Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Star -- Distance, Speed and Space

December 26, 2013
Last “time” I shared some thoughts and insights about “Time.” Besides Santa Claus and Einstein, anyone who really contemplates the concept of time comes to the realization of its corollaries to speed and space. So at this Christmas “Time” in our little “Space” and seeing the hours, days, weeks, months and soon to be mission and life speed by entering the past at a velocity that boggles the mind, here are some, far less than Einsteinium observations as we have rushed through the past two weeks.
It has been an interesting challenge and learning experience to move “fast enough” to get to and through the stores to purchase the food and supplies, then to find the “space” to put things in our tiny refrigerator space and tiny cupboards space and counter space.  Then we had to “speed” up to get Christmas Meals ready for the missionaries at the Mission Christmas Devotional and at our space for Christmas day. We had to figure out just how to cram them into our little “space.” Then you know that there is no flat (space) in which there is no creation (moving things to the walls and bringing in plastic chairs and a couple of folding tables). Then with the little “time” we had, we had to “speed” up to get them fed (physically and spiritually) and out the door on “time” for them to “speed” back the distance to their space (villages) before the “time” for them to be off the roads and into their space was upon them.
In the process of all the speeding around and trying to find the space in the fridge, kitchen and little living room for tables, food and missionaries, we learned a few things that will influence how we can speed-up and hopefully wise-up the process and creativity of how we use our time and space next Christmas!

 Those realizations just may result in some profound relevance for how we speed up the service, extend the space and reach of our influence and shorten the time and distance between our moments of significant service, love and understanding. But now we must speed up to get the new school year and its teachers, curriculum, training, reporting and visiting all in place and on time.

You may recall the previous blog’s mention and picture of the small ant that was carrying a huge load across an enormous
(for its size) expanse of space to some unseen location in the universe of a parking area. It must have taken a lot of ant years to get across the space at ant speed. Maybe the ant wouldn’t even live long enough to get the load to the destination. Maybe it was going to where no ant had been before. Surely, however, it would live long enough to move it forward toward the ant hill and then some other ant(s) would take up and perhaps finish the job….Hmmm, speed and distance and time – persistence - life and service.
There are times when we get a glimpse of the incredible work that is going on here with the people and light of the restored gospel truths. And then there are moments when we see just how far the load has to go to get where it needs to go – where the church has not been before. There are times when we just don’t seem to be able to go fast enough to get “it” all done. That is certainly the case in terms of within the allotted time – of the day, and in reality – the mission. We simply have to learn that we go as fast as we can, as far as we can, doing the best that we can in the space that we have been given. And know that we are not doing it alone. Like the ant, we have to learn to balance our time and load, set the pace and go the distance as far as we can. That all seems to work out when we forget ourselves and focus on loving and teaching the people.
We discovered a Weaver-bird building a fascinating nest outside the bedroom window.
The nest hung, from our point of view, upside down with the entry from the bottom. The design and materials were fascinating. It was made with strands of 3/16ths – 1/4” stiff grass. The lengths varied from a few inches to 8-10 inches from what we could see The birds wove a globe-like structure with the entry door about 1 ½ inches and the nest about 5” wide and 6” tall. It was secured at each end. Like the ant, the weavers went about their job all day long, starting with a single drooping loop which in concert with the small ¼” branch above it, were the structural beams. Then the birds strung and wove expanding ribs of the grass bulged out from the beams to create the hollow nest. How did they learn that architectural genius anyway? Somehow it had the vision and the determination to complete the task.
Then two days later when we looked for the nest in the tree, after a strong wind and rainstorm, it was gone! We looked on the ground, in the bushes, everywhere we thought it might have fallen, but it was simply not to be found. Then we saw an amazing thing. The same birds (we assume) began again the work of building the nest in the same spot – doing it again. Why? Because that’s what Weaver Birds do.

Within two days the nest was again complete and (as you can see from the pictures) the birds we continuing the work of homebuilding. Hmmm, it took so much dedication time and they had to fly so far to get the materials and then to have their work fall apart. It had to be discouraging, but they had the focus, commitment and drive to take the time, speed up the process, build the space and now they are, it appears, building the family.
One of the great frustrations of my life has been, (continues to be), having to do things over. I want to be done with it, get past it, move ahead and go beyond where I have been. Some would call that evidence of serious impatience. I prefer to call it my compulsive goal-driven progressive movement syndrome or simply - CGDP. I mean, come on, every other human frailty gets a title and an acronym to help justify the behavior – why not my impatience?
Alas, the ant, the Weaver-birds and the missionary work all seem to require a willingness to go the distance and to do it again. I am finding out that I too must follow the pattern, in spite of the relatively slow speed I can move, I mean get others to move, either in concert with me or to get the heck out of my way (see more CGDP). Then when things just don’t seem to end up like I had planned and hoped, often requiring me to start over and do it again and again and … (you simply wouldn’t believe, or would laugh at me – though its beyond my patience to find humor in the thing at the moment). Example? Okay.
So the missionaries had arrived at the flat and crammed into the little front room space where we had rearranged the seating and brought in some plastic chairs for them all to have a seat. They had set up the two folding tables and Sister Cloward was teaching them the card game she had created (Scriptures Masters – based on a family favorite game of 5 Crowns). I am in the TINY kitchen space (7’x11’ with a tiny chest freezer, fridge, stove, washer, dryer, microwave, trash can, utility closet, small cupboards and 3’x8’ door that swings open into the kitchen…) where I had been for the better part of two days trying to juggle and balance the sequence and schedule of the cooking, making and storing process for the (I can’t even count the courses) Christmas Dinner.
Sister Cloward add: I realize that two cooks working together in a tiny kitchen isn’t copasetic, however I do love the fact that we can sing and work together and I can keep up on the clean- up much faster than in our cabin kitchen! The downside is because the kitchen is so small, I don’t get nearly as much walking exercise as I did in our cabin… I love watching my Chef Boy’r’Doug create delectables and I prefer helping him with the prep work…i.e. peeling carrots, scoring the cukes, trying to keep things cleaned up as we go…except for this legendary feast…it was a monumental feat!
The “German” in me tends to take literally what you say, not what you mean. I have a hard time differentiating the two. So it’s easier for me to have my Sweetie tell me exactly how he wants the cuke cut and scored because I believe in laissez faire. I think and cook and clean differently than my Doug and I have found that it’s easier for me to have him explain exactly what he wants done and how…but I surely LOVE eating what he creates! He’s absolutely AMAZING and has been given a gift and we have enjoyed him developing the talent and sharing it out here in Africa!!!
We had made shredded carrot, pineapple and raisin salad (one of Judy’s favorites). We had also made cucumber salad and bow-tie pasta with shrimp and fake crab (don’t try that with the made-in-China version we get here) (two of Elder C’s favs). We had broken, seasoned and dried the bread, cut and sautéed the onions, mushrooms and celery, made the chicken broth and had everything mixed the stuffing and put it in the crockpot. (We truly worked at this feast for 12+ hours!) I mean we have a tiny stove and we had placed the little turkey and ham on its only shelf in the oven. We had peeled and parboiled the potatoes, made the gravy, except for the turkey drippings.  We had peeled and stuffed the turkey with carrots, rubbed it with olive oil and garlic herb pepper and course salt and put the bird in the baking bag.
The gammon (the term here for pork shoulder, ham – either smoked or glazed – or not) we had coated it with honey and seasoned with rosemary and garlic pepper wrapped it in foil and it was also in the oven finishing its final few minutes. We had the Ouma bread (a native slightly sweet heavy white bread) sliced and ready (instead of Judy’s speedy bread rolls because, well, you know, the oven and  “space” issue). Sister Cloward had made the Malva Pudding the day before (same reason). It is a South African baked dessert served with a hot butterscotch topping and icecream.

We had torn the lettuce, cut the green onions, slipped the cilantro leaves, cut the red and yellow peppers and tomatoes for a wonderful green salad.

It was all on its way to be a very memorable feast before the missionaries would pass over it like a devouring … .
Anyway, the large shell pastas were all boiled, chilled, and used to cradle the small portabella mushroom caps (stems in the dressing remember). Then the blended butter and garlic had been put into the caps and a large escargot (shelled snail) strategically nested into the stem hole with a thin slice of mozzarella cheese laid on top for a covering. I took the turkey, overdone (Celsius is still tricky for me to figure out when it comes to baking) and the ham, I mean gammon, out of the oven and the marvelous hors d’oeuvres (try that one on a spelling bee) had replaced the bird in the nest, I mean oven, under the broiler. The “African rootbeer” (an Elder C original) (Hires extract with soda water, Sprite and sugar because there is no dry ice in all of Botswana) was icy cold in the jug.
The table was set
and we were all but ready. I might have tried all of this to the Night Before Christmas, oh well. The last thing was to finish my fresh tomato basil soup. I had picked the basil from my small garden, slipped the tomato skins, sautéed the basil in olive oil with a bit of garlic and a diced onion. I had put all that together with some fresh ground black pepper (a bit of a rarity here in Africa) and some sea salt and blended it up, leaving the tomato just a bit chunky. Then I brought it to a boil and added a pint of fresh cream (another rarity here).
I stirred it and oh the fresh basil smell, or was it the roast turkey I was carving while I waited for the boil of the soup?... anyway, something or things were causing my mouth to water. This is all sounding like the long process, like building a nest or moving a big load by now I am sure. Anyway, as I sniffed and tasted the soup – oh what a flavor!… But it just looked like the batch was a wee bit small for the hungry Elders and Sisters who were winding down on their scripture card playing due to the constant missionary pagans of near starvation. So I decided to quickly scald, peel and add a few more tomatoes add another pint of cream and extend the delight of the sure-to-be-a-winner and missionary-appreciated soup.
Everything was going fast, in the little space left to work in the kitchen where I had used, washed and used and washed about every utensil and pot we had, multiple times. I put the blender back together. It is, was, a strange Kenwood unit where the base clicked into place as did the lid as a safety mechanism – smart really – or was it? In went the tomatoes and other ingredients. It would only take another five minutes. Burrrr went the blender. I stopped it – it looked perfect.
Then I twisted the container to take it off of the safety latched base and to my horror the blade base had twisted off and as I lifted the pitcher portion, the contents spewed all over the counter, wall, the floor, the fridge, my slacks, shoes, and my pride. Then my ire ignited and my, what was that acronym?... oh yes, my CDGP flared. It’s a good thing I am a missionary otherwise I might have spoken a few words of a foreign language and it would NOT have been in Setswana. My “OH NO!” brought Sister Cloward to the doorway (good thing no missionaries peered in to see my embarrassment and anger). Then she disappeared. I could have guessed. She was headed not for a towel – for her camera.
I cut the story short here. Let’s just say that the wind had blown and the nest had toppled and there was no saving the nest, I mean additional soup.
After a quick and less-than-thorough clean-up, we were having a prayer over the food and hungry missionaries made the trip from their space, in lightning speed and descended on the food in no time at all. They were appreciative of the feast, but in retrospect and in reality, something far less would have been more than adequate and equally appreciated.

Like a big pot, no of my famous tomato-basil soup, but of Mac and Cheese and a piece of Kentucky fried Chicken (the one nearly American less than fast food here).
I won’t elaborate much on the personal learning about who I was really trying to serve in all the preparations. Nor, how I realized that I was trying to hold onto the typical Cloward family holiday feast process. However, I will share and assure you that the learning was significant. I reflected on it all night long and resolved to make my speed, space and time more meaningful with the truth that less is more in much of life and in love and service. Now perhaps that’s a blog subject for another time...Meanwhile, back to trying to feed the missionaries’ spirits…
I asked, “So, tell me, with respect to the significance we put on symbolism in the Church and in the scriptures, what are some of the symbols of Christmas and is the meaning and significance they attach to them?” Getting them refocused away from the feast and jive of just being together was a bit like turning a big ship in a small space and time. Finally, I was able to draw them into the discussion.
They identified the evergreen tree and the life everlasting parallel. The gifts of the magi, the lights and angels, the shepherds, caroling and a few other common Christmas symbols. Then I asked what could be perhaps the most universal emblem or symbol of Christmas?
Quickly the discussion focused on the Star. I asked, “So what is the symbolism of the star?” …silence. So we talked about stars and beginning with our own star, Sol, what influence it had on us. We talked about weather, tides, seasons, gravity (although that was less than a scientifically based discussion). Then we spoke about its influence on the planets and solar system. Then we considered what influence affected the sun. That led to discussion about the other stars and the Milky Way and other galaxies so far away in time and space. We talked about the size of the earth and the size of the other planets and what held them in their “space” and rotation.
Then, we talked about how sometimes we get so focused on the proximal issues and work that the significant things that have an influence on and in our lives seem to be too far away and too little understood for us to pause to consider the perspective they can provide. I then showed a video clip on the relative size of the planets, sun and stars. This served to focus our thoughts out a bit further to consider our place and placement in the grand scheme of things. 

This clip is:
(paste it into your browser to see – it is only a minute or two)
Then we talked about order and influence and creative design and the majesty of it all. Then we reflected back on the Star of Bethlehem as a reminder that Christ was the Redeemer and Savior of more than us and this world. That He was the great builder of that which our Father was the grand Architect. I asked several times throughout the discussion, “Who was this babe of Bethlehem?” “What do you know of Him and the Star that announced His arrival?”
Then to further the sense of awe and significance of His role, not just to and in this world, we considered the words of my favorite Hymn - If You Could Hie to Kolob.
If you could hie to Kolob
In the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward
With that same speed to fly,
Do you think that you could ever,
Through all eternity,
Find out the generation
Where Gods began to be?

Or see the grand beginning,
Where space did not extend?
Or view the last creation,
Where Gods and matter end?
Methinks the Spirit whispers,
"No man has found 'pure space,'
Nor seen the outside curtains,
Where nothing has a place."
The works of God continue,
And worlds and lives abound;
Improvement and progression
Have one eternal round.
There is no end to matter;
There is no end to space;
There is no end to spirit;
There is no end to race.
There is no end to virtue;
There is no end to might;
There is no end to wisdom;
There is no end to light. There is no end to union;
There is no end to youth;
There is no end to priesthood;
There is no end to truth.
There is no end to glory;
There is no end to love;
There is no end to being;
There is no death above. There
is no end to glory;
There is no end to love;
There is no end to being;
There is no death above.

We spoke of the counsel and knowledge given to Moses and Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. And we considered D & C 88 37-41 before we watched the next clip.
37 And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.
38 And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.
39 All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified.
40 For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things.
41 He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.
The clip was that of the Hubble Telescope’s view into the” Ultra-Deep-Field” where they pointed the telescope at what was considered absolutely nothing – black, empty space.

I bore a strong testimony of the Savior and the truth of who He is to all of us and of how significant we are to Him, what an incredible privilege and opportunity we have to help in just a little bit to carry the load a little way as HE hastens (speeds up) the time that will bring Him back to this space. I spoke of how little time we really have, as missionaries,  yet how much we can really do if we are sober minded, dedicated and faithfully obedient to the call, rules and Spirit’s directions.
The disaster of the big bang of the soup expansion was behind me, I really didn’t need more anyway. What I needed was the lesson, the contemplation and the commitment to be wiser and less selfish the next time. And to realize that the next time is this time – now.
We had a wonderful gift delivered a few days before Christmas from Bryndi. She had shared with us that it contained items that we could use in our work. Knowing that, we decided to open the gift before the missionaries came. What a treat! Our box was filled to the brim with wonderful items Bryndi had created that could be used not only with our work, but with the missionaries as a personal gift and sharing from us.
I am going to have Sister Cloward tell you about how we used our gift to make their gifts to go along with the popcorn balls (oh yeah, I forgot to tell about the popcorn balls and mother goose corn we made late the night before.) I won’t get into that learning… [Honey, you did a superb job following Dave McFadden’s recipe and your mother goose corn turned out to be a fav for me!...thanks for the teaching me how to make them!:)
Sweetie, this is a LONG blog, but if you insist…! J
So this is how one gift to us has become a gift to many and it will be a gift that will continue to give…
After our extremely LONG day and late night Christmas Eve preparations for our Missionary Christmas Day feasting, exhausted with being on our feet for 12+ hours, we sat on our couch looking at each other. It was nearly midnight.
We thought it would be best if we opened the box Bryndi sent us that arrived the day before (after being in transit for 6 weeks!)  to see what we could use with our missionaries on Christmas day….
When what to our wondering eyes should appear but a box FILLED to the brim with thought-filled gifts for the Sisters and Elders and US. It was packed full with items we could all share with the missionaries. What a blessing it was for us that evening, bringing us peace to our hectic day and buoying us up for the morrow.
Her box contained 2 Christmas Stockings stuffed with individually wrapped red, green and white lifesaver mints (which we were able to use for the Sister who would not receive a package from home) and the following items:
Bryndi had made small 2”x3” cards missionaries could carry in your pocket or wallet with “When you Know you Have the Spirit” and on the opposite side, “When you Know you Don’t Have the Spirit” lists taken from the August 1978 Ensign. What she didn’t know is that we knew she was inspired to send us exactly what we needed to read and use that night! It gave us greater hope for a brighter day and helped chase our shadows away.
Bryn had also made us colorful laminated bookmarks that read: “FORGET YOURSELF and go to work” on the front and on the back was a great quote from President Benson about work. It put a BIG smile on my face to see them and I knew the missionaries would enjoy using them. I then saw custom-made a half sheets entitled “The Devil’s Workshop” and I started to weep. Bryn had taken my grandmother’s train ride experience and made it into a perfect read for Elder C ‘n’ me that night to help us remember Satan’s tools he uses with the missionaries. What transpired nearly 100 years ago will continue to change lives because she took the time to replicate her story for us.
She also made some zebra-striped pocket-sized cards for us to carry with a darling him and her missionary [and put a BIG smile on Sister Cloward’s face when I saw them!] that read: ”Note from Elder and Sister Cloward”—a great way for us to acknowledge our S&I teachers and missionaries and others who have touched our lives! Plus some amazing custom postcards with great Bryndi camera shots and some small spiral bound custom-made booklets that contained a story my father told about the seed that moved a mountain…a great read with a powerful message about the power of “one.” [Thanks Marin for doing a great job on the pictures for the booklet!] I was weeping when I read it that night and again as I read it to the missionaries Christmas day. When I look at the cover and I’m filled with love and awe and wonder at how the Spirit can work in and through us to bless lives an ocean and continent apart…
We were able to share Bryndi’s “gifts” with the Mission President, his wife and our Mission Office couple, to hand out to the missionaries they were hosting Christmas day as well as the MLS couple in Namibia who also were hosting missionaries.
Our Christmas Eve truly became brighter and merrier with her card and package that helped to make our “gifts” for the Elders and Sisters we entertained, possible! It amazes me how we can be an ocean apart and her box arrived (after being 6 weeks in transit) 2 days before Christmas, just in the “Nic” of time…we were able to sleep and realize that Bryndi was the instrument in God’s hands for us that night. Bless you Brynni Boo for following your impressions! Your gifts will continue to give and change lives.
We have truly been blessed to be in Africa and realize that our Refiner is just beginning His work in us as we discover how to further His work among our brothers and sisters here… We would love to have any who read this blog to consider joining us in this blessing and adventure of a lifetime…
[Note: If sending us a box, make sure all the edges are reinforced with packing tape. 6 weeks in transit is a long time and the box will pass through many hands as it speeds on its way to go the distance to arrive at our space – in time.]
Thanks sweetie, I mean Sister Cloward, and thanks again Bryndi. The week before we had a wonderful experience with another baptism in Molepolole,
had more visits by other birds, bugs and a couple of small toads that inflated themselves. The Mission Christmas divisional and dinner was fun with skits and our beans, rice, brownies and cilantro-lime dressing to go with the Gublers and Sister Wilson’s bar-bacoa pork and fresh greens (just iceberg here) to provide the missionaries with a Café Rio-like meal.


The weather has cooled down with recent rain and the bush and desert has greened up. We are still hoping and praying for good news regarding the immigration/residency challenge we are facing. Hopefully they will figure it out soon (we have passed our 90-days visitor visa as have many, if not most of the other missionaries). The government and Mission leaders are working through things and we trust that it will be resolved sooner than later – that alone will be a miracle. Not just ants move slow with big loads.
We miss the family especially at this time of year when we are together and sharing in each others love, gifts and voices. But, the speed that things are going will shorten the distance and time and we will soon be missing our friends and loved ones here in Botswana when we return for Christmas 2015.
Much love to all our family, friends and readers. I sincerely hope that Santa did not bring you a Kenwood blender. If he did take my advice and glue the base to the picture portion before to discover your own CGDP.
More next year (week).