The thing I will remember about the last few moments of 2009 was the sunset! How lovely. It makes me long to be an artist or a photographer when I see sunsets like that. The sky is always the thing that gets me most about Texas. I came here from places with mountains, and since there are few to speak of in Texas, the sky just goes on forever and the sunsets are often fabulous. But tonight’s rivals many I have seen. The purples and roses layering together like a rumpled quilt in a fantastically comfortable bed. It reminds me, of course, of a poem by William Butler Yeats:

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

One thing I will remember about 2009 as a whole is the theme “Immanuel.” The idea of “God with us” has been mulling around in my head all year. And I am astounded at the complexity of that simple phrase. It is the stirring together of the ordinary with the extraordinary; the natural with the supernatural; us and God; (“together at last” as an old commercial noted about caramel and chocolate with the cookie crunch!)and it is fantastic, because it is the mark of the God who loves us. He is not a flash in the pan, dramatic God who likes to make a scene or put on a show for brief moments here and there. He is a real God who likes to sneak into the audience as our life plays out and show Himself strong on our behalf when our hearts are for Him! Then he sticks around for the ordinary everyday parts of our lives and deeply enjoys sharing each moment with us as He transforms us into the people we were always meant to be.

For Christmas, a dear friend of mine gave me an ornament that had the word “HOPE” on the front and on the back the inscription

“God with us.”
“AND his name WILL BE
the hope
MATTHEW 1:23; 12:21

I have a feeling that the theme of 2010 will be Hope! How fun that we are always moving from glory to glory, that we continue to grow and learn as each new year comes!

May each of you have a Happy New Year! May you find the Hope that does not disappoint, and may you be surprised by Joy around every corner!

Somehow my mom could tell if something had been knocked over or spilled or in some way disturbed even if my brother and I painstakingly removed stains, straightened, or righted all our wrongs. My dad called her inspector 12. She actually inherited her ability to see irregularities from my grandmother, who carried out every task with perfection and an eagle eye.

Once, though, my mom and my grandma and the US Air Force housing inspectors all missed something. Jonathan and I had what I will call a sticky hand for lack of a better term. It was a stretchy toy made of sticky, gooey material with a long arm and a hand shaped end. The object of the toy was to throw out the hand while holding tightly to the arm. It would stick to whatever object it came in contact with; and if that object were small or light enough, the hand would snap back to the holder with the object attached.

I think I was 12 when Jonathan and I were playing excitedly with this toy. The house we lived in had a high sloped ceiling in the living room with a long white beam across the high side of the slope. I don’t remember who dared who and who threw the hand at the beam, but the hand stuck and the arm was accidentally released. So there, dangling from 15 feet above, hung our sticky hand. We were terrified of my mom’s reaction, so we ran to find the yard stick and a chair. We successfully removed the sticky hand, but it left a smudge on the beam.

We didn’t have a ladder and so the smudge stayed. Jonathan and I awaited our sure doom when my mom saw the smudge. We could imagine her saying loudly, “How am I supposed to clean that up!?!” and shuddered to think of the consequences she would dream up for us having been so irresponsible. The doom never came, though. To our amazement, she just never looked up. We thought for sure our grandma would see it on one of her visits, but she also never looked up! For three years, Jonathan and I smirked at each other in amazement over the sticky hand escapade.

Finally, when it was time for us to move, we were sure we would hear it! When a military family leaves a base house, it has to be cleaned to inspection standard. This is such an area of stress for most military families that cleaning people who know how to clean for a military inspection make a killing, and people gladly pay to have them take care of that part of the moving process. We never once heard anyone—cleaning people, housing inspectors, anyone—remark about the smudge! When we had passed inspection, we went into our house for one last goodbye, and there Jonathan and I looked up at the beam to see the smudge STILL THERE!

We laughed then and never said a word (good brothers and sisters stick together!), and today, between that and a certain rotten potato incident from my early twenties, I am convinced that people don’t look up unless they are trained to. So as we prepare our little first home for putting it on the market in the New Year, repainting the ceilings is last on my priority list!

Once, when I was 11 year s old, maybe 12, I remember bounding into our house with something important on my mind. “Mom!!” I yelled at the top of my voice, “Mom!!” Where was she? She wasn’t in the kitchen or the living-room or the study. I found her in her room on her bed, curled up with an afghan, sleeping. Why is she so tired? I wondered as I proceeded to wake her up to share my important news.

As I watch my little ones run around with boundless energy, leaving me dizzy and hoping for a nap each afternoon, I can see the same question in their eyes: why is she so tired. So I hope that all you moms out there know, the understanding does come one day. And with understanding comes gratitude for all the late nights you spent taking care of things so we could have good days!

We’ve been discussing Sabbath Rest and The Lord’s Day in church recently. It’s gotten me thinking about rest and our culture. I won’t say much here, but how lovely that a God who never slumbers nor sleeps took a day to rest—as an example for us, to enjoy what He created, to make it clear that rest is a privilege—and offers it to us as a gift! May we all find joy in our labor, rest for our well being, and many opportunities to give joy to others.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

There is a story in Luke 17 about ten lepers who Jesus healed. They all called out to him and begged him for mercy, and Jesus stopped briefly to tell them to show themselves to the priest. It was the priest who could declare them “clean” or “unclean;” fit to be in society or unfit to be in society. They turned to obey Jesus and on their way they were all healed of their disease.

Of the ten, one, so overcome with gratitude, turned back, worshiping God, and thanked Jesus. The text makes the point that this man was a Samaritan, an outsider not only because of his disease but also his racial heritage. After questioning this man about the others who were healed, Jesus tells him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

I have heard a number of sermons preached on this text. And some of those have come to mind recently. The sermons always get to the point with questions like

“What has God done for you?”

“Are you one of the 9 who wander merrily into your state of mercy and grace forgetting the giver, or are you the one who turns back with a grateful heart, remembering that apart from Jesus you can do nothing?”

“What part does thanksgiving play in your daily worship?”

Gratitude is not something we can conjure or fake. It wells up deep within us when we are certain that the gift is beyond our ability to grasp for ourselves…something we always wanted, but could not attain. In the absence of true gratitude, we can always practice thankfulness. Thankfulness as a discipline makes room in our hearts for us to begin looking outside ourselves for the good things in our lives. God does not hold back rain or sunshine for the just or the unjust; so my thought is that every good gift we receive comes from Him, even if we are not seeking Him. When we practice thanking Him, no matter what our situation, there is an in-road for His Spirit to draw us into true gratitude, and somehow that can ignite faith that makes us well.

Our pastor recently asked us to write down some of the things we are thankful for, ways that God has shown up throughout our lives, and so here is my list. I am sharing it with you in hopes that you might consider making your own list. My list is more chronological than by importance, and each of these things is a story or memoir yet to be written, so stay tuned!

As we write our lists may the Lord make all of our hearts truly grateful. May we come to see that it is by Him we live and breathe and have our being.

I am thankful for

1) parents who love me and taught me what a relationship with the Living God through Jesus looked like by their life examples.

2) a brother who truly loves me and admires me even when I don’t deserve it.

3) a chance to travel and live in another country far away from the culture I grew up in so that I could really see the goodness of God.

4) a second chance to follow Jesus and a clear understanding that the path He chose for me is more desirable than any other path I might chose for myself.

5) hope that does not disappoint.

6) good friends and mentors who push me toward truth and challenge me to live my life according to my deepest convictions.

7)a good education.

8) a chance to run cross country for high school and college; it was while running God revealed to me some of my deepest understandings of relationship with him.

9) failure because it forced me to find hope beyond my circumstances.

10) countless opportunities to share my stories with people, so they can see how well God loves.

11) a chance to teach and mentor young people.

12) 11 to 15 year olds because I like who I am with that age group.

13) a full house, plenty of food, and music…in short I am thankful for good parties, both planned and unplanned!

14) a husband who loves me and helps me laugh at the quirkiness of life when I’m tempted to take things too seriously; all the moments in public and private that my husband and I get to share together.

15) in-laws who are kind and more generous with themselves and their lives than I deserve or could ever hope for.

16) three good children and the hope for more someday.

17) a chance to pass on to my children what was given to me.

18) a burden to care and a heart to pray.

19) that I was expected to memorize scripture all my life, because when my spirit was awakened by the Holy Spirit, it was through the scripture that I memorized He most often spoke to my heart.

20) a chance to love and serve and grow in a community of people who want to know and follow Jesus.

21) the opportunity to write.

22) dreams that I know will be fulfilled either in this life or the next!

23) friends who take time to listen to my dreams and thoughts and hopes and fears.

24) prayer partners.

25) all of the little daily ways the Lord is constantly showing up and telling me He loves me, relieving my fears, giving me rest, placing me in intimate moments, revealing Himself through the mundane and the miraculous, making me constantly aware that He will never leave me.

I asked Thomas if he thought I forgot anything. He said, “I’m sure you did.”

“Can you think of anything?” I asked.


So, for today, that’s the list…of course it will always be a work in progress.

Please share some of yours with me. I love to know the joy in other people’s lives.

When I was 11 years old, the Disney Channel aired a mini-series called “Anne of Green Gables” and its sequel mini-series “Anne of Avonlea.” My mom taped both series, and there began my deep love for Anne Shirley. I watched those tapes countless times, I read the original books, and I daydreamed about moving to Prince Edward Island. In fact, my cousin Maggie and I had a plan to open a deli on Prince Edward Island where we would serve stuffed olives and sandwiches and meet our own “Gilbert Blithes.” If you have never seen this series or read these books, you are either seriously deprived, or a guy. So if you are a guy, I forgive you. If you are female, you MUST see this series at some point soon (Netflix or Blockbuster are calling your name), and read at least the first “Anne book” by L.M. Montgomery. I know you won’t be sorry.

The idea of a kindred spirit came from these stories. Anne was always on the hunt for kindred spirits. They were more than just what some might term best friends. They were people with whom she felt a deep connection and with whom she felt safe and secure to be herself who understood the world as a place filled with hope and romantic possibilities. In the stories, she often found kindred spirits in the most surprising places and the most surprising people. Many kindred spirits never stayed around long enough to become truly close friends, but there was always an unspoken deep understanding with those of the race that knew Joseph (as another character in the books called them).

When I look back on my childhood, I did not have very many kindred spirits before my teenage years. I was sort of a strange child, who most people did not understand. In fact I can think of only one girl who would fit the bill, but her parents did not like me. I think it was because I talked too much. And maybe because I told them I didn’t like their butter, which happened to be cream cheese, on one particular visit to this friend’s house.

This girl, Amy, pulled me aside one Sunday after church and told me that she could no longer be my friend because her parents did not like me. She felt so bad, but had to tell me because she did not want me to think it was her who didn’t like me. She said she knew her parents just didn’t understand me. We were both sad. I never told anyone, partly because I was afraid she might get into trouble for telling me, and partly because I did not know how to put into words my emotions over the matter. I liked Amy tremendously. I understood that she really loved me, and I never once felt ill will toward her. She was a truly kind girl. Perhaps we’ll meet again someday.

That was around 3rd grade, 1983/84. Of course, I had several play mates, and never lacked for love from my family, but I think my lost friendship with Amy awakened the possibility that there were really people who understood me somewhere in this world. After experiencing Anne of Green Gables, the longing to find these people intensified. Several times I thought I had found the real thing, but discovered those friendships lacking either because of betrayal or what I will term suffocation. Some people feign a kindred spirit, but in reality they are insecure and lost and masters at being who other people want them to be in order to slowly leach the life out of more stable people. They may not fully understand what they are doing, but unguarded relationships with these people leads to co-dependence and idolatry (putting something or someone in the place of God in our hearts).

I have always been, of course, an extreme extrovert, so, I rarely worried over whether my friends were kindred spirits; I just enjoyed the company of the people I knew. I had the confidence in most cases to overcome betrayal and keep suffocation at arms distance. In general I was perfectly happy and found my like minded friends in books and daydreams.

Then in 8th grade, I met Jennifer George. Jennifer George befriended me on my first day of school at Bethel Christian Academy (BCA). I had recently transferred to this school in Lancaster, California after homeschooling in 6th grade and attending another private school in 7th grade, which my mom found severely lacking in several areas. BCA was much stricter than most private schools in its behavioral standards, but produced students of higher academic ability.

I remember feeling awkward that first day of school. I wore a new dress and was eager to make friends, but I held back because I felt ugly. My face was a mess of pimples, my hair was extraordinarily frizzy and really the beginning of puberty just left me somewhat insecure. The fact that anyone would talk to me was a relief, but Jennifer was not just anyone. She was well known and well respected by teachers and students. She was a cheerleader, which I admired deeply. She was friendly and warm, and I knew I was privileged to be in her company. She invited me to eat lunch with her and Sarah DiGiovani. I gladly accepted.

Those lunches together became a constant in 8th grade. We had more fun than I can truly describe in words here. I remember often laughing until I cried. Once I even fell out of my chair laughing from the stories we told about our lives. We bounced around ideas and dreams and thoughts. We wrote poetry and debated theology and theories and then laughed some more. Jennifer and I got each other.

Thinking back on those days, I am humbled and grateful all over again. Jennifer was a master at recognizing kindred spirits. I really think that it was from her I learned how to see people more clearly. She taught me how to be myself and draw people out of pretense so they could be themselves. I can’t say that I always treated our friendship with the utmost respect or care, but I am grateful that love covers a multitude of sins, and that today we have re-connected and are once again friends. Truly, I believe, once a kindred spirit always a kindred spirit!

After embarking on friendship with Jennifer George, it seemed that suddenly the world was full of kindred spirits. True kindred spirits will do that—open the world for you. I found one in the woman we carpooled with to school, Tami Vincent. I found them in teachers and classmates and neighbors. It seemed that the best thing for drawing out kindred spirits was to be real and open and sincere. When I approached people with sincerity and was secure in myself, they often met me with open hearts.

From time to time, I still ran across betrayal and suffocation, and sadly, I was not always the victim, but occasionally the perpetrator of those in my weaker life moments. Still, after wallowing in those moments, I knew how to look for the place of peace and security, found in surrender to my Creator. He ultimately drew me back to a place of hope and set me in the company of people who understood. There I found I could still carry on and offer trust to a community of kindred spirits with whom I related.

These days, I cannot imagine life without true friends and kindred spirits. The more I put my hope in Jesus, the more he draws me into relationship with people who see life and the world as a place for growing and overcoming. The catch for me is always choosing Him above the relationships with the people I love. Yet that very act seems to make my relationship with those people deeper, richer, and fuller.

To all my dear kindred spirits (you know who you are!), I say, thank you for walking through life with me and teaching me so much about love and friendship along the way. May our eyes always be on Jesus so we may find the abundance He offers.

Fall is upon us. This is my favorite time of year, even though I have never lived where there are an abundance of color changing trees. Just the nippy morning air and the faded sunshine make me feel alive. Another reason I love Fall is because it is chili weather. People traditionally hold chili contests during the cold football season, and this is when I work on perfecting my famous chili!

One of the best things about making chili is slow cooking it all day long. Coming home at the end of a hard day to the wonderful smells of slow cooked chili cannot be beat. My mom bought me a slow cooker as a graduation gift/house warming gift for my first apartment along with a cookbook she put together of all my favorite recipes from growing up (a very treasured item). The Slow Cooker is a 6 quart West Bend. I love this Slow Cooker. If I was forced to move and could only take one kitchen item with me, this would be IT! My older version is not available these days (sadly because one perk of my cooker is that the lid can be used in the oven as a casserole dish!), but the newest models can be found at the West Bend web site. (click to see!)

I wish I could give one of these cookers to each of my readers, but instead I will give you my chili recipe, which might still bring a smile to you and your family. It can be used in any traditional crock pot or slow cooker.

My chili recipe is an adaptation of a recipe found in the owners’ manual from my West Bend Slow Cooker. I have changed and altered this recipe to its current perfection; so although the basic outline is not mine, the unique subtlety of married flavors is mine! I cannot tell you how many long hard days suddenly felt better after coming home to great chili and good friends. I hosted countless chili parties and have entered and placed in many chili contests with my chili. Remembering the fall and winter seasons of my twenties go hand in hand with having chili parties where people would laugh and tell stories. So this is to all of you who have made fall and winter memories warm by sharing a bowl of chili and your friendship.

Beth’s Famous Chili
Serves 8
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Crock Pot Cooking Time: 7-10 hours

2 lbs ground turkey or ground beef
1 ½ cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely cut
2 cans diced tomatoes (14 ½ oz each), undrained
2 cans black beans (15 oz each), undrained
2 tsp salt
2 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp cumin (ground)
(Fresh serano peppers or crushed red pepper to taste—optional)

Brown ground meat thoroughly.
Dice onion, green pepper, and garlic cloves.
Add all ingredients to crock pot and cook on medium heat for 7-10 hours
Serve with rice or tortilla chips and shredded cheddar cheese.

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” -John 4:10

A man’s heart plans his way,
But the LORD directs his steps. –Proverbs 16:9

In May 1997, I received a bachelor of arts in Earth Science at Trinity University. After muddling around with thoughts of being a journalist, I sort of fell into the Geology Department at Trinity. I wasn’t great in the sciences and math, but I have always had a deep fondness for both because they seem to hold answers to questions I harbor in my heart about the earth and space. Truthfully, someone with a true science bend could find the answers I sought in a few well chosen books or by just subscribing to “Scientific American,” but the major enticed me through relationship. While working for the school yearbook, I interviewed several of the Geology professors. I fell in love with their warmth and generous spirit and decided to take a class, and then another, until, settling into a major through the department felt inevitable. I truly had a curiosity for rocks and geologic formations; I even wrote about this in my college entrance exam, but the relationships are what drew me.

The Geology professors all loved a good discussion about life and philosophy and science. This was my favorite aspect of life in the Geology Department. None of them ever lorded themselves over a student or acted like they didn’t have time for my questions. In fact they really cared about their work and their students. With these professors I could ask questions freely and receive well thought out meaningful answers, or enter into a dialogue where my opinion was respected. This was so different than middle school and high school where my science teachers met me with blank stares and stumbled through ridiculous answers or babbled on in what seemed like another language that left me feeling as if I would never really get it.

Most of my young adult life wrapped around a search for meaning and life purpose. I wanted the most out of life. I was introspective, yet unaware of myself because I could dream beyond myself so easily. After settling on Geology, I began to dream about graduate school and beyond. I heard about groups of people doing work in Uganda to help bring clean water systems to impoverished areas. This struck a chord in my heart. Providing clean water to everyone world-wide is really crucial work in treating the ill effects of poverty. This seemed to go hand in hand with my desire to make a lasting difference in people’s lives and in the world. I felt if I could meet people’s physical needs, I might also have opportunity to share my faith. Perhaps God would use me to meet both people’s physical and spiritual thirst which could in turn heal both their physical and spiritual sicknesses. I set my sights on becoming a Hydrologist and studying ground water systems.

The practical work of a scientist and mathematician may be as far as one can get from relational work. Classes like Hydrology and Geomorphology quickly brought home the reality of life as a field geologist and mathematician. The majority of this work is done in labs and in front of a computer. Very little of it is conducted outdoors or through theoretical and philosophical discussion. I liked theory, not practical. I liked people and conversations, not long hours in a lab studying maps and specimens and running computer models. The first semester of my junior year was miserable. I spent long hours laboring over labs, homework, and studying. Most days of the week I pushed myself until early morning hours just to complete a class assignment and study. I slept only 4 to 6 hours a night and hoped to catch up on the weekend. This clearly was not my thing. But where did that leave me? I was already half way through college. It was too late to change majors and life direction if I ever wanted to finish in four years.

The week before Thanksgiving, I had a sort of meltdown. On top of the sciences I also took an Ethics class that semester. My Ethics professor left a note on a journal assignment asking me to call and make an appointment to discuss my class journals. I called and he pressed for me to come in right away, which meant forgoing a small Geology Department get together before the holiday. In addition, I had just finished a discussion with my advisor about the possibility of withdrawing from a class. My 17 hour load of sciences and labs was clearly overwhelming. But withdrawing meant summer school and skipping coveted opportunities for geology related field work. I didn’t want to discuss Ethics journals. I wanted to go to the party and then brood about what all this meant in the face of my life purpose. I told my Ethics professor that I didn’t think I could make it in that day. “Couldn’t I come in the morning?” He insisted that I should come that afternoon, so I reluctantly agreed, feeling as though missing the party was a sign of missing out on the life of my dreams.

I remember walking to his office in the rain. My life seemed muddled and cloudy and messy, just like the world around me. My professor told me that my journals were not exactly what he was looking for. It seems that rather than taking an academic approach to philosophy, I was taking a personal approach and writing how I felt and what I personally thought about the applicability of each philosophy we read. He wanted something more abstract and distant. He wanted me to look at the philosophers outside myself. I started to cry. Humiliation and frustration and sadness overwhelmed me and I could not hold in the mess any longer. I tried to apologize and said, “I’m sorry, please go on, I know I can fix the journals, I’ve just had a really bad day.”

What a kind man that professor proved to be. He finished describing how my journals should look while handing me a box of tissues, and then said, “Okay, now that we have that out of the way, what is happening in your life that is so troubling?” I reluctantly shared with him all the problems I faced and he said, “You’re trying to live and plan your whole life out in four years of college! You have no idea what to expect from life. And although life is short, you have plenty of time to finish school and travel the world and change your career and life goals over and over. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself to figure it all out right now.”

I left his office and withdrew from the Hydrology class that afternoon. The weights I had strapped to my back lessened a bit, and I began to pray about what God wanted from me. A woman at church pulled me aside not long after this. She said she felt like she needed to share a scripture with me from Matthew 6:33. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” So I continued to pray and did what I knew I could do by way of “seeking.”

There were no lightning bolts or signs that showed me THE WAY, just a quiet question in my heart: “What did you enjoy from this semester?” There was not much. I had spent little time with my friends from all the studying I did. My classes were obviously not as rewarding as I imagined they would be. But there was one thing I truly looked forward to, without stress. About twice a month I mentored a small group of middle school students for 4 hours at a time through a program called “Saturday Morning Experience.” I planned activities and lessons for them that would extend their education outside the classroom. We went on fieldtrips and wrote plays and had fun. My first awakening into who I am and where I am gifted was rooted in mentoring that group of kids.

At the close of the 1995 fall semester, I registered for spring classes and included a one hour education practicum class. I had taken a few education survey classes early on in college because teaching was always in the back of my mind, but had abandoned the idea to my dreams of providing fresh water for dying people. (Teaching did not seem nearly as noble as saving lives, as far as life purposes go!) That spring, the math teacher I had been observing fell ill and could not find a substitute teacher that felt comfortable in a math class. She asked me to teach a few of the classes with the substitute looking on. I agreed and set to work planning for the next day. I enjoyed myself and the classes I taught. The substitute used my lessons and example to teach the classes I could not attend. The following week my practicum teacher left a message for me. She expressed her gratitude and told me that after quizzing the students, not one was behind. They had all done well under my instruction. She said, “You’re a great teacher. Thank you.” It was the awakening I needed. I was a teacher. Why had I abandoned that? After praying and seeking wise counsel, I knew I needed to pursue a teaching degree. I didn’t know how it would all work out, but there was no longer any doubt about God’s direction.

Trying to change the course of a degree usually means at the least an extra semester in college. My parents were not willing to pay for an extra semester at Trinity. I had to work it out to graduate on time. After pouring over the courses book and praying desperately that the Lord would work out the details, we found our answer! The year I entered school at Trinity (fall 1993) the Geology Department offered a BA in Earth Science. The degree was taken out of the course books in 1994, but because my first course book held that degree I could still pursue it! My advisor and I worked out a plan to change my major from a BS in Geology to a BA in Earth Science. This freed up space for me to take the necessary education classes. By some grand miracle, I only had to take one summer class to fit the education program into my major and graduate on time.

After working toward a masters in teaching, teaching in the public schools, traveling the United States and the world, becoming a wife and a mom, starting a tutoring business, running a credit recovery program, teaching in a private school, and now staying home to take care of my family, home school, and write memoirs, I can see what my philosophy professor meant about life. I would add what Jesus said, though, to his wisdom: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” It is only Jesus who can offer what will quench the deep thirst of our hearts. Until I sought God’s perspective on my life, I couldn’t see my life. Life will just happen, and much of it we never could anticipate, but God sees what we do not. Truly, the scope and purpose to one person’s life cannot be figured out in a college degree or a career or a philosophy journal, but placing the HIGHEST importance on the one who is right and good and true will open doors that lead somewhere right and good and true. Walking those roads with others who also seek the paths of righteousness will allow for partnerships and shared loads. And one day, we will all look back and see that though our eyes were on the rulership of God, his eyes were on adding abundance and fulfillment to our lives.

As an after-thought to this memoir, our dreams sometimes have a way of presenting themselves in new forms. Although I will never dig wells in Africa, I recently came across a really great non-profit group that will: Lifewater International ( They are real people who traveled to Mexico in the late 1960s and saw a need they could meet. The Ashe family had a successful water pump business. Rather than horde their resources, they chose to give of themselves and donate their time and equipment to areas that needed clean water. This act of love and care developed into an international group dedicated to providing clean water and Living Water to poor areas all over the world. Although they reach the globe, the staff is personable and down to earth. They take the time to send hand written notes and each donation, no matter how small is received with gratitude. I believe this grass roots organization is making a difference, and I am blessed to support their work in any small way that I can. If you have a heart for the poor in this world, consider giving water through Lifewater International.

Home schooling seems to be a hot topic lately, at least in my circles of association. Personally, I have decided that the question is not whether to home school, but whether to home school full time or part time. Where ever our children go, whoever they encounter, their relationship with us, as their parents, and what we teach will influence their lives and decisions more than any other relationship or experience until adulthood.

With that in mind, we recently made the decision to home school our children full time. This was not a decision made lightly or without great consideration about every option. My mom taught me and my brother for my 6th grade school year and my brother’s kindergarten year. She was a pioneer of sorts, and felt a great deal more pressure than I will ever feel as a home schooling mom. It was a rough transition from traditional schooling to full time home schooling for both me and my mom.

Looking back, I’m grateful for what my mom endured. My dad says I learned self discipline and the art of writing a term paper that school year. Both of which have served me well. My brother finished the year with a brilliance that motivated him to love learning all through school and beyond.

Despite those successes, my parents decided to drive the 45 minutes into town to send us to a Christian private school the next school year. They came to this decision most probably because of the isolation I felt during 6th grade and the ways I took out my difficult transition on my mom. (I could tell a few stories about cheating and cutting corners, but we’ll save that for another memoir.) Although I was involved in sports and scouts and church groups, the kids in those groups did not relate to me, and I felt awkward. At the private school, I felt normal, again. This experience colored the idea of home schooling for me. I resolved to never torture my own children by trying to home school them.

I grew up to be a teacher, and after countless education courses, a one year internship in an inner-city school, a masters degree, seven years of teaching in the public schools, starting a tutoring business, and teaching part time in a private school, my opinion on what was good for kids began to change. I made a careful study of the kids who were honest, respectful, and kind, as well as good students. Then I watched their parents: how the parents interacted with their kids and with me. I could see that the parents who actively poured themselves into their kids in positive ways through care and loving discipline were most likely to have kids with good attitudes and happy hearts. To me, it was clear which students came from happy homes where parents were often present and took interest in the lives of their kids.

This all led to my home schooling realization. All along I was re-evaluating my youthful resolve against home schooling. And when Caleb was born, after a significant encounter with God, Thomas and I decided that being home for my kids and my family was an essential element in raising a happy family. I knew that whether I sent my kids to public or private school or kept them home, I would be there to teach them, to learn with them, to help them process what they were learning.

Caleb asked me to teach him how to read just before he turned five. It was right around that time we decided to home school full time. Previously, I felt that as a secondary teacher I would be bored teaching elementary school. I was afraid boredom would color my attitude and in turn color my children’s thoughts on learning. I prayed that the Lord would change my attitude in this area as it became clearer we would home school full time.

My mom gave me the phonics program she used with my brother, and I started teaching Caleb to read. The first change in my heart came when I noticed that if I spent 20 minutes to an hour with Caleb in the morning working on “school” the rest of the day went more smoothly. He was more willing to follow my plan for the day when I spent a bit of time devoted completely to him teaching him to read. Alina showed a good deal of enthusiasm for school, as well.

During those first few months, I came across a Homeschool Company called Sonlight through some friends who also home schooled full time. This group and the curriculum plans they provide intrigued me, so we invested in the kindergarten core plan. All I can say is that through this program, the Lord continued to answer my prayers! The Sonlight Curriculum motivates me. I love it. I love it so much, I don’t want to send my kids to regular school because they will miss out on an AMAZING learning experience through the books and layout I know they won't receive in traditional school. My heart continues to change as I watch my kids engage learning with excitement.

I have completely shifted from my “anti-home schooling” declarations as a young girl to wondering how I could ever send my kids to traditional school! I don’t want to miss out on them. Teaching Caleb to read is more rewarding than I once realized it could be. Watching my children enjoy the projects we plan and spending special time together reading and talking about stories or cultures or history is so precious. Of course, it helps that we are also part of a larger community of families who home school full and part time! My kids don’t feel strange, like I did in the mid nineteen-eighties.

We are committed this year to homeschooling, to actively pursuing friendships and outside the home learning opportunities for the whole family, and to making learning a constant process that flows with everyday life. Caleb is in soccer with a local church. We’ve set up field trips and get togethers with other home schooling families. We’ve scheduled specific blocks of time for direct teaching and reading and practice of our studies. We have a never ending list of projects. And we are having fun.

Within this progression, I am open to change in the schooling plan for our kids’ futures. I feel certain that the Holy Spirit will direct us in the best course for our kids and our family. Thomas and I realize that we alone stand before God as stewards of the children He has put in our care. We are seeking Him on the ways He wants us to instruct our children. One thing I am convinced of is that we will be home schooling whether or not our kids step foot into a traditional school. Parents are the single most influential adults in a young person’s life. I want my kids to know that I’m there. I can only do that by being there.

Sonlight Curriculum

I love to read. My favorite books are well written fiction chapter books for children and middle schoolers: the ones with the great plots and fascinating characters. My second favorite books are books about a girl or woman (or sometimes a man or group of people) who faces extreme difficulties and overcomes them in some out of the ordinary way. These can be fiction or non-fiction. My third favorite read these days are parenting or teaching books or articles that are TRULY practical…theoretical doesn’t do it for me, because I’m in the daily battle to be a good mom; I need practical wisdom that will help me today. Fourth, I love missionary stories. I was introduced to these early on and they always move me to tears.

The following is a short list of some of my favorites in no particular order. If you haven’t read these, get your library card out and read them…they are all fun, inspirational, challenging, moving, and drive the reader to be great and do great things!

Anything by Katherine Patterson— Bridge to Terabithia; Jacob have I loved
The Chronicles of Narnia
by C.S. Lewis
The Little House… Books by Laura Ingles Wilder
Mary on Horseback by Rosemary Wells
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
The Princess and the Goblin by George McDonald
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM by Robert C. O’brien
Charlotte’s Web By E.B. White
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
Beauty by Robin McKinley
Pollyanna by Eleanor (Hodgman) Porter
The Book of Ruth from the Bible
The Book of Esther from the Bible
1st and 2nd Samuel from the Bible
The Book of Acts from the Bible
Not without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody and William Hoffer
Chasing the Dragon by Jackie Pullinger
Passion and Purity by Elizabeth Elliot
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom (
An American Childhood by Annie Dillard
The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
The Lord of the Rings Series by J.R.R. Tolkien
Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
Bleachers by John Grisham
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Nothing's Impossible: Leadership Lessons from Inside and Outside the Classroom by Lorraine Monroe (
Molder of Dreams by Guy Rice Doud
Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner
Teaching with Love and Logic by Jim Fay and David Funk
In the Middle by Nancie Atwell
Anything by Michael and Debbie Pearl—“No Greater Joy” magazine; To Train Up a Child; Created to Be His Helpmeet (
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc MP Weissbluth (
Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg (
Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories
I Heard Good News Today, Stories for Children by Cornelia Lehn
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs

There are probably more…but these are the ones I can’t put down for sure.
What’s on your list?

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High

Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” Psalm 91:1

Where is home? That is a hard question for a “military brat.” Most often I told people I was from California; that is where we always went when my dad had leave. We visited my grandparents there and I felt at home in their home. My grandpa used to come into the kitchen while I was eating a snack or a meal and teasingly say, “Did I take you to raise?” meaning, am I feeding you now, too? Why don’t you just move in, then?

I would smile and say, “Yep, Grandpa!”

I was home. He loved me and would do anything to “take me to raise.” My parents and my brother seemed equally at ease there. At my grandparent’s house we felt loved; we understood the rules, spoken and unspoken; and we were able to rest there—far from the worries of the world. The Californian culture felt normal to us. The way people spoke and interacted with one another felt natural. Everywhere else felt a bit strange. It made sense to call that place home.

In 2007 both my grandparents passed away, within 6 months of one another. After my grandmother’s passing, home seemed sad. But after my grandfather’s passing, it was no longer home. Ever since, I have been pondering the question, “where is home?”

I quickly moved to the idea of “home” being among the people who love and accept one another. I re-calculated my life in this new idea with my immediate family in the position of “home.” This wasn’t hard. Physical places never meant as much to me as the people who lived there. It made sense. Wherever we traveled around the world, we carved out our own little space. A few things were never lost in a move: love, care, shared experiences, etc. When I was far away from my family, “home” was where ever they lived. When I married Thomas and we began our own family, “home” transferred to him.

I decided in my heart that what made California “home” was really just my grandparents. The culture and the scenery didn’t mean much without them there. Clearly, I only felt at home in California because they loved me so well. In some ways, I took their love for granted. I thought it would always be right there in Modesto, California for me to go back to.

My recent “loss of home” in the death of my grandparents exemplifies the main difficulty in letting the people we love be “home.” There is no permanent place of residence. People cannot be stable or constant forever. Not just because of death, but because of misunderstanding, or disappointment, or difference of opinion. There is just no security in a home made of flesh.

I did not let my thoughts drift to the downfalls of making people “home,” though, until just recently. I was reading Psalm 91 to my children and something spoke to me. I am very familiar with the Psalm. I had memorized it as a child, and I ponder over it and pray parts of it so often, it feels like it is a part of me. Surprisingly, one of the themes of the Psalm is making the Lord God our dwelling place, or our “home”! I had not seen that in the Psalm before. Sure I was well versed in the ideas that this place is not our home; that we are strangers in a strange land; but somehow that did not play out in my everyday life. It was ethereal or religious ideology. Suddenly, I longed to know what it meant to make God my “home,” my dwelling place.

I prayed that night, “Please show me what it means to dwell in you, Lord.” And over the past few months the idea makes more sense almost daily! He is stable; He never changes; He never leaves me; He is faithful to His promises; I can sit in His presence and know who I am, where I’ve come from, and where I am going. If I see myself through Him, as a product of His loving kindness, then I am confident in the tasks I have before me. If I seek to make my home in Him more beautiful, then I am doing eternal work that cannot be undone. It is the only relationship that will not falter, and all my other relationships are better when I find myself at home in Him. I am better when I come from Him than when I come from anywhere else.

This insight is new, yet there is a familiarity to it, like it is actually something God has been helping me learn my whole life. I have caught glimpses of the lesson here and there, but I see it most clearly now. That gives me the opportunity to actively choose God as my permanent residence. Choosing to be from God colors everything I do. He defines how I act and react to my surroundings just like any culture would define anyone. If I make Him my dwelling place, then my responses originate from Him. I think that security is the first and most underlying result of living in Him. Security allows me to stand in greater confidence, peace, hope, and an ability to love. When I am dissatisfied with this world, I will not despair, because it is not my home. I can look at this world objectively and respond in love rather than hurt. This world and the people in it are not accountable for my well being. They may not respond in Him, but I can.

My ability to make a choice to dwell in God became amazingly real when I decided to open a “Facebook” account on September 26th, 2009. Looking through my email later that day caused me to catch my breath. I had over 60 messages declaring people as my friends, people I had not heard from in ten to fifteen years. More announcements came by the scores every hour after that for a few days. I truly had this overwhelming sense of “I’m home!” rush over me, like a little sliver of heaven was thrust in my direction. I sincerely believe I felt a bit of what stepping into eternity in Christ must be like: to suddenly see the great cloud of witnesses and know I am home. Then I reconsidered. Heaven may be like opening a “Facebook” account for the first time, seeing everyone you have missed and have not spoken to for many years, but the real coming home will be Jesus, seeing His dear precious face and hearing Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And that is what I choose. I choose to be from Him so that I may always go home to Him.

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” John 15:9