During the past year and a half while our family tried to own and operate a restaurant everything else fell by the wayside. In fourteen months I only finished two paintings and didn’t even notice when my server crashed and my entire website was lost. I am now ready to get back to the studio and rebuild my online presence. Hopefully if you return soon there will be much moer to see here.
I have been writing a post in my head about Latin men and the surprising way the ones I am currently working with in the Mexican restaurant sometimes act, but then yesterday I spent the day working with a couple American men at the steakhouse and I realized men in general are a mystery, not just los Mexicanos and Guatamalens. I need to rethink some of what I was going to say, but in the meantime I would like to sing praises for the Michilada.
Saturday night around closing time one of the waiters brought the head cook a pitcher of red stuff. I must admit that at first I thought it might be some sort of chemical concoction to use for cleaning, but then he asked me if I liked Michiladas. I hadn’t even thought about one in years but I had been hoping someone there would offer me a drink so I said I did. And boy do I like it. I enjoyed it so much that when I left work I went straight to the grocery store to buy the ingredients to make more. I drank one yesterday and two today. I hope to have another tomorrow.
You can have one too…
A Michilada is like a Bloody Mary only with beer instead of vodka. Start with about a fourth of a glass of Clamato, add a few drops of worchestcher sauce, some hot sauce (to taste), squeeze in half a lime, sprinkle a bit of salt (or salt the rim first) and then fill the rest of the glass with a light Mexican beer, I used Modelo Especial. So refreshing and satisfying, I would go make myself another right now if there was more beer in the house.
Tonight when I got home from work I sat down with my brother-in-law, his wife, and daughter to talk and drink and talk. He drank wine, they sangria, and I tequila. My brother-in-law put on Radio Quelite on his computer which plays Mexican music from all different regions and times. Huapango, danzon, rancheras, chachacha, I love it all. There wasn’t a song they played that I didn’t enjoy. There really is something about Mexico that touches me deeply. I really hope that I have the chance to live there again someday. I want to go back, not to Cancun, but to the heart of Mexico, to live in a colonial town or city and really be able to soak in the culture completely. How odd is it that the thing that most keeps me from being able to do so is my Mexican husband.
Below you will find the letter I sent out to my friends and family to seek support for a mission trip to Coahuila, Mexico. I was blessed with a great response and raised exactly what I needed to make the trip. The trip was an amazing experience and I am still processing all the ways it affected me.
I am writing to share with you an exciting opportunity that has opened up to me. As you know I lived in the southeast of Mexico for seven lovely tropical years. The influence Mexico had on me and my artwork is obvious. I have a great love for the country, its people and culture. And of course my dear husband, children, and foster son were all born in Mexico.
Living in Cancun and visiting Mexico City I had the opportunity to experience the very best Mexico has to offer. But as anyone who watches the news knows there are parts of Mexico that have huge problems with poverty, corruption and cartel-related crime. In my volunteer work with immigrant children here in Georgia it has been hard for me to reconcile the Mexico I know and love with the one they left behind. Their Mexico is so lacking in opportunity that families leave everything they know and risk their lives to cross to this country. For some time I have been anxious to have a better understanding of this other face of Mexico. This June I hope to have the chance to learn more first hand.
My church, Mountain Lake Church, partners with a group called Hands and Feet that works with schools, orphanages and medical clinics in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico. A group of us from Mountain Lake will be going there on a mission trip to offer our help by offering medical clinics, building a cafeteria pavilion for a local school and by sharing the love of Jesus with children at orphanages and through a week of Vacation Bible School. I am so excited about the possibility of being able to help in some small way the people of the country that I love so much while at the same time learning more about the complicated issues Mexico and Mexicans face.
Our group will fly from Atlanta to San Antonio, Texas and then cross the border by van and drive south about 2 and a half hours to Piedras Negras. Though Piedras Negras is on the border it is not near Juarez where most of the cartel crime is centered. Hands and Feet have been working in the area for over 12 years and many groups like ours have visited without incident. We do not believe we will be in any danger but neither do we take our safety lightly and we hope you will pray for us and our trip.
All of us going on this mission trip are sending out letters to our friends and family asking for commitments of prayer as well as financial support. Each of us needs $1300 to cover the cost of our transportation, lodging, food and supplies. To raise my portion I am offering prints of my painting “Light in Darkness” for $25. The painting is inspired by Matthew 5:14-16. The prints are 10×8 inches and come in 14×11 mattes with backing boards that will fit easily into a standard frame. I hope you will want to add one to your collection. If not I hope you will still commit to pray for me, the rest of my group, the people of Piedras Negras and Mexico in general.
If you would like to donate directly to my trip’s fund instead of (or in addition to) buying a prints you can do so here.
I would also love for you to leave me a comment below letting me know that I can count on you for prayers.
The main focus of our team’s week in Mexico was the Health and Beauty Clinic we held near the Escuela de Nogal in the Lázaro Cárdenas neighborhood of Nava. Hands and Feet Ministries has built relationships with many families in this neighborhood through the school. Several times a year they reach out to the community through various events. A small kindergarten building and playground near the school that has recently been donated to Hands and Feet was the perfect place to hold the clinic.
Monday we divided into groups and walked around the neighborhood giving out fliers and inviting everyone to come for free manicures, pedicures and haircuts on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We did some basic set up on Monday and discussed who would be filling what role in the clinic. Since my Spanish is pretty good I was asked if I wanted to be the one to share the Gospel with the ladies who were waiting their turn for beauty treatments. I said I would. I tend to be more outgoing in Spanish than I do in English. I find it easier to start a conversation with a stranger in Spanish in a foreign country than in English with the people who live in my own neighborhood. (I think it has to do with having the excuse of not being a native speaker and being expected to make mistakes that somehow takes the pressure off.) But when Ramiro suggested I make a circle of 7 or 8 chairs to sit and have my “platicas” with the ladies I got pretty nervous. He also reccomended that I have a page with applicable Bible verses to hand out. I liked that idea and when we got back to the hotel Deanna and I spent some time looking up verses on beauty and God’s love for us that might offer encouragement to the ladies attending the clinic. We decided on 1 Peter 3:3-4, which seemed the perfect choice to remind the women that though it is nice to feel pretty on the outside God sees and values the beauty we have on the inside.
The message I wanted to most communicate to each person that came to the clinic was that God made them and God loves them, and I wanted to do so in a personal way. By washing their feet, painting their nails and cutting their hair we were helping to take care of their outside appearance, but I did not want anyone to think it was because we found them lacking. Instead I wanted to be sure that they left feeling loved and accepted by us and by God. To help make the personal connection, and also to help with my nervousness, I decided to combine my love of drawing faces with God’s message of love and acceptance. I used my trusty Sharpies to draw a picture of a hand holding a small mirror surrounded by my signature swirls. Leaving enough space to write a name at the top I wrote “eres hija de Dios, una creación admirable,” which translates to, “you are a child of God, a wonderful creation,” and then smaller added 1 Peter 3:3-4 at the bottom. We made plenty of copies that I took with me, ready to be personalized.
Over the next 3 days I drew portraits of over 40 women, children and even a few young men. As they waited their turn for the other stations they sat still in front of me as I drew their face in the mirror and then wrote their name across the top of the paper. Drawing someone’s portrait is a very intimate experience. You have to look closely at them, really see who they are. For some of the women looking me in the eyes was almost impossible, and one of the young men absolutely would not meet my gaze, but the children loved it. They unflinchingly looked right into my eyes and smiled at me, realizing that I was really looking at them, seeing them, and that I appreciated what I saw. When I finished each portrait and made sure I had their name spelled correctly I read to them what it said and told them it was true. The experience of carefully studying each of their faces, looking into their eyes and then being able to tell them with certainty that they indeed are the children of God, beautiful and wonderfully made was amazing. I would even go so far as to say it felt holy. I felt like I was making a connection, that they believed me, and that most of them would keep the paper with their portrait and the reminder that not only did I see them, but God continues to see them, accept them and love them.
Our week in Coahuila has given me so much to think about. I am still trying to process it all, but I think the power of eye contact and the human desire to be seen have been what I have pondered the most. I think all of us want to be seen, to be noticed, to be appreciated. We think that this desire can be met by other people. As the drawing went well and I got positive feedback from the people of Nava as well as the people I was serving with I was pleased, but also wary. I was reminded of Galatians 1:10 and that while being seen and appreciated by other people is nice, it is to our Lord God in Heaven that we should be looking for approval. It is from Him that we should seek and find acceptance reassurance, and love. It is Him that really sees us as we are, fearfully and wonderfully made.
I set out on this trip expecting to find the north of Mexico extremely different from the south. Piedras Negras and Cancun are 1736 miles apart, one as dry as the other is humid, but the sense of being in Mexico is the same. The food, the people and the architecture have more in common than I had imagined. From the Caribbean shore to the Bolsón de Mapimí desert there really is a certain feeling that is Mexico.
Even now, back home with my very own Mexicanos, my eyes feel a bit damp when I listen to this song. I really do love Mexico. And I just want to let anyone who may read this know: there was not any moment that I was in Piedras Negras when I felt unsafe. We walked through a public park after dark, and went door to door in Nava inviting people to our Health and Beauty Clinic. (The only time I left even a little bit nervous was when a dog in in Nava didn’t want to stop barking at us. I crossed to the other side of the street to give him some space and we were both fine.) I know there are parts of Mexico where we gringos should not go. The area around Juarez is still not be a place I would like to visit, but I not only want to visit Piedras Negras again, but I would like to take my children with me next time.