40 Years to Hammer in 10 Things

Jul 7, 2015


I’ve been telling everyone who will listen that I just turned 40 a couple months ago. My friend Jeff C. turned 40 recently, too, and blogged about it. Since I’m always prone to suggestion, I thought it was a good idea and decided to jot down the top 10 lessons the Lord’s been teaching me these past 40 years. (Doing so will ward off feelings of sadness that my reflexes really aren’t what they used to be, as playing Egyptian Ratscrew with six slap-happy 20-somethings last night really didn’t help me feel any younger…)

1. I wish I had listened and actually put on more sunscreen when I was younger.

2. Classics are classics for a reason, and it’s fun to find out why.

3. Related to #2, it’s so edifying to read a book by a gifted writer, sit under the teaching of a gifted teacher, listen to a gifted musician, see the craft of a gifted chef/artist/actor/athlete/workman, and use the systems created by a gifted administrator. Instead of being jealous (my natural tendency), over time I’ve realized it’s a privilege to experience something from someone whose giftedness has been developed into expertise.

4. Our friends, Woody and Su, shared a conversation Su once had with her mentor, Win. “You need to have high goals for your marriage,” Win said. When Su asked Win what her own goals were, Win replied, “To abolish all selfishness in my life.” Wow! Judging from our first 16 years of marriage, this goal will take the rest of my life and beyond to realize.

5. Sometimes we’ve had to learn the hard way, but I love that God knows exactly what He’s doing. “Be still and know that I am God” has been proved over and over these past 20 years.

6. Related to #5: Waiting is unspectacular, but I need to honor the process. In many, many important things there’s a process. I’m not a process person so I usually seriously despise and loathe all tedious details. But if we’re willing to submit to the process and go through the steps, we have a solid product/ outcome/ infrastructure built at the end of it all.

7. Related to #6: I’m still learning to respect God’s limits. For example, the Lord ordained a rest day once day a week and created our bodies to need sleep – those are both limits. We have young kids and can’t stay out late at night all the time because they have to sleep – that’s also a limit. The laws where we live also provide limits. A lot of times I want to cram my life full of stuff and do everything, or I start entertaining thoughts of cutting corners. But if I respect the limits that exist I have more margin and balance, and my faith is increased because I see how God provides.

8. I have a half-baked theory: the older people get, the more intensely they become themselves. When I’m 75, will I be a more intense version of a self-centered, impatient person who’s critical of everyone (my weaknesses)? Or will I be wiser, more friendly, and more gracious? I hope I’m the latter – but then I need to make good decisions every day and ask for a LOT of help from the Lord to help me love others well.

9. Very closely related to #8: In recent years four things have become more important: pursuing time with Jesus, pursuing maturity, pursuing wisdom, and learning how to love others well.

10. The more I read about Jesus, the more it’s striking how he fit in everywhere with all different people. He actually liked people. Sometimes I think God loves me because he’s supposed to, since he created me and loves everyone. It’s harder to think that he likes me, since I know how bratty, self-absorbed, or highly inappropriate I can be. I once heard you could paint a picture for your kids (and yourself) and say, “What does God think when he looks at you? He smiles and says, ‘That’s my (insert your name)!'” How rarely I think he enjoys me like that – but the Bible says he delights in us. He not only loves us but he really actually likes us. Beth Moore’s book, Jesus, the One and Only, has been a great read these past couple of months that’s reminded me of his heart toward us.

And that’s it! Thanks for reading. I feel better about myself now. So what if I’m the first one eliminated from Egyptian Ratscrew (although, I keep talking about it so maybe I really do care) when I can recount all these great lessons! :)


What Does Your Survival Mode Look Like?

Mar 25, 2015

So I bought a new mint plant recently. Given my long history of buying plants and then freaking out when they have bugs, mold, or rot (and then unceremoniously dumping them in the trash), it was a good sign that I was finally out of survival mode. I was ready to nurture something again, instead of birthing our 7-year-old baby, Pilgrim House! Ha!

I’ve heard that most of us go through survival mode for six months to a year when going through any huge transition, whether it be having a new baby, moving to a new home, changing jobs, or losing a loved one. Maybe you can relate.

This is what our survival mode looks like:

– We eat on the run; it’s harder to plan for meals.
– Nate doesn’t have as much interest or capacity to listen to music (and spending time listening to music is his bonafide happy place).
– I have a short fuse and way less patience for any accidental or purposeful shenanigans the kids get up to.
– We can’t plan for the future in general, just getting through each day is all we can handle.
– We don’t have energy to have people over.
– Things that are little deals in normal life seem like big deals during survival mode.
– Emails get backed up.
– We crave comfort food and comfort books. I read Pride and Prejudice again right after we opened Pilgrim House because I just needed something predictable and fun.
– Sometimes I’ll be saying something or thinking something, and I’ll lose a thought or a word – it’s like a thread I just can’t grasp and connect back together.

Now that we’re out of survival mode, we know it because:
– I’m buying plants.
– We’re seeking out friends again and feel more emotional energy to care for them.
– We enjoy planning for the future again.
– I’m ready for new things, like trying new recipes, finding new authors, or watching a new show.
– My time on the internet isn’t just to Google something that I need to know urgently.
– We have energy to exercise and eat healthy again.
– My mind and memory work better!

What does your survival mode look like? I’d love to hear!

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This is Spain: Cool Hog

Mar 25, 2015

So we stumbled upon this scene a couple weeks ago and just had to laugh and say, “Yup, this is Spain!”


If you’re not familiar with Spanish cuisine, pork is one of its most important components, and it was entertaining to see this deli having some fun with its star resident. For me, the best part of this pig smoking a chorizo cigar was it reminded me of when R was younger: he was eating ham at dinner one day and he called out, “What do pigs eat? Do they eat sausage? Do they eat ham??”


Taste of the Camino

Feb 28, 2015

We talk all the time about how we’d like to take the kids out on the Camino when they’re older. Well, a couple of weeks ago, we finally did it! It was only for a few hours – and we’d still like to take them out for longer in future years – but at least now our kids can officially say they’ve stepped foot on the trail.

We drove about an hour east to the town of Melide and walked 4km west toward Santiago, had a picnic lunch, then turned around and walked the 4km back to Melide. Three out of four of the children loved the whole experience. The other one loved it, started hating it, then ate lunch, and then was perky again (I guess there is such a thing as hangry*). It was a beautiful day, only a handful of other pilgrims were on the trail, and being out in quiet nature was soothing for (almost) everyone.

Soon after we started walking, we came upon this Camino de Santiago trail marker. The 50.5km engraving meant that there were still 50.5km left to go before reaching Santiago:

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K and M found this waymarker:


And R enjoyed the abundance of signposts in this particular spot:


The trail out of Melide took us past this colorful stone house…


As well as past this church:


In some areas the Camino was paved:

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And in others it was a dirt road through eucalyptus trees:



When I walked from Sarria to Santiago a few years ago, this creek was one of my favorite places. The stone bridge is the Camino here (you can’t keep going to Santiago without walking across it):


Hey, we walked 1.5km already! Yeah!


On this day we saw sheep, dogs, and cows:


Halfway through we found a clean picnic table off to the side and got to eat:


Then it was back to the car and home to Santiago. We’re grateful it was an easy first Camino trip with the kids. Many pilgrims say once they’ve gotten a taste of the Camino, they feel called back again and again. It will be fun to see what happens with B, R, K, and M as they get older, if they keep feeling summoned to walk, or if the Camino feels too close by and they decide to go farther away when they want to explore. We’ll see! But for now, the Camino beckons:


* Hangry – the state of being when one is so hungry he’s angry. This causes others around him to say, “What’s wrong with you? Get some food and stop being so hangry.”

Sunny and Super Porto, Portugal

Jan 15, 2015

In Spain, January 6 is a major holiday – it’s Three Kings’ Day, the day commemorating the wise men’s visit to the child Jesus and the gifts they brought him. These days, it’s also the day Spanish kids receive their presents. Spain is a madhouse up to January 6, with kids still on winter break from school, people buying toys and gifts, and everyone getting ready to spend the holiday with their families.

Portugal, unlike Spain, doesn’t celebrate Three Kings’ Day. Which means low season starts right after New Year’s and accommodations are super cheap! We closed Pilgrim House for a few days for a sabbatical, and for Kings’ Day our family was able to get away to the nearby town of Porto, Portugal. We booked a tourist apartment for 170€ total for three nights, which seemed like a steal.

During our trip it was a bit cold, but the sun was out and we could get outside. The kids loved exploring a new place and there was plenty for us to do as a family. When I was researching Porto beforehand, I saw some activities for families but not many prices, so I’ve included the prices we paid to help you plan if you’re thinking of taking a trip to Porto as well.

We started out by driving from Porto across the river to the opposite town of Vila Nova de Gaia, from where we could get great, expansive views of Porto spread along the river Douro. According to everybody, a boat tour was one of the best ways to see the area, and this was the red boat we rode. The kids were free, and it cost Nate and me 12,50€ each (25€ total for the 6 of us).


The boys and I enjoyed the view from the open deck:


When it got too cold and windy we sat inside and looked out the windows:


Nate and I tried to get a picture of just the two of us, but then M wandered by, of course:


The iconic narrow and colorful houses of Porto:


The boat tour took about an hour. Later, while we were still in Vila Nova de Gaia, we took a Teleférico cable car to the top of a mountain for a better view of Porto. We paid 20€ total for our family to take a ride up and a ride back (again – not too shabby!).


K loved the two cable car rides. It was her favorite part of our trip:



There are six bridges over the river Douro, and this one, the Dom Luis I bridge, was built in 1886. This was the view after we got off the cable car:


And this was the view from the bridge itself. We thought it was beautiful! Porto has so many different tiers and layers, it reminds me of a sprawling wedding cake:


In Porto itself, we visited the São Bento train station, famous for its tile depictions of scenes from Portugal’s history:



Based on a recommendation from a local, we also visited the landmark Majestic café. It opened in 1921 and through the years hosted many influential Portuguese customers:


Everything else in Porto was cheap, but we unexpectedly had to splurge here. K’s freshly-juiced pineapple juice was 4€, and everyone else’s hot chocolate was 3,25€. We ended up paying 20€ for six drinks – all for the privilege of saying we’d now experienced the Majestic.


Winding down our trip, we tried to make one more stop, this time to the Lello and Irmão bookstore. You can see some photos of the interior here. Unfortunately, since it was low season, the bookstore was closed for inventory. Bummer!


If you’re a wine lover, you may enjoy visiting some of the wineries and wine caves in Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia and tasting their port wine. The wine was traditionally transported up and down the river Douro in barrels on these wooden boats. Several boats are on display in the river today:


And that’s about it! Our three days in Porto went quickly, but we had a refreshing, fun time as a family and built good memories. We’d highly recommend it if you ever have the chance to visit, especially during low season.


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