The Aftermath of Agatha


Guatemala has been on my heart these past seven days. Maybe partly because I have friends who live there and people dear to me who lost loved ones in the mudslides. Maybe partly because I am moving there in two short weeks and these photos frighten me. Or maybe because disasters like this remind me just how fragile life is.


Besides the gigantic sinkhole in Guatemala City much of the aftermath of Agatha has not received much attention on the evening news. It always amazes me how quickly our sensationalized media moves on to something bigger and better. We tune in for the first breaking news coverage of Katrina or the earthquake in Haiti or the sinkhole in Guatemala, and then just as quickly we tune out and move on. But these families and people in the photos cannot just tune out. They’re living in it.


I read recently that the tropical storm Agatha has caused more damages in Guatemala than Hurricane Stan in 2005 or Hurricane Mitch in 1998. They are still getting more accurate information as the days go by, but currently the figures are 120 dead, 111,964 evacuees, 29,245 in shelters, 13 bridges collapsed, and many roads blocked by landslides or floods. One of my friends, who works building water filtration systems in the villages near Antigua, lost 4 of his relatives in a mudslide on Sunday.


I am not sure if the Red Cross has set up anything or if there is any international aid going there yet. I will let you know if there is a way to help. My friend emailed me on Tuesday and said right now they need volunteers to dig and move mud. Maybe I’ll spend my first weeks doing just that.


The photos were from a sobering sideshow found here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel & Perspective

Flora Vista


Yesterday we moved out of our Flora Vista House. I said good-bye to walks to mesa lane, late night roommate talks, and game nights in the living room. I might even miss our infestation of spiders, the subtle skunk smell that lingers in the living room, and the memories of finding a dead rat in the laundry room.

We’ve shared countless glasses of wine, hours of conversation, and two-and-half years of memories. Here’s to microwave beeps, the chore chart and the on-going saga of the internet. I’m going to miss you Flora Vista.

P.S. For the next three weeks I am lucky enough to reside in the Mumm household, where poor Jeff has had been inundated with a host of rapid-fire girl questions and conversation topics that generally center around finding jeans that fit, fashion trends and nail techniques (and not the hammer and nail kind). Read more about it here

3 Comments

Filed under Neither Here, Nor There

The Final Wednesday


For the past three years my Wednesdays have included these three lovely ladies. Our small group typically involves food including, but not limited to chips and salsa, strawberries (for me), gluten free brownies (for Hayden) and anything else chocolate. We have conversations covering an array of topics: family, boys and dating, friendships, God, self-image, smushes, church, youth group, social justice, the world, quarter stories, prayer, scripture, listening, culture and music. Sometimes these conversations are interrupted by urgent bathroom breaks (Katie), occasional text messaging (all of them) and frequent bouts of laughter. We make room for questions, tears, sadness, celebrations, dreams, hopes, doubts, cuddling and good hugs!

I see part of my high school-self in each of these young women and there are countless times I’m left thinking, eh, I’m 27 and I still struggle with that. Being a leader doesn’t constitute having all the answers, but it does involve a certain level of commitment. And for the past three years I have been committed to these girls–it has by far been one of the best commitments I’ve ever made.

I love them. Hayden, Katie and Jenna, you reminded me that sometimes love is simply showing up and saying, “I’m here for you.” It is choosing to be together and admitting that I can’t do life on my own.

Today was the final Wednesday, our final small group. And I’m going to miss them dearly!

1 Comment

Filed under Love & Relationships

Buried Under the Shoes


Somewhere between the boxes and the piles and the packing I lost a little bit of my excitement. I’m hoping its temporarily buried under my mountain of shoes (yes, I know, guilty as charged: so, I may have a slight shoe fetish. And no, I will not be bringing any of these to Guatemala. When you’re 5’8 and already tower over most Guatemalans no need to add another 3 inches to the mix)

I wish I felt bounds of joy about my upcoming move, but instead I’m sitting on my bed surrounded by stuff–and with that stuff comes stress and fear and this wave of questions. The main one being, “ahhh, what the heck am I doing?”

Moving and Packing

I am moving this weekend– leaving my home of the past 2 1/2 years, saying good-bye to two incredible roommates and packing up my hodgepodge of belongings– to go live with two of my favorite people in Santa Barbara who have offered me their guest bedroom for three weeks until I leave. So, now is the time to start packing.

Packing has a way of bringing up and sorting out what’s important. Old CD’s, letters from ex-boyfriends, and articles from grad school (many still unread) are intermixed with camera batteries and saved receipts organized in envelopes with black writing that says “2007-2008.” I have a costume box with feather boas and hot pink sunglasses and 80’s crop tops because you-never-know-when-you might-just-need-a-costume, right? These things don’t quite make it to the important side.

What’s important are people. Friends and roommates. My parents and sisters and brother. And then there are the kids from kids club and my students. And these are the things I can’t pack. I get sad about leaving these people. Sad that I am going to be missing out on part of their lives. And I get sad that sometimes it feels like I am leaving alone, while everyone else gets to stay here together.

Not Alone

Maybe that’s part of the catch-22 about sending out support letters. I’ll be honest it’s a humbling process mailing out a letter to family and friends not only admitting that I need your help, but also admitting that I actually can’t go through this next year without your support and care. I realize I have gotten pretty darn good at doing most things in life on my own and as a result this confident, self-reliant, independent spirit has been fostered deep inside. But I am learning that maybe I also need to leave room for the humble, meek side that admits, “I can’t do this alone. Will you help?”

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel & Perspective

dance. sing. floss. travel.


I would say I do 3 out of the 4 quite well. My dancing, flossing, and traveling skills are adequate. My singing on the other hand– is lets just say, not one of my finer qualities. (Imagine Cameron Diaz at the karaoke bar in My Best Friends Wedding– and that’s me on a good day.)

I went to a FREE yoga class at Lululemon on Sunday morning. Sitting on my purple mat, with my legs folded and arms gently resting on my knees, I tried to appear relaxed as I waited for class to start. After some long, droning, always slightly uncomfortable breathing, the instructor started the class with a question, what is your intention for your practice? (which in non-yogi language simply means, what are you focused on right now?)

But I like the word intention. It implies something about purpose, focus and well, intent.

I started asking myself, what is my intention right now?

My intention has been letting go.
Preparing to leave.
Getting excited for a new opportunity.
And feeling scared to death of the unknown.

Letting Go

I’m going to Guatemala-again! But this time I’m actually taking a year off of teaching. My school district approved a one-year leave of absence. So, I am letting go of a job that I love, friends that I cherish and a community that feels like home because I believe in taking risks, being bold and listening to that still, small voice inside that says “go” even when you don’t know where you’re going.

It’s been a year or so of processing, thinking and praying. I’ve justified and allowed myself to make every excuse in the book about why this move doesn’t make sense. This was by no means in my 5-year plan. But I am learning that life isn’t necessarily about 5-year plans. A life of convenience, comfort and control is not a life that I want to live.

Intention

I have been to Guatemala four times and every time I want to stay longer. Something in my heart longs to be a part of the culture and the language and the people. And I am finally listening to that. I leave June 21st. I’ll be serving with an organization, Mission Impact, that I have worked with before. And I’ll also get to study more Spanish. You can find out more about what I’ll be doing here.

Until then, this next month is dedicated to three of my most time consuming enemies: packing, organizing, and moving.

Maybe my intention this next month shouldn’t be to dance. sing. floss. travel…but rather, to change. balance. enjoy. trust. Maybe Lululemon will put my motto on their next reusable bag, hmm? Maybe.

4 Comments

Filed under Travel & Perspective

Writing a Better Story


I write almost everyday. Usually it’s nothing eloquent or profound; actually more often than not it’s nothing more than muddled words and loosely strung together thoughts and prayers. But I still write it down.

I started writing in a journal when I was in the 6th grade. It was my mom’s suggestion (and probably desperation) to help her high-strung-stressed-out-daughter who couldn’t really express what she was feeling. I filled pages and pages of journals.* The pages were safe to express my growing worry and insecurity. And those pages also kindly held my hopes and dreams without passing judgment or disbelief. Writing allowed me room to be me without having to filter through my own or others expectations of who I should be.

I know that a lot of what I write is not new. Someone else has probably already said it better and/or sooner, but I am learning that writing is not about impressing people or being the first to discover some great thought. Writing is about creating space to tell a story. To tell my story. Writing gives room for ideas and feelings to take meaning and shape, when they might have otherwise sayed buried somewhere deep within.

Henri Nouwen said, “We have to trust that our stories deserve to be told. We may discover that the better we tell our stories the better we will want to live them.”

This makes me want to write and live a better story. What about you? Do you like to write? What story to tell yourself?

(*yes, somewhere in some over-sized box at my parents house I still have these journals. And yes, I know one day I’ll have to throw them away)

Leave a comment

Filed under Neither Here, Nor There

Why the Church Needs to Throw More Parties


I have been curled up in a coffee shop for most of the morning. I have a list of things to do: thank you letters to write, papers to grade and emails to respond to. Each task warrants my attention, but the truth is I am distracted. My heart and mind feel mixed up and overwhelmed, like a dryer that keeps spinning around the same wet mess of clothes all jumbled up and intertwined. I have all of these ideas cycling through my head, but I can’t make sense of them yet.

Conferences have a way of doing this to me. They suck you in with thousands of great ideas and inspirational thoughts and then spit you out to sort through them all. blah.

Sorting Through

So now I am doing the sorting through, processing and thinking about. I spent two full days last week at Catalyst, a conference geared for church leaders, pastors and directors of non-profits— none of which entirely define me, but all which deeply affect me.

Perhaps the best part of the conference was that these people- these pastors, authors, media analysts, creative visionaries, artists and non-profit directors believe that there is hope for this next generation. They believe that the church has to change. And that excites me.

Hope for Change

I have been in the church for most of my life, but I have probably struggled more in the past year to fit in at a church. I sometimes wonder where is there room for a left-leaning, creative, passionate follower of Christ who wants to engage in dialogue not doctrine, and whole-heartily believes that we should spend more time loving people for who they are than lecturing them about right from wrong.

I confess: I know that I am young and I have a lot to learn, but I am seeking to understand and live like this man named Jesus. I am trying to make sense of this radical, subversive man who honored and acknowledged women in a culture where they lived as second-class citizens, who sough out and actually chose to spend time with the tax collectors, the sick and the marginalized. Jesus’ harshest judgments and warnings were for us; for me, the Pharisees, the church goers. What does that mean for me? For you? For the church?

Called to Love

I believe somewhere we have inadvertently taken authority to be the judge of people and society. I can’t remember where I read or heard this (so forgive me for not giving credit where credit is due) but it went something like this: God’s job is to judge, the Holy Spirit convicts and we are called to love. That’s it.

Andy Stanley, one of the speakers at the conference, challenged a room full of 3,000 leaders of this next generation, What if we lived this out? What if we embraced and preached and acted upon Jesus’ command to “Love one another.” In John 13 he says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples.” I have heard this passage numerous times, but I have never let it resonate and ring so clearly. Imagine if people knew Christians because of our love? I mean really imagine it–Imagine what our world would be like if people thought…hmm, I want to be a part of that church because they are so loving. Or imagine if people thought…wow, that person doesn’t agree with me, but they really love and care about me. This is radical. And it was radical back then in Jesus’ day and it still is 2,000 years later.

Reggie Joiner, the founder and CEO is of reThink Group, a organization that helps churches connect with this next generation, reminded us that the church is called to be like the father in the prodigal son story. Our job is welcome people, embrace them and shower them with love and forgiveness. This is where people meet Christ and this is how people change. People don’t change by shame and guilt, they change through relationships and love. He left us with this question: Where will people go when they have wandered away from the church? He added, “It’s not if, but when. Because the truth is we all know people who will or already have wandered away from church. It’s part of this generation’s process. But he challenged us “You want to be sure that they can wander back to your church to be welcomed and embraced.”

Just like the father in Luke 15 who when he saw his son far off he was “filled with compassion [so] he ran to him [and] threw his arms around him.

And then…

the story says that the Father threw his son a party. Yep, a party.

My hope is that church can throw a lot more parties in the years to come.

2 Comments

Filed under Faith & Culture

Best of Boston


Last week I spent 5 days with my sister in Boston. Bundled up in coats and scarves we wandered through the rain around the streets of Cambridge. When we were younger our relationship centered around doing gymnastic routines in the front yard, playing 20 questions at night in our bunk beds and arguing over who took whose schruchie. I kid you not. I was the bossy, commanding, older sister and she was the sweet, easy going, middle child. And even though we sometimes still fall into those constraining birth order roles, I think we have come a long way in learning to be both friends and sisters.

We spent a lot of time just talking; curled up on the couch, sitting over a cup of coffee, or sharing appetizers at dinner. We managed to fit in some dancing one night and shopping the next morning- both equally enjoyable especially when there is this wonderful thing called the free “coat check.” I had never experienced that before. And did you know there is no sales tax on clothes in Boston? yesssss. We spent a good number of miles walking which is a great in a city that caters to pedestrians. Imagine 4-way stops where floods of people cross every which way and the cars just wait. ha. We managed to take every form of public transportation possible- yes, we hopped on and off the T, waited for the bus, and hailed a taxi. Steph took me to one of her favorite cafes, Flour and I wandered around little bookstores with stacks of books and cute greeting cards.


I was so impressed by my sister, Stephanie. She has a meaningful job working with people from all different cultural and religious backgrounds. She creatively started and now organizes yearly events like Soccer Nights for the entire city of Cambridge (check it out here). She has incredible friends who love her and an adorable apartment on the 5th floor of a charming building right by Harvard Square. Not only did I get to enjoy Boston, but also I got to see part of Steph’s life. There is something about being present with someone that brings together what cell phone conversations and text messages cannot. Now if only I could have brought the sunshine with me.

Weff, thanks for letting me come stay with you! I am glad that I can call you sister and friend.

1 Comment

Filed under Travel & Perspective

On My Left


Jen, has been on my left for the past nine years of my life. We met freshman year of college. She was dressed in pink and came to college bouncing with optimism. I was reserved and cautious and came to college with organized boxes and labeled zip-lock baggies. We were next door neighbors, but not friends right away.

In many ways I can not imagine someone more different from myself. Jen and I are opposites on nearly every letter of the Myers Briggs. I tend to be a determined, make-it happen kind of person and she thrives on the spontaneity of you-never-know-what-could-happen-today?!? I live in a world of realism while she inhabits the realm of possibilities. But oddly enough I believe it’s these very differences that have marked our friendship with such depth.

Our friendship has not been easy by any stretch of the imagination, but it has been one of the greatest sources of joy in my life. We have sustained the distance of being separated in countries miles apart and also the distance created when silence and hurt fills the very room you share. We have been through boyfriends and break-ups, annoyances and anger, and lots and lots of long conversations. We have learned how to argue well and disagree. Most of our fights tend to happen in the kitchen. And our best conversations take place sitting in the car. And somehow from these things we have come out stronger.

Jen knows me better than most because she sees beyond the surface. She has seen me at highest highs and lowest lows. She has witnessed some of my best moments and successes, and she has sat with me in seasons of depression, pain and tears. Jen has been the friend who sees through all my crap and names what is true and real. She has hoped for me when I forgot how. And she has consistently and patiently reminded me of who I am and who I can be.

Jen has taught me:

1. The importance of asking for help and meaning it.
2. How to really listen to others, and that real listening means putting down the cell phone and computer.
3. About the joy of mystery and surprises.
4. That most people don’t multi-task while they watch a movie.
5. To be honest with how I am feeling. And not just name the feelings, but actually be ok sitting with them and god forbid, feeling them.
6. Sometimes Damn it! is the most appropriate response.
7. That it’s ok to make mistakes.
8. That compromising does not in fact mean manipulating a situation to get half my way, and half your way; Sometimes it actually means letting go of “my way” altogether.
9. The beauty of asking questions, and not always giving answers.
10. Sometimes “just for fun” is the only reason you need.
11. The value in sharing eggs.
12. That the simple words “me, too” are sometimes all a friend needs to hear.
13. How to enjoy the unknown (although I don’t know if I’ll ever really enjoy the unknown, but at least how to be okay, with the unknown)
14. That good communication means I can’t just think about things, but I actually have to verbalize them. Friends, even good friends are not mind readers. (I know one day my future husband will thank her for this one!)
15. That life is more fun when adventure, play, and laughter are involved.
16. That difference is good and NECESSARY in our churches, friendships, schools and society.
17. That it’s ok to wear short shorts sometimes.
18. The importance of giving good hugs and giving them often.

A lot of who I am toady is because of the influence of this incredibly wise, beautiful, and tender-hearted friend.

Happy Birthday, Jen, my forever friend and neighbor for life!

She will probably hate me for posting this picture, but this is us freshmen year of college (notice the pink : )

5 Comments

Filed under Love & Relationships

When I Grow Up


When I was little this is what I wanted to be when I grew up. I kid you not. Most little kids imagine being a doctor or superhero or maybe even the person who flies the planes, but no…I wanted to be the person who directs the planes and tells them where to go.

For as long as I can remember I have loved airports and airplanes and all things that have to do with traveling. Before I was even able to read my parents would take me down to Ontario Airport where we would sit in the parking lot.

And just watch the planes.

Land and take off.

Land and take off.

What wonderfully, patient parents I had. For some reason I called planes be-bos and to this day I am not sure why. My parents helped foster my love (insert: obsession) of airplanes by reading me books from the local library about airports and airplanes. In fact they sent me on a plane by myself when I was just seven.

And remember how before the feds cracked down on airport security, it was common practice to actually go to the gate to meet someone? When my grandma would fly down from Seattle for her yearly visit the best part was waiting at the gate for her plane to arrive. With my hands glued to the metal gate I watched these airport workers with fluorescent vests and long flashlights “tell” the plane where to go. I decided that is what I wanted to do one day.

Fast-forward 20 years later
I am not in fact directing airplanes, (although I am sure this odd desire says something about my personality and my desire to be in charge, arranging and directing and telling students what to do) but I still do love airports.

I love airports because they remind me that traveling is about the process. I am convinced that if we could magically zap ourselves through some wrinkle in time to another city or country in an instant it would not hold the same appeal.

Traveling is about the process of packing and preparing. There is an anticipation and that looking forward to feeling. Traveling is contingent on lines and waiting and walking and then more lines, waiting and sitting. A process that sometimes feels inefficient and tiresome, but it reminds me that sometimes it’s not about me.

At any given time there are hundreds of passengers wandering around the airport, going a million different places, and you know what? We all want the same thing. We all want to make our flight and leave on time and get a good seat on a perfectly functioning plane that will arrive safely at our desired destination. So it’s not about really me and where I want to go per se. When I remember this I look around and notice what a fascinating place airports are- people of different cultures and countries and languages congregate in the same place for a few short hours: weary business men, adventurous backpackers and love struck honeymooners all wait for the same flight.

Contrary to how I usually do life, I actually enjoy this process.

The waiting.

And the watching.

And the sitting.

This is where surprising conversations happen with strangers and observant people watching skills come in handy. This also becomes my favorite book reading, magazine perusing and journal writing time. This process invites me to relax and let go. I cannot control the weather or make the line move any faster. I cannot hurry up the boarding process or change my seat. All I can do is enjoy the process and in that, there is a kind of freedom.

Tomorrow I get to embark on this process.
I will greet my first of three airports before the sun rises. And then arrive in Boston sometime tomorrow evening. I am looking forward to a day of travel, but even more so I am looking forward to spending 4 days with my incredible sister, Steph.

(And yes, I am still holding out for my dream: maybe one day I’ll get to sport the florescent vest and over-sized flashlights so I can “tell” the planes where to go)

3 Comments

Filed under Travel & Perspective