Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Little Peanut

[I apologize for my loooong absence. Explanation to follow...]

I woke up last night at 3am and lay in bed for at least a half an hour, resisting the urge to reach over & grab the crackers waiting for me on the night stand. When I finally succumbed, the noise of my crunching was similar to setting off land mines in a quiet library. Luckily, Chris didn't move.

At 4am, I caved, realizing that the crackers weren't going to cut it, and wandered into the kitchen to drink a fruit smoothie. It was like I was some giant marionette, and the "person" pulling the strings-- deciding when I sleep, when I eat, what I eat (& how much & how often), and when I want to throw it back up-- is a tiny little thing the size of a peanut.

Yep, you guessed it: I'm pregnant. Two months pregnant, to be exact. In fact, I just read that this week, our little peanut is developing eyelids, arms & legs (even elbows), the tip of it's nose, and (drum roll please), no longer has a tail. Excuse me? A tail? It's better to find out some things after the fact. I feel uncomfortable thinking that the little guy getting me up in the middle of the night to drink smoothies has a tail.

The story goes that earlier this summer, Chris & I were praying about going back to Uganda. Our original plan was to start a family after 5yrs of marriage, but going to Africa would mean postponing those plans for another year. At the time, neither of us really had any desire for children. Not that we have anything against kids, as an age bracket, we just aren't the type who coo over our friends' babies (cute as they are), or could even imagine having one in our lives. We were just so happy with life at that moment, exactly the way it was. We simply prayed that when the time was right, God would give us the desire for children. I was kind of afraid that that day might never come.

But then, sometime this Fall, I looked at Chris and thought about how much I loved him, and how amazing it would be to carry a part of him with me... and even one day look into someone else's eyes and see him. I'm not usually the gooey, romantic type, and the feeling was so out of the blue, I was pretty sure it didn't come from me.

We had one month to decide about Uganda, so we said "Sure, why the heck not?", and I looked into Natural Family Planning. As it turns out, those Catholics are very effective at fertility, and the very first month-- in fact, the day we had to give our decision about Africa, we found out that we were pregnant.

Now, I know that we are supposed to feel euphoria-- that joy & anticipation should be oozing out of every pore... but that didn't really happen. That's not to say that we were disappointed, either-- it was more like "Oh, wow! I wasn't really expecting that." Plus, it's really difficult to mentally translate two little pink lines on a pregnancy test into complete life-change and a small human. Even when the doctors & my own body confirmed it, it was really difficult to be ecstatic about having the stomach flu for 12 weeks.

To be honest, I'm not very good at discomfort. Yes, I willingly chose to live in a mud hut for an entire summer, but besides that little blip on the radar, I'm a bit of a wuss. I hate being sick, and tend to get a little whiny about the whole affair. After feeling miserable for about 2 weeks, and realizing that I only had another 10 to go (hopefully), was pretty disheartening. Plus, we wanted to tell our parents in person, so I felt like I had this dirty little secret we were keeping from everyone relating to my "illness".

I felt guilty about not being happier. I mean, some people would kill to be able to get pregnant (and my heart really does go out to them), and here I was getting pregnant on the first try. I tried pepping myself up by thinking of everything I was thankful for, and even reminding myself that I would probably have been sick in Uganda this summer, too-- only without a bed or running water.

But last night, as I lay awake, feeling a will other than my own forcing me out of bed, and whispering "smoooooothie", I couldn't help but smile. It was the first time I had ever really realized that there is someone else in there-- not just some little parasite stealing my energy & health, but something all it's own that I am holding.

I am still not at a place where I can imagine a tiny human-- our tiny human-- existing in this world and in our lives. But I do think that God is slowly starting to change my heart, bit by bit, and I still have plenty of time for a crazy, irrational worry-wart, mama-bear kind of love to blossom out of the little smile that came in the middle of the night.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Life Without Cheese

There will probably be some serious intervention happening after I post this blog. I will probably get phone calls asking if I'm okay, if I hit my head, if maybe it's time for me to move out of this Hippie Town. It's like I don't even know who I am anymore-- like aliens abducted me, brainwashed me & inserted cantaloupe-seed-like pods into my skin (I actually sat next to a man on a plane once who experienced that-- but that's anther story).

Even as I write this, I fear for my own sanity, but here goes: I've gone vegan... and I love it.

Now, before you call the authorities, let me tell you that's it's just a temporary thing-- at least, it
began that way... and knowing me, I probably will cave sooner rather than later.

It started off innocently enough: wanting to grow spiritually. Sounds noble, right?

I have always been terrible at fasting. First of all, food is a spiritual experience to me-- I am insanely passionate about it. I read cookbooks for fun on Saturday mornings, and baking sends thrills up my spine. Second of all, when I go even a few hours without eating, I will practically deny my faith and kill family members to get a hold of an energy bar. My blood sugar drops, my emotions go crazy, and I become Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. Fasting does nothing to bring me closer to God. I barely even believe in God when I fast. Gandhi would be most disappointed.

So when I had this epiphany about wanting to grow spiritually, I decided to try a different approach to fasting-- one more like the Jewish prophet Daniel, who ate only vegetables. That way I could s
till focus my mind & spirit, sacrifice something physical for the sake of something spiritual, and not even have to kill anyone around me. Brilliant.

The "Daniel Fast", as it is called, is essentially just being vegan-- something that people do all the time... and something that I have always scoffed at with a mixture of pity and judgment. A life without meat, I could handle. A life without cheese just isn't worth living. And when you cut out butter, eggs & chocolate, it sounds like my own personal hell.

But strangely, when Chris & I decided to embark on our Daniel Fast for 3-4 weeks, I was excited. Despite my love for chocolate, butter, cheese, and all things French, I also love vegetables... and fruit. I thought it would be nice to eat healthy for a few weeks-- to cleanse my body of all the rich food I eat, to fit into my jeans a little better, and especially (hopefully) to grow spiritually. The first night was hard. I looked in the fridge and wracked my brain for something to eat that didn't involve animal products. The next day, Chris & I took a trip to Trader Joe's, and the local market for produce. It's possible that we spend $160 in groceries that day. Don't tell anyone.

Filled with guilt, we stuffed our kitchen full of tofu, nuts, soy milk, soy yogurt, Cliff Bars, whole wheat pasta, and every kind of veggie known to man. We promised ourselves we wouldn't go shopping again for another month. And then I started cooking. And ladies & gentlemen, let me tell you: if this career as a Professional Christian doesn't work out, I'm becoming a hippie. I make a mighty fine vegan chef, if I do say so myself. Not only that, but I feel great.

Some magic switch flipped inside my brain, and I love being vegan. I don't even want sweets anymore. I do crave yogurt, and a little Parmesan cheese... and maybe some chicken broth-- but really, other than that, I could do this forever!

I know: you don't understand. I know: you think I've lost my mind. You probably even pity me a little but. You're probably concocting evil schemes to convert me back-- thinking through all the reasons why it's healthier to eat meat & all that. And don't worry-- I'm sure I'll cave in. But for now, allow me to live in my happy little hippie world, where vegetables are delicious, "milk" comes from a box, jeans fit great, and spirituality shoots up like soybeans.

Monday, October 26, 2009


I can be terribly indecisive. Giant menus put me into a cold sweat, and that's after the trauma of choosing a restaurant, deciding whether to drive, bike or walk, and what to wear. There are four big yellow squares on the bedroom wall where I once tried out some paint swatches, became paralyzed at the thought of choosing one color for the entire room, and then left a three year (and counting) monument to my indecision.

Tonight I have a decision weighing down that is slightly more significant than choosing colors or ordering dinner. Tomorrow is the deadline to decide if I would like to repeat the toughest, most stretching & challenging (& possibly awful) experience of my life. Or another way of saying it could be that to
morrow I decide whether I get to live out a life dream & return to something I am deeply passionate about. It's funny how those things go together, isn't it?

There is something about the red dirt of Africa that just gets under your skin-- under your nails, in every little nook & cranny. You love it, you hate it; you can't wait to leave, you need to go back. It's beautiful & painful, makes you want to laugh & cry, scream & bury your head in the sand.

Should we go back? The question has been haunting us for months now, and tonight it seems to echo, demanding an answer. The reasons to go are compelling, heart wrenching, exciting, and all seem to line up. The reasons to stay are sensible, grounded, comforting and desirable.

When we set off a year ago to lead a group of squirrely college students into a refugee camp 30mi South of the Sudanese border, we were sure. We knew that God wanted us there, that we were following Him, and that whatever happened, we were doing the right thing. We said that we would never want to do something like that without the same assurance.

And here we stand, at the crossroads, waiting for the writing in the sky.

As I lay on the grass in the park today, praying for guidance, the wind blew the clouds into big arrow shapes-- pointing away from the City, and roughly in the direction of Uganda. So, I suppose that if we were looking for writing in the sky, that would be our answer... but somehow I don't feel entirely comfortable basing my decision on cloud shapes.

The question is: What do we do when the reasons are equally compelling both directions? We've prayed, we've fasted, we've sought direction, wisdom & guidance. We've searched our hearts & desires (which seem to flip flop about 3 times a day). Little coincidences pop up that seem like signs, situations seem to line up, but they are never definitive.

The feeling is not unlike standing at the counter of a restaurant, skimming the menu as the line piles up behind you. You know you have to make a decision, but nothing pops up. At that moment, I usually blurt out the first salad that my eyes lay hold of. As the line piles up, though, I feel strangely at peace. I've done all I can do, and although the decision is weighty, knowing that God brought us through the hardest experience of my life once before helps give me peace as I face it again.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Swing of Things

I confess, I was actually a little bit jealous of all those people who had the flu this week. That's not to say that I actually wanted to feel miserable, but the weather was stormy and cold, and it was all I could do to keep myself from crawling back into bed... or laying on the couch with a box of kleenex, a pot of tea, and all three extended Lord of the Rings DVDs. Of course, as luck would have it, I did end up coming down with a cold on Friday (The nerve! Those germs could at least have had the decency to show up on a Wednesday), but had to push through and forgoe the cloudy day with Frodo.

It's not that anything was tragically wrong, or even overwhelmingly stressful, it was simply that initial push to get back into the swing of things. After traveling for two weeks, I felt a little bit like those cartoons with an Inbox piled to the ceiling, threatening an avalanche. And for some reason, it was just one of those weeks where life has lost it's sparkle and work felt lackluster. I would wake up in the morning, take an Airborne to fight off the cold that I wish I had, look at my To Do list and groan.

When you push-start a car, it's always those first few steps that are the hardest, working up momentum and getting things rolling. Not only has my week felt that way with work, but my thoughts seem to be congested in my mind, as well. For what feels like ages, I've been chewing on ideas & words, and have had so much to say that it all seems to get clogged on the keyboard. I've tried writing them down several times, only to get stuck and give up. So this is my first stab-- getting the ball rolling so that the keyboard doesn't get jammed.

Yesterday helped. Yesterday, I felt the clouds lift (quite literally) as we took the pup for a hike up in Mill Valley-- which is just as good as watching all three Lord of the Rings, because Mill Valley could double as a set for the movies. The base of the trail is dark and wet and mossy, and we followed a tiny stream back a bit into the forest. As we worked our way up, the sun peaked through, the leaves were changing colors, and Gavin dove headlong into bushes chasing after lizards (I swear, he's going to lose an eye one day).

Chris & I talked about the heaviness that seemed to be on both of us this week, and something about being out in the sunlight and breathing in the eucalyptus made everything seem a little more doable.

Even today, when the clouds rolled back in and my cold threatened to weigh me
down, the air of that hike stayed on me. I had to fight for it-- work hard to keep the momentum going. I might have overdone it, too, because after riding our bikes to church , I thought I was going to pass out. But after spending the day making a giant pot of homemade chili (seriously, we're going to be eating this chili for weeks), and watching the dog swim in a pond at the park, I feel like I just might be able to face the coming week without pretending to call in sick.

That's not to say that I'm actually looking forward to Monday morning, but at least I've got the ball rolling.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pinch Me

Some people dream of winning the Lotto, or owning an exotic sports car... but me, I dream of ovens. Strange, I know, but for years now, I have harbored a [not-so-secret] fantasy of owning a big, clunky Cadillac of a vintage oven-- the kind with the built-in salt and pepper shakers, the fold down counter top that covers the burners, and storage space on the sides. They make me swoon, they make me drool, they make me squeal & talk in a high pitched voice-- the way I do when I see puppies walking down the street. It's obnoxious.

Well, friends, dreams really do come true, because (with the help of some friends and a very strong, very generous husband), I am now the proud owner of a 1943 Tappan oven. All it cost me was the price of a U-Haul, a dolly, a Saturday afternoon, and some baked goods (to bribe friends with). Let me tell you, it nearly cost some lives (or at least some backs), trying to get that beast down three flights of windy, marble stairs, but in the end, we got the oven & two tired men back in one piece.

Actually, to be totally honest, I am the proud owner of a 1943 Tappan china cabinet, since our tiny little apartment has an electric stove (ick), and we can't actually use my dream oven until the glorious day when we have a house. So for now, the oven has replaced our kitchen table, and will store our dishes, pots & pans until we can put it to a more practical use.

That's not to say that I don't wake up giddy every morning, and walk into the kitchen just to make sure it's still there. Let me tell you, it's adorable. Even better, it's oh so very functional-- with two side cabinets for storage, drawers (one that holds built-in salt & pepper shakers!), a tiny pull-switch light on the back splash, a scrolling chart of times & temperatures for baking (it is currently set to "Fruit Cake: 2 1/2 to 4hrs, 250 degrees"), and little burner covers that convert the stove top to a counter top.

While I can't actually bake a fruit cake in it quite yet, I can at least hold all my fruit cake making utensils in it. I can also die happy now...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Not Eighteen

Beets have never been something that intrigued me. They always looked mushy & canned-- suspiciously like that jellied cranberry "sauce" Chris likes at Thanksgiving with the concentric aluminum circles still imprinted on it's giggly flesh. Beets are the kind of thing that old people eat, along with prune juice and mueslix.

At a cooking
class I attended earlier this summer, I politely decided to give beets a try. I figured we went through all the trouble of learning how to make them, I might as well. However, the whole Beet part of the meal was overshadowed by the Israeli couscous, with which I became obsessed, and I soon forgot all about beets. But tonight, for some reason, they popped back into my little brain, and I couldn't get them out, so I gave 'em another go... and let me tell you, they are really sensational little veggies-- subtly sweet, beautifully purple. I can say now that I am a big fan.

Along with my random beet craving this week, I've also had a strange urge to try eggs Benedict.
Things like this happen pretty often in our home, and Chris is sweet enough to indulge me. I remember tasting hollandaise sauce as a little girl and being completely disgusted by it, but I recently looked into the recipe, and thought to myself, "What's not to like?" I am a little less convinced about the poached egg, but something tells me that my feelings might have changed on that too. And that little something has more to do with the renegade gray hairs that pop up every now and then, or the dark circles I've been noticing under my eyes than finding the perfect recipe.

My mom used to always make us soft boiled eggs mixed with buttery little cubes of toast for breakfast. It wasn't really my fave. She confessed that she used to complain about her mother making her the very same breakfast every day of her childhood. It seems, though, that somewhere in the conversion from a little kid into the mother I knew her to be, she had begun enjoying soft boiled eggs (unless, of course, she enjoyed torturing us kids, like some sort of Freshman h
azing process). I remember she used to tell me that I might even end up liking vegetables one day, "when I got older". Well getting older, to me, didn't seem like a very sane or reasonable thing to do, if it meant I would lose my mind and end up willingly eating spinach.

But now, here I am, staining my fingers purple over some roasted beets, making myself soft boiled eggs for breakfast, and even flirting with the idea of trying my hand at hollandaise sauce-- for poached eggs. What has become of me?

It wasn't that long ago that students I met on campus would ask me what my major was-- in fact, that happened frequently even last year. The first week of school this Fall, I met some darling little Freshmen who had just come to San Francisco from my own home town. When they asked where I went to high school & when I graduated, I laughed as I gave my answer. "Oh," they replied, "I was just thinking that my mom's friend went to that high school & I was wondering if you would have known her." Your mom?? Ouch.

It's funny spending my days with 18 year olds-- it's not the typical "work crowd" for most 30-somethings. Recently, I have been realizing how much older I feel around them-- even how tired I am coming home some days. Crossing a generational gap is more work than it seems.

But the funny thing is that I don't really mind. It doesn't bother me that I'm not 18 any more-- in fact, I like myself and my life a whole lot better now than when I was 18. It feels good to be comfortable in my own skin, to not always be so concerned with what other people think of me, to know myself, and to know that I don't know everything.

Personally, I think our culture is way too obsessed with youth. Is growing older really such a
tragedy? I think of other cultures where age is prized, and associated with wisdom, depth & experience. Here, we pay thousands of dollars to perpetually look 25. But I suppose in the end, I would rather have a few wrinkles paired with contentment & self awareness. That's not to say that I am looking forward to gravity taking over, and watching my face & body sag-- but if it means that I get to enjoy things like roasted beets & eggs benedict, I guess that's not so bad afterall.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Perfect Success

You've thought about it before-- admit it. You've had secret day dreams about walking down the red carpet, giving an acceptance speech dressed in fancy clothes, thanking everyone that "got you there". Or, if not the red carpet, than maybe a victory lap around the stadium, or crossing the finish line, or scoring the winning point/goal/touchdown.

Deep down inside, we all want a little success, a little glory, a little acknowledgment-- maybe not in front of TV cameras, but even some small compliment or way of being set apart as special. I mean, it's nice to be thought of as special.

When I'm in San Francisco, I don't really stand out in a crowd. There's always someone edgier, funkier, more fashionable, & hip than me. But plunk me down in the middle of a conference with my big, conservative Christian organization, and my black nail polish & funky h
air make me seem oh-so sophisticated and urban. Somehow, people always remember my hubby's lip ring & tattoos, and our "forward-thinking, innovative" approach to ministry with college students in SF.

And let me tell you, it sounds pretty good on paper, or in a presentation. I almost start to believe that I'm somebody who knows something-- who maybe got something figured out, or is onto something new & good. But, les
t I start to think too highly of myself, reality always has a way of setting in.

Yesterday was our first weekly meeting of the year with our students. Driving home last night, I had the strange (but all-too familiar) feeling of mild embarrassment, confusion & defea
t. Cool, Edgy, and Innovative weren't exactly the words running through my mind. Instead, I was asking myself, Are we going anywhere with this? Do we just keep taking one step forward & one step back? And will all those new students ever come back?

It's not that last night was a total failure... it just didn't quite work. After our training this summer, I had such high hopes of creating something beautiful & wonderful here
in San Francisco. And I realized, after we didn't get off to a glorious start yesterday, that there was even a little part of me that was hoping to validate myself through that marvelous success-- that maybe I could get all the accolades that other directors got, or at least have something to show for myself at those conferences besides black nail polish & a husband with a lip ring (as cute as he is).

I had a little conversation with God about it this morning. Is something wrong with me? Am I not spiritual enough? Do I not have what it takes as a leader? Am I messing this up? Are we just going to keep spinning our wheels here, making progress only to have everything fall apart or change every single Semester? Will I ever feel like I know what I'm doing?

I actually felt a little bit of envy for those people who get to show up to a desk job in a cubicle everyday and do a menial, tedious job. At least they know what they're doing, what's expected of them-- they have a routine & a rhythm to life. It's a pretty rare day when I don't fe
el stupid, stretched, unsure, or unprepared. It's not that I don't work hard, or that I'm unqualified (I think); it's just that there is no manual for a job or a life like ours, and that there doesn't seem to be any rhythm to this ministry.

I had a visual image of my college days, when I decided to brave the Gospel Choir. I'm not really sure how I got in, but once I was there, it was wonderful, humiliating, fun, and so very challenging all at the same time. The very hardest part for me was singing harmony while swaying back & forth, clapping on beat, and incorporating hand motions & dance steps to everything. It was then that I realized how White I really am.

I feel a little like the white girl in the Gospel choir right now. I'm sure that there's some sort of rhythm here, some sort of purpose-- and it can be really fun, interesting & exciting finding it out, but it can also be humiliating and awkward. I know there is a part of me that needs to be trying new things, to be innovating, and stretching myself. But the flip side of that is constant discomfort, familiarity with failure, and a lot of trial & error.

As much as I don't need or want to fit in with the "Christian crowd", there is still a part of me that really wants to be accepted & acknowledged by them. Ironically, this morning I needed to process my thoughts, and having run out of room in my organic, recycled cotton journal, I pulled out the Christiany gift-journal I had received at our conference this summer.

I wrote & reflected on the fact that if we had experienced wild & smashing successes already, I might just start to believe I was something pretty amazing. But this way, I can learn humility through our mistakes, and remember who really brought about beauty, life & restoration that is to come. I can live in hope for the future goodness, knowing that this time of... um, less-than-wild-success... will only make the goodness to come that much better.

I was about the close my little journal when I noticed that there were personalized Bibl
e verses written on the bottom of each page. Not my usual style, but I read it anyways, and as I did, I laughed & cried at the same time: "My grace is sufficient for you, Christine, for my strength is made perfect in weakness." No joke-- it even had my name in there!

Those words used to sound inspiring & comforting to me. But when
you're actually in that place of weakness, most of us would rather hear God say things like "You can do it! You're the perfect person for this job! It's almost over-- and after all this, I'll bless you with a brand new car, and a big house with a picket fence." When God tells you that He's not going to take you out of your situation or even make you spectacular in it-- but instead keep you weak-- it's a little less exciting.

Strangely, though, despite my embarrassment, my weakness, my constant feeling of being unprepared or insufficient, I'm okay-- a little overwhelmed at the moment, but okay. I'm still where I'm supposed to be, and I believe I still am the person I'm supposed to be. The rest will work itself out.

This may not be the most glamorous life, but it's Home, and it's right. I probably won't ever be famous or popular, but me being me-- in all my strengths & weaknesses-- is somehow just right. You might even call it perfect.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

An Unconventional Praise

For the most part, I would say that I've got my priorities straight. I love my family, my husband, God, my country-- you know, all the important things. I'm not money or power-driven, and I don't feel like I am overly materialistic. However, there is one area of my life (well, at least one area of my life), one silly little frivolous area that adds nothing to the greater good of the world, and yet brings me infinite joy. And that, my friends, is food.

Now, I'm not talking about any kind of food, or food in bulk, or even one specific type of food. I just mean, beautiful, quality, delicious food. I hate fast food & mass-produced food, and feel that donuts are a waste-- but put me in front of a perfect tomato, or a bite of expensive dark chocolate, and I am in heaven. It's quite a thing to behold.

I had a spiritual moment today at the Farmer's Market.

There was a vendor with rows and rows of green, yellow, red, and even blue-black bell peppers, and lined up together, they looked like artwork. I thought to myself that God could have made eating similar to breathing-- simply a way to bring nutrients in & out of our bodies, but without much sensation to the experience. I thought of cattle, deer, or elephants that eat grass their entire lives, without ever knowing the difference. But, no-- for us, He made it an experience, and utter delight, a thing of beauty.

It occurred to me that God created food not only to taste delicious (in an infinite possibility of combinations), but also to look beautiful, as those bell peppers did. And as I stood in the heat of an unusually warm San Francisco morning, feeling the sun on my face and the sweat on my back, I looked aro
und at the throngs of people at the Ferry Building, sampling fruit, picking out flowers, sipping juice, I felt joy-- praise, even.

I know, I'm insane. Well, actually, it doesn't take much to have a spiritual experience at the Ferry Building-- it's practically the Mecca of all good food. But as someone who studied art, I know that good art should be a spiritual experience-- and, when you think about it, food is the best kind of art because you can experience it with each of your senses, literally internalize it, and even re-create it.

I know that there is pain, suffering, war & injustice in the world-- I have seen a lot of it first hand. And I know that I sound a little crazy (No I'm not drunk, and No, I haven't seen Julie & Julia yet), but I
really do believe that the beauty, variety, and goodness of food points to a creative, good, and generous God.

And if you had tried the heirloom tomato with rosemary sea salt that I sampled this morning, you would be full of praise, and sounding a little bit insane, too.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Little Help for Gavin

I don't dress up my dog. I don't carry him around in little designer bags (even if I wanted to, my shoulder die-- he weighs 60lbs). I don't have pictures of him in my wallet. I don't even feed him leftovers from dinner. But I do love the little booger, and it's hard to imagine not having a dog in our daily routine.

Right now, there is a terrified, shivering pit bull in a cage at the pet hospital. He hurt his leg almost 2 weeks ago, and we thought it was nothing... but then he kept re-injuring it, and we finally decided to bite the bullet and pay for a trip to the vet.

To make a long story short, something is wrong with his knee-- it could be a bad sprain, but the vet seemed to be leaning towards a torn ligament (much like a human tearing their ACL). He's going to be sedated & have x-rays taken this afternoon, and then we get the news: whether or not he needs surgery.

The X-rays alone will cost about $400. The surgery could be anywhere from $1500 to $3000. Needless to say, that's a pretty huge financial investment for us. If he ends up needing the surgery & doesn't get it, he will eventually go lame.

As "missionaries", our salary comes from the donations of families, individuals and churches. I don't know how I would feel about spending $3,000 of people's tithes on a dog's surgery. But then, do we just let our little pup suffer & go lame? It's a tough question to face.

So, as silly as this sounds, would you pray for our mutt, Gavin? Would you pray that he doesn't need the surgery, and that we don't have to make a difficult decision like that? I'm convinced that God cares for all his creation, including a socially awkward, dumb-as-a-rock, sweet little rescue pup.

I know this isn't my normal blog style-- sorry about that. Just wanted to ask for a little help ;)

Update: The vet called back to say that she couldn't find a tear in his ligament, and that (for now) she didn't think he needed surgery. Hooray!

Strangely enough, when compared with a $3,000 vet bill, the $500 everything ended up costing didn't hurt quite as much. I guess poor Gavin won't be able to eat for the rest of the year, though. Actually, he is restricted to short, 10 minute walks, with no playing, wrestling, swimming or running for the next 2 weeks. As great of news as not having surgery was, I know this is going to be a long 2 weeks for all of us. Still, we are SO very grateful.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I have talents. I do. Everyone does, really-- some are brilliant at math, some are musical or athletic or artistic.

I have always felt like my giftings were less tangible than most peo
ples'-- things like being a good listener or asking great questions (not the kind of things that get you college scholarships). I have always been a dismal failure at sports-- in fact, I am fairly certain that I have never, in my life, run an entire mile (and probably won't, unless chased by some hyper-determined killer). My math skills are down right humiliating, and even the thought of spending money in another country, calculating an exchange rate in my head (all that multiplying & dividing and subtracting! Kill me now.) puts me into a cold sweat. I persevered years of orchestra classes only to be hidden at the back of the viola section, and although I appreciate art, I've never really been able to create it on my own.

Now, I am content with the fact that I will never be a winning track athlete, or a rock star (or even a karaoke participant), but there is one area of weakness-- something that has plagued me my entire life-- that I have high hopes of changing. If you are related to me in any way, you should sit down before reading on... My goal, my bright & shining star out on the horizon, is Time Management.

Tardiness is a chronic illness in my life. That feeling of anxiety, guilt, shame & frustra
tion while rushing off to some appointment 15 minutes late is an old friend of mine. My poor husband is well versed in the routine of pulling the car out of the garage and patiently waiting in the driveway while I frantically throw together everything I need for the day. He's even been known to make my lunch for me, on a particularly bad morning. And, I confess that I don't know how our church service begins, because in our 4+ years of living in San Francisco, I'm pretty sure we've never made it on time. Whew, it feels good to get that off my chest.

One reason I believe that Change is possible is that, because of some strange alignment of the stars, I spent an entire summer arriving early. Gasp. I honestly don't know what happened, but during our 4 weeks of training in Colorado this summer, Chris & I woke up every morning, hopped on our bikes (okay, some mornings I made us drive), rode to campus, and arrived a full 10-15 minutes early for class-- saving a table for our friends, preparing tea/coffee, and getting out our notes. There was no incentive-- no roll being called, or public humiliation for tardiness, but for some reason, it happened once and so I know it can happen again.

The key, I believe, to recreating that miracle (permanently) is to set up a morning routine. I know, it sounds simple, but it's so much more complicated that it seems. If I could, I would wake up early every morning, take the dog for a walk, work out, make & eat breakfast, read & pray, shower, make my lunch, and be ready to go by 9am. I think I would have to wake up at 4 to make that happen. The other problem is that Chris & I share the tiniest of space in our apartment, and it always seems like I want to do kick boxing at the exact same time (and place) that he wants to pray & quietly reflect. On top of that, the parks near our house are literally locked before 8am, meaning that my dog-walking time is limited.

Since coming back from my miraculously time-efficient summer, I've tried a few methods of starting my mornings, all to no avail. But I am determined. I have never been big on New Year's Resolutions-- they always seemed so arbitrary. But I have tasted the sweetness of a life well-organized (granted, I had no dog, apartment, responsibilities, or the clutter of everyday life to bog me down, but that's beside the point), and I am convinced of its reality. As we start off a new school year (our lives revolve around the Semester schedule), I have high hopes for a fresh start.

Tonight, Chris & I sat down and made a little refrigerator chart of our weekly activities & goals. We have post-it notes with priorities like Date Nights, Having Dinner with Friends, Praying Together, etc. written on each post-it, and we plug in our priorities according to our weekly schedule. We even came up with incentives, giving ourselves little perks as we achieve our goals.

Our hope is as we organize our evenings, prioritize rest, order and connection over vegging in front of the TV or leaving the dirty dishes until morning, other things (like morning routines) can fall into place a little easier. Of course, we actually have to stick to our little plan to make all of this the smashing success that I am anticipating.

But maybe a smashing success is too much to ask for. I would settle for getting out the door on time, with clothes that fit, a non-neurotic dog, a soul that's centered, and cell phone in hand. Wish me luck-- I'll need it.; because even though timeliness may not be one of my talents, it's something I can at least practice. Hopefully it won't be as painful as practicing the viola.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No Place Like...

After 11 weeks, 7 States, 5 beds, and approximately 60hrs of road tripping, I am Home Sweet Home. Chris & I estimated that we spend about 4 months out of every year traveling. Sometimes it feels like weeks before I've caught up to myself in all the travels-- like I don't quite know who I am anymore.

Not that I'm complaining (okay, sometimes I complain). I enjoy the fact that my job takes me to Africa, London, the Rockies, Florida, and of course, back to my family in Southern California (I try not to think about the fact that I have to pay for all those travels). I
t even works out pretty nicely that during the cold, foggy summer months of San Francisco, we can rent out our apartment to a friend and bask in the sun all summer (well, this summer, I was mostly in an air conditioned class room with no windows, but it was sunny & warm on our bike rides to the classroom).

One benefit of traveling so much is that it transforms my tiny, cramped, loud
apartment into a palace-- a haven. Coming home to this Rubik's Cube of a home, where everything fits just so, is the most wonderful, comforting feeling in the world. Sleeping in my own bed is a slice of heaven, putting groceries into our refrigerator is bliss, even cleaning feels good (for the first few days). The feeling of padding around the house in your PJ's, with only the dog & hubby to see you (and the homeless guy looking through the window)-- the feeling of having your own space-- is a luxury beyond compare.

It's always an interesting to notice the things that I miss about home. Last summer, I missed my bed terribly (as I was sleeping in a hammock). This summer, it was food, diversity
& culture that I was hungry for-- and (oddly enough) dogs. I bordered on scary stalker lady every time I saw a dog. Very strange.

Most evenings throughout the year, Chris & I come home tired & hungry, and all we want to do is shovel food into our faces and plop on the couch... but this little 60lb mutt always foils our plans. He needs to go out, and almost every evening I groan & try to think of some way to get out of our daily walk to the park.

Strangely enough, though, it was those walks that I missed the most this summer, while Gavin spent his time guarding the in-law's house, and we were away in Colorado. I realized just how much those walks nourished me-- helped me to unwind after a tiring day, gave space in our marriage to talk &
reflect, created opportunities to be outside, and to gain the comic relief and plain old fun of watching dogs happily wrestling each other.

After about a week of breaking our evening routine (for lack of a dog), I noticed how cranky & unsettled I was. I felt antsy and tired all at the same time-- restless & sluggish. I can't remember what prompted me to go for a walk, but I do remember the revelation it was to just be outside, releasing my mind to wander
wherever it pleased. Sometimes Chris came, and sometimes I was alone. Sometimes we even traded our walk for an evening bike ride, watching the sun set over the mountains, and coming back after dark. I was always covered in mosquito bites, but somehow felt a little more alive, better connected to myself.

We've been home for 3 nights now, and have taken Gavin to the dog park each evening. Ironically, after having happily patrolled the suburban backyard all summer with his playmate, Champ, he's terrified of the variety of the dog park. He always takes a while to readjust to city life, and seems to jump & start at everything. For myself, though, it feels so good to be home-- connected to myself through the familiarity of my own home, my own things, and that dreaded (but therapeutic) daily walk to the park.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


One of the drawbacks of living in the best city in the nation (no, I'm not biased) is that the entire country comes to your doorstep to vacation. This spring, as I walked home from the store, a tour bus shaped like a boat drove down our street honking duck callers, as the numbed tourists stared at me like I was in a fish bowl.

As hard as it can be to watch people turn their brains off and go into vacation mode (especially
when they're driving in the bike lane), I admit that it is entertaining to play "Guess the Home-State". Occasionally, Chris & I enjoy going to a tourist trap like Fisherman's Warf and people watch, imagining where each family has come from. The tourists stand out like soar thumbs.

Lest I sound judgment
al, I'll humble myself to share that I had the privilege of being on the flip side of that experience when a group of Californians left our conference for the day, and took a quick day trip up to Wyoming to attend the Cheyenne Rodeo.

Now, to my recollection, I had never been to a rodeo before (although my mom claims she took me as a kid), and I really wasn't sure of what to expect.

As about 20 of us filed up the bleacher seats, we were met with strange stares, and a stage whisper of "They ain't fru-um Wyoming" (yes, "From" was two syllables ). Most of the girls in our group were wearing sun dresses & flip-flops (although one wisely paired her cowgirl boots with her dress), and the guys wore surf T-shirts and baggy shorts. The rest of the entire audience had on tight jeans, long sleeved work shirts, cowboy hats and boots. We looked absolutely ridiculous.

Every time someone from our group got up, it seemed like the attention went from the rodeo to "the city folk". We passed messages back and forth, sounding absurd to the locals: "Okay, so I heard they're supposed to stay on the bull for 8 seconds", "Apparently, they tie a
rope around the horse's privates to make him buck", "Does anyone know the point of this event?", and so on.

At one point in the rodeo, a horse went completely insane, diving
over the stage with the announcer, landing (with rider in-tow) on it's head. Then, it got up and charged full speed into the rail, ramming it with it's head before passing out. Another horse sprang out of the gates, landed stiff as a board, then teetered over onto its rider like a tree, never moving again (it was hauled off in a horse ambulance, which we joked was sponsored by Purina). The spectacular finale was a rider that was pitched off his horse, but whose arm got stuck on the harness. He flailed around for an eternity, and literally had his chaps and jacket stripped off of him as he was tossed like a rag doll. I have never seen anything like it.

The rodeo reminded me of stories of the Coliseum under Caesar, and part of me expected lions and gladiators to come out after the bull riders. It felt a little morbid and wrong, watching people & animals get hurt like that... and yet it was thoroughly entertaining-- one of the best days I've had in a long time.

And I have to say, it was awesome being a tourist-- a completely ridiculous outsider who didn't get it and never would. Some of the highlights we heard at the rodeo:

(insert thick accent here)
  • "That horse was chargin' like my wife at WalMart"
  • "He was hotter than a two dollar gun"
  • "He fell apart like a $19 suit"
  • (my personal favorite) Tom Morrow... the name of one of the rodeo contestants (for real).
Whether it's Africa, London, Tijuana or Wyoming, it is such a wonderful experience to be immersed in (and stand out in) another culture. It was the best $9 I've spent in a long time (plus the $7 lemonade I bought in a commemorative Cheyenne Rodeo cup).


Rumor has it that, in my attempt to be challenging & thought provoking (because I personally felt challenged & thoughtful), my last post came across to some as offensive. I apologize-- that was not my intent at all.

I was not taking a stance or stating my opinion on the movie Milk, on Harvey Milk as an individual, on Prop 8, on Christianity, or on Gay Rights. I was simply challenged to love people that are different from myself, and it seems that in my attempt, it made people feel un-loved.

I would love to dialogue with anyone about these thoughts, and value your opinions & feedback.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

We're All Bastards

I watched the movie Milk last night and it set off a chain of thoughts and emotions running through me.

It r
eminded me of a story I read about a Baptist minister and civil rights activist in the 1960's named Will Campbell:

On one of the Freedom Rides, Campbell was challenged by newspaper editor P.D. East to sum up the Christian faith in 10 words or less.

Campbell replied, "We're all bastards, but God loves us anyway."

Not long after, a good friend and fellow activist, Thomas Coleman, was shot & killed by a
police officer named Jonathan Daniel. After the shooting, Campbell was devastated, but P.D. East wouldn't leave him alone, challenging him on his definition of Christianity. He demanded Campbell to answer whether both Thomas Coleman and Jonathan Daniel-- the victim and the murderer-- were bastards. Campbell feebly replied that they were.

"Which of those two bastards did God love the best?" asked P.D. East

This question changed the course of Campbell's life, when he realized that God loved the bigoted, wrong-doing Ku Klux Klan members just as
much as He loved the victims of the bigotry. He left the civil rights movement, and began ministering to white supremacists, sharing God's love & hope to the very people he had been fighting against.

As I lay in bed last night, with scenes from the Gay Rights Movement still flashing through my mind, the story of Will Campbell returned to my memory. After watching Milk, I felt saddened, offended, heart-broken, inspired and confused. What stood out more than anything to me was the hurtful, defensive words coming from Christian's mouths, as they crusaded for morality.

This past year was an echo of the culture clash that happened during the movement of the 1970's in San Francisco, and I had an interesting vantage point from where I stood.

I grew up in a Christian home, in conservative Orange County, and yet I live in one of the most liberal post-Christian cities in the nation. I work for a conservative Evangelical Christian organization, yet the people I work with are much more passionate about justice and human rights than moral purity. During the elections, I walked on campus at SFSU and saw endless amounts of posters and campaigns calling out for people to "Vote No on Prop 8"; when I returned home, my inbox was filled with emails from Christians telling me God's will for the elections. It was interesting, standing with one foot in each world, listening to each group talk about the other.

After watching Milk last night, images replayed themselves like home movies. I thought of Christians picketing the funerals of gay men who had died of AIDS; of half-naked men on Easter posing for the Hunky Jesus contest; of the angry emails demanding that Christians stand up with God against "the gays", and angry gay men pouring hot coffee on Christian students; of teary-eyed gay students crumbling as I apologized for the church rejecting them, and wide-eyed youth group kids learning about sexual purity. I thought of Jesus speaking with compassion on prostitutes, and side-stepping political issues to get at the heart of the matter.

And I think Will Campbell was right: the real heart of the matter is that we're all bastards, but God loves us anyway.

I closed my eyes and saw a group of people on either side of me. On my left were the drag
queens, celebrating the Hunky Jesus contest on Easter. On my right were the Christian activists demanding morality, without love. Tears came to my eyes as I saw myself taking a hand from both sides, feeling their skin against mine. We're all bastards, but God loves us anyway.

I've never been one to be deeply involved in politics. I admit that a lot of it is simply over my head, and much too time-consuming to keep up with. But the anger & polarization a
re what really turn me off. The thought of reaching across both lines-- to the Christian world I am a part of, and to the gay community that I live in sounds dangerous, frightening... and beautiful.

After P.D. East heard Will Campbell's answer to his question, he responded, "You've got to be the biggest bastard of us all... because damned if you haven't made me a Christian, and I'm not sure I can stand it."

Campbell used to say, "I'm pro-Klansman because I'm pro-human being". He explained that being pro-Klansman is not the same as being pro-Klan, and being capable of making that distinction might be the only hope for civil discourse. So my goal is to be able to say that I am both pro-Gay, and pro-Fundamentalist. Taking sides is one thing, standing in the middle is another, but reaching across the line is something completely different.

Reconciliation-- both to God and to man-- was the purpose of Will Campbell's life & ministry, and I hope that someday, someone could say the same of me.