away we go.

On December 11th (tomorrow), I will be traveling overseas to Ethiopia, Africa. This is my first international trip since Europe in college, my first international trip alone and my first Christmas spent on international soil (or anywhere other than home really). It is both exciting and serile to be gone over Christmas. Traveling to Africa has always been a dream of mine and I glad it will now be a part of my story. I am looking forward to this time of learning, giving and grace. I am praying I don't run into this lady...

And I am absolutely expecting to have great stories to tell and pictures to show off when I get back. May the Lord bless you and keep you and make His face shine upon you and give you peace.


Africa in 5 days

I leave for Africa on Friday. It feels exciting. It feels very crazy. It feels scary. This trip has been such a last minute thing that I have had little time to really prepare for it either logistically, mentally or spiritually. I just found out about it, knew I couldn't say no because its something I have always dreamed of and said yes and here I am.

I have learned a lot about traveling to Africa and I haven' even left yet. Below is a list of my discoveries.
1. There are really no diseases known to man that you cannot get in Africa, specifically in Ethiopia.
2. It is expensive to not die of a deadly disease. Vaccinations cost a small fortune.
3. For a relatively fair price you can get medical travel insurance in case you die or are dismembered and your relatives with to have your parts back.
4. You can get into Africa without proof you have had a Yellow Fever vaccination but they will not let you leave.
5. There is only one place in Africa that you can fly to directly from the United States and other than that you have to fly to Europe first.....turning an already VERY LONG flight into 2 VERY LONG flights.
6. You can purchase 50 Malaria vaccination pills for the same price as 2 tiny passport/visa photos- about 10 bucks. Somebody's pricing is way off.
7. Women can only wear skirts in Langano (where I will be). Skirts and tennis shoes....I am sure I will feel at the height of attraction.
8. The base cost of a plane ticket into Africa is actually less than $1000.00 until they tack on the almost $400.00 tax for who knows what.

Since I will be gone over Christmas I am trying to get my Christmas fix in first. In order to do this I have been doing all of the things listed below.
*Making and eating delicious holiday treats (this serves a dual purpose...packing on some pounds before I head out to keep me from wasting away in the event of sickness or lack of edible food)
-Toffee Bark
-Christmas M&M cookies
-Ginger cookies
*Watching Christmas movies
-Its a Wonderful Life
-Christmas Vacation
-Home Alone 1 and 2
*Going to see Christmas lights
*Listening to Christmas music in the car
*I would say Christmas shopping, but a lack of money and a lack of time is ensuring that everyone is getting some kind of African trinket.....a mask perhaps?


all we have...a gift.

This is an amazing prayer from the heart of David once provision had been made for the building of the temple. It is a reminder that we have nothing that hasn't been given to us from the hand of God.

1Chr. 29:10 Therefore David blessed the LORD in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. 11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 13 And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.
1Chr. 29:14 “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. 15 For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. 16 O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. 17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you. 18 O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you. 19 Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision.”
1Chr. 29:20 Then David said to all the assembly, “Bless the LORD your God.” And all the assembly blessed the LORD, the God of their fathers, land bowed their heads and paid homage to the LORD and to the king. 21 And they offered sacrifices to the LORD, and on the next day offered burnt offerings to the LORD, 1,000 bulls, 1,000 rams, and 1,000 lambs, with their drink offerings, and sacrifices in abundance for all Israel. 22 And they ate and drank before the LORD on that day with great gladness.


Cali's 1st Birthday

Yesterday was Cali's 1st Birthday (or so we think- it is more accurately her estimated birthday since she was abandoned and I really don't know)!

here is a picture of my baby

Above is a picture of the puppies picking me up from the airport...this was the first time I saw her!

But anyway, yesterday was when we celebrated! It has been a lot of fun having a dog. I have wanted a dog for such a long time and now that I finally have one I am so thankful for her all of the time. She has a quirky and hillarious little personality that keeps me laughing and on my toes. She is my little sweetheart. When I got off work my friend (who owns her brother Henry) and I took them to Sonic and got them hamburgers, just the meat and the bun, which they quickly devoured and it was hillarious. Then that evening we made homemade peanut butter dog treats and gave them those and Frosty Paws-which is ice cream for dogs. I didn't even know they made ice cream for dogs, but apparently they do. Needless to say these puppies are spoiled rotten, but they are wonderful and they make all of life better. I have said this before, but I never want to live a day without a dog.

Below is Cali eating her Sonic Hamburger.

Below is Frosty Paws and Cali enjoying it!


heart connections.

Dr. Richard Ross is a professor of student ministry at Southwestern Seminary, where I attended grad school. I had the privilege of taking several classes with him and I enjoyed every minute of instruction under him. He is one of the most brilliant, godly men I have ever met. He is also the "founder" of the True Love Waits program that many people commit to. He came to my church today in Houston and did his Heart Connections seminar that he does with students and parents. It is one of the most amazing things I have ever watched. He spends an hour teaching parents about how to grow godly teenagers. His main thesis is that in order for true faith to get passed down from generation to generation is through a heart connection. The last verse of the Old Testament says that, "He will turn the hearts of the parents to the children and the hearts of the children to the parents." God intends for the home to be the primary place for discipleship to occur (not the church, contrary to popular belief). He walks the parents through this amazing conversation about the ways that connection is broken and the ways it remains intact.

After this he brings all the parents and teenagers in one room, sitting the parents and teens knee-to-knee and face-to-face. He walks them through a series of questions he prompts them to answer. For instance; He asks the parents to tell their teen what they remember about the first moment they laid eyes on them. He asks the parents to tell their teen about the worst, most fearful or sad day of their entire life. He asks the teen to tell their parent something about them they appreciate and he asks the teen to pray over their parent. He walks through many prompts like this, always expanding on why he this is important. It is amazing to watch. Some parents and teens seem perfectly at ease with this and you can tell that their relationship is strong, where as others seem to feel awkward about this type of conversation. The thing is, so many families lose connection along the way and most of the time they feel that there is no way to get it back. You watch something like what Dr. Ross does and you realize that it is so simple. All he has done is gotten parents and teens to talk-that's it. They aren't pulling out baggage or hashing out all the hurt and issues...they are just talking. It is so simple and yet by the end almost everyone has shed some tears, hearts have been connected and relationships mended. It is profound to watch. I wish that as a teenager I had gotten to experience something like this with my parents. I wish someone had set us down knee-to-knee and gotten us to talk to each other...what heartache would have been spared and regret been off-set and what a relationship might have been made.


Africa for Christmas.

I am going to Africa for Christmas!!! For the last several months I have been in this very strange place of where to go and what to do. My internship has long been over and I have since been hoping I suppose that a job would just materialize. If I would have known that I would basically have 3 plus months off not working I might have taken better advantage of it. While job searching I have also been wondering where I could go and what I could do at this stage in life. I have no attachments, no commitments, no debt and some money saved up-sounds like a perfect time to make some life-long dreams happen. I want to live a better story-to say yes to things-to take risks and live out dreams. Africa is one of those dreams and it is coming true. When I was in DFW I attended the Village Church and was involved in a home group at the Smith's house. The Smiths have now been in Ethiopia for over a year and before they left I told them I wanted to come one day. They are missionaries through the Village; she is a nurse in a clinic and he runs a sports camp. I had emailed them a while back about coming and they had mentioned they were pretty full until the new year, but just the other day they emailed me with an opportunity. There is a girl going there from Houston and traveling alone. She wanted a travel buddy and they thought I would be interested...and of course I was. The trip is 17 days and it is over Christmas. It will be very strange to not be home for Christmas and to instead be in the bush in Africa...it will mostly be like Christmas came and went and I was unaware. This partly makes me sad because I love the season and I think it will be somewhat strange to miss it, but on the other hand I have had 26 American Christmas' and I will have plenty more, but how many chances will I get to do this. Christmas is about Christ anyway. It is about Him leaving His home to take up residence with us in order to bring us salvation. Going to Africa may even seem more appropriate than what I would normally do during the holiday season. I am very excited-EXCEPT for the nearly dozen vaccines they recommend for entering that continent and country. Who know it cost so much not to die from a deadly disease....i really had no idea.


a weekend in Portland

I LOVE traveling and this past weekend my friend and I went to Portland, Oregon. I went to Portland for the first time when I was in college. I took a last minute trip for fall break with 2 friends and I remember thinking- Why am I going to Oregon? What is in Oregon anyway? Little did I know that it is probably the prettiest place in the U.S. (opinion of course, but my strong opinion). The state has all 4 seasons (including a brilliant color pallete of fall leaves that take your breath away, snow-capped mountains, the beach, the Columbia river, lush plant life, millions of unique businesses and places to eat, Crater Lake (most break taking natural landmark I have ever seen), and many other perks. It is just a great place! The people are laid back and most of them deeply appreciate the outdoors and a more casual atmosphere. I just love it there.
My friend is thinking of moving so we left on Friday and took a red-eye back on Monday morning. The weather wasn't the best, but that is okay because you could spend all of your time in cafes and great eating places-which we did.

This is a place called Pine State Biscuits. It was started by 3 guys who moved from North Carolina to Portland. You cannot get biscuits in the Northwest (even at fast food places) so they opened this place. It is small, with hardly anywhere to sit, but the food is amazing. They are famous for their "Reggie," which is a biscuit with a piece of hand battered, fried chicken, cheddar cheese, bacon, amazing gravy, and if you so desire, a fried egg! DELICIOUS!

Like I said, the leaves in the Fall are amazing. It makes me miss the southeast because leaves don't really change in Texas-they just die. This bush looks like its on fire.
This is the biggest leaf I have ever seen. It is bigger than my head.

On Sunday we went to Imago Dei- the church that Donald Miller attends and Rick Mckinnley pastors. It was fantastic.
After church we went to the popular Bread and Ink cafe. The breakfast and lunch there is amazing and the even have this thing called the Waffle Window in the back on the side of the building, where you walk up and order any number of creative waffles and eat outside. It was also delicious.
It was an amazing time...all except the red-eye back of course. We left Portland at midnight and arrived in Houston at 5:30 a.m. Drove straight to my church to shower super quick then drove to work. And appropriately enough Donald Miller was speaking in Houston that night at a church, so we went and saw that. Thank goodness he is so great, because I would have had a tough time staying awake.


pumpkin carving.

I really enjoy Halloween-have since I was a child. What little kid doesn't enjoy getting loads of candy for free and dressing up, pretending they are something they are not. Now that I am much older I still enjoy it. Maybe it is just the time of year. My favorite time of year has always been October-Christmas. I love the fall and everything about it. I love the leaves changing, the cool weather, college football, the fact that it was cotton picking time and we got to jump in the wagons as kids and all of the holidays that happen.
In honor of this Halloween I carved pumpkins with my roommate. I hadn't carved a pumpkin in a long time, so I had forgotten that it is not as easy as you think (this also might be because when I was a kid my parents did most of the carving for me). I think my pumpkin turned out pretty good! It is the character from The Nightmare Before Christmas.


sailboats and gold teeth.

In an effort to make a little money between "real jobs" I have been subbing at various schools. I have my name in at two Christian schools, both of which are attended mostly by white, suburban, upper/middle class kids and an inner city school specifically for very poor inner-city kids. As one would imagine there are many distinct differences between these two environments. A 5 year old at one school has only size in common with a 5 year old at the other school and it can make for some very interesting observations. Here are two stories that fully illustrate what I am talking about.
The following is a conversation with a third grader at the upper-class, private school and would NEVER happen at the lower-class, inner-city school:
Me to a group of students- "So what is something that you enjoy doing during the summer?"

Student to me- "Well, a lot of times on my family's sailboat........." Yes that sentence says SAILBOAT. Her family owns a sailboat.

The following is a conversation I had with a 3 year old at the inner-city school and would NEVER happen at the upper-class private school:
The kids were drawing smiley faces on paper plates...
Me to a student- "Ty'Rick, where are the eyes on your smiley face?" (he points)
"Where is the mouth?" (he points)
"Ty'Rick, what is that?" (me pointing to a yellow line)
Ty'Rick to me- "Dats my gold toof!" His smiley face had a gold tooth.
It is the little moments and contrasts like these that make me realize how much I enjoy working with inner-city kids! They never cease to surprise you in the most hilarious ways.


magic capri pants.

I went to Austin last weekend for a wedding. It was an AMAZING weekend for so many reasons. The Hill Country is so beautiful. I could live in Austin for a second....such a neat city! But this is not the point of this post. The point of this post is the picture to the left. There is this neat town just south of Austin called Gruene, TX (pronounced green). It is a small little community nestled on the Guadalupe with some famous restaurants, music menus and little local country stores and shops. There is a music hall there where many famous country musicians, including George Strait, got their start.
One of those little country stores was selling whats in the picture-Magic Capri Pants and Magic tank tops. They are tiny and compacted in plastic wrap until you emerge them in water and before your eyes they expand into life-size, wearable, articles of clothing. The only thing something like this leaves me saying is, "Why?" I mean can you imagine being in that product staff meeting? "Alright guys, we need a really good idea, something that is sure to sell!" And some guy says, "I have just the thing. Magic Capri pants!" What will people come up with next?


choice and other universes.

I have had a lot of time on my hands lately, being in between jobs and such. So how does an intelligent person capitalize on all of that free time? You adopt a new TV show to watch. I have recently begun watching the show Fringe. Now Fringe is a somewhat Sci-fi-ish show about something called Fringe science and how this science has gotten into the wrong hands and a special division of the FBI has been created to stop these crazy events from occurring-riveting huh? There is an episode where they are discussing the existence of alternative universes and how people from other universes have come over to this one. (bare with me) These universes exist because of personal choice. What they say is that life is not linear as we suppose, but that every time we stand at a crossroads and make a choice we create a break off of that line, a sort of split, that creates two paths and a different version of you is now on that other path. For instance, in one episode the other universe contains the Twin Towers still standing because those people made a different choice. Essentially, no path ever dies based on our personal decisions.

Now, of course this is science fiction and isn't reality. We know that there is only what we do, not what we could have done. But it occurred to me the other day that maybe this idea is not entirely flawed. There is a song off of Hillsong's newest album called Arms Open Wide. A short phrase in that song pierces my heart every time I hear it. It says:

Take my hands and make them clean
Keep my heart in purity
That I may walk in all You have for me

It gets me because it reminds me that the Lord, in His infinite wisdom and mercy has gone before me and marked out a path for my life. He has prepared, in advance, things that He wants me to do and all of these things lead me to the person He desires me to be- the best version of myself. But He has given me choice. He has set before all of us life and death and urged us to choose life. In other words, there are 2 universes; the Kingdom of God and the world and we can choose which one we want to live for and in. One leads to life-the other death. One is a better choice than the other. We will still be us in both, but very different versions of ourselves. This song verse hits my heart because I realize the gravity of this whole thing and it makes me want to fall face down and beg God not to let me miss it. The thing about paths is that we only get to choose and live out one. Even in the show the characters are completely unaware of their "other self" in the other universe. They only get to live out their choices. I desperately want to be able to look back on my life and see that I chose the Kingdom instead of the world, the Lord instead of my own sinful desires, and that I missed none of what He had for me.


kindergartners (and I) are evil

I have been substituting recently for a school called Yellowstone Academy in Houston's historically poor, gang and drug riddled area, the Third Ward. On Wednesday I subbed for my roommate's class- 5 year olds. She was sick so they called me in. I had been to volunteer and I had heard her horror stories, but I could have never imagined what a full day would be like. I had no idea people who had only lived for 5 years could be so terrible-TERRIBLE. Anyone who thinks we (humanity) are not born broken and messed up has never spent much time around children. There is no way all of that badness is learned in 5 years-its just not possible.
It was a crazy day. There are at least 3 kids in that class who are CONSTANT nightmares. They have to be reprimanded hundreds of times a day. We had pouting, thumb sucking, stomping around, lying face down in the middle of the room while kicking and screaming, beating on the classroom door and just flat out refusal to listen. One kid in particular can be told what to do or not do every 5 seconds and the next moment she is doing the same thing. She even sees kids doing the wrong thing and copies them as if she enjoys being in trouble. I found myself thinking all day long, "Why don't you just do what you are told!" As an older and wiser, higher thinking, rational adult, I can look at their world and say, "I know what is best for you. The successful world does not run on chaos, but order. Learning to behave and obey now is what is best for you in the long run. Bad choices will lead to destruction in your life. Don't you see that?" But of course they don't even know how to read, so how would they understand long-term consequences and rational explanations. It is easy for me to see because I am no longer there-I am beyond that so to speak. And then it hits me (as it usually does when I am in a place where I understand something that I feel others should clearly understand), this is what it is like to be God-or at least a sliver of what it is like. This is what He deals with (to the billionth degree) every single day, since shortly after the beginning of Creation. He is above us, infinitely wiser and more intelligent than us. He knows us better than we know ourselves and He knows the potential that can be found in our lives. He has shown us what He requires and given us instructions on how to live the best life possible. He has even told us how it ends if we do not walk in His ways- Sin leads to death and destruction, Satan has come to steal, kill and destroy, etc. And what do we do? We are like ignorant kindergartners who have emotional meltdowns in the middle of the floor. And to top it off, when these kindergartners refuse to follow the rules they know they are suppose to follow and therefore get in trouble for it, their response is anger and outbursts at the teacher, instead of remorse for their mess up. So often when we stray from God's path and try to get things our own way (SIN) we stomp our feet and point our frustration towards God when it goes horribly wrong, because it always does, eventually. We get angry at God instead of humbly repenting, admitting that He was right all along and He knew what He was talking about.
And this truth makes me angry-because when I want to say to anyone, "why can't you just see what I see and understand and act differently" I am confronted with my own ignorance-that there is someone wiser than I who could say the same to me. But God has always known that and so instead of making us conform to standards He knows we cannot meet, He sent Jesus, to pay the penalty we could not pay and to give us the Holy Spirit to empower us to live life in a way that we could not live in our own power. In Christ we are no longer in kindergarten; we are in the Kingdom of God.


humanity or hushpuppies

On Thursday I took a little road trip with one of the Senior girls in our student ministry. She had an overnight college preview event at Ouachita Baptist University near Hot Springs, AK. We drove the 7 hours up and I dropped her off and checked-in to my hotel. I was going to have the next 15 hours or so to hang out in the Ozark area. I found this little family owned seafood place around 8:00 p.m. and went in to eat. This middle-aged couple came in about the time I did and sat down. With your meal you got hushpuppies and all these other fixings. I listened as a waitress told the couple they were making more hushpuppies and they would be out really soon (they were close to closing time so I think they were cleaning up). About 10 minutes later the waitress brought the couple their food and the woman, without looking up and with a slight scowl on her face said, "Are the hushpuppies going to be ready anytime soon?" I could hear the agitation in her voice and I knew this could potentially get ugly. I watched a little more closely because events like this make me sad to be a part of the human race. I noticed the lady seemed to have permanent down-turned lines around her mouth as if she had a permanent frown on even when her mouth was closed-as if she had spent so much of her life angry the lines were etched into her face. And I wondered what it must look like on the inside if her anger was so evident on the outside. About 10 minutes later the young waitress brought out a huge basket of hushpuppies to their table, sat them down and apologized for the delay. The woman, without looking up from her plate and in a tone communicating her extreme dissatisfaction, snapped, "We are done with our food now. We're not going to eat those." She continued to scowl and the waitress apologized again. Moments later they got up and left, leaving the hushpuppies untouched.
I found myself embarrased and saddened. I hate rudeness. It is so unnecessarily. Is anything worth treating someone as if they are not human? Are hushpuppies really worth treating your waitress as if she is the lowest of all life? When we do this it is as if we are saying to someone, "You exist for nothing more than to serve me and serve me to perfection and if you don't fulfill that obligation I will treat you like the dirt under my shoe." It is one of the must ugly things. It is that kind of hate (in the very beginning stages) that leads to great atrocities. The thing that scares me the most about moments like these, is that I see this in myself. I would never treat a waitress like that, but I am not immune to using people and thinking that they exist for me. I see ugliness in me and I beg Jesus to dig it out. People (every person) exists for Him, not me-to bring Him glory not meet my needs. This is why our interior life is so important. What is on the inside cannot help but come out. If we do not have love in our heart for our neighbor it will be evident and Jesus says that if you don't love your neighbor you don't love Him. My prayer is that God would give me the heart of a servant-that the Body of Christ would be the opposite of this lady in the restaurant and that we would make ourselves a slave to our neighbor for the sake of Christ, rather than see others as objects at our service.


a beautiful life.

I was watching TV this afternoon and a commercial came on advertising a medical facility that does "body surgery," otherwise known as plastic surgery. Their procedure seek to alter things about yourself that you do not like. Their slogan is that their procedures will "lead to a more beautiful life." They basically promise you that the a beautiful life can be attained if you can attain outward beauty-if you can alter the things about the outside of yourself that you do not like. This struck me because I just finished reading Donald Miller's new book and he addesses this very issue- how advertising is just a manipulation of story. First, they make you see that you are not content or that your life is not complete. Second, they show you how their product is the solution to your empty, incomplete life and that if you buy it will fulfill your dreams. We fall for this all of the time. If we were to just stop and analyze this idea for only a moment we would realize how ridiculous this is. Can plastic surgery really lead to a "beautiful life." Will outward attractiveness translate into a lifelong journey that is full of beauty and fulfillment? I know a lot of very unhappy attractive people. I know a lot of attractive people that live ugly, miserable and empty lives. And what is even more interesting is that some of the most outwardly beautiful people in the world are not satisfied with their outward attractiveness. Michael Jackson had countless surgeries to make him more beautiful on the outside and though many would argue he made "beautiful" music, I think few would advocate he lived a beautiful life.

Wanting a beautiful life is a wonderful thing. A plastic surgery facility (or any company for that matter) hijacking this human desire and manipulating your feelings so that we will buy into something false and they will get rich is the ugly thing. We want it to be simple and it is not. We want someone to say, "here is a remote, press that button and your life will be what you have always dreamed it would be." It is just not that simple. The beauty of life is that it is a journey. It is not the destination, but everything in between that is life. I have a feeling a beautiful life is much more dependent on the quality of your inward life than on the quality of your outward appearance. I have a feeling that most of us miss the most beautiful moments in our lives because we are too busy looking to a destination or for a quick fix. No product will EVER equal quality of life. A beautiful life is something that can't be bought-it must be lived. Read Donald Miller's new book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years if you get a chance. It will really make you think and hopefully change the way you (I) live life.


the lady with the umbrella hat.

On Saturday night I went with my friend Melanie to the Greek festival in Houston. I genuinely enjoy city events like these for many reasons: good food, cultural, something different to do for fun, etc. But my favorite reason for attending events like these is the people watching. It always brings to mind that phrase, "It takes all kinds." I have yet to figure out exactly what "it" is that takes all kinds, but that is beside the point.

You can see some of the most fascinating things at events like this. I enjoy playing this little game where I will pick out the most bizarre or strange thing I see. At this particular event the lady pictured below was the winner. It was raining and instead of carrying an umbrella like most people she was wearing hers on her head. The fact that she was smoking and had a hilarious toothless grin also helped her take the title.


in honor of October

Many people ring in the October season by decorating their yard with goblins and ghouls, but since I do not own a yard I made Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies instead-because the only thing better than a front yard full of spider webs and tombstones is a belly full of yummy cookies. For those of you who do not own a yard, or simply enjoy a good homemade cookie, I have pasted the recipe below.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


  1. Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk and stir in. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well.
  2. Add vanilla, chocolate chips and nuts.
  3. Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.

once I was a pirate...

There are so many moments in our past that we would just rather forget or deny- the big mistakes we made, the embarrassing story your family member tells yearly at gatherings or the photo that makes you think, "What in the heck was I thinking."

The other day I was on the facebook page of one of my best friends from childhood. I noticed a picture her cousin had posted entitled "old pictures." It was a picture from Halloween when she was a kid and when I looked closer I noticed that I was also in the photo. My friend and I were pirates for Halloween-not princesses or something cute like bunnies-PIRATES.

My initial instinct was to hide this photo from the world and make sure nobody ever knows that I thought being a pirate for Halloween was a good idea. This photo proves several things though. First, it shows that our brains are not fully formed until much later in life. Second, it proves that even the strangest kids can turn out okay. We need a sense of humor about ourselves. I don't want to be embarrassed about a photo taken when I was a kid. I want to laugh about it and embrace it. I do wonder though if my poor mom laughed about it and embraced it. She probably wanted a cute little bunny or a princess and instead she got a one-eyed swashbuckler.


My they have grown.

Two snuggly puppies in December 2008.

Two snuggly puppies in September 2009.


a blast from the past

I don't have the best memory when it comes to vivid images of my childhood, but every now and then I catch a vivid glimpse of the past through an image I recognize and memories begin flooding back. Last night my friend and I were talking about childhood toys and it just got me thinking and remembering toys that shaped my growing years. So, I spent some time this morning (because I currently have no job and I have time to do something like this) looking up 80's and 90's toys and it brought back so much of childhood. I am posting pictures of some of the toys that i remember the most- the ones that I loved as a kid.

I don't know what you call this, but I remember it so well. You viewed a movie by clicking.

Now, who doesn't remember these...Why did we like these?

I LOVED this toy. I made Creepy Crawlers all the time (I was not a normal girl). I still remember the little jingle from the commercial. I also remember the smell it made.

One of my first memories was my friend's 5th birthday...it was the first time I saw a Ninja Turtle. These were probably my favorite as a kid...again, not a normal girl.

I remember the day that Teddy Ruxpin broke. I was devastated. You put a tape in his back and he told you a story. He was hard and not cuddly, but I LOVED him!

I think Speak and Spell was such a hit. I didn't remember it until I saw it in a picture.

I don't really know what this is called either, but I loved it. You kind of wiggled from side to side to get it to move. It was a lot of work and probably great for your abs. I don't think I ever had one, but my best friend Holly did and I loved it.

Popples. Need I say more! I still remember what my Popple looked like. I also remember what my sister's looked like and that my aunt had one that was Clemson.

Pogs- a strange fad huh? You stacked them with a friend and you and your friend used your "Slammer" to hit the stack. which ever ones landed face up you got to keep. Sounds kind of boring now, but it was so exciting then. I had a rocket to keep mine in that came from Hardees. You had to get all 3 pieces by buying kids meals. I loved my pogs.

Now whenever I tell people the story of pipeworks, nobody really knows what I am talking about. I had a friend who had them and I wanted them so bad. I told nobody until Christmas Eve and then miraculously the next morning...there they were. We built all kinds of things with these...especially forts.


to hybrid or not to hybrid.

For some reason I have been very fascinated lately with the idea of getting a new car. Mine is not that old- a 2004 Jeep Cherokee-but we bought it used with a lot of miles on it, so it is already over 100 thousand. It has been a good car, but it has also had a lot of random issues and I just don't think I trust it. My mom has told me to do some research on how much mine is worth and cars that I would want to by and so on. So this past week I drove up to Carmax and had them appraise my car. While I waited I test-drove my dream car- a Jeep Wrangler...SO FUN. I am not getting a new car any time soon (mostly because I don't have a job and apparently that is some kind of precursor...I don't know it might have something to do with money). The point of this long winded story is that I have been doing research on cars and I discovered something very interesting tonight. I know I am probably not the first person to discover this, but it was still shocking to me. I was comparing a few hybrid cars with their non-hybrid equals using both the dealer website and a website that compares the fuel economy of cars. I was mainly looking at the Civic and its hybrid and the Ford Escape and it's hybrid. For the Ford Escape the difference in price is $11,000. You will pay $11,000 more for a basic Escape Hybrid. I wanted to know how easily that difference was made up in fuel costs. The difference in annual fuel costs of the two Escapes is only about $400/year, which means it would take you 27 years to make up that $11,000 difference! In case you missed it......TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS!!!!!! And that is just to break even on your purchase! The same thing goes for the Civic and the Civic Hybrid except it would only take you 18 years. Who keeps a car for 18 years? What about 27 years? At average yearly mileage the car would have over 300,000 miles on it!

What a scam! I mean, you may get your money back quicker if your decision is between the hybrid and a Chevy Suburban or Hummer, but come on! I was really blown away. The regular Civic and the regular Escape both get close to 30 mpg's on the highway, which is pretty good gas mileage. Maybe this wouldn't be surprising to some people, but i found it so shocking especially because Hybrids are all the buzz. Maybe they are better for the environment, but they are not better for your wallet! Maybe in 10 years, when they are the norm and prices aren't so high it would be a good decision. If you like spending a lot of money on cars then I guess it doesn't matter, but if you are looking for the better deal-the most bang for your buck in car price and at the tank...the hybrid is not the right choice.


"What's your name?"

On Monday i met one of my dearest college friends in Columbia. We went down to the river walk and were sitting on a bench near the water just catching up on life. As we were sitting there this father with 2 children, a baby in a stroller and a child maybe 3 walking, were walking down the path near us. As they were about to pass the older child stopped and left her dad's side to wave at us and say hey. She kept coming over and asked, "What are your names?" My friend and I were pleasantly startled by this very mature gesture from such a young stranger. We told her our names and asked her her's and she sat down on the bench across from us. She asked us several questions and when her dad told her it was time to go, she instead got up and came over to our bench and sat down between us. Neither of us knew what to do. We talked to her for several more minutes about normal stuff; what we were doing, her baby sister's name, trolls under the bridge...ya know...the usual.
She finally left and as she walked away I realized how surprising her actions had been to me. A person, a child, reaching out to two total strangers, asking their names, approaching them, sitting with them, it was so out of the ordinary that it almost seemed unhuman. Each time I think of it I hear the words of Jesus in my head, "be like these little children." A child has so little self-awareness-they are other aware. They do not care about status, appearance, or their own insecurities- the very things that keep us at a distance from others. This is exactly how Jesus interacted with the world-no care for the opinions of others. He operated outside of everyone of our known confines and hidden rules. I wish I was like him. I wish I was like that little girl, with a faith in God so deep that I didn't operate by the rules the world does because I didn't need them. If only I had the faith of a child.


The true mark of a Christian

I have struggled a lot recently with the discrepency I see in the lives of so many American Christians (myself included) and the life of Christians in the New Testament. One cannot read the gospels with an open eye and heart and not see the stark contrast between our criteria for a "christian" today and Jesus'. I am not saying that Jesus had a "criteria" per say, what I mean is Jesus said (to anyone who was willing), "Follow me," not, "pray this prayer and you're good." A true encounter with Jesus meant full life-altering change. Today, I see lots of "Christians" but very little radical, life-altering change. There is so little difference between the world and the church it scares me. Maybe we smile a little more, but even that is forced.

There is this string of amazing quotes in the second chapter of Brennan Manning's book The Importance of Being Foolish. I have been chewing on them for days and they speak of this very same issue. He says it better than I ever could, so I am just going to type them all in and leave it at that.

"The Communist who accepts Karl Marx but not his doctrine is scarcely different from the Christian who accepts Jesus Christ but refuses to shape his life according to Christ's teaching." pg 43

"Authentic, evangelical faith cannot be separated from a readiness to act on the Word of God according to present opportunities."

"Soren Kierkegaard describes two type of Christians: those who imitate Jesus Christ and a second much cheaper brand-those who are content to admire him." Pg 45

A 23 year old woman dong grad work at the University of Paris writes:
"To me a Christian is either a man who lives in Christ or a phony. You Christians do not appreciate that it is on this- the almost external testminoy that you give of God- that we judge you. You ought to radiate Christ. Your faith ought to flow out to us like a river of life. You ought to infect us with a love for him. It is then that God who was impossible becomes possible for the atheist and for those of us whose faith is wavering. We cannot help being struck, upset, and confused by a Christian who is truly Christlike. And we do not forgive him when he fails to be."

"The great mark of a Christian is what no other characteristic can replace, namely the example of a life which can only be explained in terms of God." Pg 48

"Contact with Christians should be an experience that proves to people that the gospel is a power that transforms the whole of life." Pg 49


1 Jeep Cherokee and 1 Orange Retro Couch

My first year in seminary I lived in this little campus apartment. My roommate had managed to aquire a love seat from one of my friends before I moved there. When I moved in this was the only piece of furniture to sit on in the den. Seeing as her and I didn't know each other when we started school, sitting in the den was sort of awkward. This, as well as just needing more than a love seat anyway, motivated me to search for another piece of sitting furniture. A friend of a friend said he had a couch he wasn't using in his garage and that we could borrow it as long as he got it back before he graduated. I didn't know much about what this couch looked like and I really didn't care, I mean how bad could it be right? Well he pulled up one night and unloaded one of the ugliest couches I have ever seen. It was a burnt orange, retro, sectional couch with rips on almost every seam in the cushions. I could tell by the look on Melanie's face that she didn't find it attractive either. Over the course of 3 years we grew to love this couch. Despite its less than attractive appearance it was, by far, the most comfortable couch I have ever owned. I took many afternoon naps on that couch. One night after David (the couch owner) graduated he came by with his uhaul to pick up the couch and I threw a fit. He told me I could keep it until I graduated, but I must promise to get it back to him. I said of course (this is when I thought I would be moving to Atlanta, which is where he lives).
I have since then graduated and moved to Houston and though I told him recently that the couch is not in great condition (due to having 2 puppies my last 6 months in Fort Worth) he still insists on having it back. So, I planned a trip to visit my family at the end of the summer and instead of flying like any sane person would on a trip over 1000 miles, I decided to drive. I knew I would not get a chance like this for awhile to return the couch to its proper owner, but I was also unwilling to pay money for a uhaul trailer and hauling it across the U.S. just for that dumb couch. So, I decided I would try to fit the entire couch in my car and to my disbelief....IT FIT! After 30 minutes in the blazing Houston heat I got it all in. It was like Tetris, but not near as fun. I didn't have much room for luggage and I couldn't see out of the back of my car, but I got that couch to Georgia! Next time I am upset about the gas mileage my car gets, I will remind myself of how few cars I could fit an entire couch in!


The Importance of Being Foolish

I started a Brennan Manning book the other day called "The Importance of Being Foolish." I haven't gotten very far because the things that Manning tends to say can have you lost in thought and contemplation for weeks. In the opening chapter he begins a conversation truth versus deception, how Satan gets us to chase with our whole hearts things that are false, the least of reality. He contrasts this with Jesus' life and commands of His followers. He makes this statement:

We should be embarrassed by the Word because it says much that we don't want to hear. But why are most of us not embarrassed? Why doesn't the Word exalt, frighten, and shock us? It's not because we are unfamiliar with it-we hear it week in and week out. Why doesn't it force us to reassess our lives? It comes back to our delusions. Michel Quoist says:
We are satisfied by our decent little life. We are pleased with our good habits; we take them for virtues. We are pleased with our little efforts; we take them for progress. We are proud of our activities; they make us think we are giving ourselves. We are impressed by our influence; we imagine that it will transform lives. We are proud of what we give, though it hides what we withhold. We may even be mistaking a set of coinciding egoisms for real friendship."

There are truths within the Scriptures that Jesus reveals to us that should make us shudder; that if we truly believed the Bible to be Truth we would have no option, but to radically alter our lives and yet, most of us don't. In fact, we are surprised when we meet someone who is living a life similar to the teachings of Jesus and we call it "radical." Should it be so radical?...to the world, yes!...to the church? No!

More quotes from this book will follow this one, I feel sure. For now, this is all that I can chew on.


2 baby doves

The other night I came home and I was walking up the front steps when I noticed something moving on the ground of a flower bed. I thought it was a toad, but when I looked closer I realized it was a baby bird, a dove. It must have fallen from a nest high up in the tree during the storm. I ran inside and told Melanie. It looked scared and cold and it was trying to move, but it couldn't fly so it was just scooting a little along the ground. Melanie happened to have this same experience in high school and she still had a flyer from a wildlife refuge they called. While she went to find the number I decided to circle the tree and make sure there was not another one and sure enough in the middle of a plant was another scared little baby bird.
The refuge told us to put the birds in a box with a blanket and in the morning put them in a basket and hang it from the tree to see if the mama will come back and take care of them. But there was a lady who volunteered for them that lived close by, so instead of risking the life of the birds overnight in a house with 3 dogs and 1 frisky cat, we drove them over to the volunteers house. Just before we handed them over one of them pooped in the box. What an experience! You never know what your day might hold. I felt very accomplished, like a model citizen, who just completed a good deed.


Summer Fun

I have been living in Houston this summer and working for Houston's First Baptist Church. It has been a truly amazing summer and I am so glad that I decided to come here. There are so many highlights and fun things that happened.

First, my job. I loved my job. I was the Intern Coordinator for the high school ministry at the church. I was responsible for leading a team of 4 college student interns. I loved the people I worked with: the church staff, the college interns, the students. It was an amazing job, and I really loved every minute of it.

Second, my puppy, Cali and her brother Henry. We had so much fun with them. We found a dog park close by and took them several times. They LOVED it!!!! They loved interacting with all of the dogs there. It so much fun to watch them run around and interact! Cali will just go barreling into a group of dogs to say hello...hillarious. We also took them to the beach one day and that was so fun! Below are some pictures of that. When we first got there Henry went out into the water swimming and we thought he was going to swim out to sea. They swam, sprinted all over the beach, found a dead fish and had a blast!

Third, there are so many fun things to do here.
I went to Phantom of the Opera in downtown Houston. It was amazing!
We went to the beach nearly every weekend.
I mountain biked in Memorial Park, which was so fun. That was the first time i've been since moving to Texas. The trails were great!
There are so many good places to eat here:
Mosquito Cafe
Crave Cupcakes
Dessert Gallery
Thai Cottage
Baby Barnaby's
Mexican food anywhere!
And so many more.

Houston is a good city. There is no end to fun things to do here and it has been a fantastic summer!


I'd of had to squat!

Today I was in a parking lot in a large shopping center in southwest Houston. I was walking from my car towards the Old Navy and I saw 3 kids outside of a Suburban. The car seemed to be unoccupied by an adult. One little girl was standing in the door of the back passenger side, a boy was in the front seat and a small boy was standing with his back facing the open passenger side front door. They all looked at me and were laughing and saying things I couldn't understand. I really couldn't see what was so funny because it was as bright as the face of the sun outside. I kept straining to see as they kept laughing and I finally saw what they thought was so funny. The little boy standing by the open door was peeing in the parking lot right beside his car. I started laughing, not believing what I was seeing and as I walked boy I heard him say loudly in a little african american boy accent, "If I was a girl, i'd of had to squat!"

Now how often do you see something like that on a shopping trip? Hillarious!


My 3 hour haircut

I am tempted to come on here and proclaim my deepest apologies for being a horrible blogger (not that anyone reads this or if they did I am sure they have stopped by now), and promise that I will resume blogging with a unstoppable fever, but I will not do that. I will take it one day at a time and see where we go. A lot has happened recently, so I should have a lot to say, so we will see.

But first, a story I must tell. I have been living in Houston with my roommate from seminary and her family, which has been a great and fun adventure. Recently her mother found this Aveda training school in the Woodlands (over an hour away from the house), where you can get your haircut by their students for $15. Aveda salons do a great job, but charge you a minimum of $50 so this is a good deal. All wanting haricuts, we decided to go last Friday. I should have known better anyway because we had to get up early and I had an all night lock-out that evening, where I would get no sleep.

We get to the salon and all get seated seperately by our students at 10:45 a.m. I just want a basic haircut, about 3 inches off with a few layers. She washes my hair and takes me back to the chair. Now I know she is a student, so I am expecting nothing short of an hour and a half. An hour and a half has passed (12:15 p.m.) and she is still painfully and slowly snipping away the initial 3 inches from my hair. She has not begun layers or anything!!!! At this point I see Melanie's mother finished and walking toward the front, the stylist beside us got a client after I sat down and washed, cut and dried her hair and she is now off on her lunch break. All the while I can feel myself getting more and more irritated and impatient. She gets to the bangs and after about 5 minutes of hesitation with no cutting, calls her teacher to come cut it. It is now 1:00 p.m. and I see my roommate walk out now having had her hair washed, cut and dried and her eyebrows waxed, while I am very far from the finish line.

As my hair covered my eyes and kept closing them and telling myself, "just smell your hair, it smells so good and peaceful, doesn't it." I had no idea that while I was sitting in misery, my roommate was terrified that something bad had happened because it was taking SOOOO long. She went to the desk and asked if they had messed up my hair and were redoing it because it was taking so long. They informed her that my student was brand new to the floor...Thanks a lot Aveda. 3 hours in total is what it took for this girl to wash, cut and dry my hair. And when she was done her teacher came over and saw that she had really put no layers in my hair and with amazing speed and percision she cut layers for me in about 1 minute.

When I finally got out of the chair and to the front my roommate new I was upset, but i told her I couldn't talk just yet...I needed to cool off. The cashier then asked me if I wanted to leave a tip and several things passed through my head to say, but in the end Jesus won out and I did tip. But I resolved that $15 dollars was not worth it and I would never do that again. When I tell this story people say, "Well did she do a good job?" I have to calculate my response because I really think that if someone gave me scissors and 3 hours of their time I could do a superb job. Yes the hair looks good, I say, it better after all of that.


my claim to fame

When people begin to share their "claims to fame" I never have anything to say.  I had never met anyone famous UNTIL, Saturday.  We had a garage sale Saturday morning and decided to use the spoils to go to dinner somewhere fun.  We drove down to Galveston and went to Gaidos, a famous seafood restaurant down there.  We were waiting outside for our names to be called and I looked up to see these 2 very tall women coming from behind us walking together towards the door.  Just then they called our name and as I stood up one of those women turned slightly at the door and I thought she looked familiar.  I looked again and leaned over to Melanie and said, "Hey that lady looks like Juliet from Lost".....the whole time thinking of course it wasn't her.  It is easy to see someone who looks like someone, but rare to see the actual person.  We got inside and she was standing with this large group of family.  I got my first good look and I knew immediately that there was no way it was not her.  Then a lady in her party said, "What name is it under?" and another one replied, "Mitchell."  Her real name is Elizabeth Mitchell.  I excitedly turned to Melanie to say it was her for sure.  Then I remembered that her family is from Dallas and that she grew up there.  We stood there awestruck at what we were seeing.  We are both avid Lost fans and to see one of the stars in real life was a strange experience.  She was with her mom, dad, sister and a host of other family members.  They went in the small gift shop and we followed her in and hovered around debating on whether to talk to her.  We had ample opportunity, but we never did.  Although, she dropped her sweater and Melanie picked it up for her and she said, "What a kind thing of you to do."  I told Melanie she missed her perfect opportunity.

She is not a super famous or well known actress, so nobody was swarming her or taking her picture.  The little girl working in the gift shop had no idea she had just checked-out someone famous.   Most people would only know her if they watched Lost, or maybe if they had seen the Santa Claus 2, she plays the Mrs. Claus part.  It was so bizzare.  The whole night we couldn't stop thinking about that....someone famous we have watched a ton in a small restaurant in Galveston, Texas of all places.  And it is odd to be in the same room with the person, watching them.  You are so use to seeing them on a screen or in a book, not in person.  I think they do not seem real, and then there they are.  And now I have a claim to fame, so when it is my turn to tell if I have met someone famous I can say yes...although when you hear other people tell you things like that, I never think it is all that exciting.  Maybe it is only exciting if it happens to you.  


Things I will miss about Fort Worth

I am on the home stretch. I have lived in Fort Worth for nearly 3 years and I am down to my final 6 days here. A lot has happened in the last 3 years and if I were honest I would have to say most of this journey was difficult. However, as I reflect back on what has happened, I am grateful for this time. I have learned a lot, and grown a lot. I had a difficult seminary experience, some circumstantial, some self-inflicted, but I am thankful that I went. The Lord used it and will continue to use it. Though I would never want to go back and relive my time here I want to make sure I look back on it and remain thankful for every thing, the good, the bad and the ugly, because God does use everything for good.

So...what will I miss as I leave this place? Here are just a few things.

1. My kids/job at Morningside. I have had that job since a week after I moved here, 3 years. It is at the top of the list of things I am thankful for.
2. Trinity Trails- This is my favorite place in Fort Worth to run, to walk, to visit, to find peace.
3. The Botanic Gardens- Soooo pretty
4. The combination of no humidity and temperatures from 65-90 degrees because it feels AMAZING outside.
5. People I love at Mckinney church; my students and former co-workers.
6. The Village Church- God is powerfully moving in that place and I am so grateful for attending.. Praise God for podcasts
7. La Familia (best mexican), Babes Chicken (Best food), Taste of Asia (Best Asian), Milano's (Best local Italian)
8. Sprinkles Cupcakes on Dallas days
9. The drive from my house down University...its beautiful
10. Central Market- It's not a grocery store, it's an experience.


The Swine Flu Vacation

I had the last month of my time in Fort Worth planned out perfectly. The last week in April, I didn't have work because of TAKS testing so my roommate and I drove down to Houston late Tuesday night the 28th because we had scheduled Henry and Cali's spay and neuter for Wednesday morning. We were going to stay a few days and drive back on Friday for a Fort Worth after school event on Saturday. Then at some point in the days following she would leave and go back to Houston pretty much for good and I would stay in Fort Worth for 2 weeks until the move.

We get to Houston, the surgery is a success and then on Thursday....BAM.....the SWINE FLU. All of FWISD is shut down and I can't go to work. I said many times that if I had known I would have had 2 full weeks off of work I would have planned a fun trip...I mean how often does that happen? And that is when it hit me, I still have over a week.....I could take a trip. So, my roommate and I got on Priceline and found two amazing deals, one to Boston (which I had never been) and one to Chicago (which she had never been). Boston won, and off we went. We bought the tickets on Sunday and left at 6:00 a.m. the following morning. We spent three nights in a really nice hotel...so fun.

We had no time to research Boston, so we just kind of figured it out as we went along.

Monday. The first day we walked a TON. We went to the beautiful Public Gardens and Boston Commons.


And the oldest restaurant in the country...

Tuesday was very rainy. We decided to sleep in some, start the day off with Dunkin Donuts and head over to Harvard.
This is me touching John Harvard's toe. Apparently it is the thing to do.
For lunch we went to the No Name Restaurant. We had seen it in several reviews for good seafood. I really liked it. It was on the harbor.

Wednesday we went to Finagle a Bagel for breakfast

Then we went on the Freedom Trail. It took several hours to walk the whole thing, but it was very neat.

We saw Paul's Revere Tomb...
The graveyards were amazing. Some tombs were from the 1600's.

This is the Paul Revere House. It is where he set out from on his famous midnight ride.

This is the Old South Meeting House, where famous historical meetings were held.

On Wednesday night the Boston Red Sox were playing at home so we decided to scalp some tickets. We set a price window and on our third attempt we bought two tickets. It was crazy. The place was packed. Bostonians really like their sports. It was the highlight of the trip for me.