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Saturday, June 09, 2018

Token of the world's remedy---

That line appears in a poem by Thomas Wolfe, found in a book of his poetry Julia picked up in a delightfully dusty and disorganized used book store here in Salt Lake City.  He's writing about his lover dancing in the crook of his arm.  But human love, romantic and familial, truly does function that way.  A token, a downpayment, of the redemption that is remedying all that is broken.
surveying my kind of feast, courtesy of Luke's photo

The last month has been beautifully full of such remedy.

So full, in fact, so fully in our view and in our arms, that we've been out of the communication loop almost entirely.  And so much has happened, this will only be a token sample of gratefulness.

Hosting celebrations

After Julia's grad, we spent the days between Duke and UVA ceremonies at our family farm in West Virginia hosting friends of the kids.  Bike rides, river dips, tubing, gardening, cooking and more cooking, hikes and pizza, long discussions and games around the table.  Throughout May we had numerous kids for a few days at a time, sharing the wonder of WV and adding to the family.

Luke's housemates, a real community through med school

Luke's graduation

Both grandmothers, my sister Janie and nephew Joshua, and 3 of the 4 siblings plus Abby plus a Congolese refugee who works as a janitor at UVA hospital whom Luke befriended, joined us for another weekend of marking this milestone.  33&34 years after our UVA college graduations, we sweltered through a festive weekend of our son's medical school graduation.  Who would have dreamed?  Now we are a three-doc family.  Very grateful to God, and very thankful to Dr. Luke for his perseverance, integrity, passion, values, community, scholarship.  He presented his first research poster and power-point at a Global Surgery conference in Toronto the week after.

Family celebrating Dr. Luke!

Baluku Morris, one of the Kule Leadership Ugandan Med students we sponsored, and Luke at the same Global Surgery meeting in Toronto!

Cross-country Marathon

As May turned the corner to June, we departed the farm and began a cross-country trek.  We're over 2000 miles into the 3000 mile journey to Seattle (from whence we will fly to Anchorage to see Caleb), then we have to come all the way back.  Luke's Honda CRV easily held his limited earthly possessions for his move to Salt Lake City, plus Julia's Prius rocking the gas milage and bringing the rest of the family and camping gear. Along the way we stopped in on Abby plus a few relatives and friends, certainly not everyone we could have as this trip included at least one 17-hour driving day, aiming for distance over depth.  Still it was a plus to see my aunt and uncle, and Scott's aunt, who are all in their mid-to-late 80's, doing well, to hug cousins, and to reconnect with some of the kids' friends.
Luke's car with all he owned, plus one borrowed bike, the morning we left

Julia and the Prius, before the windshield crack that spread slowly across mirroring our progress across the USA

Dropped in on Jack's room mate from Duke's family . . 

And my Uncle Joe, Aunt Patsy, and cousin Janet . . 

Plus Scott's Aunt Lyn and family . . 

And our dear friends the Bolthouses.

America the Beautiful

To keep sane in our dozens of car hours, we have camped or hiked in a few lovely places.  The Rockies (CO), Arches NP (UT), and Canyonlands NP (UT) so far.  Our experience of the American West is fairly limited, so we have reveled in the scale of the vista, the color palette of rocks, the clarity of the sky, the bright specks of wild flowers.  So far our sightings include two moose, numerous elk, marmots, chipmunks, squirrels, hawks, thrushes, various lizzards, and a bull snake that Scott nearly stepped on.  My maternal agoraphobia has been pretty intense.  (stay tuned for Scott to add better photos here . . )

Utah's symbol, the iconic Delicate Arch in Arches NP

Ten thousand feet up in the Rockies

I used to be tall. Sweet times with Julia.

A New Home for Luke

Tuesday afternoon we reached Salt Lake City, home to University of Utah's Orthopedic Surgery training program where Luke will begin his residency on June 22.  He signed a lease for a small but bright studio apartment, and we've spent the last three days learning the ins and outs of procuring reasonably priced home essentials in this city. Ikea nearly sent some of us into full blown catatonic mental overload, and it took us a while to figure out that all the grocery stores here are called "Smith's" (as in Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism).   But we made it to the weekend with a bed, table, couch, and two chairs in place, plus a broom, some pans, sheets and pillows, and most importantly, a way to make coffee.  He has electricity, gas, and internet set up.  And on breaks from scouring the city (checking used furniture stores off our list when the chairs were priced like pieces of art . . . or realizing his small studio's inches of counter-space won't accommodate a dish-drying rack . . . ) we were treated to tickets to see the US National Women's Soccer team play an international friendly against China, and the local MLS team Real Salt Lake (a friend Luke played soccer with at UVA is now working for the Royals here in SLC), and we drove half an hour into the mountains east of the city for a spectacular (steep and exhausting though!) hike to an alpine lake fed by glacier-covered peaks.  Salt Lake City has been surprisingly fun city so far, and we are thankful for Luke's opportunity here.

Meanwhile, Myhre's crossing oceans

C. finished his 9-month combat deployment to Afghanistan and long-delayed trek back to the USA, landing in Anchorage a week ago.  We are so thankful for his safe return, and can't wait to see him IN THREE DAYS.  It's been over a year.  Jack began the cross-country drive with us, but flew to Burundi a week ago.  Literally he lifted off US soil one hour after C. landed on US soil.  He'll be working with the Kibuye team engineer Caleb Fader as they prepare for a team coming to install a massive solar array to power the hospital there.

The 1rst Lt. last night at his battalion's welcome home ball

Missing Jack already.  Thankful he could celebrate with Luke, and travel the first legs of this journey with us.  But a little sad that the six of us won't be together at one time this year (last time was Christmas 2016).

And life goes on

As we drive and engage, shop and cook, focus and listen here in the USA these two months . . . we also continue with phone calls, emails, zoom meetings, reports, plans for our teams in East and Central Africa.  Two hopeful and productive recruiting calls, many hour-long mentoring calls with leaders of 8 of our 11 teams plus a few others, personal meetings with supporters, speaking at our key supporting church, face-to-face retreat planning with our invited speaker, and more.  Sliding across American time zones while trying to connect with African ones can be challenging; the new reality that our family life and work life now have almost no overlap brings its own aches.  Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Congo, South Sudan, and Malawi are never far from our awareness.

So, the world still needs remedy.  We need it as our rough edges of sin and self grate on each other in dozens of hours cooped up in cars, in the grinding gears of being a family after years of kids being independent adults.  Our world needs it this week as would-be immigrants have their toddlers taken away from them wailing, as lava flowed across Hawaii, as our Serge team in Nicaragua faced roadblocks and forced evacuation, as Ebola continued to spread in the DRC, as our new team leaders for Litein landed into immediate sickness and infestation and exhaustion trials.  But we look for tokens that the remedy comes.  That Jesus heals, reunites, celebrates.  And we see those tokens in the profusion of wildflowers and the graciousness of ordinary people who love us so well.

Aspens in Utah

Salt Lake City Saturday Farmer's Market this morning

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Her name is Julia Kathleen Myhre . .

 . . .and she's now a graduate of Duke University.  About seven years ago, we first visited the Duke campus with Caleb, passing through on the LAST possible day for college tours as we were working our way down the coast.  Caleb liked Duke, but it was Julia tagging along who came away from the day saying "I want to go to school here."  When she decided to apply a couple years later, not all her high school team believed in her chances.  But one thing about Julia, when she makes up her mind, she can work and lean into the hard.  And so four years ago we were carting her belongings up three stories in a quaint but non-air-conditioned no-elevator dorm for her college adventures to begin.  She found her niche in the intersection of environmental policy, cultural anthropology, and global health.  She tested water quality in Alabama on an environmental justice research project.  She worked on the Duke Campus Farm towards a sustainable food chain, volunteered with senior citizens and church preschoolers, joined the leadership team for her Christian fellowship, catalogued rare seeds and studied the impact of grazing on indigenous plants in Jordan, studied Arabic and worked with an arts internship in Morocco, completed a comparative global health semester abroad in India, South Africa, and Brazil.  She played intramural soccer and tennis, camped out for Cameron tickets the year Duke won the national championship, made pottery, went camping and to the beach.  She baked cookies and encouraged younger students, cultivated friendships with multicultural beauty, drove hundreds of miles to be with brothers and other family.  And she wrote papers and took exams and came out with honors, in the top fifth of all Duke undergrads.

So today we wrapped up a weekend of celebrating this gift, the gift Julia has been and will be to the world, and the gift she received in this 4-year banquet of opportunities.  She grabbed them and worked hard to make the most of them, and we are so happy for her.  Person after person who had spent time as her teacher or mentor or friend smiled at us and told us stories of her impact.  She will be missed in Durham.

After a few family travels she'll start a Fellows Program in Greensboro NC, where she will be mentored in the integration of work and faith as she works part-time in her field of environmental action and food, takes theology classes, and volunteers in the Church of the Redeemer.  

We are grateful for the vast community of former teachers, team-mates, cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents, friends from Uganda and Kenya, soccer and tennis and basketball and volleyball coaches, church leaders, supporters who have all brought us this far.  Wish you could have all breezed through this weekend with us.  Here are some highlights:
  • Julia treated her grandmothers and her mom (me!) to a lovely lunch for an early mother's day.
  • Luke was on point, with logistics and icy drinks and cheer and help throughout the long weekend, keeping the focus on what-does-Julia-want.  Plus both grandmothers, my sister Janie, most of Julia's Biggerstaff cousins.
  • We put together a party for about 40-some people with a Costco run and some decorations at a pavilion on the farm where she worked.  She invited friends and their families to come out, and the atmosphere was lovely, bees and flowers and vegetables, abundant food and drink, conversations and a setting sun.
  • Parties for other friends where we dropped in to meet people, and another party hosted by the Duke Farm managers for the 5 seniors who worked there.
  • A church service at Blacknall, where Julia attended and volunteered.  Her pastor preached powerfully to the graduates, challenging them to pursue courage over clarity.  He talked about the disciples in the storm on the boat, and how most of our plans and lives do not move in clear and predictable directions.  To follow Jesus we need courage!
  • A Baccalaureate service where the Rev. Luke Powery (Dean of the Duke Chapel) preached another powerful, relevant, bold, hopeful message on the life of Jacob.  He talked about life in America, and challenged the students with the truth that life will bring wounds and difficulty and that is where we meet God.
  • A Departmental graduation with the Environmental Science faculty, where Julia received her diploma, and we met her advisor and enjoyed seeing the educational spaces and a reception with other students and family.
  • A dinner with grandmothers and a couple of her close friends at a hip restaurant with menu items we had to google to understand.
  • And of course, the main event, the massive commencement ceremony on a 90+ degree pounding sun day in the football stadium, where Tim Cook enjoined the graduates to not accept the status quo, to keep searching for better solutions.
Duke has been a provision of grace for us.  And so has Julia.

Friday, May 04, 2018

MAY in VIRGINIA: nothing better . . .

May is a big month for Myhres, and many of those milestones happened in Virginia.  As our 31rst anniversary approaches, we have landed in Charlottesville ahead of Luke's graduation from med school and Julia's from college, and Caleb's return (we pray) at the end of the month from his deployment.  One day we were in Naivasha, knee deep in the struggle to resuscitate babies and protect moms.  Suddenly the next day we are here in the full Spring of blooming dogwood and azaleas, waking in the early morning to hear birds from our childhood.  Robins, cardinals, blue jays, red-winged blackbirds and scarlet tanagers.  Hot days and blue-ridge sunsets.

After months and years of distance (Luke left home for boarding school ten years ago at age 15), we revel in the rare privilege of a few days to run errands, pack up a house, talk, cook together, ride bikes, make coffee.  In fact it may be the most undivided parental attention he's had since Caleb was born.  After a year of a difficult surgery and recovery, the stress of the match, the culmination of a challenging medical school stretch . . . we are just delighting in this young man.

Biking to Monticello

Bike repairs at the Community Bike Shop

Sunset at the Vineyards

Meeting friends at Lampo's, Luke's favorite C'ville restaurant

Morning coffee in the yard

Blue Ridge Sunset

Tomorrow our 3 days in C'ville come to an end, and we head up to Vienna, VA.  We will speak at Sunday School at 10:15 am Sunday at Grace OPC (2381 Cedar Lane), the church in which I was raised and where we are all members, the church that has been disproportionately generous in supporting us for all these years. Our talk , "Walking through the Rift Valley:  Dark Days and a Billion Reasons to Hope" will share about our work with Serge as Area Directors and as doctors in Naivasha, Kenya. All are welcome!

The next two weeks will be immersed in celebrating the two graduations with both our moms and my sister too, moving people from Charlottesville and Durham to West Virginia and back several times, helping both Luke and Julia pack up and move on to their next phases of life.  In June we will drive all the way across the country, moving Luke into his newly rented studio apartment in Salt Lake City then welcoming Caleb back from Central Asia, visiting his home in Alaska, and returning to West Virginia in time for our Aylestock family reunion before we return to Kenya in early July.

Nothing matches the bright green of the Virginia spring, the return to a place full of memories and meaning for us.  We are grateful for this time.