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29 January 2014


There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness...
- Edgar Allan Poe

Strangeness indeed.
School cancelled the night before.
Winter storm warnings.
Treetops frozen.
Palm fronds drooping.
Ice cracking audibly.
Drips and drops and crystal glimmers.
And exquisite beauty through it all.


“Betsy returned to her chair, took off her coat and hat, opened her book and forgot the world again.” 
― Maud Hart LovelaceBetsy and Tacy Go Downtown


I couldn't pass that flaming bush one more time without stopping for a photo. Not one more time. Never mind that an old toothless man was standing in the front yard across the street, staring at the lady getting out of the big tan van with a camera in her hands. Never mind that the bush is on the corner of busy street and a school zone no less, so everyone was driving by 20 mph while staring at the photographer. Never mind that the pit bull appeared to be tethered but one couldn't be exactly sure how long that rope would lead. Never mind.
I waved at the kind man, and shouted out, "beautiful, isn't it?!"
I ignored the traffic.
I clucked kindly at the pit bull, and decided I had my shot once he started to stir,
and growl,
and then bark.
Never mind.

26 January 2014


“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” 
― Susan B. Anthony

Sunday rider, yeah.


"you should add the mushrooms, mom."

there is hope.


34 degrees? Winter comes to south Texas.


a ginger ale and 4 saltine crackers kind of day.

book list 2014

The last few years have been a book list fail. Hope springs anew in January, and I'm try-trying again. Recommendations, anyone?

Half Broke Horses: A True Life Novel by Jeannette Walls
Given to me by a trusted book recommending friend, I was instantly sold by the back cover description, "Half Broke Horses is Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults, as riveting and dramatic as Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa..." 
The book tells the story of Lily Casey Smith, a character unlike any you have met before, and her adventures from youth through adulthood in the American Southwest. This New Mexican girl adored Half Broke Horses.

The Just Church by Jim Martin 
"God's call isn't to feel bad about injustice- but to do justice!"
What might that look like in my community, my church, my life...?

The King of Torts by John Grisham
I'm a fan of Grisham, but... We know the legal practice of mass torts is, umm, rather slimy, and this book only confirms that. The main character is the hero and the villan, sympathetic and yet incredibly greedy as he becomes more and more addicted to the money and perceived power that accompanies his shell game. We see the end coming from the beginning. Not my favorite of Grisham's works.

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
In an interview on her books, Walls recounts, "Since writing The Glass Castle, so many people have said to me, "Oh, you’re so strong and you’re so resilient, and I couldn’t do what you did." That’s very flattering, but it’s nonsense. Of course they’re as strong as I am. I just had the great fortune of having been tested. If we look at our ancestry, we all come from tough roots. And one of the ways to discover our toughness and our resiliency is to look back at where we come from."
Walls was tested. Some of the stories of her childhood are almost too hard to read, and yet, she tells the story of her childhood, of her eccentric parents, without bitterness, with a sense of unconditional love. Well worth the read!

The Reason for God by Timothy Keller  
"All doubts, however skeptical and cynical they may seen, are really a set of alternative beliefs."
In A Reason for God Keller addresses the list of doubts skeptics often voice concerning Christianity, and also many reasons grounds to put trust in the Christian faith. "We have a sense that the world is not the way it ought to be. We have a sense that we are very flawed and yet very great We have a longing for love and beauty that nothing in this world can fulfill. We have a deep need to know meaning and purpose. Which worldview best accounts for these things?" Keller asks, and then addresses.

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller
A tiny little book, maybe just a sermons worth, on 1Corinthians 3:21-4:7- no pride, no boasting. "Do you realize that it is only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that you get the verdict before the performance?" Keller reminds us of that Gospel- that it is not what we do that makes us loved and accepted by God, it is only what Christ has done for us.

The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri- a Pulitizer prize winning collection of short stories primarily comprised of characters who travel from America to India and back again, whether by physical distance or cultural difference. Fictional relationships come to life. When I turned the last page, I went to look for another one of Lahiri's works so I could keep reading.

Tactics by Gregory Koukl- a practical plan for Christians wanting to share their faith and their trust as followers of Jesus. In the old school style of the unassuming and rumply detective Columbo, readers are encouraged to ask questions, to listen carefully, and to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves," but always ready to give a reason.

(photo of "Vintage Book Stack in Beautiful Blues, Aquas, & Slates" from sugarSCOUT at

23 January 2014

A prayer for our growing children

A Prayer for Our Growing Children

by Jason Helopoulos

As they mature and leave the home
Provide them adequate finances, but not riches
spouses who will love them, but not worship them
Give them sorrows, but not too deep
struggles, but not too great
Make them seasoned, but not hopeless
comfortable in their own skin, but not vain
zealous, but equally wise
knowledgeable, but filled with humility
content, but continually striving
Allow them to be confident, but not cocky
humble, but not sheepish
gracious, but not fearful
Mature their body in strength
their emotions with sophistication
and their imaginations with grounding
Fill their lungs with deep laughter
and their souls with joy
But even as I pray these things,
there is one prayer that soars above the rest

Bestow upon them your grace
Lavish them with your mercy
Drench them with your love
Give them the gift of faith
Satiate all their appetites with you
Fill them with your Holy Spirit
Set them apart for your holy service
Bring them into union with Christ
Let their hearts know a peace that surpasses understanding
Grant that my children would be Your children
That would make this child exceedingly thankful
Hear my prayer, O Father of mercy and grace

22 January 2014


when I took this picture all I really planned to say was, really, I don't like exercise.

but, at the end of today what I will remember was that two sweet couples went out of their way to get my son his accordion and no one skipped a beat when the hymn request from a young person was for a Christmas carol.

And ye, beneath life's crushing load,
whose forms are bending low,
who toil along the climbing way
with painful step and slow,
look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
and hear the angels sing!


All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, 
and all the families of the nations shall worship before you,
for kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.
Psalm 22:27-28


Girls apparently oblivious to the 8 Week Healthy Living Challenge...

20 January 2014

A Letter to Delta

Dear Delta Airlines-

The day my friend found the fare, the day after Christmas when I was just laying around in recovery with no specific thought of buying a ticket that day, I thought it too good to be true. I know that you said it was "a glitch in the system," but I count it as Great Providence. Thank you for being true to your word, and even though some poor sap in the IT department was probably fired, honoring the fares from that quick and very unanticipated two-hour sale.

In doing so, you blessed me beyond measure. Oh it was a quick 33 hour trip! But nearly every moment was spent well and my heart is full. Probably folks in the airport looked at that goofy lady with a smile plastered on her face and wondered, "what's going on with her!?"

In that 33 hours, I had breakfast with the bride, surprised a friend in the hospital, laughed (probably too loud) through lunch, shared stories around a table, hugged many dear friends, celebrated a wedding, rejoiced with those who rejoiced, was blessed by the hospitality and friendship and wise counsel of those most dear, ate breakfast with a far far away friend, and shared companionship right to the moment of walking back through security and heading home again.

(and speaking of security- that TSA pre-check exemption? That's a wonder, too!)

And all for a fare of $2.98 with taxes and fees of $39.32 (that probably doesn't cause you Delta folks to laugh out loud, but I confess, I do every time I look back on the receipt!)

So again, Delta Airlines, thank you!
I hope we can do it again.
Most sincerely,
A Very Satisfied Customer from South Texas

19 January 2014


and back again.


so long as you both shall live.


there, somewhere north of here.

Waiting in the airport for the second flight, I watched a group of people, maybe 6 adults and even more kids, little kids, a couple in the arms of their mama's. I recognized them as Karen people, an ethnic group from Myanmar who after enduring ethnic cleansing and violence in the homeland, and after years of living in refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border, are being resettled in the United States (and other countries as well). Some Karen people had started to move near my neighborhood in Omaha before we moved, and I know that they currently make up the majority of ESL students in my church there.

This family, looking weary and confused, presented their boarding passes and headed down the jet way first. Documents hung from around their necks, and they wore thin clothes, barely suitable for the freezing temperatures that awaited them outside. The rest of us gathered our bags and prepared to board, ready for the last leg of travel. An inpatient crowd, I could hear conversations of business men ready to be home after a week away, grandparents ready to see new family members.

Time passed. 10 minutes. 15 minutes. The gate attendant asked for our patience as they worked out "a seat belt issue." 20 minutes. A manager in an official coat arrives and disappears down the jet way. 25 minutes. Periodic announcements thanking us for our patience. Still, we do not board. The crowd grows impatient. I hear the comments, that "they should just buckle the kid in," "this wouldn't be a problem if they knew English," "why do they have so many kids anyway?" 30 minutes.

Finally, the gate attendant returns to the microphone. "The problem will be resolved in just a moment. Thank you for your patience." And then the first family member, a tired mom, a screaming baby in arms, exits the door. She walks to a far corner in the waiting area and sits down, her head hanging low. One by one, the other family members follow. The rest of the crowd waiting is absolutely silent as we watch.

We board the plane, but the Karen family does not. An hour late and with empty seats, the plane takes off without them.

We arrived and as we exit the secure area, I see a crowd gathered, waiting for incoming passengers. Yes, a few young families waiting for their dad or their grandparents. But there also stands a large group of Karen, gathered to welcome their people to their new home, their people that won't be arriving that night.

We were inconvenienced for 2 times 15 minutes, but I couldn't help but think, what had the last 2 times 15 hours had held for that Karen family? What the last 15 years had brought them? And what is yet to come?
Sometimes, perhaps often, we fail to recognized how very privileged we are.

17 January 2014


“You can't prepare for everything life's going to throw at you. And you can't avoid danger. It's there. The world is a dangerous place, and if you sit around wringing your hands about it, you'll out on all the adventure.” 
- from Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

(thankful for adventure; for friends who listen and then hand you a book that you will love; for a new favorite place to eat; for girls that play hard and lose and laugh on the way home anyway; for hearty hugs from not-oft-seen friends; for forgiveness; for unexpected text; for my bed and lying next to my husband at the end of the day.)

15 January 2014


a taking-care-of-business kind of day.
(with kerfluffle over moldy coins in the middle. persistently grateful for grace.)


"All you have to do is pick up a baseball.  It begs to you:  throw me.  If you took a year to design an object to hurl, you'd end up with that little spheroid small enough to nestle in your fingers but big enough to have some heft, lighter than a rock but heavier than a hunk of wood.  Its even, neat stitching, laced into the leather's slippery white surface, gives your fingers a purchase.  A baseball was made to throw.  It's almost irresistible."
- Dave Dravecky

(note: a baseball, outside the high school field, players already out for batting practice, ball smacking the bat and then sailing, in January... ahhh- yet another reason to love south Texas...)


Coolest alley around,
with the most hip girls,
and pshaw-
shouldn't we all just use bumpers!?

13 January 2014


Sunday night rituals (Downton, grrr...),

11 January 2014


The fog comes on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on. 
- Fog by Carl Sandburg
or, sometimes, it looks over the fields and town, and then moves on...

10 January 2014


Sent our guy back to school today.
We'll miss him.
(Will we miss the state of his living space?  well... perhaps not so much...)


and there comes the day when you cannot live with it one more day.

09 January 2014


chocolate chocolate cuppycakes for church

07 January 2014


Latte, coffee, hot chocolate, chamomile tea, mostly just to hold a warm mug in my hand-
that kind of day.


It does take long after spending time in Reynosa to realize that garbage collection in Mexico is an entirely different experience than in the United States. In Reynosa, local men with horse or donkey drawn carts collect the garbage. They then haul the trash to the local dump. I'm thinking that there must be mechanized trash collection- dump trucks- in Reynosa, but I don't remember ever seeing one...

At the dump, the cart traffic constantly moves on the "roads". You see families sifting through trash, looking for recyclables or clothing to resell. On this day I saw a man open a cracker box, presumably to see if there was anything inside worth eating. I spent time with a sweet family with three kids happy to be spending the day with their dad before going back to school the next day. The family lives on the edge of the dump, and it was obviously their playground as they zipped around on their bikes next to their dad. I talked to several men who had been collecting trash for decades. One bought his cart from his father. Another was accompanied by his son, presumably who would someday have his own route.

Our family was at the dump along with a short-term team serving with Isaiah 55 Ministries this week. These servants from the States included a team of vet students and a doctor providing antibiotics and anti-parasite medicines for the animals, a man to shoe the horses and donkeys, and others to do improvements on the carts, including new lumber and welding improvements. We had opportunity to distribute Bibles to adults and children, and minister in Word and deed. This is the work I adore.

The day my family served with the team at the dump was probably the coldest day we've experienced in a couple of years. The smoke of the small fires around the dump left us smelling musty. The mist of light rain added a dampness to the already cool temperatures. Our toes and fingers and ears were chilled. Obviously the dump is a dusty dirty place (though not nearly as stinky as it will be in the summertime!). All this, and we were blessed, and our hope is that the cart owners were as well.


at last moment of the day.

04 January 2014


It's just a Saturday night.


What was the life of that boy king like, a pharaoh in 1300 B.C.? *
And why did he die so young?*
And what was that moment like, to bust into that sealed tomb?*
And did you know that Lord Carnarvon, who financed Howard Carter's expedition in the Valley of the Kings, lived at Highclere Castle which is the home of Downton Abbey?*

*rhetorical, asked for effect, not answer.

03 January 2014


Si tuvieras fe como un grano de mostaza,
(If you had the faith of a mustard seed)

Eso lo dice el Señor,
(This is what the Lord says)

Tú le dirías a la montaña,
(You would say to the mountain)

Muévete, muévete.
(Move, move)

- common Spanish worship song, taken from The Just Church by Jim Martin 

01 January 2014


If the year were to end tonight, I'd be deeply content nonetheless.
Hello 2014! Let's be friends.

A Prayer for the New Year

Thanks to Andrew Peterson at The Rabbit Room  for this prayer from John Bailie's A Diary of Private Prayer. On the first day of the new year and every day after, I am thankful for worship, for refuge, for peace, and for the hope of Christ. It's difficult to even put words on all that, and thus, I am also thankful for the Holy Spirit, that I don't really have to...
Eternal Father of my soul, let my first thought be of you, let my first impulse be to worship you, let my first speech be your name, let my first action be to kneel before you in prayer.
For your perfect wisdom and perfect goodness;
For the love wherewith you love mankind;
For the love wherewith you love me;
For the great and mysterious opportunity of my life;
For the indwelling of your Spirit in my heart;
For the sevenfold gifts of your Spirit;
I praise and worship you.
Yet let me not, when this prayer is said, think my worship ended and spend this year in forgetfulness of you. Rather from these moments of quietness let light go forth, and joy, and power, that will remain with me through all the days of the year,
Keeping me chaste in thought;
Keeping me temperate and truthful in speech;
Keeping me faithful and diligent in my work;
Keeping me humble in my estimation of myself;
Keeping me honorable and generous in my dealings with others;
Keeping me loyal to every hallowed memory of the past;
Keeping me mindful of my eternal destiny as a child of yours.
O God, who have been the refuge of my fathers through many generations, be my refuge this year in every time and circumstance of need. Be my guide through all that is dark and doubtful. Be my guard against all that threatens my spirit’s welfare. Be my strength in time of testing. Gladden my heart with your peace, through Jesus Christ my Lord.


For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.

- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding