I am ...

it happened in the midst of a sweet spa-la-la weekend with my sweetheart!

Good times.

Hours and hundreds of seconds left

before I'm cuarenta anos.

Tiny Stops of the Road to Bountiful

Carrying the camera with me in the mornings along with hoe and hose seems silly to some (probably because camera doesn't start with an "h" like hoe and hose).

So ...

Carrying the camera with me in the mornings along with coffee cup and clippers seems silly to some.

Stan is a bit embarrassed that I am taking pictures of our sparse garden babies. Somehow, it doesn't honor our heritage ... or pay tribute to the generations before us who were the salt of the earth. Those before us who dug the wells that we drink from (Deut. 6) ... who planted gardens and crops to feed themselves and survive (and fail). Who dug so that we could have "professional" jobs and live in the big city and have clean hands.

Who toiled and tilled. And got their hands dirty.

The earth skipped ME somehow ... the spoils of grocery stores and money and fast food. And being a spoiled kid. Why didn't I pay attention when mom and grandma were canning all of those green beans, vegetable soup and tomatoes in our basement with that giant canning contraption that made a lot of noise and seemed like it would explode any second?

One story of our family lore that my grandparents LOVED to tell on me is how I would bawl and squawl when mom forced me out to the green bean patch to pick. I would cry all the way down the rows. I remember that garden. Each of the 5,000 rows was five miles long. I was afraid of snakes out there. What's hilarious to me now is that we were in MICHIGAN where there are no scary snakes (hardly). Blue racers were scary, but they weren't much in the garden. I was petrified of garden snakes. Why?

Then we had to snap ALL of those stinkin' beans! My grandparents would sometimes take pity on me and take some of my snap load when mom wasn't looking, or let me have popsicle breaks. I think I would have wanted to smack me. Right now, I would give to have a big bowl of them to snap and eat raw. TOO YUMMY. Sitting there with Grandma and Grandpa Giles.

Life is easier when we do not dig our wells. But easy isn't always better.

Thanks God for letting us relearn the lessons we squandered.

Sunset By Grant

Grant (6) snapped this shot on the evening of Friday last. Sometimes, it's not so bad to turn our world 90 degrees (or is that about 65 degrees?).  Our friend (name dropping) Dave with OKCKAYAK.COM had invited us to be part of the background when the crew from Discover Oklahoma came out to do a piece on the sport of flat water kayaking ... and Dave's niche biz. It's supposed to air on July 12. We did that, then whipped over to another part of the lake to eat our picnic while the boys fished and the sun went down (Grant grabbed the camera after he hooked his line in the rocks for the 100th time). 

I finally got in the water. I am HOOKED. Love it. Friday night in the big town.


still not "that."

Don't fear crazy cats. No breakdown here or anything! Just enjoying the last week of an AWESOME decade of my life. As I told my friend Beatrice (her HS name in our French class .. if only I could remember how to type accents), the 30s RULED ... and I plan on the 40s being rulier.

I am still not ...


I am not ...



This is what we've pulled from our garden so far! These were plucked a couple of weeks ago from our pitiful little pea plants that we planted too late for our hot days. I do have a little lettuce outside that is coming in today, enough for a SMALL salad, but the spinach didn't make it either ... it got a good little start though before it got too hot. Plant it in early spring? Oh. I'll remember that next year. (Stan already knew all of this, of course. But I planted most of those seeds while he was at work). 

Next year ... we'll try that much earlier.

We didn't plant any annuals this year, in our long front "beds" where we usually spend a lot of money to plant periwinkles .... Instead, we have tomatoes and green beans! Along with a couple of squash, pepper and eggplant. I know my neighbors are horrified. But won't they be pleased if I bring over a basket of veggies later this summer?

I got a gorgeous basil plant this week at the Farmer's Market. And am growing cilantro, rosemary, thyme, chives, parsley and mint (for iced tea, dahlin'). Hurry up tomatoes ... salsa is calling!

Fifth Quarter Faith

Just heard today that our friend Eric Littleton has this new ministry. So, I'm helping spread the word here so like two more people will know about it.

He and Marci are some of my fave people in the world. On fire for God. On fire to raise their family to be God followers. Catch their fire! And book him.

The Church Has Left The Building, Part 2

This is us at Lake Hefner Sunday with a couple of hundred people picnickin, boatin and chillin.

My biggest disappointment of the day was that I didn't get out on the water. Grrr. I've been wanting to do this, but we have another opp with our friend, Crazy Dave, with OKCKAYAK.COM, pretty soon, so I'll wait.

It was a ton of fun to take 250 pictures of the event with our church family (although pretty crummy shots of my own fam. doh). We're doing this "series of fortunate events" as an alternative to the craziness of VBS. Sunday's fortunate event was kayak and picnic at the park. Great fun. LOW organization and stress. EASY to pull off. No glue, costumes or paint required. And FAMILY FOCUSED (imagine that, a church event that doesn't "require" childcare or dropping your kids off to run to the mall! Bonus!)

And it got us out of the building, where we could pull in other parkees to join us. We could tell them ... "boat with us. eat with us." They would ask ... "how much does it cost?" We would say, "IT'S FREE." Because we're not buying paint and glue for VBS! That look of shock and awe ... "Really? It's free. You don't mind if we join you or eat your awesome food?" PRICELESS.

The church has left the building.

The church has left the building

Someday I'll get into the whole story of finding my new birth sister, and all of that. It's still pretty raw, and new, and freaky, and glorious.

It's coming up on 40 years ago that our birth mom gave one of us to a family to raise because she did not want her baby to live as a "bastard" (quote). The other one of us was born a couple of years later to a young couple struggling in a marriage. But her dad walked out on her and she never knew him.

One of us got the parents - intact. One of us got a broken family.

Both of us have the same Father.

One of us knew about Him her whole life - had a church upbringing, but didn't KNOW Him. One of us lived in a home (sometimes a commune, even, for real) where He was feared and loved, but where there was hiding because of sin and shame, and not feeling "welcome" in church.

We both found the Real Father.

It's funny, that when I met my new sister, she was disappointed that I was already a believer. (I think that's really funny).

She planned to convert me if I ever found her.

She might get her dream. She's a new believer. On fire. Passionate. In love with Jesus. And at peace with her life ... her mom's short life ... and her dad's choices.

I've shoved a lot of this to the back burner recently. Too much. But she's back. Our congregation had an event this week, that wasn't even dubbed an "outreach" ... it was just fun kayaking/picnic on the lake. But it was church out there in that park and on that lake. It reminded me of my sister's awesome church where they wear tshirts that say "the church has left the building" when they go out and serve.

This post was intended to gush about our fun Father's Day at the lake with pictures and everything. How this came out, I don't know. But I let it flow!

And now, I'm turning down the burner to let those flavors meld some more. (I first used simmer instead of meld, but that sounds angry. Melding is better.)

Not ashamed

I am not ashamed of the gospel and I am not ashamed to copy and paste and share this email I received today from our friends Bryan and Holly Hixson who are serving in Rwanda (or to steal a photo of a Rwandan sunset from their blog). They are doing awesome work ... all related to glorifying God, but ranging from teaching, months of wrangling over an outrageous water bill with the local utility, to ministering to genocide victims ... oh, and bumping elbows with the country's president.

They are such name droppers!

To see photos of their beautiful family and the beautiful country, go here

Hixson June Post:
Not Ashamed of the Gospel

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes…" (Romans 1:16)

As we finish month ten in Rwanda, I am mindful of the verse above and I wonder if my actions and words daily reflect someone who is unashamed of the gospel of Christ. I wonder if what people observe and hear reflects Jesus. I believe that all of our interactions with people either influence others negatively or positively for Christ. We are either for God or against God. In Rick Warren's book, The Purpose-Driven Church, he writes that there are two kinds of churches: growing churches and dying churches. I believe there is a spiritual parallel: growing people or dying people. We try too often to take positions of neutrality when God would call us to stand unashamed. Ask yourself whether your actions proclaim that you are not ashamed of the gospel when you take the positions you take, when you speak specific words, or when you take certain actions.

Living in a culture where it is virtually impossible for us to blend in makes us feel as if we are livng in a "fish bowl". As we walk the streets of Rwanda, it seems that all eyes are upon us. The constant stare can be very annoying, but it can also be very convicting. At times I wonder if this is what it must feel like to be a famous person who never gets a break from the eyes of onlookers. What I'm convinced of is that it does put us in a position of greater responsibility to reflect Jesus. As a young person, I remember hearing over and over that "you may be the only Jesus some people see." It sounds like an old cliché, but I believe it to be true. At minimum, I believe each set of eyes upon us represents one more opportunity to positively influence others, unashamed of the gospel.

A day in our life in Rwanda can mean that we will encounter those with incomes of less than $1/day, followed by a meeting with a cabinet member or ambassador. When I'm among those in poverty, it seems hard for most of them to see me as little more than a walking dollar bill. I would prefer that they see a child of God, but I wonder how. Some might say that, by giving them money or bread, I have shown them Jesus. I can certainly fill an occasional tummy, but the question lingers--how can I help to fill the soul? This question constantly stares us in the face, and there is often no obvious answer. I'll share with you two vastly different experiences that represent opportunities to answer this looming question.
A group of 8 boys ages 8-12 gathered at the door of my vehicle to ask for money. With sixteen hands forced into my window, my gut brought me to a mix of frustration and empathy. My heart told me I must do something, but my head said, "but how can you help so many?" As I wrestled in my head with how to respond, I saw another young boy coming toward the car with a small toy bicycle he had made from a clothes hanger and fabric. I had no need to buy the roughly hewn toy but, for the one dollar he asked, I knew he would have more than the average person for the day and possibly a lesson could be taught. I gave him 500 Francs and he skipped away in joy with the money above his head in celebration. The other boys watched him as though they were trying to understand why he was able to skip away happy and they were not. Their hands all fell to their sides and their minds followed their peer in wonder. Unfortunately, these children should be enjoying the years of playing with friends, followed by cookies and milk. Instead, they worry about finding their next meal.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, yesterday we had an encounter with President Kagame. As our family ate in a new coffee shop, the President and his family entered (surrounded by a cloud of security guards, of course). As they walked to the protected area where they would eat, His Excellency (as he is most often referred to here) stopped and patted Alexis on the shoulder. She glanced up and he asked her how she was doing. At first, she didn't look closely enough to realize who was speaking to her. I spoke up and said, "How are you Mister President?" She looked again, a little shocked that the President was standing there with his hand on her shoulder. He greeted each of us, including our guest, Erin Estep (who is here working with the Let's Start Talking program). We visited for a few minutes before he went on to his table with his family. He came by again for a few minutes and inquired about how we were doing in Rwanda and thanking us for feeling comfortable enough to live here. He was very warm and genuine in his conversation, which reminded me that he is just another man in God's creation, but with a great burden of a nation on his shoulders. I stood humbled by this man who has led a nation from one of the darkest periods of humanity to a nation that is becoming one of the greatest leaders on a continent. I realize that those boys with outstretched hands are a burden we share because of the positions God has given us. My reaction to the boys was based on both a policy of the President and a conviction of my faith. At that moment, I realized that from the poverty-stricken boy, to me as a middle-class American, to the leader of a nation, God has placed us in the same place at the same time for a purpose. I have to ask myself, "What is my purpose in this moment?" Once again, I am reminded of Romans 1:16. At least one purpose is to demonstrate to those around me, regardless of their status on this earth, that "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ."

You may not see a child begging for a dollar or meet a President in your favorite coffee shop this week. However, you can still demonstrate the gospel to your spouse, to your neighbor, to your children, or to the cashier at a store who has had a rough day. How will you demonstrate that you are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ today?
God has blessed us through many people who enable us to serve in Rwanda. If God has blessed you in a way that you are able to partner with us in monthly or one-time giving please find details below for how contributions can be made. We are sustained on a range of monthly and one-time gifts and honor all giving of any amount as a blessing from God though His faithful servants.

But and stuff to read

Go read this post by cool Jon at Stuff Christians Like. I love to read this for giggles, but no giggling with this one as he tells us about an orphanage in Kenya that suffered during the violent political power struggle earlier this year. Reminds me, that while this was going on, our dear friends were "stuck" in that very region and in neighboring Rwanda trying to bring home their sons who spent their first months in another orphanage.

They're home, and they're one big happy family. And every day God shows them, and all of us who are thrilled to be part of their lives, how those boys were destined to be part of this fam ....

We were all over the news THEN. I confess, it has slipped from my radar since.

The causes are big - there and here. The need is great. BUT WE WHOLLY RELY ON THE LORD.

To bring up another part of the world, I've been reading about tea. Who's read Three Cups of Tea ? (thanks for the copy, Penny) I finished yesterday, over a hot cup of tea (NOT made with rancid yak milk) and made curry for dinner last night (sans goat meat). We trust that WE WHOLLY RELY ON THE LORD because the Afghans and Pakistanis apparently can't trust the Americans to do what we promised. The book is not really about that ... but it is about taking the triteness out of a cliche ... "one person can make a difference."

We can make a difference, and with God, all things are possible.

I think I have more to say about it later ... have you read the book?
I'm interested in getting the kids in on Pennies for Peace.

Sweet Sixteen

May 30, 1992!

On our anniversary, I had planned on posting a love story. But life was happening, and I try to be fully involved when that's going on, so we've been living our love story, I've not been writing about it!

Some have heard Stan freely admit that he has a crush on the pioneer woman. (I am purposefully not linking to her here because I am so jealous). He has read her site. Loves it. He even googled her enough to find out where they really live (she need not fear he'll show up), and that there are pioneer woman haters out there. Why? But really, there are blogs that dis her. Poor girl.

Her writing is engaging and funny. Her photography is artistic and beautiful. But I think one of the real reasons that she has such appeal is because of the way she loves her man ... the Marlboro Man.

She gushes every time she writes about him.

What man doesn't want to be a Marlboro Man? Gee, I sound like John Eldridge.

But it's a reminder of how much we need to love our men. My Marlboro Man is amazing. Not sure I have it in me to write our own Black Heels to Tractor Wheels love story. But I bet I love my man more than she loves hers. So there!

Seriously, it might be a great exercise to recount and record our own Black Heels to Tractor Wheels which in our case, should be called ... hmmm .... I better think on that a while? Any ideas?

Here's about where it began. When we had matching hair ... this is probably taken in the year of marriage! :-)

Island Schooled

We took advantage of 50 cent day at the "dollar movie" this week to see Nim's Island. For $2, the kids and I enjoyed a fantastic summer delight. I think I liked the movie more than they did.

And it had me from the opening scene narrated by Nim (Abigail Breslin soon to star as Kit Kittredge later this summer).

She said something like this when describing her amazing life on a private island with her marine biologist father:

"I am home schooled ... or island schooled ... I love to read books."

Then it shows her pouring through the trove of books that are her friends, and you see her imagination fired up as the pictures in those books, such as World Book encyclopedia, come to life.

She was educating for life!

The girl is super smart. Very creative, industrious, independent and adventurous.

Her best friends are a seal, a pelican, a sea turtle and a lizard. Yay for girls who love lizards!

When the power goes out in their "hut" ... she fixes it herself, enabling her to get back on the family MAC! When the Jodie Foster character needs some information about volcanoes, Nim dons her climbing gear and expertly climbs one to take a look around.

Definitely a fantasy adventure that pays tribute to our imagination!
And educating for life.

The lights are on ... la casa es vacía

If you watched Lion King 1 1/2, and you only did if you had a pre-schooler in your house in the early 21st century, you might remember that scene where Nala is passionately and patiently explaining and re-explaining to Timon and Poomba the travails of the pride's life since Simba left them.

The whole time Timon and Poomba don't hear a word she says because they keep wondering whether she's going to eat them.

I am not afraid of being pounced on by my patient and passionate friends, but alas, the lights are on but no one is home in my head when it comes to the whole CVS thing where you get a lot of stuff that doesn't cost any real money.

It's been explained. I've read websites. I've had blog posts written just for me.


What? How? Why?

But we want to save money on things like toothpaste and Fiber One cereal (which has, by the way, the most grams of fiber of any similar product, and the lowest sodium. Trust me. I know this)! And we want to be debt free and spend $6.70 on our monthly grocery bill (and have fresh goat's milk from our farm ... might as well continue the fantasy).

I've had the CVS card on my keychain for so long (probably when it dumped Eckerds) that it's worn, but not from use. Just from riding around with the BassPro and grocery store "rewards" cards. As I explained to my neighbor and CVS Expert Jan (who never posts anymore but who has apparently twittered) ... the other big chain pharmacy is so much more convenient to the house. It's not across a big intersection like CVS.

I've clipped coupons for years. I use them ... but have never gone crazy with it.

But I'm trying CVS this week. They have 3 boxes of Fiber One for $10 (which in my mind is NOT a deal, really ... ) but apparently with coupons - that I have, elusive savings-that I'm figuring out and waving a magic wand ... I can get these for a steal.

Warning to all CVS diehards. If I'm getting in on this ... CVS is close to pulling the plug on the whole deal. It's my day-late-dollar-short luck. Hopefully not this time.

Bad news

What kind of sick person uploads a picture of her own feet that are badly in need of a pedi and whose toes match the grass in the back yard? Me. Because of the sad sad story I read in the paper today.

Headline: As all-day gear, flip-flops flop, research shows

I have to read it in the paper instead of listening to my better half, the gait, posture, balance analyzer and PT extraordinaire, who regularly predicts my future back, hip and foot pain.

Now studies show we are only supposed to wear flops at the beach and after a grueling game of futbol for post-game relief.

DRAG! He's right ... or he's wrong along with all of the fine folks at Auburn who studied a bunch of feet.

Given the options - sand or soccer career, I think it's time to move to the beach house.

Curbside parking