an introduction to 7 layer dreams

My mom makes a mad seven layer bean dip. I mean, people talk about it and not just around Christmas and Super Bowl - it's kind of a big deal. I always admired the idea of 7 layers constructed for the sole purpose of complimenting a simple, overly salty corn chip. When someone recently asked me the question, "What is a dream you have... you know? A dream that might be crazy, but you would love to make it happen?" I immediately thought of seven layers. Not because my dream has to do with beans, but because it's complex and simple and oh-so-delicious. Also because the thought of attempting my mom's (admittedly simple) 7 layer bean dip is a little intimidating.

I think my dream's seven layers is the result of a concept I just invented called "adaptation construction." This is a building technique utilized here in Honduras where people build a room onto whatever wall seems lonely. The result is a maze of concrete puzzle pieces that tell quite a lengthy story.

So, my dream's like that - 7 layer bean dip and adaptation construction. It's been growing and developing over the past few years and I'm sure now contains more than could possibly realistically fit in one dream. But, I've finally come to peace with that unfortunate realistic bit.

If God gave dreams that were realistic, there would be nothing to hope for, nothing to believe for, and nothing to risk everything on the chance that it might happen. I have a hunch that God lets us dream big things because we realize how small we are in comparison. He wants us to think beyond what is possible and believe He goes further still.

There's that piece in me that wants to roll up the "adaptation construction" blueprint and never attempt the widely praised 7 layer bean dip. I have finally figured out what to call that piece: fear and pride. Sometimes chasing the dreams God has placed inside you means believing God is bigger than the fear of failure and that if and when we do fail, God can still be glorified.

I've shared these 7 layers with a few secret souls. I actually wrote out each layer in creative gobbledigook language and trusted gmail to deliver it intact. Today, a dear friend responded with some of the sweetest encouragement I could ever hear. Her heart is tender for dreams as well. She throws out that my-real-home-is-heaven-but-I-believe-in-praying-for-Thy-kingdom-come-now kind of vibe.

What a beautiful thing is sweet community. Even when it comes in the form of typed out words from miles away. This is the binding power of Christ and His Church!

let LOVE fly like cRazY Especially to all you folks shivering inside of snow-banked houses! Here's pictures from my parents home in Iowa. I don't have to tell you that it's much, much warmer here. :)


giving PRESENCE this Christmas

I intentionally didn't start out my post yesterday with an apology because I wanted to get right into the strangeness of my gym encounter. Today, I want to post an ENORMOUS slideshow to give you an idea of what the last two weeks have been full of: PRESENCE. Awhile ago, I posted a video from Advent Conspiracy that challenges people to give more meaningful gifts of time and hand-crafted gifts rather than breaking the bank. Here it is again, if you missed it:


I haven't quite felt up to pounding out life at the keyboard because there's been a LOT of presence-making! I finally got my handmade gifts off to the States, via someone's suitcase and now I'm working on finishing up the ones I still need to deliver here. There's A LOT of baking going on, to be sure. It could be granola, sugar cut-out cookies, pumpkin cake, or a number of other things... but there's ALWAYS something to do in the kitchen this time of year.

Well, enjoy this slideshow. I hope it lets you peek in and kind of sit with me as I go about being present this Christmas.


December stands for ANTICIPATION

I love December. Even though it's not snowy cold here, the flip of the calendar and the ushering in of advent has a sparkle all its own. I love that December means (if we weren't before) we've all got our gaze fixed ahead in anticipation for something great... something beautiful and lovely and joyous is going to happen. I just love it.  And maybe that's why my bedroom floor can't seem to stay clean. It might be a stretch, but I'm going to say it's because I am looking ahead to times of joyful gatherings and love-drenched celebrations.

As long as I'm talking about making things and giving them away, I know you've all been anticipating the Honduran Horizon newsletter! So, I have good news - HERE IT IS. You can either view it right here or go to the Honduran Horizon tab at the top of this page to view all the newsletters.

Here are a few other recommendations:

  • Get some free Christmas music from Amazon right here.
  • Check out this little piece from Tim Keller on politics and faith, which I always seem to be tangled up in confusion over.
  • I continue to chew on questions of art/beauty/church/gospel and how they are intertwined - this article about a church in Chicago set off a crazy comment fire (for which I received endless inboxes) and resulted in this follow up article. Both are worthy of a read and if you are really ambitious, look at the comments!
  • In regards to the above discussion on art and faith, Makoto Fujimura is becoming someone I would really love to meet.
  • Just to throw in a twist and show I'm totally young and hip and youtube-savvy, check out this crazy video of a girl after she gets her wisdom teeth pulled... pretty funny - especially the RAP (my favorite part!).[youtube=]

Well, I just ate some unbelievable green beans and now I'm on to my main course: popcorn. It's a whole grain, you know. It's popcorn, crafts, and filling gift boxes for AFE. Wait... is that my beeping car I hear? Humph. We'll find out in the morning!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

lovely links

I'm about ready to call it a night. If you read my last post, you might be surprised to know that the disaster on my bedroom floor has not resolved itself. In fact, it has somehow worsened. I don't mind.

I just want to leave you some encouragement tonight by way of some links. I hope this Sunday evening finds you tucked inside a well-worn love.

Sara Groves has started the "season of giving" early with her live Christmas CD, recorded at a women's prison in Illinois. You can download the whole CD of goodness from her website.

Part of the reason for the creative mess on my floor is this idea I got from my roommate: art journaling and altered books. I know it's probably been around the craft block several times and I'm new on this street, but I LOVE this idea. I will be working on some versions for Christmas presents, even though I am finding they take a LOT of work!

This last link is one I plan to muse on more later. I love the Gospel Coalition, as you might know, but especially the recent talk of art and its place in the church. I'm kind of chewing on some of the same questions and these insights are so helpful as I dig deep to know what is the heart of God in this. Here is the article, titled, "Art For, From, and Facing the Church."

Hope you start your Monday off

letting LOVE fly like cRaZy

and He shall reign forever and ever!

Wow. This is lovely! [youtube=!]

Please watch and enjoy this amazing event! Here's the description from Youtube:

On Saturday, October 30, 2010, the Opera Company of Philadelphia brought together over 650 choristers from 28 participating organizations to perform one of the Knight Foundation's "Random Acts of Culture" at Macy's in Center City Philadelphia. Accompanied by the Wanamaker Organ - the world's largest pipe organ - the OCP Chorus and throngs of singers from the community infiltrated the store as shoppers, and burst into a pop-up rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's "Messiah" at 12 noon, to the delight of surprised shoppers. This event is one of 1,000 "Random Acts of Culture" to be funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation over the next three years. The initiative transports the classical arts out of the concert halls and opera houses and into our communities to enrich our everyday lives. To learn more about this program and view more events, visit The Opera Company thanks Macy's and the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ ( for their partnership, as well as Organ Music Director Peter Conte and Fred Haas, accompanists; OCP Chorus Master Elizabeth Braden, conductor; and Sound Engineer James R. Stemke. For a complete list of participating choirs and more information, visit This event was planned to coincide with the first day of National Opera Week.


art is dead. your death killed it.

I was talking to one of my very talented, very artistic friends recently and he made this strong suggestion:

"Art is dead."

At first, it didn't sit very well. The period at the end is so... so defeating. If this statement stirs up a response, even indignation inside you like it did me, then I wonder why. Why are you offended by this idea that art and creativity have died a painful death?

I'm offended because I want to believe it's not so. Somewhere deep down, beneath the indigestion and tortillas, somewhere in that "gut" region people refer to when talking about instincts, I refuse. Something in me revolts at the finality - there is no room for explanation. Just a period and that's it.

It's like falling off the monkey bars on the playground and landing flat on my back. I'm laying there, with the wind knocked out of me, unsteady and unsure of what just happened.

After I caught my breath, I realized I agree with him. Nearly everything "creative" these days is a well-dressed marketing ploy to respond to our basest desires. With all our technology and supposed intellectual advancement, we tread the very same trail to bark up the very same tree, whose roots reach only as deep as our most carnal desires.

Instead of searching for music or entertainment that makes us think and question and understand life, we look for a spoonful of sugar so that (what we pass for) art goes down easy. We don't want art to challenge us or move us or convict us because... well, that doesn't feel good. We want to take in a movie like we take in the uber-buttered, theatre popcorn... without thinking. We want to walk out with our heads bobbing, digesting the plate full of artistic pudding without questioning the grumblings in our bellies for something of more substance.

The second part of my friend's thought took a step closer to my offended spirit. He suggested I'm to blame. Art is dead and my death killed it. I again had to shake the shock of such a suggestion, but again arrived at a convicted conclusion. I agree.

How can something dead make something living? How can an unconscious potter work with clay? How can life come from death? We re-work the same ideas, plots, notes, melodies, story lines centered around sex, money, jealousy, and greed. Then we pronounce it "version 2.0" and, with some clever advertising, have people believing they are consuming something that has "never before been seen." I almost apologized just now for being so cynical, but I held back because it wouldn't be genuine.

The Original Creator took great care in designing the smallest details, from the juice pockets in oranges to the strange mating habits of penguins. Creation is so complicated that we will never, ever exhaust its intricacies. If we let ourselves marvel, we will never be bored and the subject will never be dull. Never.

How does God accomplish this? How does He keep our attention?

He lives.

This is certainly not the end of my musings on this subject, but please chime in with your thoughts!

Also, I read this article over at The Gospel Coalition and I really appreciate the views on creativity, the arts, and the church.

million miles to go

I love this song by Joy Williams and Trent Dabbs... not because it is catchy or clever (because it is those things), but because it reminds me to persevere. Tonight, it's really not about a layered love relationship as much as it is about chocolate dough chilling in the fridge, a newsletter almost finished, and a cup of I Love Lemon tea that needs refilling. One thing you should always do when you start a recipe - read through all the directions (especially if it says chill for about 1 hour). Don't worry - I'm not fazed. The countdown begins... at 9:12 pm.

Today, I told a student she was an onion with many layers and after-school I taught cheers in heels behind my closed office door. Interesting day? That's not the half of it! :)

I can also now, at 10:55 pm, go on record saying the following:

Though recipes may be gracious about cavalier attitudes towards flour and sugar, it is NOT SO with ingredients like semi-sweet chocolate chips (tried substituting COSTA bars), dark brown sugar (tried substituting unknown Honduran sugar alternative), and chocolate mint wafer candies (tried substituting chocolate mints, like the ones you get at a restaurant).

Yep, I just wanted that to be officially on record... and also, you should only believe the exclamation, "So easy!" on a recipe if you have all the ingredients... and start very early... and are not still wearing your white pants from work.

I'm not disappointed, though. I finished my newsletter and spent some solitude time in the good ole cocina. I'm pretty sure my version will fly tomorrow, but we'll see. If not, there's always

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

g'day, friends!

I should stop describing my life or my thoughts or my un-diagnosed ADD as strange, because with its regularity it has established a very disastrous (and beautiful) normal. Having said that, I have several ironic things to report. My last post, "unplugged," surprised me by its multiple meanings (a strange occurrence - normally I squeeze out every possible meaning!) and so I'll backtrack to fill you in.

On Saturday night, I went to the school fall costume party as a Christmas tree and literally spent the whole evening lit up... and plugged in to an outlet.

We were also literally unplugged for some of Saturday night and most of Sunday due to power outages. It's no wonder when our power lines look like this:

Lastly, I can't help but add that "unplugged" sounds similar to the familiar phrase, "coming unglued" or "undone," which is what Jenna was thinking last night on the way to Micah Project when I covered the subjects of students' college applications, baking, new friends made at the coffeeshop, paranoia with my car Louis, my dad selling a calf, plans for a pep assembly this Friday, and Christmas service schedule.

Whew! There you have it - multiple meanings for "unplugged."


let LOVE fly like CRAZY

Monday are YUMdays!

I love Mondays. No, really. I LOVE Mondays.

You think I'm kidding, but today sealed the deal. Here are some of the things today that overflowed my cup:



  1. I drove to school instead of rode the bus, which perfectly placed about 8.5 extra minutes to spend with David in 1 Samuel
  2. I ran out of coffee filters at my house, but savored a Vanilla Chai tea... delicious start!
  3. I met the day with uncharacteristic (before coffee), silly joy and greeted students with grand gestures and lopsided smiles.
  4. During our mid-morning break, I was heading back from an errand in the administration building, secretly hoping two certain, special students would be waiting in my office... and THEY WERE. I think I scared them with my loopy-ness and laughter, but I don't care. I love it when I find students in my office... especially when the special ones appear!
  5. CHAPEL happens Monday and today was such a blessing! I am sure many of the seniors won't admit it, but they want to know about hearing God's voice. That was exactly the message!
  6. Then, I got to counsel one of my favorite students using a SWEET analogy about records playing in our heads. Sometimes we've let the record of lies steal the show and we listen to it over and over and start to believe all the foolishness it plays. We've got to put that sweet record called Truth on stat and then you better believe we're gonna speak and act out of that life-giving overflow! I'll admit, my favorite part was connecting it to a Corinne Bailey Rae song, "Put Your Records On" because every time I saw her I broke out into singing.
  7. I love that THIS was shown to remember our time at the SLEEPout!
  8. then...(drumroll) it's MONDAY so that means culinary collision with two of my favorite ladies! I seriously can't explain how beautiful and brilliant these girls are... so I won't try. Just read this blogpost and you'll get a little taste of the night (not a real taste, but a cyber-ish one:).
  9. I love praying in my car on the way back from Monday baking dates. Shoot, and I just have to say again how much I love these amazing high school girls. They may/may not be changing my life (mostly may).
  10. I may/may not have consumed too much caffeine today (mostly may), which means I might be up writing for awhile!

I hope you are going to

let LOVE fly like CRAZY

with a wink and a smile

I'm not sure why, but this song was playing in my head as I sat down to write today. I just lunched on my version of a Honduran staple - baleadas (substitute wheat tortilla, take out salty cheese, add salsa) - and now I sit helplessly waiting to hear back from students who are probably sleeping and completely unaware that my afternoon plans somewhat hinge on their replies. In the meanwhile, I want to bring you up-to-date on some of the happenings here. In my typical, completely disconnected fashion, I'm giving it to you straight today about baking, meanings of words, and a strange desire to start a movement.

LovE CakE!

I'm still marinating on this idea of baking and sweetness and life and tasting ... yesterday was the last day of chapel and I spent the morning hours (prior to 6:30 departure) baking up some serious pumpkin gobs with butter/cream cheese frosting. A week of creative treats for the seniors who bring their Bibles to chapel almost wore me right out, but there is a beautiful, redeeming quality to what some women painfully label a chore.

This redeeming quality to laboring in the kitchen is not the look on people's faces when they eat your hard-won creation (though I've found I often make them eat it in front of me so I can see a reaction) nor is it the exclamations of delight and the serious battle for second helpings. The redeeming quality is an empty tupperware at the end of the day.

I (quite haphazardly) stumble onto the school bus in the morning in professional garb, toting a backpack and the familiar tupperware container with secret treats. By the time I get to school, I usually have frosting or chocolate or some unknown ingredient stuck to some inconvenient place. But, back to redeeming qualities...

The tupperware goes out from the house full and comes back empty. Every single one of the little, labored-over creations has found its place and that knowledge only finds me right back in the kitchen to make it happen again. What joy! Check out this video that my friend Kasey Miller (who, by the way, is one of my favorite inspirations in the kitchen!!) shared... this will make you want to LOVE CAKE too!


gracia and gracias

So, my word study on "pan" and "paneh" might have failed, but I'm very interested in the connection between the Spanish words, "Gracias" (thank you) and "gracia" (grace) and I think this will lead to something more conclusive. Both words are derived from the Latin root "gratus," which means "beloved," "agreeable," "favorable," and "pleasing."

I was originally interested because at the Micah Project sometimes we just spend time in prayer thanking God for His character. Many times, this will come up, "Señor, gracias por tu gracia!" Maybe no one else takes notice or thinks it odd, but whenever I hear that, I wonder about the strange and beautiful connection between gratitude and grace. When we say thank you, we are responding to an action or a gift or something we have received. Gratitude is what happens (or should happen) after receiving something good. We feel strange accepting a gift or complement without giving something back, so we express our gratitude by saying, "Thank you."

Here is where I get really interested... why do we use almost the exact same word to describe unmerited favor? The Miriam-Webster dictionary (and many Christians) gives the first definition for grace to mean what is received from God and that which allows one to have faith in what Christ did on the cross.

So - back to that Latin. If the Latin says, "pleasing, beloved, agreeable," and "favorable," why am I stuck on these two words? Well, if we say "thank you" because we have received something, that person or persons have become (in some way) beloved or agreeable to us. What is AMAZING is that we have done absolutely nothing to please or become favorable in God's sight. Even our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), but God called us "beloved" and showed us "favor," though we came with nothing to deserve this response.


starting a movement

Everybody is making movements these days, so I thought I would throw in my two cents about what deserves "movement" status. Maybe it's because I'm sitting here waiting for a student to tell me if she does/doesn't want to meet for coffee (though she told me for sure yesterday) or maybe it's because I've been around young people long enough to know commitments are ... fluid at best and often motivated by bad information.

So, I'd like to start a movement. The movement will be called, "we care and follow through with things that matter." I know - it's not very catchy right now, but I think I could hire some serious PR and those flaky kids would really start jumping on board. Well... they would jump on board if the message was so diluted no one knew exactly what kind of movement they were joining. But, they would join for sure, eventually. And, by that time the whole purpose of said movement would be moot (case in point).

That's my point.

It is very easy to get kids fired up about things (there are many, many broken things to bemoan in this world) and very hard to get kids fired up about searching serious answers followed up by serious action. I'm not talking extreme, here, folks. I actually think things get extreme when we get distracted by flashy PR campaigns and people telling us what is important and what to do about it.

I guess it would be refreshing to see a youth movement with, as my high school history teacher used to say, "fire in its belly." Everything from coffee dates to mission trips to environmental debates would be informed by something solid - something true and absolute and transformational. Let me know if you know of one and I'll scrap the whole idea.

Chapel Week: delicious-ness

I'm not going to ramble tonight because yesterday I think I scared my mother. I just want to give you a couple recipes. We have had chapel every day at school, which means that I've been baking everyday to encourage the seniors to carry their Bibles :)

Here's the menu to date:

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookie Sandwich (to see the FULL modification go here)






Chocolate Chip Dream Bars

For these bars, I added to the bottom crust, because many bakers suggested a smaller pan. I needed the quantity, so I just increased some of the proportions. Also, I used whole wheat flour and added peanut butter to the second layer. I skipped the chocolate on top because they were already very sweet. It was a HIT!



Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bakes

For these cookies, I didn't really follow a recipe. I had chocolate chips, peanut butter, milk, oatmeal, vanilla, and spices on hand, so I made my own combination and we'll see how they go over tomorrow morning.





Just in case you are wondering, I'm planning a big hoorah for Friday that will involve my favorite ingredient for this time of year - PUMPKIN!







LINK it up, Monday!

  1. I've been listening to Piper's series on spectacular sins that he preached back in 2007 and they've kind of been blowing me away. The idea that God's sovereignty means that absolutely everything... even evil falls under His control. Yesterday, the sermon was called Fatal Disobedience of Adam and the Triumphant Obedience of Christ. God was not surprised when Adam sinned... in fact Adam was a type (foreshadowing) of Christ. Just as sin was brought into the world by one man, so salvation came through one man - Christ!
  2. Jeremy Larson is, to be honest, lucky to have a fiance like Elsie. She's got an amazing thing going on at Red Velvet Art and A Beautiful Mess ... really inspiring what she can do with crafts and art and good ideas. Larson, himself, is a strange secret as a musician. Strange because he shouldn't be, but the fact that he still is somewhat of a secret makes it all the more exciting to discover his complex melodies.
  3. Little Birdie Plush tutorial - Now this is a great project that I fully intend to start soon! I would love to make a whole legion of these little birdies for Christmas gifts!
  4. Our newly formed and not yet officially begun Book and Philosophy Club is setting off to a curious start with the book, "God's Middle Finger," written by a British journalist traveling through the Sierra Madre in Mexico. Interesting... can't wait to see what's up.
  5. Brooke Fraser pleasantly surprises us with her new album, Flags. It came out the day before my birthday and I splurged. I'm certainly glad I did - especially for the songs, "Flags" and "Crows & Locusts."
  6. You want to be relevant?? you want to contextualize the Gospel? Check out this URBAN audio Bible! I'm just going to say it: I love rap. I know this might be a surprise, but I'm not talking about the big names necessarily. I am just saying that I love the way you can string words together and weave them with rhymes and rhythms and... well, anyway I love rap. And, I love the Word. So many times we convince ourselves that we need to make the Word more inviting or exciting. The Truth is - you cannot add or take away from its power. I love how rapping the Bible could help you commit it to memory.
  7. I have a friend who lives in Philadelphia... and she knows Josh Schurr. When she mentioned him in her status on facebook, I thought it was about time I checked him out. He's got an EP on bandcamp and itunes.

Monday Madness




Enjoy this list of wonderful things (arts, crafts, music, and generally things that have inspired in the past couple days).

  1. Sleeping at Last new music
  2. Slothpop new music
  3. beautiful mess blog
  4. inkismyfavorite blog
  5. Oh Joy blog
  6. Friends of the Challies blog
  7. this sermon by John Piper
  8. paper lanterns
  9. recycled fabrics
  10. Dr. Seahorse new cd you can download for FREE

Yes, folks. My post today is mostly pointing to inspiration instead of giving any, but there are more important matters... like planning for this weekend's SLEEPOUT event to raise money for the Micah Project and cleaning up after a crazy weekend.... and enjoying many uninterrupted cups of coffee, accompanied by Miike Snow, Joy Williams, and Brooke Fraser.

I guess my stories about changing a car battery, learning to jerk in my living room, and making sushi at 4 am will have to wait for another day very soon!





Lately, I've been working on study skills workshops for several classes. Our students struggle to manage time, organize their materials, and (most importantly) recall the information they cram into their brains the night before a test.

I think these things are universal, but my job is not to figure out how similar are the struggles... I want to encourage the students to push through! In the process of all my searching (I didn't have all those education courses, so it's all new to me), I found some amazing resources.

I got so excited about this "Periodic Table of Elements" song that I showed it to everyone who came into my office (and some who happened to be standing outside!). Then, I started to look up more about this man, Tom Lehrer, who set all kinds of information to music. Two things made me love this: 1) learning happens 2) music happens.

After all my rambling about the beautiful gift and calling to THINK, I've been more aware of how thinking happens around me. How do the students think? How does the staff think? How do I think? What is my purpose, my methods, my result?

As I watched this video, I couldn't help but make connections. We are made with minds to think and to seek knowledge. This, from the recent Desiring God National Conference,

"Knowledge that is loveless is not true knowledge. It’s imaginary knowledge, no matter how factual it is: 'If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God' (1 Corinthians 8:1-3)

Knowing as we ought to know is a knowing for the sake of loving. Loving God and loving people." -J. Piper

So, if our knowledge - the true kind - has something other than empirical (numbers and words on pages with red grades glaring up top) implications, then maybe our 'knowing' must come about in a way that remains in our life after gradebooks close.

And for this reason, I love that our "knowing for the sake of loving" can come about as it did for David... through music. He wasn't memorizing God's attributes on a list so he could spit them out at the end of the week and move on to the list of God's commands. No, as David was singing and playing and creating, he was hiding God's Word in his heart.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.  With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!  I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.  Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!  With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.  In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.  I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.  I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. (Psalm 119:9-16 ESV)

I love this.

I love that even the process we choose to seek after knowledge can reflect our love for the Lord and can more firmly set the knowledge into our hearts. How many times have you praised God through the words in Psalms? When we set out to find our very strength in the Word, it becomes more than just memorization. It becomes bread.

Here's a little example of Tom Lehrer in action.