Summer

It is now the beginning of September. It is hard to believe we have already been here 5 months and most of the summer. Virginia is hot and humid like Mexico but it cools off at night and we live in air conditioning which makes life so much more bearable. Even so, I am eager for the cooler temperatures that the forecast is predicting.

We did spend almost a month in North Carolina with my sister and her family. The mountains with so much water it just flows out of the ground and pours down the street. Hot coffee on the deck in the cool shade before the sun makes its way around to heat up our skin. Walks and hikes with babies and we did not sweat. I miss it.

 

We managed once again to get all of us together. Two parents, five children and their spouses, one more son, and now 6 grandbabies! It was a week’s worth of late nights, early mornings, volleyball, hiking, river swimming, and laughter!

family-shot

Life for Ben and I keeps on changing in unanticipated ways. We encourage one another to keep on smiling and do the best we can with what we’ve been given, which is so much grace upon grace. And we get these beautiful gifts all along the way: a warm evening in the lake, snuggling kids into bed with campfire smoke still lingering in their hair, lightning and thunder at night, dew-wet feet inĀ  the mornings. Always good coffee. And crickets.

The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer’s ending, a sad, monotonous song. “Summer is over and gone.” they sang. . . Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year – the days when summer is changing into fall. . .
~ from E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web

 

 

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Loss

I just looked up into his smiling face yesterday morning and this morning I was told that he is gone. Is that possible? How can life be such a force and yet so fragile and temporary, so quickly gone? It has left me inwardly grasping at the faces and words of those people I see here everyday whom I have come to love; what if they don’t walk in tomorrow?

The loss of a friend who was healthy, strong, and had been playing his harmonica only minutes before his heart stopped is jarring. The tears sprang to my eyes and I felt the loss tangibly in my gut. I will never see his smiling face again and the loss of just those few seconds is enough to break the heart just a bit.

~~~

Ayden lost his first tooth this week. He was sitting at a cafe table in the early morning sun playing with legos then in an instant he was in my arms crying and telling me he’d broken his tooth biting a lego. It took a while to reassure him that everything was fine, his tooth didn’t break it was simply coming loose, making space for a better tooth. Within the hour he’d pulled the hanging tooth the rest of the way out and was walking around the cafe proudly showing off his treasure.

The loss of a baby tooth is a milestone in the growing up years. I have that first little tooth now on my shelf in a ziplock baggie to remind me in the decades to come of what a little boy Ayden once was. I feel sure I will never forget that singular quality in Ayden that I will only ever be able to describe with the idea that he’s really just one of the lost boys from Peter Pan and somehow he stumbled out of the fairy tale and into our family. I hope that when I’m 65 and bouncing his babies on my knees I can look across the room and still make out that little lost boy look in his face.

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Family

A new baby boy was brought into the world yesterday. My beautiful, strong sister birthed a handsome little man and all of us have fallen in love already! It’s amazing how fast love happens…

I sat in front of a quiet computer screen, waiting for the words: “He’s here!” And as I whispered prayers of strength and health and hope over one child coming earth side I could feel my own squirming about, safely wrapped up inside my womb.

The sister who sent me the joyful news of a new life from thousands of miles away is waiting to feel the first movements of life within her. It won’t be long now and she will also be experiencing the miracle of life moving within her.

Every baby comes as evidence that God still dreams of Eden. Calvin Miller

 

 

Family

My little brother is getting married next week. He’s the last one to marry, the youngest of five, and he still feels like my baby brother. I love his fiance and am excited to welcome her to our family. But I did ask her earlier this week if she was ready to join this wild crew.

When we get together it’s a pachanga every time. We are loud and talk over one another. We goof off and are silly and laugh a lot. We reminisce about childhood memories or teenage escapades and every time someone is surprised by an extra little bit of information they had never heard before. Breakfast is informal and usually lasts about 4 hours if you count the first and last cups of coffee. We eat gourmet lunches and sit around afterward discussing world economics or civil wars in Africa or mosquito versus waterborne diseases. We marvel and play with the three grandkids and anticipate the next pregnancy and birth with joy. I’m pretty sure the local taco stand folks cross themselves with a prayer of thanks when they see us walk up; we can put away quite a few tacos. And the late night card games… Well, let’s just say they are not for the faint of heart.

We are far from perfect. We don’t always communicate well and we’re not always sensitive to one another. We tend to be judgmental and cynical about certain issues. I can’t decide if we are extravagant or just really enjoy this God given life we have.

As we prepare for a wedding all the stresses and details just cement us together even more. They become memories that we will pull out and polish up and share together over and over again.

Welcome to this beautiful, crazy family, Emma. We’re so happy you’re here to stay.

speak the truth

Fear is an interesting thing. It is difficult to grasp and impossible to predict. It also can be a thing of shame and I would be lying if I said I didn’t hesitate before publicizing to the world that I don’t trust God ”enough.” But I am tired of the walls that we hide behind, the make-up we put on that tells those we interact with that everything is fine and dandy. Sometimes that is just not true; sometimes we just want to cry and run away or get furious and swear a blue streak. Thankfully, God is not offended.

It is easy for fear to creep in and grab hold and it is hard to dislodge once it’s there. Erasmus said, ”A nail is driven out by another nail.” At the moment I feel like I’m swinging wildly in the air. . .

Slow me down to keep pace with your steady, refining beat
Keep the hammer constant and grant me the faith
to not escape running but to stop and still and feel
the ring – slowly becoming pure and true –
of your Refiner’s hand against the coarse steal of my heart.

Slow me down to stop and listen to the ancient Good News
made new again
To grasp, fingers flailing, at the horror and joy of the Redemption
that is ringing through the beating,
a faithful, remarkable, blistering and healing truth –
the beat of the Refiner’s hammer.

Psalm 139 is my candle as I read again and again, ”. . .darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. . .You hem me in behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”

And there is so much good, just plain good. I had a weekend full of the goodness of the Lord. We camped on a magical beach where the sun woke us early and warmed our cold bones as we sat drinking hot chocolate and coffee. We baked in the mid-morning sun as the breeze kept us cool. We napped on the sand in the shade and sang around a bonfire at night, watching the stars fall overhead. Snuggles, driftwood, sunscreen smell in soft, blonde curls. Friends, birthday cake, laughter. Rocks, fish, sand castles, yelps and screams of delight in the waves.

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Music I find healing

House of God, Forever
Farther Along
You Make Me Brave
Steady Heart
Strength of My Heart

Art I find inspiring

J. Kirk Richards

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…

On Saturday Odile was just pushing her way North, just off shore. We saw the waves and the wind intensify throughout the day as the category 4 hurricane pushed ever closer, inching her way up the coast. It was the perfect day for a trip to El Tecuan and Arroyo Seco. These two beaches lie side by side, split down the middle by the waters of the lagoon. Its like a broken heart. Or maybe they are being held together. Constant flow. Give and take. Fresh water, salt water. Gentle and violent. When I visit this stretch of the coast I am struck by the dichotomy. Solace and comfort. Stillness and adventure. Quiet seas and thundering, crashing waves. Permanent rock, shifting sand. Constant ocean yet never exactly the same; every wave bringing in new treasure and in the process emptying itself just a little more – only to be filled again and again.

We packed up scones and a thermos of black tea, soda bread and sharp cheddar cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, a beer, a simple arugula salad. We made our way to the little bite between the two beaches where we found a nice place to sit and explore. We unearthed an eel and found twisted, tangled driftwood that now hangs on the kitchen wall. When the tide had gone down enough for us to wade across the lagoon we walked the length of Tecuan and found evidence of dozens of hatched sea turtles, shells littering the dips that were the warm womb for the little survivors. We collected all the shells and bleach white bones we could carry plus one small, blue, rusted coin purse. The weather was getting worse as we walked back to our picnic site but the kids jumped in the waves anyway, not minding the rain. We scared crabs from one side of the rocks to the other. Finally, we wrapped our purple lipped children up in warm raincoats and made our way home.

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After this lovely sabbath we are diving headlong into the preparations for opening La Taza Negra. We will start with Wednesdays – a nice soft opening! So many decisions to make, adjustments to figure out, unpacking boxes, pulling out recipes. . . Lists being made, items crossed off, new tasks added. A picnic on an empty, solitary beach was just the way to start this season.