And all those rules take a toll on one’s spirit.  We’re constantly checking how we measure up, against how others are doing, or against how we think we ought to be, and we are doing those comparisons with a limited amount of energy and love.  We can weary ourselves.

This is where life as a Christian is both my firm ground and my life-buoy.  I know that there is Someone who will love me despite my failings, fallings, and confusion.  And looking at that love, I see others around me who reflect that love.  That in turn re-energizes me to try, to listen, to grow, to ask hard questions, and to boldly step forward knowing that I’m not going to get it all right.  As a Lutheran Christian, we talk about “sinning boldly” – continuing to do things imperfectly rather than be paralyzed by heartless rules.

I think I said in one of the prior posts, “Don’t cry over anything that can’t cry over you.”  Rules won’t cry over us.  They won’t stand by us.  But our Creator does stand by us, and I believe that God sent Jesus as proof positive that God accepts humans as we are – broken and needing healing, lost and needing hope, and at times looking down on others for breaking rules that we ourselves aren’t following.  Not that God gives us free reign to become heartless – but that Jesus walked with people, coaching them on how to live vibrantly and boldly in a world of rules.

What are the core rules that you would stand for?  What rules have you broken so that love can increase?  What rules do you wish the world could courageously break?

Day 10 of 20 *Questions*: What’s so funny?

What’s brown & sticky?  (!!!kcits  A)  That’s my favourite joke.  I don’t know if it’s funny, but it makes me laugh, and we know that laughter does all kinds of good things for one’s spirit and body.  So yes – ask what’s funny, and enjoy!

But I want to explore another aspect of this question.  First – a story [some details changed].  While I was studying to become a pastor, I spent 10 weeks in a hospital as one of a group of 8 student chaplains.  We learned to care for others, but we also spent a lot of time examining ourselves – our histories, our fears, our assumptions about people.  While serving on a floor for people doing short-term stays to receive antibiotics, I met a lot of people who weren’t very sick, but who were very bored.  We had some good conversations.  One man was morbidly obese and was hospitalized because of an infection related to his diabetes, a disease that had caused the amputation of several toes.  He jokingly told me how his brothers had always called him “Piggy” and finished his story, laughing himself, and said, “My brothers sure are funny.”  I laughed along, but I was uncomfortable.  It wasn’t funny.

Back in my group, I shared the conversation as a case study.  It was there I got a wonderful piece of wisdom: play dumb, because it allows you to ask the obvious question.  In this case, the question was, “Why is it funny [that your brothers joke at your expense]?”  This fellow had been so brainwashed about his own worth that he couldn’t ask that question; but I was a newcomer to the situation, so I could have asked, “What’s so funny?” and given him permission to break out of a system that mocked him but didn’t help him.  His weight/diabetes was stealing his life, one body part at a time.  He needed support, not mean jokes – but by then, he didn’t know the jokes were mean.

In our world, we sometimes need to ask, “What’s so funny?”  When people use profanity all over the place, in the name of humor, we can ask, “is that actually funny?”  When bullies act as ringleaders, we can ask, “What’s so funny?  I don’t get it.”  When people tell racist jokes or jokes that put women down, we can resist by asking, “What’s so funny?”  Make people name it; make them spell it out; make them admit what they are really saying.

Play dumb.  You can get away with a lot of undermining when you ask the obvious question.

Day 1 of 20 Questions

What questions should I be asking myself?

OK, this question gets the “obvious award.”  Any project based on questions starts with, “well, what question(s)?”  But this question, for me, links to one of our House Rules (our 10 Commandments):  “Look and listen – slow it down.”  At almost any point, it helps to Stop, Look, and Listen.  I’m consistently amazed at what I learn when I do those simple things.  We get into a groove, and it can become a rut in no time at all – but if we pause, we might notice other options, other dreams, other ways of being that we wouldn’t be open to if we keep on at our same pace and direction.

Right now I’m into interval training – riding an exercise bike, and *every minute* I spend 30 seconds at high difficulty and 30 seconds recovering.  It completely changes the workout for my mind and for my heart (literally).  For the whole workout, I’m starting something new every 30 seconds.  It’s like asking myself, “what should I be asking?” – entering into a different interval in the pace and direction of my life.

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the 10 Commandments at the Trozzo house

So – if you don’t know what 19 questions lie ahead of us, and I hope you don’t – what questions do you think should go on a list of “20 questions we should all be asking ourselves?”

Christmas – practicing Hope

What is a child’s Christmas list but an example of hope on paper?  When I was 6, I got to type my Christmas list.  Single spaced on an old-fashioned typewriter, who knows how long I sat there, thinking & dreaming & spelling out my wishes.  At the bottom of the page I realized I had run out of space, but hadn’t yet put the most important thing I wanted for Christmas: a soccer ball signed by Luke Skywalker.  (Yes.)  I had loaded the paper at a slight slant and only had room to fit a few words as my typing went diagonally off of the bottom of the page.

Now I coach my kids on making their own lists – it makes it easy for us to get Dante to practice spelling and handwriting.  But what he is really practicing is hope.  He takes time to think about the future and about his unique desires for the future.  It is self-centered hope, to be sure, but he is practicing.  Hope takes a lot of energy, though, as well as focus.  Hope isn’t easy.

Christmas presents are a grand practice of hope.  One of the biggest ways adults practice is in the giving of gifts – because most likely there IS a certain response we are hoping for.

a very Trozzo Christmas

Have you ever seen someone *this* happy to see a present? This is the kind of reaction we hope for!

We hope that they will really enjoy the moment of unwrapping, that they will hold up the gift in delight and say, “Wow, this is great!”  That they will put it somewhere special and use it soon.

Our hope is practiced when we wait and watch for the signs of joy and appreciation.  We put energy and focus into it, and it really matters to us that our hopes be fulfilled.

And of course, this kind of hope is but a small example of the deeper hope that underlies Christmas, the season of hope and anticipation.  God has given a promise to care for God’s beloved creation; throughout Hebrew Scripture, God promises salvation for God’s people.  In Advent, we celebrate the dual promises of Christ’s birth (of God becoming physically human) and Christ’s return –  that Christ will come again to physically transform our reality into the ultimate Kingdom of love, peace, joy, and of course Hope – but hope transformed into a Trust that takes no energy or focus, hope that is simply a part of being in the promised Kingdom.

Imagine a Christmas that didn’t take energy of focus – wouldn’t that be a miracle!  (Are you tired yet from cleaning and planning and shopping and trying to remember all the details?)  For now, we practice Hope as we prepare for a holiday that is a sign of God’s ultimate promise.  Merry Christmas and a Hopeful Advent to you!

My favourite word: Fling

A lot of people don’t listen to the words in music. I remember once being in the car with Eric, singing along to a song that said, “I don’t care whose ring you wear, ’cause as long as no one knows then nobody can care” (Uncle Kracker). Yikes! Who could actually sing that to someone? It’s a great song, but every time I hear it, I think, Yikes.

So I’m clearly a person who cares about the words of songs. The right wording at the right moment in the song brings me elation. When the words and music match, I remember how music opens us up to the divine, and I am so grateful. Even when I’m listening to the blues, I am gladdened. It doesn’t have to make sense (but please, try to make the lyrics of your songs make sense. Please.)

For years one of my favourite parts of Christmas is hearing the words of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” The whole song is evocative of how we long for peace, for rest, for hope as the generations unfold and year turns to year. But my favourite line is: “…when peace shall over all the world it’s ancient splendors fling; and the whole world give back the song which now the angels sing.”

It’s my favourite because I always have the image of angels flinging peace, like bits of golden glitter, over all the world. Maybe like pixie dust, or the twinkling of stars, or just like big handfuls of glitter. You know, if glitter gets on you or your stuff, you will never get it out. It’s powerful stuff. A camp counsellor at Mar-Lu-Ridge once glittered the sleeping bags of the male staff quarters one summer, and I bet those bags are still sparkling. That is probably why I imagine peace being tossed over the world like glitter – because it is beautiful at first, and because it has staying power that no one expects. That is how I want to imagine the peace of God that passes all understanding.

Our blog is called Flung Forth Anew because we want to be like that glitter, like that peace – tossed all over the earth, with gifts that not only make beautiful the ministries we land in, but that after we have served, that changes will last, both in sites where we go and in our hearts when we return home. We trained with ELCA volunteers going to Nairobi, Kenya; Tokyo, Japan; Ethiopia; Cameroon; and with our leaders who are centered in Chicago, Illinois – and the ELCA has volunteers both in 1-year and long-term positions in more than 90 countries. We are flung across the globe. And with each new place that we visit or serve, we are made new, our eyes sparkle with the connections between people and ministries and organizations.

In the hymn, ancient splendors are flung forth anew into today’s world so that the whole world can give back the song which the angels sing. May all of us, wherever we have landed, be a sparkle in the Father’s eye, a force for peace in the world, and glitter that catches people’s eye so that they want to explore God’s kingdom and live into God’s reign of peace.

After the political season: a foundational question

Let me start with a question:  what does your country do to support marriages?

I don’t know about you, but when I hear “support marriages” I immediately think of gay marriage.  And I forget about the essential nature of supporting MARRIAGE.  Maybe your marriage.  Maybe your friends’ marriage.  Two people that have a 50% chance of breaking up.  Two people that need help balancing finances and schedules and dreams and how they use their words.  Two people who make a promise and have decades to learn to keep it.  You know, “marriage.”  Supporting marriage.

At a Church last week the sermon was focused on the idea that “a threat to marriage is a threat to the whole nation.”  That isn’t only political rhetoric – it’s something so foundational that we often overlook it.  The family unit, whether with kids or without, is a place where we learn loyalty, hope, caring for others’ needs, claiming our own identity, and creating one piece of the environment in which we live.  Everything on that list can be expanded out to how we function as citizens of a nation.  Loyalty.  Standing for long-held beliefs.  Planning a sustainable life.  The family unit is one microcosm of the nation.  It is of significant importance.

So, I’d like you to pause right now and take just 1 minute to jot down a list of the top 5 ways that your nation/community/congregation/peers SUPPORT MARRIAGE.  Please don’t get sidetracked into attacks on one particular type of marriage.  And if you are not married, please do not feel excluded – you have seen plenty of marriages that succeeded or failed in your lifetime.  I think this is an important conversation, and one that is easily overlooked.  Here’s your 1 minute –  GO!

the top 5 ways that my nation/community/congregation/peers SUPPORTS MARRIAGE:

1…

2…

3…

4…

5…

Many books of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) speak of the “House of Israel” and focus on how lives are to be led at home – the community is a wider version of the family unit where we learn loyalty, compassion, awareness, and creativity.  Scripture references:  Deuteronomy 6:1-9, especially 7 and 9; Joshua 24:15-18

How can nations care for the family unit, from the outside in?  How can we empower couples, parents, and caregivers to teach one another and children well?  I would love to hear some of the ideas from your list about how we already support marriage and how we can move towards reducing rates of things like divorce, abuse, and other marital illnesses.

The basic question here is :  How can we bless couples beyond their wedding day?  Please post your comments below so that we can have a good conversation!

Day 17 – First Words in Bahasa Melayu

1 Kilo of Mangoes for 13 Ringgit!

Being greeted by a family selling their wares in the fruit market

What an amazing day.  A seminary friend – actually the woman who will be teaching Eric (and maybe me) the language here (Bahasa Malaysia, or Bahasa Melayu, or just B.M.) – spent the morning showing me different places to shop.  A grocery store for locals (Tai Sun’s, I think) and breakfast at a little café (dim sum at 8 AM!).  The downtown harbour’s fruit market (where I bought a kilo of mangoes, not knowing Eric had bought the same yesterday… lots of ripe mangoes to eat!).  (And, notice how our Word program corrected my spelling of harbour to the British standard.)  (And, sorry for all the parentheses!  So many thoughts!)

Then, the meat market.  I kept having to literally use my hand to close my mouth – my jaw just kept dropping.  I’ve never seen a whole plucked chicken chopped and packaged – cut off the neck, cut off the feet and claws, save the feet, cut the whole thing in half in one blow of the knife, and so on.  And in the fish market, how fast they could fillet a fish, and the orderly piles of so many kinds of fish, plus squid and then huge bins of all kinds of shellfish – clams and hermit crabs, big blue crabs and others I don’t even know how to describe.  Eric went there yesterday, his first trip, and said that as he went in the door, two rogue crabs were skittering out.  It is a lively place, with people who are the salt of the earth – so patient and kind (recognize those words from scripture?) and willing to laugh with me and practice counting in BM.

I arrived home with my finds – a kilo of thin-sliced pork (sold at room temperature… yikes!), a big rectangular broom (kind of a Swiffer, for the dust from having windows always open), and fish with fillets to cook up and the head/spine/tail with which to make soup.  Eric has a fever – one of the mom’s at the international school said something is going around, plus he just needed rest after the rush to get here and get settled.  So off I went to get the boys from school and take them on a ginger ale hunt.

We went to a familiar mall – it has something very close to a Target in it.  There was some kind of show beginning – youth with two sticks attached by a 1-metre string, with huge yo-yo’s on them.  They were doing all kinds of tricks.  I tried to find a video online of it, but have no idea what it’s called.  (This kind of thing happens a lot – not having the words to try to find out more about things we’ve seen, or eaten, or want to try.  Life without words is very tricky!)  In the end, Dante had enough watching and we went off to the Giant (a version of Target) and found, of all the sodas and juices and drinks, only one can of ginger ale.

But, during the morning shopping, I had seen a shop that had gripe water – an herbal drink that helps babies with gas and all ages with any stomach discomfort.  I was so excited to see it!  When I went to buy it, it turned out that it was a Chinese apothecary, and when I went in and spoke my rudimentary Mandarin Chinese to the ancient man who worked there – well, you can imagine his surprise.  Blonde American, buying something in his shop, speaking his language.  I wonder how often, if ever, that happens.

I think one of the biggest learnings is how gracious people are when one tries to speak their language.  I think of the U.S.A., where too often people get impatient with those whose English is not yet particularly good.  Punishing people for trying to learn and speak?  It makes no sense.  Here people honour and reward you for entering into their language.  There is a generosity of spirit that encourages moving from “my space” (you speak English, please) to theirs – it gives shared energy.

In the end of the day, I splurged and used some of our powdered cheese stores, bought from the U.S., to make mac’n’cheese (with that thin-sliced pork and steamed okra) for the boys, paired with our first Skype conversation with my mom.  Two tastes of home.  But when I tucked them into bed (about 30 times), I was still looking out over the lights of our new city.  We live in 3 places – home there, home here, and somewhere in between.  Thankfully, we still talk about all of this as an adventure, and so we remind each other that the discomfort of transition is part of a bigger picture – one that we don’t yet fully see, but that we get to experience little by little.

Malaysia Day from Signal Hill

The view of Malaysia Day fireworks from our apartment at Sabah Theological Seminary