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22 August 2017

230/365

In dog years, he counts something around 84, we suppose, though there remains some dispute that it could be closer to 91. He naps a good many hours a day, moving from the expected back of the couch or curled up in a chair to a hidden corner behind a side table or next to the toilet. Yes, the toilet. We can't figure that one out either.
He lived a bit of a sad existence through the summer, when most of us were away and we had to count on the kindness of friends to feed and water and love on him when we weren't. He became a bit neglected, smelling doggydog, hindquarters a bit matted, beard a bit disheveled.

Therefore, it was time for a long overdue spa day at home, a gotta-get-him-cleaned-up-before-we-can-pay-to-get-him-groomed, makeover. He tolerated the wash and spin cycle well. Of course, he ran around like a pup once released from the tub, rubbing himself caddywhompus on the entryway rug, siding back and forth against the couch, shaking and spraying innocent kitchen bystanders. We left him to dry on his own. But once his fur lost the wet, he couldn't avoid the inevitable brushing. We fluffed and detangled and cut out knots, one set of hands at work on the coat, the other set petting and restraining and calming him, all while whispering sweet nothings like "you're such a good boy." He remains a patient pup, with a very short memory and awfully forgiving towards his people.

The end result?
Still in need of help. But awfully cute while waiting.

20 August 2017

229/365

I pulled off the blacktop and into the shoulder and rolled down the window and tried to get the steer to look my way. He did, and he looked rather annoyed at the intrusion on his mid-afternoon stroll.
Really, I can hardly blame him...

Sure, the skies are clear and the view is sublime, but does a care even care? Certainly, cows feel the August heat too, don't they? I keep wondering, when the sun beams hot overhead, when there's no shade in these south Texas fields, where there's not a drop of water nearby, when the grass is on the driest side of green, do the cows think, "Psheesh. I'm over this whole summer thing..."

Or do they just graze and sometimes stop to look up at the crazy lady on the side of the road?

228/365

O God beyond all praising,
we worship you today
and sing the love amazing
that songs cannot repay;
for we can only wonder
at every gift you send,
at blessings without number
and mercies without end:
we lift our hearts before you
and wait upon your word,
we honour and adore you,
our great and mighty Lord.
Then hear, O gracious Saviour,
accept the love we bring,
that we who know your favour
may serve you as our king;
and whether our tomorrows
be filled with good or ill,
We'll triumph through our sorrows
and rise to bless you still:
to marvel at your beauty
and glory in your ways,
and make a joyful duty
our sacrifice of praise.
"O God Beyond All Praising," Michael A. Perry (1982)

227/365

Turns out that maybe watching the previous evening's nightly news might not be the most peaceful start to the day. We got all riled up over the headlines, and we both started talking back to the screen and to each other. Things besides coffee might rapidly accelerate your heart rate in the morning.

Just in case anyone would be wondering, although I know that the ugly beauty of the United States Constitution gives Americans the right to freedom of speech, I believe any and all white supremacist nationalist groups and their vitriolic expressions of hate should be condemned, quickly, consistently and zealously, by our leaders and by our own words and actions. Violence of any kind should be handled swiftly, as a matter of enforcing the law.

A few days ago, reflecting on the events in Charlottesville and the current climate in the United States, Pastor Kevin DeYoung wrote, "So no matter how far we’ve come, or how loudly we denounce racism, we have to realize that the pride of racial superiority is still sin, and it’s still with us. Even on our best days--as a country, as the church, and as individuals--it’s still the case that the worst days weren’t that long ago. For some, they were just last weekend." In a letter published in the Washington Post, the president of World Relief, Scott Arbiter wrote, "Claiming the supremacy of any race is an affront to God." I serve and worship the Lamb who was slain for every nation, tribe and tongue.
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16 August 2017

226/365

This kid. He's the tag along little brother. He's the youngest among the kids that gather for community outreach, by at least five years. He holds his own. He is all lime green right now. Dressed in lime green. Coloring with lime green. Always wanting to hold a green lime. He has a strong arm. If you aren't paying attention, that lime might whiz past your ear, a fastball in the making. He will play catch with you for a good long while, until he figures out that he can launch the lime over the fence into the neighbor's yard and you figure out that "No" is probably not warning enough. His name fits him perfectly, as he is really quite a teddy bear.

We're going through the Lord's Prayer right now with these kids, teaching it line by line. Really, those petitions sum up what we are praying for each one of them. We're praying that they would know the Lord's will in their lives; that they would be kingdom servants and leaders. We're praying that they would know His sufficiency day by day; that they would not be tempted by the momentary pleasures of the world around them. We're praying that they would be protected from evil. We're praying that they would love the Lord and that they would love others and that they would know that they are children of the King.
We're praying for them just as we pray for our own kids.

15 August 2017

225/365

"You're not from here," said the checkout guy, as he looked skeptically at the two thick red-green stalks. "Only people from up north buy this."

Yeah. No kidding. One time, oh, seven and more years ago, my friends would beg me to take a bagful home from church, the garden bounty they were delighted to share. On Saturday (my Nebraska and Iowa friends, please sit down because you will gasp and need a deep breath...) I paid an obscene $4.98 a pound for that south Texas produce rarity. Is it a fruit? Is it a vegetable? It is rhubarb.

Honestly, it wasn't a choice. Because what says summer better than Strawberry-Rhubarb pie?

I don't remember eating rhubarb as a kid growing up in New Mexico. My Grandma Cole was a pie maker extraordinaire, so surely she would have made that variety... But I remember the first time I had Strawberry-Rhubarb pie. I think it was the summer before 5th grade. It was brought over as dessert for a meal from friends when my Grammy died. I sat at the table downstairs and watched the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and ate pie. Apparently this kid didn't lose her appetite easily. A pie never tasted so very good.

I can't remember how old I was when I started climbing on the kitchen step stool chair to be right next to my grandma while she made pies. And then I married into a family with Grandma Lorraine, the pie-making matriarch who delighted to share her crust recipe with an interested granddaughter-in-law. But it took moving to the Midwest before Strawberry-Rhubarb got back in the rotation. (cue "happy baking music") Really, tell me what's not to like about rhubarb? Rhubarb pie, rhubarb cake, rhubarb pastries, rhubarb punch... rhubarb all summer long.

Then we moved to the US/Mexico border. (cue "screeching halt")
Which brings us to the moment of The Happy Dance in the HEB produce section when on a Saturday rhubarb makes its surprise annual appearance.
Even if it is $4.98 a pound.
Sigh.

It was worth it.

(Here's the recipe that guided me this year- Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Improved. But (confession), I changed my usual crust recipe for all-butter and regretted it. You're right, Grandma Lorraine- it's got to be Crisco.)


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224/365

"To encourage one another to pray is not legalism; it is breathing."
- Gloria Furman, Missional Motherhood

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13 August 2017

223/365

A whole list of places would be preferable but for now, she's pretty much stuck in this one. My friend smiles wide when we enter, and we find a wall to lean on and a corner of the bed to occupy. She updates us on this and that and shares a few stories of time past. I want to remember how pleased she was with a hot cup of coffee and a visit from her pastor and a few friends and a book at her side. I am still working on that "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content."

221/365

Somewhere far down the coast, the tempest raged, dark and wet and gusty, I know. But here, the tall clouds on the horizon looked to be only a beautiful warning of the coming storm. We didn't yet know what it would look like.

And isn't this all of life? Isn't always there some storm in route, if not already tossing around us?And yet, "In the middle of the pain of life in a fallen world, we groan with hope, knowing that when the new creation does come in its fullness, then all our groaning will not be remembered."
(Gloria Furman, Missional Motherhood

I keep my eyes fixed on the horizon of eternity.

10 August 2017

220/365

We walked maybe 10 yards before we spotted our first and second and third chacalaca, those chubby dusty brown birds scavenging under the low shrubs outside the Visitor's Center. Several hours later, we had spotted at least a dozen more bird species, overhead and in the trees. Lizards, long and short, fat and small, zip across our path, at least every couple of minutes. Rabbits and squirrels hop and skip on the trail, and then stop wide-eyed as if they are surprised to see us. Butterflies and moths flutter by along the way. We wonder where the ocelot and jaguarundi might be hiding to watch us. Spanish moss hangs thick and heavy and a bit gloomy. The Sighting of the Day must be the Very Impressive Blue Indigo snake, dark and thick and long and hustling, slithering to get out of our way. We see scat, full of seed, and wonder what animal could be responsible for littering the trails. We visit a cemetery full of wooden crosses, graves one hundred years old.

We spent the morning at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, a federally managed park that nestles right up to the US/Mexico border at the Rio Grande river in south Texas. The morning sun burned bright hot as it moved overhead. Cicadas played the high-pitched whine and click soundtrack to our hike. We saw just two other people for most the morning, although I've read that 165,000 visitors arrive at the park each year. It's a gem of a place, a place where you cannot help but recognize and be impressed by the stark and harsh beauty of this tropical dessert zone.

This still, beautiful place has been in the news recently. It has been marked as the site of the next border wall project. And frankly, that ires me greatly, for many reasons. I believe that there are better solutions to navigate immigration issues than with a fence across a wildlife refuge. I believe that other options can be found to truly improve our nation's security than to scar this land with a wall. I believe that we can be far more creative, much more resourceful, smarter and better stewards of the land, than to resort to fencing off this place.

John Muir, early advocate for the wilderness, wrote, “Everybody needs beauty...places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.” I hope that the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge continues to be one of those places.
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09 August 2017

219/365

The three days passed in a blink of the eye. Few things bring me more joy than spending time with these people. We shopped and sat and cooked and ate and worshipped and visited friends and played games and laughed and went to the movies and even managed to get in a hike. We did just enough. My peeps have a lot of personality (grin!). Together their similarities and differences and opinions and preferences weave a beautiful tapestry.  I love to listen to them and I love to watch them and I love to be with them. Though much too short, three days together is a pretty sweet gift. Thanks and I love you all muchly.

218/365

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
    you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:23-26

08 August 2017

216/365

As far as birthdays go, it met the requirements for 49 years just fine. The commitments of the day require driving back and forth, more miles than I might have chosen, but with good company, the miles pass fast and turn it all to blessing. Catching up means trips to the store and the whole day there is the fighting off of the bug that all of us have seemed to catch. I fall asleep hard on the couch when I stop for just a moment. In the evening, we gather in mass for birthdays and farewells and just to be together. A mess of low country boil spills across brown paper coverings and tea spills on the floor. I find a soft chair to settle and then later move to the feet of friends. The kids groove behind the back lit screen, waving to create shadow dances and silent hand drama to entertain. And then finally, the glow of candles on a sticky sweet pan of cake, one for each of us, and another year begins. There is yet much to celebrate.

215/365

I realize that as I grow older, I anticipate the time together more. I found myself thinking about it throughout the day, looking forward to gathering for worship, to hearing the Word preached and proclaimed, to taking in the bread and the wine. In the communion service, especially, we remember Immanuel, God with us. I consider that perfect sacrifice made on my behalf, Christ died, his body broken, his blood poured out that I might live, and I am humbled to the core. Almost inexplicably, as we confess our unworthiness and proclaim Christ as Lord, he meets us there at the table again.

John Piper explains, "If we come to Christ over and over and say, "By this, O Christ, I feed on you. By this, O Jesus Christ, I nourish my life in you. By this I share in all the grace you bought for me with your own blood and body" - if we come to Christ over and over with this longing and this conviction in our heart: that here he nourishes us by faith, then the Lord's Supper will be a deep and wonderful act of worship. Nothing shows the worth and preciousness of Christ so much as when we come to him to feed our hungry souls."

So on this day in the afternoon heat, we gathered under the hum of fans. The buzz of the neighborhood continued all around us. The dogs settled at our feet. The littlest kids carried on in their play. And the rest of us paused and worshiped, recognizing the majesty and power of our God, confessing our unworthiness and receiving the assurance of forgiveness, and feasting on His grace that saves to the uttermost. 

06 August 2017

214/365

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.
- Ephesians 2:8-10 (The Message)


03 August 2017

213/365

Some moments are Bible study, sit alongside, listen, comfort, little kids, older faces, seeking, praying... is this the missionary life!
Some moments are raking, shoveling, trash in the yard, trash in the street, crazy broken phone, what are you trying to tell me, can you please say that again... is this the missionary life?

212/365

As each one began to fill the white sheet with sharpie sketch, we shook the rainbow hues out of the plastic container. What is it about that waxy scent that immediately conjures up years past? We spread the crayolas across the table and memories surface, of childhood school supplies when every point is shiny new, of my own little people gathered around the dining room table listening to the history reading for the day. We hope for those same feelings of safety and comfort in this place, where everyday hard is left outside the door. We hope for a place where kids come in and learn and create. We hope for a place where kids are simply kids, full of promise and confident in who He has made each one to be. On this day, the project was all silliness, but to see the smiles burst out at the surprise of the folds, that was all light.

02 August 2017

211/365

We wandered through the superstore and made a few small purchases. We exited and walked slowly in the afternoon heat, down the crowded sidewalk, shaking our heads at the offers for drinks, for prescription medications, for jewelry, for nopal, for toys, for clothing, for dental work. We crossed the ever dusty street in almost slow motion and made our way back to the smoky, dark cool of the lounge to wait. The Piano Lady played Strangers in the Night on her electric keyboard, bass pre-programmed, and a youth soccer game played on the big screen, crying parents celebrating their sons' victory. We ordered cold soft drinks, sweat running down the bottles, and poured them over tall glasses with big cubes of ice. We ate Spanish peanuts and chips covered with chili lime salt while sitting in low bucket swivel chairs at a short round table. In this place, the border fulfills exactly the stereotype you might imagine.

01 August 2017

210/365

For every beast of the forest is mine,
    the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the hills,
    and all that moves in the field is mine.

-Psalm 50:10-11

Another day bright and hot, and even sitting under cover, under fan, we feel the sweat form on our brow. I consider how very little is under my control, and fall again into prayer. And there I humbly remember that He who owns all the beasts of the field is completely trustworthy in our lives, too.

28 July 2017

208/365

She was boarding the first flight before I went to bed.
In the middle of the night, I could see the next leg would depart on time.
Another pre-dawn check showed her over the Atlantic.
At breakfast, the little jet icon crossed my telephone screen into Canada.
By lunch, she reported in, through customs and live from Dallas.
And before dinnertime, the small silver plane landed on the hot blacktop of the place we call home and we waited for her to emerge from the gate.

Today, we were the Airport Reunion scene and others watched us and smiled.

Welcome home to our missionary servant traveler. We missed you, Sarahbear.

207/365

In hindsight, probably the last minute dash for a raspa was mistimed at best. Probably I should have chosen a stand closer to home. Maybe I should have resisted the temptation to the sweet primary brights altogether. It all seemed like it was going to work, that I could have my ice AND make it to dinner on time, my crockpot ready to carry out the door. The street signals untypically changed in our favor. I chose the back road route and hardly a car could be seen ahead. And then, I squinted; sure enough, in the distance, the slight movement of the train gave cause for concern.
"I don't think it will last long."
"It's almost through, right?"
"It can't be THAT much longer."
"WHAT?! It's STOPPING?"
Yes. Stopped. Completely halted.
At that moment, "We might be late," turned to "Dang. We're late."
And we were.
But all in all, the raspa was worth it.

26 July 2017

205/365

Recipe for One Good Day-
Morning latte,
Hatch Green Chile Egg Potato Sausage breakfast taco,
Morning shared in Reynosa with the best company, the best,
Bridge line confessions,
Bookstore escape with only one title,
Spinach Mushroom Piadina,
New library card (which deserves it's own post. The friendliest customer service, bright light crisp, a new book to go, and MORE OVERDRIVE!! Yes, this is true- not the dream where I wake up and owe money...),
Wish shopping,
Making her new purchase fit in the back,
Large unsweet tea with lemon,
11 hours uninterrupted,
Home again, home again,
Back down the road,
New shower curtain and bath mat,
Steak with my favorite electrician,
Home again, home again.

Finish heart happy and deeply content.


204/365

Creature of habit, soul food came in walking through the back door and waving to my favorite peeps and finding my place at the table for prayer. The apex of the day certainly peaked with worship. And once that finished, everything else happened blurry slow. Who knew that PBS could be such great white noise, the background soundtrack to an afternoon of dozing? My perspective stayed horizontal for a good piece of the day, and that was just right.

203/365

You visit the earth and water it;
    you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
    you provide their grain,
    for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly,
    settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
    and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty;
    your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
    the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
    the valleys deck themselves with grain,
    they shout and sing together for joy.

- Psalm 65:9-13 (ESV)


He lifted read the verses and we remembered, "Oh yes, this is all grace." Then he lifted his hands and prayed. We all gave thanks for the fruit we were about to pick. The harvest this year certainly overflowed in abundance. The grapes hung heavy on the vines, intertwined bunches waiting to be extracted. The presence of the wasps and hornets and bees gave testimony to the juicy sweetness of the fruit. We filled bucket after bucket, and remarked again and again, "What bounty!" After a couple hours of searching and snipping, covered with sweat and a coat of dust, we finished. Our fingers were stained purple red and our toes showed splatters of grape juice. We smiled and rejoiced with those who rejoice. We shout and sing together for joy.




202/365

This day started early, before sunrise, and from then on, everything happened slow and deliberate, checking off one box and then another. But "deliberate" must also include recognizing ordinary grace- like fresh sweet cherries for a great price in the produce section, and "why don't I take you out?" from my guy when it came time to make dinner.

22 July 2017

200/365

For this is one of the miracles of love; it gives... a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.
To see, in some measure, like God. His love and His knowledge are not distinct from one another, nor from Him. We could almost say He sees because He loves, and therefore loves although He sees.
- C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed


19 July 2017

199/365

The good news- we added 20 new kids to the neighborhood VBS today. We scrambled to form a new group and create a new schedule. We snapped colored rubberbands around little and big wrists and tried to convince them that even if it wasn't their favorite color, it was still a good group. We wrote nametags and stuck them on shirts and then we wrote nametags again when their shirts got wet and again when their shirts got wet again. I looked down and now I think we will call the tile floor "Luis."

For three hours, the place was teeming with kids- sweet, naughty, active, wide-eyed, ever-thinking, "what comes next?", thirsty, neighborhood kids. It was all the chaos that you might imagine, and maybe then some more. They waved their arms and spun circles in dance. They ran and kicked and the littles played Pato, Pato, Ganso. They sweat. We sweat. They listened to the parable about the Pearl of Greatest Price. Well, sort of they listened...

They mixed granola and butter and honey and toasted it all up. They added the hidden treasure of M&M's and craisins and filled bags with trail mix. Little kids were separated from their groups and returned to their groups and middle boys wanted a different group and the big boys were too cool for their group today. Was it the sugar? Maybe no M&M's and craisins tomorrow...

But in one place, everyone sat and hardly even spoke. Unlike anywhere else in the building, calm permeated the room- the Art Room. Almost without exception, the kids storm into the Art Room, and then settle. Today they painted treasure boxes, and plain wood was transformed with rainbow bright hues. Little boys stuck out their tongues in Michael Jordan-like concentration. The helpers refilled paper plate palettes with color. They praised the efforts of the artists and thanked them when they finished, almost oblivious to the pandemonium below. Art. We are keeping art.

And prayer. We are keeping prayer. Because in all the smiles and in the tears today, we recognize as much as ever that we are not enough. Yet, even in the chaos, we see Jesus here. So we pray, Lord, give us all ears to hear and eyes to see and a mind to understand, just as you hear and see and understand us. Help us to know your still, quiet peace in the midst of the all the wild activity around us. Enlarge our hearts to love just as you love us.



18 July 2017

198/365

From nearly clear skies, the sun beats super hot at midday and hardly a soul is to be found. Yet these volunteers persevere, measuring and re-measuring to prepare for the new soccer goals to come. Modest shack-like homes line the back of the fields. My teammate told me that he met a local resident with a Lipizzaner horse, high-stepping and trotting through his paces on the very same ground. He was invited into the rider's home, and shown the fine leather saddles and told about the travels he takes and where he buys his steeds. We are reminded, again, we can never take this place for granted.

197/365

"It's a fixer-upper," we might say with a grin. Ordinary description doesn't really do the property justice- this little house made into a duplex. It sits at the end of a road in a less than desirable Reynosa neighborhood. Pass the house on a dusty little street heading west and gun up a short steep hill and you'll find yourself at the top of a levy, looking at a complex of dirt playing fields. If you were to travel as the crow flies, in less than a half a mile, you'd find yourself at the city dump. Inevitably, piles of trash litter the side of the road, along with the evidence of charred garbage and the discarded soda bottles and chip wrappers that serve as staples of the local diet.

The house itself, it's not much to speak of, really. The front door opens to the entryway living room. A few steps more and you pass a bathroom that's being restored and continue to a corner bedroom. The kitchen is, um, unique. The walls display no less than four styles of tile. The counter tops are granite, yes, but they came together through pieces and parts leftover from other jobs. The original wiring allowed one plug in each room, but our make-it-happen electrician friend is installing more boxes. (Can I mention how grateful I am to have an electrician friend? And friends who tile bathrooms? And who paint walls? And who paint fences? And who clean up yards? And who donate furniture? And who pray?)

Then there's the little structure at the back of the property. We know that the owner has used the brick ovens to roast pig. There's an abandoned band saw in the corner. All manner of trash has been removed. Surely bugs and rodents must hide in the crevices, yet undetected.As grubby and dark as the picture shows, cobwebs knit into dusty cobwebs. Yet, the window set into the top of the wall allows streams of sunlight to expose this place. It is a work in progress, but slowly the glow of light filters out the darkness.

17 July 2017

196/365

Some days are
morning latte,
unsweet tea with lemon,
iced coffee with room,
large diet coke,
water,
limeade,
keep something cold and wet in your hand,
all the day long.

16 July 2017

195/365

Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
    and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
And the effect of righteousness will be peace,
    and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.
My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,
    in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.

- Isaiah 32:16-18 (ESV)

15 July 2017

194/365

Far and wide they’ll come to a stop,
    they’ll stare in awe, in wonder.
Dawn and dusk take turns
    calling, “Come and worship.”

- Psalm 65:8 (The Message)

I looked up and the pink-peach-coral glow called me and up and out and a photo does not do justice to the glory of it all. For a few minutes, we could forget the humid dusty heat of the day to yet to come, forget the hard stories that would bring us to tears, forget the cacophony of the noise of life in this place, and just put our eyes on Him who created all things.
And it was good.

12 July 2017

193/365

Meet Todd the blond mutt. As of today, Todd is bilingual- because he heard a "No" and "Get out!" about a thousand times today. Repetition, repetition, repetition is the key to learning a new language.

Now, although we feel bad that this dog is mangy and underfed and looks at us with incredibly pathetic eyes, still, Todd's a dog. And when he finally wanders away down the street, I didn't stew over it very long.

But, in the last few days, I've seen people and heard stories that I will remember much, much longer. I've seen sick and sad little kids- a tot with impetigo, and a few broken collarbones that are healing, and sores that are not. I've met young teen girls that have experienced more in their short lives then any adult should ever know. A woman stepped on the scale and weighed 80 pounds and turned her eyes down in shame. I have double checked blood pressure readings and blood sugar levels because they just seemed much too high to be correct, though they were. I checked in a man who had tattoos on his entire body, no kidding- every piece of skin I could see, face included. We wonder about relationships that seem questionable at best.

I listened to a pretty long story about a man's job history and on the job injury and problems with the national health system and current unemployment and homelessness, in Spanish. Then he told me that he had retired from an auto plant in the States, in Spanish. "Why am I speaking to you in Spanish?," I asked him, in English. "I don't know," he answered, in perfect English. We both smiled big and then laughed out loud. I listened to an older woman who has lived in the area for more years than she remembers, most of those years working in the Zona Tolerancia down the street. But now, she told me with a content smile while holding my hand like the grandma she is, she is old and single and she's quite content to be married to Jesus. Oh yes, even among the hard, there has been plenty of sweet, babies and elderly ladies that are adorable, doctors who share good news, hearts that have been softened and soothed in counsel and prayer.

But Todd? Well, our hands are pretty full. Maybe Todd can find another place to hang out.




192/365

My teammate first saw the idea on the Internet. To be clear, he gets lots of ideas on the Internet. If we were counting, I'd guess that the majority of time when he sticks his phone in front of us and says, "Watch THIS!," we nod and then wait and then laugh out loud, loudly. Sometimes we say, "We could do that!," but really it might be a Pinterest Fail just waiting to happen. But sometimes we say, "WOW! That's cool! We should do that here."

This time, Ryan really made it happen.

You think potholes are bad where you live? Sure, they probably are, for a season. But those of you living in the States, if you complain, the city will mostly likely send a crew out to fix them and then you forget that they ever were. That doesn't happen here. Potholes, or rather- avoiding potholes, become part of the daily obstacle course of life. Another teammate (and lest we be accused of cultural insensitivity- he's Mexican), tired of the jarring hits on his car, decided we could start filling the potholes in the neighborhood. And last summer, that's what we did. With the help of crews from our short-term summer teams, we hit the streets and mixed up concrete and starting filling holes.

Then sometime in the winter, we saw the video. It showed examples of folks in other places topping off pothole repairs with mosaic art. That was a natural for this place.

We started making art with our neighborhood kids a year ago. In that time they have created drawings and paintings and self-portraits and collages of all sorts. This time, we are taking their art to the street; really, laying the art into the street and capping off the pothole repairs with the mosaic tiles. Over the course of this summer, we have laid down tiles with Esperanza and Gozo and Amor, literally bringing hope and joy and love into our neighborhood roads. Our kids and volunteers have designed flowers and ice cream cones and animals and abstract colorful designs. We are patching our streets with beauty. 

Street art doesn't last. It's temporal. Cars drive over our art and the tiles crack and will eventually disintegrate. And maybe, then, we'll do it again all over again. But no matter, the message we keep is from Him who is eternal, the Creator of all things who made us in His image to create. We can tell our kids that He too is making all things new and that our Jesus, he does not disappoint. And whether in the street or anywhere else, that is the most beautiful message of all.



11 July 2017

191/365

We opened the doors for the medical clinic at 9 and already a couple of patients were waiting. Today we saw 60-something people come through our gate: babes, tots, kids, youth, adults, elderly, men, women, familiar faces and others completely new to us. These servant doctors and nurses and helpers allow us to invite our neighborhood in to receive very practical helps. They give us yet another means to love our neighbors.  We heard stories and symptoms of all sorts of aches and pains, physical diseases and spiritual ills, too. We pumped up cuffs for blood pressure readings and measured pulse ox levels and poked fingers for sugar tests. We dispensed vitamins and meds that had been prescribed and ran labs and watched super cool portable sonogram procedures. So many more consultations and procedures took place in privacy, our community center transformed into examination rooms. We prayed with the hurting and their family members and asked for healing in Jesus name.

We are broken people who met broken people today- physically hurting yes, and spiritually fractured too, and that is humbling. At the end of the day, we know that there is so much more left to do . And even so, at the end of the day, we know our Jesus and know He is enough.

190/365

Summer Sunday habits-
early quiet if not for the chatter of waking birds,
eggs and beans,
worship and "Dios te bendiga" and kisses on the cheek,
pollo asado and rice and banana pudding,
avoiding potholes and keeping the distance right and a drive past fields and bones and young people as the dj,
lazy look shopping and "gracias, no" and small buys,
Topo Chico with lime and topos and Spanish peanuts and lounge music and random sports on tv while sitting with friends in a smoky bar,
BLT in the kitchen,
an exchange of text and "not restful but rested."

09 July 2017

189/365

The great mistake made by most of the Lord's people is in hoping to discover in themselves that which is to be found in Christ alone.
- AW Pink (as found in Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges)

08 July 2017

187/365

I see the bright yellow plane swoop down behind the tree line, and I drive ahead to the roadside edge of the cotton field. I recognize the craft and I know the pilot and I pull over and get out to watch. Puffy clouds stacked high against the bright blue sky provide a technicolor backdrop to the show. The hum of the airplane engine gives narration to the unnatural maneuvers over power lines and across the green of the ground. The plane glides low before powering up and turning wide for another pass. I am mesmerized.

If only I didn't keep the smell of chemicals after the display...

186/365

Never take for granted the friends who let you invite yourself over to their outside-the-city-limits home to blow up your leftover not-advised-for-the-cul-de-sac fireworks.
Never take for granted the friends who zealously stuff the back of the Normandy full of grass and paper to get the box to light, and who risk life and limb to rip open hot cardboard to find the hidden fuse.
Never take for granted the friends who cheer when the spark finally flies and who whoop when the mini tank rolls off the deck and onto the asphalt.
Never take for granted the friends who use up a full pack of matches to light the Flying Pig because you were too cheap to buy a punk.
Never take for granted the friends who yelp as loud as you do when the Ladybug screams into the air and at the same time, are thinking how to put out a potential grass fire when it lands on the opposite side of the canal.
Never take for granted the friends who laugh with you and love you well.
Those friends, they are golden.

05 July 2017

185/365

Some people like the pop-pop-pop of the Roman candle, bursts of color exploding in the air. Kids of all ages enjoy waving the sparklers, using neon script to write their name in the air. The changing colors of the fountains always bring an oooh and an aaah. My dog, he could do without, running to get closer to us in shaking tremors at the first whistle of explosives in flight.

But me, my favorite? The Fire Engine. Have you seen it? It's just a little box, a red cardboard rendition on tiny black plastic wheels. But the entertainment value of this little guy? Super high! You first light fuse at the back and the truck propels forward with a stream of red flame sizzling out the back. Next the headlights light up bright, complete with sparks; then the top siren neon lights fire up. And finally, best of all, the ladder on the top pops up!

Last year, I bought fireworks, but then we never used them. We really aren't supposed to light up inside the city limits where I live. We got home late after the party last year and deemed my quiet cul-de-sac much too still for pyrotechnics. My birthday was the next likely date, but something happened and the displays never were set.  So they waited patiently in a plastic bag on top of the freezer, pink sticks peeking out in ready anticipation. This Independence Day, I used up my last Fire Engine, and immediately, I wished I could watch in delight one more time. So I quickly scooted over to the nearby stand to get another before the clock struck midnight. Alas, "We didn't get that one this year." No Fire Truck for sale?!

You are missing out, Black Cat.

04 July 2017

184/365

I once had a friend who, when talking about her growing kids, would be known to say, "THIS is my favorite age!" The rest of us moms finally made her confess that, really, every age was her favorite age. That's how I feel about my own age. Today I was thinking, I love being this age. My family is generally at a good place in life. I have lots of memories and experiences, and have the confidence of trusting our God's faithfulness in those yet to come. I'm ok with "my style," whatever that means, and go figure, my gray hairs are surprisingly hip these days. I have freedom in my days and can even fill in as a babysitter in a last moment pinch. I have even learned to smile at "for everything there is a season...," a place where I have been known to grumble for many years. My favorite age is now.

03 July 2017

183/365

At least a dozen gradually softening tubs of creamy cold goodness, cavity sweet toppings, syrups and whipped cream and a cherry on top.
Tables full of young to old, sharing stories and telling tales.
I dare to dream that eternity will be something akin to this, sitting around with my favorite saints, with nowhere else we need to be.
And maybe a mug of coffee in hand, besides.

182/365

The sun radiated white bright and white hot. The long days of the last week wore us down a bit and at the very first misunderstanding, our words came out swift and short and searing. My first choice would be to run and hide but that's not a choice this day. And of course, it has to be a day like this when I find myself smack in the middle of a book on transforming grace...

     "I need to be broken apart and put back into a different shape by that merging of things human and divine, which is really screwing up and receiving grace and love and forgiveness rather than receiving what I really deserve. I need the very thing that I will do everything I can to avoid needing.
     The sting of grace is not unlike the sting of being loved well, because when we are loved well, it is inextricably linked to all the times we have not been loved well, all the times we ourselves have not loved others well, and all the things we've done or not done that feel like evidence against our unworthiness. Love and grace are such deceivingly soft words- but they both sting like hell and then go and change the shape of our hearts and make us into something that we couldn't create ourselves to be."
- Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber


10 June 2017

153/365

If you have a key to the house and permission to enter, it doesn't count as stealing, even if it sure feels like it, right?
That boom box? Flashback gold.
And those girls? Making me laugh since 1999...