A Journey to Oaxaca

Jason and I stood in the cathedral built in the 1500s and beheld the medieval art on the walls with gold-leaf halos, the saints on the one side, and the many statues of Mary on the other. We made our way to the front and a man introduced himself and began to recount the history of the cathedral of San Pablo. He showed us the murals in the front of the church of Saint Paul, the apostle. How he was blinded and converted on the road to Damascus, how he recovered his sight, how he wrote letters to the churches, and how he was beheaded because of his testimony to Jesus. Yes, we were familiar with Paul. He then began to explain the customs of the people of Mitla, Mexico, the small, but ancient town in the state of Oaxaca. He described how before the Spaniards came with the good news of Jesus the people living there, the Zapoteco, had a way of life known as the Guelaguetza. In this philosophy there are two roads. One that leads to heaven and one that leads to hell. Those who do good go to heaven, while those who sin the big sins go to hell. The name of the town, “Mitla”, in the Zapotec language means place of the dead or gateway to hell. The philosophy of the Guelaguetza is one in which the people keep track of favors done for others. It is an exacting culture, where one must work for their salvation.

The sign outside of the church reads: “Mitla sacred city of the dead, the tomb is not final. The resurrection of Jesus.”

It is into this culture that we came for twelve days.

This year we invested in a family missions trip to Oaxaca, Mexico to visit our dear missionary friends, the Blyckers, to expose our children to life in another culture, and to serve others with the gifts the Lord has given us.

Looking like “gringos”.

One of our first experiences was to travel to a small mountain village named San Miguel. This village has a tiny church of 25 people, mostly Zapoteco. I had the privilege of hearing the story of its humble beginnings thirty years ago.

San Miguel in the evening.
We traveled an hour and a half into a tiny village in the mountains and served alongside the people of the only Christian church in San Miguel. We sanded the church benches all morning.

The ladies of the church made us a meal of mole after we painted and sanded at the church and we listened to the testimonies of the people.

Usually the women come to Christ first and pray for their husbands for years until they surrender their lives to Jesus. Many men struggle with alcoholism as Mezcal, a liquor made from the abundant agave plant, is available everywhere. A sad result of alcoholism many times is domestic violence. However, the power of Jesus freed several of the men in the church from their old way of life. Their testimonies of transformation had a profound effect on my children. Please pray that more of the men in this town hear the gospel and respond to Jesus!


Angela Blycker, Maximina, me, and Marina. Marina’s brother was the first to come to Christ all those years ago.

Shortly after our time in the village several of our children became sick and so that changed some of our plans for the week. One of the ministries Angela is involved with in Mitla is a girls’ club that reaches the young girls of the town with truth from the Word of God, crafts, food, and the opportunity to play in their yard (the only grassy spot in the area, due to the desert climate!) She and her daughter, Kiersta poured into these girls all year and taught them Psalm 23 and all about the Good Shepherd. She asked if I would share the gospel with the families at their last girls’ club, which I was honored to do. However, we had to push the get-together back because of sickness. At the time it felt like an attack from the enemy, and perhaps it was, and even on the day we had the party, it rained so much we had to use the local church facilities instead of the Blycker’s home. But God’s ways are always so much better than our own. What the enemy means for evil, the Lord uses for good. It was necessary that I had a few more days pondering the culture and way of life in Mitla because come Friday evening, the Holy Spirit empowered me with the wisdom to share the gospel simply and interactively and in a way that they could comprehend. I could absolutely feel the prayers that night. So thank you for praying! Several of the women prayed to receive Jesus! And because of the rain, the party was held in the church, and our prayer is that these families would feel comfortable attending services there. For many of these children and parents it was the first group meeting they have experienced since COVID shut everything down last year.

The girls and their families.

How can I adequately describe our twelve days there? It was a dream come true for me to take my entire family on a missions trip. To Mexico, which is one of the places I grew up and which has a deep, deep place in my heart. We were all stretched in our patience and love and self-control and upon our return found our little town of Madisonville so sparkling clean and nice, it blew us away. And HOT!! We were also overjoyed to be able to flush our toilet paper! We saw the Lord’s sovereign hand in the timing of our trip. We were supposed to have gone a year ago, but due to COVID our airline went bankrupt. Speaking of which, all of our COVID tests came back negative, which enabled us to get back into the States. So thank you for praying for that!

Here are a few other pictures of our journey to Oaxaca:

Oaxaca City. Tourist day.
Jason and Ben were able to give a teaching of a Walk Through the Old Testament to a rehab center and Jason shared the gospel there and several men prayed to receive Jesus!
Jason and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary with Ben and Angela.

We painted the outside and inside of Nancy’s house. (Nancy is the Blycker’s house helper. Their house had never been painted before.)
This is sweet Nancy. Her mother made the shirt I am wearing here.
Hiking with Thaddaeus.
Hiking with my dearest friend, Angela.
These gorgeous mountains are in the Blycker’s backyard!
Addie with one of the local artisans.
Jason and me. 19 years strong. I am so very thankful for this servant leader.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3:3-7

Run with Me

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It’s been one month since Jason and I ran the Houston Half Marathon and I am just now getting down my thoughts on a page. Life in this season of homeschooling older children is busy and the new decade has overtaken me without much time for processing that which has impacted me. But I am choosing to take the time today.

When the idea popped into my head last August that I should begin to train for a half marathon, my children thought I was out of my mind, my husband wished me well, and I secretly hoped I wouldn’t die in the process. I reached out to my friend, Andrea, who had run it before and asked if I was crazy to begin to train for it. I mean, I would turn 40 right before the race! She assured me I was not and urged me to run it with her on January 19, 2020. So I found a plan and I began to train. In a moment of weakness, Jason agreed to run it with me IF he promoted to Driver Operator before the next promotion list expired. This was back in September. The list expired October 1 and at that time he was number one on the list to promote. He began to run with me.

Dr. George Sweeting, beloved teacher and former President of Moody Bible Institute, once said, “Discipline, not desire, determines destiny.” This applies to running so well. The secret to running 13.1 miles is discipline. It was the day in, day out commitment and follow-through that took me from hardly being able to run a mile in the humid August heat to running half a marathon in the frigid January cold. I followed my plan and I ran, gradually increasing my distance and slowly picking up my speed.

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“Discipline, not desire, determines destiny.”

It turned out that Jason did not promote to Driver Operator before the list expired in October. He had to test again. Yet, he had begun to train for the race and so he continued with me and we pressed on together as the runs got longer and our bodies began to feel the miles we were putting them through. Some days we felt invigorated and strong, like we were made to run. We’d share our hearts with each other, laugh and pray, listen to music and worship. Others day were ugly and we limped our way through the miles, not talking to one another, heads down, one tender foot in front of the other. I didn’t exactly like the days I’d run with Jason for the sheer fact that he pushed me faster, harder. When I’d run alone, I’d enjoy it more because I ran slower. But he was good for me. Somewhere along the way I discovered I could run faster and, of course, it was the culmination of all of the hard days running with my husband. Jason, being much faster than I was, had signed up for a faster corral than I did in the Houston Half Marathon. But, for some reason, he chose to stay in my corral and run at my speed and spur me on during the race.

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The morning of the race, thousands of runners huddled together in the streets of Houston, trying to keep warm, minutes before the start of the run.  Andrea, Jason and I were among the throngs of people who had trained for this day, some to run the full marathon, others to run the half. The race began and we started through the crowded streets, running around slower runners, laughing at the funny signs held up by family and friends, doing what we had trained to do: run.

Though the atmosphere was intoxicating due to the amount of people and the music, the 13.1 miles were not all that different from some of the longer runs we ran together in training. It was just the next step, the next longer run. The first five miles were easy, but my pace slowed a bit after that. My niece, Mikayla, and our three kids were waiting for us at mile eight, a place I knew was a tough mile for me. They cheered us on and Jason and I unloaded our jackets upon them. It was then that I felt a change. It was harder for me to keep up with Jason. We were no longer zig-zagging through the runners, but he was several paces in front of me and I was struggling to catch him. The sight of his out-stretched arm waving me forward became the standard for the next two miles. Early on in the race Jason and I had pushed ahead of Andrea and we lost sight of one another, but at mile ten, during my hardest mile, she suddenly appeared. There is nothing like the appearance of a dear friend during a hard, long run. It filled me with unexpected energy and hope and truly gave me what I needed to finish the race. The last mile I pushed harder and ran side by side with my man until the finish line. We had done it together. We had finished the race!

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There is nothing like the appearance of a dear friend during a hard, long run.

Oh the countless parallels to the Christian life! The discipline and the pain and the triumph in the end. How together we are so much better than we are alone.

We’re all in for the long road
We’re all in for life
Run with me baby
I need you more than ever
I won’t let you
Won’t let you down
Run with Me by Hudson Taylor

It’s Time to Prune the Rose Bush

I learned how to prune my rose bush yesterday. I remembered hearing that Valentine’s Day is the prime time to prune roses and I just so happened to think about it when I had a bit of time to actually do something about it. So I got out some gloves and rusty pruning shears. Oh, and youtube. I looked up a simple video on pruning and started putting the four steps to action.

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Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

First step: pull off all the leaves.

Second: cut out all the dead parts.

Third: cut away any branch that is rubbing against itself horizontally.

Lastly: cut the vertical branches at an angle so that the rain does not fall directly onto the buds.

Why on earth am I sharing these mundane details of my life, you might ask? Because as I pruned this rose bush, I was startled by the truth that it represented in my life. It’s been a difficult season in my marriage these last few weeks. Not bad. Not hopeless. But difficult. Jason and I have had many painful conversations, some that have stemmed from misunderstanding and miscommunication. Some that have been the result of our own selfishness and stubbornness. And some that have been because of differences in our personalities. Guys, I have an amazing husband and God has blessed me with a man who sticks by me and hears me out and loves me faithfully. But marriage is not easy.

brown woven hat over brown wooden round table top
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In these uncomfortable conversations, that we made ourselves have, I believe that God was doing a bigger work than I ever suspected at the time. He was ripping out premature  expectations and desires to make our hearts ready for His perfect timing. He was cutting out the dead parts in our hearts – the sin – and cutting away the rough and irritating parts that got in the way of our unity and harmony. He was pruning us, is pruning us, with His sharp shears, at the right angle, so that our harvest of love and righteousness will be great and abundant.

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Jason bought this particular rose bush for me on our 14th Anniversary at the Antique Rose Emporium that we happened upon accidentally when we were out driving. We had three rose bushes beside our house, but this one is the only rose bush that survived the new construction of Addie’s room that following summer. It happens to be my favorite, though. It’s name is Lafter. At the time, we thought the name appropriate, as laughter has been an enduring part of our relationship.

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As I finished pruning this last surviving rose bush yesterday, I was reminded of something that Jason has said to me over and over again, and that I, in turn, remind him. We are on the same team. We are different people, yes, but we are together, in covenant with each other. We are not enemies! But we have a choice. We have the choice to submit ourselves to the Gardener’s pruning shears and let Him do the work in our hearts that will lead to oneness with our spouse and obedience to Christ.

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. John 15:2

How about you? Is your marriage in a season of pruning? Have you been through the pruning and come to see the fruit of that harvest of righteousness? Are you struggling to submit to the shears?

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Father, I pray that our hearts would be open and surrendered to you. I pray that we would submit ourselves to your wisdom and your goodness and that you would cut out any sin or entanglement in our lives that would prevent a harvest of righteousness. Unify our marriages, Oh God! For your glory and our gladness. Thank you for the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, which makes it possible to redeem our brokenness! There is hope for our marriages in your name, Jesus! Amen.