I love marinated food, especially meat.  I also enjoy a good marination of biblical themes.  Lately, a theme that’s been marinating in me has been one of abandonment towards God’s calling.  Earlier this month, I did a post on Joseph’s obedience to God and what it cost him personally.  Today, I’ve been reflecting on Rebekah’s obedience to God’s calling found in Genesis 24.  She went out to get water as I imagine she did every day, maybe even multiple times a day.  I imagine countless times before when nothing much out of the ordinary would happen on those trips.  Maybe she couldn’t always predict the other young women she would run into but other than that, i imagine she could give me a list of possibilities as to what could happen when she drew water.

I think I could confidently predict she wouldn’t have on that list, meet a man servant who would within a day of meeting him, require her to leave her entire family, travel by camel to a new land, and to marry a man who claims to be following the will of the Lord.  Seeing God’s hand in it all, she chooses to go.  She doesn’t even beg like her mother to have ten more days together.  She just leaves the next day.  Less than 24 hours, she leaves her family, her clan, her land, and everything else that she has ever known to follow a man who shows he is carrying out the will of the Lord, all because she went out to draw water.  A task she did every day.

raindrops on a spider web

It leads me to think about my own life.  How I, too, have been called to live in a city, away from unpopulated land like those found in the country.  And what’s more, I haven’t been called to live in just any city.  I’ve found myself in one of the major urban centers in the world, Los Angeles.  I’m not sure I’ve seen it as such a clear calling from God before.  After all, there are literally millions of people here, likely hundreds of thousands of them Christian.  Why would he call little old me to be here?  I’ve made sense of it more as a series of choices I’ve made leading me to live where I now live.  Yet, I feel something shifting in me, in my spiritual posture, as I take consideration that not only have my choices led me here, but also God has called me to be right where I’m at.  Even as I write these words, I find my entire self, open to the possibilities to this place I live in a new way.  It is slightly different than being present and living well.  It is slightly different than doing good and participating in community.  It is slightly different from prayer and meditating on the word of God.  Instead, it seems like its a posture of waiting for God to show up at the well in the mundane daily tasks, never knowing what’s to come.  I wish I could say this gives me peace, knowing He’s got it worked out.  But, that’s not my response.  Instead, I feel a mix of fear, anticipation and confidence, wondering what the Spirit of God will call me to next.  It seems like a whole new something, beyond my imagination. I pray I have the courage to be ready because it appears very clear in Esther that one can choose to live a life as a Christian, without ever following His calling.  Somehow, that is scarier to me than following Him into the unknown.  I don’t want to live outside of His will, at least most of me doesn’t.  I’m still working on that other part.  The one that keeps looking back, wishing I were back in the country.  The good news, God still accepts me with his abundant grace and love (think prodigal son) AND even Jesus wanted his cup passed from him.  I’m in good company.


Kayaking with Winter Birds


For years I’ve driven by this section of PCH and wanted to get in the water to check out the birds in the wildlife refuge.  SEVENTEEN years later, I finally did it!  I confess my initial thoughts were a mix of, “This is amazing” and “Why did it take me so long?”  However, there were so many birds I hadn’t seen before,  I mostly became filled with amazement, losing any regrets I might have had.

Here were a few of our “winners” that I could capture on film.

Brown Pelican:  IMG_0793 IMG_0794Notice the birds in the background.  The grayish red one is a reddish egret, which I’ve never seen before and are somewhat rare outside of Mexico.    Here are some close-ups of it:

IMG_0795 IMG_0796

This is a Cormorant, which I’ve seen on the Santa Monica/ Malibu shoreline as well but not as close up as the kayak got us.


Big E and I thought this shore bird was cute but we couldn’t get close enough with my camera to clearly identify it and there are too many options on the bird book to know for sure.  (I don’t trust sea water and my Canon, we used my iphone.)


However, we just weren’t able to capture the hilarious looking Surf Scoter.  Look them up.  There were four of them, which we captured in our binoculars.  Fabulous beaks and faces!  There were also some young coots, which still had fuzzy feathers.  We thought it was a little early for young birds but we are still learning about this bird thing so we could only guess that the unseasonably warm weather led to some early babies.

We’re definitely going back but will do some investigating to find out the boundaries for the “area closed” signs. It wasn’t clear if we could travel deep into the wetlands, staying on the water or if we aren’t allowed to venture after the channel narrows.  We loved Veronica at Huntington Harbor Kayaks and recommend them because they have the closest launching point to the wetlands.

May this January being with it fun and adventure, even if it’s taken you 17 years.

Lessons from Joseph


I’ve never considered Joseph’s life after Mary told him she was pregnant and he decided to marry her anyway.  I’ve imagined what it must’ve been like for him to process what Mary told him about the immaculate conception, his decision to marry her, trusting in her word as well as God showing up in his dream.  These are things I’ve considered with my imagination.  What I hadn’t realized until today is my imagining basically stopped with Jesus’ birth.


I hadn’t considered what Joseph’s life became after Jesus’ birth.  I imagine there was some family connecting and support since his lineage was from Bethlehem.  I find myself curious what he and Mary must have done during that first year or so of Jesus’ life, until the Magi appeared.  I’m struck now that he didn’t get to choose when he wanted to leave and return to where they were previously living.  In fact, he had to escape to Egypt during the night and remain there until Herod died.  He had no idea how long this would be.  He waited and waited and waited, never knowing when he could return.  Historical records indicate it was about three years (or possibly less but at minimum two years) but from Joseph’s point of view, he never knew when he’d get to return to his homeland, or even his country.  That would have been extremely difficult for me.  In fact, I don’t know how I would have done it without grumbling or complaining.  I imagine I would have known complete dependence God because I am a person who loves her homeland.  From the moment I leave, I anticipate when I will return.  When I arrive, my senses become alert and I try to soak in all my senses can take, knowing my trip is short.  It would deeply sadden me to be kept away with no idea of when I’d return.


Then there is the issue about being a fairly new father and husband with no family around.  They must have gone from being part of a close family unit to having no one.  I haven’t done my cultural research to know for sure, but I would imagine when he left in the middle of the night, he wouldn’t be traveling with a familial caravan as may have been customary had they had different departure circumstances.  I wonder if they ever sent word back to their family where they were or if they didn’t risk it.  I find myself wondering how they filled their days while they waited.  Did Joseph look for work?  Where did they stay?  How did they survive financially?  Did they worry?  Was God experienced as near to them?


And to know, or find out later, that babies died, most likely some of Jesus’ cousins because of His birth.  How could they process God being with them, protecting them, but not with those families?  Did they fear His protection would end and He would stop showing up in dreams?  Maybe they didn’t fear.  Maybe after seeing what was so clearly God’s hand in it all, stopped fearing and believed with all their heart that everything would be okay.  And if that was true, I can’t imagine the shock that arose when He died on the cross.  The “barely can breathe” shock. The “is this really how it ends?” shock.  The “I’m so crushed I can’t think to put one foot in front of the other to walk” but I can because I’ve done it a thousand times so I don’t have to think to make it happen.  I just can.  Because.  God made me that way.


Then there is the whole thing about their return to their homeland not being safe so they had to live in a different district.  Again, living through a situation where all their plans were turned upside down and completely unexpected.


What came alive to me afresh as I read and imagined Matthew 2, is to believe in God and follow Jesus requires radical living.  It requires a type of living that will turn your entire life upside down.  It will require you to live with your proverbial hands open, holding onto nothing.  I felt company in my feeling of being displaced.  I’m not a city dweller and yet I’ve been called to live in one for 23 years, five years longer than I lived in the country.  Unlike Joseph and Mary, I don’t wait alone.  I’m surrounded by deep and meaningful friendships.  Yet, I wait.  For the possibility of returning to a less populated place.  For the possibility of being surrounded by mountains and vistas.  For the possibility of feeling like I’m once again home.  My waiting is not as one adrift though.  I’ve firmly planted myself in the city.  I’ve found peace and connection here.  I’ve found a community to help raise my children, to help raise me, and to help me hold my hands, open, for the radical possibilities God has in store for me and my family.

Praise Be to God who does not abandon us.  Ever.

Family Goals

I’m not one who gets super excited about setting new year’s resolutions though it is something I believe is helpful for creating new habits and living intentionally.  However, what I do get excited about is creating family goals, which are mostly focused on everything fun and important, like connecting and deepening relationships.

Last year, an overall theme was to have more fun together.  We identified specifics for this goal as being: playing games together, swimming at our community pool, camping with friends, our summer trip to Winthrop, including a stop off at cousins’ house, another trip to Sedona, a family favorite, and beach time.

A glimpse of some of our fun:
notice the osprey IMG_0053 IMG_0071 IMG_0200 IMG_0214 IMG_0581 IMG_0602 IMG_0650 IMG_9663 IMG_9728 IMG_9850 IMG_9861 IMG_9894 IMG_9939

Some of our unsuccessful goals were spending more time with Santa Barbara cousins and doing more neighborhood activities.  We hope to try these things again next year with better success, knowing now that they need to be scheduled well in advance or they won’t just happen.

From the past, I know whatever doesn’t get planned in January will not happen.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t have the complete activity plan but it needs to make it off my goal sheet and onto my calendar even if that “appointment” says, plan for summer trip.  One of the ways we consider whether we can put our desires onto our yearly goal plan is considering our how our time will be spent as well as our annual budgeting. You can think of desires as a “Bucket list” and we all have them but many of those items don’t make it onto goals because these items aren’t necessarily realistic at this time.  Considerations for time and money usually begin to be discussed in November and December of the year before because both Dennis and I have work commitments that need to be integrated into our family schedules.  What I love about this system is I’m planning several years out.  For instance, I know we don’t have any snow trips in 2014 and since my kids LOVE snow, I’m looking ahead to making a trip early 2015 to snow.

So here’s some of the fun we have planned:  For the upcoming year, we knew we had a few opportunities to mix business trips with pleasure so we’re budgeting for airplane tickets to make those trips happen later this year.  This means we won’t be buying yearly passes for local interests because we can’t afford both (meaning beaches, hikes, and bird watching will be big activities this year because they only cost gas).  Other activities we’ll budget for are our annual trips to Winthrop (17 years and running) and Sedona (3rd year) as well as visiting cousins, this time the Idaho and Santa Barbara clans.

Another important trip we wanted to continue is our tradition of camping but we can’t drive too far so this week I researched group camp sites less than four hours away and then picked my top choice and made sure I was online right when the reservations opened in order to try and get one.  There was definitely some competition but I was poised (finger on book it) and ready the minute you could book and I still couldn’t secure my number one site or date.  However, I felt elated to book a group site and have already found out friends can join us.  I share my process for planning just to reiterate sometimes when planning for the new year, you have to start before the old one ends.

We find it’s usually beneficial to try to get some of our desired activities checked off to make it feel like we’re headed in the right direction immediately (and hey, I’m one of those unfortunate people who has a difficult time spontaneously dropping everything to go have fun so I need it in my calendar.)  Some of the fun we already have planned for January includes: kayaking in the back bay for birdwatching, rock climbing, mother/ daughter movie date, and a date night to see the Hobbit.  We also hope to continue our biweekly Spanish dinners with good friends.

May this month bring with it a wonderful expectation and excitement of what’s ahead for the new year, not just hard goals but also fun and plain bliss.

Yearly Reflections

I love to do yearly reflections as well as new year resolutions.  I consider it to be an important time to consider if I’m going where I want to go or living how I want to live.  This year, I found the following questions on one of my favorite blogs, Rage Against the Minivan, who appears to have “stolen it” from another blogger who has taken it from another blogger, etc. so I too am using these questions for my yearly reflections.

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?

I went zip-lining at Irvine Regional Park.  It gave me a taste for the activity but was a pretty “tame” zip line.  I look forward to doing a higher and longer one in the future.

Here’s Big E, my daughter, doing the same line.


2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I kept some of my new year’s resolutions and not others.  I was successful in my career goals and writing goals of finishing my first draft of my memoir.  However, I wanted to blog more regularly and that just didn’t happen.  I was also successful in connecting with friends regularly but I had wanted to have a “fun” night out every month and that happened irregularly.  Health goals were hit and miss but I did gain understanding of what really works for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and what I need to do to be successful in that area.  Now, I just need to create habits to ensure I’m moving toward health.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My brother, Kerby and his wife, Anna gave birth in April to my niece, Courtney, number four in their flock of girls.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes, my mentor, Beth, died in June after a 22 year battle with cancer, almost 14 of those with it metastasized in her bones.  Another friend, a graduate school roommate, also died and even though I hadn’t seen her for years, it was a significant loss because of who she was to me.

5. What countries or new places did you visit?

Although I did travel some this year, the only new place was June Lake, California.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

I would like return to better daily routines.  I did a poor job of having a daily routines in 2013, which resulted in less productivity and fun because I wasn’t as effective as I needed to be for the fun and work balance.

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

March 25th, the day I learned my friend, Amy’s brain cancer returned, this time Stage 4.  June 13th, the day Beth died.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

With the assistance of my brother, Brian’s accountability, I finished the first draft of my memoir, though now the real work begins.

9. What was your biggest failure?

1) Purging and organizing my garage, I just never created time for it after Dennis, my husband, put up shelves.  2) Failing to live with a budget.  We want to pay off my still large school loan in two years, which means living intentionally with our finances.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

My plantar fasciitis was painful for months, making running impossible until August.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Bar stools, reclaimed steel and wood.  I’d refused to settle for anything less than what I loved so for two years we lived with just two.


12. Where did most of your money go?

Mortgage, taxes

13. What did you get really excited about?

Bird watching.  I led a Backyard Challenge group for Big E’s girl scout troop in February, which was the trip I saw a Green heron for the first time.

Green Heron

Then everywhere we went, we looked for new birds.  On a November trip to Sedona, AZ, we found three new ducks we’d never seen before.

Common Merganser, Sedona, 11.25.13Common Merganser

Wood Duck Wood Duck American Wigeon, Sedona American Wigeon

14. What song will always remind you of 2013?

Passion – 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) [feat. Matt Redman]  It reminds me of God’s “Withness” as well as how each day is a true blessings, not something to take for granted.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder?  Mixed.  I’m happier in my marriage than I’ve ever been but the realities of the cancer in my friend, Amy, makes my heart sad for the challenges she is facing every day.

– thinner or fatter?  the same.  Though I’m regrettably weaker from changing my workout to a less weight bearing routine.  I hope to remedy this situation in the new year by trying out a few companies with previously purchased Groupons, but by April, I’ll need to find a workout partner because only my LA fitness membership is budgeted until I get that school loan paid off.

– richer or poorer?   Richer but as stated above, commitment to paying off school debt hasn’t translated into feeling richer.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

I wish I would’ve watched more movies in the theater, had more girls’ nights out, date nights with my hubby and had more fun with my kids

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Driving and preparing 5th grade curriculum for homeschooling.

18. How did you spend Christmas?

With my family in Washington, enjoying the ice for skating and sliding but wished for more snow.

19. What was your favorite TV program?

I watch very little television but when I do…Parks and Recreation (though I’m only on season 2); guilty pleasure — Nashville

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

Most of the books I read were written in previous years but here are my favorites from both this year and previous ones:  The Obituary Writer, The Yellow Birds, Cutting for Stone, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, and The Gift of Imperfection.

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

It was a huge group year for me, loved the new music from Imagine Dragons, One Republic, and The Civil Wars though my favorite single was Gary Allan’s Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain).

22. What was your favorite film of the year?

I loved both the Way, Way Back and Silver Lining Playbook.  In the Way, Way Back, there was something incredibly refreshing to me about the resiliency of the 14 year old protagonist, Duncan.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

43, I went to see Silver Lining Playbook with Dennis before meeting our friends, Jud and Mandy at my favorite restaurant, Panda Inn.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Creating a more disciplined editing schedule so that I would’ve completed my second draft by the end of December; instead, I have about a month or two worth of work left.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?

Lots of tops with loose and flow-y with asymmetrical lines and leggings or skinny jeans.  Also, if I didn’t live in Southern Cal, I’d live in sweaters so I found some fun “holey” sweaters that aren’t especially warm.

26. What kept you sane?

Regular walks, prayer, snuggles with my kids, and family dinners.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

Goodbyes at the end of one’s life are incredibly hard but so life giving for those you leave behind.  Not only did my mentor’s life leave a legacy within me because of the time she spent with me speaking into my life, but her death taught me something about living well.