Buxton Family Days

Some of you may recall that Jerry and I have four children, all grown now, of course, and you probably also have heard me tell of their excellence, their upright and godly ways, and that I am extremely proud of them. You may or may not, though, have heard me express how difficult it is to get them here to visit their mama and daddy all at the same time, and how that distresses me.  Now I know how busy each of them is, especially the three sons. (Our only daughter Rebecca lives alone and has more free time than anyone else in the family.) Steve, the eldest, pastors a thriving church of a few hundred persons in Chula Vista, CA. In addition to that, he is in charge of several churches in the Philippines, to which country he flies several times a year. He also makes other trips throughout the year–both in our country, and abroad. Our second son Michael is also incredibly busy. He is the founder of Buxton Drywall in Lake Havasu, and in addition he manages a construction retail store in Lake Havasu, and for awhile managed (maybe still does) one in Kingman, AZ. Andrew, my youngest, has five children, all still at home, works “9-5” in construction and sales, and is on the ministerial staff of The Anchor, a United Pentecostal Church, in San Diego.

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They’re busy. I get it. But we all have the same amount of time–24 hours each day, and we get to choose how we fill those hours. And I had decided I wanted them to be here with their parents for a fair chunk of hours, and all at the same time. So, this MAMA took things in hand, and around Memorial Day placed a call to each of them.

“Labor Day weekend. Check your calendars. Do you have anything planned?”

No one did, except Michael, and he sweetly said he would change those plans.

This past Friday and Saturday seventeen of our family converged on our home bearing food, smiles, and tremendous attitudes. Children, grandchildren, and great-grands made up the splendid group.

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DSC_8210DSC_8238We laughed, and ate, and ate, and washed dishes, and washed dishes, and washed dishes, and romped, and were funny, and had serious discussions, and took pictures, and collapsed, and ate . . .

I tell you that last Saturday was one of the happiest days of my life.

. . .and in this way the glorious Buxton Family Days of 2017 came to an end. How rich, how very rich, I am.

FullSizeRenderThis annual affair will convene next on Labor Day weekend 2018. All you Buxton and Forrest family members are welcome–actually your presence is coveted!

Trying to be a Tree

I spied the little fella yesterday as I was cleaning out a flower bed, noted his beauty, and since then at length have considered  his lesson. This morning as I set out for another day of yard clean-up, I carried my camera down the stairs with me for I was remembering from yesterday this little creation.

He is trying to be a tree.

He was ordained to be a tree, and somehow in his “guts” he knows he is destined to be such a living thing. It is in his genes, his DNA. Even so, it has not been easy for him. He has fought obstacles including the beating about of fierce winds that come off Lake Gregory and that tear around the corner of our house. Through the winter months cold, edgy snow piled high over him, drenching rain poured off our roof at the spot where he lies, and even sometimes after walking Winston if the garage door is closed I toss a little doggie business bag in that area, that stays there until later when I will retrieve it and plunk it into a trash can. Even that, as you can see, did not deter him. He pushed and shoved. He grew, he grunted, he persevered until finally he was strong enough to crack open his restrictive acorn walls, to flaunt his bright green oak leaves. For you understand, don’t you, that God designed him to be a tree.

DSC_7141 I actually did not know he was there until yesterday, and even then I paid him scant attention. It was only when my rake hung up on him, and I found him to be well rooted into the ground that I considered him. It matters not to him that neither Jerry or me, or anyone else for that matter, had taken note of him, that no one encouraged him with pep talks, or strokes, or positive words. Alone, he continued on his way toward being a tree. He’s a winner, this little seedling of mine. He’s rare. Rare, you say? An acorn? There must be millions in existence, or billions. Yes, there are, but I tell you that out of the mounds of acorns I bagged today, only this one will be a tree. The others have lost their way. Their dreams have died. Their visions of soaring into the sky, of birds nesting among their leaves, of little boys climbing and building club houses in their branches have vanished. Tonight they nestle against the other losers in black trash bags that set near the fence on the east side of our drive way.

And what of you? Of me? What of the gifts God and genetics have placed inside us? What of the urging to break through the binding walls that threaten our going to our graves with our potential unfulfilled, our talents silenced, the world deprived of our gifts. Let not the wind, nor the cold, nor loneliness, nor pressure, nor agedness, nor youth, nor past mistakes, nor anything else now or in the future defeat us.

. . .for even a few rare acorns become trees.

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My little fella is growing in a place that is undesirable. That I now consider him special, I will transplant him into a container. Because we have many oak trees and no room for another, I’m offering him as a gift to you who live close by. Any takers?

Mother’s Day 2017

Stephen Forrest Buxton is our eldest, thus it was his birth that made me a mother. Over the years followed Michael Ray, Rebecca Jean, and our caboose, Andrew Brian.

Often, I sit in my home and think of those four children of mine, and I must tell you sometimes I weep. I weep not for sadness, but for love, and awe, and thankfulness. How did it happen that these little rascals of Jerry’s and mine developed into the exceptional people they are? Often I am brought up short when I learn of their accomplishments, their gifts, their triumphant over adversity. None have been without challenge, but I tell you they have taken on the garment of upright people who are making positive contributions to society. They care deeply for their father and me; they assist and coddle us.DSC_7102

So, of course Mother’s Day is a significant one in my life. Let me tell you of yesterday. I began its celebration by jumping out of bed early, drinking coffee, and roaming about the house admiring the flowers and cards that had arrived from said youngsters and recalling the drama that Rebecca and I attended on Saturday. RUTH was the simple name of the Lighthouse Theatre production, so well done, so excellent that both Rebecca and I cried. After Jerry had been up a bit and we had our morning talk, I stripped our bed, washed and replaced the sheets, dusted both our bedroom and the living room, and vacuumed both the floors. I had a little time left before we would leave for church, so I went out back and planted our “farm.” Two tomato plants, three stalks of corn, and one bell pepper. The zucchini and yellow squash must wait until another day for I had used all the potting soil.

I subject you to the mundane list of my Sunday morning activities because I am thankful all my energy has returned! This time last year I was recovering from breast cancer and a subsequent mastectomy, chemo therapy, and 25 radiation treatments. The chemo knocked me winding sucking every bit of energy away from me. But now I’m well! My energy and strength are soaring. I’m extremely thankful.

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We met Rebecca at her church in Rialto; afterwards Jerry treated us to a delicious Mexican lunch at Hortensia’s.DSC_7080

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Early on in the church service the staff had sent a lovely orchid corsage to where I sat. Later, as Bishop Booker prepared to speak, he came to our pew, honored me with glowing words, and pressed a significant bill in my hand. Totally unexpected. Gracious and honorable. This morning, I placed water in this piece of carnival ware and floated the beautiful flower there.

DSC_7123When I called Mike to thank him for the present I had received, I teased him. “What did you send me, Mike? Do you know?”

“Uh, I used to, but I have forgotten.”

“A bird feeder. You sent me a beautiful porcelain bird feeder.”

We laughed together, for I know that most of my son’s wives actually buy such presents. Indeed Mike told me that Melina always shows him the present before she mails it to us, saying this is what we bought.

DSC_7115I’m still reveling in the beauty of the flowers and all the other ways my family (including my sweet hubby, Jerry) and friends honored me yesterday. I’ve wandered about the house taking pictures.

DSC_7111One more thing before I let you go! Another reason yesterday was special to me is that on Mother’s Day when I was 10 years old, I was filled with the Holy Ghost . . .and from that day to this God has lived in my heart. Is that not the coolest thing?

Challenges Met in Sterling Ways

DSC_6559As astonishing as it was to observe the basic, stark way of outdoor cooking, and serving to the hundreds of UAW delegates in Nairobi, was the lovely, caring, presentation of meals to speakers and other guests. Table clothes were changed for each meal. Later we would see the linen pieces hanging on fences to dry.

IMG_0935These beautiful tents were rented. Used for ladies sessions during the day, at night they became sleeping places for many of the delegates. IMG_0891Junior Aston showed us how to eat this Kenya food called Ugali. It is customary in one’s home to serve the mixture in one large bowl into which everyone dips their hands and pulls off a piece. The process calls for taking one’s thumb to make an indentation, then “sopping” up the sauces that have been cooked with the meat and vegetables. I learned the trick quickly, and quite enjoyed it. The food was tasty; lots of stewed meat with delicious sauces. Pictured below is goat meat we were served. I liked it.

IMG_0980IMG_0978Her name is Carol. She is the national secretary of the Ladies Department, and she kind of took me under her wing. She is the one who in the first service gently pushed me into a group of ladies who were dancing in worship to African music. (I did my best, but in some videos I have seen, I look rather stiff and uncoordinated!) Once, in a moment of affection,  she picked me straight up off the floor. Later I walked up behind her as we headed to the tents, touched her on the arm and acted as though I would lift her. She smiled at me and said in her beautiful accent, “You cannot move a mountain.” I truly love her. Hope to see her again some day.

AUW Compound in Nairobi, Kenya

Here in the United States before our trip to Africa I had only briefly met both Pamela and Bishop Ngota Aston, but I certainly came to know them better during those days we stayed on their church compound, and to admire their ambition, their godly ways, and their accomplishments. I salute them today.

DSC_6557If I understand correctly, it was through his burden that he met with Apostolic leaders across Africa, and that in 2014 the Apostolic Union of the World was founded. He became the leader of the organization whose purpose is to facilitate evangelizing Africa with the Apostolic message. The conference we attended was the third such meeting.

DSC_6573His wife is beautiful, hospitable, a great speaker, singer, and musician. She was reared in a very challenging environment, but by the grace of God has risen from its depth to a place of prominence in Africa, and has attained an excellent education.

The compound is impressive. I was stunned to learn that they have only been in that location for seven years. It is completely fenced, boasting numerous structures with a 24-hour guard at the gate. Encompassed in the wide acreage are the sanctuary, the building I have mentioned in which we stayed, school facilities, and a few other out-buildings. Monies from outside Africa have been supplied and appreciated, but I noted in some of their material that one of their goals is less reliance on foreign aid; instead the development of financial independence

DSC_6175DSC_6556Both the impressive grounds and the buildings are kept in pristine condition. Workers were painting just hours before the beginning days of the conference.

DSC_6582I do not have the exact number of persons who attended the conference, but I suspect the final count to have exceeded 500. Most of these were ministers and their families, including some who had traveled as many as four days to arrive there. Several countries were represented. Although the provisions were simple, it astonished me that every delegate was accommodated on the premises. Outhouses were utilized and hundreds slept on mats on the ground. The food was cooked outside a small room on charcoal cookers; the dishes washed nearby with the assistance of a lone faucet. I highly respect my brothers and sisters in Jesus I met those few days in Kenya. Some of them, I was told, do not have enough food, and some are actively persecuted because they are Christians.

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I posted the following words on my Facebook account a few days after the conference ended. Those were my sentiments then . . .as they are now.

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I am raw. Lying open in the sun raw. The conference in Nairobi has ended. Forever in my ears will ring the words–Africa Must Be Saved–as I recall the hundreds of black people who swayed to the burden of their song, who fell mourning to the floor, who wept over the millions who are lost in the hills, the jungles, the cities of their beautiful continent. ……….I will never forget the mama of this beautiful baby who sat in the dirt long side a muddy road and nursed her darling child beside the table where she sold bananas and watermelons and corn . . .I will never forget leaders who taught their women not to be bitter as they asked God to give them food for their children. . . I am raw. Lying open in the sun raw.

Holiday “Doings” at the Buxton’s

A few days before Thanksgiving, I opened the closet in the study where much of our Christmas decorations are stored and began setting out boxes. At ground level of our front deck, I ducked my head, walked under, opened a storage door and pulled out a couple of boxes that hold outdoor lights. Never before Thanksgiving had I festooned our home for Christmas. This was a first–a glorious first. I reasoned (in case someone would complain, which they did not) that last year because of my cancer surgery, my Christmas celebration had been limited. I’d make up for it this year.

What a season it has been.

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Rebecca brought up a lighted bare-limbed tree and felt leaves on which each of us could write down one blessing, and at the table before the sumptuous Thanksgiving meal, we read aloud our thanks. (Imperial Sir Winston knows he is a major treasure in our lives, and thus positioned himself.)

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The weather described perfect winter holidays. Cold, foggy and snowy. Some of us piled into our trusty Jeep and drove the mile or so down to the lake, where Andrew and I braved the cold and ice to take pictures.

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A soup so great that at the end my guests were tipping the huge crockpot to scoop out one more bowl was central to the food we served at our “almost annual” neighborhood party the first Saturday of December. Twenty-six relatives and other friends graced our home.

dsc_5259Among them was this gorgeous baby boy who resides with our new neighbors who live just around the corner on the street that leads to the woods.

dsc_5153            Mrs. Claus dropped by, as did the “real” Santa, another new neighbor, but I didn’t get a good picture of him. You know how sneaky Santa can be sometimes

And . . .wonder of wonders . . .for a few hours before Christmas Day was done, each of my children was here in our home.

Before we opened our gifts that Sunday morning, our patriarch led us in a simple time of worship. He wept as he spoke of the love of God, and for the love of his family. Each of us, except the very youngest, told words of love and blessing. Jerry asked Nate to read from Luke the story of the nativity.

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The gifts were distributed by a very skinny Santa. Gentry is 6’3 and almost 19 years old. These are his legs.

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Our gifts to each other were simple, for we are a simple family, and are old enough and wise enough to understand value and deep joy lie in places other than within the contents of beautiful boxes tied up with elaborate bows.

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Even a couple of greats showed up with their dad, Chris, and because we were out of beds, they joined the others who had stretched out camp bags and quilts, or snagged a couch for sleeping on Christmas night.

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dsc_5441Winston (and us) was blessed to have four of his dog cousins join us for the holidays. He liked some of them; others, sadly, he did not. You’re seeing Charley here, who lives with Andrew and his clan in San Diego.

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During all the holidays, no one had won a game of checkers against Cole. He is the family champ. On the day before they were to leave after Christmas, he challenged me to a game. He had beaten me badly during their Thanksgiving visit. Embarrassing, and I had escaped him . . .until now. Guess what! I beat the little rascal . . . whipped the socks off him. He grinned, and said, “Want to play another one, Granny?”

You must be kidding, I thought. “Nope, I think not,” I very wisely said.

The deed is done. The 2016 holiday season is finished, and we have moved seamlessly into the year of our Lord Twenty Seventeen. None of us know what the days ahead hold. Both joy and sorrow will visit us; success and failure; good days and bad ones; laughter and wretched tears. For us, the extended Gerald Buxton family, we put our trust, our confidence, and our faith in God, in Jesus Christ, the righteous

Blessings to you and yours.

Sixteen Days with Grands–Pre Day 1

Yes! Andrew asked Jerry and me if we would be able and willing to keep three of their children for 16 days while he, Shawnna, and their eldest son, Gentry, vacation in Hawaii. Gentry graduated from high school in the spring, and the trip is his graduation present. I was delighted to say yes!

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On Saturday, we traveled down to San Diego to meet up with Andrew’s family and with our second son, Mike, and his wife, Melina, who were there to celebrate their 26th wedding anniversary. Around 2:00 in the afternoon we all met near the jetty in Mission Beach. Relaxed in the afternoon, did “beachy” things, ate snacks, then just at dusk the men and boys built a great bonfire.

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dsc_4369Ella and her mom on the sands of the great Pacific.

dsc_4401The descent. At the edge . . . then gone. How quickly so. And Brady . . . merely days before, a baby. Now a fledgling young man.

So ended Saturday. On Sunday morning Jerry and I were extremely blessed to be in church with our three sons and some of their families.

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Great barbecue place after church. Loved being with my family. Loved seeing Jerry stand close to our wonderful boys, for through the years it has become almost impossible to get all our four children together at one time. I cherish such rare occasions and consider them precious. (Just sorry Rebecca didn’t make it down.)

At Andrew’s we loaded up Cole, Brady, and Ella, and by 2:30 were on our way to Crestline. We would see their parents in 16 days.

Silence of the Ages

A 44-second stare is a long one; possibly intimidating, uncomfortable, even maddening.image I watched a few days ago as Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, took such a stance before the United Nations. He preceded the stern stare with these words:

Seventy years after the murder of 6 million Jews, Iran’s rulers promised to destroy my country, murder my people; and the response from this body — the response from nearly every one of the governments represented here — has been absolutely nothing,” a defiant Netanyahu said. “Utter silence. Deafening silence.

I admire Mr. Netanyahu. His passionate speeches inspire me. His recent stare, and his words utter silence and deafening silence made an impact on me; on my mind, my emotions, on my soul.

For one day–of a surety the day will come–the eyes of the Almighty will bore into mine, and in that great silence–the silence of the ages–I must give account of my life on this earth.

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

Revelation 20:12

I cringe when I consider that moment. I shudder to think of the opening of “my book.” The eyes of God will surely be riveted on me. Screaming around me will be the silence of the ages.

Enter twins: Grace and Mercy.

Friends, A Cool Invention

Within each lifetime are portions of challenge. Alongside spiraling days of sunshine made glorious by glowing health and abundant prosperity are chunks of heaviness made dismal by days of inky sorrow and of gloomy prospects. True of everyone. None sidestep the issue. Friends are a cool invention, for wisping along with them, as pleasant as any summer breeze, are bubbly snippets of joy. When they come around, invariably along with them come those magical ingredients that whip up some of the happy, unforgettable days of a well-lived life.

Such a joyful encounter was Jerry’s and mine when our friends Pastor Kris Keyes and his charming wife Lisa of Safford, Az. came a couple of days ago to visit in our home.

Jerry and I planned a fine menu. He cooked ribs and a chicken on his beloved smoker that sets on the back deck and I prepared the rest of the meal. I took pleasure in setting a nice table. 20150515-untitled (1 of 1)I chose red plates, used our finest silverware, and stuck floral napkins through the handle of napkin rings made in the shape of watering pots. Winston hung around our feet

20150512-untitled (4 of 19)Winston shocked us by his immediate, almost hero-worship-style of attraction to both of our friends when they arrived. (They had circled around a bit too long on our mountain roads, so finally Jerry went down to our 7-11 and led them to our driveway.) That little Shih Tzu adored them. On Thursday morning he lay at the door of the guest room where they were sleeping, and made sweet, whiny noises, occasionally poking his nose into the space where the door meets the floor. Quite unusual behavior for Winston, as in the past he has generally been hesitant to meet new people, and has not been overly friendly to them.

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20150514-untitled (7 of 19)Stormy weather moved in with plunging temperatures, high winds, and pelting rain that snapped against our windows and doors. It was perfect weather for a long and cozy visit with our friends. We ate the high-calorie food Jerry and I had prepared, lingered at the table, and drank barrels of coffee (well, not quite barrels, but big jugs full.) Jerry kept the fireplace roaring. We talked. And talked.

Kris Keyes is the pastor of an Apostolic church in Safford, AZ. and much of our conversation centered around mutual friends and church activities. Politics, grill types, smoking methods, scriptures and their meanings, recipes, books we’ve read, hiking, and snippets of internet gleanings were among the subjects that filled in the spaces. On their computer, they showed us the pictures of their daughter Sarah’s recent wedding.

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We moved to the study where Jerry riffled through his grill book so that he could print off a copy of his brining recipe. . . and we began saying our good-byes.

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Our society has changed drastically since I was a child; many of the changes are positive ones, making for longer, healthier, more prosperous lives. Some changes , though, fall into the negative heap. One of these is our busyness; bolting through day after seething day, racing to another meeting, grabbing our phones for another can’t-be-missed conversation. Flip open our laptops, for surely people await to read every word that skids through our hot brains, read the news, despair, and occasionally rejoice. Make more money. Buy a newer car, a bigger house, a prettier dress. . .

And seldom do we sit. Sit for long periods. With a friend. With our family. No agenda. No rush. Sit. Talk. Share hearts. (Takes a while to share a heart.) Be quiet. Commune.

Guilty . . .I confess.

During the recent elegant hours Jerry and I spent with these friends I was so touched at one point as we discussed some great spiritual happenings during our  lifetimes, Kris looked toward his wife and said, “I want that. I want that for our church.” Such conversations do not evolve quickly, nor through casual talk, nor through hurried, breakneck-speed words.

I have few answers to the dilemma of our frazzled, rushed society, but I do suggest that much peace and restfulness will likely come about when we ask friends into our homes. When we appeal to our families for time. Just time. Days perhaps. When they come and stay awhile, when we talk and listen. We hear. Our hearts pulse together.

Reflections on Mother’s Day 2015

The days leading up to Mother’s Day had found me the recipient of flower deliveries, cards, phone calls, and gifts. On Saturday Jerry said he needed to go somewhere, and when he returned he had in his hands a small azalea plant of the most pleasant pink hue, along with a very touching card. No doubt one of the reasons my children are so good to honor me is because their dad set the bar high throughout their growing-up years. Thoughtful. Never misses an anniversary, and sometimes for no reason, he may pop out into the yard and bring in a rose he has snipped from one of our plants.

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None of the children were able to actually visit in our home for the special day, but we had made plans with Rebecca. Sunday morning we drove by her house, dropped off Winston, then drove on to Inland Lighthouse Center in Rialto where with her we worshipped. Before we entered the sanctuary, though, Jerry snapped a few pictures of the two mommies!

20150510-untitled (7 of 43)The greeting of many friends always makes it such a pleasure to visit the church that Jerry formerly pastored. Multitudes of glorious memories. A great church.

After the service as we continued to visit, Rebecca hurried home to finish preparing our meal.

20150510-untitled (20 of 43)She had set a beautiful table with her fine platinum rimmed china. A pasta/sausage dish was the entree, the salad was fresh and delicious, and. . .and. . .these scrumptious cheese biscuits. I watched her scoop out the dough and stick them in the oven. I probably shouldn’t confess, but I ate two of them, and they weren’t small!

20150510-untitled (24 of 43)More gifts, sweet talk, lingering.

20150510-untitled (38 of 43)Rebecca let us read the hilarious card Nathaniel had given her. We watched on his phone a video of his preaching a few nights before at Bakersfield. So very exciting.

20150510-untitled (14 of 43)Treats drawn from his pockets sent the dogs running to Master.

20150511-untitled (4 of 4)Back home. Early evening. I gathered my gifts and cards, pulled out a dining chair, sat down, looked at them, and reread them. I thought of each of my three sons, and of my one daughter. I recalled their births, their childhoods, their escapades, their accomplishments, their disappointments, their strengths, their challenges. I wept for love.