The lovely Minerva.
While my four kids, and three extra girls, got ready for the party at our house, Nathanael borrowed a van and drove to Santa Fe to pick up our guests. He arrived home with 31 people in the 12 passenger van! Family is a strange thing in this clan. They all moved to Baja from the southern mountains of Oaxaca where tribes of people still speak indigenous languages and the culture still contrasts with modern Mexico. I know this was only a select few of the relatives on the hill but it filled up the room and I know Minerva was thrilled to have so many guests.
It seems the whole community of Santa Fe is related somehow. I hear so many stories about different "Aunts and cousins", family rivalries, estrangement, feuds and inter family theft and violence. Maybe they aren't that strange after all.
It was a slightly chaotic, super fun, in way over our heads, cultural experience. The room was filled with the foreign sounds of Triqui language and people unaccustomed to forks and knives, tables and chairs making futile attempts to use them. Most set them aside for a more traditional, albeit messy, way to eat mole.
My handsome little Ramiro looking so proud in his new Christmas shirt.
A good friend of ours custom made this cake for Minerva. It couldn't have been more perfect.
Minervas mama. This woman has lived a hard life. She is hard working, proud, and tough as nails. Over the last couple years she has softened and warmed up to us though. She looked so beautiful at the party and I saw her smile more than I thought possible. I think she was somewhat surprised that we had returned to Mexico to love on her family. She consistently responded with hospitality and gratitude. We felt welcomed rather than suspect this trip.
After all our guests were seated we presented our Quinceanera and she made her grand entrance on the arm of her dashing escort.
Not only did Nathanael serve as a father figure at the ceremony he also helped out our friend back in the kitchen. What a guy.
That is a LOT of mole.
Roman was not so sure what he thought of the authentic Oaxacan mole sauce. There are quite a few varieties from what I've heard. I thought it was SO yummy. The bags of ingredients included bags full of different dried chili's (that we helped to seed and rip up), various nuts, sesame seeds, and cinnamon. Basically a death mix for Silas, but it was a unique savory flavorful dish.
Little sisters Louisa and Gabriella enjoying their supper.
As far as Quinceaneras go it was probably quite simple, and being foreigners, I suspect we missed a lot of essential festive elements....but I know Minerva felt pretty darn special. That was the goal.
Alvaro got a haircut for the occasion. He looks like such a gentleman in his new shirt and hair. I am so proud of this boy. I had feared, at age 13, he would now be involved in all sorts of things many adolescent boys here are. Mothers work long hours away from home and Fathers (or any positive male role models) are scarce. So many little boys in the poor neighborhoods go from running like packs of wild dogs, to running in gangs. I was very relieved this year to find that my sweet, kind, respectful Alvaro still exists. He has been so gentle with Cece and always eager to help out his "Tio" with any sort of work. It seems he takes his role as big brother and man of the house very seriously, although I can tell it is a heavy load emotionally for those tiny little shoulders.
After our meal we had a very brief little program/ ceremony where she was presented with a few gifts and I spoke briefly to her and our guests about God's love and grace. There is no shortage of religious superstition, fear and customs here. Even most Christian church's are heavy on religious rules, works and legalism. Christianity is viewed as just one more religion to add to the pot and mix together with all the others. What seems to be unheard of is what separates Jesus from being a religion....grace and the true gospel (good news) of God's never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.
As I began, I knew I only had a few minutes. The room was full of rowdy kids and the din of many adult conversations. I doubted anyone but Minerva would hear. After a couple minutes the room was silent. I don't know if they found a white girl preaching at them amusing enough to stop what they were doing but they listened. I was surprised.
She may not have a Dad. She may be just another daughter of a poor field worker. She may be invisible to the world....but her Father knows her. He adores her. He left the glory of Heaven to enter into our suffering. He came to rescue her and bring her into his family. She has value because she is made in His image. She is lovable because He loves her first. She is passionately loved and pursued by her Father. She has purpose, hope and radical grace available to her through Christ.
"The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah3:17
I told her that God loves her. He is not distant, cruel or unavailable. He is with you and He is for you. He is strong enough to carry you when life's burdens get to heavy. He is mighty enough to form mountains and set the planets in their places, yet gentle enough to wipe your tears.
He doesn't merely tolerate you, Minerva he delights in you. Like "Tio" Nathanael with his daughter Cece. Miss Cece's daddy not only welcomed her into his family, he delights in her. He adores her. He can't talk about her without smiling. Minerva, you make God smile.
Like a little daughter sitting securely in her Daddy's arms, God longs to quiet the turmoil in your soul with his love. He can't help but serenade you with a love song.
His greatest love song to us was sung at the cross. The love story written at the beginning of time. A rescue plan to bring his beloved children back home.
You are not forgotten. You are not alone.
Next on the program was the pinata. The adults all had a good laugh as the children each took a turn. It went so well and all the children (and moms) went home with pockets full of treats.
After all 31 people plus the extra little girls who had been at our house piled into the van it just didn't seem right to stuff our glamorous Quinceanera on the floor behind a seat. We spontaneously invited her to spend the night at our house. After we did a little cleaning up, we scrounged extra clothes for her to change into and we curled up on the couch for hot chocolate and a movie. I loved having her stay with us as part of the family. She spent the whole next day hanging out, just one of the crew. The next evening we drove her home and said our goodbyes to the rest of the kids.
I can't write about that without crying. It's only been a week and I miss them so much. They are part of our family. Part of me wishes I could stay and look after the littlest during the day so all the kids could go to school. I wish that we could be there to provide constant love and support. I wish I had time to carefully comb the thick matts of nits out of their hair. I wish that Nathanael could be there to help guide Alvaro and Ramiro into becoming young men, teaching them trade skills, character, and how to be a loving husband and father....but.. our home is far away and
it was time to pack up our little house and start our voyage home to Canada.