Planning Before the Steps

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Unusual Sunday today. Enjoyed a brief visit from a missionary with a youth and sports ministry who we haven’t seen in years. All our church families had family obligations that prevented them from being able to attend our weekly service. I used the extra time to FINALLY clean up my office (sorting, tossing, filing, finding! cleaning, thinking), and to get my desktop calendar taped up on the wall.

I’m grateful to have a wall like this. I love being able to visualize the year and the challenge to remember to write appointments and reminders on it. Unfortunately, January and February are a little hard to see from my desk, but I need the exercise anyway. 🙂

Reflecting on the challenges of 2016 I’m reminded that I can and should plan my way, but it is indeed the Lord who directs my steps. None of us know if we’ll be here on this earth by the end of this year’s calendar. That’s a truth that I will never forget and never fear.

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Protected: A New Year

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Christ is Come!

Merry Christmas to all of you on this one and only Christmas Eve of 2016.

Today we were up and at ’em and getting a feast ready for our small church body to enjoy.  One family was out of town, and another one unexpectedly was unable to come, so we were down to just two families and our co-worker Tina B. came from Amealco and joined with us. We had plenty of food for the 10 of us since we prepared enough for a few more than that.

We sang a few Christmas hymns and read the Christmas story while discussing a few aspects of it along the way. I have to admit that of all the details we’re given in Luke, I’m always fascinated by the account of Simeon on circumcision day. Not that it’s any more spectacular than any other part of the story, but I love that he was ready and always on the lookout for the Lord’s coming. May we be such people too.

Cameron is home and we’re enjoying having him, but a little sad that he leaves for Dallas on Friday. So little time. Glad for the time we have. He’ll be flying back to Chicago on January 7 from DFW. Glad to report that he passed all his first semester classes! He works hard at Moody and puts in a lot of hours working in the kitchen and studying. It doesn’t leave him much time to enjoy all of campus life, but we’re grateful he is able to attend and follow the Lord’s leading toward ministry as he studies and grows along with so many others who love Jesus.

Here are a few pics from today’s activities (there was even a little time just before everyone arrived for a round of a board game).

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‘Tis the Season

No reminders are needed that this is the season of “holiday overload.” I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find that I need to shut out all the “Christmas noise,” at least some of which obscures the purpose and meaning of the holiday. As with many things I need to find a balance, but the balance is dynamic and sometimes I’m ready to dive into more music and decorations and celebrations while at other times I feel the need to retreat to a quiet place and shut out the noise and lights and sparkly fun and meditate on the Word and pray in the silence, if silence can be found. Maybe you can relate to this.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve added to our Christmas list of experiences. I’ve been focusing our informal Sunday services on the Advent, even lighting a candle each week as a symbol for our themes covered so far: Hope, Peace, and Joy. Next Sunday, we’ll consider Love. Each service we’ve added an extra touch of Christmas to our service. The first Sunday Beth made a huge pot of Mexican Christmas punch (“ponche” is served hot and filled with fruit). The second Sunday we added cookie decorating. Yesterday, Beth made a sort of American spiced cider (Bethie-style). I have no idea what we’ll do for next Sunday. Hopefully, we’re (i.e. Beth’s) not out of ideas yet!

Our church has decided to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve with a fellowship lunch and a Christmas devotional. Most Christmas celebrations in Mexico involve family and parties that last past midnight. So to avoid conflicting with family plans, a late night, and the cultural noise, we’ll celebrate together a little earlier, a lot quieter, and enjoy a time of worship filled with hope, peace, joy, and love.

We recently helped out with a Christmas fellowship for church leaders in the region. Beth and her mom made about 150 plain Christmas cookies for decorating at the event. Beth also made a “cheese ball snowman.” We provided 3 poinsettias (and Beth’s mom also provided 3 poinsettias) to adorn the stage during the event and to be given away at the conclusion of the event. It was a special evening to serve and to reconnect with many beloved believers we do not have the opportunity to see very often.

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“Ponche”

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Decorating Christmas Cookies

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A Work of Love

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“Flour-y”

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Hearts

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Love

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Ready

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Cookie Decorating Materials

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Hundreds of Cookies

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Blooming Beauties

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“Frosty the Cheeseball Man”

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The Christmas Devotional

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Prepping for the Cookie Decorating

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Good Listeners!

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A Feast of Snacks

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Tasty Fingers!

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Intently Decorating Cookies

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Hours of Fellowship

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The Most Festive

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This Is the Real Meaning of Christmas…”Jesus was born.”

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And This Is the Real Reason for Christmas.

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the garden

While doing some Monday reading in the office earlier today, I noticed the little bird continues to frequent the lime tree. He apparently has a companion that joined him today. They seem to be doing a good job of feasting on a lot of insects that I can’t see from inside the house.

I pulled out my camera and recognized the battery was finally running down. I wanted it to discharge as much as possible, so I fooled around with the settings, turned on the screen view, took a bunch of pics, and did all I could to run down the battery as quickly as possible.

In the process, I realized how difficult it is to take a decent picture of a small animal that moves quickly. Not only is the quick movement a challenge, but the lighting situation with so much shade makes it even more difficult. A slower shutter speed is required for more light, but then such a fast moving subject becomes blurry when the shutter speed is slowed. This is where expensive lenses must come into play…in theory. I’m not rich and famous, so I will content myself with either blurry, lit photos, or dim, clear, and grainy photos, or clear, lit, and very distant photos from a non-zoom lens that will keep the small subject invisible to the eye. At least, that’s how I’ve reckoned the situation to be using my current knowledge and skillset of photography.

Here are a few of the shots that managed to capture something somewhat artistic. You should be able to find a little bird in at least three of these pics.

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Cucurbita ficifolia

Yes, as I’m sure you know, in English, this plant is more commonly known as one of the following:

In this part of Mexico it is called chilacayote.

It normally grows on the ground as I presume all gourds/squashes do. However, this one near our house apparently decided to do things its own way. I’ve never seen a squash grow suspended in the air like this before, but if it happens at times, perhaps scientific history could have come out a little differently.

Before Isaac Newton and his apple episode, an Aztec scientist may have had a life-changing experience with gravity and a chilacayote, but unfortunately, he didn’t survive the squash’s landing on his gourd in order to theorize about it!

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‘Tis the Season…

No need to really tell you because you know what season it is, but I’m making a list (though I’m not going to check it twice)…

  1. Post-Thanksgiving…still eating turkey and other leftovers.
  2. In Mexico, if there ever isn’t a time, it is now officially “drinking season” (box stores devote large sections of floor space to all kinds of alcohol/liquor).
  3. Per #2 above, our semi-gated community neighbors tend to give the stores more sales; we sometimes get an invite to visit with a neighbor while being offered all kinds of drinks that we decline as politely as possible.
  4. Per #2 above again, our semi-gated community watchmen tend to stay warm by consuming a bit more of the tipsy stuff; should they have to engage three potential bad guys, my advice to them would be to aim for the middle one.
  5. Per #4 above, I walked past the watchman on-duty a couple hours ago and was hoping he didn’t decide to light a match…wow…from about 20 feet away, I thought he might be the source of a gasohol leak.
  6. We had a good turnout tonight for our weekly church service, and we continued our study of Acts and the church, but also added Advent week #1, “Hope.”
  7. Cameron comes home in 20 days! (pray for him as he’s in the last 2 weeks of classes at MBI and then his first ever “finals week,” followed by his first time to fly alone)
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