31 December 2009

Ceara at 6 months

Here are some photos of Ceara at 6 months - We hope that you enjoy them!

02 December 2009

Leaving Latvia and walking by faith

Two weeks from this moment (17.Dec. 5.20am) we will find ourselves in the Riga airport saying goodbye to Latvia.

We have spent the last two months in serious prayer and discernment, and we believe God is calling us on from Latvia at this point in time - to where and for what we do not know. We believe this is the most faithful decision we can make. We do know that we will spend Christmas with Courtney's family in Portland, which is where her sister lives. After that, well...

The book of Numbers (ch.9) tells of a cloud pillar that guided Israel in their journey to the Promise Land. The cloud would settle, and they would settle. The cloud would lift and move, and they would pack up and move. The text does not tell us anything about their response beyond obedience. Yet I can imagine the voices. (Maybe because in part we are all of us Israel journeying on to a promise, yet with our own thoughts, plans, virtues and vices.) "Can we move on already, why are we still here?" "What do you mean we have to move we just got settled and familiar with the surroundings?" "Can't we stop? I'm tired." "Yes, another day in this place." "Woohoo, it's time to get moving!" etc...

Proverbs 3:5 advises, "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not rely on your own understanding."

Isaiah 55 reminds us of an aspect of God: "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways above your ways and My thoughts beyond your thoughts."

We do not know to where we are going, yet we firmly believe that God is faithful and good. We will attempt to continue the blog with random thoughts and also future plans.

Please pray that we can transition well and that we can worship in this time.

27 November 2009

I have wanted to write this entry for a while...

A prayer of mine this past year has been to know God's love in deeper ways. I'm not sure what I expected when I first started praying this. I don't know if I thought I would feel a big hug, deep comfort, bubbly giddiness, etc. I just started praying.

As I have reflected on the year I see that God answered unexpectedly. I experienced a deepened understanding of the unconditional love of God, especially through realizing how conditional my love is. There are quite a few instances of my love's limits. I find it easier to love people when they are total strangers and I have no performance by which to judge them. I find it easier to love people when they are eager to serve and obedient and kind. I find it easier to love people when they tell the truth. I find it easier to love people when they listen to others and seek understanding. I find it easier to love people when pride, power, and posturing is not an issue. The list goes on and on. I'm sure you can add a few of your own.

Basically, I seem to love people when they perform well, treat me and others well and with respect, and are generally perfect in all their endeavors.

The problem is that we don't live perfectly all of the time and neither do the people we interact with on a daily basis.

Yet God's unconditional love reaches and is offered to all of these people - including you and me. How many times do I tell God that I know better, that my way is good, that I'll get around to what God asks of me in my own sweet time...

I think of how the Gospels portray Jesus. He spent time with the outcast, the beleaguered, oppressed, etc. His love offered compassion, healing, hope, and also challenge. He comforted them, and he challenged them to love in return through forgiveness, grace, and hospitality. He also spoke with those who marginalized, oppressed, and maltreated others. While his words seem challenging, judgmental, and caustic, these were meant to call these people to renewal and transformation. His love didn't coddle the abuse and tell them that they were okay and that their words and actions didn't really matter. Rather, he told them that what they did and said effected all those around them. He reminded both groups that they belonged to a larger 'family' than just their family or friends like them. He demonstrated that love may look different to different people in different circumstances. He reiterated that God has chosen to love all people, and therefore they were to love all and not only those of their choosing.

I learned of God's love by being reminded of who we are to love (everyone - even the ones we would rather right off, dismiss, and other wise ignore), why we are to love (because God has offered love to us in spite of ourselves because loves comes from God and is not earned by our success - or lost by our shortcomings and/or failures), and by what power we can do this (because on my own it is impossible, yet God has offered to help us).

When I started I didn't know where it would end. I just wanted to reflect how I learned of God's love through my failings to love and experiencing God's grace and love towards me in spite of my shortcomings.

Snow Day, Tropical Storm, T-Day, and Rolling Over

Ceara has experienced many firsts these past 6 weeks.
She went to America for the first time.
She met her cousins, aunts, and uncles for the first time, along with her two great-grandmothers and her one great-grandfather. AWESOME!
She attended her first wedding.
She experienced her first snow storm (in Colorado) in which nearly all schools closed for the day. The snow was taller than she was!
She went out in rain resulting from a tropical storm (or did it become a hurricane??) in NC.
She enjoyed her first Thanksgiving - she even ate an extra bottle!
And today, Ceara rolled over unassisted for the first time, and second, and third, and fourth...well, now whenever we lay her down on her back she turns to her tummy. She's smiling at me right now as I right this.
Ceara lit up many faces and delighted crowds.

We felt truly blessed by our time in the US with friends, families, and colleagues supporting and encouraging us.

We thank God for the prayers and support of so many. We thank God for this wonderful blessing of a baby girl.

08 September 2009

Racapturing the Wonder

We came down to Wesley Camp on Sunday for a few days. Nothing is going on here - Well, at least no program, no event, no set schedule. What is going on here? Well, the apples are dropping from the trees. The birds are in full chorus. You can walk around outside and hear the waves crashing on the shore through the trees. We came down at Court's suggestion. She thought (and I fully agree!) that we need to recapture the wonder of this place. This summer we had different people comment on the beauty of this place, on the holiness they felt here, on the ways they encounter God here... yet most of the time, I could see only work still needing to be done, I could hear only criticism, and I could feel only hurt. I need to recapture the wonder of this place.
I collected about 15 ripe plums from one full branch this morning with plans to get a ladder and collect more this evening. Court has cleaned out the fridges after a summer of use (and leftovers...some of the items were unidentifiable, to say the least!). Yesterday she did some weeding around a new garden spot. I did some work on the old pump house, on a drain off the large building, and more prep work on the new parking area. We cleaned and prepared for a small group who will have a retreat this weekend. We feel good about this place. We thank God for this place.
We thank God for our little girl who amazes us with her smile, her cooing, her sleeping, her bubble blowing...
We still have a long way to go with healing (more on that in another blog, I hope) yet these past few days have been a blessing.

18 July 2009


not quite sure how to start this one... This summer I am experiencing that process of being broken - and I hope it is for the process of rebuilding and renewal... I hope. It's is never fun, but in God's way and time it is always good. Part of it comes from being apart from my wife and daughter; part of it comes from not be able to communicate fully and the ensuing misunderstandings; part of it comes from trying to forge a new way and meeting resistance because it is not the old way; and part of it comes because I still have much learning and growing to do... I am trying to learn, yet I think I may only do so in retrospect - which makes the present breaking down super hard.
"But I know that my redeemer lives..." I will not be abandoned. I will not be left in pieces. In that truth of God's faithfulness I can hope.

4 weekCeara update

Ceara was born 4 weeks ago. At her doctor visit yesterday she weighed in at almost 9 lbs! She is getting big and yet I have only had the chance to see her and Courtney for 5 days... I miss them. Court said that all things with the baby are going well - she eats, sleeps, and fills her diaper the way a healthy newborn should. Woohoo! Court's parents were here for the first week of Ceara's life, and my mom came out to help Court with the past two weeks. Even though I only got to see her for a day, we are soooo glad that she could come on a last minute notice to play Nonna (Italian for grandma) and to help Court.
Please pray for us as we still have quite a few days apart before we can spend time together.

20 June 2009

Introducing Ceara Louise Randall

We welcome with joy and thanksgiving Ceara Louise Randall who was born on 20.June.2009 at 3.25am EEST (Eastern European Sunlight Time). She was 3.575kg (about 7lb. 13oz.) and 56cm (about 22 inches). Courtney is healthy. Ceara is healthy. Pictures will be posted in the next few days.

so, how did it happen? Dan went to the camp in Liepaja on the 17th because Summer Staff Training started on the 18th. Courtney had a doctor's appointment on the 19th so they could look at the baby and decide what to do. Courtney went thinking they would induce on Monday, the 22nd, if the baby didn't come naturally before then. Well, at this appointment on the 19th, the doctor decided they should induce immediately. Meanwhile Dan is doing errands in Liepaja for the camp with plans to return to Riga Monday morning. Courtney phones at 9.45am - "They are inducing labor now. You have a few hours, but come when you can." Dan arrives in Riga at 5.30pm. Courtney is walking around, yet becoming more and more uncomfortable - her lower back really started hurting. She gets an epidural around 7.45pm. She fully dialates around 11.30pm. The pushing starts around 1.15am. Ceara is born at 3.25am.
The mid-wife and the doctor did a fantastic job - we thank God for their skill and their compassion.
While we are healthy, we are also very tired - so hopefully more thoughts will come later.

16 June 2009

...and the wait continues...

well - today the doctor said that the baby is healthy in the belly and Courtney is healthy and therefore we will wait another few days... so we continue to wait...

07 June 2009

No Baby Yet

Hello - Yep, this is the place to check for baby news, yet, as of now, no baby. We will keep this place updated with baby news. Please keep praying for us as we await Peanut's arrival.

28 May 2009

a day of cultural history (pt.1)

On Sunday our friends, Rihards and Ieva, invited us to visit an outdoor museum in Riga that has buildings from the four historic regions of Latvia. We walked in fantastic weather and enjoyed a nice cultural history lesson. The windmills, living quarters, barns, churches, etc... fascinated us. We thought we would post some pictures for you to enjoy, too.
two of the windmills we saw...

our friends

Courtney, Dan, and Peanut
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a day of cultural history (pt.2)

These two churches are from different regions of Latvia. The interior photos come from the octagonal church. The tall, slender church is a Russian Orthodox church. It was neat to compare these with the one in the next post.
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a day of cultural history (pt.3)

This church from the 18th Century had paintings covering the ceiling reminding me of frescoes in some of the cathedrals in Rome. Notice the candle holder on the pulpit - I think it would weird me out to preach with that arm coming out of the wall.
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Getting Ready for Summer

We are getting ready for summer -both at Wesley Camp and in our family. As you can see from the photos, we finally found a stroller! I call it the transformer, because it starts out in bassinet mode - complete with a removable bassinet carrier, and then can be adjusted to hold a child up to 3 years of age... it's really cool, and I wheel it around the apartment practicing, which makes Courtney laugh. It also comes with winter coverings so we can walk around with Peanut in the snow.

The kitchen remodeling at Wesley Camp is progressing nicely. Three guys - Gatis, Romans, and Kaspars - have worked for the past few weeks and hopefully it will be finished by the time our first camp happens at the end of June! They have added a toilet, sink, and changing room, installed a pass-through window, replaced the rotting wooden beam with a steel one, tiled the floor and walls, and replaced the interior door to the dining room.

Please keep our family and Wesley Camp in your prayers as we are excited, yet don't know what to expect in the weeks to come!
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11 May 2009

In Memory of Bill Van Buren

The Passing of a Dear Friend - Bill Van Buren

The communion cup was a wedding gift from Bill Van Buren. He was the founding member of the L'Arche Daybreak community near Toronto, Canada. He came to live at Daybreak when he was 16 and he passed away a little over a week ago at the age of 56.

The summer before Dan and I married I lived in the Green House at Daybreak with Bill and others. For those of you not familiar with the L'Arche Community - it is a place of community and hospitality where people with disabilities live in community with others. I was invited to come and live in the Green House to serve as part of Duke Divinity's Center of Reconciliation Summer Internships. It was a summer of transformation and one of unconditional love which will forever be imprinted in my mind and my heart.

Bill was one of the first people to welcome me into the Green House. He greeted me with a joke - which he would repeat many times throughout the summer - "How do you make holy water?" he would ask.
"You boil the h--- out of it."
No matter how many times he said that joke to me or others it would be followed by his deep and loud laughter. As guests would come through the house that summer his jokes eased the initial tension of welcoming the stranger. He was also on the lookout for new jokes, too, but never tired from his familiar ones.

I will never forget the first time I was asked to lead a morning devotion in the Daybreak community. I had no idea what to expect - I had lead devotions before but felt very vulnerable and out of my league leading devotions with people with disabilities. What do I say? How do I communicate the gospel? How do I share? I spent a lot of time praying about it and trying to think through different approaches. I finally decided upon talking about the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. What I wanted to address was not only what Jesus said but the manner in which he said it - "Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him." (Matthew 5:1) Bill had decided that morning to join me for the devotion. Having just injured his leg he had to be pushed in a wheelchair to the chapel. I began the devotion with a bit of timidness in my voice and felt at first I was not understood. So I paused - at that moment Bill stepped in and we began the process of leading/sharing together. I think Bill understood my hesitancy and felt like he could share with the teachings also. So we went back and forth sharing about how Jesus taught by sitting among us and what that means with our faith. It was so natural for us to go back and forth with the lesson - almost as if we had prepared beforehand together - but we hadn't. Yet, I believe Bill had a sense about others' discomfort and fragileness. He could tell when some one was going to break. It came from a place I believe of living out his own fragileness that helped him identify with others. What we did together that morning was simply God's glory revealed. It was not my words or Bill's words but the joined voice that allowed us to share the gospel. That morning we shared, with eachother and the others gathered, the glory of God's love through Christ who came among us and sat with us.

It wasn't until I returned to Duke that following semester that I read for the first time "In the Name of Jesus" by Henri Nouwen in which he shares the story of giving a speech together with Bill Van Buren. I cried all the way through the book - for I too had experienced a sense of togetherness that summer which I will not forget. Bill would not leave you stranded. He enjoyed doing things together with others and took that charge very seriously.

It was often over a game of dominos before dinner that Bill would share stories about his life - his trips to Germany and some of his harder moments. Yet he did not stray away from talking about difficult things. Sometimes his brutal honestly could be shocking, but I came to realize he did not intend to hide the joy or pains of life. I appreciated his willingness to be vulnerable because it called me to confront a lot of my own vulnerability and shortcomings. It was a summer of conviction and forgiveness - both within the Green House and within myself.

Bill was a gift from God for those who knew him and loved him. An encoutner with Bill left people changed. It changed me and for that I am grateful. The communion cups pictured above have people with outstretched arms as if to embrace all of life - it is an image of Bill taking in the stranger and making them the neighbor through a shared joke or a common story - reflecting the love offered in the embracing arms of Christ.
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Where Did April Go?

Okay, we are almost halfway through May and I'm trying to figure out where April went. Court and I have had full schedules - good things. We have still been taking a Sabbath day each week - what a gift in the midst of things to rest, worship, and be refreshed.
Court took me out for lunch at a nice restaurant on Thursday for my birthday - and she bought me a new shirt for the occasion. The lilacs are blooming so we paused for a photo of peanut, the shirt, and the lilacs.

Courtney's brother, Todd, came to visit during Easter, and we had a great time hanging out, building baby furniture (a crib and changing table), coloring eggs, and walking through Riga.

For the 4 Sundays in April I was in 4 different congregations in 3 different countries. Todd actually arrived in Europe the week before he came to Riga, and I met him in Paris for a few days and then we went to Rome briefly before coming to Riga. I had a chance to worship in the American Church in Paris on Palm Sunday - almost three years since I had last worshiped with that congregation. What an amazing restorative few days in Paris. I thank God for a few friends with whom I was able to reconnect and share the past few years. Todd also came with Courtney and me to the Easter service we led for one of the smaller congregations who met in the kitchen of the lay leader.

The week after Easter I attended worship in a Lithuanian Methodist congregation, and it was the last official duty of Bishop Olsen who has been a great encouragement to Courtney and me these past 18 months.
While I was in Lithuania, Courtney organized an event for the youth called 24-hours of Service with youth from various congregations participating. What an amazing opportunity for youth to engage people across generational and socio-economic lines to discover that sharing our lives' stories and listening to the stories of others can be encouraging, restoring, and redemptive. At 7 months pregnant Court did awesome staying up until 2.30am and sleeping on the floor.
In gearing up for summer, Court has met with the program leaders for each camp and I have met with our first ever summer staff - We are excited to see how things work this summer.
A group of 6 folks from Tennessee came for a week and we hosted them for part of their time - sharing our lives, going to the Hope Center for bbq, games, and songs, and we even spent a night at Wesley Camp. They brought a few things for the baby. THANK YOU!

Court starts her maternity leave at the end of this week, so she is trying to tie up as many loose ends as she can for the summer. The doctor said we should be prepared for anytime after next week for a delivery... woohoo, peanut is on the way : )
Hopefully we will write more in the time before Peanut (our nickname for baby Randall so we don't slip out with the name that's supposed to be a surprise).
Okay, so that is just to catch you up on things : )