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24 October 2011

Things I HAVE done...

As a follow-up to last week, I'm thinking about things I HAVE done. And man! I'm blessed.

1. lived in 12 states, and visited 49.
2. stood on the Great Wall of China
3. watched Old Faithful spout
4. ziplined through a rainforest in Costa Rica
5. visited an Indian pueblo on a feast day
6. suffered a "surfing" injury in Panama (ok- so it was really just me playing in the waves. But they were BIG waves! And it was Panama!)
7. seen a sloth in the wild
8. driven on Route 66
9. climbed to the Statue of Liberty's crown
10. birthed 5 children without anesthesia (truthfully, I was more afraid of the anesthesia than I was to give birth without it)
11. taught 5 kids to read
12. tutored women inmates to take the GED tests
13. been lost frequently (well, technically, NOT lost- just "temporarily disoriented"...)
14. coached several youth soccer teams
15. brushed a rhinoceros
16. been to a David Bowie concert
17. watched the changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
18. rafted the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon
19. hitchhiked, and given strangers a ride
20. read through the Bible, Genesis to Revelation, for the last four (or five?) years
21. learned to keep volleyball score
22. mourned with those who mourn and rejoiced with those who rejoice

and that's off the top of my head!

Thanks to Mama's Losin' It for the prompt.

23 October 2011

slow cooker chicken tikka masala

This Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala recipe is a do-again-over-and-over kind of recipe. Now, I have real life friends who know what Chicken Tikka Masala should taste like, and I am not promising that this recipe tastes like THAT. But it sure was good, and not too complicated at all.

I found the recipe on Tasty Kitchen while searching for new menu ideas. Somehow, my picture looks nothing like the picture for the recipe on the website. Isn't it strange how that happens?

I doubled the sauce, but not the chicken. (I'm cheap like that.) I used chicken thighs instead of boneless skinless chicken thighs. I didn't have Garam Masala. I couldn't FIND Garam Masala, not at WalMart, not at trusty HEB, and at that point, I wasn't going to one more store, so I compromised with Hot Madras Curry, and really, it wasn't very hot, but it was very flavorful. I am still on the lookout for Garam Masala. (hmmm... now that I'm thinking about it, maybe I should call what I made Chicken Tikka Curry...) I used half and half instead of heavy cream. (again, I'm cheap like that) It was tasty!

We cook rice in our beloved rice cooker, but this time, I added a package of frozen peas when we started the rice, and that worked great! (note: I cook four cups of dried rice at a time. For smaller amounts, you should probably adjust the peas...)  And we also had naan, which I found on the clearance rack at WalMart for less than half price! Bargain!

Friends in the know- how is Garam Masala different than curry? I am guessing that it is not at all spicy hot- is that right?

The recipe... Enjoy!

9 whole boneless skinless chicken thighs (I used 7 regular thighs, skinned)
1 Tablespoon Ground Coriander
1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt (I used regular salt)
1 cup yogurt
4 Tablespoons butter
1 whole jalapeno pepper, stem removed, pepper pierced several times with a sharp knife

4 Tablespoons butter
1 whole large onion, peeled and diced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
3 Tablespoons Garam Masala (I used Hot Madras Curry Powder)
1 piece fresh ginger, about 2-3 inches, peeled and grated
4 cups crushed tomatoes
1 Tablespoon Raw Sugar (I used plain old white sugar)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (I used half & half)

Hot buttered rice and peas (I used steamed white rice with peas)
Chopped Fresh Cilantro

Cut the boneless skinless chicken thighs into 1-1 1/2 inch pieces. (I used whole chicken thighs and didn't cut them at all) Sprinkle the pieces with coriander, cumin and salt over the chicken (I combined the spices and then put them over the chicken), then stir in the yogurt until all the pieces are evenly coated (I just spooned the yogurt on top). Cover lightly and let sit for 10 minutes before proceeding.
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Raise the heat to medium high and quickly brown about 1/4 of the chicken (I did two batches). Transfer browned chicken to the slow cooker as it is finished, using 1 tablespoon of butter per batch, and repeat until the chicken is all in the slow cooker. Throw the pierced jalapeno in on top of the chicken.

Prepare the sauce. Return the pan to the heat and melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and salt, then stir. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to lightly brown around the edges.
Stir in the garam masala (or curry :-) ) and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, before raising the heat to high and adding the crushed tomatoes and sugar. Stir well, scraping the caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan, and bring to a boil. Pour over the chicken in the slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 5 hours, or until the chicken is very tender. (I started late. Mine cooked on high for about 3 1/2 hours, and it was fine)
Use a fork or whisk to stir the cornstarch into the cream until smooth. (I added the cornstarch to a little bit of liquid, and then added it to the half and half) Pour into the slow cooker and stir gently until the color is even. Replace the lid and let cook for 10 more minutes or until bubbly around the edges.

Serve over hot rice and peas, topped with a generous amount of chopped cilantro.

22 October 2011

Quinta Mazatlan

It was the first genuinely cool morning of the season, an absolutely beautiful morning. For my Midwestern friends, it was like this- you know that first spring-y morning after the long, REALLY cold winter, when it's warm and sunny and you think, ahhhh, yes, THIS, this is hope.
THAT is what it felt like that morning, only the opposite- after the long, so hot summer, it's cool and sunny and I thought, ahhhh, yes, THIS is hope.

It was one of those mornings when it is all delight to home school, because we can say NOW! Let's go right now! And we did. Yeah, we're that family you might see out on a weekday morning and wonder, "why aren't they in school?" We went to Quinta Mazatlan, the McAllen wing of the World Birding Center. Quinta Mazatlan is a beautiful old adobe mansion, but we didn't spend much time inside. There are walking trails all around, and we're told that we'll see more and more birds as migration from the north continues.

Spontaneous field trips are just as fun now as they have always been. We saw only a handful of people until leaving, when a group of very cheerful seniors greeted us on our way out. But in all honesty, I think next time I'll return by myself, find one of those hidden benches, and just be still...
with my camera, of course.

21 October 2011

Five Minute Friday- Beyond

I had to get a new driver's license today.
A new driver's license in a new state.
I showed all the documents- the social security card, and the birth certificate, and the passport, and the vehicle registration, and the proof of insurance, and the right form filled out.
And of course, I had to turn in my old license.
Officially now, I have exchanged my residency, from one state to another.

But I am looking beyond-
beyond today.
Beyond papers.
Beyond status.
Beyond rivers.
Beyond bridges.
Beyond borders.

I am looking to that time when we'll no longer be aliens and sojourners.
When the only requirement is "I believe."
When our citizenship is in heaven.
When "He'll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be." (Philippians 3:21, The Message)

(photo: taken last weekend, headed east from South Padre Island, TX)

Five Minute Friday, hosted by The Gypsy Mama-

On Fridays around these parts we stop, drop, and write.

We write bold and beautiful and free. Unscripted and unedited. We just write without worrying if it’s just right or not.

Won’t you join us?

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. Most importantly: leave a comment for the person who linked up before you – encouraging them in their writing!

OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes on:


20 October 2011

praying for missionaries

When people ask me how to pray for missionaries, I tell them they need to be remembered daily, because these kinds of stresses are everyday realities. Pray for the big things: that the gospel will advance through their efforts; that they will be sustained through loneliness; that the Lord will provide financial partnerships; and that He will protect them from illness and those who would do them harm. But also remember to pray for the everyday things: transportation to the market, strength to do tasks such as washing clothes and making meals, finding correct boundaries in relation to possessions and privacy, and enduring the stress of long periods of separation. Pray for the Lord to sustain their relationship with Him and with one another. And, particularly, pray for their children. (64-65)
Tommie Sitton, in Reckless Abandon: A Modern-Day Gospel Pioneer's Exploits Among the Most Difficult to Reach Peoples by David Sitton

I recently attended our denomination's women's conference, primarily to represent ESL ministry opportunities and training. But in truth, everywhere I go, I go as a missionary for Christ, as my family and I serve with Mission to the World on the US/Mexico border. At the conference, I was speaking to a kind lady, and after a few minutes of conversation, she made the connection that she prays for me and my family and the ministry at the border. Later in the weekend, a similar conversation was repeated with another lady. Those encounters humbled me, and served as such an encouragement. These ladies I've never met, they pray for me and my family!

Today on his blog Kevin DeYoung highlights a new book by David Sitton, founder of To Every Tribe Ministries. We have a soft heart for To Every Tribe because our team leaders' son is in training with them at the Center for Pioneer Church Planting here in the Rio Grande Valley. But it's the quote by Sitton's wife, Tommi, that stands out to me today- her wisdom after more than 30 years on the mission field.

Serving here on the US/Mexico border, I echo those same requests. I am grateful for prayer for the Big Things- that we would have opportunity to further the Gospel; that we would serve well; that we would be zealous and untiring for Kingdom work; that His provision would always be sufficient. We are grateful for those who recognize the spiritual battle around us, and pray "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done..." And although the routine of everyday life is not unusual here as we live on the Texas side of the border, it is different. We do miss family and friends and familiar worship and even seasons and routines of old. Finally, oh how I am thankful for those who pray for my kids, who pray for their hearts and their safety and their spiritual growth and maturity.

Twice in the last couple of months I have received unexpected notes of encouragement, from ladies that are praying for our family and ministry. One was from a lady in a supporting church that I have never met, and included the praises and petitions of the church; the other from a good friend catching me up on ministry happenings and her family. Both blessed my heart, and caused me to smile broadly. It is really sweet to know that we are remembered in prayer.

Our family, and most missionaries I know, send out regular prayer updates via email. Send me a note, and I'd be happy to share our latest with you. In His Word, the Lord tells us that He knows us by name. What an encouragement when His people petition our needs by name before our very sovereign God!

(photo credit: taken at the gardens at Quinta Mazatlan yesterday)

17 October 2011

Things I've Never Done...

I'm 43 years old, and I've never...

1. read War and Peace
2. or Gone with the Wind.
3. eaten a candy apple (caramel, yes; candied, no)
4. got a tattoo
5. been to Maine,
6. or to Africa.
7. ran in a race (after Field Day in elementary school)
8. water-skied
9. cooked grits (ate, yes; cooked, no)
10. watched American Idol
11. broken a bone
12. or had surgery.
13. studied Physics
14. really understood how TV works,
15. or aspirin.
16. gone hunting
17. finished a cross-stitch project (seriously. I stopped trying!)
18. grilled (never even volunteered. my husband is the expert.)
19. visited the Florida Keys
20. wanted to change my name
21. been arrested
22. travelled in first-class

Just a bit of random on a Monday...
(credit to: The Pioneer Woman and Mama's Losin' It)

(art credit: Never Say Never fine art photography by PoodlePoddles at

16 October 2011

Five Minute Friday- "Catch"

I write in this space because there are so many words to say,
and sometimes I write because there seem to be no words at alI.

I write in this space because there are stories to tell, moments to share, thoughts to speak out loud.

I write in this space because my friends eyes would bug out were I to send every epistle I tapped out.

(Mostly, I don't think about audience when I write, except for what brings glory to God.
But I try not to forget audience, remembering that there are others who stop by and check.)

I write in this space because there is so much that is beautiful and good and true, even in a world that can be so much the opposite.

I write in this space because sometimes it makes the far away a little bit more close.

I write in this space because of curiosity and discipline and joy.

I write.

(those of you who write &/or blog- how do you describe why?)

A day late, but today I write as part of Five Minute Friday at The Gypsy Mama.
She writes, "On Fridays around these parts we stop, drop, and write.
We write bold and beautiful and free. Unscripted and unedited. We just write without worrying if it’s just right or not.
Won’t you join us?

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. Most importantly: leave a comment for the person who linked up before you – encouraging them in their writing!

OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes on:

(photo: a snapshot of my desk this morning. That's what it typically looks like when I write on the computer...)

15 October 2011

23 & 1/2 hours

my beloved and I went east to the coast for a 23 & 1/2 hour retreat.
it was wonderful.
we marrieds, we need to remember to do that every once in a while...

and even though I miss everything about a traditional fall season, a mid-October day at the beach is pretty amazing...


13 October 2011


It was all grace, that first fall day, a crisp Saturday in mid-October. Time passed in slow motion, moment by moment. We woke up early, dressed in those very fancy clothes, drove to the church, said the vows and entered into a covenant for a lifetime. And so began a road of walking together step by step and moment by moment, of learning one another and knowing our God intimately.

When I think back on that first day, there’s not one moment that stands out, it’s a series of pictures, of faces, of scenes, of scenery: my granddad somehow ending up in my husband’s family picture, my new daughter so joyous and not carrying a whit about the punch down the front of her dress, my soccer team carrying the train, the brilliant colors of hot air balloons dotting the autumn sky.

21 years later, and still, it’s a series of pictures, of faces, of scenes, of scenery, that replay in my mind: friends old and new, our growing family, homes and travels and adventures and journeys. Those images flash and change, but two things remain steady- he who loves me and Him who first loved us.

Sometimes the step by step of walking forward has travelled a path that seemed rocky and all uphill. There have been moves across the country and back, seemingly leaving everything familiar, and starting over again and again. There were separations, the busyness of life, and the distractions of the world. There have been words that were spoken carelessly, silences which should have been shorter, and sin we wish we never knew.

But on every journey, there comes a turn in the path. It might come at the point when you expect it least, when the climb is not so steep. Suddenly you remember to lift your eyes up instead of concentrating on the ground and your feet and the very next step. There comes a moment when even though you know that you have farther to go and it’s not going to be easy, you suddenly realize, I think we can make it.

We know now, though, that we don’t make it on our own. We make it only because we cling to gospel grace, because that solemn agreement spoken on that fall morning, that mutual pledge we’ve been living out ever since, was based on the promise Christ made to us, I will never leave you nor forsake you. We know forgiveness because He has shown forgiveness to us. We know grace because He has shown grace to us.

So tonight we’ll slide in on each side of the bed, and settle into those familiar places, where my arm slides under his arm and my knee fits behind his knee. I’ll listen to that steady breath another night. We’ll turn when the alarm goes off in the morning and lie together for seven more minutes before starting together again on a mid-October day.  Moment by moment. And that is all grace.

04 October 2011

hot air

Just made that colorful picture my screen saver, in honor of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, taking place this week. I grew up watching and attending the balloon fiesta, and I'm always a bit nostalgic and missing New Mexico this time of year.

Guess I better go make some green chile stew...

(photo credit: hot air balloon picture, National Geographic Photo of the Day, October 3, 2011)

02 October 2011

Laredo and back

We took a road trip over to Laredo this weekend, providing a few laborers for a carne asada sale with our friends at Iglesia La Vid. My driver, he doesn't like to stop much, though he does it more now than he did when we began taking road trips together 25 years ago. So, I take pictures out the window.  I kind of like the way the motion shows up every once in a while...

I love taking pictures of the Texas sky, clouds lining the horizon, puffs and wisps across the expanse of blue. It rained, thunderstormed, as we drove east this weekend, something we haven't seen much of around here recently. We saw lightning streak downward ahead, but that's pretty tough shot to catch. And after the rain, we saw the brilliant hues that come as the earth soaks in the moisture and the sun breaks through the darkness once again.

It felt good to be shooting again...

01 October 2011

on friends

We meet halfway, 25 minutes each, and when I arrive, she was talking on the phone, to friend we both love as a sister, far, far away. So we both got to say the "hello"s and "miss you"s and we smile because we know how dear that friendship is. And then we walk inside and take a table by the window and remember in person how very special it is to know, and be known, to love, and to be loved.

And then, later in the week, the phone rings at 6:36, and a familiar voice from far-away asks, "are you awake? I was thinking of you..." The next hour and 14 minutes launches me into the day ahead with cheer and gratitude.

My best friends make me laugh and don't laugh when I cry.  Mostly. :-)
When we are together, time ticks much too fast. I sit with two dear ladies in a living room and all of the sudden, it is 1 in the morning. We, who are supposed to keep curfew tabs on our teens, forget to check the clock ourselves.


(photo- one of my all-time favorite "friend" photos, because we took it to send to another friend. In truth, "we" didn't take it at all- we asked a nice man, patiently waiting for his wife as she shopped, to take it- which just adds to how fun that memory is!)

I'm a few days late for 5 Minute Friday at The Gypsy Mama. But I think she would forgive...

We write because we want to, not because we have to. We write for fun, for joy, for discovery.

We just write without worrying if it’s just write or not.
Won’t you join us?

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. Go a little overboard encouraging the writer who linked up before you.

OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes:
on friends...


For a while, and most recently in the last month, I have been learning and relearning the lesson of waiting. Some days have felt so dry, as I have expectations and dreams and pray for opportunity and vision and yet seem to be relatively still. A recent piece from Streams in the Deserta prayer by George Matheson, spoke to my heart, and reminded me, again, that His plans are not my own, but so much more grand and purposeful than I can conceive. And that while I wait, He is yet active. For that, I am grateful.

Dear Holy Spirit, my desire is still to be led by You. Nevertheless, my opportunities for usefulness seem to be disappointed, for today the door appears open into a life of service for You but tomorrow it closes before me just as I am about to enter. Teach me to see another door even in the midst of the inaction of this time. Help me to find, even in the area of service where You have closed a door, a new entrance into Your service. Inspire me with the knowledge that a person may sometimes be called to serve by doing nothing, by staying still, or by waiting. And when I remember the power of Your "gentle whisper" (1Kings 19:12), I will not complain that sometimes the Spirit allows me not to go.

When I cannot understand my Father's leaning,
And it seems to be but hard and cruel fate,
Still I hear that gentle whisper ever pleading,
God is working, God is faithful, ONLY WAIT.

Josh Garrels and Beyond the Blue

This is my go-to piece of music lately. And Beyond the Blue is my go-to song. I listen to it, and then, if I'm alone, I listen to it again. (if I'm with my family, I don't usually do that, although it certainly wouldn't shock anyone!)
The album (oops! I've been informed I'm not allowed to say "album" anymore...)...
The disc (but wait! I don't actually have a disc...)...
The tunes (what exactly do you call a compilation of music that you download off the internet?)...
is FREE for download!!
Not all my faithful readers will love it. And that's ok.
But some of you will.

Bonus- when I loaded it onto my I-Touch, the lyrics showed up on the screen! HOW COOL IS THAT?!
So now I can sing along and not make up the words as I go... (that would not shock my family either!)
And besides that- there's so much Truth in those words. When asked about his lyrics in an interview with NoiseTrade, Garrels answers,  "I’ve always known that choosing to explore the intricacies of my faith in Christ would be a potential disconnection for many listeners. Yet, I’ve been compelled to do so, not out of a sense of obligation or to proselytize, but because when I’m honest with myself … I can’t escape how interesting, mysterious, and life-changing the whole thing is. I turn these things over in my mind and heart a lot, and the songs become a sort of tool or vehicle for me to flesh out what’s happening within."
I appreciate that.


Beyond the Blue

Stand on the shores of a site unseen
The substance of this dwells in me
Cause my natural eyes only go skin deep
But the eye’s of my heart anchor the sea
Plumbing the depths to the place in between
The tangible world and the land of a dreams
Because everything ain’t quite it seems
There’s more beneath the appearance of things
A beggar could be king within the shadows,
Of a wing

And wisdom will honor everyone who will learn
To listen, to love, and to pray and discern
And to do the right thing even when it burns
And to live in the light through treacherous turns
A man is weak, but the spirit yearns
To keep on course from the bow to the stearn
And throw overboard every selfish concern
That tries to work for what can’t be earned
Sometimes the only way to return is to go,
Where the winds will take you

And to let go, of all, you cannot hold onto
For the hope, beyond,the blue

Yellow and gold as the new day dawns
Like a virgin unveiled who waited so long
To dance and rejoice and sing her song
And rest in the arms of a love so strong
No one comes unless they’re drawn
By the voice of desire that leads em’ along
To the redemption of what went wrong
By the blood that covers the innocent one
No more separation
Between us.

So lift your voice just one more time
If there’s any hope may it be a sign
That everything was made to shine
Despite what you can see
So take this bread and drink this wine
And hide your spirit within the vine
Where all things will work by a good design
For those who will believe

And let go, of all, we cannot hold onto
For the hope, beyond, the blue

Said I let go, of all, I could not hold onto
For the hope, I have, in you