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31 January 2017


"No puedo leer," he told us.
I can't read.
For these two homeschool moms, that can't be.
Right away, Keila told him,
"Podemos enseñarte a leer."
The very next day, this kid with a tough exterior arrived early, even sitting through part of fútbol, to hand print sounds,
ma me mi mo mu,
and sound out the words, one by one, syllable by syllable, on the page of the Jesus Storybook Bible.

Another teen with a swagger comes through the door to get a drink of water and sees him at the table, across from the teacher, and raps him on the head to make fun of him. Keila asks him to read. He takes the book and looks at the words, and hands it back to her. "Puedo leer. Pero no me GUSTA leer," he says. "Muy bien," she answers him, "No se burle a el.  Pero podemos enseñarte a leer tambien." ("Very well. Don't tease him. But we can teach you to read too.")

Surprisingly, this evening, the kids we expect to be trouble, to make fun of the activities, to cause problems, they behave. They stop and shake our hands and say thank you when they leave.
Ministry is a one by one, syllable by syllable work.

30 January 2017


today I want to remember-
before dark quiet,
wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
the peeps around my table,
middle school enthusiasm,
three-pointers that go in, lay-ups that don't and even the shots that go in but somehow don't count,
between game breakfast club,
not sitting at the score table,
the gift of coffee cake,
the gift of forgiveness,
silly ol' pup,
my man coming in the door,
an evening on the couch at home,
the promise of tomorrow.

28 January 2017


Social media, politics, news feeds- it's all such a source of such sadness and frustration for me these days. I listen to people opine their thoughts on a wall at the US/Mexico border... while I'm crossing the US/Mexico border.
Talk about a wall and I see the fence and the bridges and the river and the traffic and that crazy unique culture that's neither pure United States nor truly traditional Mexico.

I listen to viewpoints about Mexico while I go back and forth from Mexico.
Talk about Mexicans and I see the faces of people I love. The brothers and sisters in Christ who celebrate and mourn and laugh and cry with my family. The kids I spend time with, who call me "teacher," who write me notes with "te quiero," who laugh at my Spanish and my dancing and still give me a hug when I leave. Our neighbors who smile when I drive by, who wave at me when his trash cart passes.

I listen to opinions on immigration policy.
Talk about immigration policy. I see faces of immigrants. I recall a tour of the Border Patrol facility and the holding cell full of men and women. I remember being stopped on the bridge on a warm summer evening when a group of kids came through the dozen lanes of traffic and surrendered themselves to United States ICE agents right behind our car.  I see the people I have known (multiple people, not a person) who were brought to the US as very young children and are now adults without proper documentation, truly without a country to call their own. I think of my friends who have done it "the right way," and still live with underlying anxiety of being deported. I think of my friends and colleagues and teachers who immigrated and found amazing welcome in the United States.

I listen to a clamor about refuges.
Talk about refugees. I see the faces of Somalian and Sudanese and Haitian and Iranian and Karen friends. I smell the spices and incense and heavy perfume that permeates the air of their barely standard housing; the food and gifts that they were quick to generously share with their English teacher. I see their kids, representing every shade of melanin, that my kids played with on Monday nights. I have memory of time spent with a family for a couple of unusually cold nights without heat. We prayed that their father-husband-provider might find favor in securing a job before the rapidly approaching deadline and end to government benefits. I hear their voices, telling their stories of suffering and displacement and courage and perseverance, over and again in my memory.

I well know that policy should not be based on emotion. And I dare not suggest solutions to problems more complex than I understand. But I do know that faith tells me what is good and what the Lord requires of me; to do justly and love mercy and walk humbly with my God. I'm thankful that I see faces.

27 January 2017


It happened in a blink. One moment- I'm trotting along, about to check my watch, anticipating what's ahead. The next- I'm on the ground, gasping for breath, wondering what hurts. I got up quickly as air re-inflated my lungs, hoping no one saw that all-too-rapid and I'm sure not-at-all-graceful descent to the pavement. Let's be honest, it probably would have earned a dramatic OHHHH!!! from any unexpecting witnesses...  The damage to my body was minimal, scraped fingers and palms and elbows. My t-shirt bears  something akin to road rash from the asphalt, a trail of gray-black trailing rather mockingly through the logo of "Color Run." I spent a few minutes recalibrating and then finished in a jog, but the sting remains a bit even now. Lose our way, we get back up again echoes the soundtrack today.

26 January 2017


Remember that time that I took my little girls to get haircuts and then once they were called to the chair, I opened up a magazine and didn't really pay attention? Well, didn't really pay attention until I realized that one stylist seemed to be taking a much longer than usual time with the little girl in her chair. Then I looked up and realized that her bangs were short and still not even and getting shorter. The problem with haircuts is that you just can't add hair that has been cut off. But, it does grow back. Eventually...

That girl carried the nickname of Maria for a good while after that day. That girl has never had bangs since.

Thankfully, today's cut was much less dramatic.

25 January 2017


If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

- CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

In the early dawn I was exhorted, "Be strong and let your heart take courage." Oh, I know. And I do trust the promise with all my heart. 
But even so, an afternoon sit with coffee and a simple bunch of flowers and the kindness of friends and a kinship in the walking, that all helps in the waiting.

24 January 2017


Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
    for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
    but let them not turn back to folly.
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
    that glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
    righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
    and righteousness looks down from the sky.
Yes, the Lord will give what is good,
    and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him
    and make his footsteps a way.
- Psalm 85 

On this clear morning, we could see the spot where we were headed long before we were near the neighborhood. On this still morning even from the Texas side of the border, we could see the smoke drifting, hovering over the city, hanging over the river. It was a a burn morning at the dump and the smoke formed a thick veil over the area. We go about our business nonetheless, moving forward in the smog. In honesty, I felt much the same, even with the weight of heaviness, pressing on in the haze.

23 January 2017


The wind blew gustily on the afternoon walk through the 'hood. Hair in our faces, we leaned into the rush. Today we passed the shadows of dogs jumping behind fences and cats arched on the front walk, hair standing up straight. Football fans gathered around big screens in open garage dens. Children passed by on bikes and ran through the front yard with Captain America shields. I could smell Fabuloso and fresh-cut grass and meat on the grill. And still, the sound of the howl of the wind was all that I could hear.

22 January 2017


Today I am grateful to remember
sun on my skin, breeze at my face,
even slow shuffle steps, back out on the pavement,
the earthy smell of raking leaves and pulling weeds,
cut grass,
lunch with my guy,
a nap,
my helpers with the groceries,
finally dinner around the table again,
and how good it is to rejoice with those who are rejoicing.

21 January 2017


... you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it.
- Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being

20 January 2017


Two eggs over easy, yellow peeking through.
Two pieces of bacon, not too crisp.
Two multi-grain pancakes, soaking up syrup as a breakfast sponge.
Heavy ceramic mugs of coffee, steam rising up, refilled over and again, lightened by little pots of white.
Story after story, tale after tale, of years gone by, of escapades and incidents, of tenderness and regret.
Could it be that one of our greatest fears is that our remembrances will cease to be heard?

19 January 2017


Alice: I simply must get through!
Doorknob: Sorry, you're much too big. Simply impassible.
Alice: You mean impossible?
Doorknob: No, impassible. Nothing's impossible.

- Lewis Carroll

Certainly as old as the home itself, the doorknob certainly looked worse for the wear, its front cover missing, exposing the inner workings of the hardware. A simple fix, we thought. But in fifty some years, apparently doorknobs have changed, and the difference from 1 7/8 inches to 2 1/8 inches is mighty when you don't have the right tools. With little thought and consultation, the solution came clear- and after an exchange for another model, a bit of chiseling and a wiggle here and there, the new knob slid in the splintery hole, shiny new and ready for service.

After the last weeks of seemingly impossibles, it was good to be able to fix something.

18 January 2017


I grew up in the southwest sun, in the Land of Enchantment, where you are surprised if you wake up and the sun is not shining. I live in a place where two-thirds of the year dawns very bright. We had forgotten, perhaps, how yet another cold, grey, wet Midwest day can dig deep into your soul and cause you to question if the sun will indeed come out tomorrow. And then, putting away Christmas- table upon table filled with smiling Santas and plump snowmen and the reds and greens of the season, when none of us were really feeling that false commercial cheer, not much at all. But a really good cherry fritter and a cup of hot coffee at the neighborhood donut shop? That sure can't hurt when trying to sweeten even the most gloomy of mornings.

16 January 2017


We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
- Romans 5:3-5


The old downtown brick building had been repurposed into a church, and we found shelter this morning. The Comforter met us there, and again we remembered that much needed truth, "Take heart, I have overcome the world."

Today I want to remember,
your grace abounds in deepest waters,
breathe prayer,
our family together,
onion roll-up production (oh, I know all you Holliday kids smile!),
four boards full of the memories of life,
the hugs,
mourning with those who mourn,
phone calls and
my family at home cared for well.

15 January 2017


We walked always in beauty, it seemed to me. We walked and looked about, or stood and looked. Sometimes, less often, we would sit down. We did not often speak. The place spoke for us and was a kind of speech. We spoke to each other in the things we saw.
- Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow

Crisp and cold, still and quiet, we trekked gingerly over patches of frost and ice, just the creak and squeak of snow under our feet. 

14 January 2017


It was on my mind, really it was, but when it's in the 70's outside, it is so easy to forget. It was on the runway in Houson, ready to take off for Michigan, that I remembered.
My coat yet hangs in my closet at home.

12 January 2017


My mother-in-law, Sandy Holliday, could mix metaphors better than most anyone I've ever known. "She's one sharp cookie," she told me after our oldest daughter brought home a stellar report card. She loved country music and Elvis. And Christmas. Oh, how she loved Christmas! She loved celebrating Christmas so much that one year she just never put away the tree and it stayed up in her Victorian living room all year long, to this very day. She loved teapots and doilies and the color dusty rose. She loved antique stores and flea markets and craft fairs. She loved her grandkids (there's around 18? but maybe I'm forgetting someone?) and could be so very generous with them, even to the point of allowing different kids to live in their home for a season. She endured the chaos of having her huge clan invade the house for the massive annual Thanksgiving dinner, and was so proud that the tables to fit everyone now extended across the span of the basement. And her dogs! She loved her dogs and treated them like little furry people.

We've never lived in the same place as my in-laws so we have always had to exchange letters and calls and then email and text. For the longest time, every single time we would call, she would answer the phone with "we were just thinking about calling you!" And I really do believe that was true. My mother-in-law never disguised her emotions well and she wore her heart on her sleeve. But as she suffered with chronic kidney problems for many years, she persevered mightily. With incredible discipline, over the last several years she controlled her diet and delayed dialysis much longer than doctors thought was possible. We were all so grateful when she received a kidney transplant in the late spring this year, though we knew our joy came as another family mourned.

And now, much too quickly, it is our turn to mourn, again. Surrounded by family (and I know that she was happy about that because she loved when all her family was together), my dear mother-in-law passed away today. She leaves a hole that will not be filled, but we also have so many sweet and funny memories to share. It's a hard season for my family. Tonight I'm thinking the words of a familiar hymn, and though sorrows like sea billows roll, even so, it is well with my soul. 


“I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, hoever, turns out to be not a state but a process.” 
C.S. LewisA Grief Observed

This reality of life goes on, even as it doesn't. It is easy to delight in the sweetness of playing trains with little boys and watching Frozen with excited little girls. I momentarily escape from reality with the rythmn of the car wash. I can share dinner and conversation and smiles around the table with friends. I am even exhorted and encouraged by song and study. Still, sorrow nudges and the road goes on.

11 January 2017


She came with a nifty magnetic calendar and a child's clock and play money, with a hoarse voice she had been saving all day long, with a lesson plan that perhaps did not get much past introductions and counting on this night.

They came with notebooks and pencils, with very little English, with a bravery and fierce determination to learn this strange tongue.

It's a pretty sweet relationship.

10 January 2017


First day back to my Mexican English students. I left with the rising sun in my rear view mirror. A few miles down the road, I realized that I would be arriving in the 'hood completely on my own for the morning. I left my husband at home. My usual bodyguard, PE teacher Big D, has started sabbatical. I knew that others might be late to the office. I pulled over before entering the bridge and sent a quick text to my best-est prayer partner to join me in petition for the day. "I'm fine and I'm not anxious, but I'm mindful of the battle. And our prayers are never wasted, right?," I tapped.

It was bright with clear blue skies when the school aide came to tell me that I left my lights on. We do that a lot in this car. My third graders ran to the window. I ran to turn the lights off and then tried to turn the car on. No such luck. The next text was to my Reynosa missionary brotherhood. "Can any of you come over and give me a jump before noon...?," I asked. My hero was waiting outside the gate before I finished the morning classes.

Again, I can't help but be thankful for protection and for provision and for the village that surrounds me so faithfully, even in my own carelessness.


The comfort of routine. Today I want remember the rare chilliness of morning, the tang of cranberries, the way newspaper ink makes my nose curl a bit. I want to remember the still sweetness of morning prayer, the care of the saints in remembering our sorrow, the balm of worship and looking towards Christ. I want to remember the high-pitch voices of kids singing praises, the silliness of pants falling down, the determined faces set to cut the papers just right. I want to remember the faces I love around my table again, the pleasure of having my cookie helper at the mixer, and the mischievous elf sliding down my stairs on a mattress. I want to remember the surprise of text that makes me laugh, sharing space with my girl at the end of the day, and a day of rest indeed.

08 January 2017


It's like when you're moving forward, but you're not exactly sure what you're heading towards.
- The Edge


Some days are Sentri-lane fast and other days are 78 minutes,
do you want to buy a peanut patty?
windshield wipers?
Virgin de Guadalupe sculpture?
knit Minion beanie?
do you want your windshield washed?
do you want to give to the rehab program?
cars crossing lanes,
and recrossing lanes,
Lydia as DJ,
(Lion King again?!),
what the world are we waiting for?

06 January 2017


My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality.
- 1 John 3:18-19 (MSG)

Such a practical help; such opportunity to practice real love. This week, for the first time that anyone can remember, we helped a triciclo- the small business vehicle (literally!) of these two ladies. They ride around the neighborhood selling snacks and limonada. Our team fixed up their awining, and while waiting, got to know their little ones and a little bit about their family. They got to know a little bit of us and the neighborhood ministry. And (bonus!), now I know who to look for in the summer when I need a raspa.


I often marvel at the unpredictable diversity of experience in this life we live at the US/Mexico border. This week has been early mornings with my Father, fresh brewed coffee and roosters in the distance. I have opportunity to serve breakfast and lunch and dinner in a team to a team. I've felt the warm rays of sunshine on my face and rolled up my sleeves for the heat of midday and I've pulled on a long-sleeve shirt and hidden my hands inside my sleeves to stay warm. I've pet dogs and donkeys and horses and crossed paths with cats and chickens and a very large pig.  I've laughed out loud at stuffed monkeys and aliens and a virtual rolling bakery on a cart. This week I've swept floors, done laundry and washed dishes. I pulled out rusty nails from decaying boards and I've hammered shiny fresh ones back into clean lumber too. I've also taken care of business back at home, in that other world we live- changing basketball schedules and enrolling girls into classes and creating transcripts. I've mourned not being near far-away family who are sick and who are hurting. I have breathed prayer. I have played with kids and exchanged handshakes with trash cart drivers and shared hugs with their wives. I've spoken English and Spanish and some babbled mix of tongues in between. Multiple times, I've been able to stand next to a person and tell them of how I believe God's faithfulness and the grace of Christ for those who trust in Him.

It's all ordinary extraordinary.
I am blessed.

04 January 2017


It is not the arithmetic of our prayers — how many they be;
nor the rhetoric of our prayers — how eloquent they be;
nor their geometry — how long they be;
nor their music — how sweet their voice may be;
nor their logic — how argumentative they be;
nor yet their method — how orderly they be;
nor even their divinity — how good their doctrine may be, which God cares for:
but it is the fervency of spirit which availeth much.
(Bishop Joseph Hall, 1808)

(from "Seven Steps to Strengthen Prayer" by Bonnie McKernan on the Desiring God blog)

I think about the new year and new mercies and how to pray-
that I would recognize God's glory all around me,
that I would daily know and share His grace and steadfast lovingkindness,
that I would be His messenger, in word and in deed, to hungry world searching for hope,
that I would be quick to confess and quick to repent and quick to cry out, "I believe; help my unbelief."

02 January 2017


The day began in a cloudy haze over the neighborhood but quickly cleared up to clear blue skies. The first Monday of the new year, the first Monday of the work week- the team assembled near the entrance of the dump, hooked up the generators, plugged in the power tools, and flipped down the welding masks. Not long after, the vet arrived, and horses stomped their feet and shook their heads after receiving vaccinations and de-worming meds and vitamins.
Cart Team 2017 is underway.

The team traveled here this week to serve the trash cart workers that cross through the neighborhood of Aquilles Serdan on their way to the dump. Horse and donkey drawn carts are the primary garbage "trucks" in Reynosa. This week the team will work alongside the drivers to make repairs to their carts. Our vet for the week will check out the animals and provide meds and simple wound care. Some will play with kids of the drivers and from the nearby houses alongside the dump. Those of us who are here all the time will have opportunity to spend some time with our neighbors, learn more about their lives and tell them more of why we are here and more of Jesus. It is a week of putting word and deed together to love our neighbor well.

There was a burn today at the dump and the smoke floated just behind us. The clouds created beautiful filters in the sunlight, a premature "golden hour" for photography. And in a small way, again today we are reminded, He is giving us beauty from ashes.

01 January 2017


Goodbye 2016.
Lots of folks have resolutions for the new year, but I have never done that well.
In the year ahead, I desire to live a quiet life,
to do justly and love mercy and walk humbly with my God,
to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.
Hello 2017.


Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.
CS Lewis

Farewell 2016.