Tuesday, June 26, 2007

catching up

Scroll back to Saturday June 23rd to view a back-post.

Monday, June 25, 2007


a few fotos. more on flickr.

´night everybody.

on the run

-Notebook paper covered with jots and this and scribbles of that poke out from the pages of my Bible.
-Two unfinished entries reside in my electronic folder.
-The last lucid brain activity of the evening (or should I say morning, as it is generally around 2 a.m....) runs like this:

"I really should post... Manana."

Thanks for checking in, and maybe next time, you will hit pay-dirt.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

hardships and foundations

My family will tell you this: it takes an extraordinarily long chunk of time for me to compose a post. There is much hemming and hawing on my part before I push the post button. There is no such luxury for this team in Spain, so hence very few posts.
I had my notebook handy during some down-time, and I was able to cobble some thoughts together. I hope they are indicative that my brain has been engaged amidst our Spanish schedule of outreaches and such.

There are varying types of hardship, and a wise man learns to compare them not.
We are in the infant stages of gaining a heart for a country that has known hardship. Seven centuries of Islamic rule, the Spanish Inquisition, and constant political unrest coupled with a bloody civil war have fashioned a proud people who scoff at the constraints of morality. The once-powerful Catholic Church minds its children like an abuela sitting roadside weaving thatch or a retired fisherman ever mending his salt-eroded nets: their children and grandchildren frolic unrestrained while attention is given to the corruptible stuff of life. All around us we see signs that a foundation has crumbled. In the untended yard behind our apartments, feral cats stretch in the morning sun and slink in and out of discarded boxes. After midnight along the boardwalk, young teens rove in groups, scantily clad, searching for the things that young people all over the world do. Their parents would help them find it if they weren´t so broken and disillusioned themselves. Gaudy posters blaze from every light pole enticing the populace to this week´s
religious festival. (This one involves all-night revelry and fires on the beach.) Images of a suffering Jesus hover over every grocery counter as storekeepers peddle their wares under His tortured gaze.
We eat fresh fruit every morning on the balcony which overlooks the bay. From this vista, our eyes sweep past the feral cat colony and onto the beach and fishing port. As the boats come into dock, the workers band together to survey the morning´s catch. A few older men in white shirts stand apart, hands behind their backs, and speak among themselves of better times and bigger fish. This is not the only early morning activity in the port of Estapona. Pastor Dick and I leaned over the metal balcony, coffee in hand, and watched the construction of a large pier. The monstrous metallic wham of dump trucks have been our morning alarm clock.
"This project has been going on for a long time," Dick comments as we scan the piles of dirt and gravel.
"Not much to see for all that effort,"I admit.
This pastor with a big heart rubs his chin thoughtfully. "It takes a long time to build a proper foundation." I assent, because Hubby is a builder and I know this to be true.
"One day, we will gaze from our window and the work will be done," he announces confidently. "Just like the building of the Church in Spain."
The hardship of being awakened by heavy-duty construction equipment has proven to be a reminder of the way God is working in this troubled land. We are privileged to come alongside to throw a few shovelfuls into the mix, and I do not count it a small thing.

Monday, June 18, 2007

amazing stuff

Paella is amazing stuff, believe me.
That's all I can say for the moment.

pizza and parking

"The kingdom of heaven is like something precious buried in a field, which a man found and hid again; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again the kingdom of heaven is like a man who is a dealer in search of fine and precious pearls,
Who, on finding a single pearl of great price, went and sold all he had and bought it."

Last night, after the house was rocked for a bit, the crowd was graced with the friendly banter of Friend #112 (our mostly fearless leader....). He shared these words with us as we chowed down on slices of pizza.
"Some people may ask, 'Why would anyone want to follow Jesus anyway? What is the draw?'"
The listeners were a mix of church-folk and seekers. A few souls had attended only for the free food and music. I must say, this kind of gathering is really up my alley. The good news is preached in a friendly environment. Anyone can leave at any time after they have stuffed themselves with pizza. But no one did. They stayed and stayed. And stayed.
We packed up well after midnight. Our spirits were bouyant with the afterglow of a terrific meeting. So you can imagine the crash of emotions when we discovered our rented van was missing.
Stoled or towed? After a few calls to the police, we ascertained that was definitely towed. Friend #112 had parked legally, as far as we could tell, but there you have it. This morning, after paying a steep fee, we will have our wheels back.
Again, thanks for your prayers.
One more note: freshly squeezed orange juice tastes incredible in Spain.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

our doings in Spain

The hot sun and the stiff breezes of the Costa del Sol pummeled our backs and the frigid salt water edged around our ankles as Friend #49 and I hiked a stretch of beach. We hunted for skipping stones (she has a knack for lobbing them with impressive results) while tossing philisophical questions in each other's direction. It was the perfect afternoon for a church picnic on the beach. We dined on taco salad, sandwiches, couscous, and chips. We played paddle-tennis while keeping score in Spanish. Our team of eight, along with members of the Spanish church, enjoyed the day thoroughly in each other's presence. Our time on the beach ended with a water-baptism. (I love water-baptisms, as many of you know...)
Tonight our outreach consists of a pizza party at the church. This information, coupled with our day at the beach, forces me to defend our activities somewhat.
I must add that we did street ministry until the wee hours of the morning last evening.
That's our update, and now I must run.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


An ocean breeze billows through the curtained window at my side. Outside the window, three floors below, dozens of pleasure boats bob along the docks. A lighthouse towers between our bedroon and the lazy blue water of the Atlantic Ocean. In the distance, between sea and sky,the majestic Rock of Gibraltar stands like a soldier. Even beyond this, when the clouds scatter, one can see the mountain ranges of Africa on the horizon.
Yesterday's journey (Montreal, London, Malaga) seems like a distant dream. Our travels were carefree and successful, except for 3 bags that missing at the baggage check. Now, after an airline courier's delivery, only one is missing. (Jeff McGrath has been a very good sport about this...)
We are the recipients of excellent care and hospitality, compliments of Dick and Ruth Florres. After a morning of catching up on sleep and an afternoon of orientation, we are refreshed and ready for our first open-air outreach on the streets of Estapona.
Thanks for praying for us!

Thursday, June 14, 2007


The writer of this blog is preoccupied with stuffing 18 days of supplies into one (1) piece of luggage.
The writer of this blog has to check off a scribbled list before she flies to Spain today.
The writer of this blog doesn't have the time to elaborate on certain issues that weigh down her heart.
The writer of this blog never intended to get political in her writing.
The writer of this blog would like it very much if her readers took the time to read today's headlines; specifically pertaining to the violence that is raging in the Gaza Strip. Take a few
minutes to look up "Hamas" and "Fatah". Invest some serious time in prayer for all the innocent people that are caught in the crossfire.

It is too, too easy to stick our heads in the sand and say, "It doesn't involve me."
This is what I get for studying about the Middle East this year....

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

chillin' on the water

Norwood Lake is not big. (Some derisively call it "Norwood Pond".) But it works for us!
Hubby at the wheel. You can spot me in the rear-view mirror. Although the thermometer said 80-something, a delicious breeze was over the water. It was just the ticket for Hubby and #1 Son, as they worked in the blazing sun all day.
Silliness set in quickly. Some call it "delirium"....
A little "front porch visit" from Friend #32. We meet all kinds of friends on the water!

Years back, we "inherited" a boat from Uncle Ralph. He rarely used it ever since Aunt Anne died, as she was the appointed driver so he could be the appointed water-skier. After we had borrowed it for a few years, Uncle Ralph generously invited us to purchase it for a token price. Last season, #1 Son re-upholstered the interior, and let me tell you, it is looking sharp.
You know what I like best about being out on this humble boat? It is one of the sure-fire ways to promote well-being and relaxation for Dear Old Dad. Since half the family will be away over Father's Day weekend, it was fitting that we revved up the motor last evening and parted the waters, if only to see the cares of the day melt off Hubby's shoulders.
Happy Father's Day, Hubby dear.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

another "rat-like thing"

"I like your rat," I enthused politely to the group of rough and rugged men carrying posters. It seemed like a good introduction to conversation.
A man named Larry with a sun-weathered face and a tattoo on his forearm stepped forward to tell me all about it. He and his fellow union buddies have caught my eye every time I drove past the Norfolk bridge detour on the way to Madrid. But today was different: I couldn't pass by without inquiring about their hard-to-miss inflatable mascot. Its very presence begged explanation. It looked rabid. And there was a painting of something that looked like molten lava on its stomach. Or maybe it was half-digested cheese. I was hard-pressed for any product it might advertise. (Rodent heartburn medication?)
Believe me, I got a friendly earful about the unfair treatment of our local union workers. Twice I inquired what the rat had to do with anything.
"They brought him over from Syracuse," Larry bragged as he leaned back and spread his leathery arms in sheer admiration . "It's a huge thing. All over the country, you know."
"Sooo...the town leaders are rats for treating you guys so badly?
"Yeah, yeah. That's right. They're rats!" He beamed in satisfaction.
They invite people to honk in passing to show support for our local union workers. I honked as I drove away just because I liked the rat.

Monday, June 11, 2007

instruments of joy

We high-tailed over to Crane this fine morning, #1 Son and I, for the season's last violin lesson. Bubsie's teacher is a family friend by now, and we wished him well on his upcoming summer travels. He will fly to Prague; we will fly to Spain. In August, #1 Son travels to the Dominican with another team of friends from church. We have many miles to log before we meet each other again in the fall.
The violin travels with us to Spain, and we carved out a plan to maintain a practice schedule in the midst of a packed mission's trip. It never hurts to try, right? We also put our heads together (teacher, mom, and young violinist) to do a bonafide solo recital in October. The program will be a challenge, and it will require a disciplined practice-schedule. Scales, arpeggios, and etudes will be #1 Son's assignment over his summer "vacation". I always tell the music students I work with at the college, "It's alotta work to be a musician!" It truly is, and the work never ends.
Last evening, my two darlings joined with Julsie the world-renowned guitarist to perform some Sephardic folk songs for a crowd. #1 Daughter sang. #1 Son played his violin. When I dared close my eyes, (#1 Daughter requested I play musical traffic-cop at the piano just in case of a mishap) I was transported back in time hundreds of years ago to the Jewish Quarter of Cordoba, Spain. The pleasure that radiated back from the rapt audience meant that they were transported, too. What a privilege to translate mere ink on the page into music that reaches hearts! When self-discipline and hard work generate that kind of joy, all the sweat of the brow seems but a small thing.

On another note, we survived yet another event-packed week. See my flickr for proof of that!

Friday, June 08, 2007

we're in

Well, here's some interesting news:

On my way out of town this morning (#1 Daughter and I are heading south for a bridal shower), I will stop at our lawyer's office to sign some important papers. Then on Monday, Bill will deliver a check.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


I cannot overstate this enough: I have really, really longed for something worthy about which to write.
Clicking through my recent entries, I see photos, to-do lists, daily happenings, and mundane stuff that sufficiently informs my readers that I am alive and functioning. News flash: I have also been deep in thought about many serious things, none of which are fair game for blog-fodder. (You may have to trust me on this...) It stands to reason that when I am finished wrestling with different kinds of giants, the gunpowder left in my bag, all shaken together, wouldn't make much noise. Think of a child's pop-gun, and there you have it. Consequently, when it comes to posting, I haven't demonstrated much insight or originality as of late.
This is not an apology. (Maybe I should be sorry that it's not an apology!) Just an explanation for the page-filler stuff I have been cranking out. It helps me to keep cranking, so I'll crank away until supreme inspiration hits.

Headed for a Big Career:
"It would be a really cool job to be a candy-bar designer." -#1 Son, spoken while consuming a candy-bar.

We Shake our Heads in Wonder:
"I thought it was an animal. Like, a small rat or something." -#1 Daughter, explaining why she freaked out when a piece of packing tape stuck to her arm while unwrapping a UPS box.
(correction: She says now, "I meant a rat-like thing. Like a chihuaha."

Ohh. We get it now.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

golden moments

The best part of my day?
The nominations are:

1. treating myself to breakfast out. It was only McDonald's, but the egg mcmuffin was piping hot.
I also allowed myself a leisurely read of the morning paper.

2. picking up #1 Son from his NYC trip. Although suffering from serious lack of sleep, he managed to give me a run-down of their doings. He was wearing his new J. Crew corduroys. The shade? Salmon.

3. listening to #1 Daughter sing Sephardic folk songs, accompanied by violin and guitar.

4. painting the screen porch. It will be lovely when completed.

5. visiting with some favorite people, impromptu. I popped over Friend #21's house and ate two scrumptious cookies while conversing. Friend #88b joined me for a glass of iced tea at my kitchen table this evening. Each visit was only 30 minutes long, but enough to make me feel connected . I like that!

As you can see, today was generous in golden moments.

Monday, June 04, 2007

invitation to learn

The joys of online-shopping: I put an order in this morning for orange-blossom water, rose water, sesame candy, and other exotic items. A Middle-Eastern menu is taking shape for next week's event, in which the students of the Hull Homeschool Academy (all two of them) will share what they have learned about the Middle East and the Arab world. We have been drooling over this library cookbook, Arabesque (A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, & Lebanon) for quite awhile. A few recipes have already become favorites and we hope our guests like them, too.
We are wrapping up a very successful year of schooling at home, but the learning never stops around here. #1 Son and I depart for Southern Spain in ten days, so we are cramming Spanish worship songs and scriptures. Later this summer, the fam (sans mom) will travel to the Dominican Republic, so those songs and scriptures should be learned by #1 Daughter, too!
Amidst the hustle and bustle of end-of-the-semester, I have started to dream about next year's curriculum. European History and Church History seem to be at the top of my list. We really must start Biology, having put it off far too long. (This family drags its feet when it comes to science, I'm afraid to say.) As for math, my two students are ahead of the pack, although their mathematical success is not a sign that they love the topic. They would be supremely content to explore their musical and artistic bent all morning, and then fill their afternoons with pleasure-reading.
"An Evening in the Middle East" will take place at our home this Sunday (June 10) from 7-8 pm. If you would like to join us, please give us a shout. We would love to see you here.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


What kind of spur-of-the-moment activity will entertain nine girls? How about....replicating a work of art with a live model? We thought Hosanna resembled a postcard of this painting that was displayed on our living room hutch. It was worth a try....

all accounted for

-#1 Son is traveling in a caravan headed due south this afternoon. A troupe of home-schoolers is primed to take on NYC for their class trip. A visit to Times Square Church, a Broadway show, a jazz club, the beach: all included in one low, low price. They will sleep on cots in a church basement, spend too much at Starbucks, endure each other's silly caffeine-induced antics, take scads of pictures, and bring home a van full of memories. #1 Son will turn 16 years old tomorrow, his first birthday away from home. He informed me that he would claim his annual pumpkin-cheesecake later this week.

-#1 Daughter is regaling friends under the apple trees. Eight girls are munching salad and sandwiches while telling girly-tales and reclining on our outdoor rugs. They slept (if you could call it that) in the family room last evening; their elaborate plans to sleep in the camper bumped by last-minute company. Caleb and Kwame, vagabond college students, staked their claim via a desperate phone call to Hubby. "Can we crash at your place? We are on the road and will be arriving after midnight." Sure. We'll leave the light on. And we did.

-Friend #12 is on extended vacation at an exclusive spa. Well, not exactly. She is away from us for a season and we sorely miss her. "Trusting God, Extreme Edition" is the name of this particular experiment, and she is committed to seeing it through. We are proud of her.

-Hubby is in the barnyard repairing fences and surveying the damage that four horses regularly wreak on the grounds. Giggles and fits of uncontrolled girly-laughter have driven him there, and since the girls are here for the whole afternoon, he may just get some work done.

-As for me, I am lounging. There must be a thousand things to do around here, but the thousandth-and-one thing is to lazily squander the afternoon doing bits of this-n-that. I might drag my kayak into Norwood Lake, but then again, I might not. All depends.

Friday, June 01, 2007

back and forth, back and forth!

The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy: "Be ready in season and out of season" (2 Tim 4:2b NASB) or "Be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable" (2Tim 4:2b RSV). I'm taking that advice to heart, especially in the real estate situation we are facing.
We were ready to buy. The checks from the bank in hand, Hubby and I presented ourselves a few weeks ago to our lawyer at the closing. The sellers were not going to be present, but they were sending over the required papers. As it happened, we walked through the lawyer's doors just as they were being delivered by a courier.
"These papers are a mess," our lawyer informed us as pleasantly as possible. "The sellers are obviously not prepared to close."
Signatures were in the wrong places, deeds were illegible, and attention was not given to important details. Our lawyer was not pleased with the sellers lack of preparation. Instead of crestfallen, we remained upbeat.
" If God wants to close the doors, it's fine with us!" we assured ourselves and others. We waited for the wheels to turn and the paperwork to come up to par. A week passed. We tentatively scheduled another closing for last Monday morning.
On Monday morning, the phone calls started from friends in Madrid, and they were relieved to hear we weren't the new owners quite yet. The neighborhood rumor-mill was grinding out a bad report: an old oil-tank was buried somewhere in the front yard of the property. The size of this mystery tank ran the gamut from 500 gallons to 3500 gallons. (For comparison's sake, we have a 275 gallon tank in our cellar...) This information froze us in our tracks. An underground oil-spill could cost tens of thousands of dollars. Or more. At the moment, it was not our problem, thank the Lord, but the headache of the person whose name was at the bottom of the deed. Instead of a closing, our week was fraught with follow-up calls to previous owners, the DEC, our lawyer, and the realtor.
Cutting to the chase: we still don't know if we will close on this property. My hopes have alternately soared and plummeted over the last month over this decision. Right now, it feels like a roller-coaster ride that seemed like a good idea at the time but now makes me want to never visit another amusement park.
To all our friends in Madrid who want us in "the hood": go ahead and pray! We are willing to be persistent until God shuts the door irrevocably.