Sweet Will of God

Today I had a friend ask me about what brought me to Mexico.  She and I have known each other for two years, but for some reason, the topic never came up.  She asked, “Did the thought ever cross your mind that you would find a boyfriend in Mexico?”

Whoa.

Talk about a major trip down Memory Lane! As I began telling her the story of coming to Mexico, something occurred to me: this year and last year line up perfectly with the days matching the dates for the year I left the States and moved to Mexico.  That means the day I quit my job (FIVE YEARS AGO?!?!) fell on the same day of the week this year.

Which means that this day, this time five years ago I was having a really hard realization that a relationship with a man I loved was coming to an end.

Which means that it was this month five years ago that I took a trip to West Virginia with some dear friends where I received renewing and encouragement I didn’t believe I needed.

Which means that it was five years ago that I sat in a Sunday morning meeting and cried throughout the hymn that said, “I worship thee, sweet will of God…”

Five years.  A lot can happen in five years.  Thankfully, God’s will for our lives will always be the best.  And when we allow him to have control of present, he can make something spectacular for our future.

So tonight I sit in my home in Mexico–five years later.  My baby is gnawing on my toes and pulling at my skirt-tail.  My daughter just yelled at me to come help her from the other room.  The four of us just got back from walking to the store to buy tamales and burritos from the street vendor.  And tomorrow I will (hopefully) go to Sunday morning meeting and we can sing the words of this hymn.  The words in English still have such great meaning for me!  I worship thee, sweet will of God, and all thy ways adore–and every day I live I seem to love thee more and more.  Perhaps  it’s the third verse means the most to me in Spanish–because the others are practically translated the same:

  I have no regrets today–I trust in your goodness.  I enjoy now the blessing of pleasant freedom. 

 

A Letter to My (Other) Mom

Dear Mama Burkett,

I thought of you today as I twisted up my hair.  You taught me this style–half bun tucked into a French twist.  I remember still watching you in the basement comb your long black hair, then explain how to flip that bun over. 

I thought of you on Sunday.  I opened my eyes during prayer when I heard Allie giggle.  Her friend was sitting in front of her, and they were making faces at one another.  I had a flashback to a meeting where you told me to close my eyes by sign language.  

And even as I write this, I think of those conventions as a child.  You and mom were the meanest moms on the grounds.  Thank you for that.  We never got to sit and read.  We never got to skip out on Spoons like some of our friends did.  And, once we were old enough, sleeping there meant we were expected to wake up and serve.

Thank you for your service.  As an adult I learned that the vegetable house at convention is no joke.

They call a pillar such a name because it is strong.  It’s origin means of the nature of stone.  The pillar is the support for a building, and often, when the rest of the building has crumbled away, the pillars remain.  We use it to describe people like you–unmoving, supportive, and ever steadfast.

I’m grateful for the hard choices you’ve made.  And the hard conversations I overheard.  I am grateful for the testimonies and prayers through the years– I can’t quote them, or even recall what one was at the moment.  But they were there.  Steadfast.  Steady.  Strong.  I am grateful for the friendship that you helped cultivate.  And the spiritual love that you helps to fertilize seeds long ago planted.

Love,
Your (other) daughter

Hope of Rain

Until I lived in the desert, I never understood that hope of rain.  Just a little water falling from the sky freshens the air, the ground, and my attitude.

I have the same hope tomorrow–knowing that two of God’s servants will be in our meeting.  And for weeks from now–as we prepare for Torreon convention and the visitors that come with it!  Even September holds hope in the palm of her hand with the arrival of our larger convention in the next state over.

A spiritual shower may not make my tomatoes grow, but it sure does help love to grow:  Love for my meeting, my family, my place, and love for a world struggling to find a foothold in the midst of chaos.

Rain down on me.

Someday in Tennessee

This week a crew from school will be heading to Tennessee to complete in the DI (Destination Imagination) Global competition.  I’ve been trying to think of fun things for them to do, and it has made me long for the day that I get to share East Tennessee with my family.

Someday, I am going to take my girls to the Knoxville Zoo.  I can’t wait to pay for those overpriced day tickets.  I will watch with delight as they squeal with glee over the gorillas and the bears.  I will shiver as they discover snakes through the windows of the reptile observatory.  And I will shell out the big bucks for zoo treats and souvenirs that will I will one day regret buying when I pick it up off the floor.

Someday, I am going to wake my husband up early and stop for coffee at an all-night Pilot service station as we drive up to the Smokies to watch the sun rise.  I won’t know where we are going, but my “map” will be the road.  Up will always be the choice–until we reach the perfect place to park the car and see the sun peek out over the trees as the hills come to life.  (I will probably end up singing some cheesy song from a musical or recite “Tennessee Sunrise” much to his dismay.)

Someday, we are going to be tourists in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.  We are going to play mini-golf, and ride all the rides at Dollywood.  We are going to spend way too much money on those tickets, unless some niece or nephew happens to be working there at the time… (hint hint)  We are going to eat funnel cakes and sing along to all my favorite Dolly songs.  I am going to tell my family all about Dolly, and how she is my hero for never forgetting where she came from after she left (but more importantly, for all her work with the Imagination Library… #literacystartsyoung, afterall…)

Someday, we are going to drive down to Cardins and eat hotdogs, cheeseburgers, and drink milkshakes.  I am going to tell stories about my Mamaw, and how we would buy hotdogs on the way home from Wednesday night bible study.  We will fill up on fries AND onion rings, because if you are going to “do Cardins,” you might as well live it up.

Someday, we will go watch a drive-in double feature.  We will stock up on treats at the gas station, then back in to a spot so that we can sit in the back of the truck together on piles of blankets.  We will let the girls go to sleep late that night, and will surely regret it the next day.

Someday in Tennessee, we will get together with our friends on Fourth of July, eat tacos, and shoot fireworks.  We will swat hands that sneak black olives, and will tease each other over how much eating has happened, and we will watch the new generation of kids catch fireflies before dark.

Someday, we will sit on the porch in a summer thunderstorm and watch the waterfall created by the warm rain.  We will read aloud something appropriate for summer storms–something that will make us giggle with delight.

Someday, we will pack up a cooler, and take off for the lake.  We will slather on sunscreen and squish our toes into some Tennessee mud.  Then we will drink sweet tea with our friends as we reminisce about when we were young while enjoying all the babies playing together.

Someday in Tennessee, my sisters and I will stay up late and snuggle together on the couches.  We will laugh and tickle each other like we did when we were young.  We will inevitably ruin that fun time by fighting over something stupid.  Then, we will make up by singing old hymns together at the piano while mama cries because her “babies” are together in harmony.

Someday, we will load up the kids and the bikes and head up to Cades Cove.  We will take lots of water and a picnic lunch to share.  After 11 miles of hilly countryside and kids complaining, we will head back down the mountain to sleepy snores in the backseat.

Some Saturday morning, Mama and I will get up earlier than everyone else and make biscuits and gravy.  We will work together to fry up enough sausage and bologna to feed a small army.  She will make the lightest biscuits ever tasted, and I will stir together some gravy–thinking about Mamaw and her methods.  We will slice some Grainger County tomatoes, and fill up glasses with sweet tea.  After calling everyone to breakfast, we will bully someone else into doing the dishes (but will probably end up doing them ourselves later…)

Some summer day, we will drive up to the farm stands and buy bushels of tomatoes, peppers, and sweet corn.  We will wash and sterilize mason jars that will later be filled with chow-chow, stewed tomatoes, and maybe some strawberry jam.  We will listen to the “pops” of success while warning everyone around to leave them alone.

Someday, we will pack up, and drive 20 minutes down the road to convention.  We will wake up early and help with breakfast.  We will stay up late and drink hot cocoa while eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  We will soak in the heavenly rain and fill up on spiritual food–and we will relish in the fellowship with sweet forever friends.  We will leave that oasis with new purpose for the next year, and promises to keep in touch that will go forgotten until the next spring.

Someday in Tennessee, we will wake up and check to see if school is out because of the flurries that were predicted.  We might get lucky enough to make snow cream and build a snowman.  We will regret having not bought a sled, but we will improvise with garbage bags and clothes-baskets.  We will eat too much, sleep too much, and play until we are frozen solid.  Then we will sit in front of the fire, and thaw out with soggy socks and gloves all around us.

Someday, my family and I will enjoy all that I miss about Tennessee.  But that day isn’t today, this summer, or this year.  So until then, I will make my plans for someday…

 

Water in the Valley of Baca

Last night, as I thanked a brother worker again for cooking supper, he said, “It was really a privilege.  It makes us feel at home–like we are family.  And that is the way it should be.”  And it is true!  Being with the visitors that are here for convention fills a little empty spot inside of me.  It reminds me that fellowship with others is important!  And having the privilege of wonderful visits in this time makes it hard to think of returning to the States.

I’ve been thinking of that Psalm that talks about the valley of Baca.  (Also believed to be the city of Mecca, the valley of Baca is reportedly where Hagar and Ishmael found water.)  I know what it is to be in a desert place.  I understand the desert place spiritually and physically.  And I understand the value of water after having lived in a country where water is a precious resource.

So, when I think of that dry mouth and the thirst that leads up to dehydration, it is easy to see that spiritually that can happen too.  I sit in English conventions with such a full heart–I get to soak up the sweet water from heaven that is so freely given.  Other times, I feel like I am crying for water like Hagar, searching for something to nourish my family and me.

But like Hagar, there is always just enough water to keep me going.

This week hasn’t been a week of searching for water, but it has been a week where I can say, “My cup runneth over…”  I feel that my Spanish is at a level now where a conversation with the workers isn’t a struggle.  My eyes have been opened to see the struggles of my little meeting, and with that, I feel an outpouring of love towards the members there.  I have wonderful examples here of many ladies who have kept going from “strength to strength.”  And despite living in a desert, we have water in the valley of Baca.

Happy Siblings Day! (Hug an Only Child)

According to the Facebook posts, today is National Siblings Day.  I don’t know exactly who thought this one up–but I suspect that it is a day for people to share cute photos, and therefore, it came into existence after social media decided to take over the world.

I’ve been thinking a lot of family lately.  We took a trip last weekend to a neighboring state to visit with some of the isolated friends that live there.  There are two families and no one else for miles around.  The first family has five kids and the second has twelve…  Yes, you heard me right… twelve…  It is that family of twelve that recently gave us our latest sister worker.  Both families live humble lives on farms, and the way they work together to survive is admirable.

Sometimes we talk about how selfish it is for us to have had Rocky here in the city–when all he wanted was a place to run around and smell.  It feels like that with Ale too.  She was in her element on the farm!  She wasn’t afraid of wondering in and outside with the others.  They took her to watch the cow being milked, and later the baby lambs drinking from bottles.  She would come inside the kitchen (which is a separate entrance from the interior of the house) and ask for a drink or a snack.  How I wish that we had some land she could play on!

And how I wish she had family nearby.

Sweet Ale doesn’t have siblings yet, and that is always painfully apparent when she is with other children.  She really loved one of the babies (10 months), and kept trying to feed her a bottle.  Another little boy would grab her by the hand and pull her off to look at the animals, and it wasn’t long before she asked to see the “coco.”  (Cócono is another word for turkey.)

Because she doesn’t have siblings, Ale has learned to play alone.  But watching her entertain herself makes me think of how I would play with my siblings and cousins.

Ale is content.  She is building blocks and singing to herself as I write this.  She has never had a brother knock down her towers of blocks–and she doesn’t yet know the pleasure of singing with her sisters.  She just finished swimming outside in her plastic pool, and it won’t be long before we head to bed.  Ale doesn’t know what it is like to have a brother to hang onto, but she hangs onto us in the pool.  She will be sleeping with us too–because I can’t bear to have her sleep in her own bed without a sister to cuddle.  And tomorrow, we will read countless books together, because she has to learn the right way to read before a little sibling begs for story-time.  She just brought me a piece of plastic cake and I pretend to eat it, but one day she will know the joy of making mud pies in the back yard with siblings in tow.  Ale doesn’t know what she is missing, but I sure do…

Happy Siblings Day!

 

An Open Home

For as long as I can remember, when I would think of growing “older,” my desire was always to have an “open home.”  I wanted to have a place that God’s people could meet–and a place where the workers would always feel “at home.”

I woke up this morning with the hymn “Homes of Zion” on my mind…again…

Take my home and consecrate it, Use my heart, my hands, my all;
Let me live in loving service, Make Thy will my daily goal.
Make my home a home of Zion, Place to pray and meditate;
Where God’s family can be gathered, Safely met inside the gate.

We had the sweet privilege of having a new sister worker join us for her first night in the work this week.  I could hardly greet her without tears springing into my eyes.  Victor, ever yet innocent, sweetly asked the other workers who were with us to share their testimonies.  Together there were nearly 100 years of service from the four workers that had supper with us.  Even now, my heart is so full when I think on their influence in multiple countries all over the world.

Again Friday night two brothers stayed with us–we didn’t have supper or get to visit much, but I was so happy that they were with us.  One of the brother workers has shared music to the hymns in both English and Spanish when he has been with us before.  This visit he gave me one of the sweetest gifts:  Cds with the music of Juventino.  THE Juventino singing his own hymns.  (Juventino wrote many of the hymns that we have in the Spanish hymn book.)  It is so nice to listen and even understand a little…

My heart is already so full as I prepare for special meeting today–but my need is ever-so-great.

Sweet is the Rest



I’m lying here in bed tonight thinking of a sweet friend who died today.  She was diagnosed with terminal cancer nearly four years ago–and has lived years beyond what the doctors told her was possible.  So today she is gone from earth, but still very much alive in the hearts of all who knew her.

I’ve been recalling memories of our friend and her family:  memories of them sitting in meeting week after week.  Memories of their “place” at convention–next to the microphone and speaker soundboard.  Memories of her energy, constant smile, and sweet, sweet voice.

Her life was lived out faithfully, with nothing but words of true faith even until the end: living day by day, giving thanks to God instead of questioning why, and daily encouraging her Facebook “followers” with her spirit.  



While her life was a blessing to those of us privileged to witness her walk, my thoughts cannot stray for long from her daughter, her husband, her sister, her mother… I can’t understand what they are going through right now, but I bet that, like me, they are lying in bed reliving memories of a true virtuous woman.  



Lemonade: A Labor of Love

20130826-055213.jpg

I’ve had my share of convention chores. When I was younger, one of the sister workers had me cut the grass in the dining shed with scissors. I have put away the spoons–a job I viewed as a baby job. I remember trying to skip out on that with my friend–and our moms were always there to remind us that we had a job! (Thank goodness they cared so much!) The year before I started serving drinks. I practiced at the house: “Tea. Tea. Tea. Tea…”

Yesterday was our convention here in Torreon. It is strange to say that–because there were maybe 20 people there. The meal was a group effort: everyone brought a little something that gets mixed into a big bowl of Tuna Salad.

When our visitors came Friday night, we were super happy to have them! The school had just delivered a bed for us to use on Thursday, and we couldn’t get it upstairs without assistance. So we took advantage of the extra men to help out! Actually, it took four of us on the ground and two on the balcony to hoist the king size mattress to the second floor.

The next day, we woke up early to begin preparing breakfast. The conversation that we had was food for the soul, and it was more substantial than our humble comida. Our older sister grew up with a lime tree in her yard, so when she saw our tree overflowing, she helped us out. We could take the juice, she told us, and freeze it. Then, when we wanted lemonade, all we had to do was put it on some water until it was as lemony as we wanted, take it out, and freeze it again.

Not a bad idea…

I had already volunteered to bring lemonade to convention, so we went to work. The four of us picked well over two hundred limón. I know. Because with every lime we sliced and juiced, we counted. There were 170 limón in the two bags of juice that we froze.

What makes this a labor of love, is that the tree actually has briars in it. So while you’re going for a piece of fruit, you get scratched up pretty good. Then when you squeeze juice, it stings like no other…

To top it all off, we actually didn’t use the lemonade the next day! Someone froze a bunch of mango for a Agua de Mango (juice). Have you ever cut fresh mango? THAT’S a labor of love too! I guess it doesn’t matter what the job is, huh? From cutting grass, to cracking eggs, to cleaning commodes–it’s the little we can do. But it is all done with such great love!

A Sunday Miracle

I actually understood most of what my meeting had to say today!  Halelujah!  Just in time for me to go back to the States for a month and forget all my Spanish!  Eek!

It was a pretty busy morning.  My sweet baby must be growing or something, because we woke up several times to feed last night.  She woke me up this morning wet and starving, but smiling sweet good morning smiles!  I am so happy I have a morning girl–she fits right in with our 5:30 a.m. routine!

Our Sunday tradition (which is so unhealthy) is to take the taxi to McDonald’s on the way to meeting.  It’s pretty nice actually, because we are never late.  Until today…

My husband had a little mishap with his coffee this morning.  I jumped to save the baby (who was safe already, but it was totally instinctual), and I put myself in the line of fire.  Lucky for us, this coffee doesn’t fit into the infamously hot coffee of lawsuits.  It did, however, cause a bit of a problem with my attire.  So, Victor and the baby headed to meeting–and I went home quickly to change.

I arrive just in time to hear my husband’s prayer.  Ahhh! how sweet it is to hear prayers from the lips of babes!  Even sweeter to know that he’s my husband…

We sang one of my favorite hymns too, which really made my day,

“Tuyo soy, todo doy; Señor, es para siempre.  Mi pobre vida acepta hoy; no la reclamaré.”   I am yours.  I give you all.  Lord, it’s for always.  Accept my poor life today, I will not reclaim it.