Letter from Fr Blaine

O Night Divine, O night when Christ was born

Hi, all. Elizabeth and Blaine and Mochajava are in a sort of holding place this Christmas season. Blaine’s father, Blaine G., has moved to a retirement home. Meanwhile, Elizabeth and Blaine both retired, Blaine from St. Andrew’s Church in Ben Lomond, CA and Elizabeth from St. Phillip’s Church in Scotts Valley, CA, after retiring from mental health counseling years back. Since we didn’t have a place to go when we left California in July, we were encouraged by family members to come and stay in Dad’s houseboat – so here we are for the immediate future. Dad is going to sell the houseboat one day soon, probably in the spring, so we continue our search for a place to land. We are grateful for this residence but missing the 80 to 90% of our stuff which is in storage.

Meanwhile, we have become reacquainted with St. Luke’s Church in Ballard, which was once a center of the Charismatic Renewal when Fr. Dennis Bennet was the Rector. It is now a mission, with Canon Britt Olson as the Vicar. St. Luke’s went through a very down period but is now rebuilding and renewing again, in a different way, with a very strong minis-try to the homeless in Ballard who have increased to a multitude. There is quite a collection of clergy and others with theological educations in the congregation. The church offers free breakfast five days a week (Edible Hope), and also houses a program called The Bridge, which offers some housing, a clothes closet and a daytime place for rest and recreation such as television. St. Luke’s also has beehives on their roof – they sell the honey to fund Edible Hope – as well as a community gar-den and water-saving cisterns.

Blaine wasn’t retired for very long before Bishop Greg Rickel said he wanted to form a Homeless Task Force, and Blaine felt a strong push to volunteer. The Task Force hasn’t done much so far, we’ve only had two meetings, but Blaine feels it is a good place to spend time and effort.

Both Elizabeth and Blaine have had to deal with a transfer of medical care to this area, and Blaine found that an occasional pain he has been experiencing for a long time is a hernia that has to be operated on. That will happen on January 3. Elizabeth has been going through a persistent leg pain and has been frustrated in at-tempts to solve that problem. It has really impacted her ability to get around.

Our return to the Pacific Northwest has meant that we can get together again with family. We went to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island for son-in-law Michael Hammond-Todd’s graduation party for his PhD in August. We also went to Salem, OR for a revisiting of the family Thanksgiving celebration, though Blaine’s sister Malana and her husband Steve are in Ketchikan, and niece Amy and her husband Ryan have moved to New Zealand. We missed their presence. We also hosted a ceremony to commit the ashes of Solweig, Blaine R.’s step-mother, to the waters of Portage Bay. Solweig’s daughter Paula and her husband Thomas were visiting from England and thus able to take part.
Daughter Dawn continues to work on finishing a Bachelor’s in Nursing as she also continues to work as an RN and home-school our granddaughter Olivia. Elizabeth is working with Dawn on her assignments and Blaine and Elizabeth are taking a turn teaching Olivia, who is a joy.

Dawn’s husband Bob has been looking for work after many years working for the same man, who has now retired. Bob has some hopeful contacts going on right now.
Sheila and Michael are now faced with Michael having an upcoming position in the States, which means they will have time apart. But he will be commuting home every few weeks. Granddaughter Huckleberry is still in college, but being a part of our family means she has learned some tools to deal with the difficulties of that lifestyle
Dad is still clipping along at 95 and there’s no reason he can’t keep clipping. He didn’t like leaving the houseboat but he has made friends and become part of the community at Vine-yard Park in Mountlake Terrace, which has the advantage of being a very short distance from Blaine’s sister Beth and her husband Howard’s home. Beth and Howard are now in England visiting their daughter Mindy who has moved there for a work opportunity.

We are now geographically closer to Elizabeth’s brothers and sisters-in-law than we have been in many years. That may mean some visiting in days to come. We do miss the opportunity to get together with niece Angel and her wife Han-nah who live in Santa Cruz. Without their help our moving process would have been far more difficult.
It is strange not having a job to go to but it is also nice to get up when we want to and look out the window at Portage Bay. St. Andrew’s Church in Ben Lomond gave us a rowboat, built by some of the members, as a retirement gift and we have enjoyed it greatly. Blaine bought an electric outboard motor which is nice for trolling. Fall came on strong before he got to use the motor more than twice, but he is anxious for spring to get it going again. But rowing is a deep pleasure all by itself.

We are experiencing the wet and cold of the Pacific Northwest as returning natives who got used to a dryer climate for a while; the wetter winters in the Santa Cruz Mountains backed off for drought for all but one of the past several years.
Sadly, we returned to Washington with only one of the two dogs we left with when we moved to California. Yoshi died on Thanksgiving Day, 2017, but Mochajava, though she is going on 12 years old, continues to be lively and energetic, and makes more friends faster than we humans do.

We come to the Feast of the Nativity as retired people for the first time ever. That doesn’t mean there is nothing to do. Blaine will sing and play guitar. He will be singing O Holy Night again this year. His Mother, Eloise, sang it for a Christmas play the first time he heard it. Not only did he fall in love with the song, it is a memory connection with his mom.

Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.

How many the needs, how many the desperate and hungry, how important it is to remember our common humanity with all those whose fears and oppression cry out for our attention. The heart-breaking pictures from Yemen join the unbroken miles of ruins in Syria. The asylum seekers at our border challenge our desire to remain comfortable and unchallenged. It is difficult to keep up with the numbers of wars going on right now, partly because much of the U.S. news media seems uninterested in them. The crisis of homelessness throughout North America is in our face every day. How tempting to push it all away and not open our-selves up to the pain. But to visit the manger is to accept and em-brace the pain, and also the Love that offers solace and relief.

Behold, your King, before him lowly bend.
Behold, your King, before him lowly bend.

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