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11 November 2020

"Think something of beauty..."

I think something of beauty and human flourishing are one and the same, and the heart of God’s work through Jesus is reconciliation and human flourishing. It is so easy to let anger, self-righteousness and even violence lead, but beauty takes time, thought, patience – something superna
tural – a transformed heart. 

  • Sara Groves, from "Why It Matters..."

Noise often drowns it out. A four-wheeler rumbles by in front of my house- I hear the engine vroom and the bass beat thump and the rider shout and the gravel grind as it ascends the short hill. In this season, I hear the rattattats, boys in my neighborhood practicing their drum cadence for the upcoming saint day celebration. Far in the background, I hear a train horn sound a long waaaaank as freight rumbles through town, even though the tracks are almost a mile south. I hear the whumpwhumpwhump of a helicopter overhead. Sometimes I hear the poppoppop of a gun shot in the distance.

Distractions can drown it out. My eye follows the speeding or saggy or sputtering vehicle, but forget to notice the people inside. I see the broken wall, but not the tree blooming beside it. Dust covers the streets, sometimes only browngray dirt, sometimes deep black mud. Trucks filled with garbage, not a garbage truck like from your neighborhood, but dingy pickup trucks overloaded and loaded down with garbage, lose bits and pieces of their load while passing by in front of my house on the way to the dump. Smoke covers the high blue skies in a choky smoggy haze. 

Situation might also drown it out. Boys care for toddler brothers, girls carry diapered cousins, and kids wander the neighborhood in a pack. I don't look far to see substandard housing, walls constructed of pallets, front entryways concealed by blankets not doors, and roofs covered with old billboard canvases. I smell, and regularly see, sewage coming up where it shouldn't. I wonder about the cadre of state police parked on the corner. I pass a group of wide-eyed people wearing life vests waiting at a crossroad.

But despite it all, the beauty, it is always there, always waiting to be noticed, always waiting to be celebrated. Hear the giggles of delight, the high-pitch saludos of a a waving jumping always in motion child, the upbeat tempo of the conjunto sounding from an unseen stereo speaker. See the brilliant pink blooms of the bouganvilla reach for the sun, the irridescent crown of a rooster flash in the sunlight, the wide smiles which cross the kids' faces when they show us their work. Notice the bright yellow door set in the wall you pass every single day, the mare tethered in the field who turns to nuzzle her colt, skies that fade to chalky pastel pink as the sun sets below the horizon. Celebrate the neighbor kids and their casual handshake fist bump greeting, the girl who asks for a bag so her mom can do the art project too, the earnest work of a boy committing the memory verse to heart and then giving his prize to his brother.

Capture the moment in the glow of the streetlight at dusk after finding the friend who moved a handful of streets down the road. Save it deep in your memory and in your heart. Be patient for the hope of change, for transformation, for reconciliation, for restoration. Thankfully praise our God once again, He who is making all things new.   

(photo credit to my dear Kimberly Kaiser)

09 April 2020

on waiting for bigger, brighter days

I go out to see the Super Pink Moon and I know it is right there. I guess the overcast skies told it to shelter in place. I feel a little bad, though I know that the moon doesn't feel at all. I can see the outline of the moon lined up with the sun, ready to reflect all that light in a moment of glory. There it is, hanging high in the sky, ready for this Biggest Brightest Day of the Year, and then the clouds drift lazy past it. I walk back inside, admittedly, a bit disappointed. 

Seems like that scenario plays out in a many places these days. We're ready for big bright moments, and go back inside, a bit disappointed. My ever present struggle is balancing that line between contentment and complacency, between patience and "I guess this is how it is."

The calendar says that we are at a far away, desert camping, Texas Grand Canyon roadtrip with friends. Instead we meet up on Zoom. They gather at appropriate, socially distanced, spaces in a Midwest backyard. We perch on the futon couch in our Reynosa living room. Seeing their faces and hearing their voices and listening to the good news updates cause us to smile and to laugh out loud. But truth be told, video never completely fills the void. I want to be together. I want to smell the campfire smoke and have a glass of that red wine and look at them face to face. Even so, we finish and sign out with a hopeful "see you soon." 

I confess, in this season of waiting, I am hoping for second chances, for make up dates, and for still planned event to yet happen. I read that we get another chance to see the Supermoon this year, the Full Flower Moon next up in May. But really, the moon will be there, no matter if the clouds show up or not. In a modern version of the Psalms, I am reminded of our God, "his sovereignty as sure as the sun, dependable as the phases of the moon." This, I know, is true. That is where I will choose to rest content.

26 January 2020


"Objects in mirror are closer than they appear."
Isn't that true of life? Those things that I would be prone to keep at a distance?
The kids that shout and lean in close for an embrace when I walk out the gate.
The dusty dirty streets that I walk each day.
The noisy sounds and funky smells that cause me to shake my head.
The brilliant splashes of color that brighten the ordinary drab.
The promise of hope in the shadow of despair.
All that pokes at me;
all that I can't ignore;
all that keeps me alert to life around me.

Those too are closer to my heart than they often appear.


"All for not studying," it says. All of us who know Spanish pretty much let out an audible gasp and open our eyes a tad wider when we read it. But yes, the garbage cart owner asked for that to be painted on the back of his trailer. To us, it seems to be a condemnation of sorts, but honestly, he seems sort of proud of it.

I heard it during my growing up years, and I still hear it today- if you don't study, you'll be a garbage man. This particular week, a group of college-aged volunteers has come to serve that very group- the garbage collectors in our community. Certainly they are among the lowest rung of every society, the least respected, the frequently overlooked.

My community is in a bit of a garbage conundrum. For many valid reasons, the city has banned animal pulled garbage carts from the streets of Reynosa, switching over to a "motorized" system. Yes, the city owns a small fleet of trucks. But "motorized" mostly means men driving privately owned pickup trucks with trailers, or beds with built-up plywood sides to hold the garbage. It seems everyone is figuring out who's going to take their garbage. That seems to work in both a literal and figurative sense.

On this day an older man arrives with a garbage cart pulled by his donkey, Blanca. While our team of volunteers install a new piece of nylon fabric over his head to protect him from the elements, I learn that he has been collecting garbage in Reynosa for 25 years. He told me that he can't afford to buy a truck, so he'll just keep collecting garbage in the immediate neighborhood to avoid the fine for having a donkey out on the street.

He thanks us for our work. I thank him for his. I don't care what society says- I'm proud to be neighbor to these laborers.

08 January 2020


The world-making Word had to fuss with the minutiae of making a living. He had family drama and knuckle-headed friends, temptations and distractions to sort out. He spent much of his life making and fixing things that served a purpose and were lost and forgotten. He knew the value and the vanity of toil. The inauguration of the life of the world to come was made up of hard work, simple pleasures, a small circle of influence, and love. The path of the abundant life runs through the otherwise unremarkable.
- Stephen Crotts in "The Abundant Unremarkable Life" at Sayable blog

The photo captures the inside bench of a trash cart here in Aquiles Serdán, making the quote seem especially appropriate. Day to day life here doesn't typically seem very noteworthy. Yet, the days pass and slowly slowly, we notice fractions of change, and indeed, "the abundant life runs through the otherwise unremarkable."

05 January 2020


"Yes, I am a dreamer, for a dreamer is one who can find his way by moonlight, and see the dawn before the rest of the world."  Oscar Wilde

I wake up to sewer smells in the bathroom and to smokey smells in the living room and I wonder how much my life expectancy might be lowered by the various fumes I inhale around here. And I can hear chickens and dogs and a train in the distance making morning sounds before morning sights appear. But then I go outside and turn for the view outside my front gate as I walk to work this morning and the promise of the day ahead, and I count it all grace to see the dawn before the rest of the world.

02 January 2020


I wore today like comfortable old shoes that fit just right. I woke up before the sun and slid out of bed and over to the chair in the corner of the room and sat still to listen. I read those familiar words, faithful and true. My guy delivered a latte with a kiss. I got in the car and drove three turns and ended up with two-handed coffee and a most trusted confidant and prayers washed with sacred tears. I packed the car and hugged my girls and laughed as they goodbye'd us with a salute. We headed back to our other home, with a stop for a few groceries and an ice tea along the way. I drove into the neighborhood and beeped at a kid who returned the greetings with a two-fingered (of significance, as he is known to use just one finger...) wave. I wiped off and mopped up two weeks of dust and my house smelled like Mexican pine. I greeted our gatekeeper and greeted our workers and greeted my teammates and sat in my desk chair and made it wheeze when it lowered. I laughed with friends. We watched the sun put on a show before setting for the night and then ate together. 

This morning my reading ended,
And the commander of the Lord's army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” (Joshua 5:15 ESV) 
Maybe there are days that make us fall on our face to worship, too.


"Getting old is not for sissies," she tells me as we rise. We have just finished lunch, treating me by sharing the gift card she receives from her kids every year. She celebrated her 75th birthday just a week ago. I nod my head in agreement at her wisdom while moving with hesitation, my tailbone still sore from a hard fall several weeks earlier. I think about my husband, eagerly anticipating having pins removed from his arm in just a couple of days. Certainly, we are beginning to recognize cracks in these mortal vessels.

The new year starts dreary, gray and rainy and wet. It's a good day to sit and stare out the window and reflect. Earlier in the year past, we took time to consider the almost ten years prior. On long pieces of paper spread out on heavy wooden tables, we mapped the journey. We remembered ups and downs, detours and dead ends, sharp turns and roadblocks along the way. In both ministry and in family, we have known celebrations and steep declines and struggles and tragedy, all. 

But back in March and now still, nine months later, I recognize our Creator, Redeemer, Savior God who remains faithful, firm and unwavering. The lyrics of a favorite song play in my mind-
I will build my house
Whether storm or drought
On the rock that does not move
I will set my hope
In your love, O Lord
And your faithfulness will prove
You are steadfast, steadfast

("Steadfast" by Sandra McCracken, Leslie Jordan and Josh Silverberg, with adaptations from Henri Nowen)
That is the chorus this sissy wants playing on repeat in the year ahead.

17 July 2019

on June

We moved back into Mexico, back into the 'hood back at the end of May, all sweet, no bitter. I missed this place, these people, in those few months away, missed it all mightily. Of course, memories show themselves nostalgic when you go away from a place. I confess, I forgot about those daily things that I can be so tempted to be annoyed by, like drainage projects that last for years and the roads that these projects destroy and the detours that these projects dictate... (and there I am, confessing how easily I am distracted).

I come back to Reynosa and to ministry and to this life with fresh eyes and a ready spirit. Not much can beat those first surprise greetings by my young friends, hugs around my legs right in the middle of the street, "Kreeeeeeeeeees-teeeeeeeeeeee...." The high-pitched and high-volume voices sing familiar but brand new after time away. The everyday tasks that life in team require don't weigh too heavy. The sweat runs into my eyes many a day while I reacclimate to borderland sun and humidity and for a short time, I just keep blinking. I have to stop for horses in the street one evening on my way home, and just laugh as they mosey along.

One ordinary day turns special when I get to linger over lunch with decades-old friends, all together for one rare afternoon. I have the privilege of playing auntie to my teammates' kids. I sit on the shore with another dear one and watch the waves roll in and out and chase down a fresh fish dinner at the end of the day. I use any excuse, long bridge lines, afternoons too hot to cook, to find nieves and tacos. I sit on a bench in dusty early evening and watch the neighborhood kids play ball. 

All that so very true and real and good, and yet, I can not ignore other realities. The bridge I cross multiple times a week now has serpentine wire strung across multiple lanes. The waits can be painfully long and alter how we receive visitors, even family, but those inconveniences seem very small in comparison to the sufferings of others very nearby. I spend time with girls from an orphanage, separated from their parents for reasons I don't know and they can't understand. I learn of changes in the lives our neighborhood youth and I groan out loud and want to cry out. I cry with a volunteer overwhelmed by the needs she heard and saw in others that day. Day by day I face my own issues and seek His wisdom and grace. I find a new to me hymn and put it on repeat. 
What patience would wait as we constantly roam
What Father so tender is calling us home
He welcomes the weakest, the vilest, the poor
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more
("His Mercy Is More," by Matt Papa and Matt Boswell)

I'm thankful to be back.