19 December 2011


I spotted her walking onto the platform, the opposite side of the tracks from me at the Beaverton transit center. She stuck out with her well coiffed hair of white, set off by the lovely dark turquoise blue scarf around her neck - the only color in her all black outfit. She wore a black pea coat jacket, black slacks, flat black dress shoes, black nylons and carried a black patent purse. She did not fit with the rest of us commuting on the MAX in the frosty morning air. She was elegant, refined  - and I couldn't stop watching her.

We boarded the same car of the train. As I stood at the opposite end with my earbuds in, Christmas music entertaining me on the ride. I continually glanced down the aisle to where she sat, trying not to stare. What connected me to her? What drew me to her? I wanted to sit down beside her and hear the story of her life. I tried to be rationale, that appearances can be deceiving, behind the demeanor that I envied for it's polish and poise, she could be venting poisonous words silently at the young street kids who sat beside her in their tattered clothes, talking loud and crassly. Maybe they didn't even register with her, because she was wondering why the girl in the black coat with red earbuds was staring at her. The grip on her purse remained tight and her gaze forward the whole trip.

She exited at the Galleria stop. As we pulled away I looked for her, to see which direction she went, hoping for a clue about her. I spotted the turquoise scarf as she walked along the sidewalk, in the direction of Nordstrom's. Ah, that would make sense. I could see her working there, lending her class and refinement to the perfume counter. I am tempted to go to Nordstrom's on my lunch break to see if I can spot her, but that is just too stalkerish, even for me. But why has this woman captivated my attention? The answer comes slowly. She reminds me of my grandmothers - both of them - with their well-behaved, regal presence, and I miss them.

02 December 2011

Tiredness is a Master Thief


Tired. Weary. Exhausted.
Bone-crushing, mind-numbing, joy-stealing, anxiety-growing - tired.

And so I caffeinate. Sacrifice much needed sleep in order to keep my crazy schedule. Substitute coffee for water, for Living Water, so that one more thing can be done, one more commitment kept, one more, one more.

But what have I done this week for the One. The One who is my only audience. The One who this Advent season is preparing for, and is my tired hectic self preparing for him? I'm too tired.

Yet, there is grace and comfort. While my anxious heart constricts so hard I hunch my shoulders over to ease the tension, Christ is there asking for me to trust him with my burdens.


If I am too tired for the One and Only, then something is really out of whack. Father, show me how to find rest & rest in You.

30 November 2011

Christmas Mystery

{note: this post was started November 30th, and published December 23rd. Yes, it has taken me this long to finish it.} 
I have searched to no avail. It has disappeared. There is no sign of it. What has gone AWOL you ask? Nothing less than my all-time favorite Christmas album! Tragedy, right? How can I start the season, the merriment, the festivities without the tunes from Downhere? I searched through all my Christmas CDs and it isn't there. I looked on the rack on the play closet door- not there either. I checked the door pockets of my car; the only Christmas album there is the soundtrack to Elf, which is enjoyable but it isn't Downhere.

Now you may be thinking, 'Come on, Jennifer! It is just ONE album, just a few songs. And haven't you mentioned before that you have a Christmas music addiction? I'm sure you have plenty.'

It's true. I do have a slight addiction to Christmas music; I have to limit myself on new purchases each year. I do have plenty of holiday tunes - nearly two days worth. There may be thirteen different renditions of "White Christmas" in my iTunes library. But right now, there is no "How Many Kings." And that makes me very sad.

How Many Kings
Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe, after all we've projected,
A child in a manger?
Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother's shawl -
Just a child -
Is this who we've waited for? 'cause...

How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that is torn all apart
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior
All that we have, whether costly or meek
Because we believe.
Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure
And myrrh for the cross he will suffer
Do you believe?
Is this who we've waited for?

All for me...
All for you...
[from http://www.lyricsmania.com] 

This song speaks to my spirit, reaches right past the frenzy and the frantic, the hurried hustle to get more, do more, be more and whispers truth to my heart. The truth of this season, the miraculous wonder of God the Creator come in the form of the created, to redeem, to love. Advent, a time of expectant waiting, awaiting the Savior's birthday, remembering his first arrival, and looking with hope to the promise of his second coming. As music tames the wild beast, so this song tames my runaway heart and brings it back to the core of Christmas; my heart beats a little more slowly, the expectations matter less, and the wonder at Christ grows. This is why I need to find this album and this song, both of which I listen to year round.

"We are waiting for the glorious coming of Christ. Sometimes the heart yearning for the gift— is part of the gift!" -Ann Voskamp

Christ come down. God of the universe in finite fragile skin. It is a mystery. The greatest mystery of all. One that should be marveled at, anticipated, sought after. Do I seek after the Christ child in the middle of the Christmas season the way I seek after my lost album?
To be honest, I'm bedraggled. The Christmas season has just hit and already I'm frantic, frenzied, and weary. How is this celebrating the miracle of Emmanuel? Ironically, adding to the pressure the most is myself and the need to honor the season. I'm behind in sending out Christmas cards (can I send my horribly belated thank you notes to my supporters of my August mission trip along with my Christmas cards?), I'm behind in decorating, I haven't planned the annual Christmas girls get-together. The pressure mounts as each day slips away and nothing is checked off the to-do list. As my list mocks me, telling me that I am going to miss Christmas if I don't get busy and check off each line, a quiet voice whispers, "Be still."
But will it be Christmas if I don't have the annual party?
If I don't have the party, why decorate?
How depressing not to decorate; might as well skip Christmas.

The whisper returns, "That isn't Christmas. Be still. Abide in me - I am Christmas."

It is now over three weeks since I started this post and I am determined to publish it tonight. This has been a very different Christmas season for me this year. I decided not to have my annual get-together, but did decide to decorate - although the decor is very limited. While it is minimal, it brings me joy. Although there is a shocking lack of twinkle lights which seriously bothers me. Bothers me to the point that I am planning on pressing my dad and brother (and their height) into service when they come over for Christmas dinner to help me hang some strings of lights randomly across my living room. I had every intention of obeying the quiet voice and being still this Christmas season, being quiet so that I could lean into Christ, dwell with Christmas himself. Instead it has been four exhausting, draining, frenzied, emotional, overwhelming weeks. Very little of it, almost none of it, has related to Christmas. Life just sorta hit me broadside at a time of year where the world around burdens us with unbearable expectations. To deal with the messies, I had to decide not to care about the expectations - whether culture or self imposed - and just let the Christmas crazy happen around me. I never got around to Christmas cards, I hardly decorated, no parties were planned, all gifts were purchased online on Cyber Monday so that task would be over and done with, treats for the neighbors have been planned but not executed - they may yet, but not before Christmas, most of my traditions took the year off. (But I did find my album, or at least a digital copy of it on my back-up drive of my work laptop which recently had the hard drive replaced. Yeah, no wonder I had trouble finding it.) I have had none of the typical Christmas cheer and yet, I think I get Christmas more this year. In dealing with the messies I've had to lean hard into Christ to gain perspective and strength. While I have not been still this season, not by a long shot, if I hadn't started this season with the idea of being still my life would have been too full to cope with the broadside hits that unexpectedly came my way. This has been a very unconventional Christmas season for me, but as I reflect on the last four weeks amidst the pain, there has been a richness that I have a hunch will cause me to treasure this year for many to come.

With Christmas Eve beginning in just mere minutes, my Christmas wish for all of you is to know Jesus Christ personally, in new ways, that takes you deeper, grows your love, and expands your awe and wonder at the unlikeliest hero, following his star to unexpected places.

Peace and Joy, Merriest of Christmas - Jennifer

22 November 2011

Twinkle Toes

The black leather bucket chair which had been cool when I first sat down was causing me to sweat as I squirmed. My foot was bouncing up and down nervously; I slap-patted my thigh just like my mother does when she is highly emotional. Tears marked a path down my cheeks as I tried to explain to my counselor how I do not want to make a decision out of fear, that I’m tired of living a life guided by fear. But the fear looms so large and seemingly insurmountable. I want to live a life of faith, of radical, obedient faith, but the fear grips my heart and squeezes tight. I feel paralyzed. Much of my life has been dictated by fear. While God has been gracious to me, I don’t regret the choices and paths I’ve taken, but I do wonder sometimes “what if?” It isn’t helpful, I try to avoid hypothesizing what my life would be like if I had fought through the fear for what seemed like first choice. What if I had applied to Wheaton’s Conservatory of Music? I still doubt whether I would have gotten in, but what if I had? And if I didn’t get stopped by the fear of failing at my dream, of moving far away from home, going to unknown mid-west lands? What if I hadn’t been fearful about moving across the country and quitting the job I had been at for one month and applied to Gordon-Cromwell Seminary? Instead I went to Western, which was good and I don’t regret my time there, but how would life be different if I had gone to Boston? What relationships have I let slip away because I feared to be myself, to be open, to share myself? Fear. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of the unknown. Fear of being known. Fear of change. Fear of hurt. So much fear. I am certain that fear is the main weapon Satan uses to intimidate me. It has been a powerful shaping force in my life, and I fear what my life will be like if I allow it to continue influencing me. 

"If you didn't live by fear, Jennifer, what do you want?"

"I want to live life with gusto!"

I heard myself say it as if someone else had proclaimed it. I sat stunned in wondered silence. Where had that come from? It was exactly what was in my heart that I had not found a way to articulate and express. For years I had been trying to find a way to express my heart cry, the true yearning of my heart as it beat against the cage of fear. The front of my fridge is testament to this, a page from my daily calendar is posted reminding me to "Live Out Loud." Next to it is a bright yellow sticker proclaiming "Live Strong." Rosie the Riveter flexes her arm, showing solidarity that, yes, "We can do it!" My favorite part of the movie "Holiday" is when Kate Winslet's character answers that she has "gumption." While all these resonate with me, they are not my own. What do I want instead of the status quo of living by fear? I want to live with gusto! It feels so good to say it!

2 Timothy 1:7 "for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." (ESV)

To live with gusto, means to live attentive to the Holy Spirit prodding me, nudging me, beckoning me to step out of the shadow of fear into the light of faith, depending on my Holy God to lead - and following. The fear of the unknown, not knowing where the next step might lead keeps me rooted in what feels like safety. I recently read or heard from someplace (I would give credit if I could remember or find it) that the lamp referred to in Psalm 119:105 "Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path." would have been a small clay pot; something about the size of your palm. Something like this:
It would fit into your palm, a flame would come out of the 'spout' from the oil within. Can you imagine the amount of light a lamp like this would produce? I think we can all agree the answer is - "not a whole lot." Yet this is what the Psalmist is comparing to God's Word. While His Word illuminates and shows us the path, it only does so for the next step or two, not the next twenty or hundred and twenty. It shows us our feet, we can know the solid ground on which we stand, we can see the immediate area, but the rest remains shrouded - it isn't for us to know just yet. We must trust the Spirit, step forward in faith, follow His leading, one step at a time, stay close to Him - our shepherd, our guide, our Lord - for He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). There is wisdom in this. I often feel as though I have plopped right down in the middle of the path, stubbornly sitting criss-cross applesauce, refusing to budge until God turns on the high-beams and discloses the path for the next 30 years. Yet if He did that, I know I would see things that scare me more than what my imagination can conjure up where I sit now and I would absolutely refuse to budge. But everything comes in its own season. What may happen in 10 years time, will come with 10 years worth of God preparing me to handle it. All things in their time. And it won't all be hardship and misery, for I honestly believe God takes great joy in us and our delight (Jeremiah 29:11; Zephaniah 3:17; Matthew 7:11).

I want to live life with gusto, going after life, living it with passion and fullness, my heart fully engaged. Breaking old habits and patterns to live from my heart is going to take some practice. It starts with Bob like "baby steps." Shortly after my "gusto" revelation I wrote a list of things I want to do in life for a contest.  It seems like a pretty safe list - either far-fetched, or non-threatening, some are maybe a little silly. But there is one item that, for me, will require courage - learning to dance - #26.

When I was 7 years old, I dropped out of ballet class as soon as my mother would let me. I didn't like being the pudgy klutzy kid who didn't get it, and the teacher was mean. The only school dance I went to from 7th grade until 12th was the "50's dance" in junior high that was at the end of the swing dance unit in gym class. In seminary I had a classmate who would host dance lessons in the basement of his church about once a month, teaching us the waltz, foxtrot, swing, and would organize 'outings' to such places as the Norse Lodge for their dances. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Take note - I enjoyed it; that is not the same as being good. I haven't had much opportunity to dance since then. About a year ago I started going to a class at the gym, "Group Groove" (think modern jazzercise). But not before doing several drive-bys, going for a 'regular' workout about the same time as the class so that I could scope it out through the windows, fearful that I would be out of place, make a fool of myself. The first time I went I staked out a spot in the back corner where no one would see all my missteps. The thing is, a year into this class, I have accepted that I do look like a fool, especially when I try (and fail) to do the running man. But also because of my big goofy grin that spreads from ear to ear because I am having so much fun. The joy I experience has overcome the fears and I keep going to class whenever I can.

Yesterday a Groupon showed up in my inbox for ballet lessons. My first impulse was to buy it. I want to learn ballet, I had it on my list. But then I waffled, my seven year old self and all her fears re-emerging; all the insecurities of old bubbling up and splotching out my excitement. What if I was the only adult? What if I have to wear a leotard and tights? (Yikes!) What if I fail, and I'm just as bad now as I was thirty some years ago? What if I'm foolish looking? Fears and obstacles, trapping my heart. Once at work, I looked at the email again. And closed it down. After grabbing my mid-morning coffee I opened the email again and followed the link to the company website. I found a class called "Absolute Beginning Adult Ballet." I might be able to handle this class, I thought. But then I noticed it is only offered on Sunday and a voice told me it was wrong to do something like a ballet class on Sunday, the Sabbath - it is the Lord's day; 'how can you consider doing something like dancing and working out on a holy day?' I closed the email once again. I never deleted the email, just closed it, my heart was yearning to say "yes" to this opportunity. It wasn't long before I opened the email again, looked at the class listing one more time - yup, still only Sunday - but why should that matter in this instance? I would go hiking on a Sunday. I regularly do races on a Sunday. I fill my Sundays with busyness that is anything but holy. If I do believe that God rejoices in our delight, why wouldn't this be a perfectly wonderful thing to do on a Sunday? Here is an opportunity that will give me joy, delight, and in a strange way help to loosen the shackles of fear around my heart; give me practice at stepping out of the worries and bindings of fear and into my heart desires. A baby step. Or, perhaps, a "glissade en avant" (yeah, I looked that up online) towards living a more open, heart driven life - living with gusto.

I opened up the email one more time and clicked "purchase." A moment later I nearly skipped down the hall as I went to refill my water bottle, grinning the whole way. I am going to take ballet lessons! And if I have to wear a leotard and tights, I'm getting a tutu as well!

Pinned Image
Wherever I go - even into ballet class! 

04 November 2011

Thankful Thanksgiving

On November 1st I started counting down to Thanksgiving, picking just one thing each day to be thankful for and avoiding repetition (if not my list would alternate between my momma and Jon).

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for...

1) My Momma!
2) My Bible study group ladies. What a supportive lovely group.
3) GPS enabled phone for when I get lost in my own town.
4) The chickens and goats I saw on my country walk.
5) Hearing from God.
6) For several people who want to bless the Micah boys with Christmas gifts - even if it is a challenge to pack.
7) Friends who help, friends who speak to my heart, friends who encourage.
8) Jon. He makes me laugh, keeps me entertained, is a good friend. He helps the work flow going. Jon rocks!
9) A packing miracle! Somehow almost everything fit in to my bags. I really don't know how it happened.
10) The salty taste on my lips from kissing the sweaty cheeks and foreheads of Micah boys.
11) A delightful day witnessing two friends become husband and wife.
12) Lives changed. David, Miguel, Wilmer, Arle, and Junior graduated. What an accomplishment! I am so very proud of each one.
13) A day spent with Micah boys is always a day to be thankful. For their lives and the joy they bring to mine.
14) Sometimes, it's the simple things in life - like a good coffee, or two.
15) A furnace that works! Warm clothes to wear on chilly days. My needs are met abundantly.
16) Marvy Jei! You are such an encouragement to me.
17) A friend who shares her Pepto to help get me through the work day with my Teguzy tummy. {blah!}
18) A settlement has been reached between me and the HOA board. It only took 6 months or so.
19) Friends are so dear and treasured, especially the ones who have walked with you for years. 19 and counting with Kim. Tears shed as we share our hearts, precious times.
20) Lunch with Miss Fire-Cracken, and her listening ear greedily eager to hear stories about Micah boys.
21) A wonderful manager. She is funny, witty, thoughtful, an advocate, and just plain cool.
22) Group Groove. It brings me joy and delight to shimmy, cha-cha, mambo, and twirl.
23) That God never stops working on me. His gentle strength continues to refine and bring growth in my life.
24) Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! I get so excited to see the snippets of Broadway shows and watch it every year.

Most of all I am thankful for God the Father, Jesus my Redeemer, and the indwelling Holy Spirit, my family - both of blood and of the heart, and my dear precious friends.

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV)

22 October 2011

Things to do in Life!

I am a list maker. I make lists for nearly everything. So is it any wonder that I have a list of adventures I want to have in life? Of course not! Years ago I started a list of things I want to do with this life - adventures to be had, accomplishments to work towards. 

  1. Take tea at the Savoy in London.
  2. Arrive by train to Portsmouth, England - my grandmother's hometown where her uncle was the station master.
  3. Travel to England by the QM2.
  4. Kiss the Blarney Stone.
  5. Do a walking tour of England and Scotland for a couple months.
  6. Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower
  7. Take a week long baking class at Greystone.
  8. Create the perfect molasses chew cookie.
  9. Visit every continent.
  10. Swim in every major ocean and sea.
  11. Swim with dolphins.
  12. Learn to surf somewhere warm. (Maybe here or if I win, las Olas!)
  13. Have a photo published by National Geographic.
  14. Go on a photo expedition with National Geographic.
  15. Vacation at Wild Wadi.
  16. Learn glass blowing.
  17. Attend an opera at the MET
  18. See a performance by Lyric Opera.
  19. Design and build my own home.
  20. Go on safari and see giraffes, zebras, lions, and ride an elephant. 
  21. Write a children's book series loosely based on my grandfather and have it illustrated by my brother.
  22. Kayak around Polynesian islands with crystal clear water and white sand beaches.
  23. Earn a Ph.D. - I don't know in what, but I want to be a doctor. :)
  24. Ride the Orient Express (and maybe meet Poirot!)
  25. Drive on the autobahn - at high speeds!
  26. Learn to dance - salsa, mambo, tango, swing, waltz, hula, ballet - well! 
  27. Visit Israel (again) and spend a whole day at Yad Veshem this time. 
I'll keep adding to my list periodically - and hopefully I will start crossing things off! Maybe I should have a list of just places I want to see and travel to - I left most of those off, keeping the really important ones. I have goals too - but those are different than life adventures. My goals right now mostly relate to health: run a 5k in under 30 minutes, walk a half-marathon in under 3 hours, get my BMI below 22. 

There is so much in this amazing world to do and see, to learn and explore! One life just isn't enough. Get out there and start living! 

This is my entry in the Just Ask Bucket List Getaway Giveaway. Just Ask offers a breast and ovarian cancer screening and is encouraging people to share 15 things that I want to enjoy in my lifetime as a reminder to be aware of my health. Want to enter? Head over to TodaysMama.com to get the details. 

21 October 2011

What Tells of a Life?

I have been sorting through photos of my recent European adventure over the last week. A co-worker insisted that I put together a slide-show and do a "brown bag" lunch for a small group. I would have resisted but this is also the same co-worker who arranged free lodging with extended relatives in Krakow and lent me two camera lenses for the trip. I could hardly refuse such a simple request after all he had done for me.

The trouble is, I took pictures through my point of view, with my interests in mind, we all do. But as I sort through my 1700 photos I realize what interests me probably isn't very entertaining for others. Photos of my friends, who mean nothing to my co-workers.  Lots of doors and architectural details, kinda geeky. Photos of places that I want to remember for the memories they trigger, but objects that are not too special in their own right (the clock at Ceska for example). I take some fairly random pictures too. I am not very pleased with the bulk of the photos - bad composition, poor lighting, lack of focus. So that eliminated quite a few photos right there, but there should be enough remaining to get through a lunch show n' tell.

In the sorting and sifting I noticed another category of photos that I tend to snap, they are some of my favorites, photos that show life. Faces, hands - the signs of life lived. Pictures taken on the sly.

While on the tram I look down at a woman's hand holding her bag of produce and admire its wrinkled speckled beauty. Noticing the large knuckles and slight deformity, I wonder what has caused it. Perhaps it is rheumatoid arthritis, maybe my hands will look like this in 30 years. What have these hands seen and done? How many potatoes have they peeled? Whose hands have they held? What stories can this woman tell?

These gentlemen intrigued me. The lines on their faces, the dapper hair, the style of clothes. How much have they seen? Have they had trouble negotiating the transition from Communism to Democracy? Are they among the ranks that long for the 'good ol' days'? What yarns could these men spin?

And there are several more photos that I wish I could hear the stories behind the lives represented in the images. But what tells the story of a life? The lines on a face? The scars and marks that remain? What do people think of my life when they look at me? What will they think in 30 years? In 50 years? Can I cultivate a life that creases my cheeks and etches signs of love and joy so that people will look at me and think 'she lives life well.'

Proverbs 27:19 "As water reflects the face, 
   so one’s life reflects the heart."  

And what is in your heart will be reflected on your face. So what does your face say about you? Is it an accurate reflection of your heart? What do you want it to say?

Curious to see more? I uploaded all of my photos (and I do mean all) to Flickr.  I will start to weed out the ridiculous, eventually. For a more condensed overview, check out the slideshow I put together for the brown bag at work. 

16 October 2011

To Catch... His Eye

I had been joking with the cashier, trying my best to break up the routine of his job. I swiped my debit card through the machine and punch my code in and wait for him to finish ringing me up. I don't know why but I glanced up and over. Down three or four check-stands he stood there facing me mimicking my actions, swiping his debit card and entering his pin number. I don't catch his eye, they are staring at the card machine. I freeze. My cashier is telling me something, but I can't track with what he is saying. Has he seen me and is choosing to ignore me? He must have heard me laughing with Terrie, a co-worker I ran into in the nut aisle. Surely, he knows I am here and is choosing to ignore me. Goodness his hair looks lighter, more salt in that salt n' pepper hair. Has the new job made him go gray over the summer? All he is buying is wine. Not surprising. I wonder if he is having a party. Another party I would have heard about but never been invited to. My fingertips seem to remember how soft his hair is and twinge with an urge to feel it again. My head swirls with panicked indecision of whether or not to greet him. But I have done my chasing. I could not catch him. Much more chasing after this one man than any self-respecting woman should have done. No more. I finally understand that the cashier rang up my avocado as another gourd, but it is to my favor and so he hands me my receipt. Desperate to be out of the market I grab my cart with the bag of groceries and bouquet of flowers and head out the door studiously examining my receipt as to avoid eye contact with anyone.  As I lift my bag out of the cart and shove the cart into the holding area I recognize his car beside me and catch a glimpse of him coming down the walk way. I yearn for him to say "hello," to acknowledge me, that is what I've always wanted from him. I walk up to my car, opening up the passenger side door and placing my bag on the floor. Jangling my keys I walk around to the drivers side, glancing down to his white Mercedes where he is likewise putting his bag of wine in the passenger seat. Terrified of him greeting me and yet longing for it, one more chance, I hope to catch his eye. I slide into the drivers seat a mixture of relief and sadness.
(This is not the same grocery store incident as the previous post. Just coincidence.)

A fun writing exercise from The Gypsy Mama.

14 October 2011

Stocking Up

Squirrels store up nuts for winter, similarly I stockpile chocolate.

Yes, you are counting correctly - that is a pile of 6 chocolate bars, 6 different flavors. As the cashier turned his attention to my groceries he quipped, "Someone is stocking up! Or had a really bad day."
I laughed and joked back, "It's been a rough week, a girl has gotta have her chocolate." The guy before me took a step back to check out what I was purchasing before grabbing his bag and leaving. I tried to rationalize my purchase, "These are the only chocolate that are total allergy free for me and since they're on sale, I'm stocking up!" He gave me a funny glance as in, 'What on earth could you be allergic to in a regular bar of chocolate?' And I just thought, 'Oh, honey! We don't have time for me to list it all!' Instead he asked if I had every tried a particular brand - I can't remember what it is now - explaining that it costs $9.00 for a small bar. My eyes got big as saucers, "Really!? What makes it so special?" "I don't know. We sell it, you'll have to check it out next time." After that I took my receipt, my bundle of chocolate and box of tofu and left. (Yes, a box of tofu! Duh! I couldn't buy just chocolate. That would be ridiculous. Plus I needed something for lunch the next day.)

11 October 2011

Dreaming in Purple

I am all woman.  And those internal organs that make me female have been the bane of my existence since puberty hit. They have caused me problems from the time they 'woke up.' It is partly for this reason that I have always had a strong suspicion that I would not be able to get pregnant. (Before I go on, let me clearly say I do not know this as fact - it is just a strong hunch; I don't want to offend those of you who know with certainty.) The idea of being pregnant has never been particularly appealing either. But this is due to vanity. I have always struggled with my weight and the idea of being pregnant and getting fatter yet horrified me (because of course I would never be able to lose the 'baby weight'). The lack of desire to carry a child and the idea that it wasn't likely does not mean I did not have a strong desire to have children - loads of them - it just meant my plan was to adopt. At least one from every continent. In the last few years my opinions had started to change, not about adopting - I still very much want to do that, but about bearing children, about being pregnant. What caused the shift? That annoying cliche, "the biological clock." As I just passed my 38th birthday with nary a date to be had in the last year (or the last 38 for that matter), let alone a spouse, assuming the physical ability to have children - my chances are just about out. I no longer have a choice in the matter, the decision has been made for me. I do not like that the matter was taken out of my hands. This past spring-summer in particular has been a struggle. A struggle to let go of the newly accepted idea of being pregnant. A struggle to let go of the idea of having children at all, ones that I can truly call my own.

The precious Madeleine Sophia
Being a parent is not a right, it is a gift, a precious gift - and one that I will not receive. Yet realizing this has made the children and teens who do allow me to speak into their lives as friend, mentor, "auntie," "mama hennyfir" that much more treasured. A dear friend has taught me a lot about how incredible a gift children are to a family as she and her husband have walked the painful road of miscarriage with all its unmet longing, desire, and questions. And when that road took the uncertain turn towards adoption, I started to learn what an amazing gift a birth mother bestows on a couple. One day in June I sat at my desk completely distracted, fidgeting more than normal, constantly checking  for news. News of a baby to be born. News of a smooth adoption. News that my friend had been blessed with the outrageous gift of life. And when the story of that day was finally told, I cried. Big tears of joy and happiness, mixed with relief, rolled down my smiling cheeks. I have never been so happy for a baby's birth.

When it came time for the baby shower - scheduled for after the birth, just in case the birth mother changed her mind - I knew exactly what to give my friend. Two very adorable dresses had been hanging in my spare closet for the past three years. Dresses I had bought on a whim when the same friend had announced her pregnancy. Even though other friends have had children in that time, little girls too, I could never bear the idea of giving these dresses to anyone else. Hope's embers still glowed, however faintly. It was with delight that I finally took them off the rod and wrapped them in tissue paper. Looking at the size tag I had second thoughts as they may be the wrong season when they are the right size, but hopefully  this lil' girl will be petite like her birth parents and it will all be fine. Behind these two dresses was another little outfit, a romper, the cutest romper I have ever seen.  Look at it, isn't it super cute? I had bought it as a baby gift for a friend. That child should be about 18 by now. I thought the outfit so adorable I couldn't give it away. I decided to keep it for my own baby girl who certainly wouldn't be that far off in the future. For the last 18 years that little purple romper has been my symbol of hope and dreams. Hopes and dreams that were not unanswered, but shifted, and are in the process of being answered in a very different way than anticipated. With some hesitation, reticence and sadness (and a few thousand times of asking God, "Are you sure, really-really sure I won't need this?") I took that outfit, burdened with so much meaning, and added it to my friend's gift. A friend whose hopes and dreams were at long last answered, also in unanticipated ways, but answered in a beautiful brown-eyed way. I really don't know that I could have given the romper to anyone else. It would have been easier to give it to Goodwill, never to be seen again, than to give it to someone who doesn't understand the process of releasing our hopes and dreams and the heart-ache involved, who couldn't appreciate that this was more than just an article of clothing - I was giving part of my heart. As my friend opened my gift I had no regrets about passing on my symbol that I had been holding onto for so long, its time had come to an end for me, I only hoped she liked it as much as I did. I am content, my heart is full, it overflows with love for my boys - my Micah boys - and they would have looked down-right silly in a purple romper meant for a 2-year old girl.

07 October 2011

Movie Review: "The Way"

Wednesday night I lived on the edge and stayed out late - on a work night! Shocking! What did I do in my moment of carefree extravagance? I took my mother to a screening of the movie, The Way, which is being released today. How about that for some wild times! I even sneaked in my own water bottle and snack! I am a wild and crazy woman.

Okay, all talk of me aside, the movie is great. No, I mean it. Really fantastic. This is me, giving the movie 2 BIG "thumbs-up."  The Way is one of the best movies I have seen in a while. Well done, Emilio!!

Reasons why I like The Way:
  1. It is thoughtful, thought-provoking, and challenging while being very entertaining.
  2. The characters are well developed, engaging, and funny.
  3. The scenery is stunningly beautiful. 
  4. The movie affirms life, relationships and community - without being preachy.
  5. Last, and certainly not least, it has a positive Gypsy character.* 
I like this summary of the film from its website:
"In the film, a father unfortunately comes to understand his son’s life through his death and along the road finds himself as well. The main protagonist of the film is the conflict we each have within ourselves of choosing a life versus living a life. This greater question of finding oneself is a matter of acceptance and choice. Given the circumstances of our lives, how do we understand ourselves, our family and our friends, and the choices we make? Do we blindly go through life unaware of our actions and how they affect not only ourselves but others, as well? What role does our community, friendships and faith play in our decisions?"

A great line: "You don't chose a life, Dad, you live one." I wouldn't normally so heartily endorse a movie, but I really like this one. It draws you in and at the end, you feel as though you were among the travelers, that you had journeyed with them. I could identify with the character of Daniel - on the surface as a bit of a wanderer wanting to experience the world, a cultural anthropologist, a walker. But also, I could identify with the internal searching and struggle to find where I fit in the world. The Way strongly resonated with where I am at in life, the path I'm going down, the tumult of thoughts and emotions that are rumbling through my head. Thoughts that now include "When can I walk the Camino de Santiago for myself?"

Just go see it. http://theway-themovie.com/tickets.php

*Curious why this would make my top 5 list? I am, by schooling, a cultural anthropologist who did her Master's thesis on the "The Exclusion & Marginalization of the Roma in the Czech Republic and Slovakia."

05 October 2011

The Coffee Drinker Who Doesn't Like Coffee

We stood on either side of the condiment bar at Starbucks, doctoring up our cups of coffee. "Jenn, would you pass me some sugar?" I looked at my side of the bar and noticed there wasn't any of the Sugar in the Raw packets, but then saw them on top. I pointed to the canister that was closer to him, "It's right here." "No. Not that kind of sugar, the normal kind." I look down at the cubbies again and see three packets of "normal" white sugar. I dig one out and hand it to him. Jon just stares at me. "That's it? Can I have another one please?" "How much sugar do you need?" He had already put one of the "Raw" sugars into his coffee. "I need a lot, okay!?" I hand him one more sugar. His head tilts, an exaggerated sigh escapes, and his hand is still held out in front of me. I pass him the last sugar packet. "That is going to be so sweet!" "It has to be really sweet for me to drink it. I don't really like coffee." "What!?!?" I'm completely shocked and perplexed, we go to coffee fairly often, and I'm just learning this about him. "I like that it is hot." "Why don't you drink tea then?" "It leaves a funny taste in my mouth?" "How about hot cocoa, then?" His face scrunches up, "That would just be weird!"  I didn't even attempt to understand that last statement. There is no accounting for or understanding Jon and his drinking preferences.

As we were walking to Starbucks we passed a MAX stop that had an alert posted: "Due to "Occupy Portland" some services may be interrupted or take longer than normal." I mentioned it to Jon, wondering if he knew what "Occupy Portland" was. I had heard it mentioned on the news, but didn't have any details. He hadn't even heard of it. This afternoon we received an email from Office Operations warning us about "Occupy Portland" - a protest and march event planned for Thursday.  Jon and I started chatting via Communicator.
Jon: We should join them!
Jenn: OH! That is BRILLIANT! Let's do it!
Jon: We can just yell catchphrases like... Yes we can!
Up with hope, down with dope!
umm, what are some other ones?
Dude, you're getting a Dell! That'd be a fun one to yell.
Jenn: hahahaha!! Hell no! We won't go! - that's a classic
Jon: hmmm, I don't know if that'll work when the mob will be marching somewhere...but it would be funny to chant that while you're walking away from a location
Jenn: Okay, maybe not.
Jon: I can't believe it's not butter!
Jenn: That would be HILARIOUS!!!!!
*At this point I was lost in hysterics made worse by trying not to laugh too loud, which just made me start crying with loud staccato bursts of laughter.
Jenn: I have a whole Will Ferrel (in Old School) scene going on in my head with that last one.
Jon: hahahah, we're going streaking through the park...bring your green hat.
*After this I totally lost composure. Even writing it now I am snickering at the thought of Will Ferrel running through Portland, through the protesting crowd with just a green hat, yelling "I can't believe it's not butter!"

This morning I had to park on the street as the office parking was full. In response we had this conversation first thing this morning:
Jon: I was just talking to SAA about how she rides her bike to work now...maybe you should start doing that! Then you wouldn't have to worry about parking!
Jenn: I would have to buy a bike.
A helmet.
A bell.
That's too much investment.
Jon: Ha, it's funny that those are your first concerns...I would think living so far away would be on of the first!

And one last bonus courtesy of Jon. He shared this link with me today. I was frightened and intrigued all at the same time. We decided I should get a pet hyena to keep me safe in Honduras.

03 October 2011

Fear of Being Found Out!

I have joined an online book club. I don't understand how it will work just yet, but I know I need to be part of this group. God has been showing me a lot lately about myself, revealing the depths of my fear, the pervasiveness of my fear. But just as I started to get overwhelmed by the distance there is to cover to overcome fear, my mom gave me the book Dangerous Wonder about taking risks to live a faith-filled life, guess what topic the first couple chapters touches on? Yup. Fear. Then one of the blogs I follow, (in)courage, announced their fall book club selection - What Women Fear. Are you noticing a trend? I am. I am looking forward to journeying with a community of women, discussing the role of fear in our lives, and hopefully gleaning ideas of how to walk in faith and overcome unhealthy fear.

Maybe this is a crazy idea, but I thought to kick off my journey with the book club, why not write a post about one of my fears. There is one fear that I am having a knock-down, drag-out fight with lately. It also happens to be the sub-title for chapter 3 - Fear of Being Found Out. I haven't read that far yet. Maybe it would advise me not to post in a public for-the-world-to-see forum my fear of being found out. But like I said, I haven't read that far and here I am about to expose myself.

I am afraid of being found out. Being found out as a sham, a fake, an impostor, a flibberty-jibbit, a cotton-headed-ninny-muggins. Worse yet, I fear being found out as unqualified, incapable, insufficient; and the people who thought better of me being left sorely disappointed. The thing is, I am not enough for what is being asked of me - and that is a good thing. Knowing that I really can't do it in my own strength, I have to lean into Christ all the more. That is, when I remember rightly.

As I work through my Bible study, knowing that it will soon be my turn to lead, I wonder what I have to give to the ladies, whether I have what it takes. I don't know my Bible as well as I should. I'm not as faithful and studious as I ought to be, certainly not enough to be a leader. Will the women's ministry leader come up to me afterward the first time I lead and rescind her offer to be part of the leadership?

Even though I feel as though Jesus is amping up a crowd of angles chanting "Do it! Do it!" I want to shrink from the challenge of starting a new growth group at church. "I am not a charismatic person, I can't start something - it will flop."

My fear of being found out really comes alive as I try to answer a series of questions from Micah.
"Why are you interested in working with street kids in a foreign country?" -Because I fully believe God has called me to this particular ministry. That's all I've got and I know it is insufficient - just like me. My answer is insufficient, because I am insufficient. And if I don't come up with a better reasoned, logical, convincing answer to this question, and especially the next one - "What talents, skills or personality traits do you have that will play a key role in your ministry with homeless teens?" - then the director and board are going to find me out. They'll know what I already know deep in my heart, that I don't have what it takes, and I'll be rejected (That's another fear - being rejected. Two fears for the price of one trigger, lovely.) The truth is I do have talents and skills, some that can be used by the ministry; and I do have a personality, albeit a quirky one, but one that seems to be well suited for life at Micah. I could have a two page list of very convincing proofs for my interest in street kids, but the one that really matters, the one that will get me through the difficult times is knowing that God has called me.

The thing is, if I try to prove how capable, competent, and worthy I am of these roles I am going to fail. I cannot do it in my own power. I truly am not enough. But thankfully, graciously, God is enough. Even though I am full of weaknesses, His power is made perfect in weakness. His grace is sufficient for me (2 Cor. 12:9). And if God has called me to these roles, then he will provide the means and ability as well (2 Tim. 1:12).

Amongst my grandmother's things that I looked through after her passing I found this quote, which I wrote down and put on our fridge, I wish I knew where she picked it up:
"The will of God will never take you where the grace of God cannot keep you."

My Profound Thought for the Year

Apparently I came up with something profound last night, and didn't even know it. I didn't set out to say deep thoughts, I was just rambling the partial thoughts as they came through my mind. I shared the same thought with another friend tonight and she thought it was so good that I was asked to repeat myself over and over until she had copied it down. So I am sharing it here on the off chance you too might think it is profound.

As my girl friend sat on the couch sipping her tea and me my cocoa, she explained how she feels God has withheld a husband from her. She can point to His providential care and provision in various circumstances - except when it comes to a husband. She wandered down the road of "what if..." to the cross-section of "if only..." pausing to ask me if this was familiar territory to me. I admitted to wandering down that way occasionally, but explained I try to steer clear of that neighborhood; unless there are lessons to learn and areas of growth that can be identified, there isn't much point in revisiting the past - what's done, is done. I would drive myself crazy if I dwelt on those two questions. Thankfully my wretched memory doesn't provide much to fuel that kind of reminiscing and recrimination.
We started listing our friends who are also in the same situation, that is, someone in the 35+ age bracket, godly women, no baggage that is too detrimental, single, desire to be married, but single none the less. It was quite the lengthy list. But then I asked how many guys she knows that are in a similar status; is there anyone in your church that you'd want to date? A long pause. "Is that Tim guy still going to your church?" "Yeah, but he has been dating this cute gal for quite awhile now. Plus, if you knew his whole story, I don't think you'd be interested." Another pause. I shared what a friend said several weeks ago: "Men are like parking spots; they are either taken or handicapped." We laughed, and then sighed at the truth of the statement. I then started my soap box rambling of incomplete sentences trying to capture incomplete thoughts. Thoughts about how the modern American church is doing a disservice to men, there is an epidemic shortage of godly men.

But this is what all my ramblings boiled down to:

I don't think God is withholding a husband from my friend, myself, or from any of the names we mentioned. I don't think he is saying "No. Not now, you need to grow in this area first." Instead, I think He is right beside us, grieving with us. He is sad with us that our longings, our dreams and desires have gone unfulfilled. And He is sad for the men that could have been our husbands but have chosen to walk away from Him. He is sad for all his children. For the women who have been faithful and uncompromising, but at the sacrifice of their dreams for family; and for the men, who have given up on Christ himself. I think there is an epidemic of single women in the church, in part because the church has failed to raise up men of character.

Yes, this may seem awfully harsh on the church and on men. I'm open to counter arguments that can explain why I need two hands to count the single women I know at just one church that I attend, and why I can't even come up with one name of an eligible bachelor between the two churches I regularly attend. But for my gal pals, I would just hope that my perspective would help us to not question ourselves so much. Put away the "If only I was _____ [smarter, funnier, thinner, livelier, prettier, etc.]." and remember that you are a child of the King, you are Daddy's princess, you are enough, and He is enough.

17 September 2011

Heads to Keep My Head

I knew going into this trip it was going to be bitter-sweet. I would spend time with people I love that I do not see very often, be in a place I enjoy, but that it was also a time to say 'good-bye' and bring closure to the "European" part of my life. A friend asked where in the world I was, I responded "I'm in my other home from a previous life." And that is the truth of it. Strange as it seems, Brno is in a sense "home." But it wasn't until today that I got that deep pang in the heart; the realization that I really do love Brno, love being with Bethany and Gloria, which filled me with longing to return, but knowing that I am saying "no" to this option in life. And if it weren't for my plastic baggie of heads, I might waver in that decision.

It started as just a silly idea sparked by photos from Becca and John's trip to South Africa. Something that would be fun and hopefully get a few laughs. With Charissa's amazing help I came to Europe armed with 20+ "Micah boys on a stick." The hope was to take photos using the heads, show the boys that even though I am traveling half way around the world - they are still in my thoughts. Plus, it makes some of the photos more interesting, in a quirky kind of way. But who knew that my desire for gag photos would be providential - or as Natasha put it: "So glad you have your heads to KEEP your head." Even though I had no idea I would need a reminder of a greater love than I have for my friends here, quaint buildings, yummy food, castles at every turn, history that goes back multitudes of centuries and cobblestone streets that test my ability to walk, when I packed my Micah heads, they have been providential. Always carrying at least a few with me hoping to find an inspired shot, and the interaction on Facebook after I post the photos, has kept me tied to Micah and my heart on course. Who woulda thunk!? Ahh... the providence of God - what a blessed thing!

15 September 2011

Let Us Not Forget

The need to weep is almost unbearable. I bite my lower lip in hopes of containing the whimper that threatens to escape; the shout of anger that rumbles inside. My undoing is the room with the hair. One long wall, behind glass, mound after billowing mound of hair. Locks cut from women who cannot object, their voices silenced forever by the gas chamber. The next room has a similar wall displaying braces, crutches, prosthetics and I want to scream - "Life is beautiful! Every person's life is beautiful! It should never be destroyed!" There are more rooms, more display cases - suitcases with names marked on them, eye glasses, shoes, kitchen wares. Then comes the display of prayer shawls hanging straight and lifeless. I scream inside my heart "Where were you God? Where were you when your people needed you?"


"God, I want an answer! God, I need to know You don't abandon your people; that You will not abandon me."

Quietly. "Jennifer, my sweet girl, I was there. With every person who suffered, with every child who cried in terror, with every resistance worker, with every person who spoke out against evil. I was there."

I remember my heroes of the faith, a big reason I am even here today: Corrie ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoffer. "Papa, help me not be silent in the face of evil. Help me not to forget the precious life being lost today to genocide, gendercide, sex trade, drugs, street life, glue. Help me be your agent of love; to be light in this dark world."

Our tour group moves on to Birkenau. On the grounds is a group of Israeli youth. As they walk the long road from the gates to the end of the camp where the crematoriums once stood they carry flags, a few musicians play a mournful tune. As I stop to take a photo of the last original rail car that brought people to this wretched place a tall youth with yamika carefully pinned talks on his mobile phone, his voice wavers and cracks as he talks through choked back tears. He is remembering his people. I silently pledge to him - "I will remember too." Let us never forget.

13 September 2011

Irony from Behind the Former Iron Curtain

In May 1995 I had just graduated from George Fox University and within three days of graduation, I boarded a plane for my first trip to Europe. I went with a group of students on a May Serve trip to Ukraine. Originally I was on the team for Haiti, but political instability caused that trip to be canceled and I was placed on the Ukraine team. After the month, I was smitten with Europe. I continued to return. A short term trip to Slovenia was next. Then my internship for Western Seminary in Brno, Czech Republic. I arrived sometime the first week of March 2001. Two weeks later Beth arrived. On her second day, being the savvy experienced intern that I was with my two whole weeks of experience, I was showing her the route to get to Gloria's house (our supervisor). As we walked to the bus stop at the end of our street, Kroftova, she shared how she had always expected to be a missionary in Latin America as she took Spanish in school. I explained how Europe was a perfect fit for me, and that I had taken German in high school and taken some Russian after my trip to Ukraine.  My focus had been Europe for the last several years - this is where I wanted to be. And so it was. After my internship I had every intention of returning long-term within a year or so. But I needed to go home first and finish up my program and get this health issue figured out. In June 2005 Beth and I returned for a visit to Brno - a friend of ours was getting married. I still had hopes of one day returning to Brno on a long-term basis. Come summer of 2009, God had been working in my heart and I knew Brno was no longer where I would be permanently. Honestly, I didn't know if I'd ever be able to do missions at all. I was living in constant pain from my back problem and if surgery in September didn't go well, I wasn't sure what my future would hold but I knew Brno would only be a place to visit.

It is almost two years exactly since my back surgery. I have fully recovered and the surgery was a phenomenal success! I still have to be careful at times and have a few limitations (bummer! no bungee jumping!) but I have my life back! This week I am visiting Brno and Beth, who is now living her full-time, Gloria is here too - I'm actually staying with Gloria. Beth, who thought she'd be going to Latin America is living in Brno for the indefinite future, and me, who always thought she'd live in Europe is on a course for Latin America. Oh, the irony!

08 September 2011

Only By Love

"The arms of love encompass you with your present, your past, your future; the arms of love gather you together." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Tuesday afternoon I sent my mother a link to a blog, that I picked up from Becca who posted it on Facebook. It was for a photographer who is on a short-term missions trip to Honduras at the moment and went with some people from the Micah project to visit the market district. I commented that I was kind of proud of myself for picking out JuanCa from the back of his head; the scar is rather distinctive.  Looking through the photos made me a little envious of this gals skills - I want to take great pictures like her! But it also made me homesick, on a day where I was already filled with longing to be in Honduras. 

Want to take a looksie at the photos? Start here.

Pretty great shots, right? Make sure to click on the link  to see more

The next morning - Wednesday - I found an email in my inbox at work, apparently I had sent the link to mom using my work email. 

"WOW...went through a gamut of emotions looking at the pictures.  From smiles to tears to ahhhh's back to tears.  I KNOW now that you have been called by God to go to Honduras.  You look at these pictures and you (Jenn)  are drawn in with your heart to the people and you ignore the streets and trash. (sorta)  I see how that could get to you and the work God has to do in a heart/mind to get beyond it.  Is there a smell too?  There must be.  These were really incredible pictures - felt like I was there, recognizing a few of the people.  Fab pic of JuanCa.  But when I saw that pic I realized the work God had done in his heart and life and the smile of a changed man. That going there means giving up the American life for the Honduran life, and loving a people addicted and dirty....not unlike the Hotel residents in  some ways.   I saw Honduras in a different way = a people made in God's image and a people God loves and children without many chances for a life without glue, needing someone to come alongside to help bring life to them. 

I trust in God's Name for you and in His promises to sustain you there and give you wisdom and His love to share with these wonderful people.  I love you so much and would be selfish without knowing that God is calling you and I would never stand in the way of what God is doing in your life. He has given you a heart sooo big it needs to be shared with these lovely people."

My mama! My eyes welled up and spilled all down my cheeks as I read that. And they still do. With her words she wraps her arms of love around me in the present, reminding me of my past, releasing me into my future, gathering me together in one cohesive whole. 

02 September 2011

More Communicator Entertainment

Jennifer Streger [9:27 AM]:
why are you in a meeting??
Jon Tasker [9:27 AM]:
cuz I'm a very and important person
Jennifer Streger [9:27 AM]:
Jennifer Streger [9:27 AM]:
you are very a person?
Jon Tasker [9:27 AM]:
what? that's the reason
Jon Tasker [9:28 AM]:
oh, yes
Jennifer Streger [9:28 AM]:
cool. you are special.
Jon Tasker [9:28 AM]:
my mind moves so fast that it doesn't NEED the words that other people need.
Jon Tasker [9:28 AM]:
ummm, cuz I set a reminder and forgot to uncheck the show as busy thing.
Jennifer Streger [9:28 AM]:
if it moves so fast, I bet you know what I'm gonna write next
Jon Tasker [9:28 AM]:
you can just talk in fragments and I'll understand
Jennifer Streger [9:29 AM]:
crashing... problems... Friday...
Jennifer Streger [9:29 AM]:
Jon Tasker [9:29 AM]:
ha, yeah, you didn't even have to say that much, i could tell from you sighs so early on.
Jennifer Streger [9:30 AM]:
oh, you are good. very person good!
Jon Tasker [9:30 AM]:
I AM a very person aren't I?!
Jennifer Streger [9:30 AM]:
so when?
Jon Tasker [9:31 AM]:
Jennifer Streger [9:31 AM]:
Jennifer Streger [9:37 AM]:
listo ahora??
Jon Tasker [9:37 AM]:
Jennifer Streger [9:37 AM]:

[We then left and went to Starbucks.]

01 September 2011

Battle of the Egos

Jon and I recently had to move cubicles. We now sit about 50 feet from where we used to (okay, I'm making that up - I have no idea how far it is really, but it's not too far), but now we don't have the special set-up that we requested. We have a full wall between us and sit 'stacked' instead of facing one another. Even though Jon is only 8 feet away, it feels a world apart. I miss him. Kind of pathetic, I know. We still talk, but mostly through Communicator. Like today...

Jennifer Streger [1:13 PM]:
ACK!! Thwarted once again!!! The miles listed were for ONE WAY not round trip! AHHH!!!! I actually need 10k more miles to make it work. This sucks.
Jon Tasker [1:13 PM]:
uhoh, of course, and WHY can you im me, and I JUST tried to IM you like 60 seconds ago and it wouldn't let me?!
Jennifer Streger [1:13 PM]:
because you are ridiculous
Jon Tasker [1:13 PM]:
ssssooo, no Honduras then?
Jennifer Streger [1:14 PM]:
Oh, no. I'm going.
Jennifer Streger [1:14 PM]:
Jon Tasker [1:14 PM]:
or you might have to actually work like 2 weeks in between trips as opposed to just one?
Jennifer Streger [1:14 PM]:
no WAY!!
Jon Tasker [1:14 PM]:
1 week work, 2 weeks vacation...I think you get different PTO than I do.
Jennifer Streger [1:15 PM]:
thats because I have more seniority
Jon Tasker [1:15 PM]:
Than who?! I'm the Content Support Wizard
Jon Tasker [1:15 PM]:
That's my new title
Jennifer Streger [1:15 PM]:
BUT I'm the queen
Jon Tasker [1:15 PM]:
hmmm, normally the queen HAS a wizard huh...who's over the queen??
Jennifer Streger [1:15 PM]:
the wizard always works for the monarchy
Jennifer Streger [1:15 PM]:
only God is over the queen
Jon Tasker [1:16 PM]:
hmmm, so CSG is my new title?
Jennifer Streger [1:16 PM]:
I'm thinking... NO!

and then our conversation turned back to business and the discussion of how to classify a specific DOR. I'll save you from the boring part and not include that exchange.

27 August 2011

Today I Wear Coral

Today I am wearing a coral shirt, a rather bright color. A suitable color for this glorious summer day.

Today I am attending a memorial service. Remembering a life well lived, a life lived for God, full of love.

Wearing bright colors to a memorial service is a bit of a taboo, I know this. But I'm choosing to break with tradition, commit the taboo, because I want to celebrate Cinda. While I mourn the loss of her presence here, and I know the family is hurting, I think Cinda would want us to celebrate that she is in heaven, with her Savior, in a renewed body no longer ravaged with cancer. So while I put on my waterproof mascara and stuff my purse with tissues, I think of the ways Cinda influenced my life, how she modeled quiet loving service, small acts of grace, that reached the hearts of many. And I want to boogie and shout - "Well done, Cinda!! Well done!!" as the tears start spilling over. Joy and sadness all mixed up together.

14 August 2011


[Sorry friends! This should have posted August 4th, somehow it got stuck in draft mode.]

I have been very privileged to travel to many corners of this world. I have seen many beautiful places in far flung locations. The glowing limestone walls of Jerusalem at sunset, the rolling hills outside Brno covered in red poppies in spring time, the Julian Alps freshly covered in snow, the thick lush green of Tryon Creek forest. Added to this prestigious list today is the countryside just outside Tegucigalpa at daybreak. Clouds were hanging low, hugging the curves of the hills, the sun painting the clouds in shades of pink and gold. The trees glinting in the early morning light. We left the hotel at 5 am to head out to Corralitos. I brought with me my IPhone, a book, a few magazines, all of which to entertain myself on the ride; none of it was needed - I just sat staring out the window in awe of the beauty. I had stashed my bag with my cameras in the back of the truck, out of reach, so I can't share the glory of the morning, but I don't think the magnificence could have been captured. It was so stunning!

By the time we arrived at abuela (grandmother; g'ma to Edwin and Miguel Fugon) Gloria's home in Corralitos the sun had been up for many hours. Three U-turns and a questionable road gave us the opportunity to take the scenic route which I thoroughly enjoyed. Abuela's house is on the side of a mountain, overlooking a steep valley and opposing hillside. The view was worth a million bucks, her house was not. We had come up here, to a spot that felt a world away from the city, to build her a new home - in a day. It wouldn't be much of a home by our American standards - an 18x20 square foot room, but for abuela - it was a palace and an answered prayer. The house she had been living in wasn't much bigger, if at all, but it was built on the ground, just dirt for floors, the wood had dry rot and was falling apart, the roof leaked so that when it rained instead of sleeping at night she would have to sit up in a corner to do her best to stay dry. She now has a home with a wood floor that is elevated off the ground, a metal roof to keep the rain out - a safe and dry place where she can sleep no matter the weather.

Today it hit me - between building this house for abuela and helping build the foundation for Ana's house - we are God's answer and provision to these two women. Our team isn't doing anything amazing or significant, we are each contributing a small effort, whatever we are capable of. Together it adds up to a house or a rock retaining wall. But that is the normal reality of the Christian life; being the hands and feet of Christ to this world. We are obedient in the small things, the trivial matters, we give what we can - and God works through that and converts it in His economy to create an answer to a multi-year long prayer and blesses the socks off these women. I don't know that I have ever been able to take what I've done in the past few hours and confidently say, 'I was part of God answering this person's prayer.'

I couldn't do much and felt pretty useless today. My hands were hurting and the wrists aching, hammering would not have been an unwise choice, but that is what was mostly needed for this project. While the post holes were being dug and the lumber carried down and put in place I talked with abuela, learning about the plants in her yard. She has her very own coffee plants! She grows her own coffee! The coffee addict in me really wished she would have offered a cup of her homegrown brew. But for a gal who harbors a fantasy to start an organic, shade grown, fair trade coffee co-op adjacent to Micah and VLM I was pretty excited just to see and touch a real coffee bush. I also learned about a different variety of cilantro than what I ever knew existed, tried raw sugar cane, and pure extracted cane juice boiled into a block. (Did you know I am allergic to sugar cane? I wasn't about to say no to our gracious host though.) I am so glad I got an opportunity to just spend time with her; she is a pretty incredible woman.

My two big highlights of the day:
1) Abuela must have been watching me roast hot dog after hot dog over the open fire for peoples lunch, but not see me eat the first one I cooked. As people ate their fill and went back to work, the crowd waning, I worked on repairing one of the roasting sticks to finish up cooking the dogs, abuela decided it was time for me to eat. She walked right up to me, grabbed me firmly by the wrist and pulled me into her home and motioned for me to serve myself some of the soup she had made. Although I had no idea what she was saying, unsure if it was totally safe or what the "meat" was, I knew she was going to be adamant, there was nothing to do but eat the soup. Don't mess with grandma!

2) At the end of the day we 'presented' Gloria with her new home and prayed for her. As she tried to express her thanks she was so overcome with emotion that she broke down crying. This strong, confident, capable mountain woman buried her petite head into Brian's chest like a child, using his t-shirt to daub away her tears.

Abuela Gloria cuts up some
sugar cane for us to enjoy.

The old
The new (almost complete)

Tears of Joy

01 August 2011

August 1st Highlights

Today was the first day the team split into groups to cover three different areas: VBS, street/dump food delivery, and construction. My group started with a walk from the hotel to the market area where the boys who come to Friday night soccer typically hang out. There were not many today but we still quickly ran out of the baleadas. I took out my camera and they all wanted their picture taken - multiple times. I was happy to oblige. But at one point a kid who wasn't familiar to me was asking for his picture to be taken but he wanted to take pictures too, I think. I didn't pick up what he was saying very well. But Juan Carlos did and he quickly was at my side with his arm around my waist. Hmmm... something was up. I heard JuanCa say "mi hermana" and the guy looked at me suspiciously and told Juan he was lying. I interjected "No, Juan Carlos es mi hermano." I don't know what Juan saw or heard, but I am so grateful for my Honduran brother who is watching out for me and protecting me.

I had a moment of personal victory today. As I sat on the ground next to Michael Miller to eat lunch, little Nicole who had been my shadow on Saturday got up out of his lap and in a sing-song voice said "Jen-ne-fir!" and plopped herself in mine. My lap won over Michael's?!?! Remarkable!!!

I could also talk about sweet little Dulce who I played with at AFE, but I'll let a picture do the talking - once I can post it.