Deutschland #8… a Thursday

DAY 7, Part Deux –

I left the house around 12:15 p.m. to head over to the home of Levent & Ines  via the Ubahn. One of the most confusing things about using the transit system isn’t figuring out the trains – instead, its deciding which of the 4 exits leaving the underground to take. Each one leads to a different corner of the block, so choosing wrong can mean that you’re exactly opposite of where you wanted to go, & to make it worse, you can’t just ‘cross the street’ to get where you need to be. Instead, you have to go back down into the underground & guesstimate which exit is the correct one. Today, I ended up going to three (yes. 3) different exits, walking up 2 flights of stairs for each, only to find that I’d chosen…. poorly. There’s just some things you don’t know until you memorize them I guess.

My appointment was for 14:00 (2 p.m. for us ‘mericans) & I was running a little early, so I stopped at a pizza place for a slice. Turns out, ordering was simple – the majority of the staff spoke Spanish; while I’m definitely not fluent, I can have a conversation. And so I did. It was nice, & a little bit surreal to be speaking Spanish in Germany. But at least I got the right pizza. I walked across the street to Levent & Ines beautiful big Green Apartment Building, & within a couple of minutes, I was sitting at their kitchen table, watching 1 year old Samuel crawling around the room, stopping every couple seconds to try to figure out just WHO this person was in his house.

Levent & Ines were some of the first people I met when I came back to Frankfurt in March 2005 – they had just been married a year at that time. Over the years, they’ve added two kids to the family, 3 year old Saraya & the aforementioned 1 year old Samuel. The last 6 months have been very stressful on them, as Samuel has had to be hospitalized with an unknown condition that caused a lot of physical issues, including seizures. I can imagine that the strain of that, plus trying to care for another child, plus trying to work must have been overwhelming. We had great talks, & I was very blessed & honored to be able to be with them today, just a few days short of their 10th wedding anniversary.

IMG_1595After hanging out for a couple of hours, Levent needed to leave to pick up Saraya from her kindergarten, so he offered to drop me at the rendezvous point for my next meeting in Bockenheim, a region of Frankfurt I’m pretty familiar with because it is where the German church we have had relationship with, Treffpunkt Leben (TPLF) is located. (The picture to the left is the Bockenheim Tower, an old military/defensive installation set up on the edge of the city to give warning if any danger approached.) Saraya’s kindergarten is bilingual, using both German & Spanish. It was pretty cool to be able to hear the 3-6 year olds speaking both languages, sometimes in the same sentence. One of the students was a little Korean girl – couldn’t have been more than 3 years old, & she was talking to her mother, a mile a minute, in Spanish, about her music & dance class. It was precious.

IMG_1593Levent, Saraya, & I parked & walked to Leipziger Strasse so IMG_1594that they could buy a pastry, then we said our goodbyes, & I headed up the street & towards Kurfuerstenstrasse 14, where TPLF used to meet. A few years ago, the old church building was torn down, & this was built in its place.

IMG_1592I also went by to see if anyone might be at the TPLF office, but it was too late in the day, so I missed everyone. Ended up walking to the Kurfuerstenstrasse Park & sitting on one of the park benches & people watching until it was time to go meet Steve. Walked back to the Ubahn station just in time to catch him – we decided to head back to the park to talk until it was time to meet his wife, Sarah, for dinner. I had never met her (Steve was only engaged when he was in Reno, & they just celebrated their first anniversary last week.)

We had a great time catching up over the events of the last couple years since Steve visited us in Reno – the time almost got away from us. Fortunately, Sarah called & reminded us that she was on her way, so we walked back to Leipzieger Strasse to get dinner at KISH, a Persian restaurant right off of the main street with a great outdoor eating space. That the owner of the restaurant didn’t want us to sit at. He wanted us inside for some reason – didn’t catch it, but I think it had to do with the fact that it was a ‘prime table’ & we were there a little before ‘prime time’ with no reservations. Not that we needed them at that point, as there were a grand total of 5 other people at the place, & there were at least 40 open tables. He finally agreed to seat us outside, & brought us menus. The food followed quickly.

And then the rain started. It began with rolling thunder & a light sprinkle.

That lasted for about 10 minutes – we were protected from the rain by a large sun shade, so we didn’t think we had to worry about anything. Until the rain began to fall in earnest. Sideways. After a couple minutes of trying to ‘weather’ the weather, we gave up & took our food inside to an open table. And we watched the lightning show. And the rain falling, harder & harder until it seemed like the downpour rivaled the hurricane theBean & I endured in the summer of ’94. Ok, it wasn’t that bad, but I had no umbrella & I forgot my rain jacket at home. IMG_1597

We finished dinner & tea, all the while hoping for a brief respite that would allow us to walk the 1/2 mile or so to the Ubahn station. It didn’t happen, so we decided to make a run for it. By the time we hit the station, I was soaked. But it was a warm rain.

Said goodbye to the Greenhills at the main U station, & we went our separate ways. Fortunately,  I had a beautiful walk home from the station near Alex & Linda’s. I tried to be as quiet as possible so I wouldn’t wake them if they were sleeping, yet somehow in my attempt to turn off the light outside their front door, I managed to ring their doorbell, making their giant Rhodesian Ridgeback bark at the sudden noise. Smooth. Very smooth.

Alex was just finishing a workout, & Linda didn’t wake up, so my faux pas wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Took out my contacts & headed towards bed, & took a couple of minutes to catch up on emails that couldn’t wait to be dealt with until later. It was a great day.

As I think about my yesterday (Thursday) on  this fine morning (Friday, about 10:40 a.m.) I’m musing on how much has changed since I was last here almost 4 years ago. In me. In others. And it feels really good to know that in the middle of all of that, we still have something very, very important: Friendship.

Thank you for praying. Blessings to you.


Deutschland #7+

DAY 7 –
I have to confess, I’m a little discombobulated & am not really sure what day it is… either of the week or the # of days I’ve been in Germany. I do know that this day was my last with Julia’s family. Woke up early & drank coffee & spent the day with Julia talking about everything. And nothing. Made our way to a favorite spot of hers in beautiful downtown Achern, the RatKeller, which literally means, “the advice cellar” as it used to be a place where the local politicians gathered to share information. I ordered “Grandma’s potato soup” & a salad. The soup was inedibly salty – when I told the waitress, she shrugged & said, “The cook must be in love,” which evidently is an acceptable explanation as to why it was ok for me to be served the Great Salt Lake with potatoes… & pay for it.

The family Kern came home just in time for me to depart for the train station. What a special family. Saying “goodbye” is tough – it makes me sad, but thankful to have such wonderful people in my life. Pia (Julia’s mom) told me next time I come to their region, I will have to stay with Julia & her husband, who is not currently in the picture :). Yes, that would be nice. I’m praying for him right NOW. And if I need to export an American who wants to live in Germany & marry a beautiful, smart, & confident woman, I will do it. :)

The train trip from Baden-Baden to Frankfurt was fast & uneventful. Jumped on the U-Bahn & made it to the grocery story meeting place where Alex picked me up so I wouldn’t have to walk in the rain. We made it home just in time for a phenomenal dinner Linda made for us – it was several different types of sweet potatoes baked with peaches, chilis, shallots, & radishes, along with some red-wine vinegar & balsamic, acoompanied by carmelized bacon-wrapped dates. Dessert was a coconut milk-vanilla pudding with rose-water & Johannes berries, a tart berry that added a great kick to the dessert. Fan-TASTIC. Alex & Linda usually eat paleo-style, & Linda is ultra-creative when it comes to making great-tasting & very healthy foods. Alex & Linda remind me a lot of Colby & Claire in so many ways, (interests, gifts, personality, etc…) & I dream of eating a dinner prepared by Claire & Linda one day. It shall happen, I declare.

I was pretty wiped out from staying up so late the previous night celebrating the German victory that I headed to bed fairly early for a night of fitful sleep.


DAY 8?

Woke up this morning just in time to wish theBean a good night’s sleep. Sigh. Coffee & good talks, along with another great meal – omelette, proschutto, salad, a corn muffin & banana-crumble. Goodness.

It’s about 11:27 a.m. & I will be heading out in just a few minutes. My appointments today include Levent & Ines this afternoon, then Steve Greenhill this evening. I am looking forward to meeting Levent & Ines’ 2 kids for the first time, & celebrating their anniversary with them. And I haven’t seen Steve since he got married. I’ve got a feeling today is going to be great.

Talk to you soon – many blessings to you, & thank you for praying.

I saw a line today…

The line stretched out into the street, so far from its origin I couldn’t tell where it began. It was growing steadily; I stopped counting at 75 people. Those in the line were all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages. They weren’t talking to each other, but had the resigned look of people on an elevator (you know the look. I’m pretending I’m not here. But I have to be. If I look up, vacantly, I don’t have to interact.) The only exceptions to the ‘no talking’ were those that had been engaged by what appeared to me to be reporters. There were 3 or 4 significantly better dressed & made up questioners with clipboards & notepads, hastily recording the results of their short interactions, then picking out another person in the line to talk to.

I was intrigued; why are all these people standing in line in the middle of the day? Rather than go up to someone in the line, or ask a passerby, (which would require actually talking to & interacting with someone I don’t know, a stranger, a behavior I am not oft known to engage in,) I decided to do a little investigation to see if I could figure it out myself. Got out of the car & wandered in the direction of the headwaters of the mass of humanity queued around the block.

I had taken 3 steps when it hit me.

I know that building.

St. Vincents.

Middle of the day.


Everyone was standing in line so they could get something to eat.

My eyes scanned the people in line again, this time looking at faces, individuals, people. They look like my neighbors. Like the people I run into all over this big/little city. Definitely not matching up with the tired stereotype of the grubby-toothless-homeless dude.

Men. Women. Children. Grandparents. Wanna-be gangstas.

Waiting for lunch.

I prayed that St. Vincent’s wouldn’t run out of food today.

Climbed back in my car, realizing that something had happened to me in that brief moment. Still not sure what it was. Feels significant, but I’m too close to the trees to see the forest.

Decided just to head back to the office & not get lunch; to skip it today.
I have a choice to do that, whether or not I eat at midday.

Others don’t.

Day 11 & 12 – Deutschland Fall 2010 – Ottersweier & other fun things to say…

Day 11 –
After a great evening of being wined & dined by the Kern family, I slept great. Woke up to coffee & a small German breakfast with lightly sweet bread & homemade quitten geili mit amaretto (aka: quince berry jelly, with amaretto.) Oh so tasty. I ate waaaaay more than I normally would on a Sunday morning just because it was So. Good.

Julia took me to the church in Otterweier – it is the only “free” (non-Catholic/Lutheran) church in the village, & the building itself faces a mammon twin-spired Catholic church. The Arche Ottersweier (Julia’s church) has been in existence for 8 years, & has grown to about 50 people, a testimony to the goodness of God, prayer, & the faithfulness of pastor Roland. It is almost impossible to explain the missionary task that they face – attempting to live out a living, vibrant, loving, gospel-declaring faith in a manner & context that makes no sense in comparison to the traditional way of how things are… it’s not uncommon for church goers in the state churches (& Catholic) to not ever have heard, let alone understood, the news that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was resurrected from the dead, & now sits at the right hand of God the Father. People haven’t heard that salvation is necessary, let alone available to all who would believe, repent from sin, & turn to God through Christ. Roland (& others) are attempting to live out simple, faithful lives, aiming for reaching the next generation with a clear picture of Christ. It’s a life-long vision, which stands in stark contrast to the ‘microwave faith’ culture of a desire for immediate gratification that the Western church can often epitomize.

Julia did a great job translating me – we hung out with the church after the service, & I had the privilege of talking & praying with several people that really just wanted to pray for boldness – that they would live as witnesses for Christ, & not grow weary. It humbles me to think about it.

Headed back to the Kern house for food – & Goodness! there was food. Julia’s grandparents came over – he was quite the character & from the time he arrived until he went home 6 hours later, he didn’t cease to give me a good-natured hard time, going into painstaking detail about why Germany is better than America. Good times. Took a brief nap after dessert, then the whole family went for a walk in the nearby vineyards, (some of which had provided the wine we had last night. Cool stuff.) The vineyards are laid out on hills in ways that defy gravity, & left me wondering HOW the vinzer (vintner) would go about harvesting & caring for the grapes. We walked for about 90 minutes at a leisurely pace; the highlights were 3 generations of family humor, an amazing sunset (the top picture in this post,) & Heiko, the boyfriend of Linda, Julia’s older sister; he wore his Nevada t-shirt proudly, a relic from his visit to the states in 9/2008.

In the evening, I was invited out to dinner by Roland & his regional overseer, Jochen (who I last saw at the Foursquare Convention in Atlanta in May, where we had lunch.) They took me to a local restaurant called, “Blume” – which means flower – & we all got Amerikan Rumpsteak & Paulaner, the world’s best hefeweizen. And it was great, & came with a huge plate of french fries.

We ate to our heart’s content; I was really encouraged talking with the two of them about their strategy for the region – they live in an area made up of small villages – so, they’re attempting to plant smaller, relationship-based churches that share resources. Each one has a pastor, & each church is ‘autonomous’ – but they all intentionally choose to work together, to cover each other with a layer of relationship & accountability that insures no one (& no church) is isolated or solo. Great ideas that left me with all sorts of ideas & inspiration.

Made it back to the Kern’s in time for some late night hanging out & prayer; giving thanks to God for the budding relationship & friendship between us, celebrating the commonality we share with other people who follow Christ. Truly precious.

Day 12 –
Today was a travel day, meaning Julia & I had to head to the train station by 9 so we could make our way north, me to Mainz, Julia to Frankfurt; she’s flying to Norway Tuesday to visit her sister & her family. After a goodbye at the train station, Julia & I navigated our way through the maze & haze that is the DB (German train system.) Our 2nd train connection was randomly canceled, so we were escorted to another train, a high speed one that normally you have to pay big $ to ride on. However, we were assured that because our train was canceled, we’d have no trouble. Right. :)

We made it to the first “ticket checkpoint,” about 10 minutes into the train ride & took a tongue-lashing & dressing down from an uptight DB agent. Fortunately, we were rescued by a supervisor, but not until we had heard how wrong we were to be on such a fast train without having paid the extra money for the extra speed. Good times.

Said a tearful goodbye to our dear Julia, made my way to my meeting point with Jan, the pastor of enChristo church & National leader of Foursquare Deutschland. Normally we do pizza together, but he spared me the anguish of yet Another trip to Italy by taking me to a favorite Chinese place he frequents.

We had deep talks about the state of Foursquare in the US, as well as what is happening in Germany. Good stuff. Both of us were plagued with sneezing & coughing fits, so lots of hot tea was consumed, along with our duck in plum sauce, surrounded by vegetables. Yes really. Can you hear that? It’s me! I’m growing.

Caught the train back to Frankfurt, & walked the last couple blocks to Eddy & Laura’s in the hardest rain I’ve ever experienced in Germany. I was absolutely soaked by the time I arrived. Changed out of my wet things & into my Reed hoodie & sweats, & warm, dry socks. Ahh. Comfort. Hot tea helped too.

Just packing tonight, then heading out with Levent & Ines as soon as I post this. We’re going to grab some Turkish food & celebrate their pregnancy. Ines is about 7 months along if my counting of weeks is accurate.

I absolutely cannot wait to come home & see my family. Hug myBean. Be with my church family at Hillside. Celebrate a good trip with lots of answered prayers. Sleep in my own bed.

Booyah! And thank you. I am grateful, & filled with thanks tonight.

Blessings to you.

Day 6 – Deutschland 2010

Day 6 –

I woke up this morning mostly rested, with enough time to shave & shower today (hooray!) Headed out with Eddy & Laura to the youth hostel where the conference is being held. Fortunately, we arrived in time for breakfast – which for me means copious amounts of German coffee, & mueslix (kind of a home made granola,) with cherry quark (kinda like yogurt, except creamier, with no fake sugar aftertaste.) Unbelievable.

We all gathered together for worship & teaching – Volker Heitz  talked from Matthew 14 (from the story about the feeding of the multitude with the 2 fish & 5 loaves of bread,) as well as from John 2 (Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding.)

What stood out to me from Matthew 14:

  • Don’t focus on what you DON’T have, but rather on what you DO have: God will use it & will multiply it
  • Faith is trusting that what God has provided will be enough for you to do what God asks of you
  • Be thankful for what you have – complaining poisons your heart & makes your eyes bad… & even what you have will be lost

John 2 –

  • A shortage or lack is an opportunity for a miracle (Mary saw this)
  • The only way a miracle ‘fails’ is if the workers don’t obey (no faith)
  • Thankfulness & faith gives Jesus room to work

We weren’t going home during the afternoon break, so Steve & I decided to take a walk through the streets of old Bad Homburg. I got a chance to know Steve better & hear his story. He’s ‘bent’ toward the area of evangelism & worship – & has an incredible sense of humor that keeps everyone around him laughing. He’s truly a joy to be around.

I ate lunch with a couple of pastors that are from an independent church that is in the process of exploring whether or not they will become a Foursquare Church. In Germany, that process takes a couple of years & has several defined phases. At any time during any of the phases, its possible for either one or both parties (the church & the Foursquare Deutschland leadership) to stop the process completely or to put it on hold. The Foursquare leadership really wants to make sure that any non-denominational church thinking of joining the movement really understands what it is they’re doing – what the ‘DNA’ of Foursquare is, & what it means to be in relationship & accountability with the other churches & leadership.

The couple I was talking to asked a lot of questions about Foursquare history in the US; they were especially interested in knowing about Aimee Semple McPherson & the stance of the Foursquare Church towards Germany during World War 2. Fortunately, I have collected a few publications over the years that were produced by Foursquare in the ‘war years’ & was able to communicate that Foursquare was staunchly anti-Nazi, but for the German people. And since I’ve been around the Foursquare world a while, I was able to pass on some interesting stories that helped clarify some thought processes they’re working through. They also loved that Joni’s paternal grandparents were married by Sister Aimee, a fact that earned me some ‘Oooohs’ & ‘Ahhhhhs’.

This evening is the traditional celebration banquet, though instead of eating at the hostel as we usually do (& have done over the past few years worth of conferences,) we’re being shuttled to a nice restaurant in one of the nearby castle. (I must be tired because I’m cracking up at the idea of there being a plethora of castles nearby. Castles. We don’t really have those at home.)

I had the opportunity (& the invitations) to set up a few meetings over the weekend & Monday – I’m thankful for the increased favor that I continue to experience, & the opportunity to give input to & encourage pastors in their work & in their families. Its especially cool when something I’ve lived through can be used to help others.

Dinner was great & the fellowship was priceless. Life is beautiful.

Green Stuff, Hezekiah, a new coffee gadget, & other musings…

Last week, theBean decided to try to cook a couple more times than usual – & found her inspiration in the Rachael Ray magazine. This has meant trying to marry the ‘adventure’ of new foods (& familiar ones prepared in the not usual way,) with being economical & wise with the food budget. (Cause really- is it really gonna break the recipe to not use the organic ingredients? Really? But I digress.)

Normally, I’m not a big fan of change when it comes to food – & I must admit that I have been known on occasion to resemble the proverbial stick in the mud. However, it’s amazing what a good attitude & a ‘setting of the will’ can do. And the meals theBean is creating have been amazing. Last night we had Jalapeño Bacon Avocado Burgers, with a cheesy-Jalapeño ‘sauce’ (the ‘ ‘ around the word sauce are because I have no idea what it really should be called. It was sauce-like. But thicker. Saucy even, about the consistency of ketchup, but white. Ish.) Between the burger & the sauce was Green Stuff. Cilantro. Diced avocado. Not sure what else.

I’m not usually a fan of Green Stuff (other than lettuce & broccoli,) but I set my will to eat the food, & I didn’t taste the Green Stuff, at least in a negative way. You know what I mean – like when you taste a food & just wait for the punch line… the moment when the ‘yuck’ taste hits the taste buds & one has the OK to spit the food into the trash. It never happened. I must be growing. Hmm.

Got to watch a great Giants/Dodgers game last night. Not a pitchers duel, or a great performance by Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum – but a victory for the Giants. Over the Dodgers. And Giants victories over the Dodgers are worth about 3 regular victories in my mind.

Brother got an Aeropress. I think it was for his birthday last week. More than just Another Novelty Coffee item, it makes a great cup of coffee. And is fun to use. And easy to clean up after using. Unlike my French press, which is so messy that I have to psych myself up to actually make coffee in it. Not that the coffee in the French press isn’t good; the mess is a big deterrent. And there aren’t many sights (& smells) worse than finding the still-messy French press 2 weeks after the last time it was used. Trust me on that.

Over the last week, I’ve been reading in Isaiah, 2Kings, & 2Chronicles – today was the ‘perfect storm’ – all 3 passages I read dealt with the same story & events: the Assyrian threat against Israel & King Hezekiah, & Hezekiah’s response. (FYI: the passages are Isaiah 36 & 37; 2Kings 18 & 19; & 2Chronicles 32.)

What really jumped out at me was the Assyrian attempt to incite Israel to leave their land (God-given inheritance) through threats, fear, & intimidation. Threatening all sorts of mayhem. Promising that they (the Assyrians) would do such damage to Jerusalem that there would literally be nothing for the Israelites to eat except their own waste & filth. Trying to intimidate the masses with booming broadcasts of doom & gloom to all within earshot. Writing letters to the king, detailing the coming destruction.

And Hezekiah’s response? He took one of the letters he’d received & went into the temple. There he laid the letter out before the LORD & prayed:

Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.”

And the LORD delivered Hezekiah & Israel.

I felt gently convicted… knowing that my response to real/perceived lack, threats of doom & gloom, & even the unknown, can be to worry. Be anxious. To run through all the potential bad things, worst case scenarios, that could happen.

Hezekiah prayed. Reflected on God’s promises for provision. Protection. Hope. Deliverance.

In my minds eye, I get the picture of Hezekiah in the temple, kneeling before the LORD with the threatening letter on the ground in front of them – & Hezekiah crying out, “LORD, have You READ this? Have You heard what they’re saying about us? About YOU? What are You going to do about this?

God hears. And responds. And He still does today.

Deutschland Travels, Spring 2010, Day #6

I’m sitting at the desk in the office/guest room of Eddy & Laura, my home for the next 8 or so days that I’m in Frankfurt. The sounds of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” (check out it HERE) are ringing in my ears, accompanying the pealing of the bells of the beautiful Catholic church across the street. Just finished my studies for the speech I’ll be giving tomorrow as a part of the TPLF Sunday morning gathering. What an incredible day I’ve had.

I was so tired last night that I staggered into bed after homemade pizza & a couple episodes of Veggie Tales with the family. TheBean & I texted back & forth a bit, then I fell into unconscious slumber around 9:30 my time (if my last text was any indicator of an accurate time.) Woke up this morning at 8:30, feeling very refreshed. Thanks to Eddy, I had some great coffee & set about to try & blog, only to find that my site was temporarily down. No matter. Emails & my 4 fantasy baseball teams beckoned for attention.

I was excited – my dear friends Martin & Sandra were coming to pick me up & take me to breakfast… last November, I was hoping to see them, but due to some illnesses, it didn’t work out. With eager anticipation I waited… & when they arrived, I could barely contain myself for all the joy I felt at this reunion!

We walked the short walk to the cafe, dodging rain drops & catching up on the events & happenings of the recent past. It seemed like only a few moments before we were darting into the cafe next to the White Tower (no, LOTR nerd – not Saruman’s tower, the Bockenheim Tower.) Turns out it was a 10Euro, all you can eat breakfast from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. And can I get a “BOOYAH!” Goodness.

All of my favorite things were there – quark, blueberry & peach yogurt, fresh fruit, croissants, bacon & eggs, you name it. Sigh. We ate. And talked. And ate some more.

What fun to catch up talking – German & American politics; music (Sandra is a Dr. of Musicology with her very own Ph.D to boot,) food, families, church, forgiveness, marriage, parenting, & the list goes on.

Finally, we wrapped up our feasting, & decided to take a walk to try to cope with the copious amounts of food consumed. Went through various parks & small gardens, seamlessly navigating from topic to topic, one moment laughing hysterically, the next on the brink of tears. It was Awesome with a capital A.

Too soon, the morning came to a close as they dropped me back at La Casa de Dueck. Eddy & I spent some significant time discussing our ideas for the Sunday speech; I really wanted to hear what his heart is for me to communicate in TPLF. We had “coffee & snack time,” which only augmented the back & forth.

Eddy left me to finish my studies, & the family headed out into the garden (backyard) to play – the sounds of their laughing & fun brought a great deal of joy to me. I especially love hearing 2 year old Max call his brother Elliott by name. He says it with a lilting, “EllioTTT!” that always reminds me of the movie E.T. Truly good times.

Dinner is happening any minute. I’m savoring today, both the memories made, & those to come.

Yet more reminders that life is beautiful…

Heard the news from Sister, & have been watching the news & reading the occasional PB Article, wondering if & when I would hear the ‘bad news’ that my snack of choice, Skippy Extra Chunky Peanut Butter was on the roll-call of salmonella laced products. Alas, nothing yet.

And so, today, I celebrate with a spoon, a jumbo jar of Skippy, a plethora of Hershey’s semi-sweets, & a fresh-pressed cup of java. Ahh. Life is beautiful.

And if that wasn’t enough to bring me joy… all I have to do is walk into my office, & more often than not, meine Nichte, Ellie, is usually around to bring joy, a steady stream of yet unintelligible words, & a unstoppable quest for nanananana… here she is sitting at my desk reading my Bible… Ahh. Again….life is beautiful…

Last Saturday was the Memorial service for Francisco Aranda. I spent the majority of the time at the memorial cracking up over memories… discussions, my attempts to practice Spanish, stories about pre-Disneyland Anaheim, & my favorite, Francisco’s very practical take on theology… I’m truly happy that we have a hope past just what this life offers, as well as the promise that we’ll see each other again. His family has put together a memorial website & online guestbook – check it out HERE.


I’m on a diet. I know that the word “diet” is loaded with all kinds of meaning & baggage, but for me, it’s how I eat – & a specific food group that will become a part of my ‘food world.’ (My term probably. I like it for its descriptiveness… it speaks a lot of how small the actual pool of potential edibles is in my world.)

Anyway, over time, I have discovered that there are certain foods that don’t sit well in my belly. Dairy products. Like ice-cream. Mostly ice-cream. Milk. I end up with all kinds of negative side affects, which are better left undescribed. These only have kicked in over the last 3-5 years, so it’s not like I’ve been lactose intolerant my whole life, only to finally realize it. High sugar foods, like any good dessert – hot fudge, cheesecake, monkey bread, 6 layer double fudge cake, etc…, combined with high carbohydrate refined flours & sugars, cause me to have a near-catastrophic response in my blood sugar. And even if they didn’t, they left me feeling blah, sick to my stomach, & generally grumpus-like… all of this I had thought was just normal, par for the course response to food. You eat it, then you get this response. Turns out, not everybody has that kind of a deal with food. So, I modified my approach – if it doesn’t make me feel sick, angry, & doesn’t taste like dren…

A few years back, the Atkins Diet was all the rage. I was a few pounds heavier than my fighting weight, & my 30th birthday was fast approaching, so I thought I’d at least look into this ‘diet’ & see what it would entail… cutting out refined sugars & flours… avoiding trans fats… avoiding ‘high carbohydrate’ food… eating foods high in protein. Like meat. Sausages. Chicken. Pork. Meat. Did I mention meat? And good cheese. And I thought this was a diet. It sounded like my preferred means of nutrition. So I went ‘on’ the diet, & lost 35 pounds. The only things I missed eating were cookie dough, breakfast cereal (but milk was ok to miss) & the occasional dessert, like cake. Or ice-cream, which made me sick anyway. Some people were “Atkins haters” & some nutritionists said it was bad to eat that way, but my experience & my body told me a different story. And, yes, my cholesterol was measured at 141 – 70 for the ldl, 71 for the Hdl…

The next several years of my life involved eating what I referred to as a “modified Atkins’ meaning – I ate what I wanted, mostly high in protein, & low in refined sugars & flours. It was the ‘best’ time of life – where if I felt like eating something that wasn’t on the diet, I ate it, then resumed my regular routine.

Our church family went on 2 40 day fasts – not total fasts, but fasts that involved not eating meats or the ‘nice parts’ of meals – it was a part of something our denomination was doing at the time… so I participated, & in a short time, eating cereals, bagels, veggies, whole grains, & yogurt, had managed to put back on all the weight I had lost. Sigh.

Fast forward to May 16 of this year. I had been thinking about me & how I great I felt when I had been “Atkins-ing.” My pounds were still lurking, the residue of my 3 months (& then some) of special high-carb eating… I wanted them to go away – so I decided that for me, eating what I want in the manner I want was the way to go. So I’ve been doing the modified Atkins again since then, & the results have been what I expected. About 15 pounds gone. Feeling good in my body, soul, & mind. Enjoying the indulgence of life’s little pleasures like Spam, Flaming Hot Pork Skins, Louisiana Hot Links, broccoli, & Sharp Cheddar cheese.

I take vitamins. I work out 4x a week. I eat food that is high-protein/low carb, & I drink water like my life depends on it. (I know, I know. It does. But you get what I mean.) And my ‘diet’ is the way I want to eat. The way I feel best when I eat. And yes, I will occasionally mix in a dessert… It makes me think that for all the nutritional studies publishing what’s good, bad, & ugly for us to consume, there’s a lot of generalizations in those studies, & one of the best things we can do is find out what fuel our body likes best & functions best on…

But you can do what you like. I’m going to have a 2-egg Spam omelette with Taco Bell Fire Sauce & some great cheddar…