Saturday, July 25, 2009

I Don't Think We're in Kansas Anymore

...but you could have fooled me last weekend!!!

Our family drove to the neighboring city of Guamuchil for a birthday party last weekend. We took Esteban and his family with us, since the birthday boy and girl were his niece and nephew. We are the "adopted cousins". No jokes about red-headed stepchildren, please.

Anyway, this is storm season, and we check our satellite feed via internet pretty regularly just to make sure no hurricanes are headed our way. Consequently, we get to watch storms form and swoosh through the inner part of Mexico all the time (live via satellite infrared loop...pretty cool).
However, we happen to live in a little area which Esteban calls la zona desconocida -- the Twilight Zone. Torrential downpours, flooding, thunder, lightning and gale-force winds happen just about every week...about 2 miles up the road from us.

That band of red and orange just east of us is a huge storm which will build and swell and flash lightning and rumble. But we won't receive a drop of rain from it.

Guamuchil, on the other hand, is not in the Twilight Zone. We hadn't thought of that, so when we saw thunder heads building in the late afternoon, we thought nothing of it. By the time we were headed home, the sky looked like this...

Beautiful, albeit a bit ominous, and reminiscent of my childhood in Southeast Kansas. Click, click, click.

The rest of the photos on this post are pretty lousy. The windshield was dirty, I kept jiggling and I was using my "daytime camera" which just doesn't do very well after dusk. I want to share them, though, because without the pictures you just can't get a feeling for how tense our van was on the way home.

We reached Casa Blanca before the storm hit. It was pretty obvious we were going to get wet, and the sunset was throwing orange light on everything.

Awesome sunset, though.

We entered the last little village, Tamazula, just as the leading edge of the storm hit. Wind began to whip up dust, leaves and rubbish. People began to scurry inside. Well, the smart people did.

Then there was US. We continued on.

Just outside of Tamazula is The Turn. At The Turn, you leave the pavement and drive along an irrigation canal for about 3 miles until this glorified access road intersects the main highway again. This shortcut takes about 15 miles (and about 45 minutes) off of the trip home. Doug and Esteban quickly conferred and decided that since it wasn't dark yet, we'd take the shortcut.

Within about 30 seconds of turning onto the dirt road, the storm plowed into us. Almost instantly it was nighttime and the road disappeared. Doug said, "Esteban, wanna drive?" Esteban agreed, since he grew up here and knows all the backroads by heart, and started to climb into the driver's seat. Doug thought he'd just hop out and run around to the other side, but the instant he pulled the doorhandle, the wind grabbed the door and practically ripped it off its hinges. Doug fought to shut the door and then Esteban took over driving...holding the door shut, since the hinges were now bent backward and the door wouldn't latch.

We crawled forward with only the canal as a reference point -- and sometimes it was invisible. Occasionally Esteban would stop and wait for a gust to die down so he could see to move forward again. We did NOT want to end up in the canal.

It seemed like we'd traveled miles and had passed where the highway should intersect when we spotted taillights ahead. Hurrah! A car! The pavement!

Wait. There's a tree. The car is in a tree. No. The tree is on the car. Uh-oh. The tree has fallen on the car and is now blocking the road. I hope everyone in the car is OK! Well, looks like we're going to find out, 'cause here they come. Four ladies screaming hysterically. One of them screaming, "My baby! My baby!" Two men running behind. One of them carrying a small bundle. So, we throw open the sliding door of the van and yell, "Get in!" Just as the grandma is reaching up to get in the van (we realized this later, not in the heat of the moment) the van was struck by lightning. Praise God for our new fiberglass roof which didn't conduct the electricity very well. Esteban, who was trying to shove a towel in the crack where the door wouldn't shut, Grandma and the man helping Grandma in all got a little "tingle" but nothing more. God is so good.

Half an hour later, Grandma has finally stopped screaming, the worst part of the wind and driving rain is over and we turn ourselves around on the narrow canal road to head back to Tamazula so we can take the long way home.

Because of downed powerlines and trees along the highway, it took nearly 2 hours to travel the 20 miles home. We were so relieved to be driving on pavement, it didn't really matter. We sang praise songs and openly gave God the glory for getting us home. As we passed the canal road intersection, we could see the tree which had fallen and the car under it. It was less than 100 yards from the highway. Sigh. We had been so close.

If we'd been two minutes earlier, we would have made it through and been safely on our way. If we'd been two minutes later, we would not have taken the turn. In that case, where would the family be who was with us? Sitting in their car under a tree waiting for some other idiot out driving on the muddy canal road in a torrential downpour to come by and help? Again we praised God for His timing and His care over everyone in the car!

As we drove toward Las Glorias, Esteban and Doug "took bets" on whether there was electricity in Las Glorias. Back and forth they went, "I think so." "I don't think so." The lightning was still flashing and the rain was still falling. Several cars had driven off the road and were now hopelessly stuck in the mud. Ahead in the distance, we saw the lights at the top of the radio tower and the Las Glorias Hotel. There's electricity in Las Glorias!!! Hurray!!!

Flash! Lightning struck.

Poof. The world went dark. The whole car groaned. No electricty in Las Glorias.

Basi, Esteban's wife, held the baby the whole trip. I took the picture and said, "Now, don't you wish you had another one?" She just laughed and shook her head...firmly. The baby's mama was still shaking when we got to their house in Palos Verdes to drop them off. Since the power was off, I walked them into the house using my cell phone as a flashlight. Not too strong, but it did the trick. Amidst hugs and tears, Grandma invited us to come and visit any time!

We made it home without further incident. Like normal, about 2 miles from home the rain stopped and you could hardly tell that there had been a storm at all. At the house all was well, although we could tell that there had been some high wind. One funny thing when we got home...

The duck was in the hammock. We have a strange duck, I know, but I've never seen her in the hammock before. Did it make her feel more secure? Were her feet too wet? Who knows what goes through a duck's mind in the middle of a rainstorm?

The power was off for 3 grueling days. On the third day, Doug and Esteban actually hunted down the power guys, who didn't believe there was a problem, and told them they couldn't leave town until they got the power reconnected. (Of course, there was more to the story than that, but this post is already too long!)

It's enough to know that we were able to sleep with our fans again on Monday night. Thank you, Lord!!! Thank you! Thank you! We are much more appreciative of electricity this week than we were last week!

With my fan blowing and my fridge humming I say, "There's no place like home!"

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Character Building Moments

We Walk with Him!
Doug and I have been leading a parenting class over at the church for the past couple of months. It's been a really great study, although all three of the couples in the class agree that the topics we've covered have been "bien dificil" (VERY difficult!).

The book we're using is called "To Train Up a Child" by Mike and Debi Perl. Great stuff!

It's been beneficial to us to go through this book with our friends. We have been reminded (several times!) of things we used to be more faithful about in the training and disciplining of our children.

One thing which we feel we've become pretty lax on is "first time obedience". The idea is that when you tell your child to do something, from a simple request to a complicated job, he should obey without question. When the kids were little, disobedience was met with a spanking. When the kids reached 10, 11, 12 years old, we no longer spanked for disobedience and consequently the first time obedience ratio dropped.

Now, don't get me wrong. We don't feel like our kids became rebels overnight simply because we stopped spanking them. Generally speaking, all 6 kids do what they're told when they're told with a good attitude. The problem comes when you have 6 youth in the house who all have an idea of how a certain situation could or should be handled and also have a deep, burning desire to share that opinion with you. Usually, they want to share that opinion right after you've instructed them to do a specific chore or errand. At that point, their opinion can border on rebellion.

So, we began teaching first time obedience in our parenting class. Have you ever noticed that when you're teaching a subject -- from Math to History to a chapter in the Bible -- you as the teacher learn a lot, too? As we taught our students, we began to enforce it at home once again.

Our boys had a hard couple of days as they were reminded of the concept. We didn't just "spring it on them". They were all warned that from this point forward they needed to obey without argument or excuse, and they needed to do their daily chores without reminders.

I took these photos of the guys working, not to embarrass them or to laugh at them, but because God showed me a spiritual application I wanted to share.

Everything we teach our kids when they are young has an application when they are grown. For instance, we teach our kids to clean their room and put their belongings away so that when they are adults they will know how to keep their house in order and be good stewards with their belongings. We teach them to cook, sew, work with tools, play music and do their school work so that they will become responsible adults who can contribute to society, not be a drain on it. We require that they finish projects so that they will develop perserverance. Teaching honesty develops trustworthiness. You get the picture.

So what life lesson are we teaching when we require that our children obey us? On the surface, we are teaching them to respect authority, follow the rules, be "good". But what is happening deeper inside?

By learning to obey us without complaint or argument, they are strengthing their "obedience muscle" which will enable them to obey God more easily when they are adults.

If I don't obey my parents request to do my jobs every morning, I'll be pulling weeds for an hour in the blazing sun. If I don't obey God and spend time meditating on His word every day, sin will begin to creep into my life, and God will be doing the weeding.

If I disobey my parents and am unkind to my siblings, and cause them pain, I'll be cleaning cactus for an hour. If I disobey God and am unkind to people around me as an adult, the prickles I'll have to suffer may stick deeper and last longer than those of a nopal cactus.

If I ignore my father's instructions and try to do a job according to my own wisdom, fire ants might have my feet for lunch. If I turn my back on my heavenly Father's wisdom and decide to live my life on my own strength, more than just my feet will burn.

Teaching our children to obey us the first time, not because they fear us or the punishment to come, but because they trust us and trust that we do have their ultimate good in mind, will train them to obey God the first time also. They will (hopefully!) recognize that God also has His ultimate glory and their eternal good as His main purpose. When they hear God speak to them, they will respond with obedience, because that is how they were trained to respond.

These are life lessons. These are lessons which we parents are privileged to be able to share with our kids. So, from experience let me just say that requiring first time obedience from our kids is not a curse on them. It is a blessing.

I hope you're encouraged today to live your life in obedience to God and to teach your kids to do the same!!!

Not Really a Hairstylist

Alright, gotta share this.

I've had long hair all of my adult life -- and throughout much of my youth -- and I have never French braided my own hair...until last week. I taught Sarah how to braid ages ago and she learned to do her own hair, but I just figured that was something I'd never achieve. Somewhat like skateboarding or playing drums. Caleb makes both of those look easy; they're not.

Living in a perpetual sauna encourages a woman with long, thick hair to search for new and cooler ways to adjust her "do". I was pretty proud of myself and just felt like sharing. Shallow and superficial, I know. Not much eternal value in a new hairstyle. I'll post something with more depth later on. Probably not today. ;^)

Be blessed and stay cool today!