We Agreed On Something

I may have mentioned once or twice how much I love the Maya ruins at Calakmul.  Jason shares my love of Maya ruins, and is perhaps even more fascinated by Calakmul than I am.  In fact – Jason is the person who introduced me to the wonders of the Maya world.  Jack has caught the bug too, but the youngest McFarland does not yet share our passion for Maya ruins.  They make him look like this.

He calls our days at Maya ruins – “Mommy days.”  So he was less than thrilled to learn that we had planned not just one but two trips into the Calakmul ruins.

Maya ruins contain far too much of this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

To really delight and thrill his 5 1/2 year old soul.

But our William does LOVE astronomy.  So he was thrilled to learn from our guide that this temple was dedicated to the planet Venus.  So here William and his Mommy are on a “Mommy day” both smiling on the steps of the Venus Temple at Calakmul.  It may be the only thing William and I agreed on the whole day!

A Change in Perspective

Psalm 139:7-12

Where can I go from your Spirit?

    Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

    if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,

    your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

    and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you;

    the night will shine like the day,

    for darkness is as light to you.

I have been looking forward to getting back to the Maya ruins at Calakmul for two years.  The time that Jason and I spent there contains some of my favorite memories of my first trip to Mexico.  (I keep pictures of us at Calakmul on my bookcase at church as a reminder of that wonderful day almost two years ago.)

The ruins themselves are, of course, intriguing and stunningly beautiful.

Yet it was the massive jungle surrounding the ruins that really drew me in.  I have never been any place like it.  The jungle is so vast – so green – so dense – so full of wildlife and so very empty of people and all of the stuff we bring with us.  There are no cell towers – no power lines – no billboards – and just one rather simple road by American standards. 

I have done a fair amount of hiking over the years.  It is very rare to have a view that contains only things that God created in it, but at Calakmul the views are of jungle and just jungle as far as the eye can see.

Sometimes the only sounds you hear are those of the birds in the trees, the wind blowing, and the very noisy howler monkeys calling.  No cars – no people chatting loudly on their cell phones – no sirens – no sounds of modern life as we have come to know it.

Calakmul is a place outside of the modern world. 

It is unlike anything I have ever known before.  It is a place where the Holy Spirit seems to roam wild and free – unconstrained by the bounds that we human beings continually try to place on the Holy Spirit time and time again. 

At Calakmul, when you hear the blowing of the wind – I believe – you may just be able to hear the movement of the Holy Spirit too – if you are still and quiet and put aside your assumptions and rules and regulations and instead listen for God’s voice.

But I also believe that you don’t have to go so far away. 

The Bible tells us the Holy Spirit is at work in our daily lives all of the time – moving and working.  But perhaps – we are just too busy to notice the Holy Spirit.  Or perhaps we make too many assumptions about what we think the Holy Spirit should do or will do.  Or maybe we make too many hard and fast rules that blind us to the work of the Holy Spirit. 

I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about the ways we Christians try to put limits on God and God’s activity in the world.  And the ways that we Christians make up so very many complex rules about what we think God will and will not do. 

I have been questioning why we are so quick to limit how we think God will and will not do things and about who God will and will not work through. 

I believe our God is at work in this world in wild, amazing, radical ways.  And I fear that we are sometimes very, very blind to God’s powerful work, because of our own smallness and the limits we place on God.

All I know is – that at Calakmul – in the middle of the lush – green jungle – 25 miles from Guatemala – I heard and felt the Holy Spirit moving, and I was in awe of the awesome God we worship. 

I truly pray and hope I can take this openness of spirit home with me so that I will be able to see and feel God working in my life and not just in this sacred, remote place in the jungle.

Wild and Crazy

On Monday, June 25th we headed to Xpujil where we once again stayed at Casa Ka’an in our very own little house in the middle of the jungle.

This was Jason’s third stay at Casa Ka’an, and the second time for both Jack and me.  I am pretty sure that Jason keeps bringing us back to Xpujil and Casa Ka’an, because he knows that I fall a little more in love with it with each visit. 

Water can be pretty scarce in this part of Mexico, and yet, it is incredibly beautiful.  The vegetation and wildlife take my breath away over and over and over again.  Jason knows this and I wonder if it isn’t part of his long range plan to retire in Mexico (which I am I totally cool with – I am just not sure about Xpujil.  It is pretty remote and yarn would be very scarce).

After unpacking our bags, pouring ourselves something refreshing to drink, and getting the WiFi working on William’s iPad, Jason and I headed to the chairs on our front porch to do a little nature watching and within 15 minutes we had seen 4 different hummingbirds flitting between the feeder and a nearby bush.  “This,” I declared to my beloved “is way better than Netflix.”  (Further proof that I am a total nerd – I knit and hummingbird watched for hours.).  The God sightings abound in Xpujil!

I almost had a change of heart about nature and all of those amazing God sightings later that evening when I was rinsing my hair, and I watched an actual salamander climb out of the drain and join me, but I reminded myself that I was visiting his home and tried to be as brave as my 5 year old son would have been.

The next morning we were up bright and early, because our guide was picking us up to take us to the Maya ruins at Calakmul where we did even more bird watching, animal sighting, and, of course, Maya ruin exploring. 

The drive from Xpujil to the ruins takes about 2 hours because the Calakmul ruins are located in the middle of the massive Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and the ruins themselves are a UNESCO protected site. 

It is truly an honor and a blessing to be able to visit the ruins at Calakmul, and frankly relatively few people are able to have this extraordinary experience.  Calakmul is remote.  We were only 25 or so miles from the border with Guatemala.  1.6 million people visit the Maya ruins at Chichen Itza every year (about 4,400 per day on average), but on average the Calakmul ruins get 60 visitors a day.  On our first day at Calakmul, I only counted 15 other visitors.

We were blessed to see wildlife galore!

We saw seriously cool lizards.
Megaladon at the Calakmul museum (about 40km north of the ruins)
Oscellated turkeys
Air plants
Roadside hawks
Leafcutter ants
King Flycatcher

PLUS A SNAKE, but sadly he was moving far too quickly to have his picture taken!

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.