29 December 2010

The Beautiful Baobab Tree

Baobab Tree at Sunset (Senegal 2010)
I don't know why but the beautiful Baobab tree has left an impression on me.  I can't say too many trees or plants (or flowers for that matter) have ever left me wanting more.  This African tree is steeped with rich tradition  by many native people (unfortunately not much in the way of honoring God because many natives pray and even make offerings to it).  Some Senegalese believe they are making offerings to their ancestors' spirits by leaving dishes of food.  They break the dishes so the food runs to the ground to be eaten by the spirits.  They have even been used as burial sites once the trunks are hollowed out.

Fun fact: the Baobab tree has gone Disney!  In Disney's Lion King it is know as the "Tree of Life".  I can see how the nickname came into being... this ginormous tree has many attributes (yes, I just used a word that probably doesn't exist)... besides storing water in it's enormously wide trunk (up to 60 feet in girth), it's so big that it has been known to house animals as well as people for shelter.  These trees have been  measured up to 75 feet tall.  It's bark has cork-like characteristics making it fire-resistant.  The cork is used for cloth and rope and unlike most trees they don't produce internal rings (for dating), they need to be radio-carbon tested to determine its age, which can be up to 2000 years!

It even produces fruit, of which I had the likes of trying.  The fruit is gourd-like, filled with dark brown seeds (the size of gumballs) covered by a white, milky-looking, dry pulp.  The edible portion of this fruit is this white "stuff".  A common name for this fruit is "monkey bread".  Just pop a seed in your mouth and let the pulp dissolve. Then spit out the seed!  Easy enough!  This fruit is high in vitamin C and aids in stopping diarrhea.  Add water to the pulp and voilĂ  a drink very similar to lemonade.
Monkey Bread fruit hangs from trees 

Inside the gourd shaped fruit

By grinding down the leaves into a powder, it gets added to many dishes making it a spice as well.  What more could you want from a tree?  I'm just going to have to say it... it's my favorite tree!

And thanks to Charlize Theron and her Africa Outreach Project, if you buy these Tom's shoes you are helping improve the health, education, and social development of high schoolers in South Africa.

22 December 2010

Stormy Night in San Diego

     I love this weather!  As I lay in bed last night, blinds raised, not only could I hear the rain splashing down making large puddles in the backyard- wave after wave, not seeming to let up… but also the wind whipped along through the two trees outside my window.  A flash of lightening on the rare occasion also found a way to be in last night’s performance.  It was too dark to see the rain, but I sure could see its affects…  as the night was backlit by the city lights facing north-eastward toward the local airport, the trees were silhouetted. 

     I've enjoyed the leaves on the eucalyptus tree dancing and swaying in the commotion, like ballet dancers, fluid and free.   I wish I could take a picture that could show the story I’ve laid before you.  But alas, I can only try to share with you what I see using my simple words above.  I hope you’ve been able to personally experience some of the beauty that has taken place during this San Diego winter storm…?

26 August 2010


Twisted and blocked, not freely flowing.
God's love expressed as Living Water,
     Poured out for all who thirst.
Jesus is the Ultimate Refreshment!
Quenched only by Him.
I, too, am made in His image and can
     lead the thirsty to drink.
Unkinked, God's love is flowing through me;
     Kinked, I have bitterness and unforgiveness escaping me.
Straighten me out as only You can do.
Make me a wellspring for others to know Your grace and love.

20 August 2010

Ohhhhh the simple pleasures of golf!

 I've really begun to enjoy golfing... eventhough I'm a perfectionist and not exceptionally good at it, I have experienced some pleasure playing.  One simple pleasure is not losing too many balls - my first instinct, when I lose a ball is to hunt for it until I find it!  I don't like to give up so easily and "let it go" like my grandfather wants me too.  I'm more apt to give up when I know someone else is waiting to tee off on the same hole.  Another simple pleasure is solid contact... not going left or right, but sailing right down the middle of the fairway.  Yesterday I had experienced that simple pleasure!  The only problem was I threw my back out in the process!  :(  The first two shots off the tee on the second hole were horrible, so much so the balls were officially "lost" and then as I placed the third ball on the tee I thought to myself: "take easily, don't swing too hard, just relax and hit the ball".  Which is exactly what I did!  I must have hit the ball using the "sweet spot" on head of the club because it sailed farther than I'd ever seen it go!  This hole is a par four, so the fairway is quite lenghty and my ball landed just outside the green.  This hole, which normally takes two hits to the green, took me one!  Sweet!  I think I would have been more ecstatic if I wasn't so rigid with pain in my torso!  Needless to say, my day of golfing was abruptly over.

Deep breathing became difficult and painful so I made an appointment with a chiropractor; I was worried I might have slipped a disc or something. So later that morning and the chiro diagnosed me with a muscle strain near my lower ribs (on the right side of my body).  Thankfully my spine wasn't totally out of whack!  He adjusted my T-7 and T-10 vertebrae.  Afterward, Courtney massaged the affected region, trying to losen up that area.  With an icepack on my back and a computer on my lap... here I am blogging!

Today feels much better, but I'm not out of the woods yet.  I'm going to need to take it easy and probably lay off golfing for at least a week!  That's the latest with me...

14 August 2010

One particular Egyptian house visit that will leave a lasting impression on me...

The young boy between Risa and I just had surgery.
The boy in the photo to the left has a special place in my heart... when we visited him and his family we learned he just had surgery on his liver.  It's a two hour ride to Cairo (to the doctors and hospital) which is quite the distance when you don't have your own transportation nor is it very reliable when you need to get a ride there.

Back to this young man (I wish I remembered his name)... he is 10 and he recently went in for surgery on his stomach, the doctors found tumors, 17 of them to be exact!  They were only able to remove one during the surgery... then it gets a little fuzzy why they couldn't remove more  (or all for that matter) - it was literally lost in translation.  Maybe his body was too weak to endure a lengthy surgery?  We were told that his fragile body would never be able to endure any more surgeries, so the doctors sent him back home with medication (to help shrink the tumors).  It's unfortunate that the medication he was given makes him sick and takes away his appetite... so he doesn't have any energy to eat and remains weakened.  The grandma went to get something to show us.  She came back with some gauze and began unraveling it.  It was the tumor that the doctors removed.  It was just over an inch and maybe a half long and approximately the circumference of a jolly rancher.

God is so awesome placing Risa and I as the two missionaries that visited this young man, because we could relate to his struggle...

You see, Risa was sick before coming to Egypt.  She was pretty much out of commission for at least the two weeks leading up to the trip and the first couple days of the trip.  She had no appetite and felt nauseous - without any explanation along with some other symptoms.  She did her best to share her story and encourage him to eat even when he didn't "feel" like it because he needs the strength for his body to fight and to heal.  I, on the other hand, related to the surgery-side of his story.  I had surgery on my stomach when I was 3 days old!  I desperately wanted to show him my scar on my belly, but revealing my stomach is a cultural no-no!  So I tried to encourage him and share the healing powers of Jesus with him.  As you can see in the above photograph,  it's a struggle for him to sit there and listen, but I wanted to share how God has the power to change and heal him, like He did me.  Here I am, 30-some-odd years later and thankful for the opportunity to tell a part of the story God gave me with him, in hope that he becomes hopeful and makes the decision to do his part in the healing process.  After we shared our struggles with him and the rest of the family, we were privileged to pray over him and were struck at just how God totally orchestrated this family to be one of our families to visit.  I believe no one else on our team would have been able to personally share and relate in the same way as we did!  I do pray God heals him and he becomes a living testament of God's healing for others!

05 August 2010

Relational Intelligence?

book cover
So... I've got this new book that I'm beginning to read.  It's called Relational Intelligence by Steve Saccone.  At Catalyst we've started learning what it means to be relationally intelligent in our sphere of influence.  Assad has been doing a great job sharing what he has learned thus far with us and thought we might also benefit from reading the book ourselves since it's packed with a lot of applicable information.  I'm sure I'll be sharing more about this when I dive more into the readings.... I just wanted to share what's new with me.

16 June 2010

Following Him...

Wow, I can't believe Egypt is right around the corner... just days away (5 to be exact)!  I'm in the mindset of packing now, deciding what to bring as the suitcase lays open on floor beckoning me to fill it up with the essentials.  There is other prep to do as well: plane goodies for my carry-on, documentation, one day change of clothes (just in case my suitcase doesn't arrive when I do), Bible, notebook(s), power adapter, modifying FB alerts to my cell, you name it I'm trying to remember to bring it or take care of it before I leave.

Excitement is creeping in, but more importantly some of the things that were occupying/consuming my mind are falling away.  God is answering my prayers, changing my heart, healing my emotions and attitudes!  This morning a dear friend called me (at a time I normally would be sleeping but wasn't) and she wanted to share a piece of Scripture that spoke to her heart and reminded her of me.  Psalm 31 if you click on the link it will take you to the NIV passage.  I'm so encouraged by others who share how encouraged they are as witnesses through my daily living.  God calls me to be salt and light... who knows who is watching?  Who knows the lives I will touch by choosing to live for God (and not myself)?

As I mentally prepare for what Egypt has in store for me and my teammates, I remain in my faith and that what I think or want to happen might not line up with what God has in store; He is there before us preparing others' hearts for our trip.  What He plans might be far from my understanding, but I hope that our steps of obedience are honoring to Him, however He decides to use them.  I'm looking forward to blogging more and adding pictures while there.

24 May 2010

EFCC Women's Retreat 2010

This weekend was the first time in 5 years that EFCC has had a women's retreat off campus!  We went to the beautiful  Calvary Chapel Conference Center/Bible College in Murrieta Hot Springs, CA.  There were approximately 100 women in attendance and  our guest speaker was Marilyn Laszlo.

Marilyn Laszlo spent 24 years with the Sepik Iwam people of Papua New Guinea.  She helped them "carve" their language and translated the Bible into that language!  Jungle living is unfathomable to me!  I am, by no means, NOT a high maintenance woman, but in comparison to living with next to nothing in the jungle, I most definitely am!  I heard incredible stories of these two white women entering an all black (naked) jungle village and asking to live with them.  Can you imagine what might sound like?  First the language barrier: these villagers had NO clue what the women were saying and vice versa, let alone asking of them to share their lives!  Second: they were thought to be ghosts, not people.  Not male.  Not female, but ghosts!  But they were offered up a place to live by the graveyard hillside.  Of course they didn't know it was a graveyard they were sleeping on...

After this weekend and the Hume work week back during the first week of May, I feel as though God is affirming my decision to be a part of the short term missions team I am on!  It definitely has been a step of faith, knowing how far out of my comfort zone I'll be and fully relying on what God will do; using me in any way He choses on the journey there and the whole while I'm there until I return.  I'm thankful for this opportunity and look forward to see what is in store for me and the team!

The above picture is so beautiful.  The notes you see pinned onto the cross occurred Saturday evening during communion.  The women were asked to get right before God: to confess their sins and leave them at the cross!  We're all sinners and God wants us to confess our sins to Him.  When we do so we're immediately forgiven and on that path of reconciliation with Him!  Doesn't that warm your heart?  Unconditional love includes forgiveness.  As faulted and flawed people we must also forgive ourselves.  When God forgives us, we MUST also forgive us!  I've been guilty of confessing to God, but not forgiving myself!  If God can forgive me, who am I to say that God isn't good enough?  That's what I'm doing when I don't forgive myself!!

Is there anything that you might be holding back from God by choosing not to forgive yourself?  We are called to be set free and that includes self-condemnation!  Let God deal with your sin, He's more gracious and merciful than we will ever be!

16 April 2010

What if God were selfish?

Blessings would fade...
The generosity of others would all pass away.
Fend for yourself... creatures of the land, air, and sea!
 We would be pawns on a chessboard sacrificed at His whim.
No one to come along beside us--
No encouraging words or a shoulder to cry on...
only unanswered prayer.
While the laughter of our requests roll like thunder from His lips.
In His eyes what fools we appear to be...

Jesus would be a mystery.
No Christmas, no Easter!
What an awful place to be...

05 April 2010

Vulnerability is worth it...

As I look back and remember more good times than bad, the scariest times are the ones where I was vulnerable - not knowing whether judgment or acceptance would result.  Now as the pain and hurt builds like a volcano upon eruption and the need is great to try to cover up and ignore it, I know God has given me these emotions to feel and share with Him.  Ignoring them doesn't bring Him the glory of being in the midst of every relationship, both past and present.

In my former relationships (friendships and more), ones that I would have previously considered as failures, I have a new outlook on what they were... I took each "failure" personally, wondering what I did wrong, never giving the other person credit that "it" might not really be about me.  Wow, I had a pretty selfish view of my relationships... believing I could make or break their existence!    

If I hadn't been vulnerable I would not have been able to love deeply.  I know what I feel right now is a temporary sensation, not something that will prohibit my future relationships (this is a BIG step for me - an old pattern that has now ended).  Loving others is worth the pain when you have received their love in return!  Now I know I need to focus on honoring God in my relationships.  He will bring people in my life that I can absolutely trust and be vulnerable with, as He sees fit.  I place my trust in God knowing He knows what relationships are BEST for me, better than I could ever imagine, who is good for me, who will help me honor Him through that relationship.  I'm sorry that some relationships are not the same, nor are they growing (in my life), but it doesn't mean that I don't care/love each person.  On the contrary, I am probably honoring God more so now because I still do love them (through the pain) and pray for them... 

30 March 2010

Lent '10

Like in years past, this season of Lent brought about the absence of candy in my life.  For no particular reason, this year seemed exceptionally difficult (I think it's getting even harder)!  I've kept my promise/sacrifice and have not eaten any candy- and for those of you that really know me, it's a difficult challenge to say the least.  The count down has begun, 5 days to go...

Psychologically it's weighed heavy on my mind... these 40+ days without candy.  I had dreams of "cheating" on my sacrifice.  I would be aware, only after eating, that I was not supposed to be eating candy and wake up feeling guilty!  I can't ever recall this omission ever effecting me this way.  I am thankful they were just dreams!  

08 March 2010


Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 2Pet 1:4

Christ accepts us : Revelation 3:20; John 6:37
God gives eternal life : John 5:24; John 10:28
God forgives us : 1 John 1:7-9; Isaiah 1:18
God is faithful to us : Joshua 1:9; Isaiah 41:10
God comforts us : Psalm 23
Christ is always with us : Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5,6
God protects us from harm : Psalm 91; Psalm 121
God gives us courage : Hebrews 13:5,6; Ephesians 6:10-18
God gives us wisdom : James 1:5
God gives us the strength to refuse temptation : 1 Corinthians 10:6-13; James 1:12-16
God answers prayer : John 15:7
God gives peace of mind : Philippians 4:6,7
God guides us : Psalm 32:8,9 
God relieves us from suffering : 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
God gives us rest : Matthew 11:28,29

I not only need to be reminded of these promises by God, I need to accept them for myself!  When there are days I feel alone, tired, scatter-brained, weak, etc. this blog list will be a handy tool for me (and maybe for you too) where in the Bible these above promises live.  

11 February 2010

Peripety? What the heck does that mean?

According to Dictionary.com the definition of peripety is a sudden turn of events or an unexpected reversal (especially in a literary work).   I came across this word during a Beth Moore Bible study (Esther) video that I saw the other morning.  In all my 36 years here on this earth I have never heard of this word (but I bet there are plenty of words that I've never heard before...).  Side note: this strange sounding word makes me want to sing "Parumpapapum"!

I thought it was interesting to hear Beth Moore- in all her southern glorious accent talk about most people not being able to recognize a divine peripety in their own lives!  I, on the other hand, was immediately drawn to the event of all events that completely reversed the path I was headed down!  The event in question occurred back in August 2004 and I would have to pinpoint it right down to hearing these words uttered to me, "I can't find the baby's heartbeat".  That hinge in my life was like getting smacked in the face by a swinging door- stunning and  shocking!  But if I had never miscarried, the event leading up to my suicide attempt, then my divorce, and finally my surrender to God would not have turned me around!  You see, I wasn't really walking down the path God chose for me, I was creating my own path, stubborn as I was, finding myself unfulfilled in a Godless marriage and dancing with the devil.

Today I see things differently... it was then that I was lost, blind, mute, and deaf.  Today I have abundant life flowing through me.  A life filled with Christ, living for Him and not for myself.  

My favorite Scripture verse is Jeremiah 29:11 - 

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

What at first appeared to me as "harm" actually became hope, His hope and a future to be in heaven with Him!

03 February 2010

The Fingerprints of God

I woke up this morning, thinking about how faithful God has been to me, protecting me from many potential disasters...

I shared my testimony at The Gathering last Thursday and added to my story that even before I knew God, He was there protecting me... I had life-saving, emergency surgery at 3 days old to correct a mal-rotation of my intestines, which if I didn't have the surgery I would have surely died from malnutrition (since I was unable to keep any food down).  And while the doctors had me open they removed my appendix which was on the wrong side.

What came to mind this morning was God's hands of protection around me one summer weekend afternoon while visiting family in Arizona as a young child.  I recall splashing around in some running water across the street from my cousin's house to escape the heat of the hot desert sun!  I, along with my sister and cousins kicked up the running water (where the sidewalk and pavement met) at one another laughing and cooling off at the same time.  When all of a sudden we were across the street, 4 or 5 houses down the block, without a care in the world.  Slowly driving toward us was a man in a brown sedan... something very suspicious stood out about this man.  All my cousins and sister ran home before I knew what was going on.  God made me aware that I was needing to find a safe haven, that this man could be dangerous so I ran to the nearest house!  Ringing the doorbell and frantically knocking at a neighbor's door, I was shielded by tall trees that blocked the view from the street, but no one answered.  I was so scared and didn't know what else to do...

I finally heard my aunt from across the street telling me it was safe to cross the street and come back home.  As the story goes, all the kids ran home and told my aunt there was a car creeping down the block and I was still outside.  She went outside to the edge of her lawn with hands on her hips, staring down the man in the car -  daring him to be on his way!

There is more evidence in my life that God has always been there and it makes me wonder about the things I don't know that He has spared me and protected me from?  If my life was a crime scene, I'm sure God's fingerprints would be all over my life!

26 January 2010

Being A Resident In The City Of Pessimism...

Being a resident in the city of Pessimism has its challenges!  At first glance, pessimism seems like an easy way of life, but I'm here to tell you it is not!  Negativity, hopelessness, and acedia are serious conditions led on by spiritual warfare.  I don't know about you, but to me negativity comes effortlessly.  Why?  For me, it's a means of self-protection.  

I haven't heard God's voice, but I have heard Satan's (negative voice) and it sounds a lot like my own voice!  I realize I must choose to not listen to that voice but have an awareness of what God is saying (because He is speaking to me) by the way He moves within me (through my heart) and for me, that equates to a feeling deep inside- nothing audible.  I must say, "hearing" speaks louder than "feeling".

Thankfully, the fruit of the Spirit is a free gift to us - those who have accepted Christ as their Savior.  And part of that fruit is joy - God's joy!  Joy can't live in the city of Pessimism because it is a polar opposite of God goodness, therefore we must fight and not give in to Satan's ploys to strip us of that joy.

On occasion I find myself not choosing joy because I don't want to get hurt!  I know I'm wrongfully equating my circumstances with whether or not I am joyful.  Why can't my eternal salvation be the focus of all my circumstances and thus be filled with joy?  I speak to God about this particular struggle and pray for a new mindset when it comes to the topic of joy.

20 January 2010

Mammoth Retreat '10

I was so excited for this year's winter retreat with The Gathering... back out to Mammoth for the second year in a row (and for those that know me - I don't get excited easily, in fact that feeling is almost unrecognizable in my life). I had my bags packed the Monday before we left (and we left on Friday)! Last year I didn't really have the winter necessities (clothing & shoes) that would enhance me wanting to be in the cold and snow. But this year, I was prepared to thoroughly enjoy the cold (either buying or borrowing goodies). For the first time ever I thought to myself, I could live in a place that had snow (I'm not so sure about driving in it though)! The beauty of God's creation was so humbling and inspirational that I didn't want to leave. And due to the big snow storm coming in we had to leave a day early. I was sooooo bummed!

This year's topic for the winter retreat was FAITH (Faith That Can Move Mammoth Mountains)! The first night was about "mustard seed sized faith". Learning that

  1. My faith results in obedience.
  2. My faith results in trusting God's faithfulness. ==> not trusting in myself, but in a Great God
  3. My faith results in eternity with God.
Faith is equated with trust and belief.

The second night I was challenged to believe "Did God Really Say...?"

The lesson brought to my mind Beth Moore's, "Believing God" Bible study I did a year ago (or so). Believing God for what He says and for who He is, not just believing in God (His existence). Even Satan believes in God and it's our sin that tells us that God isn't enough, which is what Satan is hoping for because he wants to steal our lives away from God and rob us of the fullness of life that God gives to us. Being totally honest with myself, there are areas in my life where I struggle to believe God - it's usually in 'fear-based' areas where this struggle occurs.

This year I want to get real with God and myself and break free from these fears and begin exercising more faith-based actions and decisions.