Wednesday, December 28

Do Re Mi

I have heard it from enough people now that I believe it is an empirically proven fact: Moms who play the piano should not actually TEACH their children to play the piano. 

Ugh. I took great pride in the fact that this could not be true for me at least....that I could certainly save our family a lot of running around and a lot of money by simply teaching my children the "Good Boys Do Fine Always" rules. And the rests. And the half notes. And the scales. 

Apparently, in this case, as in many others, I do not rise above the rules and laws of nature. I get much too distracted during their practice times when I hear a wrong note. It is much too difficult to NOT stop and correct said note. I'm sure my mother never struggled with this. After all, she just listened to me practice, blissfully unaware of what things should have been sharped and which should have been flatted. To this day, she swears she loved to hear me practice. 

There was a bit of poetic justice recently when, upon hearing me bang out some old Baptist offertory arrangements on my parents' piano (fyi the Baptists like their songs loud and full of arpeggios and glissandos...more amens that way) my youngest son commented..."Wow. I didn't know my mom could play the piano so good." 

Amen, brother. Amen. Now go practice your scales. And I'll ignore that missed note. Just this once. 

Tuesday, December 27

Dear Publix

Dear Publix,

I need to apologize to you. Because...oh....lo these many years I have taken you for granted. Your clean, brightly-lit wide aisles. Your ability to stock when customers are NOT in the store. Your always possessing such apparently exotic items such as sour cream. And popcorn. Your paper-or-plastic bags for which I did not have to pay. Your carrying my groceries to my car WITHOUT asking for money. Your free bagging. Your pleasantries...hello, goodbye, have a nice day.

Oh dear, sweet Publix. I will never take you for granted again. And while I acknowledge that yes, my Bodegona (aka grocery store) is far better than it was a few years ago..from what I hear, people needed to wear closed-toe shoes in the past in order to avoid feeling the rats running across their feet....I miss your generic ice-cream that rivaled Breyer's and Edy's. And I miss the helpful workers in the ugly green vests. And I miss the free balloons and cookies. Oh. Yeah. That was for my kids. I digress....

To sum up: while I miss shopping at the place where I never truly appreciated that "shopping is a pleasure," I will choose to be grateful today that my dear old Bode DID have sour cream....and DID have the eggnog that my teenage son requested....and that I DID have everything I needed to make a nutritious dinner for my family.

But next time I'm back in Florida.....Publix Moose Tracks Premium Ice Cream is at the top of my list. And I'll take it in a plastic bag. Just because I can.

Sunday, November 13

Looking Back

Our family has the somewhat schmaltzy tradition of taking time, each child's birthday, to look back at the photos and videos of the day he or she was born.

Let's be clear that I instituted this tradition, and I am also the only one who tears up each time.

We recently celebrated the birthdays of Nate and Jackson, and we oohed and aahed our way through the moments they first met the world and the moments they first met their siblings and the moments where they muttered unintelligible words. Side note: I am amazed by my linguistic abilities in the past. Toddler-speak is much more difficult than Spanish!

I digress. In the weeks leading up to our move to Guatemala 3 1/2 years ago, Steve spent hours transferring our home movies and pictures to our computers. I spent hours this week going through them, and my heart simply welled up.

First, I asked myself HOW I could possibly be the parent of three such beautiful children when, inside, I still feel like I have the maturity of a 20 year old? Surely, somebody is going to knock on my door and say, "Thanks for babysitting. I'll take them home now!"

Second, nobody, and I mean noooobody looks good in the days and weeks after having a baby. Husbands and family should be required to sign an agreement that, upon punishment of death, they will photoshop said photos.

Third, and the real point here is this: sometimes I have avoided looking back at old pictures because, let's face it, life is messy. Not all memories are sweet. Some aren't even bittersweet. They're downright painful. So it's easier just to choose to ignore the memories altogether. But, when I sifted through those old photos this week, I was reminded again of what a rich and amazing life I've had so far in my 38ish years, of what laughs and antics I've performed trying to get kiddos to smile for a photo, of the tiredness and zombieness of having 3 kids under the age of 5, of the sheer joy of FINALLY getting that baby to laugh WHILE the video camera is rolling! The trips, the Christmases, the simple moments of playing in the backyard and drinking from the hose. The books we've read, the people we've come to treasure, the fashions we've thought looked good!

Life hasn't always made sense, but it has been rich in love, in family, in friendships....and it's even been adventurous at times!

God reminded his people to remember, to look back at the blessings and the miracles he'd performed. I'm sure not all of their memories were good either, but if they reminded each other of the gifts and miracles  in their lives, they could travel farther and stronger and be encouraged together.

So today I look back with a full heart. Life is never perfect, no matter what our Facebook statuses sometimes say. But we can remember how far we have come and how many new memories and photos are still ahead.

In the meantime, I have to go break up an argument in the backyard over who is winning in the Nerf battle. But maybe I'll take a photo first. Just to remember.

Saturday, October 15

Grace and More Grace

I would like to think that I'm a grown-up now. But then there are weeks like this one where I realize that I am as stubborn and as heels-dug-in as a two year old.  Days when my head tells me the mature way to handle stress, the right way to respond to it, but my emotions say a resounding "lalalalalala....I can't hear you!" and then, quite promptly, take over. 

It usually takes me a few minutes to realize that I have blown it, once again. A few minutes more to realize that, because I believe in grace...scandalous, complete grace....I can choose to be forgiven and move on. And try to do it better next time!

The biggest constant in my life, in most change. And I'm fighting it hard right now. I find comfort in sameness, in routine. But when that is all blown to smithereens, as stressful and difficult as that is, it is a reminder that whatever I thought I controlled, I don't. Nope. Not even a little bit. It's humbling and reviving at the same time. And I'll probably forget it again tomorrow, but then there's that grace thing again. I want to live in it, wallow in it, love like crazy with it. 

So even if I never do feel like the grown-up I should be, at least I am certain of one thing....I will experience another challenge, another change tomorrow. Maybe tonight! And I can cling to that grace to be a little stronger this time, a little more mature....a step more than the toddler stage. Maybe even a preschooler. Grace and peace.

Wednesday, June 29


Sometimes you read something that slaps you upside the head, turns you upside down, and shakes you. Man. I hate it when that happens. So this is what I read the other day:

“There are two ways through life: the way of nature, and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow. . . .Grace doesn’t try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries.  .  . .Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things.” from Tree of Life

I've been reminded lately that there are approximately 82,524 reasons each day to be hurt and offended. And some days 82,525. Somebody says something that could be construed as criticism, or maybe he doesn't say something he should have said, or maybe he/she ignores me altogether. My immediate reaction is to think, "What is wrong with me? What did I do?" and, if I can't figure that out, the next logical step MUST be to assume that this person is just mean, hurtful and maybe....gasp....human. Huh.

I also read once (I think in a Beth Moore book) that if I am a person who goes through life with an empty cup, holding it out for others to fill it, I will be consistently disappointed and hurt. If I take responsibility for my own cup, filling it with the satisfaction that comes from investing in things outside of myself and my own little world, I will be able to pour out that full cup on my family, my friends, my community. And if I allow myself to be filled up with Grace, a Grace I can't possibly explain or earn, but can simply receive, then I have Grace to spare for the people I love. Or even the people I don't love so much.

Yes, I will get up tomorrow and once again be presented with countless opportunities to be hurt or offended. But I have a look at that potential offense and choose to leave it there, to not even pick it up, or to obsess and carry it around with me, clouding every interaction I have for the rest of the day. I hope I choose wisely. But, if I don't, there is Grace enough for me, too. 

Monday, May 16


With all of the uproar surrounding the news of Osama Bin Laden's death, and all of the coverage that mentioned the Navy Seals who so bravely faced danger for our nation's benefit, I was reminded of something that occurred two years ago.

Our family went to a beach here in Guate for a little R&R. We were blessed by friends to stay at a lovely resort and just relax for a few days. One night, we went to the hotel's restaurant for the buffet dinner and noticed a table full of American men near us. Now. My husband graduated from the Air Force Academy and spent several years as an AF officer, so he can pretty much spot a military man or woman from 80 paces. He knew immediately that these men were military.

We didn't see them again until the day we checked out. They happened to be checking out at the same time, and Steve approached them. He made small talk and mentioned that he'd been in the Air Force. True to military form, they ribbed him and told him they were sorry he'd been in that particular branch and then told him they were in Guatemala for some training. There was more small talk, during which they revealed nothing specific about their training, and, at the end of our time in the lobby, Steve thanked them for their service to our country. It was then that one of the guys really opened up and told us that, indeed, their duty had cost them each greatly. He told us that most, if not all, of the men in his group were divorced or nearly divorced. He explained that they were gone from their families for most of the year.

It was a very sobering reminder of just how much our military sacrifices for us. And a reminder that the United States, despite all of the flaws that are constantly pointed out to us by the talking heads on TV, is a country that has always been known as a country willing to sacrifice for the greater good.

There is nothing like living in another country to give you perspective on just how unique America is. We are willing to fight for those who don't have a voice, to defend the weak, to pursue justice to its end....sometimes to a fault....and why? Because sometimes individual people sacrifice their rights and, often even their lives for the greater good.

It has taken living in a "survival-driven" society, a society in which people have been taught to look out for themselves, a society in which daily needs like food and a place to sleep are very real worries to teach me just how blessed we as Americans are.

But working for the greater good isn't merely an option or a nice choice for us:

"Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too." Phil 2:4 NLT

I am so thankful for the United States, so thankful for a heritage we have of sacrificing for others. And hopeful that we will never take it for granted again.

Wednesday, February 2


I entered the United States Air Force in 1994 after graduating from the Air Force Academy. I was trained to think critically, to honor, to defend the weak, to promote justice. I was paid very modestly, but it didn't matter. I served with pride, my chest swelling to think I could be involved in something so incredibly intangible as the defense of our American freedoms. That whatever work I did behind the scenes as a support officer would save lives in battle.

Only a 2 hour plane ride from where I served in the military, Guatemala was in the last 2 years of a 36 year civil war. 200,000 civilians were murdered. The government committed horrible war crimes... through its military.

Tonight I came home to find a neighbor with one of his relatives waiting by my front porch with a letter in his hand. They asked if I could help them translate a letter. I was tired, hungry, and frankly, a bit annoyed to hear that the man needed it to be finished within an hour. I asked if I could eat dinner with my family and have it ready in two hours. He agreed to wait, and I agreed to help.

Here is an excerpt of the letter, with his name removed for confidentiality:

To Whom it may concern:
.... I served in the Guatemalan military during the Guatemalan Civil War, in which the military committed many crimes against humanity. On January 6th, 1996, I deserted the military, due to direct orders contrary to my conscience, which were intended to cause harm to defenseless civilians. Specifically, we were ordered to patrol at night for unsuspecting youth, capture them, and force them into military service against their will.
On the 9th of January, 1996, I left for the United States where I found gainful employment. On May 7th, 2002, I crossed the border of the United States near Detroit, Michigan, and entered Canada (through Winsor) to seek refuge.
I sought refuge in Canada because I was afraid of the cruel punishment and reprisals that the Guatemalan military intended to make against me because I deserted. The reputation of the Guatemalan military was that it always hunted down and punished deserters....

Injustice. Most of the world suffers terribly from governments, politicians, or employers who oppress and take advantage of those they are supposed to serve.

However, justice is not just a right as an American or a Christian. It's a responsibility we have as human beings, to defend others who are too weak to do it for themselves. We snooze through our history classes, we chafe in the politically correct corporate training courses. We gloss over it when Jesus commands it. We become too bothered, too busy, too bored, to care.

I was almost too busy to help this man. Afterwards, he asked me how much he owed me for translating, and I was speechless. He had already paid me. He had given me an appreciation for something that I had assumed was normal, universal, my right, everyone's right. An appreciation and a reminder of something I have taken for granted for too long.

Thursday, January 20


Instead of starting out the new year with a list of resolutions that are destined to make me feel like a failure before I turn the calendar page to February, I am resolving to live a year of gratitude, a year of being thankful for the astounding number of gifts in my life.

Gratitude for the beautiful gift of my family, from parents and siblings to the children that run down my stairs each morning with limitless energy and joy, ready to see what the day holds for them.

Gratitude for the chance to experience life in a different country. Along with its challenges and frustrations, it also gives me a new perspective and appreciation that I don't think I could obtain any other way.

Gratitude for our health, for the wealth of food in our kitchen, for the comforts of our home that we take for granted over and over again.

Gratitude for the intangible things...the way God is changing and sifting and growing my heart, giving me new desires and new dreams.

Gratitude for the chance, every now and then, to get a glimpse of lessons taking root....those things that I have taught my children, the whole time wondering if the words were even being heard.  To see the seedlings pushing their way up through the soil is perhaps the most beautiful thing I could ever witness.

Gratitude for a multitude of things. Many more things than those frustrating, and yes, let's be honest, often discouraging and disheartening things that I routinely choose to focus on. That's the key anyway. To choose. I am old enough and cynical enough to know that I will fail at that choice quite often in this new year and will throw myself one amazing pity party. But I can get up the next morning and clean up the wreck of that party and choose again.

To be grateful.

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."
Gilbert K. Chesterton 

Sunday, January 9

"Tortillas and Coffee as Baby Food?"

Video: ABC News Special on Malnutrition in Guatemala