Home Again

I’m home again. I have been for a week now and it’s been a full one.

I’m home. Picking blackberries, freezing sweet corn, biking down country roads, picking wildflowers and drinking tall glasses of cold mountain spring water.

I’m back with my family. All 24 of them. You can read the story of how my family grew by three overnight at my sister-in-law’s blog here. It’s exciting and a bit scary that I now unofficially have nine nieces and nephews but I absolutely love every one of them.

I’m back at work, putting lids on hundreds of jars of pickled garlic and labeling case after case of Jam with only an occasional dash out the door to pick a handful of blackberries. Did I mention that blackberries are like my most favorite thing ever? I also pulled an enormous amount of weeds out of the flower beds in front of The Relish Barn. “What makes you think you can do that on company time?” Bert asked, sticking his head out the door.

“No one wants to buy relish from a place that looks like this,” I answered.

“You have a point but the thing is, none of our customers actually come here.”

“You have a point,” I said. But I kept on pulling weeds.

I’m back at my little church, singing hymns and praying with the people who love me as much as I love them. And all the little kids club kids who hug me three times or so and tell me that they missed me. I missed them too.

And this week I’m getting ready for school. I’m excited about being a teacher again and I’m ready to have all my students back again.

But Saturday my friend is getting married.

Next week is teacher’s week at Faith Builders.

And then there’s Literature Camp the next weekend.

But for now, I’m sitting on my rooftop, watching the moon and listening to the crickets.

It’s a beautiful night.

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Volcán de Pacayo

I climbed a volcano folks, an honest to goodness active volcano. If I had known that roasting marshmallows over hot lava oozing from the rocks was a thing, I would have put it on my bucket list. Some things in life come as an added bonus.

We followed our guide up a narrow mountain pathway. The forest is lush and green thanks to the years of nutrients that flowed down the mountain. The earth beneath us is coal black sand. The trail wound up the mountain, our guide stopped here and there to point out things of interest, an avocado tree, the lake below, a view of the volcano, or a nest of baby birds. It’s fairly steep so we stopped quite often but it’s not long. I’m guessing it took us only a little over an hour to climb to the top.

The trees became smaller and scarcer as we climbed higher, evidence of more recent eruptions. We stopped at the end of the trail to take pictures and to watch as now and again, lava would bubble up and roll down the mountain, leaving a trail of glowing lava.

Then we walked on, past the sign that said “entry is prohibited” (our guide took us) and we climbed across large lava rocks to a spot on the mountainside where the heat was flowing out between the rocks. The guide passed out sticks and marshmallows and we settled in to roast them. It took only a minute to have a perfectly toasted marshmallow dripping from the stick.

I looked around me in amazement. Honestly surprised to be here. How did I not know that people do this?

There was an incredible view of the city below us and the amazement of the volcano in front of us.

I’m always amazed at these times by how God makes everything beautiful. Volcanoes are dangerous, terrible things and still they are breathtakingly beautiful.

I walked down, a bit behimd the others. Content with my thoughts. Happy in the silence, with only the sound of my footsteps in the sand. The peace of the mountains surrounded me and for a moment I was back home in my mountains. Mountains all speak the same language, I’ve discovered. They speak of strength, of stability, of peace. Riding home in the darkness with the voice of the mountains still fresh in my mind, I am happy.

Why am I so blessed?

I have friends by my side, adventures in my life, a cookie in my hand.

I climbed a volcano.

Thank you, God.

Lake Atítlan

Today is Father’s day at home. I’m kind of missing my dad today. I have this vague feeling that I was gone for Father’s day last year too but I don’t remember where. But anyhow, cheers to the best dad ever!

I’m at a weird stage in learning spanish where my brain conjugates random verbs any time it’s not busy otherwise. Sometimes I can’t even remember what the verb means and still my brain insists on going through all the forms.

We took a break Friday afternoon and Saturday and headed for San Marcos. A tiny hipster town on the edge of Lake Atítlan. The town seems to be full of kombucha, marijuana, massages and barefoot backpackers. We stayed at a small airb&b way up on the mountain. It had a beautiful deck with hammocks as well as 2 dogs and possibly 5 cats although I never managed to count exactly. Emily and I went down the hill in search of supper and stopped at the first restaurant we came to. We asked if we could get food “to go” and they were like “sure, just bring the plates back tomorrow morning” It was starting to rain at that point so they carefully wrapped each plate in plastic and we headed back up the hill. It didn’t take us very long to decide we need a tuc-tuc. The combination of steep hill and rain didn’t make walking a very good option.

The next morning we explored the town and then took the ferry across the lake to Panajachel, another gorgeous village on the edge of the lake. The water was beautiful and the surrounding volcanoes and mountains impressive. We would gladly have stayed on the ferry all day.

After some adventurous exploring we found a street full of touristy market stands so we explored that for awhile and bargained with people for some souvenirs. We ate at a little local restaurant and had some delicious chicken, guacamole, and homemade tortillas with what seemed to be a cantaloupe drink. I love the food here. I honestly don’t think there was anything here that I didn’t like.

Our shuttle picked us up soon after four, and for 3 hours we wound through mountains and villages back to our own little apartment in Antigua. We had walked a lot and it felt good to be “home”. Unfortunately we hadn’t had supper and were hungry so we headed into town. The streets are slightly creepy after dark so we always stay close together. We found a small bakery and bought ham and cheese croissants and a piece of carrot cake. He offered th heat the croissants for us so we sat down and ate them there but brought the cake home to eat here. I almost couldn’t stay awake long enough to eat it. I took a cold shower, ate several bites of cake and fell asleep.

We woke up to a beautiful sunday and this week we made it in time to get a cup of coffee and a sweet roll. The church here is very interesting with people from all over. We sing loud worship songs like “You’re a good, good Father” and “God’s not dead” alternating randomly between English and Spanish. They had a Father’s day service today so all the dads got a candy bar and a devotional book. I really enjoyed the sermon about how God is a father too us and it was encouraging to realize that I really can understand more Spanish than I could last week although I still didn’t get nearly all of it. Sonya and I spotted 2 guys that we thought for sure were “beachy” but they managed to escape before we caught them. It was also cool to see one of our fellow students there. We had talked to him several times but it was just cool to see him in church.

We spent several sunny hours on the roof and now it’s pouring rain. We still have to get supper and I’m just hoping it slows down at least before we have to go out. My teacher told me that we should have brought raincoats but so far its mainly rained at night.

Antigua the Beautiful

It’s my fifth day in Antigua and my head is afloat with words like “olvidar” “comprender” and “partir”. Those are all Spanish verbs and now I know what to tell my students when they ask annoyedly (is that a word?) why they have to know what an infinitive is. It will make it easier to learn Spanish and since their teacher went to spanish school surely they’ll all want to go too, right?

Sonya hasn’t let me complain even once since I’m here but there hasn’t been much to complain about anyhow so that isn’t really a problem. We have a beautiful place to stay with a large roof. That’s where we spend a lot of our time since it’s the perfect place to study. We’ve been turning a shade darker each day so I’m not sure you’ll recognize us when we come back. We have wi-fi, good food, and it’s not hot. Actually I’m cold at night although my teacher says Antigua has a “clima perfecto.” There are about 6 or 7 other people staying here as well and they come from all over. One from France, another from England, and one from Italy. At school we’ve met people from Switzerland and South Korea. I don’t think I’ve ever met people from that many places in a single week, before. It’s quite interesting. I’m especially fond of all the accents. There’s one guy at the school who has to be from Australia, if I know anything about accents but I haven’t had a chance to ask him yet.

Our house mates are mostly gone for the weekend, some to the lake, and others to the top of the enormous volcano. I’m looking forward to hearing about it. We had classes on Saturday since we didn’t start until Wednesday this week.

I can’t believe how blessed I am with the two girls who are with me. We all get along great so far and understand each other’s sense of humor which is a big thing when you’re all living in the same room. I’ve laughed more in the last week than I have in a long time and I also have time to simply sit and meditate or have long discussions deep into the night. I’m loving it so far but I keep thinking it will be over soon. I don’t think it’s quite sunk in that I have another three weeks here.

This morning we go up and drank instant coffee and ate granola bars for breakfast (they don’t cook for us on sundays) and then headed off to church. We had just concluded that we might be a bit lost when we saw a mennonite lady coming towards us. Turns out she was also headed to church and a little bit lost so together we managed to find the church. Afterwards we ate papuses together while she told us a bit about her very interesting life. I’m so amazed by all the interesting people I’m meeting. (I think I already said that). We got pizza for supper and now we’re in bed quite early. I’ve never in my life slept as much as I have since I’m here. I think learning a new language and splitting all those brain cells makes you tired. I’ll blame it on that at least.

So Blessed

I walked through the dreary rain out toward my little red car. My arms full of dirty towels and my coffee cup. I’d just spilled half of the coffee down the front of my dress. I dumped the dirty towels into the back seat of the car and turned to look through the gloom at the tall brick building, It’s dim light barely penetrating.

And I thought “I still can’t believe I’m this blessed”.

It’s crazy. I think sometimes I must be crazy. Why and how can the most chaotic parts of my life make me feel the most blessed?

It wasn’t because I was comparing my life to theirs – these lovely broken children.

It was because I couldn’t believe I was the one privileged to be here.

The one to see the brokenness.

The one to feel the pain.

The one who cries herself to sleep because why is no one caring about the kids?

It’s a privilege.

Most of the time they hide the hurt under toughness and bravado.

I am blessed to see the pain.

I’m blessed too because sometimes, in tiny glimpses, I see God.

And I see that he can.

He can heal the hurt.

He can wipe the tears.

He can bring hope to the hopeless.

It’s in the overheard conversation “I was so scared, but you know what? I prayed…”

“You prayed?!”

“Yeah, I said ‘God please help me'”.

And I know that a year ago this child would never have thought to pray no matter what was happening.

I see it in the angry young man who stalks up and down the road to calm himself and yet when we gather in a circle to sing he sings loudly “We’ve got the power in the name of Jesus”.

And I know, that no matter where he chooses to go from here. No matter where life may lead, those words are now graven deep in his heart. I believe God will let those words follow him, perhaps even haunt him. And I am thankful.

I am so blessed.

What is more blessed than to be the face, the hands, that come to the mind of a child, when they think of Jesus.

“Whooo loves you?”

Those were the words on the owl craft tonight. We pulled the wings apart to see the answer.

Jesus!

I put my arms around the angry child. “Put it in your bedroom,” I whispered. “then you can always look at it and think ‘Jesus loves me!’ because he does”.

She stared straight ahead, not looking at me but I saw her go out the door with the owl in her hand.

Jesus loves her.

And when she finally understands, he can take away her anger and heal her tiny broken heart.

 5 Things I like about Winter

I feel very brave writing this. As my friends know, I have never liked winter. However in an effort to be more positive, I have come up with 5 good things about Winter.

  1.  Snow is pretty. I’m not going to be ridiculous and claim it isn’t. When my mountain is snow-covered and the sun sends glittering rays down upon it, it can only be described as spectacular.
  2. Boots. I really like wearing boots. And I don’t really wear boots in the  summer. I like wearing flip-flops better, but boots are nice too. Mom gave me a pair of awesomely warm ones for my birthday and I have this conflict of wanting to wear them every day and not wanting them to wear out. 
  3. Soup. I love soup. Most of it anyhow and I especially like trying new kinds of soup.  And it seems like we eat a lot of soup during the winter.
  4. Cups of tea. Tea and toast in the evenings or just a cup of good hot tea. We drink it like it’s going out of style. I have a cup of it on my desk full time and I’m not quite sure if I’d survive winter without it.
  5. Long evenings. To be honest, I’m kinda tired of these. I’m ready for evenings working in the garden or going with my brothers to check on thier cows. But by the end of summer I’m always ready for some evenings when the family can just be in the living room, reading or putting puzzles together or whatever. Those evenings have been a bit hard to come by lately but they do happen occasionally.

    So those are my thoughts today. I can’t say they were my thoughts exactly when I looked out my window this morning and saw a snow-covered yard but…  It seems like March can’t decide what to be this year. One day it’s sunny and warm and everyone wants to go barefoot and the next day we’re making snowmen. I wouldn’t mind it so much in January but March is supposed to be spring. The daffodils were already blooming. I feel sorry for them now, all covered in snow.

    The sad Demise of my poor little Car.

    I said good bye to my car tonight. My dear little car was loaded onto a wrecker and hauled away to some lonely car graveyard who knows where.

    At least that’s how it is in my imagination. I really don’t know where they took it. There’s a card in my wallet somewhere that says I think, but I’m not even sure where my wallet is right now.

    It was a very normal Sunday afternoon. I got a lot accomplished. I finished painting a picture for Art class next week and printed a whole stack of things in preparation for the program. I loaded a bunch of stuff into the back of my car to return to people. Then I went and got ready to go to the singing tonight. I was waiting on Matt and Paul to leave and working on editing a story for Larry when Matt rushed in and was trying to make copies but the copier didn’t work so he was like “get in the car, we’re leaving”. We were already almost late, so I dashed out through the rain and slid into the passenger seat and Matt hopped into the back. Paul was driving.

    It was raining, just like it has every day recently. Everything was normal. We came to the road to turn in to the church house. A snow plow was coming the other way, and we waited to turn. I started to ask “is it supposed to snow or what?” When there was a loud crash

    “What was that?” I asked 

    I turned to look at Matt who was brushing glass out if his hair.

    “We just got read ended,” he said. 

    I just said “oh”

    That’s literally how it went. We just had a nice calm conversation. 

    I stopped breathing for a minute as we headed straight for the snow plow but just in time Paul turned and we went into the ditch instead. 

    The snow plow kept going. Paul hit the 4-ways and all three of us leaped out if the car. We ran back toward the truck that hit us but they didn’t get out or open the window or anything so we just stood there a bit uncertainly. None of us had ever been in an accident before and none of us had any idea what to do.

    I noticed the bumper of my car laying in the middle of the road and ran out to pull it off. By that time another car had stopped. It was a nurse who talked to the people in the truck and made sure everyone was ok. By that time the family started to show up. Sharon and Dv had been walking into church and saw it happen. They got mom and dad and cam flying down. Leon and Lena showed up a minute later. It was still pouring rain and Lena helped me gather all the stuff in my car that was getting wet and load it into their vehicle. 

    Leon was like, “just get in until it stops raining.” So we did. Probably 5 minutes later the rain stopped and we clambered back out. Joey had showed up at some point and was directing traffic. Dad and the nurse had both called 911. My poor car was still there in the ditch. Half on the road and half off. 

    About this time I realized I wasn’t wearing my glasses so I went looking for them. They were laying in the floor if the car, apparently having flown off my face. The back of my seat was also broken from Matt slamming into it. My guess is he’ll be a bit sore tomorrow

    .

    People began to congregate in the normal southern way. It was dark and wet and chilly but there were at least 10 vehicles stopped and probably 30 people standing around in groups. We waited for at least 30 minutes before the police showed up. It took another hour or so before they were done with all the paper work and had my car loaded up on the wrecker. By this time the singing was long over and groups of church people were showing up to stand with us. I didn’t cry when it happened but as I stood and watched them load up the car, I wanted to cry. My car had been a good friend. We’ve made a lot of good memories together and had many adventures. 

    I didn’t cry though. There were too many people around and I don’t like sympathy. They sympathized anyhow. Sharon knows me too well and asked me if I’m feeling sad. So I had to admit that I was. I looked for the sticker I had on the back window thinking I could maybe salvage that but I didn’t find it. 

    I also forgot to get the little cross that hangs in the front of my car. I wish I wouldn’t have. I don’t want to go get it because I’m pretty sure if I did see my car again now I would cry.

    But anyhow. I’m at home in my bed. My back feels a little weird and my neck hurts. Matt and Paul are sore but safe. We have so much to be thankful for. 

    I feel a bit adrift and a bit lonely. Like I just lost another friend. But also a bit unsettled like maybe it wasn’t very nice of me to let that happen to my car

     The poor thing.

    The situation called for some tea and toast. I needed something to help me relax.😁

    I have a headache.

    Of Bread and Biscuits

    Rarely, rarely is a movie better than the book, very rare indeed. It is even rare that there is a single scene better than the book. Not that I watch a lot of movies, but I have seen a few in my day and most of them fell flat compared to the book.

    But there is one scene in Christy that my friends and I have quoted, ever since we watched it that night in El Salvador.  It’s the night of the big storm  (which is all wrong by the way, you should read the book) and Ruby Mae comes up to Christy and says “Could you please make us some biscuits, ma’am ? I think we wouldn’t be so afeared iffen we just had some biscuits”

    At the time we nearly split, laughing, and it’s become our personal motto for stressful situations – “Please ma’am, could I have a biscuit?” We say. And it’s code for “I need some moral support right now.”

    Which, come to think of it, I shouldn’t be telling you.

    It’s an interesting psychology study. Why do we turn to food for comfort? Why does it make us feel better to eat a biscuit? Because it absolutely does, at least for a little.

    I can always tell when my oldest brother, Larry has some extra stress in his life because when he walks in the door, he heads straight for the cupboard in the corner where the peanut butter resides. Sharon, on the other hand, keeps a personal stash of brownies in some unknown part of the freezer where they’re always available for emergencies. I don’t know how she does it. You’d think someone would find them but no, it’s just her, there in the corner all of a sudden, eating her brownie.

    But for me it’s absolutely biscuits. Biscuits and bread. Toast to be exact. I love, love,love a good piece of toast with honey and a cup of tea. At night. Right before I go to bed.

    I know, I know, no wonder I’m such a plump old maid.

    I promise I don’t do it very often but every now and then it’s nine o’clock and time for a piece of toast.

    It’s the moments, after all, that make up our lives and some moments are meant to be savoured. It’s easier when you have a biscuit

    5 things I like

    In this world of broken things, and broken hearts, and broken dreams it’s easy to start focusing on the negative things. To see what needs to be fixed. What would be better different.
    Especially in the winter.

    There’s so many things wrong. So much I don’t like. So much I wish were different.

    So it’s good for me to take a moment to remember the good things. To take a deep breath and realize that the things I like are still part of life too.

    It’s good for me to write them down. That way I can remember later. That way I can prove it. There really are good things in life.

    I like to stand in the summer rain and feel the raindrops on my face. People are all like “quick! go inside! it’s raining!” And there I stand with my arms outstretched and my face turned up into the rain. Looking foolish, no doubt, and not even caring. (As a side note, I realized I probably wouldn’t make a very good mom when I saw the horrified look on my sister-in-law’s face one day when I picked up her daughter and dashed out into the rain with her just for the fun of it.)
    I like to take walks after dark when the moon is shining on my mountains and the sky is clear enough to pick out the big dipper and Orion’s belt. I can walk quietly then, with Freddy the dog behind me and only the sound of my footsteps. Jesus seems very close then and heaven not so far away. This is one thing I do in the winter on days when it’s not so bitterly cold.

    I like to walk barefoot in newly mown grass. This is no doubt a carry over from childhood when I would roll and jump in the piles of grass clippings. Whatever the reason for it, whenever I see someone mowing a lawn, it’s all I can do to resist shedding my shoes and walking through the lawn until my feet are green-stained from the grass.

    I like to stand in the congregation of the people of God and sing together of the things He has done for us. We sing because he loves us. And our voices echo and blend and God is there and we are His.

    I like to eat sandwiches made with thick slices of mom’s homemade bread, a layer of peanut butter, and home canned dill pickles. I know it sounds gross and maybe if you didn’t grow up eating it, you wouldn’t like it but this is totally one of my favorite foods. I almost never eat it any more, because I pretty much quit eating bread bit sometimes when I get really hungry for a peanut butter and pickle sandwich I’ll open a can of pickles and just say pickles with spoonfuls of peanut butter on top. Delicious!

    There are a lot more than 5 things I like. Remember, I have a list of 1,000 blessings. But for tonight, five is a good number.

    (I really want to do some kind of dad joke here about how I wrote 5 because it’s the 25th but I guess I’ll leave that kind of thing for all the dads out there)

    101 things I’m thankful for

    1. Jesus, my Savior, my friend
    2. My family who always loves me
    3. Grace, grace, marvelous grace
    4. The church, God’s kingdom on earth
    5. My friends, surrounding and supporting
    6. Joy in Jesus, deep and unending
    7. Hope, the warming fire of the soul
    8. Love, of Jesus, of family, of friends
    9. My students
    10. Starry nights, twinkling
    11. Family Time around the table
    12. Hot coffee with a splash of cream
    13. My long furry neon colored pillow
    14. sunsets glowing memories
    15. Pens. seriously. Sometimes I think how awful it would be to not be able to pick up a pen and just doodle.
    16. Books. classics mostly, but all books
    17. Leggings, I credit them with my ability to survive the winter
    18. My journaling bible.
    19. Steaming hot chocolate,carefully concocted from scratch
    20. Heaters. It’s winter folks, I’m thankful for my heater.
    21. My mountains
    22. The people of my mountains. You should meet them.
    23. Adventures and the ordinary adventure of living.
    24. My Heritage
    25. Roadtrips with my family when you drive forever and never actually get there.
    26. The kids club. I know it’s not actually going yet but I’ve prayed for it so long I sometimes don’t believe we’re this close.
    27. Three adorable additions to the family all in a month’s time
    28. Music, that language of the spirit
    29. Strength for today 
    30. Lonely walks under the stars
    31. Words, so precious.
    32. Sunrise bringing new hope and new dreams.
    33. Dark chocolates
    34. Health. I feel better now than I probably ever have in my life.
    35. Microwaves
    36. Hot tea, steaming mint
    37. cousins
    38. pickles. I love pickles
    39. Autumn, leaves falling and clear blue skies
    40. restoration. there’s so much broken in this world
    41. Eleanor the cat and his nine lives
    42. boots. Work boots and dress boots. I’m thankful for both
    43. babies. they’re a comforting presence somehow
    44. grandparents and their stories
    45. The scent of lavender 
    46. converse shoes. not that I’ve managed to actually wear mine yet 
    47. Eye glasses. I can see individual leaves on trees now
    48. Coconut oil. I know, weird, but it had revolutionized my world.
    49. The lovely  sarcastic humor of my relatives
    50. lotion
    51. fresh peaches dripping sweetness from my fingers
    52. ice cold spring water running down from my mountains 
    53. Answered prayer and prayers yet to be answered
    54. gardens of new life springing up
    55. herbs
    56. candles flickering on dark days
    57. stormy nights
    58. moonlight shimmering
    59. The joy of new discovery
    60. The goodness of God. He is good.He can be trusted
    61. Promises kept
    62. The ability to sew. I don’t like to sew. Really I don’t. But I’m thankful that I can
    63. Education. An education that taught me to see different sides of the same issue.
    64. Home. A real home, so rare these days.
    65. A song in my heart, even on the hard days.
    66. wildflowers, scattered like grace 
    67. My homemade toothpaste. (I know, I know, I’m becoming one of those people who goes on walks and drinks water. I worry sometimes about the person I’m becoming)
    68. A Passport. Literally one of my favorite things
    69. poetry. 
    70. Laundry blowing with the breezes
    71. b12 vitamins. They have literally made my life so much better 
    72. ocean breezes
    73. hammocks
    74. heroes, the literal ones and the figurative one and then there are the ones that I never speak to bit just admire from a distance because I’m intimidated
    75. whatsapp. I’m not a technological person but I appreciate the ability to easily  communicate with people in other countries
    76. religious freedom
    77. hot water. try taking a shower without it.
    78. recorded history.
    79. My phone. 
    80. kombucha
    81. blackberries
    82. Dreams. some coming true, some leading to bigger dreams
    83. Scripture
    84. Peace in a troubled broken world
    85. laughter, joy bubbling over 
    86. not all who wander are lost 
    87. The true spirit of Christmas
    88. Blue skies coming
    89. The road leads home
    90. bare feet on fresh cut grass 
    91. new friends and old
    92. building sandcastles
    93. memories
    94. puppies
    95. mashed potatoes
    96. Turkey
    97. stuffing
    98. cranberry salad 
    99. sweet potatoes 
    100. pumpkin pie
    101. And a happy thanksging!