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