29 November 2011

advent

"...if we barrel toward Christmas oblivious to the reality of our lives, bolstered by too much eggnog and running on adrenaline after late night shopping sprees, senses overwhelmed by too much sugar and too many jingle bells, well, then we will never really stop long enough to remember how much we need a Savior."
Amy Butler

And that is why I look to the advent season every single year- that time of waiting, of looking ahead, of waiting with expectation to the Savior long promised. The words of Isaiah 64:4 remind me, "for from of old they have not heard nor perceived by ear, neither has the eye seen a God besides Thee, who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him."

It seems everywhere I turn, there are reminders that this world will never truly satisfy. I am overwhelmed by the marketing and sales of the season, although tempted by the stuff. It seems impossible to be a peacemaker in a world of broken relationships, as someone is inevitably disappointed or plain offended. The lights shine bright, until they break in the closing of the gate. But despite all that, as I was reminded in the teaching from the pulpit this week, "Christ is the one who comes to bring restoration to the broken."

So at the end of the evening in the days leading up to Christmas, after the busyness of basketball games and soccer practice and choir rehearsal and comings and goings, my family gathers around the table and we take time to be still and focus, on the Christ-child who comes. Be sure, that time is never perfect either. Some are ready for bed. Some think the story takes too long. Some want to be somewhere else, doing something else. It is not about the moment, but rather, the promise.

In worship this past Sunday, we watched a young family light the first candle of Advent, and heard the words, "We light a candle to remind us that Jesus is the Light of the world The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

He comes.

(this year, again, my family is reading Jotham's Journey by Arnold Ytreeide, a story recommended to us long ago that holds us captive even today, and lighting the candles around the advent wreath.)

(photo: advent beeswax candles by mcandles on etsy)

habit- 28 november

It was all fine until the blue bulb was smashed in the gate... we'll have to try it one more time.

28 November 2011

habit- 27 november

so sad to leave; so glad to be home.

27 November 2011

habit- 26 november

once inside, I was surprised by the light and the music. I could have sat there for a while... introvert at heart.

26 November 2011

habit- 25 november

I took hundreds of pictures, cheered at the Mistletoe Cam, rode death-defying coasters with my formerly veloxrotaphobic son, watched my girls feed the dolphins, and fell into bed exhausted.

25 November 2011

habit- 24 november

smitten! we are quite sure that there are no two little boys as wonderful in the entire world...

"Profoundly different"

Some of us–whether we have experienced real unfairness or not–look at all of life through this lens of fairness. We are always assessing what we really deserve. We are always aware of other people’s successes or failures. We are always cognizant of whether we get recognized or ignored. We see the whole world and experience all of life through this lens of fairness—always sizing up, always calculating, always feeling like we are owed something by our friends, by our family, and by God.


But there’s another way to look at the world, another way to experience life, and that’s through the lens of grace. With these glasses on you’ll reckon that most days are a whole lot better than you deserve. And on the really hard days, you’ll fight to believe that God is working even this for good. With the glasses of grace, you’ll smile when other people succeed. Instead of experiencing life as a series of disappointments and occasions where you were not given the treatment you deserve, you’ll experience life as a gift. You’ll see grace all around you. You’ll celebrate the grace you see in someone else or given to someone else. It’s a profoundly different way of viewing the world.
- Kevin DeYoung, The Glasses of Grace, 25 November 2011

(photo credit: Vintage Black Rim Glasses photography print by CaptainCat on etsy)

24 November 2011

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the way out of misery. I know this by the Word, and by empirical evidence.

All of the commands of Christ are not our burdens but our deliverance. Here are but a few:
•Be thankful (Colossians 3:15).
•Love one another (John 13:34).
•Forgive one another (Colossians 3:13).
•Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16).
•Sow generously (2 Corinthians 9:6).
•Look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4, 21).
•Cleanse yourself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit (2 Corinthians 7:1).
•Set your mind on things above and not things of the earth (Colossians 3:2).
•Walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16).

What a strangely wonderful way He has of delivering us from the hopelessness and despair of self-absorption. As we press into doing the commands, to actually “practicing the truth” (1 John 1:6), and as we press into “practicing righteousness” (1 John 3:7, 10), we experience our fears, regrets, and hang-ups falling away. We actually get to know Jesus better when we keep His commands:

“And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3).

I took my usual walk today, mindful of the holiday, and I thanked God for all kinds of random things, including strong legs to be able to walk and lungs to be able to vocalize his praise.

- Andree Seu, Delivering Us through His Commands, WORLDmag.com, 24 November 2011

Really, I don't think I am patient enough to stay still and type for as long as I could count thanksgivings. But at this moment, I'm thankful to be sitting in a sunny room, surrounded by family, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, with free internet.
And for my God, who is always and forever the same.

Wishing Thanksgiving blessings for all today...

habit- 23 november

i do love a road trip.

22 November 2011

habit- 22 november

after a nap, I actually accomplished a list-full of tasks. I think we're ready to go.

21 November 2011

habit- 21 november

it was just a little bit disappointing that the customs guy didn't open up the trunk and see them all there and tell us how cute they are...

20 November 2011

things that make me say "hmmmmmm"....

Internet nuttiness.

I checked my email "spam" box, for the first time in a long time. There are the ads for Redbox, and Barnes & Noble, and Petsmart, which don't really qualify as "spam" but I'm completely ok that they end up there. There are the money offers, opportunities for me to make extra cash by doing data entry work,  or "earn $$ every single day by just clicking your mouse...," or by putting ads on my blog. No thank you. Sadly, there are the offers to increase the size of certain (ahem...) body parts... NO thank you!!

And then there are the letters from Mrs. Mary Parker, with the title Asahlamaleku. They read something like-
Dear Beloved.

I am Mrs. Mary Parker an aging widow suffering from long time illness.


I have some funds I inherited from my late husband, the sum of 7.5 Million Ponds and I needed a very honest and God fearing person that will use the fund for God's work, I found your email address from the internet and decided to contact you. Please if you would be able to use the funds for the Lord's work, kindly reply me at my email.
Yours in the Lord,
Mrs.Mary Parker

Somehow, I don't think she means it.

habit- 19 november

it always sounds so small- how do I fit "thankful" on one paper leaf?

19 November 2011

habit- 19 november

just the right kind of Saturday- waking up slowly, football radio on the internet, baking, clean up, basketball, a quick hello, supper from the crock pot, ready for Sunday.

"the perfect way"

     Do you know what hurts so very much? It's love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain.
     There are two things we can do when that happens. We can kill the love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or, Corrie, we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.
     God loves Karel- even more than you do- and if you ask Him, He will give you His love for this man, a love nothing can prevent, nothing destroy. Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way, Corrie, God can give us the perfect way.
from The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom.

(oh the pearls in this book! My oldest kids are reading it as part of their 20th Century history studies and if you haven't read it, don't wait another day!)

18 November 2011

habit- 18 november

for a good part of the day, I felt like I needed to be held together with duct tape too. By afternoon, we both were back up to speed.

17 November 2011

habit- 17 november

baking pies is never a chore. never.

16 November 2011

habit- 16 november

I really don't know why anyone would have cranberries out of a can...

habit- 15 november

we cheered and the time went by in a flash. it seemed like a good hurdle to get past.

13 November 2011

habit- 13 november

being a soccer mom, well, it can be complicated, as much because of the parents as the girls...

habit- 12 november

I think we'd all be as happy if our best buddies came over for to spend the night.

11 November 2011

habit- 11 november

shhh... don't tell. It was medicinal. :-)

habit- 10 november

It takes a while, doesn't it?

09 November 2011

habit- 9 november

sometimes it is hard to know the right thing to do.
sometimes, though, it is not hard at all.

08 November 2011

habit- 8 november

the musty, dusty smell of fall arrived in an envelope in the mailbox and we all smiled. thanks, friend.

07 November 2011

habit- 7 november

a thorn in the flesh- the only consolation is listening to the sermon while folding.

Puente Internacional

It takes about 10 miles and 15 minutes to cross the Rio Grande River and be in Reynosa, Mexico from where we live. Going to Mexico is fast. It takes about 10 miles and a minimum of one hour to cross the Rio Grande River and be back in Texas. Crossing the bridge back into the US is slow.

We pay the toll on the Mexican side of the bridge, 24 pesos or $2 and immediately choose a lane. My husband swears the far right lane moves the most quickly, because at the other side of the bridge, the lanes fan out and traffic disperses more efficiently. I like the right lane because we can see over the bridge. On a Sunday afternoon, traffic moves at a slow crawl, if at all.

There is a sign on the bridge that says in Spanish and in English,
No Loitering
Sale or Purchase of Items is Prohibited
Penalties/Fines
No Pedestrian Traffic Allowed
That sign makes me laugh.

We haven't finished paying the toll before the first guy wants to wash our windshield. Before we cross the bridge we will be asked to
have our windshield and windows washed,
and have the car buffed.

We will have the opportunity to buy
chicharrones (fried pork rinds),
sunscreens for the windows,
water,
jewelry,
popsicles,
stuffed dolls,
garden statues,
pumpkin seeds and peanuts,
cell phone holders,
fresh fruit cups,
hammocks,
crucifixes,
hats,
candy and gum,
Mary statues,
bread,
and Smurf dolls.

And a blind man led by a lady,
two different men with only one leg,
a man in a wheelchair,
and a lady with a baby
will have asked us for money.

I smiled at one man, and he relentlessly followed us, convinced we needed him to wash our windows.
We leave the windows up, or the products come in. We shake our head "no" incessantly.





And we inch our way back to the crossing and back into the US.

habit- 6 november

The sweet man complimented me on my singing. I had to confess. I am quite sure that it wasn't my voice he was enjoying.

05 November 2011

Advent calendar give away!

Go over and look what they are giving away over at Amoretti! It's an advent calendar from the shop at the Bodleian Library at Oxford.

No Santas, no snowmen for me.
I'll choose an advent calendar or a nativity scene every time. :-)

habit- 5 november

"Wake up, soul!
Wake up, harp! wake up, lute!
Wake up, you sleepyhead sun!"

I'm thanking you, God, out loud in the streets,
singing your praises in town and country."
Psalm 57:8-9 (The Message)

habit- 4 november

at the end of the week, all I really wanted to do was rest.

03 November 2011

habit- 3 november

so many nice things about the day, but really, the biggest laugh came when I saw my friend's head dash in front of the camera...
:-)

02 November 2011

habit- 2 november

they were the nicest surprise of fall yet.
(although finding clearance candy was pretty good too...)

habit- 1 November

I have a habit, of daily checking in at Habit. And this month, in recognizing their 1000th post, they are encouraging others to participate also. So, I just might...

1 November 2011
They won their first game, but overall the day never had a good rhythm.

01 November 2011

a few more colonia shots












Border Witness Experience

"to connect the reality that people are living with those who do not know or understand it; to assist in understanding the reality of the border through personal contact; to give voice to those who struggle to surmount oppression and assert their dignity; to service as an educational resource..."
- the goals of the ARISE Border Witness Experience

Listening. Learning. Observing.
We spent Monday with Ramona at ARISE, a local non-profit agency helping immigrants to the United States, focusing on programs in Early Childhood education, English language training, and cultural and creative activities. Our primary focus was to learn more about colonias, among the poorest of neighborhoods here along the border, and indeed, among the poorest of communities in the United States.

We had the privilege of sitting in a neighbor's living room and hearing her story of immigration and the difficulty of everyday life in the United States (while only being somewhat distracted by her two very cute kids). We heard the testimony of women who are working with ARISE, and how the experience impacts their lives. We listened to a Sister of Mercy tell of what she learned while serving in an immigrant shelter in Reynosa, Mexico. We were fed exceedingly well, both academically and with tasty Mexican food!


And then we spent time driving through nearby colonias, and witnessing first hand some of the conditions these people experience. We saw tiny, postage stamp sized apartments, that rent for more than seems possible or equitable, and houses constructed from shipping palettes. We heard how in these neighborhoods plagued with gang activity, there are yet no street lights to illuminate the neighborhoods after dark. We saw fire hydrants painted red, to signify that they do not work. We were told of the potential perils of living next to irrigation ditches, and the very real possibility of annual flooding in these low lying areas.

We also heard stories of hope, of community organic gardens being established, of solar water heaters being installed to save money. We saw homes where neighbors gather to learn and share talents and gifts. We witnessed evidence of small businesses growing up, and entrepreneurship alive and well. We saw that crazy mix of culture so unique to this area, of horseback riders talking on cell phones and cornfields next to palm trees and taquerias alongside Subways.

Overall, we left blessed, encouraged and inspired by the experience, while yet sobered by the realities of the communities so geographically close.There are so very many Scripture mandates, requiring us to love our neighbors, to show compassion to the aliens in our land, to fight for justice, to show hospitality to all.  How ARISE serves the community, not doing that which people can do for themselves, developing relationships and knowing people well, meeting in neighborhood homes, patiently growing and developing new roles after 25 years of service,  is a great model for me as we continue to move forward. Thanks to Ramona and all the ladies at ARISE for a great Border Witness Experience.