Intro to Watsonopolis

Watsonopolis is a place where the Watson family posts their writing, reflections, images and videos.

Most of the stuff we post are our own thoughts, wonderings, and stories that emerge from our lives, our living, the world around us and the world within us.

You'll find us reflecting on our travels, our faith, justice, and what it means for us to live well in 21st century America. 

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Annelies Raquel

On November 18th, Lisa gave birth to our third child.  

We decided early on that we would wait until the delivery to learn the gender of the baby, but felt throughout that we were about to have our third boy.  To our great surprise, we are now the very proud parents of our first little girl, Annelies Raquel.  We have arrived back home.  Mother and child are doing remarkably well.  Annelies' brothers are completely smitten with their new little sister and have often been seen whispering to her while she sleeps.  

As with each of our boys, we sought to name this precious one with a future and blessing in mind - a name we pray and parent our child lives in to.  

Annelies (pronounced ahn Nah lees) ~ Annelies is an old-world name that is a marrying of two names, Anna and Elizabeth.  Anna and Elizabeth were two women-prophets featured early in the life of Jesus.  

Anna was an aged prophet who stood alongside Simeon in the temple when Joseph and Mary brought their young son, Jesus to the temple.  It was said of Anna that she gave thanks to God and preached to those who longed for the restoration of their great city.  

Elizabeth, was the daughter of preachers and encourager of women, the mother of a prophet and the aunt of a Savior.  A noble heritage to be sure.  

Raquel (Spanish for Rachel) ~ Raquel is Lisa's middle name, a name she was given in honor of her dear aunt who defected from Cuba just a few years ago.  In my (Matthew's) mind, Lisa has been, like Anna and Elizabeth before her, a woman who has spoken prophetically, preached, prayed, and encouraged those who long for the restoration of whatever cities one may call home.  And, she's raising not one, but two prophets (Nathan & Elias).  With that in mind, we've given our daughter the name of her mother.

We hope that you will celebrate with us, the birth of Annelies Raquel.



My Life as a Dancer Part 1: Dancing with the Devil

I haven't always been the amazing dancer I am today. It has taken years, hard work and concentration...and lots of fancy shoes.  But, the dedication has paid off.   And in a lot of ways, actually.  For example, a couple of months ago, I out-danced the devil.  

In September, I visited the West African country of Sierra Leone.  Traveling with a group of 5 others, we served alongside one of my friends from my doctoral program, Samuel Kargbo.  One morning while the others were lecturing in the Bible College that was hosting us, Samuel and I walked around the small fishing village that was adjacent to the college.  

We walked along dirt roads boardered by huts and shanty houses with the occasional beached boat or mended net.  Children were everywhere.  Adults were scarce.  Samuel shared with me that this community was where the Nigerian soldiers, sent by the UN during the civil war, set up base.  When the Nigerians weren't busy liberating the people of Sierra Leone from an evil tyrant, they were busy making babies with the local women.  

Then I began hearing drumming.  I noticed a crowd in front of us.  Nearly a football field away.  "What is that?", I asked.  "It's a women's cultural group.  Don't take any pictures Matthew.  It will upset them".  As we approached, I noticed a figure much taller than the rest, dressed all in white.  "Who is that?", I asked again.  "It's the devil".  

Of course.  

Turns out that 'a women's cultural group' is a very tame way to describe the women elders of the community that practice female genital circumcision.  A gruesome tradition still practiced in may parts of Africa.  One part of Africa where this form of mutilation is still practiced happened to be the village I was walking through - taking pictures like an American tourist.  And while circumsing girls is an accepted practice, apparently taking pictures of the women who do such a thing is frowned upon.  

The crowd, maybe a hundered strong, was singing and drumming and the devil, dressed all in white wearing a tall wooden mask, was dancing around from house to house.  That's when they spotted Samuel and me.  We tried to walk nonchalantly down a different street, but they soon surrounded us.  Drumming, singing and then the devil stood right in front of me.  Looked me up and down.  And began dancing.  

I let her dance for a few moments, then, with Charlie Daniels' 'Devil went down to Georgia' echoing in my mind, I recognized this for what it was.  Not being one to shirk a challenge, even if it comes from a 7 foot tall devil, I began to dance.  I tootsie-rolled, butterflied, krumped, robot-ed and threw in some other Watson-patened moves that came from the recesses of my East Dallas spirit long forgotten.  I danced.  Like a bad mo' fo' I danced.  

The crowed erupted in laughter, noise, drumming and delight.  The devil slinked away.  The crowd parted and Samuel and I passed through like the Hebrew children passing through the Red Sea and we continued our walk.  Smiling. 

p.s. I snapped this pic, while walking away from the crowd.  The devil is the tall figure in the center of crowd dressed all in white.


N. S. Watson; 11/01

November 1st is our oldest boy's birthday.  Nathan isn't just our oldest son, he's our oldest child.  Which means, whatever we have learned about parenting, we learned from him.  Or better said, we learned ON him.  And at the ripe old age of 6, so far so good.  I mean, he's not committed any crimes for which he's been caught, not addicted to drugs, no out-of-wedlock babies and we are resonably pleased with the crowd he hangs out with.  

With each year passing, he comes evermore into himself.  His personality, identity, mannerism, preferences become more and more apparent.  And yet he's still very much a boy; a child.  Often, I find my mind wandering years into the future wondering what kind of man Nathan will be.  I imagine him with facial hair - a full beard even.  I imagine him still very fun-loving, excited and excitable.  I suspect he'll be a bit sarcastic.  Given his 'ladies man' behavior (even at 6), undoubtedly he'll have had his heart broken.  And will have broken others.  

The things that are harder for me to see are the things that matter.  Facial hair and sarcasm aside.  The things that are more dimly lit for me is the kind of man he'll be among other men.  You see, with Nathan and with Elias, we named the boys with a blessing, a future and a challenge in mind.  Every night, without fail, we pray that our boys would grow into their names.  That they would become men worthy of the names that we and the world call them each and every day.  

Today, as I celebrate again the birth of my first child, I also celebrate his life that is so much in front of him and remember again his name and, by God's grace, his future.

Nathan ~ named for the prophet who spoke truthfully to David.  named for the one of whom Jesus said, "in him there is no deciet".  May our Nathan likewise courageously speak truthfully and honestly to those in power.  

Santiago ~ In honor of his mother's heritage, his middle name is in Spanish.  the book of Santiago (St. James) in the Bible reminds us of what true religion is, cheifly, to care for the vulnerable.  May our Santiago, likewise be a man who cares for those who live on the margins of our world.

These were our hopes and dreams 6 years ago when Nathan Santiago joined us.  These hopes remain even today.  That he would grow into his name and the deep meaning it carries.  Well, that and be nice to his brother.  


NaBloPoMo 2011

Well, seems like I've been on a blogging hiatus for much of the past couple of months.  And NaBloPoMo may be just the thing to shake me out of the writing slump I've been in.  


NaBloPoMo 2011

If you're unfamiliar with NaBloPoMo, the jist is that you write one blog a day for 30 days of November.  I've taken a swing at this a few times over the past few years. Unsuccessfully mind you.  But, that's not stopping me this year.  Like the Red Shoed Rangers, I'll swing for the fences again this year.  I may come up short, but that's no reason to not swing.  So, here we go.



When Miss Alexz came to visit

From 2002 to 2006 the Watsons were continuously surrounded by college students and various young adults of other academic persuasions.  We lived in Fresno, Ca in four-plex painted pink.  We occupied one unit and the other 3 were full of young men and women doing their darnest to learn about God and His great love for the world.  And on better days we all spent our days and lives for the well being of our downtown neighborhood.  

Time and providence has moved us along and its been 5 years since we lived there and 5 years since we invested our lives into the lives of young adults on a daily, intentional basis.

And then Alexz came to live with us.  

We met Alexz earlier this year when she was in Memphis for a spring break service project with an organization that does home repair for low income home owners in our neighborhood.  A group of these college students stopped in on the Watsons one night to hear about our time in Binghampton and because they heard we were a pretty awesome family.  At the end of the evening I mentioned to Alexz, in passing really, that if she wanted to come back and intern in Memphis, she was welcome.  2 weeks later she called and said she was coming for the summer.  

She said she wanted to learn about living and serving in an urban neighborhood.  We told her we'd do our best to make sure she learned something loosely related to that topic.  We promised to find a place for her to live, to feed her and to pay her, each day, in compliments.  

I know what Alexz did, but I'm not sure what Alexz learned.  Hopefully, it was something of value for her future, for her heart and for her spirit.  Nevertheless, I can tell you what I learned and was reminded of.  Cheifly, I was reminded that my faith and my life seem most in balance, most full and most authentic the more deeply I am living in community with others.  I still need folks in my life, that live close by, are serving and living next to me and can help me reflect well on my faith and my neighborhood.  

During her time with us, we had unexpected guests stay with us for days.  We praciticed hospitality to strangers.  During her time with us, we visited with a lot of different ministers; some of them cared about the neighborhood, some seemed to care more for the church and few cared deeply about both.  We practiced discernment.  During her time with us, we had lots of meals together where we processed the events of the day and reflected on what God was saying to us through them.  We practiced communion.  During her time here we served and lived in a beautiful but broken Memphis neighborhood as a witness to the hope that is in us.  We practiced resurrection.  

Alexz is back in Illinois now.  She starts classes this week.  And though she may be telling her classmates how she spent the summer with a crazy family that takes in traveling ex-gang members and takes left over chili to community potlucks I hope she's also telling them what she learned about how to love God and love people and live well in the city.  That's the lesson I learned from Miss Alexz.