Birth day celebrations

I have never shared my birthday month with any of my family members… until this year.  And I am ecstatic to welcome a little niece and extra-little twin nephews born two days apart (with my birthday sandwiched between them)!

newborn girl with big eyes wrapped in hospital blanket

Welcome, darling little Joanna Evelyn. May your life be full of joy, zest for life, and a deep friendship with your big sister. I don’t have to meet you in person to fall in love.

baby boy in hospital bed

Welcome, Alex Robert. May your world keep getting bigger and bigger as you grow. May you find love to be unconditional and joy to be an abundant gift. I love you already.

baby boy with tubes in hospital bed

And welcome, Bennett Richard. You’re still so tiny, but may you continue growing and learning. May you learn to savor God’s blessings in your little life. I love you.

Sometimes, I wonder if I’m two people

Sometimes, I wonder if I’m two people. How can I feel so alive in a field of green with no one else around when I feel just as alive walking down the street of a busy little town?

The green grabs me and pulls me in to whisper, “And God said that it was good.” I see His hand in the great green and blue of creation.

But as I walk down the street in the middle of humanity, I hear the same words, “And God said that it was good.”

city street with blurred lights, burger king and fountain

Here in town, surrounded by manmade structures and, well, manmade everything, I long for the moments I can slip away and just be by myself with nature. Or even without nature. Sometimes, what I’m really longing for is anonymity where I can step out of my house without someone reporting it to someone else somewhere along the line. 

I’m a country girl at heart, but I know that should I ever move again to the country, even under that vast starry sky, I would miss the connection and relationship of the daily ins and outs with humans.

I would miss the Spanish pop blaring from someone’s front window that puts a spring in my step. I would miss the evening chamomile with a friend who has invited me into her inner circle. I would miss the cars that stop as I approach the crosswalk. And the store owners who ask how I’m doing because we’ve been around each other long enough to care. I would even miss that dog yapping at me just because I walked past. Or the neighbors drilling into their wall when I want to be sleeping. And that little boy greeting me as if he knew me and then turning to his friend and saying, “She’s the one who visits Khadija.”

It’s the living and breathing together that makes me aware of God’s Presence. But it’s also the furious ocean waves and the placid Midwestern cornfields that make me aware of Him. 

I can’t explain it. Except maybe to say that God’s Presence transcends our preferences and breathes life wherever we are.

(But I still sometimes wonder if I’m two people.)

His Presence in the waves

The JWs caught me for the first time in my life. The woman was nice, but the man’s smile was as big and fake as he was pushy. When I finally said I wanted the chance to speak, his patronizing smile grew even wider and he pretended to listen. 

The bus came, thank goodness, and my scrambling on board provided a decisive exit.

Minutes later, I was disembarking and descending to the beach. I looked up to the looming mountain and sighed. JWs or not, it had been a good decision to bury myself in God’s artwork for a few hours.

I love being at home. But sometimes there is an accompanying trapped feeling. Trapped within my own honey-do list. Seemingly endless people to contact and visit, groceries to buy, food to cook, laundry to soak, languages to study, paperwork to stress over.

Right now, I had only my Kindle.

I parked in the sand and gulped the salty air that was cold enough to keep most tourists away. The rhythmic roar of advancing and receding waves drowned out the remaining background noise.

Feeling gloriously alone and free, I drenched my mind with St. Augustine. He reads like a famous blogger, I decided, and read until my mind was too saturated to absorb any more. Then I turned to Daddy Long Legs and delighted myself in the simplicity of a young lady’s letters to her mysterious benefactor. And shame on me for not reading the book sooner for all that it had been recommended to me. 

By then, it was dark and I was cold. And I still had some grocery shopping to do. So I gathered my few belongings and left behind that glorious alone spot.

And the next day, when emotional and physical demands nearly drove me to my wit’s end, I drew upon yesterday’s strength which God had multiplied into the present.

Sometimes, God is harder to see in the rhythmic roar of emotional waves. I would rather drink in His clear Presence in nature.

But some days are like this. And He is in these days too.

Me and my fat, drippy plum

I was sitting on a kitchen stool, devouring a fat, drippy plum. “Wouldn’t this be a nice way to start a blog?” I thought and wished for inspiration to descend upon me. Something that would touch a spiritual or emotional vein. “I was sitting on a kitchen stool, devouring a fat, drippy plum when it suddenly occurred to me that…”

Instead, during a particularly juicy bite, I dropped the plum and it rolled across the neglected kitchen floor, gathering bits of lunch leftovers as it went. I picked it up, washed it off, and kept eating… and waiting for inspiration. But my mind strayed to menu ideas for cold main dishes and luscious salads.

And then I thought of how my last evening in Illinois was damp with just a smidgen of chill. We sat on the front porch and blew bubbles to delight my nephews. And how I didn’t want that night to end. Ever.

How pleased I was that my brother had married, but how melancholy I was at another evidence that life keeps changing. And we have to keep adjusting.

How hard it had been to leave Illinois, but how I had been ready to get back to Spain and what has become normal life for me.

How, more than once, I had accidentally referred to Spain as “home” which got confusing when I referred to Illinois as “home” in the same sentence.

How I had asked God to let the seat beside me be empty on my 8 hour flight over the Atlantic. I wanted to sleep. Instead, He placed a Palestinian man beside me. And we talked.

How after I had unpacked, I discovered an empty shelf in my tiny room. What a delight!

How timid I was to go out and buy groceries because my Spanish felt rusty and I knew that shopkeepers would ask about my trip. And how they did, but how I survived.

How 3 weeks was not enough time to catch up with family and friends and how the days had gone so hard and fast that they now seemed a lifetime ago as I sat on the kitchen stool and devoured my fat, drippy plum.

That’s what I thought about. Nothing profound or inspiring. Just life right now.

In less than a week…

In less than a week, I plan to leave for the States. Three weeks of family and friends and a very important family wedding.

I have a lot more family and friends than will fit into three weeks, but I’m going to try anyway.

And, by the way, no more blogging until I get back to Spain. Priorities, you know? Yes, you probably do know.

I’ll give you an update when I get back. But hasta luego…

Thank you for the homesickness

When I think of my family, friends, and church at home, the word that comes to mind right now is “thank you.”

Thank you for the strength I feel behind me. When I struggle, you gently carry me along with your prayers, encouragement, and advice. When I am happy, you rejoice with me. And you tell me about life at home like I’m still one of you. I am still one of you.

You give me a reason to be homesick. Not every day. But some days it rushes over me and I feel lost, pretty sure that I will drown. And I do for a little, overwhelmed with the sorrow of what has been and probably would have continued being had I not moved here. But then I lift my hands in surrender (literally sometimes), let my tears dry, and blow my nose. Life goes on.

“God, I’m not questioning my calling; I’m just feeling the hurt right now.”

I’m thankful for technology– emails, phone calls, video chats and such– but it’s not the same.

I wonder if Jesus ever felt homesick. He had sweet and constant communion with His Father. And then He left heaven to come to earth. Sure, He could pray to His Father. But it wasn’t the same. Sorta like a phone call.

But without that sweet communion, without something that emotionally ties us to “our” place, there would be no homesickness.

That’s why I say, “Thank you for the homesickness.” You have given me many reasons to miss you.

Guest blog- “Let’s be sisters forever”

I met her twenty-six years ago. No, I shouldn’t say it like that. It’d be more accurate to say, “She met me twenty-six years ago.”

When she looked into my squalling red face and squinting eyes (the world is an awfully hard place when bright lights and thundering noises hit you directly and not through the sound-barrier of your mom’s belly), she probably felt something similar to love…and regret that she wasn’t the baby girl anymore.

Still, I wish I could remember that moment when my then four-year-old sister peered into my eyes for the first time.

Even if she didn’t love me right away, I’m sure she must have learned to love me at some point, but it was years before the love went anything beyond obligatory sibling love.

Our relationship was unstable. I simultaneously loved and hated her—I didn’t do things by halves. I envied her cool poise and aloofness. I longed to be tall and lean like her instead of stocky and square like me. Years later, I found out that she envied my blue eyes and blonde hair. Life’s a funny thing, isn’t it?

She was a stubborn neat freak, me her bull-headed little messy sister, both trying to inhabit the same room without killing each other. I’ll let you imagine how that worked.

She introduced me to classic literature and ridiculed the fluffy books I sometimes read. Thus, she bullied me into reading good books. I’m not sure if I have ever thanked her for that.

When she went on grand and glorious adventures to Mexico, Ecuador, Africa, and Spain, I stayed home and got eaten up with jealousy and cheered her on.

Now she writes and works in Spain, where she has dozens of friends and cool adventures every day (and I’m not jealous at all).

She drinks coffee in exorbitant amounts. “The milk here has a funny taste so I use cream in my coffee,” she told us over a phone call.

“Maybe that’s a good way to wean yourself off of coffee,” my mom suggested.

“But—but I don’t want to be weaned off it.”

She has a hunger for yummy ethnic food and actually makes it, unlike me (hello, 5-year old bubble tea balls). Green and red curry, tikka masala, and egg rolls are nothing uncommon. Before she left for Spain, she bought a HUGE bag of rice (I think ten pounds). She was constantly volunteering to bring rice to things.

“Why don’t you make stir-fry?” she’d tell Mom, “and I’ll bring the rice.”

“Do you know what would be good with that?” she asked me as I pan-fried chicken breasts.

I looked at her blankly.

“RICE!”

She likes to make use of what she has, and is a shrewd shopper for what she doesn’t.

While I look at a rack full of clothes as overwhelming and hopeless, she carefully combs through each item and selects things I end up being jealous of.

She has long been a proponent of living with less, although I’ve never heard her refer to it as minimalism. To her, it doesn’t need a label. She spent years with monthly stashes beside her bed. “If I don’t use it this month, then I don’t need it!” She kept her drawers and closet on the bare side, while my side was stuffed full (I have since fallen in love with minimalism and my closet is beginning to look more and more like hers).

When it comes to being an aunt, my sister, like me, is in love with the little people. However, she is an infinitely cooler aunt than I ever hope to be, taking our nephew outside to “explore,” having him “catch” leaves, see the kitty (which he calls the “deeder-deeder”), and play on an old tricycle. She is a calm presence, not jumpy and flighty like me, patiently loving on the boys and, more recently, the girl.

When she asked me to guest blog for her, I suggested that I write about her. It’s not fair that all of her readers should see only a lopsided picture of her and never know what she’s really like.

She was worried. “Okay. But make sure you send it to me early so that if I want you to write something different, you’ll still have time.”

I laughed. “I won’t write anything bad!

Her voice was hesitant. “Just—just send it to me early, though.”

She shouldn’t have worried. I’m not mean. I won’t tell the embarrassing stories (well…maybe just one…hee,hee). I may be the little sister that she tormented, but I’m not a vindictive soul. I’ll let you simply wonder about all the things I could have said, but didn’t.

I sit here now, wondering how to close up an article about someone when they’re ongoing. I’m not a sentimental person. If I were, I’d probably say something trite about loving my sister and how wonderful she is.

But since I’m not sentimental, I’ll just say, “It’s been great. Let’s be sisters for forever.”


Michelle loves books, family, and working with the elderly at her job. She is passionate about making beautiful things, whether through writing, crafting, knitting, etc. She blogs about life at rhapsodyind.wordpress.com.

Casting all your anxieties on him

When she told me goodbye, my roommate gave me a stack of envelopes- one per month until my birthday. There were two photos in the May envelope. One was a peaceful mountain landscape… with an ominous quote:

“You will never be completely at home again. Because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

The other photo was of an overloaded North African donkey. On the back of the photo, my roommate had written “Casting ALL your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)”

I immediately posted both on my refrigerator. They belonged together.

My life is strange right now- the sensation of not quite belonging anywhere. The struggle of trying to remember exactly where you are and why you are there. Sometimes the struggle even includes trying to remember who you are. Re-entry is somewhat like waking up from a vivid dream. Initially, there is such a lostness.

But He is capable and willing to carry my anxieties. And more than that, He cares for me.

Not so glamorous

I asked my roommate for ideas for my blog. She suggested that I write about how life abroad isn’t necessarily glamorous. The common misconception is that life at home is mundane, but those who live abroad are enveloped in a never-ending adventure. Yet, those who have live out of the country soon realize that there is a difference between traveling abroad and living abroad.

I dug around in my old emails to find my initial impressions of my “exotic” life. It turns out that despite the initial culture shock, I soon settled into a routine, much like life at home.

From February 2016: “It was hard to decide what to write about this month. If I only mention the highlights, you assume that my life is one big, adrenaline-laden adventure. It’s not. Each day is unique, but I have developed a pattern and am beginning to plod down the same cowpath day after day. Even the grass is wearing out beneath my hooves. Moo… In spite of these very normal circumstances, occasionally I do experience variation from normal life. It’s like happening on an untasted meadow (to continue the bovine analogy). Sometimes the meadow is sweet grass, other times it’s mostly thistles.”

From April 2016: “Perhaps my life sounds glamorous to you. I suppose it is in theory, but it’s been hard to give up close interaction with family, church, and friends while what used to be my everyday life changes without me. And looking like an ignorant tourist isn’t particularly glamorous or comfortable..”

What’s new quickly becomes normal when you experience it enough. Flagging down taxis, crossing the street amidst moving traffic, watching things shatter when dropped on hard tile, eating piles of bread and drinking liters of syrupy tea is all commonplace.

See, the glamorous part happens in the initial stages. A North African immigrant in America might be startled at the wealth of personal space, how difficult it is to make friends, traffic that is relatively decent and in order, prices that are non-negotiable, and everything running on time. That is something to write home about…initially. Until the glamour of the foreign adventure becomes everyday life.

Also from an email from April 2016: “A recent sermon has given me a few thoughts to ponder. Using John 21, the speaker proclaimed that our duty is to follow Him, not to compare ourselves to others and decide that our personal callings are unjust. No matter where we are, whether glamorous or not glamorous at all, our duty is to follow, day by day and hour by hour.”