Wednesday, May 06, 2015

WHY-Wednesday: Why I don't celebrate Cinco de Mayo

It seems like for the last couple of years on May 5th I've posted some snarky remark on Facebook "educating" the American community about Cinco de Mayo.  I really don't know why I feel so compelled to do so, other than the fact that I am plain ol' embarrassed by the whole affair.

You see, us Mexicans love to party.  Just last week (April 30th) all schools across the country suspended regular activities in order to party.  What was the great occasion, you may ask?  Children's Day.  That's right, Children's Day!  The fact that I have to look up on Wikipedia what Cinco de Mayo celebrates should in itself drive my point home -- it's not that big of a deal.

Yes, yes, some parts of Mexico do make a big deal over it.  Yes, yes, some cities even have a big parade and dress-up and what-not.  Yes, yes, we did win a battle, against the French, over something I'm not entirely sure about.  And I'm thankful for those who sacrificed their lives for it.

But it is not a holiday equally celebrated throughout the country.  In my 18 years of life growing up in Mexico, I never once remember celebrating it, commemorating it, or missing school because of it. 

But here is a list of some of the holidays I do remember celebrating, commemorating, and/or missing school because of:

- Constitution Day (February 5th)
- Flag Day (February 24th)
-  Carnival (February-ish)
- Benito Juarez's birthday (March 16th)
- Labor day (May 1st)
- Independance Day (September 16th)
-  Day of the Dead (November 1st and 2nd)
- Revolution Day (November 20th)
-  Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe (December 12th)

But don't get me wrong.  I think Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a Hispanic Heritage Day, which is very much OK.  I just wish it was called that instead of Cinco de Mayo.  I believe that over the years Cinco de Mayo has become more of an American holiday, rather than a Mexican holiday. 

But I feel like I owe the gringo community a social service here by educating them -- Cinco de Mayo is not Independence Day, so don't congratulate a Mexican because of it (or worse yet, a non-Mexican Latin American).  If you still feel like enjoying the day with an extra large margarita, then by all means.  Thanks for giving the Mexican restaurants in town some business. 

Needless to say -- !VIVA MEXICO!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Fishing with daddy

For months Emma had been begging daddy to take her fishing.  Daddy kept saying that when "it gets warm" they could go.  Her long awaited wish came true yesterday when Byron took her to the river to fish.  They didn't catch anything, but Emma had a blast, and in Byron's words, "she was such a chatterbox the entire time."


Ready to be potty trained?

Providence would have it so that our second-born is also ready to be potty trained before the parents are ready for it.  At 20 months he is very aware of when he goes to the bathroom, BEGS to be changed often, and then the other day this is what I found --

"Maaaammmiiiii, Maaaammmmiiiiiii.  Pee pee.  Maaaammmiiii, Mammmmmiiii.  Pee pee." 


He climbed on the toilet and was pretending to go to the potty like his big sister :)

Cousin time

Cousin Ames came over to play last week, and all three children had a great time.  Little Byron made sure to imitate everything the "big children" did.


I was impressed by how well the three of them entertained themselves.  Before I knew it, the big kids stripped down to their undies and Emma pretended to be the mama.  She did a great job reading to them :)



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

WHY-Wednesday: Why we did not rent for Masters this year.

If you know nothing about the Masters tournament, allow me to give you a brief (and informal) introduction to it -- 

The Masters tournament is considered one of the most prestigious golf tournaments around the world.  I heard on TV last week that the Masters green jacket awarded to the winner is considered one of the most coveted clothing items in the world of sports.  It takes place every year in Augusta, GA at the golf course located only half a mile from our home.  Needless to say, things get *a bit* crazy around here this time of year.  

And just to give you an idea of the kind of money that flows around here.  Our middle class home (3 bedroom/1.5 bathroom) has been rented out every year to "the patrons" for an average of $3,000 for ONE week.

Our home is one of the lowest paying homes.  Depending on the size and location of the house, many Augusta residents rent out their homes for tens of thousands of dollars for the week (!!!!!).

But this year we did not rent our home.  After four years in a row of renting out our house, we decided to take the year off.

WHY?

Did we not need the money?  Actually, yes, we did need the money.  We are a one-income family, and the husband changed jobs six months ago, taking a pay cut while at it.  Top that with the fact that we just purchased a new and larger home.

Could we use an extra $3,000?  You betcha! 

So why didn't we?

Well, the easiest answer to this is that we are about to move homes (remember I said we just bought a new house?), and leading up to Masters week, there was a chance that I would have to be in Mexico during that week (which did not end up happening, btw, but still...).

But there is more to the story.  You see, a funny thing happens inside of me every year at around Masters week -- I become very greedy.  I begin to compare myself and how much my house is rented for compared to others.  I become angry and resentful towards people who get more money for their house.  People who rent out for less days, or have a "lesser home" than mine, yet get "a better deal."

Do you see where this is going?

These are not fun emotions to deal with, especially as I realize that I've been given all that I am in need of... 

YET...

I'm incredibly ungrateful for it.

I want more, yet this "more" I'm after is not enough.

This hit home last week in a very unique way as I was reading through the account of the healing of Naaman in 2 Kings 5.

The gist of the account is this -- Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram (a foreign country), had leprosy.  His wife's slave girl, an Israelite, told her master's wife about the prophet Elisha in Israel who could cure him.  Naaman asks the king for permission to leave for Israel to be cured, and the king allows it.  Naaman takes with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing (v. 5).  He plans on paying Elisha for his services with this.  In verse 16, after he is cured from his leprosy, we see Elisha refusing this payment.

Why did he refuse the payment?  I'm not sure.  Maybe because Naaman was an enemy of Israel.  But I'm really not sure.

What we do know is that Elisha's servant Gehazi did not think refusing the payment was the best thing to do.  So he hurried after Naaman and asked for a talent of silver and two sets of clothing, a small fraction of what Naaman was offering to pay (v. 22).  Gehazi gets the money and the clothes, but is later cursed by Elisha with Naaman's leprosy instead. 

My guess is that the talent of silver and the two sets of clothing were worth a lot in those times (just like my Masters money... do you see where this is going?)...

BUT...

He did not need the money.

And I don't need the money either.

The talent of silver and the two sets of clothing would have been a nice boost, but they did not need it.

The extra $3,000 would have been a nice boost for us as well, but we did not need it.

Remember in 1 Kings 17:2-6, how the Lord supplied Elijah with water from the brook and food through the ravens?  Elisha was Elijah's apprentice, and Gehazi was Elisha's servant.  Chances are that Gehazi had heard of Elijah's miraculous provision, and had probably continued to see this provision first hand himself throughout his life.

Point being, neither Elisha nor Gehazi needed the boost.  They had been given all that they were in need of.  

And similarly, though the $3,000 would have been a nice financial boost for us this year, we did not need it.  Even in the mist of being a one-income family and the new house, we have enough!  We'd love more, I'm not going to lie, but we have enough!

There is nothing wrong with renting out our house for Masters every year.  We hope to get to do it next year again and for the rest of our lives.  I'd love to get to do extra things with that money in the future.  But not this year.  This year we took the year off.  We tucked away the greed and resentment that inevitably always rises up this time of year, and watched the Lord continue to provide for us. 

I don't want to be like Gheazi, and forget about God's continuing provision.  I know I have all that I'm in need of, and anything extra is just that... extra :)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Nap or no nap?

This girl is off and on about naps these days.  She will still stay in her room for a good 1.5 - 2 hours to play or "read" by herself.  She'll sleep for about half of those days.  And then on occasions I'll walk in her room to get her out and find this --


Airplanes

Last week was Masters week, which means the entire world comes to Augusta to watch the golf tournament.  After Saturday naps at the end of the week, we decided to pack a picnic dinner and drive over to the private airport to watch all the private airplanes fly in and out.  These pictures do not do this afternoon any justice.  It was a lot of fun, with Little Byron pointing at every. single. plane he saw.




Easter 2015

This was a fun Easter season this year, with Emma really getting excited about it.  

On the Thursday before Easter, a few friends and our kids got together for a playdate and an Easter egg hunt.  We had lunch, and the "older" kids got to build their own "peep" house.



All the children before the Easter egg hunt.



Emma and her absolute best friends -- Ames and Zeke.



After the egg hunt, all the kids looking through their new-found treasures. 


Then on Easter morning, the kids found their Easter baskets at their door.  Emma was sooooooo excited.  I'd say Easter was a greater hit than Christmas.



Byron fell a few days earlier and hit his face with the steps.  Then he fell again and hit his face on the same spot with a chair.  That child is an "accident magnet." 



Picture catchup

Thought I'd play some catchup with this post and just post a number of pictures from the past few weeks.

Emma has always been a TV-girl, and Little Byron has found himself enjoying some sibling TV-time as well.  I was raised thinking that TV was "The Devil," so I almost always feel borderline guilty about the kids watching TV.  But in all honesty, it's quite the life saver, never mind a "cheap babysitter."  And just to set things clear, the kids don't sit around watching TV all day.  Days can go by without any TV, then on most days they'll watch about 30 minutes, and then on others watch about 1.5 hrs - 2 hrs (movie).  All in balance.  The goal here is to not make it a big deal.


Then as the weather has been getting nicer, the kids enjoy playing outside and "water the plants" (aka, the weeds).  It always ends up being on big, wet mess.


This was a fun little thing for me to watch.  When I was a little girl, about 8 years old, I began collecting stationary pages.  More than 20 years later, I never got rid of them, waiting "for the perfect time to use them."  I was quite nostalgic about them, especially because I clearly remember as a little girl looking through them and organizing them.  My prized possession!  Then the other day, as I was going through some papers, I came across them, and decided that "the perfect time" was NOW.  My little girl was going to get to enjoy them and play with them and scribble on them.  She enjoyed them well for a while.  Now they'll be headed to the trash soon.  I'd say I'm glad I held on to this collection of mine for as long as I did :)


Little Byron getting into Daddy's closet.


I got to go see my baby sister get matched in Athens three weeks ago.


The kids and their shenanigans.   Here they are playing the "night-night game."


On a lazy Saturday morning.  This boy still sucks his right index finger.  Never mind that he's been doing it for his entire life now, I'm still not used to seeing him do it.  I've never seen an index-finger-sucking child before.


And how he sleeps!!!!  (And big sister taking a peek)


 There is something about a baby and his bottom in the air when he sleeps that just makes my heart melt.


Another outdoor afternoon playing with water.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

WHY-Wednesday: Why there is more to friendships than just the desire to have them.

In his book The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller says that there needs to be more to a friendship than just the desire to have one.  For a friendship to be born and flourish, there has to be something in common between the two parties.  A love for books, a love for the outdoors, a love for running, etc.

But how do you bridge the gap between talking about the weather (or your child's inability to eat vegetables) to something much more relevant? How do you jump from a simple friendship to a David-Jonathan-like relationship?

I am by no means an expert on friendships, other than what I've recently noticed in the Bible, and how it has been proven to be true in my own life.  But here are three things I noted this past week while reading through 1 Samuel and part of 2 Samuel regarding David and Jonathan's friendship, and how it may be possibly applied to friendships today.  

1.  In 1 Samuel 18:1 it says that "Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself." A key element in a David-Jonathan-like relationship should be that there is a similar spirit between the two.  But I believe there is something more -- you will never experience a friendship's full potential unless the two parties involved have the same spirit in the Lord.

I have found this to be true in my life.  For example, a friend and I have been having an ongoing discussion about Covenant Baptism over the past two weeks.  No matter where we are at, whether we have three minutes or one hour, we have this deep conversation about something incredibly profound.  BAM!  Straight to the meat.  No small talk, no weather talking, no nothing.  Meat, my friends.  And isn't meat all that we are all longing for?

2.  Secondly, a David-Jonathan-like relationship must be one that helps you find strength in the Lord.  In 1 Samuel 23:16 it says:  "And Saul's son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God."

This passage makes me want to weep.  Partly because I see the truth and wisdom in it, and partly because I have once again found it to be true in my life.

Last week at around 7 AM one morning, after I had wrapped up my Bible-reading for the day, I glanced at my phone and saw a text from a dear friend with this caption:  "thank you for being a Jonathan to me!" with this picture (she is also reading through the Bible with me) --



I was moved by her message, partly because I felt honored and privileged, but also because it's true -- those who point you to Christ and help you find strength in Him are by definition David-Jonathan-like friends. 

3.  And lastly, a David-Jonathan-like relationship is unique and different than the relationship you may have with your spouse.  In 2 Samuel 1:26, after David learns of Jonathan's death, he says:  "I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me.  Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women."

I must confess that this verse werids me out a little.  But if I put myself in David's shoes, it makes sense.  David had two wives at that time.  My guess would be that he didn't do much relating to any of his wives other than relating with them sexually.  Instead, Jonathan was a friend to him when his wives were not.

I may be stretching this verse a little, but when I read this verse I read comfort for my soul.  I hear the Lord telling me that it is OK for my same-sex friends to meet the needs my husband is not able to meet.  That it is OK for my husband NOT to be my "everything" socially.  And that it is OK to not feel guilty about it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

WHY-Wednesday: Why you should aggressively read the Bible.

I had the opportunity to give a brief talk at a MOPS meeting last week.  I am slightly editing this talk and publishing it for this morning's WHY-Wednesday post.

Early May of last year I wrote about why I waked up before my kids, and later that same month I wrote about why I read through the Bible in a year, every year.  I am humbled to see how powerfully the Lord has used those two "tools" in my life.

****

Today I am going to share with you the story of how the Lord captured my heart, satisfied my soul, and gave me the rest I deeply longed for.  The story of how the Lord broke me after the birth of our son, and how through the aggressive reading of the Scriptures, He wooed me back to Himself. 

Soon after our son Byron was born, I found myself angry and resentful with life.  Just to clarify, I wasn’t depressed.  No, my problem was an issue of the heart.  I began thinking to myself: 

 “If only I had a few hours to myself each week,” 

“if only I was no longer nursing,” 

“if only I could fit into my jeans,” 

“if only my husband came home from work earlier.”

When I was at my whit’s end, with a broken and weary heart, I began reading through the Bible.   In January of 2014, when my son was only three months old, I began waking up at 6 AM to read my Bible and spend time in the presence of the Lord.  I was doubtful it would even make a difference, but I was desperate, and it turns out desperation was all I needed.  I needed to be desperate for Christ.

And the Lord met me.  He used my time in His presence and in His Word to woe me to Himself.  He said:  “I am all you need, I am the only one who satisfies.”  Six AM became the highlight of my day, with the Lord reminding me day after day after day that He was enough.

Since then I’ve put my children in a Mother’s Day Out program to give myself a few hours each week.  My son has been weaned, I’ve lost my baby weight, and the husband is now coming home from work earlier.  But it’s been reassuring to see that none of it was enough.  None of these things delivered the way I had hoped they would.

I learned that to put my hopes on anything other than Jesus was like chasing after the wind.  It’s useless, and only ever leaves me frustrated and empty-handed.  I learned that the day will come when all the good things I’ve been longing for -- the big house, the perfect husband, the good health, and the successful children – will all come true, and it will not be enough.  

To put my hopes on anything other than Jesus is like chasing after the wind.  Only Jesus satisfies, and only Jesus is enough.

So, what does the highlight of my day look like?  What is my time in the presence of the Lord like every morning?

1.  First off, my time in the presence of the Lord gives me rest.  In Genesis 4, after Cain murders his brother Abel, the Lord drives him out of the land, and this is what Cain tells the Lord in response:  “I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

An immediate result of being in the presence of the Lord is that it brings us rest, regardless of the storms we are facing.  It seems contradictory to say that to add something to our lives will calm things down, but it’s true!  I have experienced it for myself.

2.  Secondly, when I’m in the presence of the Lord, I use that time to read through the Bible, cover to cover, and treat it like one book.  Did you know that the Bible is one Story of the Lord rescuing His people back to Himself?  Once I started treating the Bible as one book instead of a study tool, or a collection of good inspiring and challenging stories, my understanding and love for the Lord grew exponentially.

My time in the presence of the Lord is just me, the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and very little of anything else.  Hebrews 4:12 says:  “For the word of God is alive and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword.”  It was in fact the Word of God and His Spirit that broke me and brought me back to Himself.

3.  And lastly, my time in the presence of the Lord happens first thing in the morning.  I have found that this is the most consistent and reliable time in my day to do it.  My kids get up at 7 AM, so I wake up at 6 AM, Monday through Sunday, and I never ever regret it.  It is the highlight of my day.  I know this may be hard to fathom, but give it a try.  You may be surprised.

The truth is that when we spend time with the Lord, and immerse ourselves in His Word daily, it will never leave us empty, and we will never regret it.  We will be satisfied, and given all that we’re in need of.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Welcome Spring

The kids inherited their big cousins' playhouse a couple of weeks ago, and this afternoon, with Spring weather welcoming itself back into the Augusta area, we decided to do a little family scrubbing party.  The kids really enjoyed getting wet and "helping" Mommy out.



One of the things we kept shouting out while we cleaned was:
"Casa limpia, ninos sucios!!!!!!!!!"
("Clean house, dirty children!!!!!)

Emma's first purchase

I feel like the "cool" parenting thing to do these days is teach your children to do chores around the house from before the time they can walk.

I understand the sentiment.  You want to teach them that you expect them to pull their own weight around the house.

So I tried it all.  From folding our napkins, to sorting silverware, and I've got to make a confession -- it's exhausting.  

So I've changed directions a bit--  There is a vending machine at the Kroc Center that Emma is always wanting to get a treat from.  So I've decided that instead of teaching my child to do chores around the house just for the sake of it, I would instead focus on trying to teach her the relationship between work and money.

So every day, Emma has the chance to earn 20 cents -- a dime for letting Mommy put her clothes on quickly and without being fussy, and a second dime for helping Mommy make her bed and pick up her room quickly and without being fussy.

This normally allows her to earn and save up enough money for a vending machine treat once a week.  Two weeks ago was her first purchase.


She was so proud of herself!  

She is also a sweet big sister in that she generously shares of her hard-worked reward with her baby brother.