Lemonade: A Labor of Love

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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!

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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.

 

Homes of Zion

We had our first visitor from the U.S. in our meeting! Hooray! This was super exciting because, for once, I wasn’t the only one who didn’t understand… And actually, he didn’t speak Spanish at all, so I felt really happy to be able to help him with the numbers for the hymns.

I’ve been thinking of this year and everything that has brought us to this place in life. Victor and I didn’t even know each other a year ago–but Sunday did mark my one year mark for going to meeting in Mexico! I remember sitting in those first meetings feeling so desperate to be fed. I would glory in the hymns that we sang translated from English–knowing at least a few of the words.

Sunday I gave my testimony with just a little help from my friends. I didn’t have to prepare word-for-word. Last week, I started praying in Spanish so that I can receive a little help from my husband prior to making that transition in our meeting. It’s been really great. I remember a friend telling me that praying and reading together could strengthen a relationship–and I always thought we would just pray at the same time. But we read the chapter(s) together–he in English and me in Spanish. It helps him to understand a bit before the meeting itself. And it helps me to understand the Spanish–because sometimes the translations don’t transfer the same message in my head.

These little moments are so sweet to me! And as I think of adding our next family member, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to have little family studies and prayers. How precious will that be! I hope I can just have what I need to be a wife and mother in Zion.

Speaking of the newest addition–I can’t stop thinking of the baby and what we will need to do to get desired meeting behavior. Oh, man! This is where my head just spins and spins! I so often have seen mamas AFTER they’ve done the hard work with their little ones. Not the actual process! Where do I even start!?

Make my home a home of Zion, where the Lord would have first place; where the rule is live for others who are weary in the race. Homes of Zion, Homes of Zion, Matchless treasure is their worth. Homes of Zion, Homes of Zion, sweet influence in the earth.

Thinking of You This Sunday Morning

My mom has given me some great advice over the last several years (really over my lifetime, but I am only willing to admit the good advice I have received since I realized how smart she really is…), but there is one thing she told me that I am really pleased with today.  See, a couple years ago, I was really bummed because some baby didn’t like me.  I think it was my niece Dyana, but I can’t really remember.  Mama said, “Just feed her–that’s how you get babies to like you.”  Spoken like a southern woman.

So for the last several weeks, Victor and I have been bribing the kids at meeting.  They are the grandkids of one of the ladies, and the youngest is two.  She is a beautiful little Mexican who cuddles up to her abuela and her uncle.  She’s really the one I am after.  Her brother is four, and isn’t quite as shy as she seems to be.  We’ve taken candy from the presents my students gave me.  Mexicans love weird candy with chile on/in it.  She’s quite the mess, and last week when I tried to help her take the wrapper down off her candy–you would have thought that I was sneaking a taste.  Today, however, she gave me a sweet smile when I gave her a kiss (the chocolate kind).  Yes!  It’s working!

I am reminded of a sweet lady and her husband who used to bring us candy and treats on Sunday mornings.  Laura, my elder’s late wife in Tennessee, always remembered us!  I remember her bringing heart shaped lolipops around Valentine’s Day.  She was an amazing woman, and I can’t imagine being at her home for meeting without her being there!

What really got me thinking about Laura and other amazing women I’ve been around who nurtured me (naturally and spiritually) was a verse in Titus.  I know I have read it a billion times, but there is something about reading it in another language that really has made it real to me.  I think it’s because I have to read so slowing and really search for meaning.

That the aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;  That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Oh! what I’ve learned from you, women in my life!  How to take my service to God seriously!  To love my husband as a helpmate–not the bossy britches I tend to be.  To allow God to work in my family’s life–rather than instruct and preach.  To love this unborn child and want what is best for him–spiritually, as well (if not more than) naturally.  To love others despite their faults–and maybe even more!  To recognize my shortcomings when I begin to judge others harshly–and even to fear the lessons the Lord steers my way after I’ve been particularly stubborn.  To realize that my children won’t be perfect, but that my love will be unyielding.  To understand that a word in season can lift the weary and downtrodden.  To pray, pray, pray for others as you’ve prayed for me!  To recognize a need and seek to fill it–without a show or desire to have reward.  To make sacrifices.  To bite my tongue when it’s hard.  To forgive.  To remember the saints and servants.

Oh!  I could go on forever…  But I’ll end with this:   If ever you doubt the place you have in God’s kingdom, know that this young mama in Mexico has benefited beyond what words could ever explain from your life.  Thank you. 

The Weekend Ahead

Our bags are packed. We’ve got everything except a tie. Turns out the men don’t wear those to convention here in Mexico.

I. Can’t. Wait.

The convention in Torreon was really more like a special meeting–only the size of a union meeting. This convention near Monterrey is rumored to be pretty big (about three hundred people).

I am mostly excited because this will be Victor’s first real experience with convention. I am pretty quiet about it–I don’t want to paint a picture for him. I want him to love it like me, but because HE wants to. So, I answer questions as they come, and explain what an amazing weekend it is in the States. I listen as he tells me the things he learns (he understands what’s going on much more than I do…). Seeing the life and wonder makes my heart happy.

It’s great spending time with my husband. Last night I realized we’ve only KNOWN each other just over six months. Wow. No wonder my friends freaked out a little.

Sigh. Whatta life! A year of change can do wonders for a body!! One year ago I was happily basking in my freedom! And now? I am slowly becoming Mexican from the inside out…

Hallelujah!

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I made it to Tapachula! Tapachula, by the way, is so close to Guatemala. I wish I could go–but I don’t think I’ll be able to this trip. Some day!

I rode the six hour trip with one baby or another on my lap–in true Mexican style! Victor, another young girl my age (visiting her mom from Mexico), her two children, and I all sat in the back of a tiny car. I spent my time hugging Alheli, thinking about Mamaw. She would hold me on the way to meeting when we were little. She’d wrap her arms around me tight and say, “I’ll be your seatbelt!” Occasionally I traded Alheli out with her smaller, less wiggly brother, Mateo. He is so adorable, and quite content–he never cried on the whole trip!

We made it (finally) starving, hot, and thirsty. It’s a billion degrees and crazy humid down here. We stepped into a doorway of what I thought was a house, to find out that it is actually the convention grounds! It’s small (as there aren’t many people here), but much cooler and friendly as can be.

Special Meeting was wonderful–but I’m going to be traveling the next couple days without internet. I will let you know more when I’m wired-up!

Ahhhhh!!!

Life is like a roller coaster. Sometimes you have to just put up your hands and yell when things go topsy-turvy!

This is what is going on (please sympathize):

1). I’ve been sick the last two days–therefore I haven’t been with my monsters precious students. Today was a mixture of happiness (to see them again) and relief (for a two week break).

2). I found a house (hooray!). In an effort to boss organize everyone, I’ve put myself in a sticky situation. I also am determined that my roommate will help me clean up before we leave. I should let it be–but the last thing I want is gossip at school about the state of the house…

3). I don’t have many things to move. However, I’m moving them in my suitcase. I need to figure out the order of things before Monday. My suitcase is going with me to Tennessee.

4). Voy a Estados Unidos lunes. I am coming home. I’m afraid I’ve forgotten fifteen thousand souvenirs. I am afraid I’ll forget my important papers (passport, visa, etc).

5). We are leaving for Colta at 5:00 in the morning to go to Special Meeting. Our special meeting is tomorrow night AND on Sunday! Let’s hope I can understand something I can share with you!

6). I tend to worry about how everyone else feels. This is a problem when you have fifteen different people to coordinate. My Mexican says, “Don’t worry about me! I’m happy if you’re happy!” That tends to make me worry more–because now I have more of a reason to make someone happy. Sigh.

Where is that stupid Choice Theory book?

My Thoughts This Sunny Sunday Morning

I woke up early. I ate a tamale for breakfast (what?). I read my bible. I took a shower. I got dressed. I grabbed my purse and realized I have no pesos. This payday was the first time I haven’t been paid cash. It has been a grand problem. I’m completely bummed–the bank is too far away for me to make it there in time to get cash, and get on my bus to Ocozocoautla. To make matters worse, my report cards are due tomorrow, and I don’t have a computer. So, I have to skidaddle to the school to work all day. Ugh. What a lame Sunday.

In other news: I’ve so appreciated the Psalms today. I love reading there. It is so easy to be fed in Spanish–and simple enough for me to share my thoughts. I’ve been thinking of this journey that I’ve been on since August. The “ups and downs” were just downs for a while. It was easy to rely on the Lord, as I felt so needy. Now, I am happy, content, and grateful. But I want to have a neediness to still be close to him. No one likes a friend who only comes to you when they need something.

So, just to walk you through my thoughts (They go in order…): Psalm 27:3 Though an host should encamp against me, my heart should not fear…for in the time of trouble, he shall hide me in his pavilion. In August, life started to fall apart. Sometimes, it is necessary to destroy something so that something stronger and more beautiful can be built there. I didn’t know that at the time. I just thought that my life was the pits. The last verse of Psalm 27 talks about waiting on the Lord for strength. It’s my friends and family’s message to me. Psalms 28 starts with a plea. It is my August, September, October, November, and most of December all rolled into one. Unto thee will I cry, O Lord my rock; be not silent unto me…

Then December came to an end. Psalm 28:6 Blessed be the Lord because he heard my supplications. :7 The Lord is my strength and my shield… I always liked thinking of the Lord as my shield. It explains why we still hurt. A shield protects you from the worst, but you still feel the blows–just not the full brunt of them like you would without the shield. …my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth, and with my song will I praise him. Well, there is the end of last year, and the beginning of this year.

The last verse of the 28th chapter: The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace. How grateful I am for peace! I feel like my life was so unrestful for so long, God’s peace is accompanied by my sigh of relief! Now, I have to protect it. I tend to find ways to allow my peace to escape.

Psalm 30 continues:
I will extol thee, oh Lord; for thou hast lifted me up…I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. I am aware that I was brought out of a darkness. We hear people talk so often about being grateful for what they’ve been brought away from. I always thought they were talking about when they initially made their choice to follow God. I don’t think so now. I think we must wander off, and need constant rescuing from ourselves.

This is my favorite verse today: Psalms 30:6 And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. Lord, by thy favor thou hast made my mountain to stand strong; thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled. It’s the good times that get me into a pickle. I am glad God troubles our hearts though, and brings us to a place where we can recognize our weakness. Hear, o Lord, and have mercy upon me: Lord, be thou my helper. Yes, please.

Psalm 30:11 Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing; thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness. To that end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord, I will give thanks unto thee forever.

Amen.

What’s the Point?

I remember when my friend went to Germany, he said he didn’t go to meeting because he couldn’t understand anything. He didn’t speak a bit of German, and to my knowledge, never learned any while he was there.

The thing is, I feel sooo frustrated sitting in meetings where I may understand a line or two. Giving my testimony is hard too, because I can’t really say what I’m thinking about. It becomes a muddled, immature version of my thoughts. Today the thought actually went through my head, “What’s the point of this?”

Now, before you flip out and I get lecture galore, I have worked through it all on my own. It’s just difficult to sit in something so similar to what I have at home. I sat there today crying the whole time (by the way, they DONT have kleenexes on every corner, so I wiped my face on my shirt and my nose on my hands…) thinking about my meetings in Tennessee and Virginia.

Ugh. Please send me emails with happy thoughts. I need them.

I totally love Mexico and feel “at home” here. I just can’t communicate effectively and it is getting to me today.

Dos Semanas (Two Weeks)

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This weekend has been interesting. I get pretty lonely when I’m not busy–like yesterday while doing laundry. The best part about laundry day was these three random pairs of undies I found out in yard. I finally asked my roommate about them and she said she thought they were mine. When I left I found this young couple outside. To make a long story short(er), they were the neighbor’s upstairs. She was so nervous and embarrassed. It was really funny.

We went downtown yesterday. My roommate pointed this out, and I think it’s amazing and worth sharing. As you know, the Mayans once inhabited this area (I can’t wait to see the ruins!). Well, the roomie bought this book that is a translation of a Mayan history. I remember seeing this when we studied the Mayans in school:

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I can’t find info about this online, so I’m trusting my roommate’s translation. She said it was a map of the Mayan’s world–with them being the center. What I want to share is that our city is organized the same way. There is a Centro of town, with the streets growing in number from there (Much like King Street). They use the directions to label the streets too. I thought that was cool.

I am dying to buy these bags I found at the market yesterday. I’ve been assured that I can find real indigenous bags in San Cristobal, and that I need to wait. I am hoping they’re super cheap. I find that I think people ask more for things from me because 1). I am white. 2). I don’t speak English. I’ve left the local fruit stand twice because they’ve quoted prices higher than the Bodega. Grrr… Today I was told eggs would be ten pesos for six. I pay 44 pesos for 30. Sorry, local farmers. Make it worth my while please. I’m not made of money!

Oh! So the market was amazing. It was so many street blocks I can’t even describe it. There was a cafeteria area there with piles of shrimp (camarones). They were accompanied by someone shooing the flies away. That is unappealing enough on its own, but add that I had shrimp the other day when I got sick and I say again, “No Thanks.” We did buy coconut milk that was served in a plastic bag with a straw stuck inside. It was delicious. I could have stayed downtown forever, but alas, I was not alone! (Of which I am grateful…)

Today I bused it by myself to Ocozocoaulta (hooray!). The bus wasn’t too bad, but it smelled like fish and fresh produce. Meeting was small–just three of us for the first meeting and four for the second. I remember a worker at convention in VA saying, “When you pray, remember the Skeleton Coast.” I feel like I need to ask the same for Tuxtla Gutierrez. It brings a smile to my heart to sing songs that have been translated from English. I loved that a young mother gave out “Teach Me How To Choose” today. Her sister labors in Panama or Costa Rica. I tried after meeting to explain that the hymn was written by a sister worker for her younger sister. I don’t think I said it correctly…

My Spanish is improving everyday! I just can’t wait until I have a better grasp. I want to get more from our little meeting! I did understand the oldest woman (who also leads the meeting) when she asked that God would speak to our hearts. Reading the hymns is a little easier (because I can take my time), and yesterday I found that I can read children’s books. I use the same clues I have taught for years: look at the pictures, look at all the words you do know to figure out the words you don’t know, break words apart, etc.

Ahhh… And on that note, another week is beginning, and I need to get my head in the game. All the thinking in Spanish made my cerebro muy cansado. Sigh.