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29 November 2010


And we are made of the dust of this earth and we are made of the happiness of heaven and we are flesh and we are spirit and we are of two worlds longing for the home of His world.

The authority of God made all of creation. But it was the affection of God that made all of His children. (Prov. 8:31)

We were made by Love! For love! Made in the image of God to look like His love!

The Christmas story is a love story, the whole blue marble of the world spinning on the axis of His love… Could anything be better?

- from Jesse Tree Advent Devotional at A Holy Experience

I am so thankful, and probably unnatually excited, for the Advent season this year.  We "did" Advent well when my kids were young.  And then, in the last couple of years, we found ourselves out of the house almost every night- sports practices, church activities, life...  Sadly, the quiet waiting and watching for Christmas, for Jesus, perhaps became just another "thing" to do by the end of the day.

But the season has changed.  We have few of the obligations of years past.  We once again know the gift of time together.  We have none of our Advent "stuff" with us- none of the calendars, not the wreath, not the nativity scenes, not the decorations.  And maybe, maybe even because of that- this year I anticipate this month of preparation even more.  We have one single candle, standing in rice in an empty salt shaker.  We made a simple line of paper cones to serve as our Advent calendar this year.  And we are taking turns creating the Jesse Tree ornaments each night. 

Every night, we take a turn, to light the candle, and read a bit.
And as always, our Lord and His Word are ever sufficient. 
Could anything be better?

(photo credit:

28 November 2010

morning light

The clear, pure light of the moning made me yearn for the truth in my heart, which alone could make me pure and clear as the morning itself and tune my life to the concert pitch of nature around me.  And the  breeze that blew from the sunrise made me hope in God, who had breathed into my nostrils the breath of life.  He had so completely filled me with His breath, mind, and Spirit that I would only think His thoughts and live His life.  Within His life I had found my own, but now it was eternally glorified...
- George MacDonald

(art credit:  Morning Plains by bluedogrose at Etsy)

25 November 2010


The Christian is suspended between blessings received and blessings hoped for, so he should always give thanks.
—M.R. Vincent
(thanks to ChalliesDotCom)

I think that Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday.  It's such a simple day, really, giving thanks, being with loved ones, celebrating with good food.  Here where my family is, in Costa Rica, they don't celebrate a day of thanksgiving.  I sort of feel that they are missing out.  As I read this morning in Psalm 92,

It is good to give thanks to the LORD
And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning
And Your faithfulness by night,

Today I am thankful for a traditional dinner- comfort food at its finest,
friends to share it with,
talking with all kinds of family,
kids excited about Advent,
a day off from school tomorrow,
the stillness when the entire house is quiet,
exceedingly abundant provision. 

But I'm ever aware of how all that is temporal.  There are also the days with rice and beans,
and lonliness and longing,
and an empty mailbox,
and grumbling,
and nonsensical pronouns and verb conjugations,
and wet towels,
and a never ending line of ants. 
Am I thankful then? 

I am quite sure that I am only able to answer yes because of the exceedingly Good News of the Gospel, the saving work of Christ on the Cross.  I am thankful for forgiveness when I am so very undeserving.  I am thankful for the promise of salvation, and for everything made new in eternity.  I am thankful for the grace and peace of the Christ, for the one true God who formed me, and knows me, and shows me more mercy and love than I will ever really understand.  I am thankful for His rest.

Suspended between blessings received and blessing hoped for, I will give thanks.

(art credit: Giving Thanks by cec115art on Etsy)


It's never too late for a new tradition, right?

Inspired by the great idea of Gretchen at Lifenut, prior to the traditional Thanksgiving dinner this year, we served a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving dinner.  Of course, none of us are quite as smooth as Snoopy in the kitchen, but even my kids think that sharing toast, popcorn, pretzels and jelly beans as an appetizer, all while watching the movie, is a fun idea.  (ok- in truth, we skipped the toast this time...)  I think it's a brilliant tradition for families with little kids, and I'm going to keep it up as long as there are youngsters in my house.  Or visiting my house.   

Of course, we also had a more traditional meal, including the uniquely Holliday ham/onion roll-ups.  I'd sure like to know the origin of the roll-up, but it pretty much seems to be one of those "because that's how we've always done it" traditions.  Surprisingly, finding green onions isn't as easy as you think it might be, but for the sake of tradition, my husband sought them out, and the kids rolled them up. 

Who would think that jelly beans and green onions are making memories on Thanksgiving? 

21 November 2010

A Prayer about God's Delight and Our Hope

I read this prayer first on  It was written by Scotty Smith, pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN. 
This prayer speaks my voice too, as I too am prone to "put my good feelings ahead of your declared delight."  Today, I come to Him for fellowship and renewal. 
Nothing else truly satisfies.

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. Psalm 147:10-11
 Compassionate Father, once again, I come before you as a repeat offender… a man suffering from doxological dementia… one of your beloved children who gives you multiplied opportunities to demonstrate the wonder of your “unlimited patience” (1 Tim 1:16). I’m a perpetual candidate for summer school in the gospel. I demonstrate this in many ways.

Whenever I feel disconnected from you or get disappointed with me… whenever I experience the accusations and condemnation of the enemy… whenever I see other believers more zealous… missionaries more passionate… young converts more committed… or friends more generous… my default mode is to lace up my running shoes and get busy for you.

Instead of coming to you for fellowship and renewal in the gospel, I start running to do something to fuel my pride and tame my conscience. I put my good feelings ahead of your declared delight. I put pleasuring me ahead of pleasuring you.

For as you tell us in this Scripture, you don’t find any pleasure or delight in the strength and movement of our “legs”—in what we can do for you. You find great pleasure as we put our hope in what you’ve done for us in Jesus. Indeed, where can we find your unfailing… unwavering… unending love? Only in the gospel of your grace. This is counterintuitive and contrary to the way I’m wired and the way the world works… literally the way the world works.

Astonishing… to fear you is the beginning of wisdom… and we fear you the most when we hope most fully in your unfailing love for us in Jesus. Father, should we forget where we parked our cars… the address of our homes… or even our own names, may we never forget this glorious gospel. So very Amen, we pray, in Jesus’ most merciful and grace-full name.

19 November 2010

December Photo ProjectI participated in the December Photo Project at View From the Prairie Box for the first time last year, and I'm looking forward to doing it again this year.  It's kind of hard to take a lot of pictures here in Costa Rica.  We are warned against carrying our cameras around, as it makes you a mark for theft.  But, I see pictures waiting to be taken everywhere.  In December, I'm going to try to take them! 

Stay tuned!
And maybe, join in the fun yourself? 


15 November 2010


The drops almost seemed to pierce us, sharp as needles hitting our skin. The towels in front of our faces grew heavy, drooping with the increasing weight of water. Streams flowed down my face, and I could taste a hint of the salty sea mixed with the rainfall. My glasses were a windshield, needing wipers to clear them enough to allow me to gaze.  I could hear the whine and hum of the boat engine, and yet wondered with every thump against the pound of the surf, what would happen if this boat were to break? Snap in half and leave us floating in the sea?

In order to renew our tourist visas to stay in Costa Rica, we have to leave the country 90 days after we enter. So this weekend, my family traveled to Boca del Toro, Panama, an island in the Caribbean known for beautiful beaches. After at least 80 days of the rainy season in Costa Rica, we were looking forward to sun and sand.

We went to Panama this weekend.
We soaked in the Friday sun, rejoicing in just being under its warmth for the first time in a long time.
And then, Friday night, it started to rain.
For a full day!

And yet, we adventured on.
We snorkeled in the Caribbean.
We swam in water perhaps warmer than the outside temperature.
We sat on beaches lined with coconut palms and surrounded by aqua green blue waters.

We dined at a Mediterranean restaurant owned by a Belgian Brit. We enjoyed an amazing meal of fresh mahimahi and coconut rice. We savored cheap ice cream cones. And handmade chocolate macaroon cookies. We breakfasted on fresh bagels and cream cheese for the first time in months. We sipped strong dark coffee.

We traveled with others who would adventure on, too. We laughed and shared stories and played games. Thanks to our Tica guide, we sang along, motioned along, some, ahem, danced along, to videos from the Carpenters and ABBA. And then we laughed some more.

We crossed the border back and forth without incident, even traversing a rusting old railroad bridge, the missing trestles exposing the river flowing beneath us. We paid less than we expected, and in general, waited for a shorter period than we anticipated, too.

As we passed by the countryside, as we saw the more shades of green than I know words to describe, tropical flowers bright, rusted roofed homes, folks waiting for buses, children in uniform riding their bikes to school, fruit stands waiting for buyers. Who is it that actually pays for bananas when they grow for miles in every direction around you?

And through it all, I marveled that our family has the opportunity to live here. To experience language and culture. To know His grace and His provision.

Yes, the sun comes out again.
And we might try Panama again, too.

(confession:  it took a good part of the weekend for me to be able to just say "Panama," without busting into a VanHalen "Pa-na-mah, Pa-na-ma-ha..." My only plea is that I was a teen in the '80's.  Sadly, once I got THAT chorus out of my head, ABBA replaced it.  I watched the video, and if you really want to know, The Name of the Game seems to be Parchesi...)

14 November 2010

looking out the bus window

I saw what I saw and I can't forget it
I heard what I heard and i can't go back
I know what I know and I can't deny it

something on the road, cut me to the soul...

- I Saw What I Saw, Sara Groves

What is it like?

To be a worker living on the edge of a banana plantation, huge green palm leaves, blue hanging bags full of fruit, as far as the eye can see?

To be a child living on the banks of a tropical river, sitting on the edge of the dock?
To be a fisherman living on stilts on the shore of the sea, the ebb and flow of the tide moving under your home every day?

To be a family living under a tin roof on a mountainside, wondering if the mud is going to slide?

What is it like?

11 November 2010

O Holy Night tour

Receiving word of and then downloading Sara Groves' new release yesterday made my day. 
It's music that makes me want to go sit in a corner and listen to it over and over. 
And over. 
It's a perfect transition to Christmas, joy that's not stickysweet. 
And, it's yours for the having! 

09 November 2010

Tell me

Ann Voskamp, at A Holy Experience, put into words those very thoughts that have been simmering in my head-

So tell me your story, not your sermons, tell me your thrashing, and not just your theology. Tell me about your questions – and not just your quest.

Because we read so that that we know that we aren’t the only ones.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian who was martyred by the Nazi’s during WW2, he wrote these words and this is for you, and this is what it means to be a community and we are a Christ body and we are this to one another:
“The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation.”

tell more stories...

Multitudes (#407- 423)

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all Thy works.
Psalm 73:28

407. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Psalm 37:4
408. a sliver of blue sky after a week of rain = hope.
409. a reason to take out the camera
410. peach yogurt and granola when nothing else looks good
411. -0 on the grammar quiz.  Thankful not for the grade, but that in the end, I understood.
412. a dry house
413. tasty soup
414. calls from home; and especially a call because I was missed.
415. reservations for a visitor!
416. Christmas tree in a box
417. Grace is no grace unless it is freely given every way.  Matthew Henry on Galatians 2:21
418. a familiar hymnal
419. an invitation to lunch, all of us
420. Do you not know? have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired.  Isaiah 40:28
421. a daughter who makes cookies
422. a gift from a student
423. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast...  Hebrews 6:19

06 November 2010

the difference between regular and decaf?

We can only buy caffeinated in Costa Rica. 
I guess they figured it out...  :-)

(thought you would like this, Joetta!) 

(credit to Fake Science and 22Words)

Random Saturday

  • Rain!  It rained nearly the entire week.  We're still not sure if our water is safe to drink.  The power was off for nearly the entire day on Friday.  But thankfully, the lights came on just as it was getting pretty dark.  And not a moment too soon- just in time for our Friday night family ritual:  pizza and the Amazing Race.   
  • On the Amazing Race- our family faves are Michael and Kevin.  The shopping hostesses amuse us.  Rude boyfriends need to go!!
  • Another reason to learn languages...  old, but still funny!
  • I think we're becoming acclimated to the tropics- this morning 70 F feels cold.
  • To warm up, I'm attempting Curried Butternut Squash soup, with apples instead of pears.  Stay tuned.
  • Four Holy Gospels, a Bible illuminated by Makoto Fujimura that will be released in January 2011, looks absolutely beautiful! 
Happy Saturday!

05 November 2010

Abolitionists today

Yesterday in chapel a peer, a young lady with a passion for the lost and hurting and broken of this world, spoke on human trafficking and women and children and the sex trade industry (yes- industry) in Latin America.  She started with this video, the one shown above.  It's a hard 3 minutes and 49 seconds to watch.  I wanted it to be over.  I warn you, if you watch it, you will want it to be over too.

But reality is, it is not close to over.
It exists in Asia.
It exists in Latin America.
It exists at the US/Mexico border.
It exists in the United States.
It exists in Nebraska.
No matter where you are, it exists.
It is not just a problem. 
It is a crisis.

In Exodus 22:21-23, Scripture tells us "You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry."

In Luke 4:16-19, we see Jesus enter the sanctuary and go forward to read. 
"The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,

What does this mean for me or for you? 
I don't know.
I'm praying on it.
I confess, it seems too big.

But my confidence and hope is in the promise of Zechariah 8:6-8, "Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'If it is too difficult in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, will it also be too difficult in My sight?' declares the LORD of hosts.

Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Behold, I am going to save My people from the land of the east and from the land of the west; and I will bring them back and they will live in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God in truth and righteousness.'

Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.  Amos 5:24
It is not too difficult for Him.

04 November 2010

Emergencia Nacional

Tropical Storm Tomas dropped rain, and rain, and more rain, over Costa Rica this week, and especially over the last couple of days.  Last night in one two hour period, it rained over 6 inches near San Jose.  Tragically today mudslides have occurred all over the country, even within miles from where we live.  In an area less than 10 miles from us, 20 people were killed and 15 remain missing after mudslides early Thursday morning.

Around us it is wet, but other than that, we are fine.  We are reportedly among the 800,000 without potable water, but we still have water coming out of our faucets right now.  Rain is predicted to continue until tomorrow midday.  We were able to buy bottled water (and Betty Crocker chocolate frosting) this afternoon, so we should be fine for a few days. 

Watching the tv and seeing the devastation around us, puts our inconvenience into perpective.  We pray for comfort, peace and provision for those that have lost loved ones and their homes, and for safety and strength for those serving in the rescue efforts.     

(photo credit to Katie Onheiber, Tico Times)

02 November 2010

Election day

Ok, so in truth, I didn't.
I feel a bit bad about that.  It's the first time I haven't voted in probably 20+ years.  I love voting.  I drag my kids with me.  It's an Event, participating in the privilege of democracy.

But, this year, I'm not in the same country and barely on the same continent. 
We moved from the address where I have been registered to vote for the past 7 years.
Our current mailing address isn't even a residence. 
So, this year, I'm one of the slackers that won't be able to complain for the next two year election cycle. 

Over the last few months, honestly, I haven't missed politics a bit.
Haven't missed campaign ads with doomsday voices telling of the what the other candidate did, or didn't, do.
Haven't missed a mailbox full of glossy flyers. 
(I do miss mail...  just not THAT mail...)
Haven't missed answering the phone only to hear recordings with a candidate acting as if he's my best buddy.
Haven't missed door to door visits.
Haven't missed being solicited to sign petitions for this measure or that recall.

Haven't missed Election Day. 
When I checked here and here, and saw the cool interactive maps. 
I do love a good map...
If only politics were always as clean as filling in a map on election night...