Saturday, December 29, 2007

REI Garage Sale-ing

This morning Los and I did our first ever REI garage sale. It was awesome. This is an event that is nationwide and once to two times a year, on random Saturdays. It is a members-only sale where everything returned to REI for any reason is massively discounted and distributed around the nation to all of their stores. Back in college I used to go visit my friends, who would literally camp out around the Seattle flagship store for multiple nights, in hopes of scoring some killer deals on all outdoor gear and apparel at their once-yearly sale. I am not that hard core. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good deal, but the thought of sleeping outside on a sidewalk in the cold just to go shopping was of no interest to me.

So when the person I spoke to in Bellingham yesterday said their sales were more mellow (read: no shoving people and diving to get things) I was pleasantly surprised. I got off work at 8am this morning, and Los met me soon after. We sipped our coffee and hung out with Burly, chatting and reading for two hours until the doors opened. We were numbers 28 and 29 in line, amazing compared to the hundreds who wrap around the Seattle store in serpentine lines before their sale. By 10am, our line had grown to about 150; still not bad.

We decided to divide and conquer as Los really wanted some jackets and a backpack. I didn’t need anything but a water bottle, and was just curious what was available, so as the masses rushed into the store, I snagged Los a great pack and then perused the women’s stuff. No one was really by me, but tons of people were going after the sleeping bags and backpacks, so I watched in amazement while people reminded me of a scene on Animal Planet, emulating a pack of wolves tearing apart a carcass.

I realized the hot-ticket items were the expensive things: skis, snowboards, tents, hiking shoes, packs and bags. Makes sense, you could get a $400 item for $40. Los found great deals on two jackets, and a daypack, plus the big backpack I appropriated for him; I got a pair of shoes and my water bottle. By the time we left, the check-out line went 50+ yards around the back of the store. We walked to our car with purchases in hand, relieved not to be in that long line, and pleased at our morning and money well spent.

Snapshot of a Night On-Call

Take a shower. Dress nice. Feel dread, feel fear. Look at myself in the mirror and tell myself, “self, snap out of it.” Pack my bag, head to hospital, feel joy, feel anticipation. Want to turn around and drive home. But don’t. Walk through hospital doors, clock in and put on pager and ID badge, feel competent, feel official. Go to office, organize things, look at pager every 5 minutes, feel neurotic. Want to be paged a lot, want not to be paged at all. Check my email too many times. Try to settle down and read. Doesn’t work. Go out to dinner with hubby and mom, try to stay present, all the while feeling on-edge and nervously glancing at pager with increasing frequency. That thing owns me tonight. Go back to hospital, meet Jonathan and Lynnea, give all 4 people a tour. Feel professional, feel proud. Hang out until 11:30, feel tired, then go back to my office to make my bed. Get some sleep, not sound sleep, I am at a hospital on-call and my pager is 10 inches from my head, but sleep nonetheless. No page wakes me up, only my own anxiety of a potential page. 8am comes. Off duty. Turn the pager off. Relax.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas: Part III- Giving

The best thing that Los did this Christmas was host a bunch of high school seniors this weekend, and they ‘adopted’ a local family. This single mom and her two boys are barely making it; and are living in a shabby, dimly-lit two room apartment above a Mexican restaurant. Not that Christmas is about gifts, by any means, but when they aren’t even an option, that can devastate a little kid. The spirit of generosity was high among the teenage boys (a rarity in some, perhaps, but these teens are great) as they dreamed about what the young boys might want. They went out for a couple of hours to buy some things for their home, a few toys, and gift cards for practical things like groceries.

After the chaos of lunch and wrapping here, they brought all their gifts to the mom and her boys. Both parties were blessed in the experience and I’m sure that is a day that will be remembered by everyone involved. I pray their Christmas was warm, full, merry and bright.

Christmas: Part II- WHITE

I was pleasantly surprised by how great this new Christmas experience was. I no longer need to be “dreaming of a White Christmas,” as I got my first one! Big fluffy flakes fell gently while we opened our gifts. The fresh, clean snow blanketed the trees and earth with beauty and peace, the best gift! My mom and I (yeah, so I couldn’t go completely without my own fam, I begged her to come up) took our dogs outside and walked a couple of miles through the trees and gorgeous Greenbelt in Mill Creek (breathtaking trails with a creek amidst suburbia). It was magical. I felt childlike.

We had a great two days of celebrating with Los’ family. They only have extended family over on Christmas Eve, about 25 people came over. It was nice to connect with some members of his fam I’d yet to meet, and to get some jars of home-canned spicy garlic and asparagus, gotta love that. And then on Christmas, it was a quieter time with just immediate family. Raoul made his famous French toast. Everyone ate too much. We had good conversations and fun giving each other things. I know giving is always more fun than receiving; but I was pretty stoked that Los surprised me and got me a white ‘puffy’ down jacket I had wanted. After spending as much as we did in South America, we weren’t going to do gifts for one another; but he’s such a giver, he couldn’t resist… what a guy!

Christmas: Part I- Change and Ritual

This Christmas was my first in Washington. Away from my family. I am a big girl, a grown-up even; 28, with a husband, dog and contemplating kids of our own soon. And yet I felt myself sink into a bad mood as Christmas neared. Rather than think how lucky I have been to travel to see my family in California every year for the decade I haven’t lived there… 27 Christmases in a row in sunny CA should be enough, right? Instead, I was pouting that this would be the first not seeing them.

I love the energy, the chaos, the rituals, the shared laughs, meals and stories. The familiarity. It is tough to say goodbye to all of that. Not even goodbye, since we’ll probably join them again some day, but just goodbye to that being a permanent fixture I can count on in life. One less ritual in my already poor repertoire of rituals. I have always wanted to have lots of ritual in life, but I move too frequently, or am too forgetful (probably both) to remember things and repeat them annually.

My mother-in-law is the queen of ritual, so I am learning a lot from watching her. I know that as we move around the country/world, I’ll have to make more effort than most to have a sense of stability in creating rituals. (even if they’re only 2-3 years at a time) I’ll take any suggestions or advice you guys might have, stories of favorite traditions, etc. Lord knows I could use some help, since the only constant in my life is change. I need some inspiration and creativity to fuse stability and change together. Any thoughts?

Friday, December 21, 2007

South America Trip with the Flory's

We are home! And jetlagged... But grateful. What an unprecedented trip. For the first time, I blogged a lot about one of our adventures, and our friend Joel, who is an amazing photographer (fotografo en espanol) captured a lot of the majesty on camera, so I'll get to share lots with you! He'll edit the photos by next week and I'll start putting up my posts. But until then, enjoy this one photo from the world's most amazing national park, Torres del Paine... More to come!

Happy holidays:)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Beautiful Morning for a Run!

Los just ran his 5th 1/2 Marathon... It was cold and sunny, a great morning and Los' fam and the Zentler fam cheered the guys on. Now we're gonna see if he can train for the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon or the NYC Marathon... But he had a fun time running with Erik, who was doing his first 1/2.

Didn't know how to turn this up, but isn't little Jackson becoming such a cute boy! He turns two this week:)

And I had to capture the morning sun on the EMP (Experience Music Project- cool museum of music at the Seattle Center) and the Space Needle, a Seattle icon for those of you who've yet to visit.

Our Christmas "Update"

Happy Holidays from the Evans family! We look forward to hearing about your year. Carlos was gone about 6 months again this year, for deployments to the Middle East. In his last tour, he was the Mission Commander, and this fall he was promoted to be an Instructor Pilot. When he came home we bought him a new Prius, which we love (50 mpg!) and he just ran his 5th Half-Marathon with his best friend Erik. I have kept busy with school (I’ll finish my Master’s this summer!), being a chaplain in the ICU at a local hospital, mentoring college students, traveling 10 weeks myself, and gardening at our house (over 400 things planted, including a vegetable garden, which was fun).
When he was home in spring, we went to Australia for two weeks. Beforehand, we didn’t really care where we went; we were just looking forward to spending some concentrated time together. However, snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef is now among the top highlights of our lives: the brilliant rainbow of sea life was breathtaking. Queensland is a lot like CA or HI, without all the people and development; really peaceful and restorative. If you’re up for an adventure, we highly recommend it!
This summer when Los was gone, I hung out with my family in CA, and visited my bro, who was playing baseball in Switzerland. I took my mom, who’d never been to Europe before, around Switzerland, N. Italy (Lake Como, Cinque Terre), the S. of France and Paris. It was special to be with them in countries I love, and to show my mom where Los proposed to me in France.
Los and I love to see the world and are now gearing up for our next trip, with our great friends, the Flory’s, to South America. We’ll hike a lot, ride horses and kayak in Patagonia, and see Santiago and Buenos Aires. We leave the 4th, which is why you’re getting this early? We’ll be back in Seattle for the holidays and hope to spend time with as many of you as possible!
p.s. by this time next year, we will have sold our house (yikes) and moved somewhere in the country/world (unknown to us at this point), so PLEASE keep in touch. Our blog is a great way to stay connected, we regularly write and post photos, and would love to stay up to date in your lives as well. You can reach us at no matter where we go!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Our First Anniversary as Dog Parents

This Thanksgiving week we celebrated our one-year anniversary with Burlington Philippe Evans (call sign: Tornado), the World’s Best Dog. We reflected on how nervous we were at first (all the book reading in the world does not compare to reality…) to how grateful we are for him (he’s everyone in the neighborhood’s favorite dog) and for all that he’s taught us about ourselves… We cannot imagine life without him. He’s one of the best gifts in our lives and we love him, enjoy some photos of him.

Thanks (for) Giving

One of the things I love about our church is how generous everyone is. I was pretty devastated last month, when the numerous wildfires destroyed portions of southern California. A church we’re connected to, (Los’ fraternity brother is the college pastor) Malibu Presbyterian Church, was burned to the ground, and a Young Life camp east of San Diego was also harmed. Many people had to evacuate their homes, and some lost all of their possessions. Hearing their accounts and seeing photos in the LA Times was so sad.

So I was really touched when, on the Sunday following the start of the fires, our Seattle church took up an offering for victims of the fire. Essentially, every one of the 4,500 members gave $10, as $45,000 was raised that day. I know that’s not much in the grand scheme of things, but I know it will be added to other gifts and hopefully it will go a long way to bless some people who are hurting temporarily. I was so proud and grateful to everyone for their generosity, especially when later that week I heard that a local tv station had raised money for CA as well, and of the 3 million+ audience, they only raised $40,000. It was pretty eye-opening to realize what a small portion of people can accomplish when they have a like-minded vision. Hoo-Rah for generosity, thanks for giving.

Sweet Peas (and the ministry of multiplication)

My wonderful friend Kirsty’s favorite flowers are Sweet Peas. They are delicate and so fragrant, and while I was at Lowe’s this spring I thought I might try my hand at them this summer. I threw 50 cents worth of seeds (25 seeds) in the ground, and was amazed by the proliferation of flowers we had for 6 months!! All my neighbors who wanted them, and I, cut them from May-November, and they kept producing… It was awesome.

When I am a pastor, I know I’ll have a million gardening analogies, and I will spare you the sermon now, but I will preach about this some day, because this is the gospel, friends. I planted 25 seeds, and when I took the (annual) flowers out for the winter, I opened up the pods and got over 1000 seeds! 1000+ from 25!!! Amazing. That is what we happens when we give ourselves to others, the ministry of multiplication occurs… and the world is better for it.

Frequent Flyers in Florida

One of the highlights of fall was the trip we just took to Florida. Los became an Instructor Pilot (very cool), and I got to play with people my heart loves in Jacksonville. I don’t know if we’ll ever live there again, but walking on the warm beach in November, eating at our favorite places, and spending great time with beloved friends was such a gift.

Blessed Chaos and Counseling

I feel like my brain might explode, there’s so much going on in life right now. I don’t think I realized it since it’s just this season of my life, and when you’re in that state, you’re going day by day, and don’t get the bigger perspective; but a pastor I met with last week said that Los and I have so many active components and ambiguities that it is really stressful. With all of Los’ traveling, my school, ordination exams, moving (somewhere?) next summer, contemplating selling our house and pregnancy, and me working at the hospital now (on top of our other investments, friends and family) there’s just so much happening. In a really good way, it’s painful, all of this learning that is happening; but it’s to the point where I’m having a hard time fitting everything new in my brain.
I love being at the hospital, which is stretching me and challenging me. Something that’s very important to me is that my life has integrity, so practicing awareness of ‘resistance’ takes so much work, for introspection and healing. We cannot change other people, we can only change ourselves, so whenever we get upset about something, looking at why that issue pushed our buttons is a hard task!
So Los and I might start doing some counseling, to be set up for success. We have started talking about starting a family, but we’d like to feel as healthy as possible before that, since everyone counsels us that when your family expands, issues can be exacerbated. We don’t really have problems, but we certainly experience ‘resistance’ toward some things the other does or says; I don’t know if it’s possible to ‘fix’ that or not; but we could stand to grow in awareness of the deeper issues which trigger little explosions from time to time. Starting to practice this discipline has taken me off (and others off) any high horse. Now I am noticing flaws, or ‘growing areas,’ all the time! So we’ll see where we go from here? Growth is always good, and even if it’s painful, I am glad for it. It’s certainly not boring!

Monday, October 29, 2007

To Be (a mom) or Not To Be...

This sweet little man (Judah Pendleton, 1 day old) is who made me address the topic...
This is a question I have wrestled with for years now. It's an uncomfortable question to have, because it is hard to dialogue with anyone about it- everyone has SUCH strong opinions on the subject. My parents are gungho on getting some grandkids out of me. My mom even offers to raise them! Every mom I know defines themself in terms of their motherhood (and rightly so). And those without kids (I'll admit, I only know a few women that aren't ever planning to have kids) think their way of things is best.

I have found myself in the middle ground, not identifying with either side entirely. I think that my whole life as a Christian, I have felt like I might adopt a kid some day. The Biblical concept that we are all 'adopted' as children of God is something that resonates with me. When I married Carlos, he too, shared that desire, so I think I put it off on the backburner as something for a decade from now... But then he/others started bringing up the topic of having a baby...

And all my married friends started having one, two, three, even four kids... And I am really excited for them. But when people asked when we might have kids, I would fumble around, and give an answer like 2010. (I am not sure if I said that only b/c it sounded far away at the time) Sometimes I wondered if my 'maternal-clock' was broken? I've never really had the urge to create a life. When I think of adopting, I think about a 7 year old, I don't think infant.

My mom, and those educated on child development speak about the formative first 3 years of a life, and how necessary it is for us to parent and mold an infant. But something in me is just not interested in that very much. I mean, conceptually, I'm all for it, but in reality, when would be a good time to become parents? To lose sleep, to put my career on hold? I think I would be a great parent to an elementary school aged kid, but to a newborn? I just don't know.

So last week, I met our friends' new baby Judah, in the hospital. And he is perfect. And he has my color of hair. And it was the first time I thought, hey, maybe I want one of these? I asked Los, who was astounded, about what he thought about having a baby. He had given up on me, b/c I'm usually so anti. I did the math, and figured that 9 mos. from now, I will be finished with grad. school (which was one of my goals). We'll be moving somewhere else in the country, or world, and maybe that new chapter will include becoming parents?

I don't know. I have all this cognitive dissonance, b/c most pastor's families I know, have a hard time sharing attention with the congregation. I have felt called to be a shepherd in that capacity... And I want to be faithful to that. But if I became a mom too, I would want to give my utmost to our family also. I know women do both. But most were in their mid-30's, "putting in their dues full-time", before they became moms.

So I have no answers. But I'm thinking about it. I'm a big fan of Judah Pendleton. Who knew a 1 day old could make such an impression on me!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Fall Garden

Well after 2 years of much joy, inspiration, confusion and despair, reading, researching, spending, amending, planting, propogating, replanting, and experimenting with color, size, sun exposure, soil conditions and other factors, I finally am mostly satisfied with our garden... Here are some fall photos of the various beds.
Front yard

Side and flagstone we did last year (I don't know how to turn it right side up)

Back yard, where we also grew pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, and lots of herbs...

All in all, I think we ripped out 2,300 sq. ft. of sod (at LEAST), and brought in over 20 yards of compost... Makes for some happy plants, and a happy Casey.

Greatfall: Grateful for fall

I love fall, my absolute favorite season. I love crunching through the leaves on the sidewalk, and marvelling at the colorful mountains, as I drive by on my way to work or school. I love getting hot drinks at coffee shops again. I love pumpkin-flavored everything. I love baking again, with locally grown products such as our favorite berries from our favorite farm.

I love curling up by the fireplace and reading, putting the garden to rest and being creative inside, and making our own artwork to decorate our house, such as our new dining room Pollock-esque painting.

And most of all, I love taking naps with my two favorite guys.

My heart is happy.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Emotional Exhaustion

After week three of working at the hospital, I feel emotionally exhausted from the sheer volume of information and encounters I’ve experienced… I’ve cried every week. At least I am in touch with my emotions and can do that; one lady related that she and her husband are emotionally frozen and she can count the # of times she’s cried in her life… I laughed inside, since Los and I are both big criers. It’s so cathartic, I can’t imagine not being able to cry! Thank God my mom always encouraged that when I was a kid. I cry at movies, when I talk to friends, wherever- out of sadness, joy, love, whatever. This weekend I cried b/c one of my pastor’s 2 year old has cancer. I want to go to the blood drive in his honor in November. I can’t imagine the pain that family is experiencing.

One of the major foci in my experience as a chaplain is getting in touch with deep buttons within yourself, so that when they are pushed, you don’t react from a place in the past, and can identify the situation for what it is. One of my buttons is needing to achieve/belong, so when I heard the 6th person (in 3 weeks) remark on how young I was (“you are my kids age!”), it began to get to me… What I heard was, “you’re too young/not qualified to be here…” which I took offense to. But when I brought it up to people, I heard the exact opposite. They all said how jealous they were of me for being “wise beyond my years” and wished they’d known how to be more confident/assertive/perceptive at my age. Funny how communication erases misunderstandings.

When you are living out of your ‘true self’ then you can be present for others, to hear beyond their words. This great speaker we listened to said to pay attention whenever you feel ‘resistance’ inside of yourself. Exploring that resistance can shed light on what you might need to change to be fully available to another.

Thinking about that I realized that even though I’ve done a pretty good job (I think, so far) as a chaplain, I identified that I have a desire to assure people, or fix people, rather than to stay present with them in their pain. So I’ll need to explore that some. For example, one of my favorite people just lost a sibling to suicide, and I lost my grandpa to suicide, so when in the ICU today, there was a 25 year old guy who had just attempted suicide, I wanted to go in his room and tell him so much stuff, “You’re not alone!” and so forth. But a seasoned chaplain asked why I had that need, and encouraged me not to impose my needs on the patients, to be more of a listener, etc.

It’s SO hard to leave my own stuff at the door and not to say everything I’m feeling. I’ve always been more of a speak-first, think-later person, a terrible flaw at times… So I have lots to work on. But first, I’m going to lay down on the couch.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Grey’s Anatomy vs. My Real Life Hospital

While Los was gone this summer, I caved to the pressure of friends/mother in-law who have long watched Grey’s; I watched all 3 seasons at once! Intense… So when I started my new job as a chaplain (intern) at a hospital this past week, I thought I knew everything☺
Then I took the tour and went in to the E-R for the first time. My heart filled with fear. I have been doing ministry for 7 years, but as I looked at the empty trauma operating rooms, I thought, “who am I to be standing here? Do I have what it takes to walk alongside people in crisis?” I thought the answer was a resounding “NO!” To get away from feeling like an imposter, I had a big consult with my mom (psychologist for 30 years now) who reassured me that I was in fact prepared for this new season in life.
I believed her. Until 14 minutes after I went on-call for the first time. That’s when my pager went off, with a loud BU-DU-BE-DU-BU. I felt frantic. It said there was a double trauma. Not good. I was not expecting it so soon. I wasn’t dressed nicely, didn’t have makeup on, couldn’t think straight, yet I knew I needed to be in the ER in 30 minutes (which is a 30 minute drive away)! Here goes nothing…
Los drove me up there, for moral support, and so I could have time to clear my head. I walked in, was greeted by a nurse screaming at me for being late, then she dumped me into a small room of 15 sobbing people. Uhhhh… what do I do?
What started out as the most awkward situation I could imagine, ended up being a great experience for me. It turns out that my mom was right, and I loved being able to love on broken people who were devastated, and anxious about their loved ones… I thought I might faint at the sight of broken necks/femurs/bashed, bloody faces, etc. but I didn’t. I was strong and confident to support family members who couldn’t be. It was good to know I do have what it takes.
I’m sure this job will stretch/break/redefine me, and I am looking forward to that growth. But, as if to keep me humble, after my first evening of a job well done, right before I left the hospital, I missed a step and fell down stairs in front of other people. That would happen to me. Embarrassing but hilarious, and at least, if I had broken something, I would be in the right place. I am in the right place.

Monday, October 8, 2007

10 year Reunioning

Last night was Los’ 10 year Seattle Prep high school reunion. Up until 8pm we weren’t sure we were going to go. I don’t know how many people feel apprehensive before reunions, probably a lot. On the one hand, high school was amazing, and you made memories with great people that you are fond of. On the other hand, being a teenager can be a painful experience for a multitude of reasons, and reentering an environment like that can dredge up old insecurities/anxieties. Add to that that 10 years is a LONG time, and so many changes happen during that. You don’t want others to put you in a box of who you used to be, but you don’t know otherwise, unless you’ve been invested in the same people the past decade.
So anyway, we didn’t know if we’d go. But we went to the waterfront Marriott bar to meet some of Los’ old buddies (of the group of 6 of them, 5 were represented last night, impressive considering that they live around the nation and married people from all 4 corners of the country). It was a lot of fun for me to have insight into a portion of Los’ life that I have only heard about and seen pictures from.
So we got a cab with them and went. It was in Post Alley in the upstairs banquet room of Kell’s, great little place. Los had said the only reason he wanted to go to his reunion was to apologize to a couple people for the jerk he’d been to them in high school. He got to do that, which I was all about, just to wipe the slate clean and have peace. I don’t have many regrets from my high school years, but he did, and it was meaningful for people to have him apologize.
We ended up having a lot of fun and talking to all kinds of people he liked, that are now doctors, lawyers and other professionals. It’s cool to hear what people dream about, and who they have become. Since Prep is a private school, his class was pretty small, 150ish, and everyone has become pretty successful.
Even though we may never have any of those couples as our close friends, it was fun to revisit the past with them, and to hear about what 10 years has done in different lives… I am really sad I will miss my own reunion next weekend in California. The timing of it just didn’t work out for us; and I am sad not to have the chance to see people I cared a lot about. So at least I got to live vicariously through Los last night, a good time was had by all.

Having Hubby Home

Soooo good. Our first weekend back together has been amazing. When he is gone, I am busy and “fine” (using that word makes me think of how Meredith/Cristina use it on Grey’s Anatomy- they’re always ‘fine’ though they are not…). But when Los is back, life is just so much sweeter. Better. I forget that until I can touch and smell him, but then I remember. Everything is better with him…
He flew in on Thursday and it’s the first time I have seen him fly a plane, that was cool! Our wonderful friends, the Pendleton’s (about to welcome a little Pendlebaby this week) took me and Burly out on the flight line as Los landed the plane. When they parked it and all the gear was off, Burly and I got a tour of it. It’s huge! Pretty cool to see what he does for a living for the first time☺
Thursday night we had dinner, and one of the high school seniors that Los loves, Matt, came over; then we went and played with our favorite friends, the Woods. Nick, the husband, is our area’s Young Life Director, and Lindsay is a teacher of middle school students. If we could live near them the rest of our lives we would. Pretty amazing people.
Friday we hung out in Anacortes (little town by us that’s the gateway to the San Juan Islands, which are fabulous). We went to lunch at Gere-a-deli, which is a popular spot, and we randomly saw 10 people we knew there! I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many people we know at a restaurant… Fun. We also went to our fave farm in Burlington, Sakuma Bros. and bought pumpkins and berries (since Los missed the plethora of berries this summer).
Then we relaxed before our big day yesterday. I had class in Seattle and Los chilled at one of our fave bakery/coffee shops, Macrina. (who made our wedding cake) Then we walked around Green Lake, went to dinner in Ballard, and to his Seattle Prep 10-year reunion until midnight. Full day.
Good weekend. So glad to have him home and to resume normalcy. We’ve been test-driving cars/researching them, we are hoping to buy something this week… Life is good.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Being separated from who you love

I used to try to decide, and I would ask people, which is worse: to love someone you can’t be with, or to want to love someone, but not have a relationship? When I was single, I thought it was the latter, but now I’m reconsidering. Today is Carlos’ 28th birthday, and he is half-way around the world on deployment… Again.
He was supposed to come home a week ago, but the government had other plans for him. My heart is sad… I missed our first Christmas, his birthday and our first anniversary last year, and now I’m missing our second. I didn’t know I signed up for this☹ And I thought maybe it would get easier… Yeah, it doesn’t.
I was trying to plan a big celebration this year, since we didn’t get one last year. I wanted to go to Hawaii (to also go to a friend’s wedding). Then I thought we should stay in WA, and go to an awesome resort, go white-water rafting, kayaking and horseback riding. Or I thought maybe we’d go to the fantastic hotel we stayed at our wedding night (across the parking lot from the best restaurant in Washington, and next to the Red Hook brewery and the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery.) None of my plans came to fruition.
Sigh. I am not very good at grieving the loss of him. I either busy myself at home (I planted 53 things in one day, with my mom’s help!!), or avoid home like crazy… I just hate looking over at his side of the bed when he’s not there. Having Burly helps a ton, but no pet is a replacement of your true companion. I immediately planned a trip to Texas when I learned of his change of plans. I was all set to go ahead when Los called me out on avoiding reality.
Dangit. How do you do it? How do you tell your heart just keep waiting? The definition of patience is long suffering. I believe it. There’s something beautiful about it, because it keeps my heart in the right place, longing for his. But it is also like torture. I love the Navy, for all it has unexpectedly brought into and provided for our lives (the people, the places, the Kingdom of God in surprising ways); but this is certainly the hardest part. I am proud of Los, and glad his heart is for service. But Godspeed October when I can wrap my arms around that guy… (it doesn’t help that my ‘love languages’ are quality time and physical touch, eh?)
Holler at me if you have free time, I am available☺

San Francisco- great sea food and Gordon Biersch fries

One of my goals in life was to go to every state in the United States. Now that this has almost been accomplished (5 left), my next goal is to be on every continent, in as many countries as possible. Call it the travel bug, call it wanderlust, call it what you will; I just can’t get enough! I love people and places, I love marveling at the diversity of creation.
And luckily, one of my favorite places I have ever been is somewhere I can go regularly, the Bay Area. Living in Berkeley (5 years ago now, I can’t believe it has been that long since I moved there) was one of the highlights of my life. It had a lot of what I love about Seattle, plus it was close enough to drive to see my family in a couple of hours.
I went there this weekend with my parents, and had the most fabulous time. We got to eat at the world’s best pizza place,, and then go into the City for the night. While my fam went to a musical, I hung out and read in Union Square. I sat by a mentally-ill homeless woman for about ½ an hour and she cracked me up. I paid sporadic attention to the monologue she was having, it was quite entertaining. I love the worldwide class of SF, combined with the culture and grittiness it has.
I stayed at my cousin’s cute apartment in the Marina district (she’s a bigshot for Banana Republic and gets to travel around the world- jealous!). That is such a fun neighborhood, and we walked along the beach toward the Golden Gate Bridge in the morning. I used to really look up to her when I was a kid. It was special to hang out with her and reflect on life; somehow we both became adults!
Sunday afternoon we all went to the Giants-Dodgers game, which was a blast. My dad is a diehard LA fan, growing up in the 50s and hiding his transistor radio under his pillow at night when he was supposed to be asleep, so he could listen to the games… Conversely, my step-mom grew up watching Willie Mays and the Giants. So their rivalry is hilarious. We sat right above the dugout in these killer seats, and I got to see my homie Barry Bonds in action. We chowed down on the game food and enjoyed the close game. Afterwards we decided this is going to an annual tradition.
I like it. I’m in.

Reconciling with my past

For some reason, it has taken me a long time to be okay with ‘where I came from.’ I don’t know if any of you have ever felt this, but if so, speak up, I would love to know I am not alone.
Maybe this is a normal coping mechanism, but who knows. When I went to college, I was proud to tell everyone I was from California. I loved growing up there, and had a fabulous experience there. Everyone in Seattle that was from the Northwest would think it was ‘cool’ that I was from CA. But everyone from CA in Seattle would ask the clarifying, “where from?” and when I said Fresno, they would put me down, “oh that place sucks.” That was surprisingly damaging to me, and I learned to feel embarrassed of my hometown, when I hadn’t been previously.
After that I had this compulsion to adopt the Northwest as my ‘home’ and to distance myself from where I grew up. I was kind of ashamed, in a way… Apparently it isn’t as cultured as the Bay Area, and doesn’t have as much fashion as LA, or the beaches of So Cal, nor the green of Tahoe. It is a close drive from everywhere, but doesn’t have much itself. Except it does, the community there is great, and I am thankful for it.
It took me years to embrace what the “Valley” has to offer. Even though there are 500,000 people there, I love the small-town feel, where people know each other. And funny enough, but I love the agriculture, even though people mock it for being farmland. It is humble, and I like that. And they provide most of the nation’s food! On our way to/from San Francisco this weekend, we passed a million wine and table grape vineyards, as well as pomegranate and almond groves, and acres and acres of onions, garlic, melons, hay and alfalfa, among other things. I like that my homeland nourishes the nation, however ungrateful everyone else is.
I finally realized that you don’t have to polarize one place as ‘good’ and another as ‘bad.’ Doing that says more about a weird insecurity/need inside of you, than it reflects on a place. You can appreciate different things about different places, and allow other people to feel open to tell you about what they cherish from their hometown. This summer we had a couple over for dinner, and when I asked the girl where she was from, she mentioned a town in Idaho and seemed embarrassed, as I had been in college. When I asked more, she came alive and was proud of where she grew up, and it was cool to hear her heart. And to finally feel more reconciled in my own…

Sadly, no new puppy...

I met her, and she was really sweet... but on the way to CA I realized that would be too much for us for now. I am about to get my husband back, resume school, and start working in a hospital doing spiritual care, which I am excited about; but that is a lot, to throw in potty-training to the mix. In a year we'll live somewhere else in the world (CA, FL, overseas???) and begin a new chapter of life, but for now we're busy enough finishing this one well with the investments we have... And Burly is enough for us to dote on in the meantime.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Thank God for Pumpkin Spice Lattes...

Seriously. They are back in your friendly neighborhood Starbucks (or in my case, one of the many Starbucks' in the neighborhood), and their timing couldn't be better; boy do I need them... The joys of grad. school. Inspired by my friend Nick, I thought I'd do a countdown of my insanity. For one of this week's 3 exams, in the next 10 hours (note, that would mean I will not sleep tonight, hence the gratitude to Starbucks for the quad-shot venti latte) I have to write 15 pages by 6am. Why 6am? Because then I have to drive to school to turn it in. There's no emailing or mailing this one in, it must be hand-delivered, l-a-m-e. And then I turn around on the freeway and start reading for my second one, due by midnight on Saturday... And I did mention that I fell down the stairs and my neck/back feel like I was in a car accident, didn't I? But, alas, I have no time to go to the hospital until at least tomorrow. Maybe I can read in the waiting room.

Oh don't you all miss school? Good times. Wish me luck. As I always say, it's not the writing of 15 pages that I have a problem with, it's the figuring out what to say for 15 pages that gets me... Here goes...

Pray for my neck and my back

So last night, almost asleep, I walked down the stairs and tripped over Burly. So we both fell down the stairs. After I figured out I hadn't broken his leg, I laid there and cried, it hurt so bad. My wrists/elbows/ribs/spine/neck... all feel like I'm a hockey player or something. Today I am super stiff/sore. Nothing's broken, praise God, but I need to go to a chiropractor quickly... Pray that I get better soon, I have 3 exams due in the next week, I don't have time to be in so much pain.

This is my third time being careless in the past month. First I burnt my finger, sticking it in the oven on to a 400 degree pan... 2nd degree burn. Not good. Then I was gardening and dropped my clippers, sharp points down on to my big toe this weekend. Blood gushed everywhere. Unbelieveable. So if bad things happen in 3's I should be in the clear; but in any case, pray for my neck/back. Meanwhile, I'm gonna get an IV of Ibuprofen:)

Monday, August 27, 2007

photo help...

Can someone much smarter than me tell me how to put this as my profile photo?

More photos of her!

Isn't she so sweet?!

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Burly's getting a little black sister! We're trying to come up with the best name on earth, any suggestions? Our 'theme', if you will, is geographical locations... too many choices. I'm liking Brooklyn and Bellingham (Belle, or Hammy as nicknames)... Los likes Brasil and Beijing:)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ethics and sports- mutually exlusive? Since when?

I grew up in a family who worshipped sports above all else, the daily sports page was the Bible by which we lived, breathed and had our being. That’s why I’ve been interested recently, as scandals have crossed the globe in all kinds of sports. From referees game-fixing, to athletes’ use of illegal substances, hardly any organization has clean hands in the matter. ESPN just finished a series of stories this summer, called “Cheatwave,” trying to engage people in the problems of cheating in the past, present and future. With genetic engineers’ current research, it will soon be possible, supposedly, for athletes to be given performance-enhancing genes. Where did the purity and integrity in sport go?
ESPN’s contention was that cheating has become much more commonplace than it was a generation ago, and makes the argument that it will go on until we fans refuse to support it monetarily. However, many people critique the organization, saying that ESPN itself is one reason why sports have become entertainment, and players, stars in our culture, who we exalt to an unhealthy status. Americans love winning, and don’t mind ignoring illegal activity if the scoreboard ends up in their favor.
What was more alarming to me, than fans reactions to the athletes, was the quiz results ESPN posed for readers. Almost 50,000 people over this past weekend filled out an online quiz about their cheating habits, and the results echoed their sentiments toward others. Only 15% of the readers said that they never cheat, and the highest score for something people would never do was a question about parking in a handicapped space. On the contrary, more people said they would cheat on the person they date or their spouse. Our culture has something wrong with it.
ESPN quoted David Callahan, author of the book, The Cheating Culture, who insists that “the integrity that seems to be leaking out of sports simply mirrors the ongoing erosion of ethics in our society.” And readers defending against ESPN’s critique of sport, “noted the questionable ethics of our political, corporate and, in certain cases, religious leaders. They asked who are we to question the integrity of our athletes when we speed on the interstate, cheat on our taxes and falsify our résumés?” Many assume ethics and sport cannot go hand in hand.
I find this issue fascinating, sad, and problematic for multiple reasons. For one, the billions of dollars our country invests in sport could be spent many other, healthy, ways. And I seriously doubt changes to that effect will ever be made. But more importantly, these ‘idols/heroes’ of sport are communicating to youth that it is okay to take short-cuts in life, a dangerous message across the board that says winning is more important than integrity.
In my own family, when I become a mom, as well as in ministry situations with youth, I will try to juxtapose those who cheat with those who have integrity. The maxim that “cheaters never win” certainly isn’t true in the short-run, so I will try to focus on the long-view of life. I imagine this will be something challenging we’ll face the rest of our lives, as the advantages one can gain from cheating, in any circumstance, can be enticing and deceiving, though wrong.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Europe 3.0

Well #1, I finally didn't get sick on a vacation, so that was super... But the stress of having a car/not being able to read road signs, etc. was enough to make a person crazy. Maybe that should be another blog, European lowlights? But this is the highlights. So...

*Being with my brother in a foreign country. He is just cool. And as much as we are different, and hardly know each other as adults; it was really special to see him in his element, living Euro... He has huge hair, is super tall, and rides a scooter. So he majorly sticks out over there, it's pretty funny. But he keeps it real.

*Hiking Cinque Terre in Italy. Absolutely GORGEOUS view and the strenuous hike was way worth it. Put this on your list as a must-do in your lifetime.

*Seeing all the cute coastal villages in Italy. I'd recommend Monterosso over where we stayed in Riomaggiore.

*The South of France. Gorgeous mediteranean sea, next to massive vineyards in Provence, sooo peaceful.

*Aix-en-Provence. Go there. Sit in a cafe on Cours Mirabeau, the "most beautiful street in all of Europe." You'll be glad you did.

*Buying wine= one of the best things I did was bring an extra rolly suitcase and carry it on to the plane. I bought tons of wine, champagne, olive oil, soaps and gifts and had lots of space for it.

*Going to the Brocante. For my mother-in-law, we went to a 'flea market' and saw all this old awesome stuff that French peeps didn't want anymore. If I had more money, I would've bought beautiful silver serving pieces, but instead we bought cute old french kids books, etc. It was a lot more fun than shopping at touristy places, because it was all authentic. Next time I would buy linens and house stuff.

*Lac d'Annecy= Gorgeous. Go to Annecy in your lifetime. You'll be glad you did. I will be back there in my life, I hope.

*Switzerland. Love it. I've now been almost everywhere in the whole country (a ski trip to the Jungfrau region will complete my journeys there). Go there, eat the chocolate, it will change your life. And eat Raclette if you can:)

*Chartres- I'll post pics of the cathedral where we got engaged, but it was so special to revisit it with my mom and in the summer. A majestic, 800+ year old place.

*and lastly, Paris... My third time there, and it never fails to impress. I took my mom to our favorite restaurant, Fuxia, and it was the best meal of the whole trip. They grow their own grapes in vineyards in the south of France, Italy, and Chile, and they have a market up the street from the restaurant where they sell all their stuff. Awesome. I bought some for Los for an anniversary present. Don't tell, it's a surprise.

*we got there on the last day of the Tour de France, so that was a cool experience, seeing all the decorations up around the Champs Elysees, etc. I almost bought Los a jersey, but they were 80 Euro (over $100 USD) so I balked. I got him soccer shorts from PSG instead:)

Over all, even with it's stresses, this trip was awesome. I got to go to a lot of towns/cities I'd never been to before, and unlike my first time in Europe, I didn't hear too much English/meet that many Americans (which was a good thing). I think we picked places to stay/visit that Europeans were vacationing in, which I took as a good sign. I found some quaint, untouristy villages that I would love to go to again, as well as appreciated a couple popular places (Italy, and Paris).

When we go to Europe again, I'd love to see other areas (Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Turkey/Greece, etc.) but it's always great to go to these countries I know and love. I'd love to hear advice from you who've been to other countries, and/or to encourage you to travel where we have! Gimme a holler...


I'll post pics and write about that soon...


I am not sure how my husband can fly for a living... After 12 legs around the world this summer, if I don't get on another flight for months, I will be one happy camper. The waiting, the stale air, the back pain in uncomfortable chairs, the small bathrooms, the turbulence, the less than ideal food, the crying babies, the lack of adequate sleep, the grumpy flight attendents, the damaged/lost luggage, the bomb scares at airports, oh man... I used to love flying, but I'm having second thoughts about that!

I will say this. Qantas to/from SYD was great (I watched 8 movies), and the people in the airports in Melbourne and Sydney are so relaxed, I love that. My Alaska flights to/from OAK also went well. Flying from SEA to SJC was fine but not out of SJC, that was my worst flight (a plane crashed on the runway with a malfunction, then our flight attendant fainted, we were just hanging out there forever...). Delta sucked, both to ATL and to ZRH (Switzerland), they were disorganized/chaotic. Air France was okay, the direct flight from Paris to Seattle was novel. I watched Blades of Glory multiple times to keep myself amused... I need to meet some rich people, so I can fly first-class, I envy their lay-down beds... and the food they get is way better... What's up with that! I'm gonna start saving my pennies...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Australia intro to sermon:)

Have you ever come back from a “vacation” and been exhausted? Have you ever thought you needed a vacation from your “vacation?” I use quotation marks with the word vacation because my husband has banned me from using that word to describe future trips we take. This week he said that a vacation would be relaxing and being rejuvenated from the stress of normal life. You see, trips I plan are nothing like that… they are more like adventures.

For some reason I think I need to cram as much as possible into our trips. Who knows if I’ll ever go back to a place? So I want to make the most of every opportunity. We just went to Australia for a couple weeks. I wanted to see a new part of the world, to hear the orchestra play at the Sydney Opera House, to smell the Eucalyptus as we hiked through the Blue Mountains, to taste interesting new foods and wine, and most of all to swim in God’s aquatic masterpiece, the Great Barrier Reef.

Everyone we met there from other parts of the world laughed when we told them our itinerary; they were taking months to accomplish what we jammed into 10 days. And wouldn’t you know, after adding too many things to my proverbial plate, my body finally called it quits. I got sick. And let me tell you, a 13 hour plane ride with a splitting headache and ears which refuse to adjust to the pressure, is miserable.

Now, if this were the first time this had happened to me, I might hope for your sympathy. But unfortunately, this has become a pattern in my life on vacations. My family jokes that I only get sick in exotic destinations. Apparently my brain is too dense to realize that my body is sending the message, “Stop! Stop. Adding too many things to the agenda is not healthy. It is dangerous, and it can destroy you.”

Perhaps you all are wiser than me, but I wonder if you also fall into the myth that ‘more is more’ in some way? I could preach a whole sermon on how both our culture and the church is frequently saturated with this lie that more is more or better. And those who rebel and ascribe to the minimalist, less is more, philosophy aren’t automatically off the hook either, because usually there is some pride and judgment in comparison to the other camp. We can make idols either way. There is a need to throw out that whole continuum; life is not about either end, indulging or abstaining, or achieving mythical ‘balance’ to have an equal ratio of each. Life is about being faithful to God and living in rhythm with him. And if we are entangled in idolatry, making anything else bigger than it deserves to be, we can’t devote ourselves whole-heartedly to God. We need to learn how to let things in our lives be in their proper places, so that we can make the most of our lives

Whirlwind summer

So my plan was to write about Australia right after we got back. But then life happened, and it's now a month later... Between the catch up in yard work, playing with friends, 3 summer school classes and a week in Pebble Beach/Carmel, CA with family for the 4th- time flew! And now I have a week until I go to Europe, in which I have to do a Greek mid-term, an Ethics final, write 13 pages, and interview for a chaplaincy job at a hospital... Plus my college pastor's leaving our church this weekend, which I'm grieving, and I have a retreat this weekend. Whew.

So I hope I can make time to write about AUS some time. I'm not sure if I'm a poor steward of my writing, or if I'm not in a season where writing needs to happen as frequently as it used to. I feel blessed when I do it, and other people always encourage that gift in me, but it doesn't seem to be happening naturally. I don't know, do you know what I mean? Some gifts you always do, and others come and go with seasons?

Anyway, it was a great trip. I shared some it in a sermon I gave last month; I could post that part up...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Back from Oz

What an amazing trip... If you want to see some of our pics, send me your email address! I'm still a little bit groggy, but there'll be a few blogs to come once I am reoriented.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Off to Australia!

Will be SURE to report back on how amazing it is... A little bit nervous about being eaten by crocs, sharks, seasnakes and the like; but stoked to dive the Great Barrier Reef, see the Rainforest and Blue Mountains, aboriginal art/life, as well as modern Sydney and Melbourne. My goal is to hold a koala! Woo hoo:)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Virginia Tech and HOPE

Free EP at

Pass it on to those you know who need a glimpse of hope after this devastation

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Resurrection reflection (Mary Magdalene)

“Mary.” Hearing that one simple word, my name, changed everything. To be honest, I was crying so hysterically when I first saw him that I didn’t even recognize him! I thought he was the gardener. The gardener! Didn’t he teach that he was “the vine and his Father was the gardener?” Well God, I guess he is looking more and more like you the longer I know him.

When he said my name, all the confusion and chaos of the past couple of days came to a halt. All of a sudden my identity felt secure and affirmed. I never pictured Jesus going about things this way, but there he was, alive, and once again, helping me understand truth. He calls me by name, he calls us by name, he meets each of us where we are, and has the power to restore everything that’s broken.

In any case, I had been so upset because I thought maybe someone had stolen his body. Everything that had happened the past couple of days was almost unbearably heart-wrenching. Seeing my teacher, my friend, up there on the cross was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. Perfection sandwiched between criminals. Dying a humiliating death in front of people who persecuted him up until he gave up his last breath. Why did it have to be like that? He used to hint about this, but it was too cryptic for me to imagine what was really going to happen.

And there was an earthquake as he died. It was as though the earth was grieving the loss as well. I couldn’t tell which was louder, the chasms being split open on the ground, or the crashing happening inside my heart. Both were devastating. That morning was so dark. The clouds that came over the sun came over my spirit as well.

And then I was supposed to prepare for Sabbath? Yeah right. I felt angry, I felt restless, I felt out-of-control; the last thing I wanted to do was be still. There was no peace to be found this week. I stayed as long as I could outside the tomb. His mom and I and some others reminisced about Jesus’ impact on our lives. I don’t know if it was good or bad to do, since it made us all the more grieved.

I remembered the state I was in when he first found me. I was a mess. I usually don’t like to think about the demons that haunted me, but for a long time they were all I knew. They kind of ‘defined’ me. I believed a lot of lies about myself back then. When Jesus came into my life, he got rid of all of them. I didn’t have the power to do that on my own, and believe me, I had tried lots of ways to seek peace before meeting him.

Go figure, he was the only way to true peace. And he still is. When I was crying in the garden and he came to me, and said my name, I felt a surge of joy run up through my body. I hadn’t felt that in days, and I grabbed him, wanting to be as close as possible.
He said I couldn’t hold on to him, though. That he wasn’t staying. He was going to be with his Father, and told me to tell everyone about him. So that’s what I do now. I tell people, like you, about Jesus. I tell of his teachings, and how he changed my life. And the joy and peace I have now can’t be shaken. He is alive. And he calls me by name.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Birthday weekend

Some times when everything goes wrong, everything is right; though far from what you expected. Los and I planned this fabulous weekend away on the Washington coast for my birthday; and a couple hours into our adventure everything fell apart. “Our” plan was interrupted shortly after we reached the middle of nowhere, because my car decided to break down…
I was devastated. I lamented to some poor office lady at a crusty, greasy automotive shop how it was my birthday, and my spring break from school, and how my husband had just come home from the Middle East and I had such high hopes for this weekend… I am embarrassed to admit now that I felt so sorry for myself, I could not stop crying, what a sob story! But what could she do? It was 5pm in the middle of nowhere, on a Friday afternoon. Shops everywhere were closing, and my Acura needed a part that was hours away.
This was bad news to me, the kind of person that loves to plan details. I have been called anal, OCD, you name it… and I’m okay with that. I like order, I don’t like surprises. So when Los said that our weekend was going to be great, because, “God’s plans are always better than plans we can conjure up,” I was skeptical. That lasted about 3 minutes.
Rather than stay in this one-stoplight town, we decided to leave my car and carry our stuff (including dog crate, can you say awkward!) to the county bus station, to head back to Port Angeles, an hour and a half away. Thus began the grand adventure…
We had scarcely taken our seats when a young man clad in black skulls and bones sat across from us. I was too self-absorbed in my world of pity to acknowledge or engage him, plus, he looked scary; so I’m lucky that Los (my better half in many ways) is more mature than I. He began chatting with this guy who had lived his whole life in this small town, Forks. He said how thankful he was and how lucky he felt to live somewhere so special (on the edge of National Parks/forest/ocean) and beautiful. He got off the bus a minute later, at the stop for his home. All I could see out the window was a big trailer park…
He was in our lives one minute, and out the next; but I don’t think I will ever forget him. Forks is one of those places that are all across America, you blink and you miss them. Compared to the port cities or lakes/rainforests around it, it was a run-down little blip on the map, nothing special about it at first glance. But this guy’s pride and thankfulness for his home jarred me, as I reflected on how I had just written it off as some God-forsaken place of destitution.
How often in our lives are we so set on our goals that we miss the lessons/people along the way; judging them (as I had) to be insignificant. Life isn’t just about getting from A to B, but about the process of change we hopefully go through as we journey toward our destination. In a sense then, the journey IS the destination. I pray that it doesn’t take another “break down” to realize that I need to stop and look around at the beauty everywhere and in everyone.
He immediately impacted my attitude, and I took advantage of enjoying the mystery that was going to unfold throughout my birthday weekend. Los and I got a great room on the ocean, had a great time walking around the cute downtown, at dinner, and running along the shore. We bought a sweet chandelier (to be cool like Chris/Megan!) that will be a memory of the weekend for us.
Saturday we rented a car and went to the Quinault Rain Forest at the recommendation of Budget Travel; that was awesome. Ruby Beach, above Kalaloch, was another gem of a place. We had a lot of hilarious and awkward moments (e.g. not being able to find anywhere nice to stay Saturday night, so going to Ross to buy pillows before staying at a motel, where we listened to/yelled at the couple above us who were, as they say, knocking-the-boots for what seemed like forever, down to joining the horde of gay men dancing to techno on the ferry for the ride home) that will make that weekend memorable for a long time to come. Yes, it’s true, Los is right; the best stories never come from things you planned, when I thought everything was going wrong, everything was as it should be.

Jesus- the clear paradox

Unfathomable, yet made known
Glorious, yet made visible
Eternal, yet entered time
Who are you?

Mighty, yet came as a baby
Powerful, yet humble
Just, yet gracious
Who are you?

Most high, yet descended
Killed, yet ascended
Tender, yet stern
Who are you?

Always steady, yet always new
Consecrated, yet compassionate
Wildly imaginative, yet simple
Who are you?

Light-shiner, temple-cleanser, world-saver, thirst-quencher,
bondage-breaker, food-provider, humanity-teacher, dignity-restorer,
eye-opener, shelter-giver, dead-raiser, feet-washer, heart-consoler, life-sustainer,
joy-lavisher, the ultimate intercessor,
and our King!

Oh sight-giver,
May we see,
Who You are.

“Who are you?” they asked.
“Just what I have been claiming all along,” Jesus replied.
(John 8:25)

-CME rev. January 2006

Sunday, April 1, 2007

"For better or worse..."

I will fight for you
because I believe in freedom
I have tasted
I have seen
I know it's power

Bringing beauty from ashes
Restoration from rubble
breathing life
into death
water for the thirsty

Chains of captivity
no longer able to bind
nor lies able to deceive
space has been made
to receive truth

Fertile ground for planting
seeds placed with care
Showered with God's grace
tended until strengthened
with love and patience

I am committed
I'll go the distance
Wading through the muck
to get to a place of healing
I will fight for you.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

[Love] Reign Over Me

Awesome movie, go see it.

When In Doubt, Trust Your Horse!

One of the most fun things we have done recently is go horseback riding in the Cascade Mountains just east of our house. One of my friends in Canada this summer said it's the best hiking area in the west, little did we know...

Right before the six of us took off, I went to the bathroom in a remodeled part of our friends' barn. Going in, I noticed a sign that said, "when in doubt, trust your horse." Hmmm, I thought, I wonder what that's all about? I soon found out.

We had been plodding up switchbacks on a fairly narrow trail for a couple of minutes, when we came to what felt like a 45-degree incline up a mountain on a 3-foot wide trail. Without warning, the six horses took off galloping up the tiny chute! I shrieked, out of fear, then my breath was taken away. I had no time for claustrophobia, I hung on to my reins for dear life. If I had fallen off, I would've tumbled down into a ravine 75 yards below, breaking all kinds of bones, if I made it out alive, that is...

After what seemed like an eternity (when in reality, it was maybe 8 seconds of galloping) we came to a much flatter and wider space. It took a while to catch my breath and leave my adrenalized state... We resumed walking, trotting and cantering along verdant paths that went into woods and along blackberry bushes, and occasional vistas. Soon I learned that the horses habits in narrow places were to get through them as quickly as possible, even if it meant scaring their riders to death. Once I could predict their behavior, I could at least prepare my heart for the terror to come, knowing it would be short lived.

It was awesome. I found myself in awe when we were all in a pristine Tolkien-esque forrest, untouched by humanity. The horses drank from the brook beneath their feet, and I took in all the smells, sights and sounds of nature's finest offering.

After about an hour more, we returned to the house, to brush/feed the horses, and down some beverages ourselves. When we drove home, I could not get the smile off my face. That was the most exhilirating experience I had had in a long time. Sheer fear (not being sure if I would be able to hang on to the horse/stay alive) combined with sheer joy (the beauty of the powerful animals and unadulterated nature), totally exhiliarting...

Most of our rides through life are the boring walking parts, unmemorable, one day from the next. But the galloping parts are always the defining moments, when we learn something about our mortality, or maybe that we are more brave than we'd previously thought. Maybe this is why Los and I love roller-coasters too, it evokes the thrill in our hearts as well. I never wanted to have a safe life, where everything was predictable. Those narrow chutes are the part I remember the most from that day. It's comforting to know that when we don't know what's going on in our lives, or if we can hang on, we can trust that "someone" else does. When in doubt, trust your horse.

Long-Haul Truckers and Seminary...

God works in funny ways. Over the past few years that I've been in seminary, many people have asked me why I am seeking a Theology degree. For people who aren't Christians, they just look at me like I'm an alien (it's a great way to immediately end a conversation with a stranger, let me tell you...) They think it's a waste of $50G and my time... For some that are Christians, I've gotten the responses ranging from, "But you're a woman, you can't be a pastor!" to, "If you love God, and want to serve him in ministry, why do you need a degree? Why can't you just use the Bible as your manual and trust the spirit will lead you?"

Usually I just let words fumble around in my mouth as I try to articulate the importance of the education I'm receiving. To learn about the history of the church is to learn about its present state and its future. To learn about the context in which Scripture is written, and the original languages in which its written, makes a huge difference in comprehension of the text. To learn about the variety of ways people interpret it, and experience God, around the world is eye-opening and humbling. E.g. God is not white, middle-class, American Republican, who knew?! Who said that, "if God has made us in his own image, we have more than reciprocated?" Voltaire, maybe, but that is so true... So seminary has been a great experience of growth of knowledge, reverence, and many other things for which I'm grateful.

However, I've never been as affirmed in my pursuit of education, as when I read a recent New York Times article regarding deregulation of long-haul trucking and its inherent dangers. The article featured the story of a 19-year old young man, who was on his first cross-country trip. Because of cuts made during the Bush administration to his "field of expertise", he'd scarcely been trained at all. His instructor was a mere 21, with one whole year of trucking under his belt... clearly qualified, right? So they spent a week or two, "learning the ropes" and took off from the west coast, heading east.

A couple of days later, after 12 hours of driving (while his instructor slept in the back of the cab most of the time), this tired young man plowed into the back of a Jeep, which had a 62 year old woman in it. The Jeep was pushed off an embankment and the woman died on impact.

As I sat there reading about this, I thought, THIS is why I'm in seminary. (No, not to become a long-haul truck driver) Because more education and training in his vocation, before hitting the road and being tested, could have saved that woman's life. Not everything can be learned in books, of course, much of the artistry of any vocation comes in the 'doing' of it. As my mom always says, she earned her Ph.D. and then learned how to be a psychologist... But the practice, the training that goes into earning the degree should set you up for later success in life.

As anyone who follows media stories surrounding people who've missed the mark in our vocation, Ted Haggard being one of the latest, can attest; more training, before investing in, and building up a ministry can not hurt. It can help you be aware of yourself, strengths, and more importantly, weaknesses. It can help you build a team of complementary gifting, and partner with a larger group of people with whom there is accountability, checks/balances. It can help you be sensitive/relevant to the particular dynamics of your congregation.

Anyway, enough of my soapbox, but now I have a parable to go along with my answer for the next time someone at a party, or on a plane, asks me that question. And as for that young man, pray for him... I'm not sure if he's in jail now; all I know is that he's being sued by the woman's family. He was just a guy, trying to make it in this world, and wasn't set up for success. It's a sad situation, but hopefully it won't be the defining experience in his life, there's so much more to live for...

On Christianity, Africa, and two books that changed my life...

"Better late than never," so the saying goes; but I am still sad, disappointed or some other undistinguishable emotion, that I didn't read either of these books until now. They were amazing to me, I found myself reacting viscerally at times, with different emotions they evoked. I read Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart first, which took me through an unexpected journey.
Embarrassing as it is, to admit now, I started off with anger at the main character, Okonkwo. I thought he was barbaric and cruel, treating his wives abusively. Polygamy was a hard concept for me to swallow, let alone spousal abuse. I quickly diagnosed him, psychologically, and determined that "he needs help." At that point, I would've preferred to throw the book across the room and forget about it; but, gritting my teeth, I begrudgingly obliged my professor to finish it. I wasn't being prejudiced; Okonkwo was just awful, right? Maybe not...
In life, the longer I stay invested in a person, the larger propensity I have to turn my heart towards theirs, having compassion, showing understanding, and choosing to believe that they're doing the best they know how to do. My heart only stays hardened when I make a pre-mature judgment. Spending time in this book was like that, and though I dreaded continuing on, somewhere in the middle of it, I took inventory of my emotions, and realized that I no longer despised Okonkwo. That sneaky guy had snuck into my heart, mattering and making sense to me. Somewhere around when he traveled to be near his wife, Ekwefi, and their daughter Ezinma, I realized his heart for his family, and that changed everything.
When the missionaries entered into relationships with the natives, at first I had a neutral or semi-positive view of them, since I identify most with western culture. But it became increasingly disturbing towards the end of the book, to see the results of their actions. At first I thought Nwoye was brave for pursuing his curiosity in Christianity. I'd never considered how that might feel for a people group, as though they've "lost" a family member, one of their own, to new beliefs, ways and traditions. And I'd never thought of the convert in terms of being ostracized from family and community, seeing how high the stakes were opened my eyes and was grievous to me.
The missionaries could have been so much more graceful, as well, trying to get to know the tribes longer, and making connecting points with their culture and the gospel. Instead of just putting down their opinions, dismissing their concerns in a pejorative way, and imposing their governmental structure and trade stores, they could have worked at relationships and nonjudgmental sharing of their faiths.
It was a big slap in the face to realize that I've naively thought that we "help" cultures more "primitive" become more "advanced" in the past. I've been reshaping my perception of "missionary" work in the past five years. However, hearing that the District Commissioner was going to name his book "Pacification of the Primitive Tribes"... made me cringe and sick to my stomach, because that's something I probably thought in "mission" work I did overseas in high school and college.
Another thing the books made me think about is how I need to change when I am sharing the Gospel with my non-believing friends, neighbors, and family members. For some reason, I think people should try to be just like me, as they pursue personal growth. I hold them to an unfair (and unspoken) standard, which would never be attainable. I get irritated when they compromise (in my opinion) by being lazy spiritually, or doing things like sleeping with their boyfriends, smoking pot or drinking alcohol in excess, for example. How would they know any better? Yet my judgment clouds potential connections I could make between their lives and people in Scripture who were seeking avenues of self-fulfillment as well, and asking questions of ultimate value.
It is kind of embarrassing to have these books call to my attention ways I have ignored or missed opportunities for the gospel to be shared, yet simultaneously tried to fix outer habits (symptoms) of people. It seems laughable, in retrospect, that I would even assume such a thing was possible. With my misplaced zealousness, it must be a drag, at times, for people to be around me- a humbling realization.
I loved the how Vincent Donovan, in his book Christianity Rediscovered, tried to strip down all the Western baggage associated with Christianity, in his presentation of the gospel to the Masai tribe in East Africa. This book impacted me in a huge way. If I hadn't borrowed a library copy, which was already majorly underlined, I would've done some intensive writing in it myself. As it is, I dog-eared many a page in the book.
I found it fascinating to think through how being a white American with heritage from Greco-Roman Western Europe has colored my perception of the gospel. In the first few centuries after Christ, the Church became established there and "determined" what acceptable beliefs and practices were; so clearly that plays into how those of us who're descendents today react towards/against cultures that perceive things differently, due to a different frame of reference. As people figured out what the gospel meant in their Western context, it became the standard, rather than aiming for people elsewhere to figure out how the gospel could interplay with their respective cultures.
It was alarming to reflect on damage missionaries in the past century have done in the name of Christ; urging people to turn away from their tribal god, and turning toward our tribal god, instead of searching for the true God together. Though we can only "know in part," while on earth, how much more beneficial for both parties for us to search for God together, instead of us bringing God to Africa. God is already there, signs of God's love are already manifested in their communities; it is merely our task to point God out to people who might not realize that truth.
How far we have strayed from Paul's missionary journeys! We have changed from the centrifugal movement of Jesus' great commission, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations", to a centripetal, "Come be like us." Rather than a "finishable" task, training up natives, we have made these unending situations of Africans dependence upon us for their well being and guidance. I can certainly understand how European and American Christians thought they were helping the worldwide Church grow, planting schools and hospitals in Africa, and in a round-about way, coercing natives to accept their beliefs along with education, or health care. I probably would've done something similar, being shortsighted, and not thinking through the implications of imposing my own cultural assumptions of what is essential for their society.
These books have been invaluable to me, in causing me to reflect on all of these topics. I don't want to miss the mark, identifying the gospel "with any social, political, or economic system... accepting the limits of that system, [and in so doing] betraying the gospel," as Donovan says. I want to be aware of the cultural baggage and limitations I have, and able to identify them, in times where I question the validity of an opinion or experience different than what I adhere to, or have had. The gospel is inherently attractive and compelling, but I, along with many others, have done it an injustice by being unaware of what we add to it. May the reading of these two books just be the beginning of my journey towards, as Donovan puts it, rediscovering Christianity.

What is love?

A group of professional people posed this
question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds,
"What does love mean?"
The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined.
See what you think:
"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore.
So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love." Rebecca- age 8

When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.
You just know that your name is safe in their mouth." Billy - age 4

"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other." Karl - age 5

Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs." Chrissy - age 6

"Love is what makes you smile when you're tired." Terri - age 4

"Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK."
Danny - age 7

"Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more.
My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss"
Emily - age 8

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen." Bobby - age 7

"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,"
Nikka - age 6

"Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday." Noelle - age 7

"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well." Tommy - age 6

"During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling.
He was the only one doing that.I wasn't scared anymore."
Cindy - age 8

"My mommy loves me more than anybody .
You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night." Clare - age 6

"Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken." Elaine-age 5

"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Brad Pitt." Chris - age 7

"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day." Mary Ann - age 4

"I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones." Lauren - age 4

"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you." Karen - age 7

"You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget." Jessica - age 8

And the final one -- Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, "Nothing, I just helped him cry"