Sunday, December 27, 2009

A White Christmas

When we flew to Illinois a few weeks ago, we were hoping for a 'white Christmas'. The first morning, I put on boots over my pajamas and ran outside to take pictures of the dusting of snow on the ground. Then, the snow melted and we got rain for a few days. At the last minute, Christmas day, while we were in Northern Illinois, it began snowing. Big, fluffy flakes that came down at a slant because of the wind, and kept coming all night and the following day. It is amazing pristine beauty to look at, especially when it settles on the trees and gives everything a look of peace.

We went out for a walk to savor the snow with my brother Jeff and his fiancée, Rebecca. We had to borrow some boots and scarves from Grandpa, and then set out to walk 'over town' in the new-fallen snow. Up past the Methodist church, down main street, peering in the shop windows and appreciating the beauty, history, and 'quaint-ness' of a small rural town. We walked by the house where my great-uncle lived, from the time he was a boy until he died last year at 92. We walked to the small park that I remember going to as a child with cousins. We kicked up the snow, made snow angels, tried to really 'experience' the snow, since we can't take it with us to Africa! I even shoveled some of the driveway, just for the fun of it. :)

Jeff, demonstrating the way to make a snow angel
without leaving any 'tracks' up to your angel.

Jeff and Rebecca, simulating a fierce snow-storm under the tree

Bob, the human snow-plow, wanting the full experience.

My attempt at shoveling--the first time in a few years!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Our week at the farm

A couple of weeks ago we had the rare pleasure of spending a whole week outside of major cities, enjoying some great time with family. It was so refreshing both to be in the country and get to reconnect with people who we don't get to see very often. We followed Tiffany and Dylan around our first morning, impressed at how a 2-year old knows the routine of feeding the donkeys and the dogs, letting out the sheep and ducks.

We took a couple of short hikes through the woods, with a spectacular view of Mt. Shasta. We woke up to the incredible sounds of donkeys braying. It sounds remarkably like a large truck honking, in my opinion! We were in the kitchen one day, and heard the honest phrase "llama on the loose!". How often do you hear that??
We enjoyed the slower pace of life, the conversations, enjoying the community. We were especially impressed by the community gardens and the new arboretum that Bob's sister has been involved in. One highlight of the week was the Thanksgiving parade, an amazing show of community support that was really inspiring!

And, of course, we built things. Restaurants, sky-scrapers, zoos, buildings to be painted, anything that a young active imagination with a penchant for construction could come up with. It was great fun, and we're so grateful for those every-day moments to reconnect with the people we love!
One more rare experience from the week was our first attempt at making a pie. We even made and rolled the crusts from scratch! I think we have quite a way to improve before it will really be picture-worthy, but it was a great attempt, and delicious! We even used Tiffany's home-grown apples, which probably helped!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Retreat at the Camoldoli

After we moved out last week, we headed north for a much-anticipated stop at the Camoldoli Hermitage. I always try to savor the drive along coast on Highway 1--some of the most majestic views I think I've ever seen! After the stress and busy-ness of packing and moving, our spirits began to relax as we enjoyed the serenity of the views.

We pulled in to the Camoldoli after the long 2-mile driveway that zig-zags up the hill from Highway 1. As soon as we got out of the car, we were struck by the strange silence and profound peace of the monastery. The atmostphere is a world away from Pasadena, where we lived next to a freeway and there was always some sort of motor as background noise!

As we pulled up to the retreat house where our rooms were, there were 5 deer grazing right next to the building. That was another sign to me of the distinctiveness of this place--I think the deer have gained confidence in roaming through the buildings, partly because of the quiet and peace that pervades the place. It was a bit strange at first--learning to slow down, speak in whispers, and put away the to-do list! It was so wonderful to not have a 'schedule' and take the freedom to just sit and ruminate for awhile on any subject that came to mind!

...along the road to the Camoldoli

Bob and I like to go to some of the prayer services while we are there, and we find the 'rhythm' of the services helpful in entering the spirit of prayer and focus on God. I appreciate the expressions of prayer and rituals that they use that are different from what we are used to: the whole congregation 'sprinkled' with water as an expression of cleansing from sin, singing accapella through the psalms at lauds (morning prayer), watching the celebration of Christ's presence with us in the Eucharist, and spending 30 minutes in corporate silent meditation focused on the cross after vespers (evening prayer).

On our second full day at the monastery, we planned to do a big hike to Cone Peak, the highest peak on the California coast. Unfortunately, Bob was not feeling too well, so we decided to lay low and not hike. After all the packing and preparing in Pasadena, Bob realized he needed physical and emotional rest. I must admit I felt a little restless by then--ready to go somewhere, check e-mail, or just be able to talk above a whisper! I realized I needed to appreciate this rare time of solitude and quiet, so ended up taking pictures of some of the great flowers and scenery in the area.
I am an introvert and really appreciate times of quiet and solitude. But in a place where that is really the focus, I realized that it was hard for me to embrace the quiet and really feel content in it long-term. The moving of the past week and all the events to come kept my mind racing and wanting to be 'productive'. I realized that I needed seize this opportunity to read, rest, pray, and leisurely enjoy nature--all the things that I long to do when I am too busy! Once I let myself 'settle in' mentally, then I felt like I could soak in the value of the quietness and let myself be renewed. We always leave these times of retreat so refreshed! When we step out of the things that normally occupy our minds and really find peace, then I think we are able to sense God's spirit and hear His voice in new ways. We highly recommend a trip to a monastery for any of you who need a new perspective or need to be spiritually refreshed!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


This is our last week in Pasadena, before we begin the grand transition. We are in the throes of moving--packing, sorting, purging! By Friday, all the furniture will be gone except the kitchen table and the bed (which we insisted on keeping until the final day). The rest is going into boxes and being shipped to IL while we visit family in Northern California.
Bob, sorting through files in the 'renovated' living room

So...if you haven't heard about our big transition, and want to know details, please let us know. The essence is that we will be moving to the DRC (Congo) in February to work with the Presbyterian Church of Congo. We will be based in Kananga, a city in the south/central region. In a nutshell, Bob will be working in Christian Education and Evangelism, and Kristi with some of the community development projects.

For the next few months, (Nov.-Dec) we will be visiting family and hopefully finalizing the ordination process for Bob. Then, off to orientation in January, and moving to Congo sometime in February!

I won't give more details here...please ask if you want to know more. We welcome your prayers for this big transition. We have never been to this particular region, so there are still a lot of 'unknowns' about life there, but we are excited to see how God will lead!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Burundi...last visit to Turame!

I'm in Burundi, trying to finish an impact assessment project that I started 3 years ago! We are interviewing clients to try to assess the impact that their loan from Turame has had on their lives--health of the family, profitability of the business, social relationships, etc. The loan officers working with me on this project have been fantastic--putting in long hours and trekking many miles to find clients. Here is a picture of one client being interviewed in a rural village:
In the midst of working, I'm also trying to reconnect with friends here. On Sunday I went to church with a colleague from Turame, and afterwards her family showed me some of the new houses being built in her neighborhood. It is amazing (and sad!) that many new HUGE houses are being built in Bujumbura, which means the poor people are kicked off their land and forced to live farther up in the hills around the city. In the picture below you can see one of the mansions being built in the distance. The kids in the front of the picture live in typical small mud-brick houses that are currently on the same hill as these mansions. Such disparity!
Turame is growing and developing with leaps and bounds! Not only that, but there are many great things happening...I've really enjoyed hearing how God is working in the staff and the clients. There seems to be a renewed spirit of comaraderie, and they are especially excited about going on a staff retreat in October. The picture below is the head office in Bujumbura with their brand new sign on top. Very impressive, when you consider how far they have come from being a very small program just a few years ago!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


We just got back from a wonderfully relaxing vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Most days, we spent several hours by the pool or on the beach, reading. We loved the fact that our ‘major decisions’ for the day were whether to be by the pool or on the beach, or what kind of taco to have! :)

We resolved early in the week that we wanted to try to do 3 things each day: 1) Walk on the Malecon (boardwalk), 2) watch the sunset, and 3) see the fireworks from the pirate ship that went off each night. We succeeded nearly every day! The sunsets were amazing….we loved to watch the sky change colors.

We also did lots of walking on the Malecon through the old section of town. Whenever we walked, we heard shopkeepers call to us “Hey, amigos! You want a free taste of tequila??”

A few unusual points in the week:

1) Bob got his picture in the local paper! There was a sewer problem in the street near our hotel, so some reporters came and wanted a ‘tourist perspective’. Bob spoke to them, and got his quote and his picture in the paper the next day. They mixed up the names though, so his picture is connected to the name of a local restaurant owner.

2) We got to watch a large turtle (tortoise?) lay eggs on the beach! She dug a hole, then laid 89 eggs! When she started to cover the hole with sand, the police came and moved her so that they could move the eggs to a safer spot.

3) Serendipitously, on the plane to Puerto Vallarta, we sat next a man who had grown up there. He drew us a map of the town, gave us recommendations of restaurants, and told us the traditional Mexican dishes that we should try. We were so grateful for his tips, and it helped us to get a ‘well rounded’ sampling of some of the classic Mexican dishes in town. Those restaurants were not on the ‘tourist list’ of restaurants that tended to be pricier!

Monday, August 24, 2009

So Many Firsts!

Last week I reflected at the end of the week how many things we had done that were new experiences...really amazing new experiences that made for a full week! You might enjoy the list:

1. Saturday morning when we went jogging at 6:30am, we decided to try a new trail at the Hahamongna Watershed park. It is always nice to have some new scenery while jogging, and we pushed ourselves a few extra minutes since it was a longer trail than we were used to.

2. Saturday evening we went to hear the California Philharmonic Orchestra at the LA Arboretum. What a fabulous combination! This was on our list of 'things to do before we leave LA'. It was beautiful weather to enjoy a picnic on the lawn in one of our favorite spots in LA. I was enjoying the wonderful music and scenery, and the thought occurred to me, "This is the life! This feels so good...why are we moving to Congo??". I was glad that it was just a fleeting thought...and glad that we have more significant reasons for going to Congo than good music or food! :)
3. Sunday afternoon we had our first 'Tshiluba lesson'. We recently met a man who spent some of his childhood in the region we will be in, and speaks Tshiluba, so he offerred to give us an introduction to pronounciation. It was fun to learn a few phrases, and realize what a challenge the language learning process will be!

4. On Wednesday of that week, we organized a spontaneous star-gazing outing with a few friends. We got to see the Perseid meteor shower for the first time (that I'm aware of). We hiked up a trail in the dark, spread out a blanket on the dirt, and watched the meteors streak across the sky. It was amazing! I'm so glad that we risked the late night to admire the events in the heavens. Here's a picture of our crew in action:
5. Friday morning of that week, we took a short bike ride at 6am, with the goal of ensuring that our bike muscles were present enough to take a longer bike ride the following week with some friends (which happened yesterday). Since the bike ride last week was not nearly as interesting as the bikeride along the beach yesterday, I'll give you a picture from yesterday.
6. Saturday night, we had dinner with some friends, and when they asked if there was anything we wanted to do afterward, I half-jokingly said that there was a Michael Jackson tribute concert happening a few blocks from where we were, and perhaps we could stop by. They were very enthusiastic, so we walked over to the park where the concert was, wondering how we would kill time since we were a little early. We were amazed to see a completely full lawn, with what turned out to be a record of 4600 people at the park. I knew almost none of the songs, but fortunately Bob and our friends knew most of them and we all had fun grooving to the music and reminiscing. I almost had to pinch myself--"I'm at a Michael Jackson tribute concert??!" Despite my personal shock, we thoroughly enjoyed it.

7. Sunday afternoon, we visited a church whose members are largely from Congo or with strong connections to Congo. We found out about the church when I met someone from Congo while jogging at the Rose Bowl (definitely a divine connection; very random!). We loved the African feel to the worship and hearing the mix of English, French, and Lingala in the service. The people were very friendly and happy to hear that we are moving to Congo. Amazing--we had no idea this church existed, and it is only 1 block from our house! (they meet in the building of another church, which explains why we had not seen any signs)

I think that is enough firsts for one week! I was a little overwhelmed at the end of the is hard to take it all in when these amazing experiences keep happening!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bob in Rwanda

In July Bob went to Rwanda to do interviews for his final research project. He worked hard while he was there, but he also thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to reconnect with his friends there. God answered our prayers for 'divine appointments', and he had some great interviews with a broad range of leaders in the Anglican Church. He was very grateful to his friends there who helped arrange interviews, drove him around, introduced him to people, and really helped smooth the process!
With Phineas, friend and colleague from AEE.

The drama team at Agape church.

Bob with Antoine and his family

Bob with Augustin and Claudine in Gisenyi

Dancing with Jean on his last day in Rwanda

AEE staff together in the cafeteria

Monday, August 3, 2009

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty the King of Creation!

We just returned from an amazing weekend of camping in the Angeles National Forest. I want to share a few pictures and stories of our fabulous weekend!

We left home Friday, so excited to get out of town and be outdoors for the weekend. I was trying not to get my excitement get carried away, afraid that we would be disappointed if we didn't get a campsite at the campground we were hoping for. When we were almost there, Bob said, "Well, I do hope that the campground is not full. But I also hope that we're not the only ones there!". Fortunately, we snagged one of the last remaining campsites in a great location, and neither fear came true.
The table at our campsite. We are obviously car-camping, NOT back-packing! :)

I was so proud of myself for finding small bottles and containers to put all of our food and supplies in. Unfortunately, when I realized that I had accidentally used oil instead of dish soap, I learned that I should label the bottles!

On Saturday we hiked up to Mt. Waterman. It was the best kind of hike--a mix of sun and shade, with great views of the mountains on the way up the valley, and then views of the high desert on the other side from the top of the mountain. Here are a few pics from the hike:

Views of the mountains on the way up to Mt. Waterman.
Hiding out "in the cleft of the rock" at the top of the mountain after we enjoyed our lunch!

We were rather sore and tired when we reached the bottom, but very happy for a great day of wandering in the forest and the mountains. Unfortunately, there was no shower and no lake to jump into, so we had to be content with putting on flip flops and relaxing in the shade for the rest of the day.

Sunday morning we had our own 'church', reading, praying, and meditating on God's beauty near a dry creek-bed near our campsite. Doesn't this look idyllic?
At one point while we were reading, Bob heard some rustling in the grass, and looked up to see a snake a few feet away coming towards us. He jumped up and told me to move. I ran back up towards our campsite, then stood on some rocks trying to see where the snake was. When I saw it, I was amazed--probably the largest snake I have ever seen in the wild--more than 1m long! It was a rattlesnake, so we were very glad that Bob saw it in time to move out of its way. We watched it slither back into the bushes, and waited to see where it would go. We finally went to check the other side of the our dismay he had come up near our picnic table! I tried to get a picture, but just caught the tail end:
We decided then to pack up our stuff so that we wouldn't have to worry about watching out for the snake. We were so grateful that we didn't see him until the end, so that we didn't spend the weekend paranoid about stepping on a rattlesnake!

Given our excitement about being outdoors and some of the glorious sites that we saw, here is the song that was running through my head throughout the weekend:

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
The King of creation
O my soul, praise Him
For He is thy health and salvation
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near
Praise Him in glad adoration


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Realm: The Awakening Begins

Bob and I recently finished reading a book written by a friend that we really enjoyed, so I wanted to give you a short review of it. The Realm: The Awakening Begins is fiction—a sort of spiritual allegory. The story is set in Kahitsa’an, and island country that could be a small poor nation in any part of the world. Gracia is an orphaned girl who earns her keep by finding recyclables at the local trash dump. She begins having nightmares that the local spirit-priest, Aden, is attacking her, and he senses her fear. Gracia also begins having dreams about The Realm, and a person named Jaron that protects her and rescues her. She learns that her dreams are not just dreams, but real, and the struggle between the spirits of her town and Jaron becomes a fierce battle with her caught in the middle.

We read the book aloud together, and found it hard to stop at each chapter as the suspense builds. It was a great story as well as a powerful allegory of the spiritual realm that is around us. Perhaps because of having lived in Africa where the poverty and the rural feel were very close to the setting in the book, it felt very real. We highly recommend it! The book was written with young adults in mind, who are searching for meaning and wondering who God is. But I think any age would appreciate it, although there are a few scenes that I think would be a bit scary or mature for kids. Check it out at the book website or on Amazon!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Happy Cent-a-mile, Silver Bullet!

Yesterday was an important milestone. Our faithful car, which Bob bought new nearly 11 years ago, just crossed 100,000 miles! Bob started calling the car 'Silver Bullet' soon after he got it, and the name stuck. It has been a very reliable car that has not cost too much in repairs, and we are very grateful for its faithful service.
The odometer proves it! One mile over!

Of course, with age come a few kinks and quirks. One of the windows no longer rolls down, the volume on the stereo is quirky, and the engine light is usually on. Probably the thing that takes the most manual adjustment is that the electric locks don't usually work--so you have to manually lock and unlock all the doors. But, Silver Bullet runs great and all the 'important parts' of the car still work, so we make do on the minor quirks. Interestingly, the only time the electric locks work reliably is on Sunday--after church, not before. We think it is just part of the way that Silver Bullet fits into the family. :)

Hiking with Silver Bullet near Big Sur

I wasn't sure what to call this milestone--it is not a 'birthday', exactly. Since centennial is for 100 years, I thought maybe cent-a-mile would work. So, here's to many more, Silver Bullet!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pictures from the Midwest

Bob and I both enjoy getting back to the Midwest. We like to see the corn and the fields that stretch out for miles over flat land, enjoy the slower pace of life, and feel the humidity. Just kidding about the humidity!

A few weeks ago we enjoyed a brief trip to the Midwest. Our first stop was Wrigley Field, which Bob has always wanted to visit. It was raining all morning the day of the game, and we feared the game would be rained out. Fortunately, the sun came out, and in the midst of the 2 hour rain delay we got to watch the elaborate system the Cubs have for draining the tarp on the infield and mopping up the outfield. I don't think the Dodgers have that system quite so perfected! :)
During the rain delay, in our (covered!) seats

Then, we went up to the Wisconsin Dells for the weekend with the Baughman clan. If you are not from the Midwest, you may not have heard of the Wisconsin Dells, but we learned that it has been a (local) tourist destination since the 1860's! One of the main attractions is the water sports and recreation around Lake Delton, which completely drained last year when a deluge of rain caused a retaining wall to burst. With some help from the government and the Army core of Engineers, they have made a remarkable recovery and the lake is now back to its former levels after just 1 year. That meant that we could ride the Wisconsin Ducks! The Ducks are WWII amphibious vehicles, and today give a brief tour of the land, river, and lake around the Wisconsin Dells.
Since we are Americans, a lake is not good enough for us, so there are a plethora of water parks around the Wisconsin Dells. (We seem to want everything bigger and faster, right?) We enjoyed swimming with cousins and trying out some of the water slides!

We really savored the opportunity to see family and friends, and enjoyed some of the classic midwestern aspects of life, like picking rubarb, jogging in the wind and the humidity, and watching Shakespeare! :)
Bob got to pick and cut rubarb from my parents yard
Our picnic before the play at the Bloomington Shakespeare Festival

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


For about 2 years, Bob and I have walked by a restaurant in Pasadena called Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. It has a reputation as a high-class steakhouse, out of our range, so we would walk by and say “We should go there someday; maybe for graduation.” Well…graduation finally came, and this week, the day before Bob left for his trip to Rwanda, we decided the time had come to take the plunge and go celebrate with a nice meal.

I must admit I felt a bit out of place in a restaurant where many of the other patrons seemed like they ate there all the time. I deliberated for a long time about whether to get steak, and Bob finally helped convince me to go for it—that is their specialty, after all. The distinction of this restaurant seems to be that the plates arrive at the table at 500 degrees, so the food is still sizzling. We were not disappointed—the steaks and the veggies were all excellent, and it really felt like we were celebrating. They even had a ‘congratulations’ card at the table for Bob, and gave him his choice of dessert for the occasion. A great farewell for Bob also, since he won’t get a steak like that in Rwanda! :)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Graduation pictures!

Bob graduated from Fuller Seminary this month! We were so excited to celebrate this milestone. He still has few things to finish this summer before he is officially done, but we are very close! Graduation was a real celebration of God's faithfulness in this process, and we were blessed by all the people who came to celebrate or give their congratulations. Here are a few pictures from the big event.

I'll post a few more pictures on facebook, hopefully!

Saturday, May 16, 2009


I think we are on the 'post-a-month' plan now. This week I was reminded of how this year is turning into a time of appreciating things that we may not have next year. For example--for the last 2 years we have had a membership to the LA Arboretum. The arboretum is one of our favorite places in LA, and each time I go I seem to discover something new. Our membership expired in April, and we determined that it would not be worth it to renew since we will not live in LA for the next year. I was mourning that I would not feel the same freedom to go there on a whim if I would have to pay the entrance fee every time, and wondering where I would go when I needed to be alone and outside. Then, this week, Bob came home one day with a surprise for me. You guessed it--he bought me a pass! I was so amazed and felt so loved! So, may the gallivanting with the flowers continue, at least for this year. :)

Another thing we are savoring this year is going to Dodgers games. Last week we got the rare opportunity to sit in the 'good seats', where the players actually looked life-size! It was fun to look UP at the press-box and WAY-UP to where we normally sit in the top deck! Hopefully this doesn't spoil our fun, since the rest of the games we attend this year will be from the birds-eye view in the top deck. :)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Visiting friends I've been negligent of the blog again. Very sorry! In March we got to see lots of people through some random traveling, but that left little time for blogging. First, Todd and Michelle visited from OR....We realized we had not seen them both since our wedding! We went to the arboretum early in the morning with them, and were disappointed that the waterfall did not have any water flowing in it. We milled around, wondering if there was a problem they were repairing or if they really 'turned off' the waterfall every night. Then, before our very eyes, the water burst forth and the waterfall was running again. Perhaps it was a bit like water coming out of the rock when Moses struck it. :)
At the end of March we spent the week up north, visiting Bob's family. We got to meet our new "cousin, once removed" (I think that's the official relation?), Brianna. Bob and Brianna look like they are getting used to each other.
I (Kristi) was very excited to visit Filoli, a place I think I have heard about since the first time I met Bob's family. All the flowering trees and the tulips were in bloom, which was especially beautiful. The picture below is of a spot called "The wedding spot"--the trees here were incredible...I've never seen anything like it!
We really treasure our visits with these friends that we don't see very often...which will become even more rare and treasured if we are not in the US next year! Back down in SoCal, we got to visit some more friends when Lisa threw a party to get a few of her far-flung friends together. Lisa prepared an incredible meal, with TWO picture-worthy desserts, so we were happy and stuffed when we rolled out at the end of the night!
Now, after all of this partying and visiting, we're back home, trying to catch up and make big decisions about our future. And trying to do the mundane but essential things, like working, studying, and paying our taxes. :)