And Then There Were 19!

Our trip to Mexico has brought all sorts of changes for our family. 

Jason’s Spanish is improving by leaps and bounds. He has actual conversations in Spanish that result in our family getting seats on buses going to the cities we want to go to, and he can do the same thing with taxi drivers too.  He makes things like clean laundry appear every 5 days like magic with only a smile, some Spanish words, and pesos.  He navigates our family of four through strange cities and hasn’t yet “accidentally” misplaced us – though I am guessing that he has been tempted do so so at least 1,000 times by now!  I am in awe of my husband. 

My Spanish, of course, still stinks.  Jack thinks my pronunciation of gracias is absolutely hilariously funny.  I tried to order my own lunch the other day and ended up with not one but two entrees all for myself!  Our waiter must have wondered all day about the VERY hungry American lady.

Jack is far more adventurous than he was the last time he was in Mexico with Jason three and a half years ago.  He tries new foods almost every day, and he is up for a new experience or adventure whenever the opportunity arises.  Just this evening Jason and Jack ate tacos dripping with habanero salsa and lived to tell about it.

This trip to Mexico has changed William too.  William came to Mexico with 20 beautiful, perfect, cute, little baby teeth, but he will be leaving with just 19 teeth.  William lost his first tooth today!

He is very excited and proud of this important development.  He can hardly wait until morning to see if the tooth fairy will bring pesos because he is in Mexico or dollars because he is from the United States of America. 

Jason, Jack, and I are curious about this too.  All three of us lost all of our teeth in the United States of America and have no experience with the tooth fairy and her foreign currency exchange policies. 

We will be sure to keep you posted, because I bet none of you will be able to sleep tonight wondering if it will be pesos or dollars.

PS — The Tooth Fairy exchanged William’s tooth for USD.

We Did It!


William came to Mexico on a mission.  He wanted to see snakes.

We have been accompanied almost everywhere by his new pet snake from Chichen Itza (which has made his skittish mom jump more than once!).

We tried the zoo at Valladolid.  It has all sorts of seriously cool animals, but no snakes. 

So later that week we took a bus trip to Merida to one of the zoos there and took in their impressive den of vipers. 

William enjoyed himself immensely.  He and Jason toured the snake house not once – not twice – but three times during our visit to the zoo.  His favorite snake at the zoo was a huge albino Indian python, because it was massive, terrifying, and ORANGE.  (He liked it almost as much as his Nano’s orange corn snake.)

I hoped that seeing the super, awesome, terrifying, deadly snakes at the Merida zoo might satisfy William’s desire to see a snake in Mexico.  Jason – just smiled one of his knowing, patient smiles – and said nothing.  It was soon very clear that absolutely, positively nothing would satisfy William other than seeing an actual snake in the wild – outside of a zoo.  The boy was on a mission.

After looking and looking and searching and seeking and hoping and hoping – Saturday evening – on our way back to our cabin on the path William and I encountered an honest to goodness SNAKE!  THANKFULLY it was a baby.  William has seen a snake in the wild in Mexico, and we have photographic proof.

I wish that I could say that our snake seeking was over, but sadly no.  Now William wants to find a really BIG snake.  Please don’t wish us luck!

Look, Mom – No Hands

I am by nature a rather cautious, careful, level-headed, risk-averse person.   

I wear my seat belt when I move my car the 30 yards from the driveway to the street in front of our house.  I heed warnings.  I never, ever, ever ignore or go around a barricade.  I love to hike, but I do not stand on the edge of anything no matter how impressive the view is.

I like having my feet firmly planted on the ground. 

Risk taking of any sort just isn’t for me.  So I have proof that God really does have a wildly entertaining sense of humor, because God gave Jason and me two sons who see danger and risk taking as part of the fun of being alive.  Jack and William seem to know no fear – or not enough fear – in their mom’s not so humble opinion anyway.

While my friends’ daughters learned to read, my sons removed the books from our bookshelves to climb to the top of them.  William started climbing over the fence in our backyard the summer he was one and a half. He had seen Jack do it, and he was lightning fast.  Our friends thought it was hilarious, but they didn’t have to chase and catch him!  While other children swing on our swing set, mine stand on the top of it.  While our neighbors’ children play inside our backyard shed turned playhouse, Jack hangs out on the TOP of it.

Jack climbs everything that is even remotely climbable, and William is right behind him trying to figure out “how to get up there where Jack is.” 

I hold my breath, pray, and say “get down NOW” a lot.  (When I am in a really bad mood I also threaten Jack with paying his own hospital bills.)

And as always – I am trying to let our sons be who God made them to be (even though I REALLY wish they would stop climbing stuff).

Jack is gutsy, brave, and clearly not afraid of heights, and William wants to be just like his big brother.

There has been a lot of climbing. 

Maya ruins are great for climbing.  Maya ruins have also been a constant reminder to me that my sons are far braver and far more daring than I will ever be!

Is it possible to be too brave? (Please note that Jack’s family are just tiny dots in the distance.  He has climbed far up high away from us – yet again.)

Monkeys and Maya Ruins

On Saturday, we were off to explore the Temple of the Lintel and the Temple of the Owl at Dzibanche, but thankfully this time we traveled there by bus.

We have seen lots of lizards in all shapes and sizes.  Stunningly beautiful birds and orange centipedes. 

Impressive ant colonies.  One of which William and I are studying in the following picture.

Frogs, toads, beetles, spiders, and assorted creepy, crawly creatures and on Saturday we saw monkeys.  We saw a family of monkeys in trees that we were standing under and we were NOT in a zoo!  We were all very impressed.

And here is another picture of all four McFarlands smiling at the camera at the same time.

Smiling may not seem like such an amazing feat, but once you know that we were being swarmed by mosquitos the size of bald eagles who drink Deet like it is sweet tea at a 4th of July picnic you will understand how amazing this picture is!

A Really Long Walk in the Jungle

After a week at the beach, we arrived safely in the jungle.  We were in hot pursuit of more amazing Maya ruins (Jason and Kerri) and some jungle creatures/terrifying, deadly snakes (William).

We spent our first evening relaxing in the pool, and set off bright and early the next morning for the Maya ruins at Kohunlich.  The resort we are staying at is literally is out in the middle of the jungle so the best way to get to the ruins was to walk there using nothing more than our 8 humble feet. 

Poor William, 2 miles each way on 5-1/2 year old legs seemed to feel like 3,000 miles or that is what he told us over and over and over again anyway! 

After walking for 333 years, we finally made it to the ruins.  We were immediately rewarded with stunningly beautiful views of a beautiful orange bus.

We explored the ruins.

We climbed over, under, inside, up, and through the ruins.

We were amazed by human beings’ ingenuity and even more so by God’s amazing creative talent!  The views literally took my breath away.

Our God is an awesome God.

Tide Pools and Sea Creatures

   “O Lord, how manifold are your works!    

In wisdom you have made them all;

    the earth is full of your creatures.

Yonder is the sea, great and wide,

    creeping things innumerable are there,

    living things both small and great.

There go the ships,

    and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.”

– Psalm 104:24-26

As soon as we arrived at the beach so did a tropical something or other which meant we had four gray days of rain, thunderstorms, crashing waves, blowing winds, and more rain. 

The boys took it all in stride, and we were able to get out to the beach at least twice every day in spite of the less than ideal conditions.  After all, we had planned to get wet at the beach so we didn’t let a little or in this case a lot of rain ruin our plans to play on the beach.

Before our first evening was over William and Jack had discovered their favorite tide pool for exploring, and we have returned there over and over again.  Each trip to the beach has brought new discoveries and adventures.  I have loved watching Jack and William delight in the ocean and its creatures and creations.

During our first evening on the beach William exclaimed to me – “Mommy, I just saw a sea snake.”

To which I thought – “Oh please no!  Not that!”  I did believe William, because I could feel his heart racing through his little chest. 

“Jason,” I said with what can only be described as terror in my voice, “William, thinks he has seen a sea snake!”

Upon further investigation it wasn’t a sea snake, but it was close.  It was an eel, and later that evening William spotted a second eel in another tide pool.  William has a great eye for spotting sea life.

What is so funny about this – is I thought William’s heart was racing because he was scared, but his heart was racing because he was so excited!  Of course – my heart was racing, because I was scared.

Jason has spent most of his week patiently following William around from tide pool to tide pool as they have searched for sea creatures together. 

Jack has walked miles and miles or should I say kilometers and kilometers up and down the beach collecting sea glass and other cool items.

We have built sea castles, sand turtles, fortresses, and rock walls.

I have sat very still and watched the waves and seen crabs scurry out of their hiding places at dusk.  The beach is very good for knitting and thinking and praying.

It has been an amazing week.  It is going to be hard to say good-bye to the beach tomorrow morning, but we are off to the jungle.  I know that the jungle will hold new adventures and blessings for our family.  And of course – William is hoping for snakes – lots and lots of terrifying snake encounters.

PS  For all of the folks who were concerned that Mexico would cure my migraines and I would want to stay here forever and ever – no such luck.  But – an incredibly nice lady will wash and fold a week’s worth of your entire family’s dirty, disgusting laundry for less than $10.00 and that my friends might just get me to stay here forever and ever and ever!

Adventures at Tulum

On Tuesday morning we tortured William by making him skip playing on the beach and in the tide pools for the morning so that we could go to the ruins at Tulum.  To add insult to injury – the taxi Jason had taken great care to arrange for did not arrive so we had to walk an actual 2 kilometers to the taxi depot!  To say that the youngest McFarland was less than thrilled would be the understatement of a lifetime.  After what felt like a thirty-three hour hike uphill the whole way we arrived at the entrance to Akumal Playa at the taxi depot.  Thankfully William had survived the walk and so had the rest of us – barely.

We quickly found a taxi driver who was very, very happy to drive us to Tulum.  I don’t think I have ever seen a taxi driver quite so happy to get a slightly grumpy family of four into his car for a 30 minute drive, because when we approached the taxi depot all of the taxi drivers were busy fixing a huge pothole in the sand road with shovels and their own manpower.  Our “charming” family got him out of of some seriously messy, hard work.  By the time we came home in the afternoon the taxi drivers had repaired the road.  I was very impressed.  I had considered loaning them William, but Jack wouldn’t let me.

Sadly when we arrived at the Tulum ruins – William was confronted with another long walk from the entrance to the actual ruins.  Jack may have told his cruel mom that it was rude to laugh at his brother’s pain and suffering so I stopped.

All of the walking was worth it, because the ruins were absolutely stunningly beautiful.


The Tulum ruins are along the ocean and they took my breath away again and again.  Even William was impressed with the ocean views.

All of this was built by hand – WITHOUT the use of the wheel.

Once we got to the ruins William didn’t mind being there too much, because he engaged in his favorite pursuit at all Maya ruins – iguana counting.  We found lots and lots of impressive iguanas at Tulum. 

Our God has truly created an incredibly awesome world filled with awesome creatures and amazing people and civilizations!

PS The following picture has been included on the blog at William’s specific request for his Mimi and Papa’s enjoyment.  He knew that they would want to see this.  So here is a picture of William in a tree in Tulum, Mexico just for his Mimi and Papa.

A Date at the Convent

One afternoon in Valladolid Jason and I got all wild and crazy and went for a date all by ourselves for a few hours.  In true nerdy-pastor fashion I chose the local convent followed by lunch at the top-rated vegetarian restaurant in town.  It seems that you can take the pastor out of the pulpit, but you can’t take the pastor out of her!

The Templo de San Bernardino and the adjacent Convent of Sisal were constructed between 1552 and 1560. 

I cannot get over the age of the churches in Mexico.  As we walk through these churches I am struck over and over again by all of the thousands and thousands of Christians who have worshipped our Lord in these churches before me.  Think of all of the baptisms, confirmations, ordinations, first communions, and worship services that have been celebrated over the past 400 years. 

I have had the incredible blessing and honor baptizing dozens and dozens of my sisters and brothers in Christ since becoming a pastor.  Imagine how many people have been welcomed into our Christian family at this baptismal font!

The churches are incredibly beautiful – but I am also incredibly thankful that I don’t have to worry about helping care for a church that is over 400 years old.  I cannot imagine what it is like to oversee the care and upkeep of a church that is this old.  The ceilings are all towering and the walls are all thicker than I am tall!  The Property and Grounds Committee must have nerves of steel and should all qualify for sainthood.

And it isn’t just the church itself that must take great care.  The church and convent are filled with beautiful religious art. 

Our date at the covent was a delight!  A date at the convent turned out to be a great way to spend our afternoon.

Guess Who Came to Supper

Jack and William approach life very differently than I do.  I like things neat and orderly.  They both delight in chaos and clutter.  I love a good plan and a carefully prepared to-do list thrills me.  They still fly by the seat of their pants. 

I think a well rounded diet should contain essentials like fruits, vegetables, and water.  William has spent the last two weeks trying very, very hard to convince Jason and me to let him live on chocolate chip cookies, Ritz crackers, and Coke.  Without a doubt – William will spend the next four weeks continuing his regular (hourly) petitions to include Coke and chocolate chip cookies into what Jason and I deem to be “healthy foods” while we just as stubbornly insist on disgusting fruits, vegetables, and water.

I may refuse to give in on things like what I believe are a healthy diet, but William and Jack have changed their mother in truly dramatic – even shocking ways.  Jack even has photographic evidence to prove that I am capable of change!

Last week at Casa Hamaca while we were waiting for our supper to arrive – Jack got a little bored and lifted a board on the stone wall next to his seat.  We all glanced under the board – three of us saw a “leaf,” but Jason, the family observer, said “is that a scorpion?”

“No way,” – said my brain “that was a leaf.  We have NOT been dining for the last week with a scorpion!”

As it turns out – both Jason and I were right.  It wasn’t just one scorpion under that board it was two, and the next morning when we checked again there were three scorpions under the board.

Rather than running for the hills, grabbing an industrial sized-can of Raid, or weeping tears of despair, later that evening William actually talked me into lifting up the board once more to take a peak at the scorpions.  Talk about a major change.

I still think that scorpions are creepy looking.  I will still give them plenty of room.  I still check my shoes carefully for invaders every single time before putting them on, but well – even scorpions are God’s creatures and God said that they were good too.  

Oh how the mighty (arrogant) fall flat on their faces!  About two hours after publishing my post on my newfound appreciation for God’s less cuddly creatures I had another encounter with nature.  We were playing on the beach exploring the tide pools looking at tiny fish, searching for hermit crabs, and celebrating William’s talent for eel spotting when we realized that the sun was setting and it was time to head home for the evening.  I volunteered to go get Jack who was down the beach a ways from us while Jason stayed with William.

As I walked along I came to an area of the beach with less sand and more vegetation, but my focus was on Jack and what a wonderful day we had experienced together on the beach.  Then I felt an odd sensation on my ankles and I glanced down, and my friends, it was a snake!  A SNAKE!  A FIVE FOOT LONG SNAKE had slithered right across both of my ankles.  I am not a screamer, but I did in fact scream loudly enough that Jack heard me over the crashing of the waves from 400 ft away.  Poor Jack.

I actually experienced shock and couldn’t walk for a few minutes, but Jason has listened to my description of the snake and has repeatedly reassured me that my life was never in danger.  It was a harmless salmon-bellied racer.

Casa de los Venados

“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10

We human beings tend divide ourselves into groups and categories.  Liberal or conservative.  Lutheran or Baptist.  Red or blue.  Apple or Android.  Knitters do the same thing.  Some knitters are product knitters while others are process knitters. 

Product knitters are motivated to knit for the beautiful, custom made sweaters, scarves, shawls, and hats that come off their needles.  Process knitters knit to feel the yarn flow through their fingers and for the way the rhythm of stitch after stitch can be a soothing form of meditation for them.

I am a process knitter.  The end product matters to me, but not nearly as much as the process of knitting itself.  Already this year I have made well over 250 washcloths, because what matters to me the most are the soothing rhythm of the stitches, the feel of the yarn in my hands, the time it gives me to think, the ability to play with color, and the way knitting slows me down and quiets my mind and soul.  I often read and pray while knitting and write sermons with my knitting close by.

The process of knitting has proven to be endlessly entertaining and delightful to me.  I have been knitting daily for over twenty years and still find it fascinating. 

When I am knitting I am more present in the moment.  I am more focused.  I am better able to listen.  I know I am far more patient.  I am kinder and even perhaps more gracious.  Knitting makes me a better person. 

I am a proud, committed fiber freak, but today even I had my socks knocked off by some fiber artists’ patience and dedication to their art.

Today when we were touring Casa de los Venados (House of the Deer) which is a private home in Valladolid with a stunning collection of Mexican folk art, I was not surprisingly – knitting during our tour. 

It was our second tour of the week and my fifth tour since Jason introduced me to the collection on our last trip.  There are over 3,000 pieces in the collection and each time we go back I notice something new that delights and intrigues me.

Today our tour guide David picked up a beautiful pillow off of the couch and asked me with a mischievous grin on his face – “How long do you think this took to make?”

Seeing David’s grin – and knowing that we were in a house full of folk art – I guessed 60 hours. 

“No,” David replied, “it took the weaver seven months.”

Imagine that. 

Imagine spending seven months of your life weaving a piece of cloth about twenty-two inches by twenty-two inches. 

Imagine the focus that would take.  Imagine the dedication.  Imagine the patience.  Imagine the lessons you would learn about yourself.  Imagine the time you would have to pray and listen for God’s response.

When was the last time you set aside some time in your life to pray and to listen for God’s response? 

When was the last time you chose an activity that allowed you the time and freedom to be still and to know that the Lord God almighty is your God?