Monthly Archives: July 2011


The roads in Mexico are good. At least in the region we traveled daily. (They were much better than Alabama’s roads.) Everyday, we drove 50 or so miles into the jungle town of Chemox from Tulum, which is located on the gorgeous coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. We had two drivers who carted us in our air-conditioned and therefore, beloved, vans everywhere that we went. The drivers were the joy of my trip.

The gentleman who owed the vans and drove us was named Luis. He heard about us coming, and as a new Christian wanted to help. He drove us at his cost for a week…but that is not all. This sweet, sweet man, barrel chested and strong as a bull, even at fifty, stayed with us on site and worked (circles around us) everyday, in his uniform – dress shirts and pants, dress shoes. We looked like barely covered ragamuffins.

Luis, our quiet comrade and when necessary, advocate and defender,  became a symbol to us. I watched him playfully tease and keep Trent, Carlos to him, from sinking under into anger or despair. I watched him keep our boys, men, strong and able and honorable to their word. I watched his green eyes tear as he watched them, boys who paid out most of their money to be there, in that furnace, to just hold and help his people a little. And I watched him come to love us like his own.

He asked us to go to his church and pray for them. We gladly did so. It was humble but beautiful. His pastor, who also came and sweated a day or two with us in Chemox, high on a makeshift ladder, doing the more skilled work, prayed for us in turn. After we prayed, Luis cried openly…telling everyone how we were his family now.

As we stood, wobbly, on the Cancun airport sidewalk, suitcases which Luis unloaded for us, in our hands, he stood quietly before us. I started crying and threw my arms around the neck of our 5’4″ bear shaped hero. I told him I loved him and that God had used him to redeem our trip. Trent came round to tell him goodbye, laid his longer body about him and cried,thanking him for holding us all up.

And wasn’t that what we went for? Not so much to bring the better to Mexico or our Mayan brothers…but to share it with them.


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all God’s children

My son, Trent, known as Carlos, in Mexico, never meets a stranger. So hostel living for a week was right up his alley. He and his African born twin, Jesse, were naturals. Long after we Gringos headed off to La-La Land, they hung with the Euros and made many new friends. I watched them with the thickly accented, English-speaking Continentals, from a table away or as I descended the stairs from our upper room retreat. Their postures and mouths seemed always open in laughter.

Somehow, Trent got all the good family genes when it comes to making friends fast.

He told me later about their conversations and the travelers’ encouragements to him to journey as well, to see the world young. I agreed; he should. He is my vagabond, my troubadour, my wanderer…always welcome, wherever he lands.

I love how he and Jesse never see walls, only opportunity for greater vistas.

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We swam in the laguna

Our beloved brother in the Lord, Luis, our bus driver who donated his earnings for the week to our efforts to love on and build sacred space for those of the Mayan village, took us to a secret spot. We had been snorkling with the turtles and over the reefs a few hundred yards off the white sands of the Gulf of Mexico. But, after a couple of hours of that and a celebratory meal on the shoreline, he got our fellas told again for not showing us a better time and loaded us up. We wove along the coast by mansions, mainly sitting empty, our bad economy running their realestate down as well. We pulled into a turreted wonder and snaked our way to its property’s furthest most point.

Before us was the clearest and most beautifully hued water I  had ever seen. A few other blessed  folks swam about finned and masked and otherwise. As we moved near the edge, Luis pulled soda crackers from this pocket and cast them to the waters. A myriad of jeweled wonders swirled in front of us…”Go on, get in with them,” he urged. For the next few hours, we swam this wonder’s length and breadth. We glid over the cool currented canal which was warmed by vents that somehow forced their way through huge boulders and and between great gaping clefts. Everywhere, fish of all varieties and sizes darted before us. You could see down 40 feet and the occasional rock mount gave one a good landing zone to catch breath.

Some of us stayed fairly near to our cabana’d dock. Others of us left out in search of the lagoon’s marriage with the waves. We swam down a half mile or so, through rock tunnels and over warm underwater rivers. Finally, the waves broke in the distance before us. As we traveled further and further toward the jetty, our numbers lessened as less hardy swimmers broke for “home.” On the last leg, we were five: Sarah, Kenzie, myself, Trent and Hannah. We decided that we would go on, When might we ever return here? We swam to where the flats opened, estuary like. We saw baby swords and baby barracuda and nearly flushed the fella that felled brother Steve Irwin. Trent and Hannah pushed on ahead, we three trailed them, tiring in the current, which had grown a bit stronger. Finally, Trent, he and Hannah now nearly to the waves, pointed us away…he had sighted the baracuda babes’ mum. It was enough deterent, even for him. He waved Hannah back with us and swam between us and the toothy mom until we were “safe” within the sheltering laguna.

I smiled all the way home…as I watched my children, fearless and wise, strong and humble,  revel in and respect their world.

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There will be many more shots to share, later. My team of photographers did some great work. These are just a sampling…I hope they share a bit of the heart of our team and my kids.

We stayed at a fishing/tourist enclave, Tulum. Gorgeous beaches and reefs about 200 – 300 yards out. All manner of beautiful reef fish and sea turtles. We met a few up close and personal. No guide needed.

We spent our days (long and hot) in the jungle town of Chemox loving on kids and building a community center. These shots are some of the best moments of our time.

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Leave your mind behind, Baby James.

Well, maybe this isn’t the traditional or expected reason for me to be going on this trip…but it is a real one for me.  In so many ways, this trip is an escape…and though I know one can’t live there, a visit time to time can be a good thing.

I think, all the time. My mind never stops…it wears me out. Although there will be duties and tasks a plenty to carry out, I will not be in the place of having to dream up, develop, qualify, quantify, articulate, integrate or otherwise administer anything. I am a follower, and order taker, a ditch digger on this trip. I am a listener, not a talker. I am an observer, not an actor. And, honestly, I like it that way. I am to step back and try to take in what I observe: see, smell, taste and touch. MY job is to pay attention, absorb and later recount. I am going as a writer more than an actor. I am excited about a different sand, a different angle of the sun’s rays and an atmosphere whose night-time percussion keeps a different beat.

I won’t think about it, pass it though any sieves until we return. I am going to gather…with and around and up.

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Lose your load…

So, I am going to Mexico on a mission trip to share who I am and receive what I am offered…and to forge relationship with those we meet, and honestly with those I accompany.

Maybe, my mindset is wrong, but I think that there are some loads to be lost in Old Mexico for me.  The most impacting moments in Costa Rica for me were all in the context that I WAS still me even in a riverbed that few like skinned folks ever walk. I think I saw my person more independently and powerfully than ever before. I saw fleetingly that I was no cog, that my life WAS, and was potentially powerful. How paradoxical that such arrested me in a place where I was both unknown and incapable of even well introducing myself.

I’m not thinking of burdens as loads, but mindsets…contexts that constrict.

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Feel a fool, running your state side games…

Don’t we all feel like rats, ’round here at times? Well, I have to admit as a “writer want to be,” there is a huge part of me that would be totally okay with just disappearing off the grid, once these children get gone…on to school and life. I think about the second half of life occasionally.

I think about how I would like to spend it…where I might like to be, for a bit, a least. I dream of being some place where that the land, sky , sea are my only companions. Where solitude reigns…Where I could gather my thoughts… and listen to the sound of those friends, alone.

I got another invitation to help someone with a writing project  today. I don’t mind. I enjoy helping. But, sometimes, I wonder if I will ever get to my goal, writing, unless I just take the leap and leave out and offer up the time it requires.

Yes, I know some folks who write at home, in the fray…I’ve done a good bit of that, and I am sufficiently frayed about here. But, the things I have yet to say, to give voice will require more and less, if you know what I mean. There is a leap a coming.

And so, as my life rattles on toward this intersection, this weigh station, I wonder, how long I can forestall the telling, will the story  fade on me, grow old and tired of me? Will it wander away?

And though the things I do, I chose to do, and I love those whom I do them with and for, I wonder…


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