Monday, November 30, 2015

Things I Learned this Fall

Here are ten random things that I learned this fall.

I wish I had the brain of a two-year-old.

Since we're moving to Bangkok in a couple of months, I decided to try to learn all 44 Thai consonants. Gotta start somewhere, right?

I practiced in the cracks of my day usually with my two-year-old Grace watching. After a week, I had memorized about half of them.

While I was patting myself on the back over my little accomplishment, Grace started reciting them. All of them. She had all 44 consonants down solid just from watching over my shoulder. Schooled by my two-year-old.

Now if only I could switch brains with her when learning Thai becomes my full time job...

One of the best ways to recharge my soul is to spend some time in a place where leaves outnumber humans a million to one.

When you change lanes on a CA freeway, you're supposed to (1) find your space, (2) blink your blinker for five full seconds, and then (3) change lanes.

(1) stake out your spot but don't give any indication that you are intending to change lanes,
(2) begin moving into your spot, and then
(3) blink as your tires cross the dotted lines. Any more blinking forfeits your space.

Questions are powerful.

When I hit a confusing spot in life that has no easy answer, I usually feel uncomfortable, so I tend to rush ahead to force some sort of answer.

Of the 180+ questions that were asked of Jesus, he only gave a direct answer to four of them. The rest of the time he responded with another question or a story. (I owe this insight to my pastor Tom Hughes' sermon series based of his book Curious.)

For the past couple of months, I've tried to hold the uncomfortable questions before God. Questions like: How do I hold onto the big picture as I engage in the mundane details of life? and How do I engage with national and global news without feel utterly depressed and discouraged?

As I have held these questions before God, I've had flashes of insight into deeper truth than I would have found if I had rushed ahead.

A one-year-old can produce an unbelievable amount of snot in just days.

One week, Cora was sick with a really nasty cold, I swear I wiped about half a gallon of snot off her face.

Here's a pic from a really dramatic diaper change. I just want to scoop her up, wipe off her nose, and snuggle her. Pretty sure that's what happened once Michael was done changing her.

Finding a piano in an unexpected place is magical.

On an overcast afternoon in September, my family strolled down a wooden pier in Central California eating free samples of clam chowder and watching the seagulls flap around. Suddenly, we came upon an old, wooden, upright piano. It drew us in with its magic and we played for a while, serenading seagulls and passers by with our slightly out of tune playing.

It reminded me of a time when, on my regular commute home from law school, I unexpectedly stumbled upon an upright piano in Los Angeles' Union Station. A man who was homeless was pounding the keys with rusty skill and gusto. Being homeless, he probably rarely played, but I could tell he loved it. I can only imagine what a magical refuge that piano was to him.

Two months can pass between a baby's first steps and when they actually start walking.

Cora took her first steps a a couple of weeks before her first birthday. And that was it. She refused to walk for two months after that. She's definitely walking now, but even still prefers crawling.

It is very satisfying to have high hopes for something and for that thing to come through.

This happened twice this fall.

(1) Except for the few times they've majorly flubbed. (i.e. Cars 2), I love Pixar movies. I had high hopes for Inside Out. We watched it the day it came out on DVD and every hope was satisfied.

(2) I had high hopes when I heard that Sara Groves, my favorite singer/songwriter, was releasing an album. Since it came out, I've listened to it almost daily. The lyrics. The music. It's all so delicious. And I later found out that the album was birthed after several years of anxiety, depression, and writer's block. It's curious how the most painful stuff can produce the best art.

It is possible to write a gripping novel full of middle school drama. 

The novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio centers around the story of a fifth grader with severe facial abnormalities/differences (I don't know how to say it PC-ly) and his first year in a regular school. It's really quite good. And its message of kindness is one we could all take to heart these days.

It is possible to die with joy and grace.

Steve Hayner was the president of Columbia Theological Seminary when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died less than a year later. On his journey from diagnosis to death, Steve and his wife, Sharol, chronicled their experiences online. Their words have been turned into the book Joy in the Journey.

The title is appropriate. I was dumbstruck by how their struggles oozed with joy and grace. I wish I lived my little day to day struggles with the courage and hope that they lived Steve's last months.

Monday, November 23, 2015


I first prayed this prayer a couple of years ago. I stumbled upon it again today and, as I pray the words yet again, I find them so appropriate and so refocusing for these times.


You asked for my hands that you could use them for your purpose.
I gave them for a moment and then withdrew for the work was hard.

You asked for my mouth to speak against injustice.
I gave you a whisper that I might not be accused.

You asked for my eyes to see the pain of poverty.
I closed them for I did not want to know.

You asked for my life that you might work through me.
I gave you a fractional part that I might not get involved.

God, forgive me for calculated efforts to serve you only when it is convenient to do so, only in places where it is safe to do so.

Creator God, forgive me, renew me, and send me out as a usable instrument, that I may take seriously the meaning of Your Cross.


Now try reading them again, but this time as a prayer.

(Taken from the book of Christian art, images, poetry, and quotes called Imaging the Word.)

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Rocks that Make a Mountain

Welcoming a new child into your family and raising her is a holy, awesome endeavor. And day to day, that means a lot of butt wiping, lift-a-flap book reading, and sippy cup washing. Very quickly, mundane details smother my vision of the holy and awesome and I think, "I signed up for GLORIOUS PARENTING not this everyday parenting. What happened?"

Moving to another country to be a missionary is a holy, awesome endeavor. And day to day, that means applying for an international driver's license, fixing insurance problems, and scheduling typhoid shots. Very quickly, the mundane details smother my vision of the holy and awesome and I think, "I signed up for GLORIOUS MISSIONARY WORK not everyday ministry. What happened?"

Most of my life involves the mundane -- cleaning up crumbs, checking emails, taking kids to the dentist, scheduling a phone call with my supervisor. And somewhere in these details, I lose the bigger picture.

I imagine these feelings are not particular to my life. Working in the ICU, building a dam, writing a book, working on your degree, starting a business, or whatever you find taking up most of your time -- they are all holy, awesome endeavors. And day to day, they involve a lot of mundane details.

And I remember: Christ himself had the most holy, awesome endeavor of all -- to reconcile humankind with the Father and to usher in a new Kingdom. And on the average day, that meant fastening wooden legs to a table, memorizing the law, and picking bones out of his fish.

The day to day details are the individual gray rocks that make up the grand and lofty mountain. How do I engage with the everyday mundane in a way that does not smother my vision for the holy, awesome endeavor that I am working towards?

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Happy 30th to Michael

When Michael went to his macho, Italian barber for a much-needed hair cut a couple of weeks ago, the first question the barber asked was, "So, how's school?" As in high school. 

Michael answered, "Oh I'm not in school anymore." As in he graduated from high school twelve years ago.

This week at the DMV in the middle of a conversation with the DMV employee, Michael said, "Oh ya, my wife and I..."

"You have a wife?! You look way to young to be married." If only she knew that he has been married for six years and has two kids.

These comments are nothing new. All through his five years of working at the Claremont Colleges, strangers assumed he was a prospective student. Aka, a junior or senior in high school.

So here's a little public service announcement for all macho, Italian barbers; DMV employees; and other strangers...

Today is Michael's 30th birthday.

Thank you.

High school Michael and two weeks ago Michael. See? He doesn't look like a teenager.

It's mostly funny but also slightly annoying to have people think your husband is a teenager. But, I suppose in 10 or 20 years when people think he's 30, I'll be proud of my husband's youthful good looks.

But, seriously now, happy 30th birthday, Michael! Ten years ago, we were living in the same dorm at USC and I had a major crush on you and you had a major crush on me and everyone knew it except you. Now here we are ten years later -- married with two little girls; two college degrees, a law degree, and a couple of jobs behind us; and a big cross-cultural move before us.

You are the kind of husband and father who will always lay aside his work or his phone to listen to my stories, help Grace deal with her big emotions, or read Cora's favorite book with her for the 72nd time. And that's a really good husband/father to be. The three of us are so blessed!

What are the next ten years going to bring? What will we look back on together when we turn forty?! I look forward to the next decade with wide eyes and a pounding heart grateful to have your hand squeezing mine.

Now go get some eye wrinkles so people don't start thinking you're my son!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Halloween - A Mouse and a Butterfly

Last Halloween, when Grace was 20 months old and Cora was a newborn, we did absolutely nothing to celebrate because, well, Grace was 20 months old and Cora was a newborn. We were tired.

Since this is our last Halloween in the U.S. for a while, I decided to go for it. Only challenge: we're broke and trying to not accumulate new things like costumes that they only wear once. So, I somehow managed to piece together two costumes from things we had around the house and was thrilled with the result...

Here is Minnie Mouse and a butterfly dancing ring-around-the-rosy.

Here are two past Halloweens:
Halloween 2012
Halloween 2013

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