The Best of 2013

The nice thing about giving a year-end recap two months after the year has ended is that you can reflect on the year with that much more clarity. Right? Well, in 2013, our family picked up some new habits, saw huge progress being made with Pilgrim House, and enjoyed some traveling. Here are some highlights from our year:

1. Dates with the kids

Date with B

This year we started monthly, one-on-one dates with the kids (I don’t know why we didn’t think of this before?). Each kid went out once a month with either Nate or me, and then went out the next month with the other parent. It meant Nate and I were each going out with two kids a month. Though they weren’t always that talkative, it was great to build in special time with each of them.

2. Finding Pilgrim House



After months of searching for a suitable storefront for Pilgrim House and coming up empty, we finally found the perfect location in the last place we looked. Our deadline had been to find a place by January 31, 2013, and we found this place on…January 31 (phew!). Of course, this being Spain, it wasn’t until May 31 that the rental contract was finally ready, and it wasn’t until August that our architects were able to submit paperwork to apply for building permits:


As of today, we’re still waiting for those building permits to be approved so we can start renovating the space, but we thank God for providing the perfect space for Pilgrim House.

3. Pilgrims everywhere!

One of the best things of 2013 was being able to host and meet up with so many pilgrims from March through November. Even though Pilgrim House wasn’t open yet, and even though at times it was a juggling act between prepping for Pilgrim House and being with pilgrims, we had a stretching, life-giving, and fun high season.

We watched soccer with a group of 9 Azusa Pacific University pilgrims in our home:

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We met with pilgrims as a team (and brought the kids because they were out of school for the summer):

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And we even got to welcome in family this year. Nate’s cousins, Abby and Megan, walked the Camino in August and stayed with us a few nights:


And Nate’s sister, Andrea (right), and her friend Meg (left), also walked the Camino and stayed with us a few nights. Here they’re sitting in the enormous octopus in La Coruña:


To get to know more of the pilgrims we met in 2013, click here.

4. Tea


With a lot of these pilgrims, we were able to share our newest daily habit: loose-leaf tea. There’s a great tea shop in Santiago called Mistélanea, and through talking with the owners we discovered Rooibos and Cinnamon, Rooibos with Chocolate and Mint, Lapsang Souchong (apparently this was the tea that Sherlock Holmes drank), Rooibos Chai, White Cherry, Té Moruno (green tea with spearmint), and more. Tea was so addicting this year, especially with so many different varieties to try and so many people with whom to share it!

5. Personal retreats

If I hadn’t taken a personal retreat day this day, I would’ve never seen this gentleman walking his pet bird:


Another habit we tried to follow was getting away on personal retreats once every three months. Since both Nate and I feel closest to the Lord when we’re outdoors, our retreats usually brought us to scenic areas in our part of Spain, like the town of Sada above. We got away for a day of solitude and brought our Bibles, journals, and a book or two. We journaled through questions like:
“Is there anyone whose forgiveness I need to seek?”
“Is there anyone I need to forgive?”
“What caused me the most stress this past year? What can I do about it this year?”
“How can I be purposeful these next few months about growing spiritually?”

We found these times of extended reflection and evaluation refreshing and mature-ing, and we look forward to our days away in 2014.

6. Spanish parties

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Yeah, this guy is the boss! Look at all that meat! This is what parties in Spain are like, and on several occasions we enjoyed getting together with people from our kids’ clubs and eating pig like there was no tomorrow.

7. ITeams conference in Germany


This year our bi-annual ITeams family conference was held Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany (pictured above). We enjoyed connecting with our colleagues who work throughout Europe, and we had intensive meetings with our President and other leadership from the ITeams US office. A super-talented team of teachers took care of the kids while we were in meetings, and when we came home K set up her toys like this:


Looks like she had a good time, like the rest of us!

8. Team Retreat


In September, we took a team retreat to debrief and plan for the next year. We rented this amazing 16th-century country house for a weekend, and we had meetings during the day and hung out at night. The best part of this house was that everything was furnished from Ikea. So here you had this old, rustic Spanish house from the 1500’s – and most of the furniture and all of the kitchenware was from familiar, comfortable Ikea. It was a hoot.


9. Winter in the US

This was our first winter in the US since 2006, and we felt so blessed to celebrate Christmas, New Year’s, and even Chinese New Year with family. We also saw many friends and supporters and shared with several churches.

For the kids, everything was new and wonderful. They performed the Christmas story with their cousins:


We all participated in an elaborate St. Louis scavenger hunt, designed by Aunt Andrea:


We got to see new cousin M:


And celebrate cousin E’s birthday and read with Gong Gong:

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Once again, as we reflect on 2013, we’re grateful for all that we were able to see and do. Here’s to all that lies ahead in 2014, for us, and for you, too!


This entry was posted in European Living, Exploring Galicia, Family, Home Visits, Kids, Milestones, Pilgrim House, Top Five (or 10) Lists. Bookmark the permalink.