Taking Hold

Recently, I began studying through the book of Hebrews.  In the opening paragraph, it has this sentence: “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God”.

This concept of “God’s glory” is one that I’ve been trying to understand. What does that phrase actually mean??

Other literary references to “glory” have helped me understand a bit more.  Sentences like, “her hair was her glory”, “the glories of Paris shone brightly” and “the train has been restored to all its former glory” provide a bit of a reference point.  A glory, or something we glory in, is as Webster puts it, “a special cause for pride, respect, or delight”. (I know this is a WAY incomplete discussion on the concept of God’s glory…but it was enough for me to explore the thoughts below!).

So I started thinking about God and Jesus. God sent Jesus as the exact representation of God Himself.  God, the creator of the Universe, outside space and time, found a way to “package” Himself in Jesus in such a way that He could more fully communicate His character to people.

What fascinates me the most, what most deeply touches my heart, is the packaging that God chose, the packaging that God would “glory” or take delight in.

dirty feet
Then [Jesus] poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” John 13:5
Of all the forms He could have chosen, He came reaching out his hand to touch the untouchable. He came comforting the shameful as they wept. He came kneeling before us and washing our filthy feet. My mind can barely comprehend why he chose such humility.

William Barclay, in his commentary on Hebrews, says it so perfectly:
“…we see with amazing clarity that the glory of God consists not in crushing men and reducing them to abject servitude, but in serving them and loving them and in the end dying for them. It is not the glory of shattering power but the glory of suffering love”. 

“It is not the glory of shattering power but the glory of suffering love”.  This changes everything for me.

My performance-based, guilt-ridden self is often filled with dread and shame when I go to pray. My life falls short in many ways of being who I should be in Christ. However, when I think of God, in ALL His glory, choosing the way of gentleness, mercy and love in His approach to us, and not the way of condemnation and anger, I am reminded that He is not waiting to punish me.

He is the gentle husband comforting his wife when she feels like she doesn’t measure up…again. He is the loving father reassuring his children of his love even in their worst and most confused moments. And amazingly, it is in these moments of remembering His love, His character,  and NOT in my moments of harsh self-correction and/or condemnation, that I find strength, relief and oftentimes even a better way forward.

I wish I could say that I lived in this perspective everyday.  I would love to say that I bask in the grace of God and that self-condemnation has no place in my life.  I can’t say those things. This is another way that I fall short in my walk with God.  I take comfort in Paul’s statement:
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Phil. 3:12

I believe that God wants me (us) to live as someone who is deeply and profoundly loved.  I don’t know how to fully grasp this truth and that is a huge part of why I wanted to write this post.  Maybe, by writing it out, by having it “on paper” to read over and over, it will start to sink in. Maybe then I will be able to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Starfish Wisdom

starfishI recently posted a statistic on my facebook page that really struck me.  The end of the quote said:
“Despite continuing to rank as one of the richest countries in the OECD, behind only Norway, Luxemburg, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia, the U.S. is roughly on par with Mexico when it comes to childhood poverty.”

I was shocked. Shocked at how we can be one of the wealthiest nations in the world while maintaining such an incredible rate of childhood poverty.  Shocked by the incredible disproportion of wealth within this nation.

But what surprised me even more was the response I received from posting this quote. I was touched by the sincere discussion that followed in the comments. So many joined the conversation with a resounding, “What do we do???”.  One woman even expressed feeling overwhelmed and powerless when faced with statistics like this one.  I realized that I also feel powerless when I read quotes like this. I actually feel powerless quite often as I spend my time researching numbers rooted in all of the difficult outcomes associated with poverty.

And so the question becomes, “What can we do?”.  Or even more so, “what can I do??”.

I love the people who ask that question.  Isn’t that the first step? Realizing that these things, these numbers aren’t just numbers, but rather something…someONEs…that are worth us thinking about?

In this post, I wanted to give a few ideas on what we might do when faced with the overwhelming disparity and poverty that exists in this world.  This is not an exhaustive list, and I am guessing there are far better lists out there (please share your own ideas in the comments below!), but these are ideas that I cling to as I try to answer this question for myself.

1. Do something. Anything.
You probably all know the story of the starfish. There are many variations, but the general idea is that a young boy spends his morning throwing starfish, one by one, back into the ocean. An older gentlemen walks up and questions him.  As the man looks at the thousands of starfish on the beach, he turns to the boy and asks, “How can you possibly make a difference?”. The boy picks up another starfish, flings it back to the safety of the ocean and replies, “I made a difference to that one.”.
You don’t have to save everyone. You don’t have to change policies or rewrite laws. But you can make a difference to the cashier you see every week, the child who lives next door, the man on the corner. You can “see” them. You can talk to them. You can learn who they are.  It is amazing the amount of need that exists in our own backyards.  Just by being kind directly to the person in front of us, we can “make a difference to that one”.

2. Make service as important to your kids as sports…
…Or music. Or whatever else they naturally love. Raise a child who understands that this world cannot afford any one of us to live only for ourselves.  They have too much to offer to use their talents and time only on themselves.  And if they can somehow use those talents to serve those around them..that seems like the best possible outcome!

3. Don’t “glean to the edge of your fields”. harvest
There is a law in the Old Testament where God commands the Israelites not to harvest everything they grow, to leave a little so those in need can come to their fields and find the extra. Don’t use up every moment of your time, your emotional energy, or even your money on yourself and your own family.  Being a mother of a child with a chronic illness, I understand seasons of exhaustion and even seasons of needing to harvest a little strength from someone else’s “field”.  But overall, try and leave a little time in your schedule, a little extra in your heart and little wiggle room in your budget for those who might pop up unexpectedly, for those who might wander into your “field” needing a shoulder and/or a little extra support.

4.Learn what the actual needs are in your community.
Every community,  city, and even church, has dozens of opportunities for us to serve, for us to “see”, for us to place ourselves in the heart of others.  Practically, you can google, “homeless shelter” ,  “rehab centers”, “refugees” or any other area that might be on your heart and find a dozen opportunities.  I would suggest not assuming you know the needs, but rather calling an organization that captures your eye and asking what DO they need.

There are so many references in the Bible to individuals who offered the very little that they had and God turning it into exactly what was needed and SO MUCH MORE (I love this post by a dear friend of mine). It honestly seems to be one of the things He LOVES to do. One of my favorite verses in the bible is in Zechariah 4:10: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin”. Whatever, however, you can find to love someone else, just do something.  Trust that it will make a difference to “that” one, and that God rejoices to see the work begin.


A few extra thoughts 
At different times in my life, I have been able to serve in different capacities. The same might be true for you.  You may need to identify what is possible for whatever season you are currently in. When the kids were young, we LOVED doing Meals on Wheels.  We built many special relationships over those years. When the kids entered school full time, it opened up the opportunity for me to train and serve as a Child Advocate in the court system. The two experiences were so very different, but each one carried with it so many opportunities to love others.

And finally, I hope that no one devalues taking care of loved ones as an act of service. So often I talk to women who feel guilty because they are not out serving the community while I watch them spend hours caring for their elderly parents, grandparents or a special needs child. I cannot EVER imagine God being disappointed with love being demonstrated in that way.

Comfort Food

I love food. You may have guessed this since half of my posts end up discussing this topic in one way or another.

I wander through bakeries like some women wander through clothing stores.

cacciatore
One of my Grandma’s handwritten recipes…Great served with rice!

My memories of life seem interlaced with food. The pork chops that my Grandma would make just for our visits: always crispy on the outside and tender on the inside…perfect every time.  The first time I tasted homemade bread (thank you, Chris!!): biting into that incredibly soft and warm slice, butter melting down my chin.  My dad standing over me, teaching me to make pancakes when I was 8 or 9. Alex’s dad now standing over my daughter, teaching her how to make pecan rolls, rolling them tightly so the “good stuff” stays inside. My mom’s broccoli and cheese casserole that actually made me want to eat vegetables as a child.

Coming back to the States has been difficult. Moving abroad into a different culture had it’s rough moments, but I underestimated the difficulty of returning to my own culture.  We will have been back in the States for two months in just a few days, and the ache has not left my heart.  I’m not sure I can fully explain why.  Maybe it is leaving behind people that I am not sure I will be able to see again. It could be leaving a job that felt so impactful and productive. It could be how all of my perspectives have shifted just enough that I’m no longer as certain about some things as I was before living abroad.

Once again, I find myself comforted by food memories.  2017-10-31 12.44.22-1
I reminisce over the meals we shared in La Paz with so many incredible people: daily breakfast with our sweet, kind Spanish professor; sharing bowls of soup with coworkers; bumping hips with dear friends as we cook for the 20+ people cramming into our apartment for dinner; eating meal after meal in home after home while fumbling through our awful Spanish; peeling hundreds of potatoes in preparation for the funeral meal of a young man, finding laughter in the middle of grief; ordering chicken wings and burgers, recreating “home” for our U.S. volunteers (and our own family, also!); meeting monthly with 20 or 30 extremely impoverished families, enjoying lunch and playing together, forgetting the anxieties of life for a few hours.  It seems that everyone we met, food was the first common ground and incredible friendships grew from there.

thanksgiving
Thanksgiving in La Paz…couldn’t find a turkey but still had a great time!

It’s not just the taste of food.  There is something comforting and connecting about it.  A few weeks ago, I heard in a sermon that food references occur almost 100 times in the gospels. Frequently, Jesus is referenced in a meal setting or he is providing a meal to others.

I love how Jesus cooked breakfast for his disciples when they had become discouraged and returned to their old occupation. Jesus shows up, makes a fire and cooks a meal for them. “When they (the disciples) got there, they found breakfast waiting for them–fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.” John 21:9

Maybe that meal held a memory of an earlier meal together, a time when they felt strong and faithful, a time when promises were made and laughter was shared.

Food seems to connect and comfort, encourage and strengthen. Sure, we have abused it, like we often do with the things that are good, but it IS still good.  I would love to hear about one of your food memories, if you have a family recipe that you cherish and/or even just a new cooking tip you would like to share. Feel free to share below…and maybe, somehow, we can share a meal together soon!


Cooking tips from my dear friends in La Paz
1. A little goes a long way.  The women in La Paz were amazing in their frugality.  Instead of using a whole onion, they would just finely dice a quarter of it. The flavor was the same but the onion was used for 3 or 4 meals!
2. Always toast your rice or quinoa before cooking.
This might not be a secret, but I learned it for the first time standing next to my dear friend, Eugenia.
3. Rinsing your quinoa halfway through the cooking time will get rid of the bitter taste.
4. Stretch your meat by adding less expensive veggies. Again, a great tip in frugality!
5. And finally… meals don’t have to be elaborate, but they always taste better if they’re shared!

Reflections on our time abroad…

I have been back in the States for exactly a month today.  In the whirlwind of such a big move, there hasn’t been much time to reflect! This morning, though, it seems that some of the dust has settled and I have some time to write a little.

A friend who has frequently lived abroad advised me to try and summarize in three points what I would share if someone asked me, “what did you learn while in La Paz?”.  It is difficult to summarize ALL of the thoughts our time in La Paz brings to mind, but via my wise friend’s advice, here are three thoughts that I especially want to remember:

  1. I cannot grow in my understanding of Jesus without immersing myself in the same kind of work He did. 
    Jesus was in the trenches.  He was touching the leper and the outcast.  He was weeping with those who wept. He was with the sick, the diseased, the poor, the unaccepted and the broken. He was all in.

    2018-02-24 11.21.29
    One of my favorite memories. We squished all of us into one minivan and spent 6 hours on a rainy day delivering meals…Amazing people and an amazing day!

    I can read the scriptures and imagine what it may have been like to walk alongside Him.  I can look at those within my own social circle and try to emulate what I see in Him.  These things are a great starting point.  But I have never been so desperate to understand what Jesus would do until I was surrounded by the most heart-wrenching situations and faced with my own complete helplessness.  I have also never been more in awe of how effective his methods of love and healing are until I saw those simple solutions bring light and hope to the darkest situations.

  2. God is willing to take our most feeble efforts and make them worth something.
    The entire time I was in La Paz, I struggled with feeling “less -than”.  My lack of Spanish made me feel less-than in my friendships. I was often sick, making me feel less-than able to  serve as much as I hoped.  I struggled with feeling overwhelmed by all of the newness, much more than I thought I would, making me feel less-than the strong person of faith I hoped to be.  I was working full-time, at times very sporadic hours, making me feel less-than the mom and wife I wanted to be. Even in my relationship with God, I felt less-than as I wrestled to identify my feelings, and floundered my way through prayers.

    graceThe most amazing part of all of this is that God was still working!! (right now, you are probably saying “Of course, Carmen! 😉 )

    Despite my Spanish, I was given beautiful, deep relationships that will stay with me for a lifetime.  My heart still aches for those who I had limited conversation with, but who were always there with a smile.  Through even the most clumsy communication, our hearts connected.

    Through the sicknesses, adjustments and struggles, God was working so powerfully in our friendships and family that I remain in awe. I am amazed at the way kids have grown in their confidence and understanding. I read the cards from our friends in La Paz, and feel so deeply grateful.  And the work of HOPEww- Bolivia continues to grow and develop in powerful and wonderful ways, bringing me so much peace and joy. The whole time I felt less-than, God was ALWAYS working exactly as needed.

  3. Discomfort and pain reveal strength.
    This one is the hardest for me to write on because I am still processing for myself.  I realized that, in the past, when faced with discomfort or pain, my first instinct has usually been to somehow remove what is uncomfortable or painful.   However, in Bolivia, there were times when I was in extremely uncomfortable situations but to leave the situation would mean walking away from someone who had a sincere need.  The only right choice was to stay.  Staying in the discomfort helped me see I can expect much more from myself. I don’t need to avoid pain or discomfort. If those things are part of moving along the right path, then I will be there with them and God will give me all I need.

I know these are lessons that could be learned anywhere.  Maybe God was even trying to teach them to me here, but I just wasn’t catching on (very likely!!).  But I am grateful for the people and stories in La Paz that tie directly to each of these thoughts, and I hope to carry them close to my heart, always.

2018-06-12 20.45.09
So many, many stories here.  Words cannot express how grateful we are for each of these individuals and the ways they opened their hearts to our family!!

 

 

Yesterday… A Lesson in Love

hallwayThe father opened a small door in the wall. We ducked down to enter. The contrast between the bright sun outside and the darkness of the hallway was blinding for a moment. The four of us followed the father through the dim corridor, up a narrow set of stairs and in another long hallway. We could smell food cooking and despite the mud bricks used to create the walls and floor, the space was clean and tidy. A sense of family and togetherness permeated the home.

We were led into a small square, dimly lit room. In the center was the tiny coffin.  White flowers spilled onto the ground, brought by family and friends.  The father told us the story: what began as a cold quickly became so much more serious for a young child with cerebral palsy.  He explained the trip to the hospital but how it was already too late. His anguish, his loss, weighing down every word.

After a few moments of silence, a woman in our group asked if she could pray.  We took hands and listened as she poured out her heart to God about this child and his family.  It was only later that I remembered this woman’s own story.  This particular woman had also lost her child in similar circumstances.  And yet, she prayed and gave and wept and mourned.  She offered comfort to this family when others of us could only imagine the loss they felt.

As I was lying awake last night thinking through the day, I thought of how very strong this woman must be.  So often, we do not enter a situation or a conversation because it may be painful for us. We avoid engaging in those things that may make us hurt, or may bring back painful memories of our own. This woman courageously immersed herself in this family’s pain. She sat with them for hours yesterday, listening and caring. Surely her heart must have been reminded of her own loss, but somehow she set her pain aside to be present for others.

I believe this woman demonstrated what love looks like: the courage to forget ourselves and be present for someone else in their suffering; the strength to enter into the dark places of pain with that other person despite what it may cost us.  Yesterday, in the midst of deep sadness, I had the opportunity to witness this kind of love.

“Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to places where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen

“If anyone…sees his brother in need, but withholds his compassion from him, how can the love of God abide in him?
Little children, let us love not in word and speech, but in action and truth.”― I John 3: 17-18

Incomplete thoughts on suffering…

Late last year, we (the HOPE team) walked side-by-side a young man and his family as he succumbed to cancer. This experience had a deep impact on my heart for many reasons. One thing I walked away with was the realization that I didn’t understand “suffering”.

As we tried to help this young man in the best ways we knew how, another staff member and I repeatedly expressed how heartbroken we felt. There were days when we would cry together, wrestling over the loss of this young life.

We had many responses to our grief. Mostly, people expressed that we “should not” be sad. This young man had a deep faith in God and he was at peace with his future. And yet, the grief, the ache would not leave my heart. I was frustrated with myself, disappointed with myself that my faith in heaven was not stronger, that I wasn’t able to feel the joy it seemed I “should” feel.

While in the States over Christmas, I found a book called, “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering”. I am about halfway through the book and it has been so helpful for my heart and my understanding. There are some thoughts in particular that he shares that have helped me find peace. I wanted to share some of those insights. Please know I am only stating these as I understand them!psalm 34b.jpg

Suffering is something that our culture does not seem to handle well. It seems that hardships are something to endure; to minimize, to get through as quickly as possible with minimal feelings. If we suffer, or others suffer, we want to find a reason, to justify it or even to make it disappear. We want to blame the individual, ourself or God. When someone does suffer, if they express sadness or grief, we want to fix it quickly or even avoid it altogether. We often expect a sort of stoic-ness through suffering. There should only be joy and acceptance, not tears and/or protest.

I understand much of this reaction is usually motivated by love. We don’t want to see those we love being sad. I often tell my kids that “it is okay, don’t cry” when they are sad. However, one time, one of them looked at me and said softly, “But Mama, it is NOT okay”. And they were right.

When we approach suffering this way, trying to fix, ignore and minimize, we oversimplify very real pain. This is not what we see in the Bible. The Bible is filled with laments, protests, loud cries and tears. And God doesn’t seem to mind. If anything, He seems to engage even more with His people during those times (Psalm 34:18).

The book I am reading discusses how Jesus himself wept with the people while in front of Lazarus’ grave. But why? Jesus knew Lazarus would live again in mere moments. And yet, the word used for his weeping is one of a someone expressing a deep anger in anguish. Jesus was weeping because the world is not yet as it should be. There IS death and loss and pain, and no amount of stoic-ness will change that fact.

The author quotes a Christian in the early church expressing his own grief over the death of his brother, “We have not incurred any grievous sin by our tears. Not all weeping proceeds from unbelief or weakness….The Lord also wept… He wept for all in weeping for one, I will weep for the all, in my brother.”

This perspective is one of the thoughts that has helped me find peace. It has helped me not feel guilty when I am angry over the way things are in our world. I can cry in frustration when a young life is claimed, when many young lives are claimed, and I don’t need to accept the platitudes (Proverbs 25:20) of it “being God’s will”, or “just have faith”. I can go to God Himself and wrestle, know that He is willing to engage with me. I can know that even His own Son was not at peace with the way things are now and wept in response, even as He knew with full faith what the future will bring.

I know that these thoughts raise a million more questions of theology and a million more “why’s”. Writing this post makes me feel like a young child trying to tackle quantum physics. But I needed to know that, even if there is so much I do not understand (or am in the process of understanding), it does seem that God has room for grief, anger, indignation and tears.

 

Family Update! Here we go again…

This week is a “family” post. It seems the perfect opportunity to provide an update on the latest for the Hamiltons. There have been many conversations and developments lately, and now, for the second time in two years, God is telling us to “go” before we actually feel ready!

My contract here in La Paz was for two years. However, at the end of 2017, we had started to feel as if two years might be too soon. We had begun to wonder if it could it be possible for us to stay just a little longer…

But as the Proverbs say, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” It seems God has a different plan for our family!

verse-2.jpg

One of the main goals of my coming here was to train a local Bolivian to do the work I would be doing. I love this mindset because I believe deeply that the best way to change a community is through the community itself (a thought to explore more in a separate post!). Due to developments with the government and their effects on our Foundation financially, it has become very clear that it is best to hand my position earlier than planned.

Because of this development, and the scarcity of other positions, we have begun to plan our move back to the States early this Summer.

Wilmington
Our family exactly 2 years ago today…a month before God gave us the unexpected “go” from a place we thought we’d live for years to come…

Even though we are all super happy that the foundation will have more local leadership, our family is feeling so many, many things. While we have ached with how much we have missed our family during our time here, we have fallen utterly in love with La Paz. We love its people, its mountains and its culture. The church here has become like our family, the kids’ school is beyond what we could have hoped for and I have absolutely loved the work God has given me to do (even writing policies and procedures has had its own flavor of fun!). Even though it seems like God is making it clear that we should leave in a number of months, our hearts are still being torn by the thought.

We don’t know where we are going. So much of where we “land” depends on where there is work. This uncertainty is challenging each member of our family in different ways. We are having conversations daily on what it means to trust God.

Recently I was praying and I was wrestling with my level of anxiety. I was reading and realized that I needed to decide if I trusted God’s character.
I asked myself if I really believe that He is trustworthy? My immediate answer was “of course”.

Then why is there still so much anxiety?

I realized it is because I desperately want control. I want things worked out on MY timing. I want to know where we are going to live and how it is all going to work out. I want to start making plans and looking ahead. And then, it hit me. Do I really think I could do a better job than God if I were in control? Could I really know how to perfectly plan out the next 5, 10, 15 years for my family and for our faith? As I thought more, it became very clear that I really do NOT want control. If being at peace now, accepting the uncertainty of this present moment, means that God remains in control and I do not, I think I’d much rather surrender.

I was reminded as I was praying today that the only thing that really matters is that our family loves God and loves people. Finding a great job, or not finding any job; living with little or living with alot….these circumstances do not prevent us from being able to love God and to love the people around us.

So, wherever God chooses to bring us next, I feel a little more peace remembering God is in control and we can still keep doing exactly what it is we need to do.

verse1

 

Food…at 13,000 feet

(Warning: No deep thoughts ahead. Only food).

market.jpg
Local market.  There are areas that are a bit more organized, but I love these colors!

The question we get asked the most since moving to La Paz?

Is the food different?

Other frequently asked questions include, “Is it hard to find the food you like?”, “What food do you miss the most?” and “What is your favorite food in La Paz?”.

Personally, I LOVE these questions. They only demonstrate that food is on their mind as much as it is on mine!

Pollo Luis C. Cobo
Picante De Pollo…SOOO good!!

First: Is the Food different?
Not as different as I expected! If you want to find a great burger or good chicken, you can find that here.  The altitude definitely makes cooking a little more interesting.  We have managed to explode (yes, explode) a batch of brownies in the oven, chicken takes twice as long to bake and pasta, well, because of the slower boiling point, pasta kind of takes on it’s own, gummy, character.

Second: Is it hard to find the food you like?
Again, not as difficult as I expected.  There are amazing fruit and veggie markets that are super accessible.  We have learned some tricks to make sure our produce is super clean.  Dish soap and water for non-porous veggies such as tomatoes, peppers and apples.  Vinegar and water for things like strawberries.  We learned the hard way not to use soap and water with strawberries…yuck!

The grocery stores also carry pretty much anything you might want. You just have to ask yourself how much you are willing to pay.  For a basic box of “American” cereal, you might spend between $11 and $13 U.S. dollars.  So yes, our taste in cereal has changed significantly!

The one thing that I haven’t found are convenience foods and frozen veggies. It makes us cook from scratch and I have learned how to flash freeze veggies.  As long as we allow a little more time than usual, neither of these is much of a bother (and healthier maybe?)

I thought I’d enlist the kids for the last 2 questions:
1. What food do you miss the most?
Kid 1: I miss Panda Express.
Kid 2. I miss Pizza Hut.

2. What is your favorite food in La Paz?
Kid 1: The Factory because it has really good hamburgers
Kid 2: Pasteles…they are funnel cakes filled with cheese (seriously, people, whoever invented this was a genius!)

Personally, I think honorable mention needs to go to Charque de Llama (pulled, dried and fried and then put on a sandwich.  Might be one of those things you just have to try for yourself!), Picante de Pollo (spicy chicken with an amazing broth, served with rice), cuñapes (little rolls made with yucca flour and cheese. YUM!) and the quinoa (often cooked similar to fried rice, but with less oil…delicious!!).  Many (husband included) would argue and put salteñas on the list, but I just don’t love them.  Maybe I’m not a “paceña” quite yet…??

pasteles2.jpg
Enjoying pasteles (I’m an awful selfie taker!)

There you have it! You can find almost anything here, depending on cost.  The fruits and veggies are amazing (you’ve never really tasted a carrot until you taste a carrot in La Paz!) and there are enough interesting options to keep this foodie quite happy!  Come and visit and we’ll make sure you get to taste all of our favorites!

 

First laughter…then love

So, in accordance with my blogging plan, (see here), this week’s post should be “fun”.  What could be more fun than talking about love??

I’m a very serious person by nature. Those of you who know me now might not believe this (…or maybe you do!).  I remember a time in college when a friend told me I really needed to laugh. Not laugh “more”. But laugh…just laugh.

Then, I met Alex.  Oh, how his sparkling blue eyes and grin immediately captivated me. Not in a Disney Princess “let’s-run-off-right-now-together” sort of way, but rather in a “this-is-my-new-best-friend” kind of way.  We met for five quick minutes at a wedding reception where we learned that we lived 500 miles apart.

The distance did not deter him.  He found my email (yes, email…so primitive!) online at OSU. I had actually written it down for him, but he couldn’t read my awful handwriting. We started writing regularly.  It wasn’t long before I decided to drive up to his city.  Of course, this was SOLEY to seek out graduate programs and had NOTHING to do with a pair of blue eyes.

We had our first date that weekend.  He was performing in a talent show and I went to watch him.  He did a comedy routine. It was hilarious.  I laughed hysterically.  Unfortunately, no one else did.  I learned later that he wasn’t actually trying to be funny. He was trying to create a sort of awkward silence to lead into a following act. I didn’t know it at the time. I just knew I loved hearing him speak, and even his “dad” jokes made me laugh.

Fast forward 17 years and many ups and downs. I get stressed and anxious. There are some days when I forget to laugh.  But this never lasts for long. My very best friend always finds some way to make me laugh again.

“If love is the treasure, laughter is the key.”
Yakov Smirnoff

first date
Picture from our first date.            Yes, we looked so young.

The Ride

In keeping with my new commitment to the blog, this week’s topic is “faith”.  What perfect timing! This past week has held so many moments that have required me to examine my faith and how I deal with change and uncertainty (I’ll write about the actual week another time!!).

Recently, I was sitting with a friend and she compared life to a roller coaster: the ups and downs, the excitement and anticipation. I had another friend write an article about how waiting for something you long for can also feel like a roller coaster (GREAT post that you can find here).  This made me start thinking more about this whole roller coaster/life idea.

Things I fear from the bottom of my stomach:
Scuba diving, parachuting and dancing in front of large crowds of people (I could have nightmares about that last one!!)
Things I love beyond measure:
Jet skiing, watching OTHER people dance and ROLLER COASTERS

I love roller coasters. From the very first one until now.  The excitement, the speed, the ups and downs and twists and turns (so grateful I do not have my husband’s motion sickness!).  I remember my Dad taking me on my first roller coaster at a little amusement park called Indiana Beach.  I sat in front of him in the little car as it slowly made it’s way up the first big hill.  I was thrilled by every exciting, teeth-jarring moment of that two minute ride. I was with my Dad, the sun was shining and there was absolutely nothing else to think about except the next turn or dip.

I don’t react to life in the same way at all.  The roller coaster starts up with that chug-chug-chug, the news comes of an unexpected turn of events, and my stomach drops.  I am immediately filled with fear.  I want to know what is coming next.  I want the full blue print of the ride.  How is this all going to work out? What exactly should I prepare for?  How can I best control this situation so that I can determine the outcome?

Why can I relax and enjoy a roller coaster but become terrified at the ups and downs of life?  Of course, the consequences of life feel a bit more serious than the consequences of an amusement ride.  Well, unless you consider that you could actually fall out of the ride if it isn’t built correctly!  Which made me start thinking…I trust the roller coaster.  Not exactly the coaster itself, but the builder. I trust the engineer.  Why would someone build a ride only to hurt it’s passengers?  The engineer has way too much invested, even on a selfish level, to build a roller coaster that is just going to harm people.

I have an Engineer overseeing my life, my “roller coaster”, who is not invested for selfish reasons. Like my Dad on that first ride so long ago, God has not only designed the coaster, but now sits behind me, keeping me safe, enjoying every moment of the ride along with me.

One of my favorite moments on a coaster is when you have chugged-chugged-chugged your way to the very top, just before the coaster lets loose into all of the turns and loops.  There is a moment where the ride pauses, and you can look around and see for miles.  Everything is quiet and everyone is filled with anticipation for the ride ahead. I usually look over at Alex (he’s not motion sick yet at this point), and/or the kids, and smile…and then we put our hands in the air and get ready to scream with absolute abandon and glee.

This is the way I want to do life. Trusting the Engineer.  Looking around at the beauty in the quiet moments at the peaks. Then, having the trust and peace that leads to all of the laughter, joy (and squealing) that comes from just enjoying the ride.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2

“For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 43:13

 

From our last time at Disney… enjoying the ride!