Share with others

28 February 2017


with patience.
It seemed like a day that was full of with patience. A few of the kids at the elementary school behaved especially poorly, enough that I began to question any sort of call I might have once thought I heard. Then that behavior started to repeat itself in the evening outreach. Boys kicking down the girls' Jenga game. Boys trying to punch each other. Kids wanting to come in and go out and come in... We walked the tight line of keeping standards and keeping others safe while loving the sometimes very hard to love. The line to cross the bridge home was lengthier than usual. The wait for a bite to carry out and eat on the way home seemed longer than it should be. We were finally on our way home when we heard a loud noise as we hit something that shouldn't have been in the road. And then a flat tire we had to stop to fix on the side of a dark highway.
with patience. 


“When a newspaper posed the question, “What’s Wrong with the World?” the Catholic thinker G. K. Chesterton reputedly wrote a brief letter in response: “Dear Sirs: I am. Sincerely Yours, G. K. Chesterton.” That is the attitude of someone who has grasped the message of Jesus.” 
― Timothy J. KellerThe Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith

27 February 2017


The waves crash the shore, reaching out just a little farther, a little farther, with every return of the tide. The surge churns the sand and leaves a trail of iridescent bubbles across the shadow of damp. Plovers and pipers scurry this way and that to avoid the swell and froth.
So do I.

25 February 2017


The way of Jesus cannot be imposed or mapped — it requires an active participation in following Jesus as he leads us through sometimes strange and unfamiliar territory, in circumstances that become clear only in the hesitations and questionings, in the pauses and reflections where we engage in prayerful conversation with one another and with him.
-Eugene Peterson

We tromped down the street in mini-mass, from one side of the alley to the other and through the brick doorway to the back. I think that the best dreams are shared in community, with people who see past the cracks and the dirt and the trash (and the raccoon pelt on the counter...?) and cast a vision for what can be. 

We gathered in circle and prayed, that the wind of the Spirit would blow fresh across this place, that the light of the Gospel would shine bright in the darkness, that our Father will provide and sustain in all the time to come. He is faithful.


I sat next to my friend and drove. And listened. What is there about even a mini-road trip, an hour drive down the highway, that allows us to cross ordinary hurdles and speak from the heart? We both still thought of the lesson from the teaching at church the night before, and recounted how it spoke to us in very different ways. We are at different places in life, my friend and I. Not many of her daily challenges and problems resemble mine. And yet, we share the same hope, and that is a strong bond.

I drop her off, and smile, grateful for our time together. I wonder, what will 30 more years bring? Who will drive me and help me to learn the latest technology? Who will listen to my fears during an afternoon trip? Who will be challenging me to abound in hope? I have lots of ideas, and plenty of hope, and I am eager to see.

(and strawberry shortcake in February? Certainly all is well when there is whipped cream on top, right?)

23 February 2017


Halfway down the stairs
is a stair
where i sit.
there isn't any
other stair
quite like
i'm not at the bottom,
i'm not at the top;
so this is the stair
I always

Halfway up the stairs
Isn't up
And it isn't down.
It isn't in the nursery,
It isn't in town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head.
It isn't really
It's somewhere else

- "Halfway Down" by A.A. Milne

22 February 2017


“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.”
- John Muir

A morning trek, me and her. We tromp down scruffy dirt paths, dust kicking up beneath our feet. We pass a cactus graveyard, spindly, spiked skeletons in shades of bleached gray green. We remark and wonder out loud, just how many shades of green has our God created? More than the crayon box shows us, we are certain. We stop to take pictures of dried wood signs and the needles of the cactus, and wait for the slow magic of Polaroid to develop before our eyes. The quickly dissipating dew reveals the crochet web homes of spiders, woven between branches. You like webs, she tells me. I do. The red orange yellow blooms of the lantana stand out bright. Tiny pink blossoms of springtime growth light up against the clear blue sky. We hear the high notes of birds and the clicking of bugs. We stop to watch the slow flow of resaca waters. Too soon it seems, we look at the clock and realize that it is time to return to the day's regular activities. But we are refreshed, I think, and cheered for the time together. Everybody needs beauty.

21 February 2017


It was uncharacteristically quiet on the schoolyard for recess time, less than a handful of kids running around, but I never presume to understand what is normal. I walked over to the corner classroom as usual, and the teacher greeted me.
"Not many students today," she tells me in Spanish. "Maybe because of the rain?"

"Not many students" was an understatement. Four students. Only four students in the entire school on this wet Monday morning. I drove 2 hours to spend just over an hour with four students?
Completely worth it!

As you might imagine, those four students really wanted to be at school. They didn't stay home. And so, in our one-room escuelita with a first, third, fourth and fifth grader, we learned the names of furniture and played pictionary and did a word search and practiced English pronunciation over and over and over. They each gave me a hug when I left and told me, "see you next week." I cheerfully tiptoed through the mud to get back to my car.

Once home, I sat at the table with my peeps and let them school me at Dutch Blitz. Those cut-throats!  They don't even give grace to the newbie who has to go to the bathroom and forgets to count her cards and report her points first. Psheesh. Girls bounce on the trampoline until all but their feet leave my viewfinder window. Chickens scurry at my feet in the afternoon sun.

In the evening I get to take my favorite not-quite-11-year-old-girl to tumbling class. I have to pull up my chair close to the viewing window so I can follow the action. I knew that the girls on the other side were talking about me, too close to the pane. That's ok. I'm past the age of being concerned about what the girls on the other side of the window are saying. I just focus on my gymnast, going through her paces, exclaiming a mostly silent "YES!" when she sticks the landing.

These are the days of back and forth, of small and ordinary things, of seeking after that difficult practice of being all there.

19 February 2017


“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” 
― Dr. SeussHappy Birthday to You!

Perhaps no one would wrestle in believing "there is no one alive who is Youer than You," like twins would. They have always been together- Baby A and Baby B, on the left and on the right, ROY and GBIV, in the same bed, in the same room, in the same car. And yet these two show us every day how unique, how fearfully and wonderfully made, they are. 

From the moment the active duty Navy ultrasound tech announced to me, "Well your husband will be awfully surprised to find out that you are having twins," these two girls have been the best surprise we could ever dream up; two girls who would break the traditional birth order rules for the last born. They have provided us with joy and amusement, comfort and occasional chaos alike. These two have stretched themselves beyond comfortable to serve their family and others. They are seasoned adventurers and excellent travelers. It is our joy to see them love others and love our God. It has been such fun to celebrate a new year with them! We are excited to see all that the year ahead will hold for these two.

Happy birthday, twinsies. We love you both.

18 February 2017


"For what you see and hear depend a good deal on where  you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are."
- C.S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew


Fifty cents to cross.
Piñatas in bright colors.
Concha sugar crumbs.

16 February 2017


Some mornings are
a run through the 'hood in the cool morning air,
a cup of hot coffee,
quiet at my desk,
laundry folded,
a book finished.

Some afternoons are
an easy midday visit,
a few bounces on the trampoline,
a grilled cheese sandwich with melted Velveeta,
making the ball light up for a favorite little guy,
a long conversation with a far-away friend,
wondering what on earth that message meant.

Some evenings are
cheesy noodle casserole,
split a piece of chocolate cake,
closed eyes singing,
but it is not as though the word of God failed,
a spot against the wall on the floor to pray.

15 February 2017


In class tonight, I sat with my English learning student and we perused the local grocery ad, practicing how to pronounce prices and reviewing appropriate names for packages. A bottle of sparkling wine. A box of chocolates. A bouquet of flowers. We looked at the prices for a Valentine's arrangement of flowers (30% off with $59.99 purchase!) and agreed that we weren't likely to spend that much on blooms. (new word- blooms)

So despite the absence of flower deliveries, with a house full of girls and sweet friends, Tuesday turned out to be a day filled with chocolate and sweet notes and heart texts and even a couple of pink carnations. But at the end of the day, what says "I love you" better than scraping out the stinky, rotting food at the bottom of the dishwasher? That guy is the one who has my heart.

14 February 2017


The Aquilles chatter this morning concerned our neighbor, the lady who lived alone across the street from the mission. Though variations of the story were floating about, we know that, sometime the day before, she fell and hit her head and died. Throughout the day we watched as her adult kids went in and out, cleaning out her minimal belongings from the small little house where she lived, appliances now gone, just a few pieces of trash on the ground in front by the end of the day. Our neighbor could be a cantankerous one; she was known to have whapped one of our guys over the head with a styrofoam plate when she wasn't being served quickly enough at the neighborhood cookout. When we put in a sidewalk in front of the house, she made us re-do the slant in the walk. Without any doubt, to say most of her years were hard would be an understatement. But in recent times, she smiled and greeted us, and maybe, little by little, love was penetrating those very deep places of brokenness. We all saw her and waved greetings just before the start of the weekend, and then that was all. Indeed, man does not know his time.

12 February 2017


"Huevo y tocino y huevo y papa, por favor."
The trip started as most travels out of the Rio Grande Valley do, with a stop at Valero for gas and coffee and breakfast tacos. We folded down the foil, made sure the salsa wasn't dripping, and pointed north. We watched the graywhite haze burn off as the sun rose higher in the sky. Winter takes a toll on the landscape even this far south, as the grass lays dry and even the evergreen live oak leaves hang dark and wizened before the renewal of spring growth.

Semi trucks and pickups and Norteño band buses share the road. Roadside fruit stands, with the oranges of citrus and bright pottery, flash on the right. Slow for the ICE checkpoint,
"Yes, only 2 people. Yes, US citizens. Thank you, have a good day."
Watch for decreasing speed zones, for local police setting a lair. Train passes us on the right.

We arrive just when expected and share hugs with my brown-eyed kids. It takes about, oh, one second to notice the new dent in the car. Which young adult has ever skipped the opportunity to share inopportune news on neutral territory? The trade ensues nonetheless. Which young adult has ever skipped the opportunity to swap the mini-van back for the mini-SUV? Crazy cute dog runs circles around us, wades in the little pond, chases the remains of a tennis ball. We peek in the winery, full of tasters, no hurries on a bright Saturday midday.

But the car is making noises, grinding and squealing. The oil shows the milky film of other liquid. Anxiety proves difficult to squelch. Isn't it a distraction when kill-joy What If shows up on the road trip? We detour north for a bite of lunch and take a lap around Market Days at the Courthouse Square. No crafty or antique wares today. I take the wheel for the return trip home.

I scan the radio dial and tune in the sure-to-sing-a-long station, volume kept low to prevent distraction for my reading shot-gun rider. One eagerly awaited stop for gas- and disappointment.
"I'll have a junior Jamocha shake."
"Sorry, the shake machine is broken."
Frequent checks along the way, and sure enough, both vehicles make it home safely. I already begin to plot a do-over for the season ahead.

11 February 2017


Today was first to the Bunn, steaming hot and liquid fast,
quiet in the dark,
"But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God.",
french toast and scrambled eggs,
unhurried words,
lessons to come,
rejoicing over an organized pantry,
(cringing at the thought of a very dead mouse),
cheese tomato sandwich cut into triangle,
translating pattern directions, phrase by phrase, English to Spanish,
roof pieces dangling by rope pulley,
soda bottle lights glowing green,
trumpo in the air, on the roof, over the roof,
ruby red jamaica with ice,
caldo de pollo with rice and avocado,
solitaire losses,
Words with Friends debacles continue,
under the fan, under the cover, under the sheet.

10 February 2017


In the middle of the morning, in the middle of busyness, I sat at an intersection, waiting on red to turn to green and considered the treasure of the women I live among. On that day even before 10 o'clock, I knew that there were friends conspiring how to encourage one of our favorite widows who had been waylaid by a recent series of unfortunate events. I knew that a dear one was caring for a little one, a last minute arrival at her door at the very start of the day. We were making arrangements for kids to be delivered from point a to point b, and thinking about feeding people, and diagnosing sniffles and snuffles. My friend was teaching my girls and I was playing peek-a-boo with her boy.

Little did I know that later in the day, these ladies would rescue me when I was far away, intervening for my family when I could not, compassionately soothing a sojourner in need and yet protecting my girls besides. This is the community I trust with all of life's curves, the ones whose "works praise her in the gates." 

By modern standards, perhaps there's not much status for a wife whose work is to be at home. After 25 years without pay, I have no Social Security credits to show my contribution. I have heard about myself, and maybe even uttered, "... ah, just at home with my kids." But when I think of these women in like place, I know that their worth is "far more precious than jewels." They care for the widow and the orphan and the stranger. They show ready hospitality. They "reach out their hand to the needy." Simply, they love well. And perhaps that is among the best example of "clothed in strength and dignity" that I can think of.

Press on, sisters.


"Waiting on God isn't about the suspension of meaning and purpose. It's part of the meaning and purpose that God has brought into my life. Waiting on God isn't to be viewed as an obstruction in the way of the plan. Waiting is an essential part of the plan. For the child of God, waiting isn't simply about what the child will receive at the end of his wait. No, waiting is much more purposeful, efficient, and practical. Waiting is fundamentally about what we will become as we wait."
- Paul David Tripp, "Productive Delay" in A Shelter in a Time of Storm

09 February 2017


The box wrapped in shiny paper attracted their attention immediately- not even the sparkling pink deterred the interest of the crowd of mostly boys.
"Who wants this gift?" Mario asked, the gift held above his head.
They all clamored and tried to grab it. "Me!" "Me!"
We divided into two teams and separated to opposite sides of the yard. Mario set the box in the center and issued the challenge. "You have to figure out how to get the present without touching the ground."
"Let's get rocks to walk on," I suggested, and my eager boys ran to dig up the bricks bordering the flower beds.
"No! No!" Mario shook his finger at us. "The rocks are touching the ground."
The boys looked for branches to cast at the box, or a rope to lasso the box, or a net to drag the box. We had nothing.
Time running out quickly and the box still untouched, I suggested, "Why don't you just ASK Mario for the gift?"
"Mario! Mario! Can we please have the gift?"
Mario smiles.
"Yes. All you have to do is ask."
The boys know, I know, that you can't earn a gift. You can't work for a gift. It is simply given to you for free. But also, I remember, on my own, I don't even know to ask. I have to be prompted.
And so, thankfully, the Spirit persuades us.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV)

08 February 2017


Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
    for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
    for to you I lift up my soul.

- Psalm 143:8 (ESV)


It all started with an orange and white reversible mesh jersey, white shorts, and black cleats- the standard AYSO soccer jersey back in 1979. I saw a flyer for fall soccer posted at school, and convinced my parents that I wanted to play. I joined the neighborhood team. We practiced twice a week, down the hill at the neighborhood baseball field. The goathead prickers that stuck in the ball were the primary foe. I was an average player, but I loved the game. I played recreational soccer through college. In high school, I became a referee, and kept the ball moving in the waist-high herd of kindergarten player mob. In college, I started coaching. First elementary and middle school girls, and then over the years, boys and co-ed teams too.

So, it was a natural decision that our kids would play sports. First Ashley joined softball. She had a pretty powerful swing, sometimes dangerous when she would let go of the bat! And then, one by one, over the years, we rotated through t-ball, soccer, flag football, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, swimming, volleyball, tennis, golf, table tennis (don't call it ping pong!)... what am I forgetting? In various seasons, Tim and I were called on to coach and to ref, to serve as line judges and scorekeepers, snack mom and gym mom and uniform mom, schedulers...

It's tricky to have a household of kids playing sports. We figured out some ground rules pretty quick. Only one sport per kid at a time because inevitably one event conflicts with another and which team are you going to disappoint? We decided that only a couple of kids could play in any one season because we could only be physically in a couple of places at a time. The best family sport- swimming, no doubt. Every kid in the family caged in the pool while Tim and I sat outside on summer evenings, eating snacks and cheering. It was practically date night.

We learned a lot in youth sports, good and bad both. We had some great coaches over the years, men and women who gave their best to our kids and taught them well. We had some experiences that turned into learning opportunities, coaches and parents and refs and players who behaved poorly and gave us examples of "what not to do." Our kids were on teams that won championships and on teams that lost so many games we stopped keeping count. (don't be fooled, winning is definitely more fun!) We have had players who started every game and players who sat the bench for all but the last minute of every game. We even had a few rounds at All-Stars. We took roadtrips and stayed in lousy hotels ("I think this may be a meth kitchen...") and a few nice ones, too. We sat in sun and cold and freezing cold and wind and rain. We've had breaks and sprains and strains and limps and jams and aches and ice and heat. I can't even remember all the team names we've cheered for and all the goofy exhortations we've shouted out. "Show 'em what a 15 looks like!"

Now finally, we come to the end of our very last season. Our last players arrived at their last banquet, posed for their last team photo. It's just a tad bittersweet for all of us, but much more sweet than bitter. We have made good friends and good memories. I'm sure that we all agree that we'd do it all again. Thanks Team Holliday!

04 February 2017


Happy Friend Day, my computer screen announced when I checked in to Facebook. Then I watched a running timeline of my own face with the faces of my friends through the years. Well that made me smile!

I have good friends. Really good. It's a bit of a wonder to me, and not a thing that I take for granted. In the last couple months of a hard season, I don't think that more than two days have gone by without a note or a greeting of some sort, a "how are you?" or "I am praying for your family." I missed a call from a far-away friend today, and the message made me smile and "aww" and sigh out loud.

"A sweet friendship refreshes the soul," says one translation of Proverbs 27:9. What a comfort in life, to share daily walk with those special people who are absolutely safe, who know by a look if "fine" is really fine, who translate the secret emoji code, who know your favorite color gum and how you drink your coffee, who know even quiet is ok, who pray without ceasing.

Thanks for the reminder, Facebook.


I have a vision problem;
my eyes are okay,
but my heart
doesn't see very well.
I live in a world
where Your beauty
is everywhere visible.
It is there
in the lily.
It is there
in the cascading wave.
It is there
in the multi-hued sunset.
It is there
in the stars of the night.
It is there
in the power of the storm.
It is there
in the rhythm of the rain.
It is there
in the grandeur of the mountain.
It is there
in the lace of the clouds.
It is there
in the succulence of the apple.
It is there
everywhere I look.
But often
I do not see Your beauty.
I must confess
I am so blind...
- "Days of Beauty," by Paul David Trip in A Shelter in the Time of Storm

03 February 2017


It all seems straight forward, matter of fact. There is a pattern, right? But you need exact measurements, not too tight, not too slack, in the right place. Then you must add the adjustment. That number doesn't always fit right in the size listed. So maybe then you have to find a fit in-between sizes, and draw new lines in different places.

It all seems straight forward. Fill out the application, get accepted. But there are transcripts and documents to be sent. And changes. And sent again. There are conditions that even the people who enforce the requirements have not written down.

It all seems straight forward to figure out the "itch without a rash." There should be flow chart, right? It could be that you need to drink more water. It could be cancer (isn't that what these online self-diagnosis always lead to...?). Or maybe, you are anxious about something? How do you get rid of that?

It all seems straight forward; people have been marrying for millennium. But listening to different people on different days talk about marriage? Husbands and wives don't always behave in the way they should. There is sin and brokenness. And then comes the hurt and how to react and how to go forward.

Simplicity is not always simple.

01 February 2017


"We love you & we are glad you're home. 
Enjoy breakfast. All you need to make is the coffee,"
read the note on top of the package delivered to our door early that first morning home. We were so tired that morning. We had driven a lot of miles. We had cried a lot of tears. We didn't even know the hard that was yet to be before us. But our friends loved us and served us with breakfast delivered to right to our kitchen counter. They fed us, body and soul.

My girls were left home alone for a week while my husband and I traveled north for his mom's funeral. I call to check on them.
"How are you doing?" I ask.
"Miss Erica brought over a lot for us to eat," my daughter answered. "Food must be her love language."
My heart swelled, such kindness for our friend to remember and serve my family in my absence.

Of course, I remember seasons of meals when I had babies, or a surgery, and even just a surprise gift from a friend when it was a hard day. I've been served by angels, I am sure.

Last night I was talking to a friend, praying over struggles and hard. And she doesn't fell well, besides. There is not much of anything I can do to make things better. But, I can feed her and her family. "I'll make you dinner tomorrow," I told her.

It's not such a hard thing really, for the person making it. All I did was add some extra to what I was already making for my own family. It's no accident that they are called Jiffy Muffins! But for the recipient, it's such a tangible sign of love, to be fed, to be served in this way. I can hear Mother Teresa gently telling us, "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love." Perhaps she wasn't thinking a pot of chili and corn muffins delivered in a brown paper sack. I'm hoping they say "I love you," too.