Tag Archives: thankful

Christmas Sans Internet


For the past 10 days we have not had internet at the house. Something happened with our cable or modem and thus interrupted the usual, continuous flow of wireless signals that keeps me and my computer connected to the outside world. After a few initial days of withdrawals and lamenting frustrations that I could not return emails from home or read my favorite blogs or peruse half.com for book deals, I actually started to like life without internet.

I started to like evenings without my computer. I started to like the freedom that comes from being able to say I’ll do it tomorrow, instead of feeling pressure to get everything done today. I started to like that my main form of communication with friends was not through some virtual wall, but through real life, face-to-face conversations. And I started to notice that during this Christmas season, one that often feels too busy and over scheduled, I have actually had more time to soak it up and enjoy it. Instead of dreading the stress and sometimes loneliness of Christmas, I have felt really, really thankful.

There have been nights with friends over for dinner and too many rounds of speed scrabble. Christmas music and red wine with my roommates. I remembered how much I like writing old fashioned letters and making little crafty projects. I got to enjoy fires in our fireplace. Serving dinner at the Rescue Mission. Christmas parties with friends. Lots of tea drinking and movie watching. I learned how to make tamales and was introduced to pozolé for the first time. And I even managed to crawl into bed a little bit earlier most nights.


Now, internet and computers and any type of life-enhancing-technological device for that matter are obviously not bad, but we’d be naive to dismiss the fact that they do change something. And despite all the hype about making our life easier and more efficient, I actually believe they do quite the opposite. The megabytes of information that are flashed before us and the instant gratification of texting a message in a 140 characters or less affect how we live and think and interact with each other. I am not some fanatic who is going to do away with my cell phone and computer and the convenience of modern technology. No, of course not…like you I enjoy it and use it daily. But I am coming to believe that many of the ways we interact relationally and even how we structure our daily lives is directly related to the technology that we consume.

I am sure scientists somewhere have done fascinating studies about how these things actually and measurably affect out physical, emotional and spiritual health. But I haven’t done a lot of research on the subject yet. All I know is that growing up my dad always used to tell me, “When you say yes to something, you are by default saying no to something else.” And sometimes I wonder what do I or we, say no to because we’ve said yes to this high-speed digital age of convenience?

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27


Yesterday I celebrated my 27th birthday. In many ways it was a fairly normal Wednesday, but with just enough little extra surprises that it felt special. I like birthdays for that very reason: a day full of thoughtful, little things that somehow make a big difference.

Here are my top 27 little things that made my birthday really special:
• Waking up to a beautiful, sunny October day.
• A phone message from my sister in Italy including the words “freakin” and “sweet” and “birthday” all in one sentence
• Surprise coffee deliveries to my classroom (yes, plural!)
• One of my students gave me a bundle of sage and said…and I quote, “Here, Ms. Acker this is for your birthday…you’re supposed to burn it.” Umm, that might have been the oddest gift I’ve ever received, but I think his intentions were sweet
• Even though it seems cliché, the host of facebook messages and wall posts meant a lot.
• Lunch with one of my favorite friends, complete with my favorite sandwich and favorite bag of chips
• Lots of dark chocolate
• Practicing being honest, with others and myself.
• When one of my students guessed my age and said 39! (what the $%*!)
• A text from my parents in Indonesia- the night before. (thank you, international date line)
• A FREE car wash! (yes, people…if you don’t know about this, you should. Fairview Car Wash gives FREE car washes on YOUR birthday! Take advantage of this one)
• Greeting cards that made me laugh!
• Thankful for my health and that my bad knees still let me run for 30 min along the beach
• Ingrid Michaelson’s new CD
• Learning to let people help me, instead of pretending to be completely self-sufficient and independent
• Hamburger, fries and a beer from the Boathouse with two of my best friends.
• Good friends who remind you about the “remember when…” and look forward to “one day…”
• Delicious homemade brownies from my roommate
• My ninety-year-old grandma who still sends me a handwritten card for my birthday every year!
• Learning to let go; life doesn’t always happen in the order we expect it to.
• A car nap
• The comfort of a home and place to just be me.
• Redefining what it means to experience God’s presence in seasons of pain
• Getting emails and messages in Spanish from friends in Guatemala and being able to read them without using google translator
• Feeling more comfortable and confident in my own skin; instead of always comparing myself to others
• Getting to wear my favorite brown boots all day because it felt just a little bit like fall
• Being thankful.

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La Dulce Vida


After an incredibly long day of traveling involving all forms of public transportation (planes, taxis, chicken buses, the back of a pick-up truck and yes, even a boat) Jen and I made it to our first destination and this creative, handmade sign sat on our table: La Dulce Vida.


I ordered a liquado con fresa (Guatemala’s version of a strawberry smoothie) and sighed with contentment. Sitting in this quaint open air patio next to the lake, I realized yes, this is the sweet life. Traveling in Guatemala is not exactly convenient or easy. Life is not catered to tourists. There is no posted bus schedule. The bus “system” (If I can even call it that is in question) still remains a mystery to me. Sometimes there are big spiders in the rooms. And hot water remains a luxury that only some families have. I know I am not doing a great job at “selling” the high points of Guatemala to you, but I guess my point is that even with these modern inconveniences, some part of me just loves it here. When I am in Guatemala my best self comes out.


I believe there are certain people and places that bring out our “best selves”- you know, the person you wish you were all the time, but often gets buried somewhere between the stress of work or piles of laundry or waiting in line at the grocery store. ugh. Those situations do not always bring out the best parts of me. But something about life in Guatemala brings out my best self– the self that is patient when things don’t go according to plan; the self that is just as eager to listen as to talk; the self that is willing to try something new. It brings out the self that is content to just sit and smile and meet someone new, and maybe most noteworthy, I find that this self is filled with gratitude.


Guatemala reminds me that the process is just as important and maybe even more important than the product. I am not even sure what “product” I am referring to per se, maybe its the abstract feeling that is always sitting restlessly inside of me, longing and searching and wondering whats next. It’s this internal and maybe external feeling that once I get there (wherever there is) then I’ll be content, or happy or _________ (fill in whatever adjective you choose) But something about being in Guatemala, reminds me that I am exactly where I need to be.


Traveling with one of my best friends, meeting new people, visiting old friends, learning about a coffee farm and seeing kids from the schools where I worked last year would have made the trip worthwhile. But there is something deeper, far more significant that happens in my heart while I am in Guatemala. Somewhere between the laughing and exploring and resting and waiting and dancing and learning is this deep sense of fulfillment. Life is Good*

*more to come.

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What Money Can’t Buy?

I’ve spent the past few weeks thinking more about money then I’d like to. Sifting through investment papers, researching home loans and meeting with my financial advisor has left me a little overwhelmed with the whole process. I normally don’t worry a lot about money. I mean I have more than enough to get by and I tend to operate with the equation- save some, give some and spend some (yea, yea I know some financially savvy person would advise me to have some percent breakdown to give my so-called equation some validity, but just go with me)

Somewhere in the process of looking at interest rates and investment opportunities, I realized how easy it is to get caught up in the whirlwind of the American dream; believing if I only had this much more than I could afford_______ (insert any desired item or upgrade here). It always amazes (slash disgusts) me how quickly I feel entitled to the luxuries and conveniences that I have in my country, and yet I so quickly forget those whose entire livelihood is defined by extreme poverty and injustice. Today I sat in an office and tried to deicide Hmm, should I go with portfolio I or portfolio II? and yet in the same world at that very moment, a refugee in Pakistan has to wonder if he will find clean drinking water. The inequality just doesn’t sit well.

And then I started thinking, what can’t money buy?

Money can’t buy…

laughter and late night talks with girlfriends.

simple flowers cut from your own garden.

an afternoon nap. or a good joke. or inner beauty.

the peace that God up there is so much more powerful than little me down here.

a run along the beach.

thoughtful words that bring hope to a hurting soul.

hand holding. or hugs.

or time.

Money cannot buy time.

I know this is not a brand new realization- it’s pretty clear that we all get an equal allotment- 24 hours each and every day, no more, no less. And yet so often I feel like we view the concept time through an investment metaphor. We view time as money. We use language like “I’ll invest my time here” or “How did you spend your time today?” or “Don’t waste your time on that” We make decisions and justify things as if time is ours to spend, “I have plenty of time” or “If I only had more time.”

Growing up I learned how to make the most of my time or to “use it well” so to speak. And there is nothing wrong with this per se- it leads to practical, efficient, multi-taskers like myself who somehow manage to get a lot done in short amounts of time : ) But sometimes I wonder what would happen if I went throughout my day and instead of viewing time as something to invest or control or utilize well, I viewed time as a gift to be received.

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The Best Way to Love Someone

My mom amazes me because she knows how to love people well. She taught me that love is sacrificial and sincere and that sometimes the best way to love someone is to listen.

And my mom knows how to listen.

Growing up as 1 of 4 kids, it sometimes felt like everyone was vying for mom’s time and attention. My mom helped us with daily homework and drove us to practices; she cooked dinner and came to our school plays and watched our games and stayed up late sewing those god-awful Halloween costumes. And for as important as all those things are, I am convinced that it was her patience to listen to us that made all the difference.

I remember being a confused and awkward 13-years old, with tears streaming down my face and my mom just sat in the car with me and listened as I poured out all of my junior high emotions. I remember calling her from Taiwan, scared and overwhelmed, wanting more than anything to come home, and my mom graciously knew I just needed someone to listen. And I remember after I broke up with my first boyfriend, my mom drove up to Westmont just to take me out to dinner. I told her she didn’t have to come up, and that I was “ok.” But she wanted to…And it meant the world to me. She wanted just to be there with me and listen. Even as I get older some of my favorite memories with my mom are when we grab coffee and sit for hours in oversized chairs next to a small round table, sipping our lattes, talking and sharing about life-and it doesn’t matter what we’re talking about necessarily-faith and church, or work and my students, or dating and relationships- my mom listens to me.

There is something so beautiful about listening. It is this timeless gift that stretches across people groups and ages and cultures and religious. I believe everyone wants to be listened to. And when you sincerely listen to someone you learn how to love a little bit better. I get sad that sometimes in our noisy culture where our minds and hearts are saturated with sounds and distractions, I don’t always make the time and space to listen to others.

The art of listening involves being patience and attentive. By definition it involves caring about someone else and their thoughts and feelings more than yourself. I think it is one of the best gifts mothers can give their kids. I want to learn to be a better listener. And one day I hope to be a mom who will not focus on doing the hundreds of tasks that moms have to do and instead spend time listening to my kids like my mom did.

Mom, thank you for taking time to listen to me.

Happy Mother’s Day! I love you.

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Thank You, Sir


Today another teacher and I took our students on a field trip to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. Quite an adventure for 47 students and 2 teachers- if I do say so myself. We crammed on to one of the good ol’ fashioned yellow school buses, which regardless of what they say does not in fact fit “3-to a seat” when you’re talking about high school students.

Sometimes I get nervous and a bit worried when I bring my students somewhere outside the walls of my classroom. Not because they’re bad kids, no in fact I think they’re wonderful- they are real and perceptive and lively, but sometimes they can be a little out of line. Their language is colored with four letter words and every now and then they act without thinking and end up in trouble. I guess maybe pridefully, I don’t want them and their behavior to reflect poorly on my teaching or me.

But more times than not, they amaze me. When I took them to an elementary school earlier this year to mentor and read to 4th graders they were incredible- mature, helpful, young adults who even filtered their language! And when we served dinner down at the local rescue mission they were the most patient and kind hearted servants I’ve ever seen. And today they were better than I could have expected. They were attentive, and eager to learn through a 3-hour museum tour, led by a rather intense, and passionate, in-your face kind of older gentleman (not your typical museum curator, that’s for sure).

At the end of the tour, we gathered in a small dimly lit room and our guide, with his hands raised demanded their attention:

“Close your eyes. I want you to think of one word that captures how you feel after walking through the museum.”

oh, no…I thought. I feared my honest, slightly sarcastic students would utter words like “umm, hungry” or “tired” or “bored.”

He pointed to a kid in the back; one of my most difficult students, a student who spends more time in the office than in class, What’s your word, son?

“Thank You.”

I was shocked. My loud, usually disruptive, always distracted student, just said, “thank you.”

That was the one word (ok, well two words) that stood out to him after listening and learning about the atrocities that were committed against the Jews. He was thankful; thankful for learning, thankful that someone cared enough to teach him and talk to him, probably in an interactive way that he had never experienced at a museum.

At that moment I realized how thankful I was, too. Not for the museum per se or my students, but for my own Jewish heritage. I am thankful for an American man named Varian Fry, who helped my great-grandfather escape from Germany in 1938 and for my grandmother who courageously fled on a boat when she was just 18, and for her generosity that has turned hatred and injustice for good. My grandmother has given more to me than I deserve- but that’s a whole other blog post for another time.

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