Monday, March 31, 2014

Misconceptions about Adventure

            Today my son asked me, “Mom, what’s an adventure?”  His hazel (or diesel as he calls them) eyes looked up at me from his seat on the Baby Bjorn toddler toilet.  His star studded potty chart was taped behind him on the wall.  We often have deep talks here in the bathroom.  
“Well, adventure is...” I stopped and found myself at a loss for words.  “It’s something you do that is exciting and maybe a little bit scary,” I ventured.  “But mostly exciting,” I went on. 

“Wow, I really have no idea,” I thought to myself.  I realized that I had begun to think of “adventure” as just a optimist's buzzword for a really difficult situation that you have to slough through in this life.  I was surprised by my own cynicism.  Where did that little kid go who dreamed only of adventure? 
I think I began to create this stereotype of the adventurer that I just couldn’t live up to. I had these misconceptions that I made into rules and now as I sit and think of the adventures I’ve known personally and through books, blogs and friends I find my preconceptions to be lies.
So here they are, 5 misconceptions I subconsciously held about adventurers:
  1. Adventurers can’t watch TV.  Somewhere along the line I noticed that a sedentary life is not usually conducive to adventuring and twisted that observation into a law.  If you choose to watch TV you are sacrificing any opportunities to have adventures and all your creative juices will be sucked from your brain.  
  2. Adventurers can’t have kids.  I used to have nightmares of trying to get my sisters out of some movie theater or abandoned warehouse and I knew I could get away if I just didn’t have to worry about them too.  So, I began to think that if you are responsible for someone it is to risky to go on adventures.  
  3. Adventurers don’t have normal jobs.  Yes, Indiana Jones was a professor but in general I had this feeling that adventurers just spent their time traipsing from one  adventure to the next.  
  4. Adventurers don’t get to experience the thrill of excitement and joy without the depths of despair ever bringing them down. It just seems like if and when you are depressed, anxious or fearful adventures are completely out of the question.
  5. Adventurers don’t need sleep, in fact they thrive on 4-5 hours a night.  

So once I had effectively eliminated myself from this category, slowly coming to grips with the fact that I am not exactly “at my best” when I have only gotten a few hours of sleep, and that I do in fact like watching TV...not to mention that I have kids and a “normal” job...oh, and of course, I have nagging doubts and despair.  Having discovered all this about myself I cut ties with my desire for adventure. 

But the list above is one of untruths.  Adventurers can be, you, the least expected person in the world.  So as the travelocity gnome would say, “Go and Smell the Roses.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Katie and the Inn of the Sixth Happiness by Marion Dietrich

When I was a child, my ambitions were relatively tame.  Instead of playing in the school orchestra or band beginning in Grade 4, I wanted to play the guitar.  My heroes were Peter, Paul and Mary and Joan Baez.  I dreamed of being a folk singer and changing the world.  This was a bitter pill for my British mother who wanted me to play the viola in the school orchestra.  Why couldn’t I just do what everybody else did?  Why did I always want something that wasn’t even on the table?

When our daughter, Katie, was in sixth grade she heard a story told by her social studies teacher about a woman who went to China to be a missionary.  This woman had no financial support, no command of the Chinese language, minimal education and no organizational covering.  Also, she went by train and there was a war going on between Russia and Japan so the railroad was closed.  When she arrived in China, the woman with whom she was going to work was ill and died shortly after her arrival.  Nevertheless, God worked amazingly through this little woman, miraculously even, so Katie and her best friend, Lauren, decided that one day they too would go to China.  
Gladys Aylward
 Being the mother of a focused, highly verbal, ambitious, precocious child comes with its own set of mothering needs.   One tool that I did not use until Katie was in college was one I should have picked up years earlier:  I should always have believed that come hell or high water, she was going to do what she set out to do.  So why was I so surprised that in the summer of their junior year of college, Katie and Lauren went to China to teach children English.  It changed all of our lives forever.
Katie and Lauren in China at last!
Why you are writing about this now, you may ask.  My role has changed, you see.  I am now the storyteller, and my students are my children.  I teach in the school Katie attended, I tell the same story to the 6th grade and sometimes I get a similar reaction.  So when a student asks me with wide-eyed wonder if people still believe in the call of God, still go to China, still have every need met, still get to live their dream even when everything seems against it, I can tell them with complete veracity that they do.   My answer is neither speculative nor hypothetical, because my child, the light of my life, the joy of my being, the answer to my prayers, my child Katie went to China and fulfilled the call she heard as a young girl in 6th grade.  My amazing daughter, when she heard God say, “Whom shall I send?” said, “Send me.”

Monday, March 24, 2014

Potter's Clay

Found this creative writing piece from college.  The writing quality was worse than I remembered but the memories were so sweet I tried to patch up the grammar of the first couple paragraphs and post it for public enjoyment.  

        Why they chose me to be the 28th co-director of Potter’s Clay, ministry in Mexico, is beyond me.  I was most definitely the least qualified.   Before I moved to California from Hartford, Connecticut I thought that I was very culturally aware.  Many of my good friends were African American or Jamaican.  I was in the Black history club and had sung the Black national anthem in my high school.  I felt like Westmont was a step down in a way.   I hoped I might be the savior of the diversity issue bringing meat patties and ox tail from the east to teach these Californians a thing or two.  
      But I was actually the one who needed serious cultural lessons.  For example, I had met one Mexican person…one in my whole life.  I didn’t even know he was Mexican until he told me.   I mean I loved to go to Taco Bell with my dad after church and get a MexiMelt but how could I lead a trip with 300 students to Ensenada, Mexico, for a whole week?  My partner was Daniel Michael Quon, a senior art major who spoke no Spanish and was labeled by the locals as the “chine” translated as “the Chinese one.”  He was the fourth Chinese person I had ever met and soon to become one of my best friends ever.
  Sitting cross-legged on the floor of our small office we were determined to write our vision for the year.  I looked at the key to the city hanging on the wall, and noticed it needed dusting.  I began picking the crumbs of old peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from the ground, “Where do we begin?”  Dan wondered out loud.
We decided that the first thing was getting a service project ready for 300 students to spend their spring break in Ensenada.  The second was strengthening the ongoing friendship with the church in Ensenada, specifically the three Mexican members of the Potter’s Clay core team; Dr. Ramon Viduadi, Pastor Juan Monge and Pastor Rueben Castenada. 
Probably my favorite picture... EVER
So we gathered a team, an all star team (see above.)  Our plan was to go to Mexico every other weekend.  Inevitable Dan would be 15 minutes late only to wait another 15 minutes for everyone on our team to get there.  Once they arrived we would squeeze our weekend bags in between the bench seats in my van.  If  the van didn’t reek of  anything suspicious, like rubber or brake fluid we would drive all the way to Ensenada that night. 
Stopping for gas and oil and soda and snacks was just pre-gaming for the adventures that invariably awaited us when we crossed the border.  Back in the day it was no big thing to cross the border, either way.  No passports, no worries just sail on through toward Las Parillas and the best tacos on earth.  Then, the fun could begin in earnest.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

          So, I finished it.  For four years Malden Reads has been having one city come together and read one book and for the first year ever I did it!  I read it and I plan to attend the movie viewings, community dinners and book discussions that go along with this fascinating book.  
         The thing about choosing one book for the whole entire city is that it is hard to find something that everyone will be interested in.  And I must admit had it not been for the Malden Reads initiative I probably would not have picked this book off the shelf.  I mean I LOVE the fact that it deals with race relations in the United States both now and during the 1950s and 60s.  I was not so sure I'd be interested in the ethical medical questions such as what should doctors do with tissue that is removed from your body?  
       When I was having my first baby I spent a long, hot evening discussing if I was interested in taking my placenta home from the hospital with me, and although there are very good reasons to do so, I think that debate really satiated my appetite for live tissue disposal.   
       However, it turns out that there are many medical mysteries at play in this book and it is worth the read if you are interested in cancer treatment, medical ethics and/or racial reconciliation.  This book opened my eyes to the complexity of finding a cure for cancer, encouraging medical research while avoiding avarice and to the power of a daughter's love for her mother.  It was an amazing story that was full of twists and turns.

 Luckily for you I  have another copy of the book to give away:)  If you are interested to read this book for free.....
1. Leave a comment stating what intrigues you most about the book and why...
a. The history of race relations in America during the 1950s and 60
        b.The search for a cure for cancer. 
        c. The ethical dilemmas related to experimentation on live cells
2.  like Penned but Not Published's FaceBook page 

Monday, March 17, 2014

My Life in 100 Words

I have always, always aspired to be in Reader's Digest.  I'd love to have even a letter to the editor published, let alone one of my anecdotes I so often submitted to them as a middle and high school writer.  I gave up on it for a while but recently I came upon a contest that was just too good to pass up. 

Reader's Digest - 100-Word True Story Contest
Write a story about your life in 100 words or less and you could win $5,000 and publication or other prizes in Reader's Digest's 100-Word True Story Contest. 
Entry Frequency: Unlimited entry per person 
End Date: March 14, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. ET 
Eligibility: USA, 18+

Here is what I submitted:

Crouched low and breathing hard, he peered around the corner just in time to detect the shadow that leapt toward him.  He wielded his sais expertly to deflect the onslaught.  He tucked and rolled.  As he rose he felt a searing pain pierce his abdomen.  He clutched his stomach and ran, shaking off armor and weaponry.  It was too late.  A pool was forming at his feet.  He called desperately, “Help! Mom, I so sad... I peed my Ninja pants.”  Hot tears burned his three year old eyes.  I found him struggling out of his soiled clothes, humiliated by defeat.

My Favorite Ninja

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

In praise of a face and two hands by J.R. Dietrich

My problem with the digital clock is it’s existential nature.  It sees itself fixed in each moment without regard to that moment that lives ahead or behind.  On the good old dial style analog clock one can see at any moment relationships between the marks upon the face.  Half past, quarter til, high noon, five after.  These establish us in relation to other moments.  We are not isolated but in community. And best of all we can anticipate.  

We understand our time, our moments and hours by the company our hands keep.  The glowing readout on the digital clock stands alone and worst of all when the power goes out he flashes off an on at noon or midnight… caught between the day and night in a pulsating panic, crying out to be renumbered, unable to move on.   

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Man who Collects Hugs n' Bugs

Part Three .....

The pause after my confession of love knocked the wind out of me.  I grabbed onto the crazy quilt on my bed steadying myself for whatever may come.  I caught a glimpse of myself making ridiculous, “You are killing me!” faces in the mirror.  

“ Well..... That’s good because I like you too.”  I could hear him smile.  I mean not literally but he has this amazing voice that can pull emotions up onto your face.  

I think it was my eye for high fashion that won him over:)
Those words were like a shot of caffeine straight to my bloodstream.  I fell back into my pillow miming a scream of delight and disbelief to an imaginary audience. I wanted to hear more, more about how he felt, about us, about why he went on a date with another girl.  But I let it go.  It was 3 am after all and I was supposed to wake up in 2 hours to run the camp, well co-lead it, thank God.  I just smiled right back into the phone.  

“Well, that is good.” I replied  

The goodbye exchange after that was awkward no denying it.  Neither of us was really ready to sign off with “I love you” yet.  Okay I probably was, but it would have been a tad premature. So we stammered one million, “okay talk to you soon”s, “have a good night”, “yah, call me tomorrow”, “okay great”, “yup,”  ..and so on until hanging up was inevitable.  
And for the rest of the summer we returned to our respective summertime activities... I, to making lists in my parent's basement (see above.) And he to collecting Hugs N' Bugs on the houseboat (see below).  We talked every night until we fell asleep.  Little did I know, the best  was yet to come.  

The man, the myth, the legend 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Why Malden? By Dan Ko

Today's GuestS Dan and Caroline Ko moved to Boston in 2008 with a dream of giving their lives to see a church planted in a diverse city. They quickly found a gospel-centered community at Seven Mile Road and found themselves giving everything to its vision to see Bostonians coming to believe the Gospel, be discipled, and live on mission through an ever-growing network of healthy Seven Mile Roads all over Boston for Jesus' glory and our joy. Over the next five years, a lot happened. Dan changed jobs a bunch, we bought a house in Malden, Caroline quit her job to become a full-time mother, and we welcomed two kids in to our family. But that wasn't it. In February 2013, there was a clear opportunity to plant a church in Malden to reach the diverse population that's been emerging. It was then, Dan and Caroline knew there was a clear call on their lives to plant a church in that city. So, the pastors of Seven Mile Road and her people, commissioned Dan and Caroline to plant a church set to launch in the Spring of 2014.

Good question. Why would anyone plant a church in Malden, Massachusetts? Of all the cities in these United State of 'Merica - no scratch that - out of all the cities on all 7 continents, why this little city on the north side of Boston that's "home" to 60,000 of the 7 billion people (0.00009%) on this planet earth? Why would anyone plant a church in Malden? There are definitely sexier, cooler, trendier, more populous, more prestigious, more awe-inspiring cities one could plant a church in, so why Malden? The answer is really simple actually. We're planting a church in Malden, because God loves Malden. 

Yea, you might've skimmed past that last line, but it's the most important line of this whole thing: God loves Malden and her people. He does. I know...well, because the Bible told me so. One of Jesus' disciples John wrote, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). It's cliché, but only because it's true and that should hit you hard - real hard. God loves this world, which includes the city of Malden, Mass. 
And because God loves Malden, He longs for her people to know His son, Jesus, through whom we can know God. And to know Jesus, people have to hear about Him. And for people to hear about Him, there need to be people that talk about Him. And where there are a people that talk about him, you've got a church. And that's exactly what we want to be. A church that makes Jesus known in Malden!
We want to be a community that loves this city and her people, not because we think we can make it a better place to live or because we think we can change people on our own terms, but simply because God loves this city. And because God loves it, we love it. If the motivation to plant this church is because we think we can make this a better place to live, we are no better than a civic non-profit. If our motivation is to change people on our own terms, then we are no better than a rehab program. If our motivation is to run a profitable venture then we are no better than a corner store. But we are none of those things, because God calls us to be the church - those devoted to the knowing Jesus and making Jesus known. And for us, that's happening in Malden, MA. 
Whether you're in Malden or Madagascar, wherever you are right now, consider how you could love your neighbors knowing God loves them, too. Let's make Jesus known. 

Check out more from Dan and Caroline at

Monday, March 3, 2014

Hard Times

I wrote this a while back when I was feeling down.  This morning when I woke up with a sore throat and a throbbing headache I thought it'd be an appropriate post for the day...

"All I can smell are diapers.  And it makes me want to cry but I don’t.  It is 5:30am and I am alone, for once.  There is quiet and peace.  Well, there should be peace but my heart is in such turmoil it burns my ears.  Every beep of the microwave, every truck passing by grates on my nerve.  And my heart swells with sobs that just can’t seem to make it to my eyes and I am lost.  The weight is so heavy on my heart, holding down my tears, trapping my breath.  

And I’m not sure what the issue is, if it’s the money I feel like I need or the life I live.  Is it my failures or the way others keep seeming to fail me?  There is an ache and an exhaustion to this burden.  

“Oh Lord, be my help,”  My son spoke these words over breakfast yesterday and shocked me into silence.  “It’s my memory verse,” he informed me. 

“Oh Lord, be my help” because I cannot seem to help anyone else, least of all myself, and yet my days are consumed with trying, with trying to be some use to those in need yet feeling so needy I can barely contain it.  I feel alone.  

And what do I do about the dreams?
About the test I keep on failing and don’t have money to gamble on a pass?
About the dream job that opens up and then snaps shut right in my face?
About the disappointment of not being able to go to weddings and to see family?
About the frustration of not having money to join a gym or replace things that are broken?
About constantly knowing I might have to pack up everything and move back home, away from my friends and family, away from my job and joys.  Leaving the city that I love, the trails I have trod, the memories I have made.  

I want to remember this for when we have money.  I want to remember this for when these dreams deferred come true.  

I will send cash anonymously to those who are secretly scraping by and are much to proud to ask.  
I will buy coffee and fruit snacks for them when they can’t afford it.
I will give presents to their children when they can’t afford any presents themselves.
I will give them gas for their cars so they can get to work.  
Because you have all done this for me. And because the Lord is my help and my salvation.  I will tell them not to fear.  Courage comes from God.  

For now 
I find ways to help others because that makes my pain not feel so strong. A double batch of chili to share, free babysitting when I can.  Counting the gifts like Ann Voskamp told me.  Loving even when it hurts.  Praying for forgiveness and battling any bitterness that tries to take root."