Category Archives: Building Our House in Mexico

Ninth Journal Entry — Building Our Home in Mexico

logoWe’ve been living in our Florida home for the last four months, so it was exciting to move back to Mexico and see the progress on the house. We had hoped the house would have been completed and that we could have moved in. Not so!

Marco and his helpers have spent a large portion of their time the last three months reinforcing the foundation. The coming of the rainy season showed that the earth around the construction site was not stable enough and was starting to wash, threatening the integrity of the entire structure.

HouseMexicoFoundationMarco and his men dug and moved earth, adding more concrete to the foundation, all by hand. Now, finally, they are on to the next task of building the form for the main roof so that it can be poured. The east porch roof has already been completed.

This delay, though frustrating, was necessary. We wouldn’t have wanted Marco to ignore the serious issue just so he could stay on schedule. With some heavy rains we would have found our house teetering, and probably collapsing. Haste would have resulted in great waste!

It’s a lesson for living life as well as building a house; you have to take the extra time and effort to address issues that were not foreseen but that are serious and shouldn’t be ignored. There’s no way we can predict, plot, and plan for every situation.

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Eighth Journal Entry — Building Our Home in Mexico

logoThe foundation has been poured and now Marco our builder is laying the brick for the house. It’s a time-consuming process of laying one brick at a time. He’s careful to use just the right amount of mortar, seating the brick firmly in the mortar, making sure the brick is in line with the others with the help of a guide string and clearing away the excess mortar; all of this with each brick laid. In the additional photo you can see the stack of brick that has yet to be laid.

BrickLayingEventually the brick will all be in place and the walls of our new home will be complete, and it will have been done one brick at a time. Life is a lot like a brick wall; life is lived one moment at a time, one event at a time, one conversation at a time, one decision at a time, and one day at a time. If our builder Marco decided to get sloppy with laying brick, even with just a few of them, it would ruin the house. So it is with life. If we get sloppy with the seemingly small details of life they will quickly mess up our life in general.

briclsOver the years I have counseled many couples whose marriage is in trouble. In every case it wasn’t one big event that brought the marriage to a crisis (not even an affair), but a slow and almost imperceptible drift from treating each other the way a husband and wife should treat each other on a day-to-day basis. Even if there was an affair it likely wouldn’t have happened if the marriage had been healthy.

Students who pull an “all nighter” to try and get a good grade on a test when they haven’t been exhibiting good student habits all semester will likely not do well in the exam. You can’t quickly learn what can only be slowly learned.

Habits can be good or bad. Both good and bad habits are the same, however, in that they are established over a period of time by making the same decision, thinking the same thought, or acting in the same way over and over again.

Yes, life is a lot like building a wall with bricks. The question for each of us is, then, what are we going to do with the next brick?

Seventh Journal Entry — Building Our Home in Mexico

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Some pillars have been poured for our house. Marco, our builder, purchased some giant cardboard tubes, placed them over lengths of re-bar that had been wired together and attached to a square foundation of re-bar. They then mixed concrete and, one wheelbarrow at time, filled each form. After a day or so of curing, the cardboard forms were peeled away and, whoa-la, we have our pillars! Ten have been poured to hold up the roof and 12 more will be poured to give additional support to the roof and to give the walls of the house strength. That’s 22 pillars in all to support a house of only 736 square feet. Of course the roof is made of concrete ten centimeters thick (about four inches) and that’s a lot of weight.

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Each pillar will do its job, but it won’t be carrying the whole load. The support of the house is distributed among all 22 pillars. It’s a group effort.

We’re all to be pillar people. Each of us is called upon by the Lord to be supportive of those He’s placed around us. Yes, each of us carries a weight of responsibility, but not the entire weight! I sometimes have had to remind myself that God has called me to come alongside people and be a help and a support, but that it doesn’t all depend on me. None of us can do it all, just our part. In His divine providence God will bring other people into the situation to do their part. We’re just called to do our part, to be a pillar person!

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The apostle Paul had pillar people in his life. He wrote, “James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me.” (Galatians 2:9)

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Sixth Journal Entry — Building Our Home in Mexico

logoWe saw some concrete advances in the building of our house this week, literally concrete advances, with the pouring of concrete for the foundation of the columns that will hold up the front and back patio as well as the front and back edges of the concrete roof.

foundation2Marco, our builder, was apologetic the other day about the apparent lack of visible progress on the building project, but he told us (through our daughter Julie interpreting) that he wanted the foundation to be good and solid, so it would hold up the house. We agreed with him that we certainly want a good foundation.

foundation1There are so many principles by which people attempt to establish “spirituality” in their lives. It’s a spiritual smorgasbord out there! Those of us who are followers of Jesus are absolutely convinced that He has eternally been the Son of God, is co-creator and co-sustainer of the universe, and was sent by God to carry out a plan for our salvation. We believe Him to be the only true foundation upon which to build a religious faith. The apostle Paul put it succinctly when he wrote, For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11)

Now we watch in these coming days all that which will be built on the foundation Marco put down this past week. The building adventure continues!

Fifth Journal Entry — Building Our New Home in Mexico

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It’s a dynamite of a Sunday morning. There’s some stubborn rock that refuses to be easily moved at the very location of the front steps of our home we’re building here in Mexico. We blasted it out with dynamite this morning. We had not yet left for church in Mexico City (the service starts at noon) so we got to see Dynamite Man do his work.

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Dynamite Man had a weathered face, the wrinkles of which were only partly covered by several days growth of dark beard. He wore a red baseball cap and had a shirt that was set free from being tucked into his pants. He pulled the items of his trade from several bags to make ready for the blasting of the rocks. Our contractor Marco and his workers had previously drilled, by pounding a long chisel with a sledge hammer, the holes Dynamite Man had requested. Now Diann and I watched as he made his own dynamite sticks, packing a cardboard tube with granules of dynamite. What we found interesting was that Dynamite Man smokes cigarettes, not while he’s packing the dynamite, however. In fact, I’m not sure he smokes other than when he’s ready to light the fuses to the dynamite, which is what he did with the cigarette (I assume this is what he did, I was hiding behind some bags of cement some distance away at the lighting of the fuse). KABOOM!!!i (This is how they show an explosion in the comic books, so I thought I would adopt the method here). Only a few small rocks flew skyward because Dynamite Man had laid an old box spring over where he had placed the dynamite and then laid a couple of large truck tires on top of the mattress. He set off about seven blasts. The rock was shattered enough for removal.

Dynamite is very useful, but it certainly needs to be respected. It got me to thinking that every Sunday morning should be a dynamite of a Sunday morning, the time when many of us gather with others to worship the Lord. I’m reminded of something Annie Dillard wrote, “Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does not one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares: they should lash us to our pews.”

I sometimes remind myself when I’m praying in a comfortable and familiar way with the Lord that He is not only the ultimate Friend, my loving Heavenly Father, and indwelling Holy Spirit, but that He is also Lord God almighty, transcendent, and holy, holy, holy. I remember that when Moses asked to see God the Lord allowed Moses only to see His back because to see more of Him would have killed Moses. “Then Moses said, Now show me your glory. And the Lord said, I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But, he said, you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live. Then the Lord said, There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen. (Exodus 33:18-23)

I remember how Isaiah the prophet thought he was going to die when God revealed something significant of Himself to the prophet. Woe to me! I cried. I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.‘” (Isaiah 6:5) I remind myself that if God were to really reveal Himself to me on one of my prayer walks I would find myself face down eating dirt, full of fear and trepidation. As C.S. Lewis had a character say of Aslan the Lion (the Christ-figure) in the Chronicles of Narnia, Safe? said Mr. Beaver; don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.

Yes, God is loving, tender, forgiving, compassionate, and full of grace and mercy. But God is also full of power beyond imagining and glory that is infinitely more brilliant than the biggest, brightest mega star. Balance in our belief in Him is key. That’s why I found this dynamite of a Sunday morning to be not only destructive to the rock but instructive for my walk of faith.

Yes, it was a dynamite of a Sunday morning! We had a blast!

Fourth Journal Entry — Building Our Home in Mexico

logoWe have a lot of building materials on the property ready to be used for the building of our house here in Mexico. In fact, I’m typing this on the front porch of the Zaragoza house with about 160 bags of cement stacked up behind me. It’s interesting that the cement that’s stacked behind me in bags will soon surround Diann and me in the form of a concrete roof, concrete foundation, and concrete pillars. There’s also a pile of stone and another pile of sand along with bunches of long strands of rebar.

materialsSmallIt takes a lot of material to build even a small house. We humans can create things, but we need stuff, raw stuff, to create it. I’m reminded of the story of some prideful scientists who boasted that they could create life from the basic substances found in common earth, in dirt. They bragged that they could do what the book of Genesis says God did, and that was to create man out of the earth. God responded to their prideful boast and boomed from heaven, “Go ahead and create life from dirt, if you can!” The scientists, though startled by the voice from above, responded to the challenge and began to collect soil. Once again God boomed forth from heaven, “Get your own dirt!”

rebarSmallGod can create something out of nothing, it’s called ex nihilo. We people have to create something out of something. Diann and I are blessed of the Lord that we have the resources, dollars turned into pesos, to purchase the materials needed to build our home. We also have the gifts of our builder, Marco; I certainly wouldn’t want to try and build the house myself!

I was thinking about this whole process this afternoon while I was taking a walk, and it occurred to me that God always provides the resources we need to carry out His call upon our lives. He provides the financial resources, the resources of the talents of others, His gifts of specific talents or abilities given to us, the gift of time to do something, the gift of the help of others, and the physical, emotional, and spiritual strength we need. As the old saying goes, God doesn’t call the qualified but qualifies the called.

Part of an active faith in the Lord is to believe that He will provide what we need to do what He wants us to do. He is our ultimate source, for everything!

Nearing the end of his life, King David, who had yearned to build the Lord’s temple but wasn’t allowed to by the Lord, said to his son Solomon, “I have taken great pains to provide for the temple of the Lord a hundred thousand talents of gold, a million talents of silver, quantities of bronze and iron too great to be weighed, and wood and stone. And you may add to them. You have many workers: stonecutters, masons and carpenters, as well as those skilled in every kind of work in gold and silver, bronze and iron – craftsmen beyond number. Now begin the work, and the Lord be with you.”(1 Chronicles 22:14-16) Let’s begin, or continue, the work the Lord has called us to, believing in His provision for the call!

Third Journal Entry — Building Our Home in Mexico

logoJournal entry for Friday, January 23:

Diann and I returned to Home Depot with Adrian driving, he’s a key worker at the Ranch. The half hour drive from the Ranch to Cuautla is a downhill drive all the way, with the temperature rising by about twenty degrees in the lower altitude.

We were able to work our debit cards so we could make the final payment of the supplies, at least this round of supplies. Then we walked around Home Depot dreaming about what we might put in our new home. We also shopped at the nearby Walmart. Lunch at McDonalds might seem to complete the sense that life here isn’t all that different from in the States, but it is. For instance, we decided not to purchase a laundry hamper at Walmart because we had seen a guy along the road selling wicker baskets, so we bought a tall basket from him on the way home that will fit much better esthetically into our Mexican home than a hamper from Walmart made in China.

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The laundry hamper

Diann and I have decided that we want our home here to reflect the culture, and not try to make our house a transplanted U.S. house. One exception is that I will NOT drink instant coffee in our new home (most folks here do so), but we will proudly brew Starbucks. Other than this, and a few other concessions that I can’t even think of now, we hope to fit in with the culture.

You can’t really be a part of someone’s life unless you’re willing to enter their world, adjusting your own habits, tastes, and interests in some way without, of course, compromising your own uniqueness, values and beliefs. Jesus incarnated Himself in our world and we must daily immerse ourselves in the world we’ve been placed, without becoming worldly. The apostle Paul wrote, I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22)

God wants us to be completely present wherever He calls us to be, not holding ourselves back but giving ourselves over to His will and His purposes wherever we are and with whom He’s placed us.

Second Journal Entry — Building the House in Mexico

logoJournal entry for Thursday, January 22:

Marco arrived back at the ranch with his own rough drawing of the floor plan and a list of material for us to purchase at the Home Depot in Cautla. My son-in-law Victor drove, I rode shotgun with Marco in the back seat.

Because so much construction goes on at Refuge Ranch Victor is considered a contractor and gets some discounts.  He has entry to the collection of desks where contractors sit down with the Home Depot folks and spend their large sums of money. This is where we found ourselves, at the desk of a polite young woman named Gaby who was patient, thorough, and was both quick of mind and quick with a smile.

It took a while to enter the large order into the computer. We ran into a glitch with paying for it with my debit card; the amount was over our limit. I paid for what I could and said we’d be back tomorrow to pay for the remainder. This would delay delivery of the materials.

Life rarely happens on our schedule. This is disconcerting until I affirm that God is not only aware of what is going to happen, He knows what is not going to happen, or what will be delayed in happening and is in ultimate control of it all. He is, after all, sovereign. I want to affirm to God as the psalmist did, “For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. (Psalm 71:5)

The Adventure of Building a House in Mexico Begins!

logoJournal entry for Wednesday, January 21:

Cirino is the hired man at Refuge Ranch and does much of the construction – he’s a mason by trade. However, there are two building projects going on. The main new house for the Zaragoza family is ready for some prep and pouring of the foundation and we’re ready to begin construction on our home on the ranch. Cirino suggested a construction worker from his church. Victor and Julie asked him to be here by 7 am, figuring he would show up by 7:30, in the traditional Mexican fashion of viewing schedules as general guidelines and not necessarily to be adhered to in a legalistic way. Surprise! Marco showed up at 7 am, prompt!

MarcosCrioppedMarco is average in height, as Mexican men go, and muscular in an understated way. He wears dark rimmed glasses and is quiet and almost timid in nature, but confident enough to give his expert input.  I like him.

I had created a drawing of the house and shared it with Marco, as best as I could with the language barrier. This will be interesting – building a home in a foreign country where I don’t speak the same language as the builder, using the metric system to measure everything, with all wages and materials having the peso as the means of exchange. Add to this the fact that I’m not a construction expert. Other than these few details, building a house here seems fairly doable!

Marco will be back at the ranch in the morning. He, Victor, and I will head to Cautla where there’s a Home Depot store. The adventure of building a house in Mexico begins!