Winter was not what I expected it to be, namely, cold. We had cold days and cold winds but we also had days when the temperatures climbed into the 80’s. I enjoyed the moody weather and the kids and I spent many afternoons at a playground meeting new people.
We did have one big snow in January. The kids had been watching the sky all afternoon and just when they had stopped looking for it, tiny little dots began to fall. They were the kind of snowflakes you can only really see out of the corner of your eye. The kids were ecstatic. Slowly the snow began to fall more steadily and the flakes became more visible. We ate dinner and the kids climbed into bed with promises and reassurances about the snow that would be there tomorrow. At 5 AM the kids were out of bed with their faces plastered to the window. The world as they had known it was gone and in its place was a white winter they had only heard of in books. We got 5 inches of soft, powdery snow and it stuck around for a few frigid days; long enough for everyone to get their fill. Ayden and Willow were shocked to find out how cold snow is and then how wet. They could not figure out how to layer and grew frustrated with the mittens, socks, scarves, hats, and zippers. For kids who grew up in shorts and flip flops at the most this was a lot of fuss just to get outside!
Our house has a gas fireplace in the little living room. I have always scoffed at gas fireplaces preferring the ruggedness of chopped wood and ashes all over everything and the “real experience.” I love my fireplace now. It was winter at its best snuggling up on the couch next to the fire with books and coffee. I had dreamed of winter days like that through many tropical Thanksgivings and Christmases.
The kids and I stumbled into a homeschool group that meets every Monday and we love it. We read and discuss books, take nature walks, write poetry, learn how to play new games, create art through many different mediums, and present our creations to the rest of the group. It was incredibly helpful for me as I struggled to figure out what homeschooling was going to look like for us.
On Thursdays our local library hosts a story hour with songs and crafts and we were there every week. I remember the library in Sitka, Alaska when I was Willow’s and Ayden’s age as a magical, almost mysterious, place. The kids and I spent many long afternoons at the library and we usually brought home about 15 beautiful childrens books for the week.
I attempted a winter garden but did not get much to grow. The weather was so erratic and I was late getting things into the ground; a farmer friend told me there were just not enough hours of sunlight. Everything germinated and stayed alive throughout the winter but the radishes, beets, and various greens did not mature. However, my ability to just keep things alive gave me confidence to try a garden in the Spring, so I still count it a success.
I did not know when I left my house in Villa Obregon six months ago that I would not be returning. I did not pack up my Christmas ornaments, my journals, my kids’ favorite books. I did not say goodbye to friends. I did not give away extra pots and pans, tupperware, or clothing to my neighbors in need. I stood on the curb and kissed my husband goodbye, telling him we would see each other in a few weeks in Virginia. I took a last glance at the plants on the balcony, leaves lit by the just rising sun, and wondered how many would make it through the sweltering summer and how many I would need to replace upon my arrival home in six months.
Six months have passed and our lives are on a completely new path now. We are staying in Virginia where Ben can work a solid job that will pay our debts. Where we can take the kids to the library and watch them experience snow. Where we can enjoy the crisp fall weather, wear wool socks, grow vegetables and own chickens. It is so much of what we have been dreaming about. We knew that we were coming up on the time to leave Mexico. We knew from the beginning in 2011 that we would not be there forever, that it was a time to enjoy and that one day we would go back to four seasons and chopping firewood and frost on the windowpanes. I have longed for that life.
But I have also loved our life in Mexico. I love the ocean and the beach. I love the people we have served at our cafe and the friends we have made around surf boards and restaurant tables and yoga mats. I love that my kids both learned how to swim and can handle a boogie board in the waves. That they have seen the briny miracles: a whale tail slap the water, dolphins dancing in waves, baby turtles crawling out of their sandy nest, the sun rise and set over the ocean. I feel those miracles make up some of the marrow in my bones and I love that we have shared them. It is hard to walk away from that goodness.
I will be the first to say that our life in Villa Obregon was far from ideal and I am glad that we are moving on. It is not how I wanted the move to happen and there have been tears and sleepless nights as we struggle with making this decision. On hard days we wonder if it is the right decision. I think it is.
These days my little family piles into our minivan and drives to look at potential houses to make a new home in. We go to fall festivals and truck pulls and rodeos. We play on playgrounds and hike around the woods. I am slowly accumulating winter coats, boots, fleece lined jeans. The kids ask once a week if it will snow soon. We say goodbye to Papa in the morning and hug him in the door in the evening light. Ben and I talk about living in America again and how we can stay involved with the poor and the immigrants. The days are cool, we have had plenty of rain and grey skies, and the giant wolf spiders are getting cozy in our closets and boots. We hear the geese honking and watch little yellow leaves fall from the trees. Autumn is coming. There is goodness here.
The birth box is fully stocked, the birth area has been decided on, the baby has flipped head down, and Mom has arrived. We are cleaning floors and counters, making playlists for laboring along with, and washing newborn infant clothes the size of a dinner plates. The energy is high (figuratively speaking for me…) and the anticipation is real. It is still early and we all realize that we might end up waiting weeks for this little one to make the big entrance into our lives. But even so, nesting is in full swing and it feels like I could be holding this new little life in my arms sooner than later.
So pull out a candle and set it aside to light when the moment comes, light the way for an infant making his way from one world to another.
I try to take photographs of life here but I can never capture what I’m after: wet rubber boots on the wrong feet, clouds dropping rain in the distance, blond hair flying in the evening’s still cool wind. The strong, scarred man’s hands milling log after log into beautiful boards, the never resting mother’s hands wrapping around a steaming cup of coffee, the red clay smears on knees of dresses and jeans. The glow of sunshine on shoulders, the wood deck warm with May day heat, the blankets pulled tight around children snuggling in arms at the embers of a bonfire.
Keeping busy around here… The last of our holiday company left us on Saturday after a beautiful evening spent at the beach in La Manzanilla. The cafe seats are full everyday, coffee brewing, oven baking. We had our first concert of the season Tuesday night and the place was packed. The children loved it. They clapped their hands and stomped their feet along with the best of them. Ben and I reach the end of our days tired but satisfied. We’ve started cuddling up on the couch and watching Seinfeld episodes before bed, too tired even to read.
I call this our ”paper towel and paper plate” days. Most of the year I try to be conscientious about the waste we produce, but in January and February it’s more about saving our sanity. Sometimes fewer dishes and a disposable rag to clean up the spilled milk is just what we need.
I made chicken liver pate for the first time and the flavor is slowly growing on me. I am also enjoying a butter tea from Nourished Kitchen during my early morning baking. It’s a heck of a lot tastier than the yak butter tea I was served in Bhutan, though I’m sure that was extremely nourishing as well.
Here are a couple shots from around Christmas. I lost my camera shortly after that…
It’s getting busy around here now. We are in the midst of holiday special orders; pies and rolls for American Thanksgiving went out two weeks ago, the flyer for Christmas cookie platters went up last week, and folks heading home for Christmas are taking our coffee back as gifts to share. It’s good. We are happy and busy and keeping our cool. It is exciting to see old friends coming back through the door. We greet our Canadian and American friends with warm hand shakes or half hugs and the Italian, French, and French Canadian friends with kisses on both cheeks. They ooh and aah over our little ones and comment on how big they have grown. They feed them pastries and let them drink their double Mochas. It is good.
In all the hustle bustle of life these days – mostly made up of pâte brisée, fruit, and coffee grinds – I realize how easy it has been to miss my neighbors around the corner. I barely see them at all and after a summer of chatting in the twilight or taking our kids to the beach together I kind of miss it. I haven’t yet figured out how to fuse the two lives together. But I am realizing the need to be more intentional with those relationships.
Sunday. We go to church in the morning where I scramble around little children poised over their angel and shepherd drawings with paint, glue, and glitter. Then we come home, eat a light lunch, and the kids nap. Ben and I hide out. We work on projects we enjoy or read or watch football. We don’t do anything shop related if we can help it. We sabbath. It is so refreshing and relaxing, allowing us to move into the rest of the week with a grace we lacked last season.
The children are enjoying the holidays; I think they love the cookie decorating and Christmas music the most. Or maybe it’s the continued anticipation of wonderful things to come. After naps we will make Christmas ornaments. Before bed we will gather around the tree and read our advent reading. On Saturday the Abuelos arrive. On Christmas day Jesus arrived so many years ago as a little baby from heaven. I am anticipating the now and the not yet; waiting for the first coming and the second. I have felt a certain lack, a desire for more. I have felt a sense of being ‘less than’ and of ‘falling short.’ But as I read Bonhoeffer a couple days ago I understood that even this lack is worship. Even this that I felt ashamed of, a desperate need to grow, is also loving Him. So I feel a peace as I continue to wait.
Now as long as the tree can stay alive a couple more weeks…
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life. . . look at the birds of the air. . . consider the lilies of the field. . . O you of little faith. . .”
That is me. Alexa of little faith. I don’t know how to avoid the anxious worry that creeps up on me in the twilight, in the dark, blood moon night, in the early morning surprise phone calls and late afternoon child’s fall. And I say to the silence: I don’t need another worry! And the silence has a voice. And He says: your heavenly Father knows. Knows. I breathe deep, trying to untangle the stress in my neck and the chewed finger nails and the sharp words already spoken.
“. . .your heavenly Father knows. . . but seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Christ came. He lived, died, rose again and is adding all these things to us. All what things? All the things we could never reach on our own: peace, life, joy, rest. The kingdom is so many things and it is also these things. To celebrate Easter Sunday Lili and I made a feast of baked Mediterranean feta, cranberry-apple-pecan stuffed pork loin, potatoes with fresh herbs, green salad with walnut vinaigrette, orange-lemon cake with whipped cream. We made it just for us; we didn’t have anyone over to share it with us. At the busiest moment when we weren’t sure if the pork was done and the potatoes were getting over done and the children were getting desperate we asked ourselves, why did we do this? Why would we go to so much trouble just for ourselves? We could have warmed up leftovers or ran out for tacos. But my dad reminded me, we do it because it’s good. Because we are celebrating life! We have been blessed with so much, so much! And it’s good to celebrate. It’s good to enjoy a good God. I am reminded of our Easter dinner and all that went into making it special, a celebration, and I think it must be a part of “all these things” that are being added to us. God didn’t only redeem us from a lifetime and an eternity apart from Him, He gave and is giving “all these things”! Peace, life, joy, rest. . . The hardest part for me is to learn how to sit down and partake of this feast of God’s goodness.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
I haven’t been around here much these days… Not for lack of thoughts or lack of time. I think it must be that I am finally prioritizing some things a little bit. Early in the year I had this realization – one of those light bulbs blinking on – that a person does those things that are most important to her. One creates time and finds energy and makes room for the people and events and needs of life.
I am the kind of person who writes out long, detailed lists for all manner of things: shopping, projects, menus, tasks, tomorrow’s plans, next month’s plans, next year’s plans. But I seldom cross everything off my lists. The lists just pile up on my desk or in my shorts pocket, a nagging reminder that I still haven’t accomplished those things I want to do. I was pondering this one morning when the realization hit. Do I really want to do these things? Because if I did I would do them! Of course there are things that have to be done like laundry and baking for the cafe and meals. But I can find ways to adjust my priorities so that those things I really care about are not the items on the lists left uncrossed.
So I guess I’ve been spending more time playing with these two little kids and reading books and learning how to nourish our bellys and concentrating on Lent, preparing for this upcoming celebration of the greatest miracle. Not that I’ve figured out how to cross all these things off the lists.. there are so many emails left unanswered, trips to the beach put off for tomorrow, prayers left unprayed.
Running deep under all of this everyday life is the stress of ever changing tax and business laws, missing essential documents required of us by the city we live in, and the lawsuit against us for crossing the border with items that were not declared. We are receiving and sending documents, filing appeals, writing emails and waiting. Waiting seems to be the hardest part. Sometimes life seems just fine and we forget for a while that we are worried, scared, and insecure. We trust. But only for a little while. Then something rips and we split open and the results aren’t pretty and they cause hurt and confusion.
Why is it so hard to trust? I want to trust God. But that is not enough. Somehow, just like with my lists and priorities, I have to figure out how to actually trust. I haven’t figured that one out yet. ButI am slowly, ever so slowly, edging my way nearer, still nearer to Him.