Saturday, December 29, 2012

strong confidence

This morning my house is cold. I'm drinking hot tea from a chipped cup. . .
It's the brown and blue 80's cup, the one Abi found at a flea market in California- she brought it home to me in Texas years ago, before she married Nathaniel and moved to New York.
Then my favorite cup was old -now it's old and chipped. 
So, I'm thinking about Abigail and sweet Titus in New York- my mind rambles around the edges of devotional for a baby shower I'll share next month.
I think about the word control. . .and every woman's desire to do it.

A few weeks ago I waited in New York City for my connecting flight to Dallas, surrounded by holiday travel, holiday sounds. . .just hours before Titus had been hospitalized  with respiratory distress.
So, in morning darkness, on the airport curb, Nathaniel and little Florence embraced me-Good bye. . .
 I was flying home to Texas.
Sometimes I just meditate on God's omnipresence-He (not me) can be everywhere at once.
The Lord is your Keeper, the shade on your right hand, He will not slumber nor sleep. . . (Ps 121)

Titus had a bumpy ride- machines, therapy, medication, tubes, questions. . .then after a week in the hospital, on Christmas day Titus and his mom came home.
 Abi shared, "I'm so thankful to be at home, but in the hospital machines scream when my baby is in danger."
Ahh, yes, I understand that heart-mind tug of war. . .and choose this minute to remember-
"In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and His children will have refuge." (Prov 14:26)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

sweets at night and in the morning. . .

When I visit Abigail and Nathaniel in New York, we bake sweets. . .and eat sweets.
So, in the spirit of the season, I made an apple crostada  on Monday-then on to gingerbread with lots of cream to whip up--ahh, the delight of whipped cream on almost anything!

And in the midst of the gingerbread project, it became apparent that it was pretty near time for the dear little baby to be born (really, I told Abi that she needn't scour the lower cupboard for the black strap molasses.)

So-the sweetest of all, Titus Newton Jackson,  was born late Monday night.
And in the morning I asked Florence, "Would you like apple pie and ice cream for breakfast?"
"Yes!" she piped.
And that's what we did to celebrate. . .Florence and me, pie and ice cream in the morning.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

in train stations and airports, in the snow. . .

So, I'm going on a trip, leaving tomorrow-by train and by plane.
But first I have to get everything ready here at home.
that's every woman's first job-
 I bought 2 gallons of milk and Hershey's cocoa for the man at home.
we printed a December calendar and sketched in the important dates-
so he won't forget. . .

I'll miss home and him-but I'm going to New York for the baby.
I'll trip through train stations and airports, through the snow,
in my favorite clogs-that have developed an irritating squeek-
perhaps you'll hear me going and coming.  
 And I'll be back.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

home for the holiday

I cleaned the empty upstairs before the family came for Thanksgiving and discovered boxes and binders of baseball cards and stamp collections in the boys' closet.
The youngest boy says that it all belongs to his brothers, but  he assured me, "The baseball cards are valuable, really."
I put the boy treasures back on the shelf and closed the closet door.

Mr. Vale use to tune our piano in November- every year, right before the holidays.
After the tuning the children would play their pieces for Mr. Vale and he was pleased.
So-the children moved away, the piano hasn't been tuned in years.
But Mercy came home for Thanksgiving and she made music on our neglected piano, thumping the sticky keys, she played -and I was pleased.

And one evening, right before the family dispersed, I heard man feet walking on the hardwood floors upstairs.  It was Brett and his big man feet!  I thought about the four boys who use to live up their, who grew up to be men-and I was pleased.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

sweeping out doubt

Routine house cleaning is a good thing.
And today I'm doing some house cleaning on the inside- 
sweeping out doubt-in my heart.

Heart. . .Do you truly believe that God is sovereign over all things?. . .and that He satisfies you with good?

. . .and do you really believe that as high as the heavens are above the earth so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him?

. . .and do you believe that He hears your cries, that He will strengthen your heart and incline his ear-really?

. . .and do you  desire the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom above all things?
(or Heart, do you desire a piece of the kingdom for yourself?)

And when my heart answers No! or Maybe! (or Yes to that last one!). . .
I'm hopeful still, since the Gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful to confirm truth in my heart-and yours.

Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountiful with you (Psalm 116)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

celebrating with pie

Last week I drove to west Texas to visit Mercy for her 24th birthday (she's the baby).
Sky and dirt are different in the Panhandle- enormous clouds hovering over the orange, pink sunset and fields of cotton bolls dangling from plant skeletons .
I was tempted to stop, to pull out my  camera -that's what I do when John and I travel together.
The dusk was exquisite-but this time I was alone, driving through the Panhandle.

So, Mercy hosted a dessert party for her friends; I made carrot cake with cream cheese frosting like she remembers. . .
Mercy also remembers eating pumpkin pie for breakfast.
Mom, will you make a pumpkin pie? of course.
You'll cut the pumpkin and cook it up like I remember? she asked.
 I told Mercy that now I make pie with canned pumpkin-it's delicious.
So, I made the pie- and Mercy put little pieces in white boxes for her guests to take home to eat for breakfast, just like she remembers.
I had a wonderful visit with my girl.  Then I came home and cut up a pumpkin . . .beautiful

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mondays and every day

Last week I rolled out of bed before dawn-unusual for me on a Monday.
Sundays are busy, so Mondays should be slow and easy, I tell myself.
 John rode off to school on his bicycle in a shard of light
 and I locked the door behind us -
I thought about my groaning flesh (the resistance)
and I remembered my opportunity to give a hand. . .

Recently I heard about the life of  Queen Margaret of Scotland (1047-1093)
She lived in a spirit of inward poverty, loved others selflessly, compassionately-
And after her death, it was said of Queen Margaret,
She died every day she lived 

So-I'm thinking about Queen Margaret. . .and me
thinking about how it looks to die to myself on Mondays
and every day
(because "He loved me and delivered himself up for me")

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

one about work

Today I'm at home doing my over and over again work; I've noticed that when I go away and come back home, the work waits - and sometimes the work multiplies.

 Neil and Carol Anderson lived and worked among the Folopa people of Papua New Guinea. They invested 20 years recording the Folopa language and translating the Scriptures. I love reading their story, In Search of the Source.

"The ground will produce thorns. . .by the sweat of your brow you will eat your bread." (Genesis 3:19)
By the sweat of your brow?. . . the Folopa language helpers were perplexed, related to work these words meant nothing; the Folopa don't associate sweat with work- in the tropics one sweats just sitting.

However, the Folopa  understood the curse, clearing the ground for gardens, fighting back the jungle-  
We have to keep at it. . .sweet potatoes, yams, taro, don't grow by themselves-muscles stretch, teeth clench, throats grunt, digging heaving, hauling, we burst our stomachs. . .

So Neil Anderson translated Genesis 3:19 and the Folopa understood, "No longer will your food just come up by itself, but by bursting your stomachs you will do your work. . ."

And me? well, sometimes I work by the sweat of my brow- but not often, nor do I burst my stomach with work (except in childbirth). But I know the futility of work in a world broken by sin and long for the day when our King will make all things new. . .
So- I keep at it, fighting back the jungle (my old house), fighting back the resistance of my flesh.
 and sometimes I wonder, Why is it pleasant to do work at your house and not so to work at my own? 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

His benefits

I left home early Tuesday morning-off to Bible study but feeling ill prepared and heavy. . ..
I'm memorizing Psalm 103, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of his benefits."

And the morning was sweet. . .I lead the study and the women shared themselves-they contributed personal insights.  I received the benefits-

". . .do what is right without being frightened by any fear." (1 Pet 3:6)
one dear woman applied that truth to her own life, so personally.
And that was for me. . ."Soul, forget none of His benefits."

Monday, October 22, 2012

satisfied with his likeness

A young woman talks to me about a relationship- she tells me about longing and honest emotion. . . questions and confusion.
And last week after a struggling night, she awoke remembering-

As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with  Your likeness. (Ps 17:15)

So, today I remember the psalmist's words- and make them my own; it's hard- sometimes I want comfort instead of his likeness.
I tell my young friend to trust God- He's creating beauty in her, just as He promised.
And so I remind myself. . .
As for me, I shall behold Your face. . .I shall be satisfied with Your likeness.

Friday, October 12, 2012


  Here in south Texas my garden is blooming pink, purple, yellow, blue. . .the fig vine creeps steadily up the corner of my house and the basil leaves are huge and glossy amid the broccoli and cauliflower.
There's beauty in Texas. . .but this week I'm thinking a lot about the exquisite beauty of GRACE.
because I met Kerry--a few weeks ago God saved her from decades of bondage to a false religion, a religious system based on works, devoid of grace--now Kerry's eyes are open to the beautiful Savior.
 Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need,
We read from God's Word and tears coursed down. . . .
I've known God's grace for decades. . .but to see afresh the incomparable beauty-

Thursday, October 4, 2012

a walk in . . .

We spent 5 nights in Tetela in a rustic cabin - perfect for a family of 5 plus the grandparents.

I arrived in Mexico City with a neat row of stitches across my forehead and instructions to have the stitches removed within the next week.
 I noticed a medical office in the subway station in Mexico City, but decided to wait.  . .John offered to remove my stitches, but I decided to find a doctor.
So-one afternoon in Tetela I strolled into town and found a doctor sign next to the pharmacy in the plaza.
When I inquired in the pharmacy, the clerk called out to the street and a man, young and hip, greeted me on the sidewalk. We shook hands and I explained my situation, "How much will you charge me?" I asked.
"No worries," he said and ushered me through the small office door.
He went to work on my stitches and we talked; I learned about his family, his medical training and work in the villages, his concern for the poor.
He had almost finished the job when I noticed his medical coat hanging on the wall-white and starched, his name above the pocket.
"Ahh, Doctor Christian," I said. "Your name is significant for me since I am a Christ follower!"
"Are you a Christian?" he asked.
"Yes, and you?"
I'm devout. . .we're having a saint dedication in the plaza this evening, you should come," he invited.
"Do you read the Bible?" I asked. "Jesus was the great Physician. . ."
 "My computer is my Bible," he said.
Next door in the pharmacy I payed my bill-$3.50. . ."We don't charge much here," said the doctor.
I heard John waiting for me on the sidewalk.
 "Doctor, Jesus is the Bread of Life, the Living Water. . ."
Search for Him.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

change but no change, yet

During all the years we lived in this valley, our neighbors grew potatoes, plowing with mules, planting, irrigating, harvesting with hand and shovel.
Today huge green houses dominate the landscape; now the farmers grow tomatoes year round, safe in the green houses even when freezes threaten the mountains, so different-the change, so amazing.
We moved to Aquixtla when Josiah was 8 months old and traversing  the dirt floor of our barn on hands and knees. . .now he's 28.
We came bringing the beautiful gospel of Jesus Christ to people who walked in darkness-then and still.
And on this visit, after 20 years, though the neighbors welcomed us, the darkness was very real and very sad.

So, I think: our King is on his throne-and the book isn't closed, yet.

Monday, September 24, 2012

a familiar road

So- that day in Aquixtla we visited with don Beto in the middle of corn and bean fields; he told the children about planting, irrigating, harvesting, storing up-  and Selma declared that she would stay and work with the ladies shelling beans, stay there forever.
Then Beto invited us to his home; we walked about half a mile down a familiar road-our children use to walk the same path from home to the kinder school and home again .
The road  reminded me of a time when I worried about my children's safety- prudent watchfulness grew into irrational, sinful fear; irrigation ponds bordered the road, and there were animals, maybe strangers and more-my persistent anxiety wasn't limited to that road . . . .
That's a sad memory for me-but God redeems such memories. I'm grateful.
So, circumstances have changed- my children grew up; they've lived and served all over the world.
but mainly, I have changed. . .
day after day I remind myself that my King is on the throne and his sovereignty rules over all; his lovingkindness is certain and everlasting.  He poured out his blood on the cross for me-I can trust him with the unknown.
And today I remind myself. . .
Cast all your anxiety on him because e cares for you (1 Pet 5:7)

Monday, September 17, 2012

eating but not working

25 years ago we moved up the canyon from Cuautempan to Aquixtla; John found a barn in the middle of farm land and made a deal with the landlord.  We would pay to have the barn renovated in exchange for rent to live in it.  Deal
Then my husband hired a mason  to do the work; every morning for months he came - we carried on with life and 6 children.
And mid morning each day, our mason's dear wife brought him brunch- almuerzo.
She unpacked the little pots on the grassy slope beside the barn--beans, corn tortillas, freshly dug potatoes in tomato broth, squash-and that's when I first tasted squash blossoms, sauteed with garlic and onion, folded into a tortilla. How can flowers and corn taste so amazing?
Every day they invited us to sit and eat . . .

So-last month we visited Aquixtla; we searched for don Beto, our neighbor and old friend, and we found him in a random field, harvesting beans with his workers- he invited us to share his almuerzo.
And that night Naomi commented on her favorite part of the day. . ."sharing almuerzo with don Beto and his workers--and we didn't even work!"

Thursday, September 13, 2012

just thinking. . .

 This week I gave a devotional for the first day of women's Bible study.  I was told that I could talk about whatever my little heart desired. . . .
Come and hear all who fear God and I will tell of what He has done for my soul. (Ps 66:16)
So-I talked about Mexico. . . .
But first I reviewed the narrative in Joshua 3 and 4- you know, when God parted the Jordan River and the nation of Israel crossed the river bed on dry land--(no mud),  how 12 men crossed back into the dry river, carrying stones on their shoulders, and then how Joshua set up the stones at Gilgal as a memorial for their children. . . .
"so that the people of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty and so that you may fear the Lord." (Josh 4:24)
Then I told them that we all have memorial stones to God's work in our lives- He tells us to set them up, to remember who He is (mighty) and what he requires of us (awe).

I told the women,"thinking  Mexico. . .I have 3 memorial stones to set up-and I gave them names!" 
First I gave my memorial stones some context. . . I shared some background about John and me in Mexico, about Naomi and Joshua and their children in Mexico City. I drew a little map for them in the air: Chignajuapan, (over the mountain) Aquixtla, (down the canyon) Tetela, (down, down) Cuautempan.  I told them that we hadn't visited people and places in 20 years and I wondered - What should I expect?
And as I shared all of this and more, I realized something about John and me. . .we had different expectations for our visit to the mountain villages-
My husband went there expecting to ferret out every single person he had ever met, ever eaten a taco with, ever shared the gospel with. . . . and me?  well, I went there anticipating but cautious, and perhaps a little apprehensive about what I would find there.
So, I'll just say-God is mighty and I stand in awe of Him. And I'm very glad that sometimes when I am cautious, my husband is not. . . .

Monday, September 10, 2012

guayabas in the window

I love guayabas. . .
 I know, I know, the seeds are bothersome-I just ignore the seeds and savor the exquisite aroma and taste;
in English we call them guavas-but I like to say guayabas.
So, I bought a bag of guayabas in the Cuautempan market and lined them up in the window to ripen.
My grandchildren love guayabas too-
after a few days they each ate one, leaving the 2 biggest and tastiest for me. . .

Friday, September 7, 2012

how the church loves

In Cuautempan, we met three young women from the church, Irma, Ema, and Loida.  They live with their mother next door to Felicites. Standing outside Felicites' kitchen and peeking through the wall of  corn, you see the roof of their little house.

32 years ago when I moved to Cuautempan with 3 little ones and another on the way, their mother, Loida,. was a teenager and she helped me in my home.
Then Loida married and moved away; years passed, and she came back. I had never met her daughters. . .until last month.
Irma works in the pre-school in town, Ema works in the mayor's office and Loida studies dress making.
They teach Sunday school in the church and over lunch at Felicites' house, they told us all about last month's vacation Bible school in Cuautempan.
They are lovely women who love Jesus, making their way in a village culture that is changing. . .

What I noticed and what I love so much, is how these women care for Felicites in her old age.  They are there when she is sick, grind her corn, make her tortillas- cheerfully, devotedly.
They obviously love her (but then who wouldn't?)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

meal fit for a king

A girl is never too old to learn a new skill-after all, I was a grandmother before I learned to knit. . .
however, I think a girl should be about 4 when she learns the art of making tortillas by hand, just like Selma.
30 years ago my little girls played with  masa, patted out tiny corn  tortillas, cooked and ate. . .under Felicites' expert tutelage.
Sunday after the church meeting Felicites  invited us to her home for a meal.  I'm certain she spent all Saturday preparing it.
And that afternoon we sat down to large plates of  moli and chicken, beans, rice, fresh tortillas-a meal fit for a king.
"mmmm, the moli I remember!" exclaimed Naomi. "Felicites," she continued, "I think that one day you will be asked to make the moli for the great marriage supper of the Lamb!"

Thursday, August 30, 2012

remind me your name. . .

We hadn't visited the church in Cuautempan in 20 year. I  peeked in the window of the church building on Thursday, market day- just a peek into an empty building.
We returned to Cuautempan on Sunday. I wondered if the real church would be there in the building? Would there be preaching from the Bible and true worship? Would people remember us, would my Spanish work, would I feel awkward?
And from the start Adolfo and Angela greeted us, then Juan and Maria with 3 daughters, grown up . . .an entire generation grows up in 20 years.
"Brother, I know your face, remind me your name!" I asked a tall young man..
"Don't you remember my name?  just like my father's," he smiled .
"Ahh, Adolfito, of course." I said.
Men and women  sit on short benches on separate sides of the church-still; Naomi, Selma and I slid onto the bench with Felicites and she shared her hymnal and huge Bible.
The teaching was true to God's Word, the worship sweet and earnest. . .I didn't remember such lovely singing.
Felicites requested the hymn  Bienvendos (Welcome)She held my hand and cried.  Then I cried.
Afterwards there were lots more greetings and embraces and invitations for meals. And there were stories.
I know your face, remind me your name. . .

Monday, August 27, 2012

living the truth

Felicites' kitchen isn't much different than I remember. . .still she cooks over an open fire, still she rolls out the masa, still she skillfully pats out tortillas; but now there's a  separate room connected to the kitchen for sitting and eating and talking-and without smoke!
I love how the Psalms so personally tell the human story. The other day  I read Psalm 55 and I thought about Felicites.
"Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken."
For 10 years our lives intersected; I knew that my friend's life was wrought with trials but I didn't comprehend then the extent or complexity of her hardships. . .(but can we ever?)
 Our individual burden in this life is what God has given us-Cast your burden upon the Lord, He will sustain you.
So, I sat on the bench beside Felicites in the Cuautempan church a few weeks ago, her large print Bible opened, covering both our small laps. Felicites knows the God who speaks Psalms 55: 22 into her life and she lives likes it's true.

Friday, August 24, 2012

visiting old friends. . .

 When we moved to the house in Cuautempan 33 years ago, Felicities was my closest neighbor; after the corn harvest in the fall, I could see the smoke floating up from the cooking fire in her kitchen.
An ancient loom filled the main room of her house-and that's where Felicities did her work, weaving wool blankets and jackets with distinct patterns, earning enough to feed her children.
From the first day we met, I knew that Felicities loved Jesus and his church.
Some mornings when I home schooled Rachel and Luke, my younger 2 would trot down the hill to straddle the beams of the loom while Felicities did her work.
So-on this trip, after 20 years, I wondered if my dear friend would be there, still?
 She was there-and a faithful Christ follower, still.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

visiting old places. . .

 So-we roamed the Cuautempan market and then ventured up the hill to visit our old house.  We moved to Cuautempan and to this house when Naomi was 9 months old; I brought both Noah and Abigail home to this place as newborn babes.
John built the slatted gate in front of the door, a gate to keep Naomi from escaping into the corn fields and beyond..
The house is rundown, broken down, overgrown, locked up-but still a beautiful place set into the side of  a mountain-and there are lots of memories to tell.
You know how that is. . .

Monday, August 20, 2012

Thursday is still market day. . .

So. . .What should I expect?  I wondered, as we set off from Mexico City to the mountains of Puebla.  Naomi and Joshua had planned a 5 day trip to visit places and people we hadn't seen in 20 years.
Expect change. . .I told myself.
"Do you remember what day of the week is Market Day in Cuautempan?" John asked.
"Thursday. . .it was always Thursday." I answered.
So, on Thursday we drove from Tetela to Cuautempan-the windy mountain road etched in my brain is paved now. . .no more mud, nor huge pot holes, nor threatening rock slides; there's a rail hedging in the cliffs.
expect amazing change.
Thursday is still market day in beautiful Cuautempan.  We entered the colorful throng and a voice called out - an old friend, a brother in Christ.
It was Fernando - he remembered us.

Friday, August 17, 2012

city excursion

The Smith's new apartment has big windows with a city view, huge windows-
The guest room is lovely, the bed, sheets and pillows perfect--you should visit some time. (the children are surprisingly quiet at dawn.)
It's an apartment in progress. . . we experienced the renovation, the good and the bad; now I think their apartment is a wee bit mine too.
One afternoon Naomi and I  made our way downtown to the fabric district, boarding the section of the metro reserved for women and children.  We squeezed our way off and stepped into a mass of humanity and for a minute I lost Naomi in the mass; she stopped to check the metro map but I didn't hear her call. . . me, alone in the mass-but only for a minute.
in and out of shops, we measured, touched, discussed fabric and window covering and finally purchased a lovely grey piece for this window-and then we returned home on the metro.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

in Mexico with the church

On our first Sunday in Mexico Joshua and Naomi took us to worship with a church that meets in a theater in the center of a park. 
So, leaving their apartment, we walked 20 minutes in the neighborhood to  the metro station, boarded and rode the metro for 20 minutes, and took a 10 minute taxi ride to the meeting.
At the entrance to the park we bought tamales from a man with a little cart, tying up the plastic bag to keep in the steam. . . first the church meeting, later tamales, I thought.
Then we were with the saints- and I knew that to be part of the Savior's church is the sweetest gift-no matter the physical location.
And after the formal meeting we stood around outside and talked with the church--just like at home in Texas.
I met a dear woman; her son is the pastor of the church. She told me how she came to know Jesus and I told her that it must be the richest blessing to listen to her son preach from God's Word each week.
From her orange bag, my friend pulled out little cups of gelatin and plastic spoons. Naomi bought one for Selma, who gobbled it up, sharing bites with her brothers-nuts on the bottom, gelatin in the middle, crushed chocolate cookies on top.  Finally we opened up the plastic bag full of tamales-no longer steamy, but warm-and good.
Then -taxi, metro, walk. . .we traveled home through the city.

Monday, August 13, 2012

city rhythm

 For almost a decade our family lived in rural Mexico; we rarely ventured into the big city . . .village life was our rhythm-sleeping in silence, waking to roosters, walking n dirt, seeds, harvest, fresh tortillas, milk from the cow, sheep- it's the Mexico we know.

But the Smiths live in the city, and not just any city-along with 30 million people, they live and raise their kids in the heart of Mexico City.
This month I got a good taste of city rhythm.- it happens in the streets..
The city moves like random machinery; the traffic seems paralyzing . . .then  I see my  grandchildren grab a hand, step off the curb and move to the rhythm of the city.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Mexico. . .

So, John and I spent 2 weeks in Mexico-and yesterday we came home.
We visited Joshua and Naomi and our grandchildren in Mexico City, experienced their very present life in a mega city. And we spent 5 days in provincial villages, visiting places and people from our past-people we hadn't seen in 20 years. . .they didn't know we were coming.
 I'm at home, thinking and sorting the experiences, the unexpecteds, the emotions. . .quite amazing, really.
More later. . .

Monday, July 23, 2012

in Tennessee and beyond. . .

In Tennessee we rode bikes, picked figs, walked on the bluffs above the mighty Mississippi, worshiped with the church, pushed Gwyneth in the stroller through the neighborhood.
We got to be a part  Josiah and Lindsey's family culture-nice.
And we hope they invite us back.

Together, John and Josiah rode bikes. It makes me smile to think about it. . .how John asks the boys to ride with him, Nathaniel, Josiah, Noah; they beat him every time (they're young),  he needs a nap, but he keeps asking-happily

So, now we're home again in Texas, taking care of home stuff, repacking. . .
Thursday we go again, this time by plane-to Mexico City, Imagine that?

Friday, July 20, 2012

a boy in Ohio-just like mine

This post has no picture-- but there's one in my mind. . .
Six year old Caleb, blonde with a dimple in his chin, chatters brightly at the 6:30 breakfast table; he bites into a huge nectarine, juice squirting out, running down. . . then he talks.

Last week we left Brett and Rachel in Bowling Green and drove a few hours to  Jeremy and Sarah's house for the night.  We've known Jeremy since he was 6; we met Sarah  during their college days, celebrated their wedding--now they're parents of three sweet children. . .we're old enough to enjoy the panorama.
After lunch Caleb announced, "Including you, my mom will feed 8 people for dinner tonight!" (sweet boy)
The men and children played at the park and Sarah and I made spinach mushroom lasagna together in her little kitchen-plenty of time for girl talk
Were you ever fearful of  childbirth pain? (yes!) 
Were you ever fearful that your children would reject Jesus? (yes, yes!)
I love this woman--and her honest questions.
Later I followed Caleb around with my camera-no pictures. Caleb talked.
After dinner and stories, the children slept; Sarah and Jeremy asked, "What did it look like when you discipled your children?"
I think we bumbled through the answer.
But in my mind I see Caleb, biting into that nectarine, juice running down his chin, taking a breath- to talk; his dear parents remind him to listen too-that's good.
(And today I'm remembering that I had a boy just like Caleb. . .)

Monday, July 16, 2012

assistant to the chef. . .

We stayed a week in Bowling Green with Brett and Rachel- enjoyed a picnic on the Maumee River,  blueberry picking in Michigan, and we cuddled Ivan. We cooked and invited people in to eat, baked and invited people over for coffee-Rachel was the executive chef and I- the assistant. . .
Every morning Rachel tried a new scone recipe and  on the last day,muffins-I love these muffins, the combination of tart cranberries, browned butter and zesty lime is exquisite!
I'm not baking much at home these days; maybe somebody could make this recipe and invite me over for coffee?

browned butter cranberry lime muffins
(makes 12 muffins)

7 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
zest of 1 lime
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, halved
1/4 cup granulated sugar (topping)

So. . .melt the butter over medium heat; cook til brown bits appear, crackling will lessen and butter will brown. remove from heat.
Combine the first 6 ingredients and whisk in the butter.
Combine dry ingredients with butter mixture and gently fold in cranberries.
Divide into greased or lined muffin tins and sprinkle with sugar before baking at 350 for 15-20 min.
(thanks Joy the baker!)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

a story from Ohio

We're in Ohio and it's hot, perhaps hotter than Texas!  Afternoon coffee at Brett and Rachel's looks like this. . .the milk is for John, of course.

When I visited Ohio in April, I met Steph; she dropped by with a gift for baby Ivan, and Brett and Rachel invited her to stay for dinner. Steph is the women's golf coach at the university- she loves Jesus and she loves the women on her team. We washed dinner dishes and I heard  her story.
So-this week on Sunday we worshiped with the church, and ahhh, there was Steph! 
Sunday afternoon a delivery man knocked at Rachel and Brett's door and handed us a flat bakery box.  Peeking inside we discovered 6 huge, warm cookies from a local bakery, and taped on top a note scribbled on a napkin, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. Ephesians 1:16
No name-but we knew the special delivery came from Steph.
Now she's off again, recruiting for the BG golf team. . .being intentinal, investing in the lives of women for the kingdom.
I love that girl.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

to search out a matter

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter but the glory of kings is to search out a matter. Prov 25:2

When I come to Syracuse I visit Abigail and her sweet sisters-in-law.  We have dinners and afternoon tea and family visits in the yard.  I catch up on their lives, listen to their prayer requests-
We share our stories from the past year-  I remember that God's ways are beyond my comprehension.
It is  the glory of God to conceal a matter. . . (I need to let him be God that way.)
But wait, don't stop there! . . the glory of kings is to search out a matter.
I've been thinking about the search, about how I pursue it. . .searching out the mind of God in his Word, crying out for wisdom.
 hmmm, I need perseverence and courage (sometmes I'm lazy, discouraged.)
 And it's good to ask, How, then, does God's character apply amid this mystery?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

always good. . .

Last week in New York, we had a morning excursion to Skaneateles.  Living in Texas, a state with city names like Nacadogches and Gonzalez--I love to say Skaneateles; the locals say "Skini. . .Skineateles".  Imagine that?
Nathaniel and John biked around Skaneateles Lake while Abi, little Florence and I poked around the village, got coffee and sat on a bench beside the lake.
"Did you ever think that one day you would visit your children in far away places and experience different family cultures?" Abi asked me.
hmmm, I never thought about it much then, but now I do-and I evaluate my responses.
 Sometimes  the unease of change and difference give me a window into my own heart. . .it's stretching and good-when I choose to remember that God is up to something good in my life, always.

Monday, July 2, 2012

travel snacks and peanut shells

We drove 550 miles on Wednesday, from Missouri to Ohio- our longest travel day. 
And at the same time Abigail and Nathaniel were driving from North Carolina, home to New York with little Florence; we planned to meet the next day in Syracuse. Abi and I texted,  comparing travel notes: 
 in our car I was knitting, navaigating by map, reading to John; I'd accomplished a good phone conversation with a friend in Michigan.
 in their car Florence had slept a bit but awoke sooner than expected; she'd eaten her snack- what next?
John and I remembered all the travels with our kids, road trips in the VW van, in and out of Mexico, Texas to California. . . 
Remembering. . .Why did I buy 2 kilos of peanuts in the shell from the Mexican market before a road trip?  What a travel mess, all those peanut skins and shells stuck to little bodies and everywhere else.
Florence is a modern, civilized baby- she eats fruit snacks from a  little bag when she travels--tidy, but not quite so tasty.

my favorite picture of Florence taken by her sweet mom

Friday, June 29, 2012

ministry sharing

Tuesday night I was sitting in a motel room in Missouri when Jamey called me from Texas.
She had a coffee date that evening with a woman neither of us had met- a woman who is a relative of sweet friends from our Bible study back home.
I had been praying for Jamey and the meeting. . ."It went really well!"
She befriended the woman, gave her a Bible, shared grace and truth with her, opened a door. . .
One thing I love about personal ministry is that sometimes you get to share it--even from a distance

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

a well tended garden

We're on the road, headed to New York, Ohio, Tennessee, to visit those we love. . .and more.
Last month I surveyed my tangled and unkempt garden and concluded that inorder to have a thriving garden, a woman must stay home.
So- thinking about our summer plans, a 4 week road trip in the States followed by 2 weeks in Mexico City, I planted a tiny succulent garden in a green dish-succulents just may thrive untended.
Then I thought of the sweet relationships that I will renew and tend this summer. . .and then the ones left behind in south Texas. 
Friday night I shared with the girls in our our community group-I miss you when I'm away-and I pray for you. . .
Now, don't forget me!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

heart like deep waters

One complexity of personal ministry is that it's-well, so personal.
 I make it that way. . .and like it that way;  sometimes I struggle to give God the burden.
The other night I tossed in my bed, "This was a hard day." I told John.
"How so?"  (he always phrases the question that way)
 I just need him to remind me that Jesus gives hope to broken people in a broken world. "The best thing we can do right now is pray (and sleep)." he tells me.
Last week I was reading Proverbs 20 and again I stopped here:
The purpose of a man's heart is like deep waters but a man of understanding draws it out. (Prov 20:8)

So, I thought for awhile about the woman whose husband is loosing his hearing; he seems withdrawn and non communicative and she's frustrated, fearful.  How can this truth apply to her?
And I thought about myself and the woman who began to share a deep thing. . .how I jumped in with assumptions and answers before she finished.
So, the human heart is deep, but a woman of understanding listens and skillfully draws out what's in the heart.
Lord, make me a patient, compassionate woman-a woman of understanding.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

to honor Him. . .

On Mondays I survey the horizon of my week and usually there are  pursuits that seem more pleasant. . . others not so pleasant, more like obligations; I may say in my heart, "I wish my husband would do that one!" . . .not because I can't do it, but I'd just rather not.
Last week I sat in my white armchair, correspondence and anticipated reading on one side, a volcano of papers from an emptied file drawer on the other side-the great divide!
Really, I just need to buck up and do this-it's a small matter; dread overwhelmed me, dread that I'd waited too long to accomplish the business chore at hand.
I needed tenacious resolve. . .but I needed more-
I have set the Lord continually before me, because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (vs 8)

Lord, here I am, shaken. . . I don't know how to honor you.
over and over I set the Lord before me- and always, He is faithful.

Friday, June 15, 2012


The old Schwinn hangs in our garage. . .
when I was nearly a teenager, Mom and Dad Fortlage bought the tandem from the bike shop on Santa Cruz Ave. Growing up, I wasn't much a part of the tandem legacy, but my brother and sisters have lots of great memories.  Somehow the Fortlage tandem made its way to Texas.
So-the family came to town over Memorial Day.  Jeremiah brought a carload of bike accessories, including a shiny new wheel for the tandem.
Saturday morning we ate breakfast tacos at the park and biked on the Riverwalk extension.  There were 10 bicycles, 2 bike trailers, 2 strollers with babies, and the tandem..
 Really, you need herculean legs to peddle the old Schwinn-  it works to pull a baby or 2 in the trailer.
We're building bicycle memories around here. . .and I love the tandem connection.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

what I do. . .

The other day I had my biannual check up with  the dermatologist; following my treatment the doctor sat occupied with  my chart; then he asked, "What do you do?"
Me? is he talking to me or the nurse? I thought.
"Mrs. Newton, what do you do? he asked again.
"I'm a homemaker."  (I wanted to explain everything I do outside my home!)
Reflecting on the question. . .he's a dermatologist- most likely he intended to ask if I spend my days in the blazing sun, and if so he planned to urge me to an indoor occupation--nevertheless, his question makes me think about what I do.
Today  I read Ephesians 2:10:
"You are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works that he prepared before hand that you might walk in them."
So, no matter what I call it, God defines what I do as the good works he prepared before hand, specifically for me and for this season-this season that doesn't always appear as clearly defined as the last. . when I washed my children's clothes, cooked their oatmeal, taught them to read.
That season is finished. . .God prepared good works for me, walk in them!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

as stimulating as black coffee. . .

  Good communication is just as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after
(Anne Morrow Lindbergh)
The girls were in town last month and we visited with lots of nice people.
I love good conversation (then I can't sleep). . . there's a rhythm of  talk, pauses, questions- of listening, responding and restraint. I want get to know you, a person created in the image of the great Creator!
One day I was a frustrated observer as I listened to someone hog conversation.
 But it always comes right back to me. . . how do I communicate?
I love to ask: tell me about yourself!  but I don't always do the pauses well. 
And maybe I  fiendishly drive the conversation--or  ask a question, hoping that you will ask me one in return?
 I explained all this to my husband; he attempted to appease my frustration, "So, good communication is when you invite somebody in. . .then you give them space to invite you in too?" 
hmmm, that's good, it goes both ways, the inviting part. . .

Monday, June 4, 2012

in and out. . .

They're in and out of my life these days--my adult children and their children. . .
We played, worked, talked, and ate a lot of good food together last week; I'm getting better at listening, at holding unfinished thoughts and letting go of interrupted conversations. 
Naomi told us about good friends in Mexico City, "I hope God keeps them in our lives for a long time."
I know the feeling. . .
Naomi was the last one to leave town, and before I took her to the airport, we sat together on the high stools in Gabrielle's sunny kitchen; she made Spanish coffee.  
She showed me the amazing grid of the Mexico City metro; we tweaked this and that on my blog and talked about camera aperture.  Aye, technology! my brain takes in only so much.
Then it was time to go--it seems that after they exit, unfinished conversations hover. . .