Month: October 2017

Cookie Stalker


My first week living in L.A. as a new intern, I went door-to-door with fellow volunteers bringing new church visitors cookies. I liked the idea of the Southern charm being delivered door to door but we were met with reactions as if we were sociopaths.

So when my husband and I first moved into our neighborhood, we did the same thing to introduce ourselves to the neighbors.  We were met with similar responses.  We tried again years later as we moved to a new neighborhood.  It’s not exactly easy to show up at a stranger’s home, especially without being fluent in the language.  In addition, the homes around surrounded with concrete walls, layered with barbed wire, guarded with Rottweilers and security systems.  Simply ringing the bell to deliver cookies meant waiting for several minutes before there was even a response.  When there was an answer, it usually was a voice over speaker, skeptically asking “Quién es?”

Years later, we’ve seen the fruit of such labor.  Just this week, we celebrated our first neighborhood-wide event for Trick-or-Treating.  It is encouraging to see after years as strangers, neighbors are coming together, some for the first time.  Many of the comments were similar to “We’ve never knew who lived there.”

Folks agreed to having the whole neighborhood show up at their homes, asking for candy…for the first time ever.  And we concluded with a potluck barbecue.

We’re grateful to be a part of this community.  These neighbors are our support.  Within minutes, we have a response from any of them when the power goes out or when trees block the road.  We’re beginning to all look out for each other now versus keeping to ourselves.

And it all started with a plate of cookies.

*Cookies by Mom

A Tree Planted



Jeremiah 17 tells us:

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.”

Where we place our trust is what grounds us.  So if that thing, person, or idea is uncertain or temporary, our foundation will be, too.

This became a reality for me when I moved here.  I had no idea how much I was leaning on my achievements.  I was putting my trust in myself and what I was doing.  So when seasons changed and I started over, my identity, as I knew it, was destroyed.

Beginning again, with new country, language, marriage, no job or friends or family, I realized I had nothing familiar to lean on.  As painful as that has been, it has taught me, slowly, over the years, that I must be rooted in one thing.

In planting myself in the Lord, I have nothing to fear.  Storms continue to come.  But as I choose to draw near to Him and allow Him to strengthen and grow my roots, I can trust He does not fail.  If I stay planted firm in Him, I continue to bear fruit.


How can I be rooted today?

Photo by Victoria Palacios on Unsplash

The Unforgiving Tree


Under the right conditions, tree roots can go as far as twenty feet deep.  At this depth, a tree can withstand strong winds and storms.  But it requires planting a seed first.

When we plant the seed of unforgiveness, we’re beginning to plant roots.  It can start with feeling slighted by what someone said or feeling left out.

According to Dr. Karen Swartz at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, “There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed.”  The research goes on to say that “chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response.  Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.” *

Living in the forest, the recent pine beetle epidemic has destroyed hundreds of thousands of trees.  During the dry season, these trees served as kindling for forest fires.  And now, in the midst of storms, the weak branches are falling like toothpicks, creating power outages and obstructing our daily drive.

Similarly, our unforgiveness can be fuel for other fires–bitterness, anger, resentment–destroying those around us.  And when just the right moment strikes, we can lash out, blaming others for our lack of cutting down our unforgiveness.

Webster defines unforgiveness as “(1) unwilling or unable to forgive or (2) having or making no allowance for error or weakness.”  So often we’re quick to blame and self-protect.  Our prides rises to our defense.  Therefore, rather than admit our unwillingness or choice to not forgive, it’s easier to have an excuse.  The truth is we want our own mistakes to be forgiven, even forgotten, but we’re unwilling to allow for those in anyone else.

The roots of unforgiveness go deep.  We need to do what is necessary to excavate.

What roots are we planting today?


Photo by Kundan Ramisetti on Unsplash

Learning Is a Contact Sport*

learn photo
* Quote by Clark Aldrich

Observing small kids is entertaining.  They have no fear of approaching other small children.  Their curiosity must be quenched but touching, feeling, interacting with everything.  And they don’t slow down.

Even as I write this, my son wants to see and hold everything on my desk.  Sure, here are my pens.  One second later, Sharpie designs are now incorporated on my bedroom wood floor.  No, I did not know there was a permanent marker hidden in my stash.  What’s that you ask, you want to see my wallet?  Ok.  My newly registered and unused credit card is now mysteriously hidden somewhere within my house for the week.  I’ve turned bookshelves, chairs, mattresses inside out and upside down.  Man, he’s great at Hide and Seek!

Or when we go to music classes and while other kids are playing with instruments, my son is sneaking around the circle, undetected by all, snagging cellphones or wallets.  Or better yet, making a run for every door he can find, determined there’s a way out of the place and he’ll make his escape.

When prepping dinner, he wants to see touch the ingredients (and the knives), put food into the pan, taste the butter and turn on the stove.  We learn by doing.

When my brother was in fourth grade, he was a normal, active, and curious nine year old.  Yet when he spoke up one too many times, he was held in from recess to copy dictionary pages.  We’re taught to make an unnatural shift when we’re older to sit in chairs and to be still and to be quiet.

How is this learning?

Dear Dad

Cindy & Chris wedding

As soon as I became a parent, I had a new appreciation for all that my parents did to raise the six of us.

In molding the next generation, I see the importance of instilling character.  I have a really good example of this in my father.  Though we’re countries away, I’m grateful for the impact he is now passing on to my son.

Dad, thank you for:

  • Loving, supporting and partnering with Mom for 54 years.  You have showed me what a good man and husband is.
  • Spending countless and thankless hours helping me with my homework.  You  demonstrated what patience looks like.
  • Doing donuts with me and my friends in snowy parking lots.  You showed me you can let your hair down.  Even Falling Hare.
  • Showing up to sporting events, speech contests, plays and musicals, choir concerts and even those dateless Homecoming and Prom nights, you were there at the door with flowers.  You showed me what support looks like.
  • Early Saturday morning wake-ups to help me fold papers for my paper route.  You taught me what hard work and discipline is.
  • Allowing pets, even if not your favorite, and being willing to bury each one of them as they passed.  You showed me what love looks like.
  • Starting your days with family breakfast and devotions.  You showed me what faith looks like.
  • Staying up many late nights on your knees, until I arrived home.  You showed me what prayer means.

Those years went by too quickly, Dad.  Thank you for investing in each moment.  Thank you for demonstrating how we too can be intentional with our son.  These years will also go by too quickly.

Thank you doesn’t seem to be enough.


Lights Out

Light outOne of the joys of living in a third world country is that you learn to be grateful for the small things…like electricity.

Today is just another day. Yesterday, the power went off in AM. Then again in afternoon while hosting guests. So today when it went out at 9:30AM, I didn’t think anything of it. One to four hours without power or running water is usually the average so I was used to it.  Now, eight hours later, I decide to strap on the baby carrier and walk the dogs just to get us all out of the house.

When I call for the dogs to head home, only one returns.  I reach down to pat his head, praising him for his obedience, and realize he’s just been eating poop.  But with the power out, I can’t wash my hands so baby wipes will have to do.

It’s been ten long hours without power.  It’s now dark inside and out.  An inconsolable baby is a lot harder to soothe when you’re pacing in the dark.

As I call my husband, who is away on business, he asks if I’ve hooked up the generator.  I’m not thrilled at the idea of going on the rain with a small child to hook cables to my car in order to get power.  I’ll manage with a camping lantern.

Bemoaning my current situation, I brainstorm how I will bathe our son and prep dinner.  Then I see our neighbors have their lights on.

I suddenly realized the date.  This was not another weekly power outage.  We forgot to pay the electricity bill!

One-Sided Negotiations

I’m definitely honing my management skills parenting a toddler.  Negotiations are another story.

After a full breakfast with my son, playtime ensued by tossing a sippy cup of milk across the kitchen.  No-spill cups are no match for him.  Since it was no longer serving as a tool to drink milk but rather a weapon, I took it away.

In less than a second, a shriek rang out coupled with gritted teeth and shaking fists.  Where does he get this?  So I remove him from his highchair.  As his feet touch the ground, his body crumples on the floor into a full body meltdown.

Of course, you don’t want to reward such behavior.  But it is baffling how you go from a simple drink to this.  In negotiations, defining ground rules is essential.  I’m not sure how clearly those get communicated between a parent and a toddler.

I wonder if it would work if I responded the same way he did while upset.  But alas, it’s just spilled milk.

La Gringa Fails: Part 2

My first year here, I had a college friend visit during the country’s spring break–Semana Santa.  Wanting to give her the full tour, we drove outside the city, along with everyone else.

What is normally a two lane highway was transformed by drivers into four lanes, at least three of which were going one direction.  Cars hanging off the shoulders, dodging oncoming traffic, it was another ruthless game of chicken.

Fed up with constantly being cut off by eager beach-goers, my last straw was with one driver that was within an inch of my car.  Reaching out my window, in dead stop traffic, I pounded my fist on the hood of his car, shouting, “Hey, do you have insurance?” in my limited Spanish.

My friend slunk down in the passenger’s seat.  The thirty-something year old driver, leaning in front of his rowdy crew, slowing smiled and responded, “Ay, mamasita!”

Sheepishly I rolled up my window and was forced to inch alongside the guy in traffic for the next forty minutes.


La Gringa Fails

When you live in a foreign land while learning a new language, you’re bound to have some fails along the way.

My first few months here, I was shopping in local Walmart and needed help to find Advil.  So I asked, “Dónde está las drogas para mujeres?” (Where are the drugs for women?)  With a blank stare, she replied, “Advil??”  “Ah, sí, Advil.

Less than two weeks later, I returned looking for Coca-Cola.  “Donde esta la coca?” (Where’s the cocaine?).  “Coca-Cola?” she asked.  “Ah, sí, Coca Cola.”

Pretty sure I’m giving the wrong impression here.  #findanewplacetoshop

Who Do You See?

Cindy & Chris wedding

We are our own worst critics.  Condemning, shaming, comparing.

More often than not, we see where we fall short and not in the spiritual sense but rather in comparison to those around us.

  • Fit in a smaller size.
  • Make every meal from scratch.
  • Take up a hobby or four.
  • Get more involved in activities.
  • Earn more.
  • Buy more.

So why then do we preach His love but choose not to believe it?

Isaiah 62:5 states “…as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”

He delights in us.  Takes pleasure in us.

We’ve heard it a thousand times–it’s not our accomplishments or what we have.  But what does it take for that to sink in?

Be still.  Rejoice.  The Creator sees you.

And is pleased.

Photo by Jeremy Yates