Monday, December 30, 2013

I sit alone in a hotel room, just a little over 24 hours left to 2013. I'm in Chicago, and have celebrated Christmas with my family, as well as helped in what I'm calling, the Great Move.

This year has been incredible. I saw three good friends get married, in three distinctly beautiful weddings. I went to two conferences to present my original ideas on Second Language Acquistion, and I was accepted into a PhD program at the University of Granada.

I threw parties, I saw my husband race 2 different olympic distance races and complete them well. I ran my own races, including my first sprint race. I finished.

But the one memory that sticks out in mind, besides the surprise birthday party, the weddings, the joys and the lows, was one of my lower moments this year. The Race I didn't Finish.

It was supposed to be my first sprint triathlon. Surrounded by my team, as I began to swam out, I panicked. My asthma compounded by my nerves created The Perfect Panic Attack. I tried to talk myself out of it. I quoted Bible Verses to stay my soul. It didn't work. I gave up. I raised my arm halfway throug the swim, and the boat came and fished me out of the water.

Andrew was still racing, and so he didn't see it happen. But two men from our team did. Salvador (appropiately named) is a doc, and was worried. He asked if I was ok phsyically. I was.

Julian, our trainer, was also worried. As he walked back with me to the main staging area, he knew I was ashamed and embarrassed. He knew how hard I had trained, how I had run a 5k for the 2nd time in my life 2 weeks before the race to prep for this on.

 After asking if I was ok, he gently talked with me. He has been in the world of triathlon for over 10 years. He said," This happened to me during my first triathlon". Same thing. As he stood there telling me this, I almost cried, and then he said, "And now, I've done two Ironman races."

As of today, he's actually done three.

He used to be fat, smoke, and wheeze from his house to the Metro in Buenos Aires. He is not the same man today.

Just a few days ago, Juli and his wife Liz, and his parents came to our house, and the six of us ate Chinese food and prayed. For love, for hope, for new vision. It was good.

Today, as I sit in my bed, a little sick and really tired, I remember the Failed Race, and I remember what happened afterwards. After that race, I ran 3 more 5k runs, and a 8k run (mostly uphill). I swam three open water races, 2 in the open sea, one in a port. And finally, I finished my first Sprint triathlon. I was last, but I finished.

More importantly than the sports aspect of my life, I have certain things I've failed in or others have failed me in. It is easy to feel embarrased, ashamed, and want to avoid situations. I hope I've learned this year that I don't have to live in that Failed Race syndrome, but I can "throw off the shackles that easily beset us, and the run the race set before us, looking to the author and finisher of our faith."

My new's years hope, run the race, looking to Jesus. New Year, new hope.

Happy New Year.

Friday, November 22, 2013


This summer we met and heard a musican named Alex Sampedro, I had heard this song before, but when I heard it live, I wept along with the rest of the audience. Below I will translate the song.

El verano pasado, conocimos y escuchamos a un muisco se llama Alex Sampedro. Lo habia escuchado la cancion antes, pero cuando lo escuche en vivo, llore como el resto de publico.

I have a bible that doesn't say anything
A cruxifix that doesn't save
A faith that is tired of mountains
I have prayers with no focus
And I have preached so many times
in the valley of the dry bones
 I have news, but no hearers
I have people waiting for fish
But my nets are broken

The wine is vinegar and the bread has no taste
The salt no longer is salty
The church no longer goes out into the streets
Their light is under a table
and the virgin doesn't care
The yeast is in the fridge
and my armour is rusty
I have silver and gold, but the lame do not dance.

I have failed victories
People in the church building are lukewarm
Missionaries are holed up in their houses
My offering is in the bank
Promises are expired
Mana is frozen
There is no heat or power in the Word
The Keeper of the Gate is partying with the Good Samaritan
They no longer are patient as brothers
They have lost their guts

La cancion es demasiado verdad tanto sobre la Iglesia Catolica que muchas iglesias protestantes.  Pero lo que tengo esperanza esta en Dios, mas que las instituiones humanas.Esperamos que un dia, podremos llegar al menos corrupcion, y podamos ver Dios mas que hombre sobretodo.

The song is too true regarding both the Cathlolic Church and a lot of protestant churches. But I have my hope placed in God, far more than in human institutions. We hope that one day, we can see less corruption and that we can see God above man.

Friday, November 08, 2013

I have realized that this year I have written very little, but for me this has been an incredible year of wandering around the world and yet staying close to home at the same time.

In just a little over a year, I've traveled to three separate countries in order to present my MA thesis, and have had it received quite positively. I didn't write about my time in Poland this year and I have a few memories I'd like to add to this blog.

I traveled alone this time, as the two previous times I had either Liz or Andrew with me. I have traveled alone on various occasions, but this time was rather nerve wracking. My first country in which I didn't know any of the language all by myself since I have been married. I took the bus to Madrid, slept a bit in the airport and then off on the umpteenth Ryanair flight for this year.

It took almost 4 hours by plane to get to Krakow, and then I walked tentatively to the train station, following signs and other travelers. You completely leave the airport, walk down a country road with adorable houses, and then suddenly, you see a grass covered train tracks with other travelers listelessly waiting and think, is this it? and then, where the heck am I going? and will the train be full of Nazi soldiers? Seriously, the train tracks look like something out of Schindlers List.

But the train came, nice and modern and for 3 euros whisked us into the centre of town. I had 3 hours to kill before my next train and fortunately the train station ended in a massive shopping mall with lots of places to shop, eat and explore. It was raining when I thought about stepping out side, and I thought, yah ,that's ok, I'm good.

After an interesting and cheap lunch, coffee at Starbucks and impulse shopping for my husband and myself, I found my next train ride. Now, this was an adventure. The train looked like something out of  a 1970 James Bond film, curtains and worn carpet to boot, and looked like it was pre communism. I couldn't understand my ticket and strangely enough found another American who I found was later bound for the same conference who helped me read where my seat number. In my cabin sat an old, greasy man who munch on massive pretzels and reeked of sweat, vodka and borsct, as well as an older women. When both tried to speak to me and I shook my head and said English, they looked sadly at me.

3 hours through massive hills, trees and adorable houses later, we arrived, and I found our massive group waiting for the 2 hour bus ride and we were off.

I had spotted the prof I wanted to meet and was pleased to find out when we arrived at the hotel, I was just two doors down from her. She caught the same elevator down to the dining hall and we introduced ourselves to each other. I'm not going to mention names to protect the innocent, but she and I and another professor important in my field ended up gleefully eating roast chicken and potatoes together....making friends instantly.

The next day was my presentation, and she and another prof were in attendance. I received a wonderful amount of feedback, and I am forever grateful. I also heard I was accepted into the program at UGR the same day, and so I happily bought drinks for my table at suppertime. We drank dark Polish beers and spoke of the revolution and how we viewed it. IT was fabulous and my Polish colleagues are dear, lovely people. I can't wait to return.

I loved my time at the conference, and next time I hope to see more of Poland. Green, trees, rushing rivers made my two times I went running a pure pleasure, and I don't like running that much. Polish hospitality was wonderful, and I'm so happy to have met all the right people, and I will definitely see this moment as one of the great highlights of this year.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Yesterday Andrew and I completed our third open water swim race this summer. The previous two, July in Salobrena, and August in Motril, were 1500 and 1600 meters respectively. We presumed this would be about the same, and instead according to our trainers gps, it was 2250m!

With all the usual pre race nerves, we made our way down to La Herradura, one of my favorite beaches. If I could have a beach house in Spain, it would be there. The water is crystal clear, the beach super relaxed, lots of great little chiringuitos (beach restaurants) and lots of happy vibes.

There were about 200 of us competing, lots of young people this time with lots of nervous energy. All of the sudden they called us all together, and BLEEEEHHHHHHHHHHHHH, we were off.

I probably sprinted too much in the beginning, and that was revealed to me as I kept going and going and going and going, and about halfway through I realized this race was a LOT LOT LOT longer than we had anticapated. It was a zig zag course, and even thought I enjoyed seeing all the fish that were below, my mouth had started to taste like leather. I swallowed water at least three times, one with good proper coughs and burning in my nose and eyes.

About halfway through, fighting waves, wind, queasy seasick stomach, I was ready to stop and call for the Red Cross boat. So easy, give up, try another day. But two things happened. First, I remembered my team, and how I have watched so many of them want to give up, and yet they have collapsed over the finish line. They are such an inspiration. I thought, for the pride of the team, Triatomix, I must finish, even if I"m the last woman over the line. I kept going.

As I turned at the last big red buoy, my legs and arms went to automatic, and I was able to think instead of just swim. My mind drifted and I remembered the verse in the Bible that says.

Let us Run (or swim) the race set before us,Looking forward to Jesus, the FINISHER of our faith, who for the Joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and now sits next to God.

Renewed by this thought, I swam the last part, got out of the water, and collapsed over the finish line. Before I got there, I heard Andrew's loud booming voice yelling JAMIE~! and I knew I was almost there. He helped me over the finish line, handed in my chip and grabbing the bag of water and apple I needed and helped me away from the crowd.

Sitting on the beach, all my friends kept saying BUT JAMIE DO YOU REALIZE WHAT YOU DID????????????? I was really upset, as it was 16 minutes longer than I had anticipated  but it was 750 meters longer of a race. I have NEVER swum that far, alone or in a race, and I did and do feel accomplished.

But what made it better, was to have an older man, I didn't know, find me on the beach as I sat there in utter exhaustion (I gave it my all this time) and shake my hand, tears in his eyes. He didn't say anything, even as I said, Thank you in English (there are lots of expats that live down there). Just walked away.

Two days previous, I was out on the bike with Andrew, Liz and Juli in a rare quiet moment of just the four of us. I stopped to pee and afterwards, my side and groin contracted in pain. Yet another kidney stone (I live with chronic kidney issues, my thorn in the flesh). I collapsed in pain, and barely could move. As the pain passed, I managed to get on my bike and slowly go home. But, I made it. I finished the 45 km bike ride. Having had this happen just less than 48 hours before the longest swim race, I realized today, how blessed I was, even as frustrating as it was, to finish. I thank the Lord for reminding me He is the first Finisher, and how looking to Him, we too can finish.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

This last year or so, I've realized, I'm an adrenaline freak. Not the bungie jumping, parachuting kind,but I'm more like the goosebumps kind.

And I get goosebumps pretty easily. Give me a hug, take me out for coffee, let me ride my bike until WOW it's pretty cuz we live in the mountains, or ride my bike along a babbling river, or take me to a concert or read me a poem...or....I think you get the picture.

But my favorite goosebumps have to do when I see transcendence. It's not too hard to do. Just go onto my rooftop terrace and watch the summer sun set into the dust of the Spanish desert. Take a bike ride along the river Genil.......and somehow, you get the goosebumply feeling that God is here, and we are not alone.

I had that very experience this weekend. I was in great need of not just adrenaline, but God goosebumps. You see, I get all the normal ones on a regular basis,bike rides, running, swimming in the pool, reading a book, watching a movie..but those a empty, hollow ones. They satisfy for the moment, like a burger or ice cream or Doritios, but shortly thereafter, you are reaching for more.

Don't get me wrong, the godgoosebumps,  with a lowercase g, they are great. I mean, that feeling you get 40 meters before the finish line, realizing you finished, awesomeness. The kiss on the back of the neck....dynamite!

But God, with an uppercase G, created all those goosebumps, and its easy to be drawn to those, rather than He who Gives the GODgoosebumps. But I digress. I went to a festival this weekend, and it was a Christian one. I didn't know what to expect, but I knew I needed something.

The second night, we were about to start the concert. Andrew and I were there, in Aguadulce, to take pictures for this festival. I knew that this concert would feature a DJ, named Marcos Cruz, and that was it.

I was walking to the tent with my friends, Liz and Juli, and suddently this great looking guy shows up outta nowhere. Juli knew who he was, Marcos Cruz, and stopped to talk to him. See, Juli had heard this guys story before. Marcos was a strung out, addicted to drugs and music, dj, in the middle of depression, when God finally caught him. Marcos told us his story, a before and after story of how God changed him, when Marcos finally asked to meet God, God met him, and that's it.

Marcos is still a DJ. He goes everywhere, in fact the night after he was with us, he was 150 miles away spinning at a discotec. He's played with some of the best, Tiesto, Guetta, etc. But now he knows Jesus.

As he told us his story, he burst into tears of joy, and that's when I got them, those goosebumps. You see, for the last year, I've been walking around in a strange fog. First, life is incredible. So much has gone so well. Academically, I'm headed up. Physically, I'm stronger than I have been in a long time. But, uff....a year ago, someone stabbed Andrew and I in the back, and its been pretty miserable. I actually felt like someone had physically stabbed me for about 4 months this earlier part of the year.

And I've wrestled. I've prayed, I've asked God to help me to forgive this person, and I've said "I forgive you" again and again and again. Most days I feel like I've forgiven and then some moments I wake up angrier than heck.

And mostly, its a knot in my back that won't go away. But Marcos talked about God taking away that knot in his stomach, and together we cried.

We left, as the concert was about to begin, and Marcos spun his music. Wow. I cried, the whole time, and my friends were worried. But you know what, I cried, asking for that knot to go away. If God did it for Marcos, He can do it for me.

It's not all gone yet, its a process. But there has been a before and a after. I feel lighter, more hopeful. I feel like I've begun healing again which is what God wants. He wants us to know Him as not only the Healer, but the Giver of His Goosebumps.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hide me in the cleft of your rock...cries the Psalmist. I have never really understood the Psalm, until this weekend.

Tomorrow, Andrew and I celebrate13 years as a married couple. What a journey! We began with laughter and joy and peace, and even though we have seen sorrow and tears, grief and pain, we still find laughter and joy and peace together.

To escape the rat race, and a few other things, we strapped on backpacks, jumped on the scooter, and rode around the other side of the towering Sierra Nevada to a region called Las Alpujarras. We've been several times, but never to stay. This weekend however, Andrew founded us a hotel, booked it, and off we went.

The sights, smells and feelings of riding up the mountain were incredible. Rosemary, jasmine, orange blossoms and more overwhelmed our noses, the teetering "barrancos" or cliffs and the warm, spring air was a delight as we went higher and higher. We ate hearty country food, potatoes that were definitely not "pobre" and stiff cups of coffee. Exhausted, I fell into bed for both siesta and that evening, and slept.

As we reluctantly left, and started back down the hill, we stopped for pictures. Andrew realized that at a certain level, the church steeple fit between two hills. AS we left the Poquiera valley, I realized we had been hidden in a cleft of a rock, safe and snug between two immense rocks, towered over by the snow capped Sierra Nevada.

These last few months have definitely been challenging, as they always are. This last weekend, God hid us away, in the cleft of His rock, and refreshed us physically, and as we walked away, spiritually as I realized how He hid us.

Elijah goes through intense miracles, fire falls from heaven, and his very life is threatened by Ahab and Jezebel. He runs into the wilderness, is sustained physically by a big big angel, and finally finds himself in the clef of a rock.

As the storm, rain, thundering and lightening come down around him, he begins to listen and look for God. Until the storm ends, does he finally hear God's voice, and later is sustained until he is fully rested. I'm glad God gave him rest, and I too listen for the still small voice.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A new year. What better way to start a new year than with a wedding, and in of all places, Scotland. I had never been, and what a good excuse to see Jonny Henderson and Amy Ross married.

I felt like I was on top of the world, and to use a word I usually detest, literally. The light was ethereal, the sun struggled to get much above the horizon, perhaps for only 6 hours a day, and that was up from the 5 and1/2 that it was at the shortest day of the year. As a result, the day felt like a continual golden hour, and I kicked myself for not taking Andrew's camera.

I had to travel over 30 hours to get there, three planes, two trains, a shuttle bus, and an hour ride home from Edinburgh to the beautiful small town of St. Andrew's. The first two nights I bunked with Andrea and Amy as we crashed on makeshift mattresses in Jonny's apartment. I went for a brief run in their village and marveled at wet, green rolling hills with small houses and flats looking like they'd grown into the countryside. It was cool not cold, and it was so good to be there.

We rushed around the week from Wednesday to Thursday and it felt like the two days became one between shopping and hen do and circus and food and a drink at the pub. Then Friday came.

Before coming to Scotland, I had spent two glorious, wonderful weeks in the Chicago area visiting my family and lots of friends. As I traveled my 30 hour journey, not even jetlag (again) could dampen my spirits. I felt happy and beyond blessed to have spent Christmas with my amazing family, who gave us so many presents I can hardly believe it. My parents put us up at a nice hotel, so we had a place to call our own. We shopped till we dropped, laughed until our sides hurt, and met with all sorts of friends.

As we left, I realized the friends we had managed to see were a sort of "last man standing". Those, who have been separated from the boys, and are men. Just a few choice friends, all over the world, in completely different situations from each other, some in full time work in ministry, others working in normal everyday jobs, and others, like us, doing a bit of both.

And yet, there was this common thread of kinship, of mutual encouragement, that kept repeating itself over and over. After a wonderful evening downtown, a friend stood on the snowy streets of Chicago and prayed for us, and it was one of those moments you thought you heard heaven say Amen.

In JFK, one of my least favorite airports, I stood in line at the Panda Express to buy rice and orange chicken. It was the 31st, and I was a little bummed my New Years Eve was going to be spent crammed into a plane.

Suddenly, an African man appeared as I stood in line and said "Happy New Year".  I returned the greeting and he made small talk with me as I paid. I caught the teller giving me too little and changed and he turned and said, "You must be smart. Phd?" catching me completely off guard. I agreed, and he affirmed my intelligence. Perhaps it was a small interaction, and maybe just a kind man, but it made my New Years feel different, maybe even blessed.

And back to Scotland, the Friday before the wedding, I went with other friends to walk around town, eat lunch, shop and then find the beach facing the North Sea. It was a rare day in Scotland, let alone in January, with 10 degrees centigrade (50F) and sun. A day from God. We went to find the beach and as I saw it, I thought, This looks like the beach from Chariots of Fire. Melissa promptly then found a plaque telling us so. I was on top of the world.

You see, one of the movies lines has to do with Eric Liddel as he prepares to run in the 1924 Olympics. His sister, angry that he has yet to go to China and be a missionary, confronts him and asks him why he is doing this. He turns to her and after a brief exchange he ends with, "When I run, I feel God's pleasure."

I wish I felt that way when I ran ,usually I just feel pissed off at the world for why on earth does this fat Swimmer think she can run to compete in tris. Sigh. But, when I cross that finish line, either in a tri, a big project, or the end of the year or even just succeeding to love my husband and my family and friends, I feel God's pleasure.

And, that is amazing.

Later that weekend, we cried as Amy and Jonny said their vows and sang together,

When we've been here ten thousand years...
bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise...
then when we've first begun.

That evening, we ate, drank, and danced our hearts out in typical Ceilah dancing, which I'd never experienced before. I honestly have never kicked, spun, danced or trotted up and down so much at a single wedding or event before! As we stepped outside to the night sky with stars so close we could touch them to say goodbye to the bride and groom, I honestly felt that for a few brief moments, we had experienced a taste of heaven, a taste of those ten thousand years we will have with no sin, no pain, no sorrow and together with loved ones, both ones we know, and Others Yet to Be Known.

My heart is full, I saw an angel, says James' Blunt bittersweet song about love lost. We all know those moments, but in this case, I experienced love in a way I haven't in a long time, and in the words of Genesis, "It was good.".