Monday, November 30, 2015

Let the moment begin

The music,
   The lights,
      The nativities,
         The tree--
Let the moment begin!
Advent opens with hope,
   The Nativity
      Leads to the Tree.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Confession

I am not a big fan of shopping--
   Grocery shopping is an evil necessity,
   Gleaming malls make my brain freeze.
But I must confess
That there's something alluring
   About exploring the shops of a quaint town,
   And discovering the beauty of arts and fabrics,
   And sniffing the intoxicating scents of leather...
      and grilled corn...and fresh fruit...and grilled meats....
And I admit I have succumbed
To the delight of browsing for goodies online,
   Like books, music, art supplies, games....
   So many exciting options--
   Christmas presents sent to the door
      with the click of a button.
So I guess I like some shopping after all....

The allure of Tlaquepaque, Mexico

Saturday Night

It was a still and quiet Saturday night,
The kids were asleep, each tucked in tight.
Kraig plowed ahead on student exams,
I vegged and zoned, free from demands.
Not a vacation or any such fun,
Just a night for this and that to be done.
I do look forward to these silent nights;
They bring calm and clarity, and a little light.

Friday, November 27, 2015


There's something miraculous that happens
When something old is made new. 
Have you ever seen
   What God does
      With the world's leftovers?

Hutchmoot 2013, a mural created by conference attendees. We each had a separate piece
and we didn't know what the whole looked like until it was assembled.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Thanksgiving Day today
   But not in Mexico--
   Kraig had work,
   The kids had school,
   And I struggled
      to be thankful.
I missed bare trees,
   And rich brown turkey,
   And cranberry jewels,
   And spiced pumpkin pie,
   And our kids going to Grandmother's house
     even if not through drifting snow.
It's understandable
   But silly, really,
   Because in reality
   We have been given an indescribable luxury
      of life,
And Someone
    We can thank for it
      every day.

Giving thanks for ice cream at the end of November

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Stories at night
Stories in the day
Stories of light
Stories for the way 
They weave their lines
Through thoughts and lands,
They shape our times
And affect our plans. 
Stories of sorrow
Stories of pleasure
Stories for tomorrow
Stories to treasure 
May our lives be full
Of these tales of glory,
May we take time to mull
On the power of each story.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Today's prompt was to write a love poem (or anti-love, but I have no use for that). I was going to write a beautiful treatise on love and marriage and why it's all worth it, even when there are hard times. But the world will have to wait for that masterpiece because too much of life happened today. Ah well!

However the day can not go by without writing something, so I think it's a good day for a haiku :) . We had fun tonight watching two VeggieTale Christmas films at the home of friends who are doing a weekly holiday movie night till Christmas. Here's the result:

Christmas movie night
Where children's laughter rings out
Is worth late bedtime.

And now I need to get back to putting our latest newsletter together....

Monday, November 23, 2015

Forgiven, forgiving

I am wrung dry tonight
   Worn from a morning
   Where I lost my temper
I can excuse it as righteous anger
   My point stands
   But that's just it
      --it's an excuse....
Apologies were made
   Forgiveness extended
      both ways....
But still I beat my head
   Against the wall
            my failure....
How is God able to forgive me so freely?
   I long to learn this
   So I can forgive myself.
Danza de los Voladores~Dance of the Flyers
Tlaquepaque, Mexico
There are days I feel like I'm twirling dizzily like this!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Waiting for a Break in Traffic

Those mornings when one must
Take time in one's hands
And dare Aviación*,
It seems rather unjust
That at first the lands
Flash past in swift succession.
Deception builds false trust,
Then suddenly bands
Of cars surround, stop motion.
One is stuck in slow rust,
Slave to jam's demands--
Some hour no more obstruction!
Aviación without traffic
*Aviación is the primary road by us that we can take to get onto one of the local highways.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible, Vol. 2!!!

Today was a quiet day at our house, but we had one high point of excitement: the download arrival of a long anticipated new album from Slugs & Bugs, our favorite music for the family (oh wait, I mean for the kids....). We were part of the Kickstarter campaign for it, so we get it before it is available to all, but here is a taste of our sneak peek, in limerick form.

When Slugs & Bugs made its debut
Of Sing the Bible, Volume 2,
Our kids listened eagerly
And danced to it merrily
And we can't wait to share it with you!

Tattoos in place

"You are God's masterpiece" ~Ephesians 2:8-10

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Perspective

Many would have it
That we are upstarts,
Youngsters new to life,
Born eons after some primordial lagoon,
And just learning to wobble.
This religion is impressed
And over time
The inevitable occurs--
A horrendous consequence
As humanity plunders humanity
And trods roughshod over the earth,
Because we assume
We are simply ignorant animals,
Or worse
We have the right to overpower the weak
Since we have trumped some chain of life.
If only we could see instead
We have been placed by the Master
As stewards
With a glorious responsibility.

Living Gems

"Down in Bism we have [gems] alive and growing. There I'll pick you bunches of rubies that you can eat and squeeze you a cup full of diamond-juice." ~The Silver Chair, by C. S. Lewis

Edible jewels--
I've had them.
   Ruby drops
      Glowing in the sun
      Like Mexican firestone,
   But alive
      Firm to the lips
      Bursting between teeth
      Sweet and tart.
It's no wonder Persephone succumbed,
   Dooming herself to months beneath the earth.
Who knew that living gems
   Were not the key to life
   But only mortal enjoyment?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Shape of Me

I'm taking a break from writing something new today, and I found this poem in one of my files. I wrote it for an online creative writing class I took hosted by the talented Jennifer Trafton. Typically she only does classes for kids, so I lucked out with this one. If your kids love to write, check out her classes here: Sleeping Giant. Our Clare has taken a couple of them and had a great experience.

The Shape of Me

In all moods, I am a broken circle.

In joy I am a hawk, 
Wheeling and wheeling, 
Higher and higher,
Ragged circles in the sky.

In anger I am a wheel of fire—
Sparks fly outward and
I roll here and there,
Burning all I touch.

In peace I am a hidden lake;
A round pond of stillness.
The birds and beasts find refreshment 
In the cool shadows.

In anxiety I am an iron sphere,
Weighty and hard,
Impenetrable and dull,
No break in the cloudy metal.

In fear I am a hedgehog
Rolling into a ball,
Spines pointing outward,
Trying to protect my soft center.

In love I am a hug,
Arms wrapped round,
Pulling others close
And stretching outside of myself.

In Christ I am complete.
He resolves the endless wheeling,
And soothes the burning touch.
He is the spring of my pond,
And brings light into my heavy sphere.
He holds my soft center
And wraps His arms around me.

He brings all things full circle.

Artwork by Kate Hinson, original photo by Africa Schaumann

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


A man whitewashed the wall
   along the court below our balcony.
I grimaced as dirt from plants I potted
   drifted over the edge and down.
The wall won't stay white long.

I am like that wall, always collecting
   an array of dirty specks.
They stick and hold; I cannot wash them off.
   They must be covered by Another.

We read this morning
   about the holy mountain and the tabernacle
   and the need for sacrifice to cover sin.
      But it was only so good.
"Why did people die when they touched something
   where God is?" Evie asked.
And I realized that our speckled selves
   can't touch God's purity
      without incineration
         ...unless we are covered.

And only one Cover can make us pure enough
   to touch a holy God.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Time to Remember

Today we visited friends
   Who were decorating their Christmas tree.
   I'm not in a Christmas mindset yet,
   But this definitely triggered the process.
There's something so refreshingly familiar--
   The beauty of a tree,
   The steady task of stringing lights,
       Jewels that will light the night.
Conversation turns to Christmases past--
   Memories, laughter, sometimes tears,
   Each one like an ornament
      Suspended in the mind.
A star of joy bursts forth
   And the celebration begins again.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


The bread and wine
Passed down through time,
A chance to look behind
At great love for mankind,
A moment to seek and find
The future release from grind,
This ritual most kind--
Clear sight for the blind.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


In the theater of the ancient Greeks
They declaimed and proclaimed upon the stage
With masks portraying their joy and rage
To tell their stories of the strong and weak. 
We still see these masks in modern days
On those who wish to play a part,
Who fear exposure of the heart,
Because it might force a change of ways. 
And yet it is only the mask removal
That reveals the truth of the broken soul
And provides the way to make it whole--
The mask must drop to allow retrieval.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Tricky Communication

I remember music class in fourth grade
   When we listened to Fiddler on the Roof
   And I was so excited because I'd seen it live
   When we lived in the Philippines.
I tried to describe it to my teacher,
   To tell how it had been acted out,
   And I was confused when he said,
   "They must not have been very good."
I thought then that I hadn't explained well,
   But I've wondered since if
   He hadn't understood because
   He couldn't see that a third-world country
   Could produce something professional.
I don't know. I merely guess.
   Yet I think of the words of a mentor
   Who advised me in later years,
   "You have good ideas, but
   Always be aware of your tone."
In other words,
   Be careful how you say something
   As much as what you say,
   Because words and tone are dangerous tools
   When used carelessly.

Photo by Carolyn C. Givens

Thursday, November 12, 2015

After the Storm

(This one relates to Tuesday's poem. Thankfully not the situation today!)

A good storm clears the air--
   The torrents wipe away the filth,
   The thunder sings in the ears,
   Lightening opens the eyes,
   Truth is revealed and we revel. 
But not all storms are good--
   When the winds wrench
   And the floods ruin,
   We are left bereft
   With more work than before. 
Which storms are ours, my child?
   You rail, wail, and resist,
   While I fight to hold tight.
   Afterward I am spent and bent
   Yet your are transformed and mild.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Panda: Eats shoots and leaves

Unconvinced Ev
I tried to stress today
The importance of punctuation.
My daughter was not swayed
And balked with resolution. 
I thought to tell the joke
Of the panda who shoots
And leaves, but I misspoke
For I'd forgotten the roots. 
I found I could not remember
The placement of the comma,
And so I had to send her
To google it for her momma.

(And here it is: Panda, eats shoots and leaves joke)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

In Need

(This is off-prompt today. I had no desire to write something pro- or anti-technology. Didn't I just write about GPS systems last Friday? And after all, today was, well, it was.)

The saying goes:
   "If you pray for patience
       expect to be tried."
So I avoid that prayer
   at all costs,
Tiptoeing around the need
   with wary superstition.
I am a mother after all.
   Why ask for more testing?
Each day is a training ground,
   and not just for my children.
My soul is raised before me
   in the mirror of their eyes
      again and
         again and
Each day I am aware
   of my desperate need for
      God's patience
         and mercy.

Monday, November 09, 2015

A Dose of Humility

Every evening at about five
The road before our apartment fills.
   Both lanes are packed,
   Tempers flare, horns blare,
   Diesel fumes rise.
For some, the minutes are too much
And they attempt a shortcut
   On the alluring open expanse
   Of our service drive.
But hopes are dashed
For there is no exit off it.
Their impatience is rewarded
   With a choice between
   Drop off or retreat.
Mistakes seem like that--
   A dead end
   Where we can only backpedal
   Or fall flat on our faces
      And partake of humility. 

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Anchor for the Soul

"What is the fixed point in your life that holds you?" 
~Pastor Larry Trotter, Church of the Redeemer
Hebrews 6:16-20
November 8, 2015

Submerged and lost--
At least it feels that way
When storms hurl rain
And waves toss. 
My deck's awash
And dark of night floods in,
Light quenched, all dim.
This, the cost 
Of forgetting, neglecting,
The anchor for my soul--
Hope that keeps me whole,
Not foundering. 
Hurricanes will lash
But my fixed point will hold
This anchor for my soul
Has sustained every blast.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Dinner on the Brain

My kids often ask,
"What's for dinner?"
And I seldom have an answer. 
The question simmers;
It is pushed to the back of my brain
Where I check it throughout the day. 
At some point
I'll open the fridge or cupboard
And add ideas to the question: 
   A pinch of chicken,
   A stir of rice,
   An appraisal of cumin. 
The question becomes an answer
And I create reality.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Eyes in the Sky

In Guadalajara
   The streets and ways are mysteries
   Without experience...or GPS.
I have no GPS
   But experience I have gained
   And maps assist.
Last year I discovered by chance
   That my iPad maps
   When planned out at home with wireless
   And carried to help me on the road
   Displayed a moving blue dot.
Without internet or cellular access
   My iPad still tracked,
   Pinging off towers to show my my way.
It's quite a blessing really--
Though also alarming--
To realize there are eyes in the sky
   Tracking my way....


The other night we sat.
   You plugged away on papers,
   I watched a movie, folded laundry,
       When the skies across the street
        Fireworks lit the night with
                   Neon flowers. 
What was the occasion?
What cause for celebration?
It was two days before Halloween,
Four to the Day of the Dead.
Not exactly fodder for fireworks.
   At least not to our American minds. 
More often than not
   We watch the festivities
    From across the street,
         Not comprehending.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Once Upon a Golden Moon

Once upon a golden moon
As the sun shot final rays abroad,
The water horses danced a tune
To the rustle and sigh of papyrus rods
   On the verge of an azure lagoon. 
The only ones to drink in this sight
Were a man and a maid with hands entwined.
Alone for a stroll on this peerless night
They pledged their love till the end of time
   On the verge of the azure lagoon. 
This time has grown since that moonlit eve
When love was sworn and ring was placed.
The years have sown their joy and grief
But the entwined hands have held by grace
   As they did by the azure lagoon.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015


There are beautiful moments
When harmony reigns,
When three children bend together
   in collaboration
And their voices sing with ideas and laughter. 
The world is theirs. 
Without warning
The tune falters--
A note rings off-key--
The balance of the spheres is thrown
   into discord. 
Their world explodes. 
We are left with fractured hearts
And somehow we must hold them
   with tenderness,
And show them the way back
   to the Song 
Where the world is not theirs to balance.

Monday, November 02, 2015


   I realized (again)
   That I had not put You first.  
You were stuck, tucked, shoved
   Behind my late nights
      browsing endless links to words wise, funny, and stupid;
   Behind mornings
      busy with breakfast for the family and daily details;
   Behind the siren call of "time for me, me me!" 
There's always an excuse. 
But yesterday
   You nudged me from behind
   And I took the hint.
So this morning
   I put You first
   And You gave me a sunrise.  
Please keep nudging.

November Poem A Day

Last year I took the 31 Day Blog challenge. It was definitely work, but good, needful work, and fun. I loved sharing with friends. I didn't try it this year--chickened out, I guess. That, and October was particularly busy.

This year and this month I'm going to try something even more crazy. I've never felt too motivated to try NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and try to write a novel in the month of November. Someday the novel will be written, but not now :) . Then a couple friends of mine brought up the November Poem A Day challenge and the more I thought about it, the more it sounded like fun (Or insanity. One or the other). I do not claim great poetry skills. My writing tends to be pretty straightforward. But I'd like to try my hand at this.

I didn't decide till today, so the first you get is the poem for November 2. Maybe I'll write the first one at some point. We'll see where this goes....

November 2: Surrender
November 3: Parenting
November 4: Once Upon a Golden Moon
November 5: Festivities
November 6: Eyes in the Sky
November 7: Dinner on the Brain
November 8: Anchor for the Soul
November 9:  A Dose of Humility
November 10: In Need
November 11: Panda: Eats shoots and leaves
November 12: After the Storm
November 13: Tricky Communication
November 14: Masks
November 15: Communion
November 16: Time to Remember
November 17: Covered
November 18: The Shape of Me
November 19: Living Gems
November 20: A Perspective
November 21: Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible, Vol. 2!!!
November 22: Waiting for a Break in Traffic
November 23: Forgiven, forgiving
November 24: Laughter
November 25: Stories
November 26: Thanksgiving
November 27: Leftovers
November 28: Saturday Night
November 29: A Confession
November 30: Let the moment begin

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Death and Life Don't Mix

Today, technically, I became the mother of a teenager.

I have to qualify it with "technically" because Keren has been dead for six-and-a-half years. Her next sibling recently turned ten, and while we often feel that hormones have hit us, there is an awful lot we don't know about living with a teen. Even if Keren were here we wouldn't really know. She would probably still be giving us bone-cracking hugs and squealing excitedly in our ears. It's quite likely we would have added dealing with periods, but with diapers. And food would still go down a tube. Our lives would be a blend of doctor visits and therapy, all juggled around the crazy schedules of three younger siblings. We'd be in Michigan and Kraig would still be at his consulting job, and I'd be fully integrated with a thriving Trisomy community, discussing scoliosis and feeding and special education with friends I've known for thirteen years, and new acquaintances added each year.

At least, I suppose this is what our world would be like if Keren were still here on earth instead of celebrating her thirteenth birthday in Heaven. How does one celebrate a heavenly birthday? I have no idea. I doubt it's important when one is living in eternity. It's only here that the years tick by with significance.

I'm sure some who read this will feel guilty that they didn't remember it was Keren's birthday or remember to reach out and let us know they remembered. Trust me, we don't hold it against you. I'll be more annoyed that you feel guilty about it. It's hard enough to remember the birthdays of family members and friends who are living than the date of one who is no longer here. I remembered because it's etched in my body and brain, it's part of me...and Keren's picture is on this date on our family calendar. But I don't remember all of the time. My remembering comes in moments.

I remembered this past week as those September dates in the twenties ticked by.

I remembered last night when a friend asked if today was Keren's birthday.

I remembered this morning when Jon ran out to show me that his top front tooth finally fell out. We did a happy dance and I told him it was pretty cool it had fallen out on Keren's thirteenth birthday.

I remembered when we were driving home from church and the kids were talking about snow. I remembered a day full of sunlight and snow-bright air a year after Keren died when friends and teachers and family came together to remember. It's not a sad memory because it's so infused with light.

I remembered when I felt a bit depressed riding home today, Kraig and I silent in separate thoughts, and I wondered if it was because it was Keren's birthday.

I remembered when my Mom sent a note to say she was thinking of us and thanking the Lord for the gift Keren was.

I remembered when Jon and I made a chocolate birthday cake and we all enjoyed it and sang "Happy Birthday!" It was good cake. Keren might have deigned to taste a crumb.

There was a moment this week when I focused and thought about Keren. Really thought. But I wasn't thinking about her living self. I was thinking of the loss of her and the other losses that came because we lost her. I thought of the teachers whom we loved so much. We tried to keep connected, but life and time distanced us (not all on our side). I thought of the Trisomy friends whom I still "see" in Facebook posts. Some still have living kids, and I love to see their posts. But I don't get excited about discussions on feedings and doctors; it's not my world any more. I thought of the pain of losing Keren--that awful day. But I didn't stay on that thought for long. I can dredge it up and the grief will surge up with it, and to what purpose? To feel grief? I know it's there and I can tap into it as needed. I don't need to go looking for it.

And I guess that's the point I've come to. My life is full of life right now. I am continuing to learn and grow. God is stretching our family in completely new ways in our life here in Guadalajara and Kraig's new work of teaching. I am busy each day with kids who ask questions, test boundaries, throw tantrums, giggle uncontrollably, and lose teeth every time we turn around. If I spend my days refreshing the grief that death brought us it will paralyze me and I'll be of no use to the living. Life moves on, and I am moving with it. God has brought us to a new place. Death and Life don't mix, and "I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" (Psalm 27:13).

Above all this, death is not the end. For that truth, I'll keep living.
I believe in the holy shores of uncreated light
I believe there is power in the blood
And all of the death that ever was,
If you set it next to life
I believe it would barely fill a cup
'Cause I believe there's power in the blood.
            ~Andrew Peterson, "Lay Me Down"


Friday, August 28, 2015

It's (Not) All in the Sign

The balcony of our apartment looks down on the entrance of the "coto" (gated subdivision community) next door. Beside the entry is a pretty fountain, that adds pleasant splashing to the usual shriek and rumble of traffic noise. The other day, though, I noticed that not only was it not running, but the water had been completely drained from it. I wondered idly why and figured it must have something to do with cleaning or a leak. It wasn't till this afternoon that I noticed a sign posted over the fountain.
"Si tu Perro se hace/Tu no te hagas"

As far as my woefully limited Spanish and Google translate can tell me, this says (literally), "If your dog makes, you do not play." 

I'm hoping my friends who are much more fluent than I can shed some light on this sign, because obviously there's something missing in my translation. It reminds me of street signs like this one:

I can't help but think of everything that is implied. We must assume that the dogs are doing something in the fountain. What are they doing? I have a guess, but I think I'll leave that to the imagination. And is it that while the dogs are doing this, "you" don't get to enjoy the fountain? Or is it that the fountain is not playing as long as the dogs are doing this? I just don't know.

I'd be tempted to point to this sign as an example of how Spanish is full of assumptions, but that would be a faulty, not to mention low, blow. After all, it didn't take me long to remember our American "slow children" and how that must make non-native English speakers scratch their heads. 

Language is a funny beast. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Schizophrenia Hits Home

Steam engine at Greenfield Village, Michigan
Last Saturday the kids and I returned to Guadalajara after spending six weeks back in the States, mostly in Michigan. Kraig spent the first three weeks with us, but had to return for a conference and university requirements. The kids and I, though, weren't bound to his schedule, so we sent him off to his solitude (poor dear) and stayed on to get some of the stateside work and visiting done. It was well worth it. We binged on family and friends, gorged ourselves in fact. I think all of us laid up stores of memories that will hold us well in the coming year. It was time "at home." It was familiar, so familiar. It was also a little strange because...well, because it wasn't all home....

Greenfield Village with Givens-side cousins
Greenfield Village with Warnemuende-side cousins
Meramac Caverns with Grandma & Grandpa Warnemuende
Kraig and me enjoying steak in Oklahoma with his bro & wife
So Kraig picked us up at the airport Saturday night. We stepped out into the familiar night of Guadalajara and were soon zipping along the road that would lead us...home.... Each part of the road was well-known to me. I knew the exit well. I knew the trick of how you need to watch the traffic to make sure you aren't run over. I knew the buildings and could read a lot on the signs (which gave me a little thrill of pleasure). The road in front of our apartment building was as bumpy and pot-hole filled as ever (actually, more than it was a month-and-a-half ago since there's been that much more of rainy season to erode it). But I know that road.
Apartment, sweet apartment with a good view of road

The apartment was the same old place, just lacking some of the knickknacks I'd put away for while we were gone. The cupboard in the kitchen had the same hitch that you have to work around to close it properly. The bed felt just right since Kraig had put our foam pad back on the mattress. There were eggs, bread, and milk waiting for us in the fridge. We were home.

But the day before I'd been home. Home in my parents' house that I have known for longer than any of the homes I've lived in since Kraig and I married. I drove down Lilley Road and looked at corners that I've driven by for more than thirty years. I had visited Greenfield Village, Henry Ford's collection of homes and buildings from various periods in American history. I'd talked with dear friends and hung out with family.
The mall on the corner with its ever-changing front

We've been back in Guadalajara for a week, and slowly the split feeling is fading. I'm more here now than there. But I'm still both. I can think of the two places simultaneously as if I belong in both, or as if I am in both, even when I'm not. For the first couple days back it meant treading carefully. I had to hang on to my mind to make sure I stayed present in the place where I was, not the place I'd been a few days before.

I don't envy the schizophrenic mind. It's hard enough figuring out where home is without dealing with a brain which convinces you that you are in two places.

Expert bag searchers
But I can't be in both places at once. The first night we were back Kraig asked Evie if she was glad to be home. "I am," she said. "I want to be here with you. But I kind of wish we could be here and in Michigan at the same time."

I understand this. I love Michigan. I've come to love things about Guadalajara. One has been home, but isn't totally now. The other is becoming more of home, but never will be completely.

If there are ever moments when I long for my final home in Christ it's in transition times like this. To be truly home, to be single-minded, to be with friends and family from here and there (and there and there and there....). That's something to look forward to. It's nice to remember in these schizophrenic moments that it won't always be like this.

For now, though, I will pray I can be present here--as much as I need to be.

Rainy season sky in Guadalajara

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ways to Look at a Day

There are days, and then there are crazy days, and this one certainly fit into the latter category. If one could epitomize reality, or life as I live it, this day would be the prime example.

I've been in hyper-awareness mode most of today for a rather large reason: It is the sixth anniversary of the death of our daughter Keren. Usually I hate January because most of the month is a time of dreaded anticipation. The Day is approaching and there is nothing I can do about it. In Michigan this is compounded with short, dark days and cold, cold weather, or worse, murky, cold-ish weather. 

This year I could see the date approaching on the calendar, but it always took me a little by surprise. I guess there are advantages to sunshine and short-sleeve weather. On top of that, Jon had a stomach bug and was out of school Monday and Tuesday, so my mind was preoccupied with him. And there have been more shifts this January in our already crazy shifting season of life. So, yeah, all that to say, I wasn't depressed about the imminence of January 28.

And today was not depressing. Insane, but not depressing. It was one of those days where half the time I was looking at God and saying, "So, can we just stop and go on to something else?" At the same time, because I was paying close attention to everything today I saw God there in the midst, working in amazing ways.

Here are some of the details:

Con: We got out the door late to drop Jon and Ev off at school. This is not unusual, but it was worse than the norm. Breakfast took longer than expected to make, etc., etc.... I was frazzled as a result, mostly because this was Wednesday and I go straight to Bible Study after drop-off, so there was even more pressure to get out the door in good time. 

And yet, even though we got to school late, we still managed to miss a tardy.

Con: Jon was in tears because he didn't want to go to school after two days off. Yesterday he had an awesome day because he was past the sick point, so of course the idea of school today was anathema. 

And yet, he had a good day and even ate extra at lunch.

Con: Traffic was extra-awful today, and on one of the roads I grated the car over a huge pothole I couldn't see due to the sun being directly in my eyes.

And yet, the car was fine, we got everywhere we needed to go, and one of the main roads that's been under construction is fixed now and actually had much less traffic than usual.

Con: I had to make a Costco run after Bible Study and when I went to check out I discovered I had left my membership card in my other purse.

And yet I was able to get a new card made at the store within fifteen minutes for no cost.

Con: When everything was rung up, my bank card wouldn't go through even though I knew we had more than enough money in the account and I just used it yesterday. Not only that, my credit card was also in my other purse, so I couldn't use that. The lady told me that I needed to call the bank and I could only stare at all the stuff I'd just bought, try to decipher her stream of Spanish, and look around helplessly wishing someone would materialize who could speak English.

And yet God took my panicked wishing as prayer and in my daze I turned to see one of my acquaintances from church saying hi to me. She saw the panic in my face and not only stepped in to speak Spanish but offered to use her card for the order so I didn't have to try to make phone calls right there. This was the huge neon-light point in the day where I suddenly saw that God was right in the midst of it with our family. This perspective changer helped immensely considering the day was only half over....

Con: Back home, when I lifted one of my bags off the counter the strap caught our butter crock and sent it with a smash to the floor.

And yet I just looked at it and laughed instead of blowing up because I couldn't help but see that the craziness, by this point, was inevitable. It was also fun to watch Clare pick up the broken pieces and spend time trying to fit the "puzzle" together. 

Con: I tried to call the bank to figure out what had happened with our card and couldn't get through on any of the numbers. Everything looked okay online, but I needed to make sure the card was okay, so I had to go over to the bank on campus to solve the issue.

And yet this meant some extra exercise, and it turned out that nothing was wrong with the card. I also now know the correct phone number to call and should be able to get a person who speaks English.

Con: I managed to send Evie into tears when I reprimanded her for doing part of Jon's homework (tracing patterns). According to her I yelled at her, and she had no idea that what she did was wrong. She thought they were just trading off with him.

And yet she forgave me and we were able to talk through strategies for how she an let me know I misunderstood something, rather than her running off in tears. We also had time to sit down together and read a book which she's been wanting for a few days now.

What else? Oh, the list goes on. Ev announced when I picked her up today that her class is having a party tomorrow and she needed to bring food to share. Thankfully I had a new bag of chips in the cupboard. Jon has to take lunch for his class and we almost didn't get the tote bag that the school provides, but thankfully we realized it before we left the school. I am writing this now at 10:30 because I spent the past couple hours putting the pieces together for the class lunch. And yet, I am sitting here with a working computer, with Kraig across the room busy on lesson prep, and three kids sound asleep. Tomorrow, as Anne Shirley would say, is a new day with no mistakes in it yet. I'm not so silly to assume there won't be mistakes, but I pray that I am wise enough to know that no matter what tomorrow brings, God is in it with me, and He's got it covered. 

Tomorrow is in His hands just as much as was that Wednesday six years ago.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Digesting Christmas

I thought of calling this post "Pondering Christmas" but that was slightly blasé, and this title, "Digesting Christmas," was stuck in my head. The literal feasts of Christmas are long-digested, and that's a good thing. I'm back to daily treks up and down the flights of stairs to our third floor apartment, and that is also a good thing. But I am still digesting our Christmas experience--treasuring the beauty and craziness of it even as I yawn and look for a bed or frown when a bit of emotional reflux hits. I am full, still very full.

We were able to experience a bit of a Guadalajaran Christmas for the first part of December (or even part of November if you count the fact that they were selling live Christmas trees in stores by mid-month). The kids spent a bit of almost every day in November and December practicing for a class dance, and all the classes put on a show on the final day of classes before Christmas. This shindig involved costumes, and I happily plunked down some cash when the class parent of both Ev and Jon's
classes announced they were getting a seamstress to make the "disfraces" (costumes) so all would be the same. The results were much better than anything I could have cobbled together. Clare's costume was adequate, and despite her voiced hatred of the song her class was performing, and her disgust in having to wear a tutu, she put it on with a will on performance day and almost enjoyed herself.

Obviously we had no snow, but the coto (gated community) beside us put up Christmas lights (which are still up--it makes me happy) and poinsettia blossoms adorned every bare inch of landscaping. We didn't get a tree, live or plastic, since we were headed to Michigan for Christmas, but Clare suggested we create a paper one. We did, and the results were terrific. We even strung lights on it as well as festooning lights on our quilt wall-hanging. It was amazing the difference that ambient light made in the apartment. Up till getting the twinkle lights all we've had are the fluorescent ceiling lights. Between the decorations, the school program, the songs at church and the excitement of going "home" for Christmas, we were pretty festive.

 We headed to Michigan on the 19th and were able to stay there through the 3rd of January. It's impossible to know what all to expect from a trip like this, particularly when it is one's family's first return trip. It was incredible and lovely, and so, so hard. At times it seemed like we had never left. But emotions ran wild and off the track like my dad's electric toy train when the kids turn the power knob too high. We saw so many friends and family and the two weeks overflowed with good conversations...and at the same time there were so many friends and family we couldn't or didn't see, and we were bereft with the loss.

Talk and fun with the Grands over Mexican Train.
My friends Laura and Jen tried to create a magazine-perfect pose
while we made cookies with our kids. This was as close as we got.
To tell the truth, Laura couldn't keep a straight face long enough
and my camera kept jiggling because I was laughing so hard.
Jon and Aunt Carrie relax after Christmas dinner.
Cousins!!! (At least some of them....)
One reason it was hard was because it was a homecoming, and yet Michigan is not our home right now. This was particularly tough for the kids. They can't see the big picture like Kraig and I can and they don't have a way to put our time in Michigan within a framework of a year or two or more. To them, Michigan is home and they asked frequently why we had to return to Guadalajara. Michigan is the place where grandparents are and good friends. For Clare this was most tough because she hasn't found good friends in Mexico and she has long-time ones in Michigan--friends who take her as she is and have fun with her rather than expecting her to meet some unspoken criteria. 

The future is as mysterious as unopened Christmas presents.
We spent the two weeks talking through the future and evaluating. Kraig and I have both felt that if he was offered a second year here in Guadalajara with the same package he should take it. We knew that the package could be offered for a second year. A second year here would help us get our feet under us and know what the best path is for our family after that. What we didn't expect was the proposal he was given just before we left by his department head and another department head he's worked under for the past semester. There has been a staff opening in the department and they wanted Kraig to take it. It would be a local hire position, though, which means a significant pay drop and some other big changes for our family. In all, it didn't seem like a great idea; we haven't been here long enough to really know which end is up for a long-term decision. But we were concerned about relationships with the staff at the university; would Kraig seem ungrateful and greedy if he took the one-year contract extension instead? Would the door to the position have closed if we came to the end of a second year and felt we would want to stay? We've had some clarification since we've returned, but during our time in the States it was a huge discussion point.

School for the kids has been a major factor, too, in our ambivalence about a future here. While we've been very happy with the care and diligence of the staff at the kids' school, the actual education provided hasn't fit how our family has experienced education up to this point. We're used to interactive classrooms and challenges for the kids, and so far that's not what we've experienced here. We decided after talking long and hard over the two weeks that we'd go ahead and pull Clare this semester and homeschool her--a huge change for us. We'll continue to evaluate Ev and Jon's classes this semester and make more decisions later.

On January 3rd we said goodbye to Michigan and flew back "home" to Guadalajara. Goodbye to one home, hello to another. We are a split family, not divided physically, but divided emotionally and culturally. Life is not as straightforward as it was before we moved to Mexico.

It is a truth that will take time to digest.