Sunday, January 25, 2009

Personal Retreats

Bob has formed a habit of taking a personal retreat every year. When I moved here last year I joined him in the habit and we started taking retreats together. Then this year we decided that in addition to our joint retreat we also should take a short retreat separately, just to focus on reconnecting with God. So...Bob took his retreat in late December, after rescheduling because he was snowed out the first time! Then I took mine this past week, just a short 2 days, but wonderfully refreshing. Both of us went to St. Andrew's Abbey in the high desert area about 2 hours from us. We both love this monastery for the unique beauty of the desert setting and also for the peaceful and prayerful rhythm of life that the monks keep. We usually try to go to a few of the daily prayer times that the monks have, but also value the chance to just be alone and enjoy nature.

This time I had a particularly meaningful time meditating through the stations of the cross. It was a great reminder of all that Jesus endured in his mission to redeem us, and the value of the forgiveness that we have been given. Below is a picture of one of the stations:
Another favorite part of my time was a long walk that I took, enjoying the beauty of the desert in winter. I love that it is a very different beauty from a forest or mountains, but beauty nonetheless. Below is a picture of me with one of the Joshua trees, trying to imitate its creative pose. The climate and terrain is very similar to Joshua Tree National Park.
One of the many cacti
Can you see the red-shouldered hawk? He blends in well!
It was a wonderfully refreshing, albeit brief, time of reflection, prayer, reading, and enjoying creation. We thoroughly recommend it for anyone who feels at the end of their rope. :)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Learning to be less car-dependent

Bob and I have a car...but only 1 car. We are really grateful for this dependable car, and it has not been a problem to share long as Bob was taking classes on campus and didn't need it very much! In the past few months, I started working at World Vision, and Bob was doing his church internship and now his hospital chaplaincy, which required much more need for transportation than we were used to.

Knowing that transportation would be a challenge, it has been my goal for several months to learn to take the bus in Pasadena. I must admit that I had lived here nearly 2 years and had never taken the public bus. Not only that, but while I lived in the Chicago I also failed to take the bus, so I was very naive about the system. But I did have lots of experience with a bike, so last summer I bought a used mountain bike and started using that for errands around town.

Then, in December I bit the bullet, analyzed the bus maps online, and took my first bus-ride to work. I was so thrilled I did it nearly 3 times in a week! There were so many benefits! I finally had the opportunity to read--something I usually do only get to when travelling. I was forced to slow down my pace (you can't plan 'to the minute' like when driving) and I got to mix with that segment of society that doesn't drive or own their own car (a very multi-cultural and interesting segment!). I also felt like I was earning points for being energy-efficient and not driving. Then, of course, there are the drawbacks. First, time: It takes me 10 minutes to drive the 8 miles to work, and a full hour to get there by bus (including walking time). You also are much more 'in tune' with the weather...a positive, in the end, but a challenge when it is cold and rainy or very hot.

So, we are adjusting. Both of us have volunteered to bike or use trains or buses in the last few months when our schedules collided. With our current schedules we are even more conscious of the extra effort it takes to not jump in the car for every whim. It is very worth it...we are happy for this extra motivation to use alternative methods of transportation. But we are also realizing that it is unusual in LA, and does require extra planning and time. I heard it quoted on NPR, "nobody who is anybody takes the bus in LA!" Perhaps that is a testimony to the quality and efficiency of the system...but we press on! :)

Our current methods: Bob is carpooling with 2 other interns to the hospital. We are also taking the bus and biking when we can--and looking forward to longer hours of daylight. And my latest victory was this week...I managed to take my bike ON the bus! Fortunately, when the bus arrived there was someone else there who helped me load the bike...the rack was a bit tricky for my uninitiated hands. Perhaps this is the best benefit...learning to adapt and do something new! :)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Joshua Tree National Park

When people come to visit we try to take the opportunity to do something 'touristy' and see the attractions that we often don't find time to visit without other people around. So, last weekend while my parents were in town, we took one day to check out Joshua Tree National Park. It was beautiful, so I'll share a few pictures and things we learned.
Mom and Dad by a Joshua tree. Joshua trees
somewhere between a tree and a cactus.
The rock formations are really amazing. I thought it
looked like God was playing Jenga with the rocks. :)
I thought this cactus almost looked like a
'hidden mickey'. What do you think, Lisa? :)
Us, climbing a tree.
We did a couple of the nature walks, exploring the unique beauty of the high desert. We learned that the desert is a fragile ecosystem, despite how hostile it may seem. It was amazing how resourceful some of the plants and animals are! For example, the Joshua trees spread their roots very wide to collect water, which naturally spaces the trees a good distance apart. A desert mouse can naturally survive on very little water with some ingenious adaptations. Creation is amazing!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I give up. There are too many interesting blogs to read for me to actually spend time posting something from our own lives. But, I will renew the effort, since it really has been an exciting month for us. We had our first Christmas together in the US this year (since last year we were in Rwanda), and we had the privilege of both the Rice parents and the Bertolet parents visit us in Pasadena over the holidays! So...I'll try to document the highlights.

First, we got a Christmas tree. A real, live, tree, which I haven't done since I was a child. Here is us picking out the tree (at Target!):
We decorated the tree, strung lights in the window, listened to Christmas music (all month long!), and were inundated with sugary treats...we thoroughly enjoyed all the buildup and preparation for Jesus' birthday celebration!

When Bob's parents arrived the week of Christmas, we went to the LA Arboretum, the Getty Malibu museum, and celebrated Christmas Eve with a beautiful service at Hollywood Presbyterian. A great way to celebrate and learn more about our world at the same time! Christmas day we got to spend at home (pretending that the rain was snow), enjoying fellowship and great food after we cooked a large ham to contribute to the big Christmas lunch at the local homeless shelter. One funny thing that happened Christmas day--we discovered that Bob and I got each other the exact same book for Christmas: Mother Theresa: Come Be My Light. Does that say something about us??
Mom and Dad Rice at the Malibu Getty

Then, my parents came for New Years, just in time for the Rose Parade, which Pasadena works all year to put together. It was amazing...the floats were creative and huge, and I couldn't believe how many different units were in the parade. Here are just a few pictures:
In the bleachers, waiting for the parade to start.
The Alice in Wonderland float...
...and the float for the City of St. Louis!
A closeup of the side of 1 float
all the floats are covered completely in natural materials. Flowers, seeds, and things like coconut flakes or lentils are used to generate the different colors and textures. Pictures can not do it justice! One float might have 20,000 roses of just one color...I couldn't believe it.
The blanket on this elephant includes whole oranges,
kumquats, and thousands of jewel-tone carnations.
That's a brief summary of some of the highlights. We really recommend seeing the Rose Parade if you haven't already...I can't even explain what a phenomenon it is in this area! When we drove through Pasadena on the afternoon of New Years eve, there were already people camped out on the sidewalk to see the parade the following day! Bleachers are erected months in advance along the full 5 miles of the parade. Where else in the world does this happen??