i went to the santa fe farmer’s market this morning.  it’s a lovely market. there was an abundant selection of local produce. it was high quality, organic or pesticide free and devotedly seasonal (read: nary a tomato, watermelon or avocado in sight… yet).

may i remind you, this is the desert. a desert experiencing a severe drought. and they still manage to grow food sustainably and sell it accessibly (via cost and venue).  our piedmont, north carolina culture has a long way to go appreciate the value of this endeavor.

since i’m in a dorm and have a meal plan, i did not buy any beets or rhubarb or carrots, though they looked amazing.

instead, i bought art from a man named Micahael Andryc.

he does not have a website. i found one image of one of his paintings on the santa fe farmer’s market page. we talked for a quite a while and i don’t think he would mind at all if i shared it with you.

i bought a print of his painting, “The Weird Thanksgiving”

in the painting: Lady of Guadalupe, Sitting Bull, Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe, The Devil, John Lennon (and his invisible album on Apple Core Records), Picasso’s Dog, and Georgia O’Keeffe.  this painting carries much meaning for me after being here in New Mexico.

i can’t find an image of the favorite print that i bought which is called “My Grandmother and Bob Dylan Singing a Duet”.  it depicts his polish grandmother singing alongside a young, sunglassed Bob Dylan, surrounded by some lyrics from “With God On Our Side”

Oh the history books tell it
They tell it so well
The cavalries charged
The Indians fell
The cavalries charged
The Indians died
Oh the country was young
With God on its side.

i’ve never considered myself patriotic, but i’ve often said the 4th of july is my favorite holiday simply because of the genre of recreation that accompanies it (being outside, camping, summertime, eating, live music, fireworks).  i always get teary eyed when they ask the veterans to stand at the charlotte symphony’s concert. i appreciate their sacrifice and service. i am thankful for the freedoms bestowed upon me because of the latitude and longitude of my existence on planet earth.  the tears come from the fact i hate war. i hate humans killing other humans.  i cry for the oppression and destruction brought to humans on both end of the gun, grenade, missile or chemical.

quite frankly, i’m mad that my fellow americans have done some very destructive, evil things in the name of “our” country and “our” God. we usually realize, regret and remorse well after the events.  immersing myself in the history and culture of this part of the country brings to me a new level of sorrow for our destructive, oppressive, hateful, selfish colonizing of  native american and spanish/hispanic peoples.

and this holiday just coincides perfectly with my personal desire for peace, forgiveness, and ability to ‘live in the light of the knowledge’ of such.

i went the lovely Santa Fe opera last night (more on that soon) and was surprised the orchestra ushered in opening night with a rousing rendition of ‘the star spangled banner’, all the crowd singing along.  honestly, i could not sing. i just did not feel like it. i’m just not feeling it right now. and i’m ok with that.

there will be no fireworks here this year. the extreme dryness causing the extreme threat of forest fire makes it unsafe.  no backyard to grill out in.  no campfires or hiking as the trails are all closed due to fire danger.

in other words, i may look back on this as ‘the weird fourth of july’.

less dangerous.

more peaceful.

sounds good to me.


imagine my confusion and surprise when our campus director (also one of my professors) excitedly announced to the student body the following:

“you all have the amazing opportunity to go mudding this friday or saturday! sign up in the office. you do NOT want to miss this.”

y’all know why i was confused.

y’all know what “mudding” means back home.

i looked around the room and couldn’t imagine a single one of these folks “going mudding”.

i spent the next day completely confused, hoping someone would put it into context for me…. and they did.  you see, around these parts, “mudding” means working with adobe!

we went downtown to work on repair and restoration of the oldest church in santa fe, the san miguel mission.  in my southwest lit and film class, we are learning all about the architectural and anthropological history of santa fe. in my other class we read a historical fiction book about the first bishop of santa fe who was directly involved in this church. the church was built in the 1600s, burned, and was rebuilt in 1710.

santa fe went through an interesting period of colonization when european style came into fashion over the natural adobe style.  in 1912, the local government established an official “santa fe style” and retrofitted many of the buildings that had been columned and bricked.

the repair and restoration of this church is a multi-year project. they are using original building materials. some of my peers actually slung adobe on walls and trowled it smooth. mine and a few other’s task was to crush the salvaged adobe from the walls, make mud and form bricks.  i spent the first couple of hours breaking up clay while the offical workers on the project mixed the clay with straw and water to make the adobe:

then we moved out to the front of the church to make bricks.  the first step is to wet the forms and brush off any mud from the last set of bricks:

next we scooped the adobe into the forms and packed them in nice and good:

then you lift the forms away and are left with a brick.  or (…if you were me when i was a kid playing outside) a delicious chocolate cake. really, it was just like being a kid again making mud pies. except it was very hard work in the hot sun.  in five hours we made about 80 bricks:

they will dry in the sun for 24-48 hours and will be rotated so all sides can dry evenly. then they will move to a covered area where they will continue to cure or harden for a few weeks before they are used as bricks on the side wall of the church.

i enjoyed the work immensely. working with our hands to recreate building material from the earth was pretty amazing. the most interesting pheonomenon of this day was the fact we were a tourist attraction.

while we made the bricks in the front of the church, dozens and dozens and dozens of tourists stopped in to talk to us. i’ve never been in that position before. i imagine i felt a little bit like a zebra at the zoo or a fish in an aquarium or a native pueblo indian sitting in her village making pottery.  people were generally polite and inquisitive, but being photographed all day and being asked to be photographed and being watched as craftswomen of antiquity… was strange.

i enjoyed educating people and really had fun when i started turning the questions on them. like when parents would shove their kids up and say, “excuse me, miss?  little suzie here wants to know what’s in the adobe. can you tell her?”

my response:  “well susie, what do you think is in the adobe?”

when you get a bunch of teachers and teacher wanna bes out there… it can get sassy and fun real quick.

a teenager asked me the following: “are you a hippie?”

my response:  “well, what do you mean by “hippie”?  gimme some adjectives and i’ll tell you if i am.”

his (very serious) response:  “what’s an adjective?”

game on. pandora’s box was officially open for buisness. three english majors on one poor teenager turned into an all out noun-verb-adjective lesson.  he came up with hippies are “chill” and “smoke pot”.  i told him in that case, i’m only partial hippie.  he also asked me how old i was and swore i couldn’t be older than 21, and was positively floored when i told him i was the big 3-0. then he rapped for us.  bless his heart.

two really gussied up ladies came and just “HAD to make bricks!!!” we suggested they come back tomorrow in proper attire to really get the experience, alas they were only in santa fe today, so in their high heels, floppy hats and very low cut dresses, they made some bricks with us. bless their hearts too.

all in all i am probably in about fifty (not kidding) different family vacation albums. keep an eye out and you might spot me in your second cousin’s “my awesome summer vacay in santa fe!” facebook album.

a great day of kinesthetic and immersion learning on oh so many levels.







quick! who knows where i’m going with this one? prize if you guessed before reading past this point.

tonight a few of us continued the tradition of sitting on the steps outside our dorm and watching the sunset. this happens every summer, so it’s not unique to us, but this was the inaugural evening.

we all brought delecacies from the depths of our dorm rooms and created a dessert buffet consisting of:

-teddy grahams (both cinnamon and regular)

-jelly belly jelly beans (only the best four flavors: pear, cappuccino, cinnamon and…i forget)

-trader joes white wine

-trader joes dark chocolate pomegranate seeds

-box of red wine (it’s come a long way since franzia)

-a wrapped up brownie from the dining hall

we drank our wine and enjoyed conversation.  some topics of discussion:

-jane austen (duh. what do you think happens when you get a bunch of girls in english school together?)

-gardening (half of us have gardens and miss them.)

-canning (one fourth of us have attempted to can.)

-professors (they are all awesome and we wonder what they think about us and why they heck they give up their summer to teach of bunch of type a nerds. then we realise we very likely probably be just like them one day.)

-altitude:  hiking, sleeping and drinking. so far, the main benefit is that you can feel awesome and have fun after just one drink. nice on the pocket book.  one bottle of vino goes much further.

-books books books.  (cormac mccarthy to fitzgerald to …. too many to name.)

-films, films, films.  (the new woody allen to texas chainsaw to mama mia to the shining.)

-how we each explain “bread loaf school of english” to people so it actually sounds legitimate.

-4H.  four out of the eight women on the steps tonight spent significant time in 4H as kids. none of us cut it as brownies or girl scouts.  we recited the pledge from memory and had a great laugh:

I pledge my Head to clearer thinking,

my Heart to greater loyalty,

my Hands to larger service and

my Health to better living, for my club, my community,

my country, and my world.

yep, that pretty much sums it up.  i am very happy.

i had the priviledge of returning to l’abri for my final three days in the UK…

i realized i’ll never find words to adequately describe…

these images tell parts of the story of the place that brought me to tears, joy, uncertainty, insecurity, laughter and peace.

images, rather than my feeble words, leave room for God to fill in the blanks, the spaces, with exactly what you need to know of Him and how He met me there…

…THIS much!


i love fall….this much!


my new favorite picture.

i’ve been back in england a while now, greeted by golden leaves and just the right mix of cozy gray skies and crisp autumn sunshine.

kate and i enjoy mornings on the bike and at the park.  they always culminate in “miss jessica, i love you”.

emma, john and i enjoy “art class” where emma works on beautifully detailed watercolor designs, john designs houses and i destroy my fear of art failure one stroke of the brush at a time, usually attempting to recreate a watercolor of a landscape photo i took.

melissa made the most delicious homemade pumpkin chocolate chip bread (roasted a real pumpkin and everything!).

and though my return flight from south africa landed over two weeks ago…i’m still floating on a cloud.

a sweet season, indeed.



I just returned from ten days at L’abri, which is French for ‘the shelter’.  L’abri Fellowship was started by Francis and Edith Schaeffer at their home in Switzerland and now there are several L’abris all over the world.  I attended England L’abri in the small village of Gretham about an hour southwest of London.


It’s hard to explain, and therefore comprehend, what L’abri is until you’ve experienced it.  I will say I had high expectations and reality was both different and more than I expected.

A major theme is space.  There are families who live there who make it their work to create space, shelter, saftey for people to come and be human.  At L’abri, being human includes physical work (gardening, cooking a meal for 25 people, cleaning toilets, dusting baseboards), mental exercise (reading, studying, thinking, asking questions, being challenged), recreation (volleyball and cricket at daily tea breaks, going on walks), being creative (arraging flowers, playing music) and relating to other humans in community (sharing a room with 10 other girls, eating meals together, serving meals, doing dishes).

So, it’s not a retreat center.  You don’t go to “get away” and be alone.  However, you do get to get away from some things we busy ourselves with that eat up our space- both physical and mental.  So, no internet (except on a shared computer and only a few times per week), no tv.  It’s amazing what our spirits do when left to wander…it really forces you to reckon with your emotions and thoughts and fallen natures of our hearts.  No hiding from others or from God…

So, here’s one day:

7:30 AM : Awake

8:00 AM:  Breakfast in the dining room with everyone.  Toast, jam and hard boiled eggs.  Tea.  Morning devotional reading by one of the workers from Dietrick Bonhoffer’s “Life Together”:

“The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth.

Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”

8:45 AM : Reading in the “Morning Room” (my favorite room in the house)


9:30 – 11:00 AM :  Study time.  Here are things I read/listened to while I was there:

The Healing Path by Dan Allender

Beyond Identity by Dick Keyes

Are Women Human?  by Dorothy Sayers

Collected works of Emily Dickinson

Cash:  The Autobiography by Johnny Cash

Some Hemingway short stories

Mars Hill Review (a literary journal with essays, poems, short stories, music reviews.  all around goodness.)

Forgiveness:  Lecture series by Dick Keyes

“Ifs” by Amy Carmichael

11:00 :  Tea Break on the lawn.  Tea, volleyball, cricket, frisbee tossing or chatting.

11:30 – 1:00 PM Study/reading

1:00 PM:  Lunch with half of the students/workers (about 12 of us).  Anyone can introduce a topic.  Topics at lunches included:  How do Christians live out their gender/sexual humanity appropriately?,  What can we expect from God?,  Is it fair to generalize about people groups, gender, age, nationalities, etc?  What’s helpful/hurtful about generalizing?,  Considering the Levitical Jubilee law for modern society- what could we apply today?  How could we treat the poor?,

3:00 – 4:30 PM:  Work time.  Weeding the gravel driveway or helping cook dinner.

4:30 PM:  Tea break.

5:00:  Back to work.

6:30 PM:  Dinner with half of the group in a home.  No formal topic, just conversation.  My favorite meal was a butternut squash and red lentil stew with rice and fresh bread.  My favorite dessert were baked apples with crushed cardamom and sweetened yogurt.

8:00 PM:  Evening activity:  Lecture (topics included:  What is spirituality?, The gospel of Mark, The book of Job)  or film followed by discussion (Babette’s Feast).  OR free time:  going to local pub, painting/drawing/art time around a table while others played guitar/piano.

In the midst of all of this I was introduced to new places around the world:  Hungary, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Canada, Brazil, and Scotland and enjoy the familiarities being around people from my neck of the woods:  South Carolina and Tennessee!

In summary, perspective was the theme of my time there.  My eyes were opened to the sheer enormity and amazingness of this Earth and every thing and every one in it.  Ultimately, a renewed sense of the enormity and glory of God.

I’ll never be able to convey the experience to you.  If there is even an inkling in your heart from reading this that you might enjoy or need time like this, you should go.

As of now, I have three full days in London under my belt. Thankfully, for two of the three days, I’ve wandered London town with my dear friend Julie!  London is an amazing city, quickly and certainly securing the top rank as my favorite big city in the world.  Granted, the only competitors were Manhattan, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Vienna and Prague… but London will be hard to beat.

I desperately needed structure to share with you, so I made myself chose 3 5 7 favorite photos from each of the proper noun categories.  I have many thoughts and emotions to connect with each of these images and then to paper, so they will be a while.  For now, you can make up your own stories…

woman in sunday best,  st. mark's cathedral

woman in sunday best, st. mark's cathedral

woman in sunday best at st. mark's cathedral

woman in sunday best at st. mark's cathedral

photographer photographed, tate modern museum

photographer photographed, tate modern museum

children at chase, tate modern museum

children at chase, tate modern museum

little girl dancing, tate modern museum

little girl dancing, tate modern museum

green borough storefront

green borough storefront

Coffee Walk in Southwark

Coffee Walk in Southwark

We have a car.

She is a beauty.

She needs a name.


wait, no… not that.

This is she:



1997 Navy Blue Volvo Estate.  Yes, with the bench seat in the hatch, facing backwards.

Help us name her!

[i interrupt the regularly scheduled report from the UK to bring you this peek into my family tree…]

one of my relatives recently posted some old family photos.  my resemblance to my dad’s mother’s side of the family is quite obvious.  people tell me this but now i can see it myself.

my great great grandfather:

great great grandfather

the little girl from above, my great grandmother all grown up:

great grandparents

my experience waitressing (and i’ve heard the same from others) included people often telling you what celebrity (they think) you look like.  overwhelmingly, i received meg ryan and susan sarandon.  i was ok with meg ryan (at least her you’ve got mail days), but susan sarandon?  i was always embarrassed (insulted); i think by the vast age difference.  at 22, it’s not easy to be taken as compliment when someone says you look like someone who is fifty-something.

well, i think it is time to accept it.  in my biographical film, mrs. madge gritton, my great grandmother, would definitely be played by susan sarandon.

susan sarandon

Tillman enjoyed his first taste of McDonald’s (sigh).  The horror!

Tillman at Mom and Dads 001

Dad split his egg mcmuffin with him on the ride to Georgia.  The feast continues as mom feeds him the highest quality dry food mixed with cooked hamburger meat and cottage cheese.  I feed Tillman first thing every morning but mom waits a few hours.  Apparently the second or third morning he paid no attention to the bowls of dried food he passed, met her in the kitchen and sat there staring at her…..drooling…..waiting for the good stuff.

Beyond delicacies, he swims the lap of luxury enjoying his own private swimming pool.  Dad plays fetch (my mom’s prissy dogs do not jump in the pool after him).  Tillman plays lifeguard with uncle Jackson, apparently he worries any human in the pool needs rescuing.

I like to think he misses me…but I’m not so sure.  He is pretty much in doggie heaven.