Tag Archives: arizona

Tradition! Tradition!

And who does Mama teach to mend and tend and fix,
Preparing me to marry whoever Papa picks?

The daughter, the daughter! Tradition!
The daughter, the daughter! Tradition!

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In my family, “Tradition!” means seeing a high-quality stage performance every year with my mom and sister. When I was little, we’d see the short version of The Nutcracker Ballet at Christmas time. Over the years, our tradition changed from the long version of the Nutcracker to any Christmas play, to matinee performances of fine theater, to dinners at the Arizona Broadway Theater. This year, we doubled the traditional value of our girls’ night out and saw ABT’s performance of Fiddler on the Roof, a family favorite for three generations.

If you’ve never seen it, Fiddler on the Roof is the story of Jewish family in pre-revolution Russia. Reb Tevya, his wife, and his five daughters walk a fine line between the tension of a changing society under the czars and the centuries-old traditional order of Jewish life. Tevya’s oldest daughter breaks tradition by choosing her own husband. He allows it. His second daughter breaks tradition by not only choosing her own husband, but choosing a man who with progressive ideology. He blesses it. The third daughter crosses the line by eloping with a Russian Orthodox Christian soldier. Tevya is forced to decide whether his relationship with his daughters or tradition is most important.

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The story gives an interesting perspective on family, religion, and culture. The soundtrack is excellent! We still have my grandpa’s old record of the score.

What’s that? You say you’ve never seen it? What! Why are you still reading this? By all means, open a new browser window and reserve the movie at your nearest public library!

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You’re back? You reserved it? Wonderful! You won’t be disappointed. We certainly weren’t disappointed by the live performance. The characters seemed to have stepped right out of history or the screen of the movie version.

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The performance of Fiddler at ABT is going to be very hard to beat. However, I have a feeling that the next stage production that we see may be even better. Next on our playbill is Phantom of the Opera on Broadway in New York City. Stay tuned for a blog post on Phantom, coming soon to a 3rd Culture Wife blog near you.

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Hike in the Desert

Talk about fifty shades of gray. For much of the year, the entirety of the Sonoran Desert is more or less some variant on gray or brown. In spring, however, the desert landscape bursts into color with the awakening of the flowers.

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Brittlebush
My parents and I decided to take advantage of the spring weather and hike one of Phoenix’s big mountains. Phoenix is unique in many ways, but one of the things I love most about this city is the mountain ranges that rise from the center of the metropolis. In fact, Phoenix has the best urban hiking in the entire United States.

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We decided to hike Piestewa Peak, the second tallest mountain in the Phoenix Mountain Range. Piestewa used to be called Squaw Peak, but many people felt that this name was not respectful. It was renamed to honor a Native woman who died in combat in Iraq.

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Piestewa Peak stands at 2,612 feet in elevation. Its prominence is 1,175 feet. We made it up in 36 minutes. At the top we enjoyed the sweeping views of the Phoenix area. No ocean anywhere… just miles and miles of dust and hills. What a difference from the view from Pic Paradis back home! I do have to say that I love both the watery disk of Caribbean mountain top views and the endless layers of mountains in the Southwest.

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We could even see Arizona Christian University (my alma mater), Ben’s and my first apartment, and the Cardinals stadium from the peak.

We met a small, furry resident at the top of the mountain. I don’t see many squirrels in the Valley of the Sun! He’s so cute.

 

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Later, at the bottom, we saw the squirrel’s smaller cousin: a chipmunk.IMG_0305

The top of the mountains are a butterfly’s paradise. Each spring, they flit and flutter at the peaks, away from the oppression of dust and pollution.

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Black Swallowtail
At this time of year, the cactus begin to bloom. My mom says that cactus blossoms are God’s grace on an ugly plant.

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Engelmann Hedgehog
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Ocotillo
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Cholla
They certainly do add beauty to something you’d rather not hug. Still, cactus are interesting and have their own kind of charm, whether they’re blooming or not.

Desert wildflowers are gorgeous. Some years, they barely show up. Others, they carpet the hillsides in vibrant pinks and yellows. They are at the mercy of the droughts.

The quiet stillness of the hills are a refreshing break from the hurry and busyness of city life. I think that’s how we all keep our sanity. A hike to the top of the mountain puts everything in perspective.

 

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Southwestern Venison Brats

If you’ve never had game meat before, this is a great way to try it. Make these venison bratwursts and have a taste of the wild outdoors.

  
What you need:

-Venison brats. Ours came from the deer my dad hunted last fall. You can also get them from butcher shops or order them online.

-Three bell peppers, sliced.

-One onion, sliced.

-Olive oil, 1/4 cup.

-Hotdog buns.

  
What you do:

-Prepare peppers and onions. Place in tinfoil, sprinkle with oil, salt, and pepper. Wrap and grill for half an hour.

-Grill brats for 20-30 minutes.

-Place brats in buns. Top with pepper mix. Enjoy!

  

A Garden in the Desert

Ironically, I had to go back to the desert to find the garden.

One strange thing about living on Saint Martin is the lack of cultivation. You’d think that a tropical paradise would be dripping with succulent fruit, but this one’s not. And I can’t try to grow anything myself, because the only dirt I can call my own in the soil in the dustpan.

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Early this morning, I landed in Phoenix, Arizona, where I grew up and where my family still lives. When the sun rose, my mom took me on a tour of her garden.

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I have never been able to coax more than a sad cactus to grow in the hard clay we Arizonans like to call dirt. My mom, however, has a true green thumb. She and my dad have conquered the bugs, rats, birds, hard soil, and lack of rain by building two beautiful raised gardens near their citrus trees.

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The sunflowers are recovering from a storm

The first raised garden is full of vegetables and a row of giant sunflowers. We picked some carrots and lettuce. Fresh carrots hold some many good memories for me. We planted them in our garden when I was small, and I remember feeding the root to my cousins’ horses and the greens to their rabbits. Horses thought carrots were treats, so I was convinced that they were basically candy.

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We enjoyed the fresh lettuce and tomatoes in our sandwiches at lunch. In Saint Martin, lettuce is expensive and goes bad more quickly than we can eat it. I never buy it, so it was a treat. Especially since it was fresh picked.

 

 

 

The flower garden is beautiful. Can you tell what my mom’s favorite colors are? She grows daisies, poppies, and other bright blossoms. The hollyhocks, sadly, did not decide to grace us with their presence this year.

Last but not least is the little orchard. My parents have an orange tree, a lemon tree, a grapefruit tree, and a tiny lime tree with one baby lime. They’ve recently planted a peach tree. They also have a strange lemon tree with an orange branch grafted in. The fruit looks like an orange but is bitter like a lemon. It makes interesting lemonade but is not very good eating. Citrus actually grows very well in Arizona. It’s one of the state’s five main sources of income, along with cattle, copper, cotton and Grand Canyon tourism.

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Here, in the middle of the desert, good and beautiful things grow. I left behind a land of lush greenery and little produce, and found myself in a dry place with much fruit.

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I think that our Christian lives are like that at times. Sometimes, we find ourselves in an oasis in life, but we discover that we bear very little fruit in that rich season. Then, we may find ourselves in a desert place. We don’t expect to find growth in our lives in those seasons, because they’re so dry. But when we look at ourselves and our lives, we suddenly realize that the very place that promised so little is the place that cultivated the most growth and fruit.

Are you in a dry season? Don’t slip into discouragement, dear friend. You may not realize what great things God is doing in your life until you come to the end of the wilderness.

 

“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus.”

-Isaiah 35:1

One More Time

If you asked me what day of the last year I would like to live over, it would be April 21, 2015. Why? Why would I want to live over a random Tuesday? Why not a big, life-changing, memorable day? Because the memories are enough. I’d want to remember those days the way I experienced them the first time around.

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Just another day out our place, April 2015

 

The things I don’t remember well are the everyday things. I’d like to go back a few months and live over a regular day in a past season of my life. On Tuesday, April 21, 2015, I woke up to the sound of Ben’s alarm at 5:30 am. I dragged myself out of bed and made breakfast– probably eggs– while Ben made coffee. We did morning devotions and ate together, and a bit before seven he drove me to work. I opened up the preschool, played with my sweet babies, and then worked as a teacher’s aide in their class. Then I went home and cleaned the house, ate lunch, read my Bible. Maybe I called my mom. Maybe I saw my sister while walking home from work through her college campus. Maybe I walked the long way home and enjoyed the sounds of the city. At 2:30, I went back to work and watched elementary school kids. I probably brought my ukulele and let them play it, I probably played tag with them. I talked casually with the friends I worked with. After work, I walked home and made dinner for Ben. He came home, and after dinner we got ready for Bible study. I made tea, everyone came, and Ben led study group. We read the Bible, prayed, talked, and laughed together. Then everyone said goodnight and went home. I made Ben’s lunch for the next day and we went to sleep.

Not a very exciting day, but a good day. A normal day.

If I could live a day over, I’d want to live again in a day in the life of the former version of me. I’d remember what my life was like. I’d see the changes that have happened over the months, and I’d be grateful for how I’ve grown. I’d be thankful for the time I had with those friends, those kids, that home, that place.

Today, I am thankful to the Lord that I lived today and that I get to live tomorrow. I’d love to live a day in my life over again, but we’re only given one chance to live each day. Let’s be thankful for today and make the most of it.

Inspired by WordPress writing prompts.

A One-Way Ticket

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Our last Arizona sunset

Today is the day! We were up until the wee hours last night packing our bags, and somehow spent almost the entire day today finishing our moving preparations. It’s hard to explain the emotions of moving away from home for the first time ever. Maybe that’s because it hasn’t really sunk in yet. Right now, I’m sitting at our gate with an hour to go until takeoff. I’ll have fourteen hours to process this huge change once we are in the air.

I’m excited but sad. I’m excited because I’ve been looking forward to an adventure in the great wide world for so long, but sad because of those I’m leaving behind. Someone recently asked me what God has been teaching me through this process. One of the biggest things He’s taught me is to place less value on the things I can buy and more value on the things I can’t. In other words, I’ve learned to appreciate people even more through this move. I’ve always been thankful for the people in my life, but now so more than ever. It’s been one of the most bittersweet lessons I’ve ever learned, because I’m now moving far away from those same people. There have been so many goodbyes this month. The hardest of them happened just ten minutes ago, when I said good-bye to my family at the entrance to airport security.

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     The past few weeks have been so wonderful. We have been absolutely showered by love from friends and family. We’ve had so many encouraging notes and words given to us, so many gifts, so much generosity. My parents opened their home to us when our lease expired at the end of July. Our church gave us a special send-off prayer and blessing. Even one of the little girls in our Sunday school class brought me homemade jewelry on our last day of teaching. We’ve also had so many fun things to do. I’ve loved our “Arizona Adventures,” exploring points of interest around the state. I’ve loved our babysitting jobs for kids from the school I worked at last year. I haven’t loved the heat, but I did use that to my advantage (My sister and I baked cookies on the dashboard of my car last week).

The next few weeks will be wonderful, too. We have a week and a half before Ben’s classes start, and we have a whole island to explore– Spanish ruins, beaches, surfing, new food. I have lots of plans, but hardly any idea of what to expect! You know how you plan so much for Christmas that you hardly remember that December 26 exists? That’s how I feel right now. I’ve come to the culmination, to the end of my knowledge, and now I don’t know what comes next! I suppose that’s part of the adventure. I’ll find out what comes next when our plane touches down. Until then…

Love Where You Live

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Love where you live. No matter where you live, learn to love it. When I was a kid, we moved from Flagstaff to Phoenix, and I spent a lot of time wishing we were back in Flagstaff, in the country, in the mountains. It took me a long time to learn to love where I lived. Too long. When I finally decided to stop looking North and start looking around me, do you know what I learned? Glendale is considered the best US city for taking walks. Greenbelts, winding paths to duck ponds and play grounds– that is hard to beat. I learned that Phoenix is one of the most diverse cities in the States with a great number of different people groups, many refugee communities, and immigrants from around the world. This means wonderful opportunities to meet people with interesting stories, valuable insights, and the smorgasbord of worldviews and experiences. You can attend a church in any language. You can shop at a supermarket specially designed to reflect the tastes of any continent. You can take classes in any language. You can eat at a restaurant with authentic food from any country in the world. Every subculture lives here; every opportunity for learning, entertainment, or community service exists here. And let us not forget to mention the mountains! You have not experienced Phoenix until you have climbed our mountains. I read yesterday that Phoenix has the best urban hiking anywhere in the country. In the western Valley, you can hike Deem Hills, Thunderbird Mountain Park, or, if you don’t mind the drive, the White Tanks. In the East, the Superstition Mountains offer endless trails and hide the gem that is the Salt River. In the South, South Mountain rises high above the horizon. And central Phoenix, of course contains my personal favorites– Camelback, Piestewa, Shadow Mountain, Dreamy Draw, North Mountain, and the beautiful Phoenix Mountain Preserve trails. “Mount Wasabi” is a Phoenix Mountain Preserve peak that was just three-quarters of a mile from ACU and from our apartment. We spent a lot of time running and hiking there. Phoenix has a lot of indoor points of interest, too. The Science Center, the Musical Instrument Museum, the pro sports facilities, the art galleries, and so much more. And our sunsets! But I digress.

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I loved living in the country. I loved living in the suburbs, once I learned to. And when I moved to central Phoenix, I loved living there, too. And wherever we go from here, I’ll learn to love it there. No matter where you go, there is something wonderful about where you live. I encourage you, don’t let your location get you down. You’ll never be happy if you can’t learn to love where you live. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” He wasn’t taking about superpowers. He was talking about contentment. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Vs. 11-14). What is the secret of being content in whatever situation you are in? Allowing God to give you the strength to be OK with wherever you are. Spend time with Him daily in prayer and in your Bible. So if you’re struggling with where you live, don’t look behind you to where you used to be or pine for some future place. Instead, look around and find the beauty in your hometown and look above you to find your strength and contentment in the Lord.

Photos copyright Breana Johnson