Birthday Number 86

Occasionally the celebration of a significant event aligns so well with the vision in my head that its conclusion brings about glowing chatter, face-stretching smiles, and a sated sense of perfection. Such were the days surrounding Jerry’s 86th birthday.

It began with The Nieces.

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Three of them live in Louisiana, the other two in Texas. “We’d like to come out and visit Uncle Jerry for his birthday. Would that be a convenient time?”

Of course it would, so although I hadn’t planned to throw a party, that these dear ones would make that long trek to California certainly called for a major celebration. I told Jerry I had decided on a birthday party, but I told him nothing of the trip his nieces would be making. Debbie flew to San Antonio, Nita and Pam drove to the area in Texas of Linda and Sharon’s homes, where, with their mounds of luggage, they all piled into Linda’s van and headed west.

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Rebecca and Holly beautifully decorated the room we reserved at The Claim Jumper in San Bernardino. The party was scheduled for 2:00 on Saturday and all the guests had arrived when I drove Jerry into the parking lot. My children knew of the secret guests, passed the word to the others as they arrived so that the only ones seated at the table when Jerry walked into the room were his dear nieces. He was stunned.

The party was perfect in every way. The food was delicious, pristinely presented, and served without a flaw. The guests consisted of a sweet mix of family, ministers, neighbors, and other friends from Crestline. During the meal various persons stood and in moving ways–sometimes humorous–spoke accolades to Jerry. It was a glowing, memorable afternoon.

Although we would be a bit cramped, the nieces and Michael and his wife went home with us, filling up all the guest rooms, and throwing down mats and blankets for sleeping. We had a blast.

Jerry opened his gifts.

DSC_9313We ate breakfast . . .and more meals. We went to Stater’s, bought a whole brisket, and Jerry cooked it all Sunday night. On Monday we feasted.

DSC_9315Some had to leave. Others came.

DSC_9343We did lots of this.

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On Tuesday morning, these precious women headed home, to their families, to their jobs. They left behind magnificent memories of hugs and kisses, of deep and meaningful conversations, of  tender tears and of uproarious laughter. Jerry has said more than once, “I just can’t believe they drove all the way out here to celebrate my birthday.”

There are some really fine people in this world. Several of them belong to the Buxton family.

 

Youthquake

Oxford Dictionaries, a part of Oxford University, has selected youthquake to be the top word of the year 2017The abundant use of the word came about because of the unexpectedly strong turnout of younger voters in the 2017 snap election in the United Kingdom. My reading of this information, and my observations of several young people over the last few days prompted this piece, which although has some negative parts, comes to a positive and hopeful conclusion.

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Youthquake. I like the sound. My initial thoughts on hearing the word, which is not a familiar one to me, was of the positive, enthusiastic, energetic qualities of young people, and of the dynamic influence they can have on this world. I considered our society, which in many ways spirals ever-downward, the needs of our churches, wide-spread famine and other challenges across the globe–and was sure young people can truly cause a quake–an aggressive, beneficial shake-up of the ground on which we stand that could contribute to the solution of many of these problems.

DSC_9200DSC_9186Then I chanced to be near an adult child who spoke in an arrogant, disrespectful way to his/her father. My insides shook.

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I eyed the father. I willed him to be strong, for it was his right–indeed his obligation–to quiz and to direct the young person who, although grown, yet lived at home and indulged in its benefits. A good kid, probably, just a bit too frisky for the moment, a tad too full of itself.

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Because it is my way, I thought of an account in the Bible where children were disrespectful to a man and came to an unfortunate end. As I contemplated  this piece of writing I reckoned with the thought that many people would think this reference too harsh, and the subject too edgy, and after all kids will be kids . . .and they must “sow their wild oats,” and this is a new generation, things are different . . .True, perhaps. Yet I persist in thinking that we who are in charge, whether parents, grandparents,  senators, teachers, or whomever must defend the mores of a God-fearing, decent, cultured, polite society. A bit of quaking in our spirits and in our consciences is likely a good idea.

DSC_8995But I liked my first response to Oxford Dictionaries youthquake and I thought of several young persons who I believe I can count on to shake up this world for the better.

The two guys with red apparel above are my nephews, both in their twenties, both in college. After a meal in our home a few days ago, their parents directed them to clear the table and wash the dishes. I was astonished. But cheerfully they rose from the table, and did the deed, even  as they embellished it with frivolous entertainment. David, the one you see in the midst of an aria there, grabbed a broom and swept the floor.

My granddaughter Chloe initiated a student Bible study in the college she attends.

My grandson Nathaniel is the youth leader at Hilltop Tabernacle in Chula Vista.

By live streaming tonight I watched my young friend Julio lead before service prayer at The Anchor Church in San Diego.

Gentry works like a man. Brady has the sweetest of spirits. Cole is artistic and is kind to me.

I hope you’ll make the effort to add names in the area set aside for comments. The ones you know. They’re out there. Young people. Good ones. God-fearing, upright people who truly can bring about an earth-shattering youthquake.

Stephen Forrest Buxton

Sixty.

Sixty years ago in the delivery room of St. Luke’s Hospital in Pasadena, Ca. Stephen Forrest Buxton yelped his way into the world, and into the hearts of his mom and dad. Jerry and I became parents that December evening, we knew that. What we did not know was the depth of the  treasure that had been lent to us by God.

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From the beginning Steve loved people, and people loved him.

On his report cards, his teachers noted his considerable intelligence and his propensity to chatter. He was a communicator. He communicated with his dad and with me. After a date, or a youth activity, he often would come to our bedroom and talk with us before going to bed. As do many teenagers, he struggled. As do a few, he persevered. He listened to the voice of God. He became a preacher.

And now he’s sixty.

His love for people, his generosity, and his caring ways extend to Jerry and to me. A few months ago to commemorate our 60th anniversary, which we did not celebrate at the time, because of health issues, he financed a trip for us to Africa, Florence, Italy, and to Rome.

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He is a skillful, passionate preacher. Proof that this is not just a mama’s biased observation is that he has preached virtually all over the world.

DSC_6976I bless that long ago day when you were born, Steve. I am vastly thankful to be your mother.

Happy Birthday!

Our Days of Christmas

Early, it began. We scheduled our (almost) annual Christmas party for the first Saturday  in December, and because it was so close to Thanksgiving some of my children and grandchildren who were here for the November holiday helped with our decorations, especially the outside lights that need to drape over bushes that are difficult for either Jerry or me to reach.

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Thirty-eight persons showed for the party, the crew including family, ministers, neighbors, and other acquaintances from our beloved Crestline. Jerry smoked a 19 pound brisket, I cooked a huge pot of pinto beans, and several pans of Mexican corn bread. Of course we had a tray with great cheese, nuts and fruit. A fine array of tenderly baked sweetness and my “go-to” punch of eggnog and cranberry juice rounded out the food. The variety of guests who came and their jolly interaction with each other produced a joyful party that extended from the arrival of the first one to the departure of the last. Although sparkling lights, whiffs of cedar branches, and a beautiful presentation of delicious food certainly contribute to a great party, it really is the people who are the core of such a gathering. Jerry and I talked about that later, and noted again how blessed we are with exceptional family and friends.

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Andrew, Shauna, and three of their children came to our home the week before Christmas where he spent a couple of days doing repairs to our house. Water had leaked behind the siding and caused significant dry rot on the front of our house that faces the lake, so he and Gentry pulled off the siding, repaired the leak and replaced the ruined lumber and the siding. While all this was going on Ella and I made gingerbread men. Hmm…they turned out to be a sad lot, but we loved them anyway. (Isn’t that how it is with those we love? People I’m talking about now, not cookies.  Maybe they’re not quite perfectly shaped, or perhaps a crack or two shows up, a limped walk, a drooped head . . .yet they’re ours and they’re sweet and special, and we guard them and love them, and pray for them.)

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A couple of weeks before Christmas Day, my brother Nathan surprised me with a phone call telling me that he and his family wanted to visit for a day or two, so here they came on the 21st, and what a great time we had. What a delightful family; sweet, intelligent, accomplished, ambitious, and God-loving.  Only one negative thing about them. They make me look like a midget!

DSC_9010Came early Christmas morning when traditionally we exchange gifts and only one of our children was with us, Andrew and his family. Rebecca and Nate arrived around 10:00,  Michael was quite sick and could not come at all, and Steve will be visiting us later in the week.

DSC_9038Andrew’s gifts to us were exceptional. Two reasons: They were handcrafted by him, and they are beautiful. He presented me with a professionally framed and matted photograph of his dad, which he had taken in an earlier visit. A priceless gift. Andrew also made the knife Jerry is holding, a new skill Andrew is developing. He also made knives for each of his brothers.

When Rebecca arrived she handed around gifts for everyone. Always thoughtful and generous is my only daughter. She is a treasure to her dad and to me.

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In the middle of the afternoon, Jerry called us to gather in the living room where he spoke, encouraging all of us, especially the grandchildren, to be upright people, and to love and obey God. He called on Chloe to read Luke’s beautiful words depicting the Christmas story.

DSC_9062We cooked. We ate.

DSC_9051DSC_9067Cole’s gift to his family was a game named Baconopoly. I played with them a couple of times as did their dad. They loved that game and played it multiple hours

DSC_9076Once when we were playing yet another round, I looked about the room, gazed at the sparkling eyes, the grins, the occasional spat over a move,  and considered the quite firm draw that board games has on families. I reckoned again the inestimable value of families and friends who eat and play together. It’s really not the prime rib, or the bacon trivia, or the yeast rolls. It’s not even a carefully selected treasure of a gift. No, it is time and love and connection.

And so, these few days past Christmas, I, as did Mary, ponder these things in my heart, and know how very blessed I am.

And to my readers, I wish you every blessing of God. May 2018 be a year of joy and of peace. I would love to hear from you.

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.

Safari

The Nairobi area has experienced a significant drought, so the rain that pelted us at the airport on Tuesday evening was quite welcome, even to the animals that roam the lush savannah lands of southern Kenya. We saw hundreds of them during our safari, sleek, healthy, and beautiful. It was a breathtaking moment as we motored down a dirt trail, saw a spotted neck rise above the trees and a face thrust about, so that we could recognize this being  as an elegant giraffe. They are huge animals, ranging from 15 to 19 feet tall.

DSC_6288The landscape itself was magnificent. The weather glorious. In certain places it was safe for us to leave our vehicles and walk about.DSC_6487Indeed one of the rangers offered to guide us to a spot where a crocodile had recently hatched 15 babies.

DSC_6467DSC_6473Zebras seem impossible. They are so fine, so perfectly stripped. Sophistication with a mask on. We saw herd after herd of these beautiful creatures.

DSC_6369This fella fixed his eyes on me as we paused to consider his handsomeness.DSC_6353What of these horns?

DSC_6388“There’s a lion down the way,” someone in another vehicle told us once as we stopped for something. “A recent kill.”  The lion had killed a cape buffalo that lay beside the road. The lion was a few feet away in some bushes, but unfortunately we could not see him well. We did see his chest moving up and down, breathing hard as he digested his tasty meal.

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A bit of a tourist trap threatened to snag us when after walking with a guide down a trail we were led to this little business venture by some ambitious Maasai. We smiled, fingered the trinkets, but I don’t believe any of us bought anything.

Adventure personified–the day of the safari in Nairobi, Kenya on the continent of Africa.