Archive for August, 2012

30th August
written by Michelle


For the majority of my twenties I was the single girl in a group of mainly married friends. Thursday nights we’d  all squeeze onto an over-sized sofa to watch The Office and most weekends we would meet up at the beach on Saturday afternoons. In between passing bags of Kettle chips back and forth, the girls and I flipped through magazines and chatted, while the boys invented games using seaweed and driftwood as markers in the sand. I never felt left out or “less like an adult” because I didn’t come with a significant other.

That is until it was time to leave.

I watched as they hopped into their cars, two-by-two, and drove away together.

I sat in my white Honda with the sunroof down and felt the twinge of sadness that sets in when you realize, I’m going home alone.

Somehow I had imagined my married friends driving home together having incredible conversations; discussing everything that had just happened and responding with active listening skills. Upon arriving at their driveway, I pictured them walking through the door hand-in-hand, having magical moments as they talked in the kitchen and then cuddling up on the sofa, before crawling into bed together.

Now, four years later and 8 months into marriage I can confidently say that I had some unrealistic expectations about marriage.

The truth about marriage is most days are very, very ordinary.

Someone has to take out the trash. Someone has to put gas in the car. Someone has to make the bed. And in our home, it’s whoever is the last person to get-up (which is usually me). There are towels to fold and emails that are waiting for replies. Some days someone is tired, or someone else is stressed and the conversation doesn’t get beyond who is going to the bank? did you call the doctor? And who is going to the airport to pick up the next group? As I write this now, we’re both on our computers. He’s at the table, I’m on the bed. There is no magical moment happening in the kitchen. Unless you count the stack of dishes that are patiently waiting in the sink.

Of course this is not the whole picture of marriage, but it’s definitely part of it. And I think it’s important to tell this part, less any single person is watching their married friends drive away together and still thinking that they are going off to the magical land of holy matrimony.


Marriage is made up of a million, mundane daily tasks. And I have found the beauty in marriage is getting to do these ordinary tasks with someone. Or for someone.

Of course there are still meaningful, long conversations, and spontaneous moments of pure fun and hand-holding while walking through the park, but I have found real intimacy through learning how to do daily life together. And I think this may be be one of marriage’s intended gifts. More than love and magical romantic moments, most of us long for intimacy with a spouse or partner.

The pastor who officiated one of my friend’s wedding a few years ago said this and it has continued to be one of my favorite pictures of marriage:

“Within marriage, you are free to fail without being rejected. You are free to succeed without causing jealousy. You are free to journey through one stage of growth to another, while drawing strength and support from your partner. You are free to face huge problems knowing that each problem will be less intimidating and more manageable because you will face it together. Marriage also allows the freedom to exchange hopes and fears and the whole gamut of feelings with one another. Such intimacy requires hard work and courage, but it is a kind of hallowed journey and, ultimately, a source of fulfillment and freedom.”

I believe this is the kind of marriage you create when you embrace the ordinary, and make time and space for intimacy to grow.


If you’re married what does your “ordinary” look like?

If you’re single have you ever watched married friends drive away together and thought something similar? Why is it so easy to do that?


Keep checking back for more posts on, The Truth about Marriage. I plan on writing from time to time and inviting other people to join in and share their perspective. You can read the first post here:

In a culture that feeds us stories of either fairy tell weddings or of marriages that crumble into messy divorces, I think its important to have places where you can tell the truth. What does real, not perfect, day-to-day marriage look like? What does loving someone with everything you got look like when a minute later you’re so frustrated wondering how on earth this is going to work? Maybe when we learn to be honest about what marriage looks like (the good, the ugly and the confusing) we’ll be less and less inclined to worship the idea of it. Marriage is wonderful, but it is certainly not a means to end. I want to tell the real story. The truth about marriage.

27th August
written by Michelle

I would call myself a Christian. But there have been seasons of my life where those words have felt weighted by the need for a disclaimer.

I’ve wanted to stamp a SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING on my backpack: I’m not like those Christians. I do not always vote republican, I deeply care about our environment and I don’t think your sexuality defines who you are or what rights you have.

I don’t get think that Jesus would be too happy with my need to qualify what it means to be a Christian. He seemed to be above all of that stuff.

A New Church

G and I have been attending a new church near Guatemala City. Being in someone’s home, with a community of people who are willing to be challenged and committed to keep asking good questions, makes the 45-minute drive on a rainy, Sunday afternoon worth it. The messages are video-casted in from a church in Atlanta, called North Point. And this week Andy Stanley’s message was not only challenging, but also a bit controversial. Maybe that’s why I respect him and the church community we’re part of.

He called it what it is.

Christians- we, myself, people in the church- are sometimes the biggest hypocrites.

Crowded together on wooden benches and white plastic chairs last night we sat and listened.

Andy talked about how Christians have used the bible to justify horrible things in our history- the enslavement of fellow human beings, the persecution and genocide of Jews, the abuse and subordination of women, the right to wealth and power, and I could go on and on. The thing is we can use theology to justify anything. People have done it for years and it’s quite scary, really because we still do it.

The Danger of The One Verse

Every side of every issue has a verse. Just ask them. It’s easy to pull a single verse out of the bible to prove your point.

I realized in some ways we all do this.

The truth is if you call yourself a follower of Christ or a Christian, you too have chosen parts of the bible to ignore. We do this pick-and-chose-dance based on context, and theology or what your church tradition and current culture tells us is acceptable.  Last time I checked I didn’t know any women in modern evangelical churches who have their heads covered or any men walking around with their right eye gouged out from lusting after a woman.  And as far as I know, most us have not sold all of our possessions and given them to the poor.

In someway or another most of us ask ourselves what was the intent of the commander, not just what was the commandment.

One of the things I love about Jesus, is that he knew we would do this. The Pharisees did it back then. They asked things like, “Well, how close can I get to breaking the law, without actually breaking it?” Or they’d question Jesus like a bossy older sibling, “How come your disciples don’t follow the rules and wash their hands before they eat?” (Matthew 15)

A New Commandment

But Jesus responds. And not with rules and laws, but with a new commandment. A new commandment that encompasses all the rest of them. A commandment that Jesus lives out to the fullest, and I believe has so much potential for good when we can learn to do the same.

He says:

Love one another. In the same way I have loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples- when they see the LOVE you have for EACH OTHER

(John13:34, The message- italics added for emphasis)

That’s it.

Wouldn’t it be cool if one day someone said… hey, I know they’re Christians because of they love that they have for each other?

I don’t think this implies that we will all agree or come to some universal mutual understanding and vote for the same political party. I think being a follower of Christ leaves room for diversity and difference of opinion, but there is no question that if I chose to call myself a Christian than I have a responsibility to ask myself daily: What does love require of me?

What does love require of me?

What does love require of me each morning, each day, while I wash dishes or wait in line at the bank?

What does love require of me when I read facebook posts that I whole-heartily disagree with? Or when I see an old man with a beard and a bible clenched under his arm proselytizing in the park?

What does love require of me when I watch news broadcasts with Christians holding up hate posters against gays and lesbians? Or when Christians with very good intentions would rather hand out candies and t-shirts in the name of Jesus, instead of learning about development and empowerment?

What does love require of me when I want to control a situation in order to get my own way? Or when I want to be generous only when it benefits me? What does love require of me when I chose to ignore someone else’s needs because of my power or position?

What does love require of me?

I think I know the answer. But sometimes it’s a lot harder to live out, than it is to write about.
How do I chose to act differently? To speak differently? And to not do exactly what makes me so frustrated in the first place? Respond in anger, or disgust, or with excuses and judgement?

Whether you call yourself a Christian or not…

Will you join me in asking this question…What does love require of me? How do we live it out every day?



P.S. you can watch Andy Stanley message or the full series online at:


12th August
written by Michelle

I have fond memories of watching the Olympics ever since I was a 9-year-old sitting on the edge of the couch, staying up way past my bedtime to see if Kim Zmeskal and Shannon Miller would win a medal at the 92′ Barcelona games. Twenty years later I sat on the edge of my couch watching the Olympics once again, but this time I am in Guatemala. And I watched the Olympics on a Latin American station, with no Ryan Seacrest, with no nightly medal count and maybe most refreshingly, with Spanish commentators who had more positive things to say than negative.

•   •   •

I have heard it said that it takes about two years to really adjust and begin to understand a new culture, and that it takes even more time to fully analyze and understand your own culture. Sometimes it’s hard to see and understand the cultural values that are deeply embedded in us because we don’t know anything different.

But now I do. I am beginning to see and know a different way of life. A new country. A different understanding of cultural expectations and values that makes me also question and re-look at what my own country has taught me. And it has never been more apparent to me than as I watched the Olympics. The US sent 530 Olympic athletes to the games in London- 530 athletes who come from top training programs, expert coaches and entire lifestyles and training camps focused on making them the best. Success is measured by how many golds we earn and we keep track to make sure our medal count is ahead of China. We like athletes who win and also who happen to look good while winning.

Now compare that to Guatemala. If the US is the Olympic Goliath, than Guatemala is the David.

Guatemala is about the size of Tennessee and has roughly 14 million people. We sent 19 athletes to the games in London. One of the local papers here celebrated these 19 before they even boarded the plane to London. Because in Guatemala just to make it to the Olympics is a huge honor. Many athletes spend their weeks working full-time and training. There are no such things as sponsors or a national Olympic training center. To be an Olympic athlete is seen as nothing less than a privilege. Don’t get me wrong every athlete at the Olympic level has worked extremely hard and deserves the right to represent their country and compete, but the attitude and expectation is different in Guatemala. Let me show you:


1) The Olympic Coverage: In the states Olympic coverage tends to only show the top three contenders or super-powers, which since the US is always in the top three for nearly every sport, there’s no problem. Since gymnastics was been my favorite sport growing up I used to think the only gymnasts competing came from the US, Russia, Romania or China. That’s all the broadcasts showed. This year however on my local channel 13, when I watched the night of the Olympic Gymnastics qualifying round I saw gymnasts from Basil, Italy, Greece, Venezuela, Switzerland, Guatemala and of course, the US, China and Russia.


2) Matter of Perspective: I was particularity struck at how Victoria Komova, the Russian gymnast who “lost” the gold medal to Gabby Douglass in the Women’s All-Around Gymnastic event, was crying after she saw the score. Her head hung low, buried in her knees as she sat on the chairs because she “lost” the coveted gold medal and only got the silver. She was disappointed, and maybe rightfully so for being so close. But, now meet Ana Sofia Gomez Porras, Guatemala’s only Olympic Gymnast since the 1992 games. The 16-year-old performed solid qualifying day routines and was excited and honored to get a chance to compete in the Women’s All Around finals. Before she even competed the media here was ecstatic. She finished in 22nd place out of 24 gymnasts. In the US you would have heard the commentators say something along the lines of, ” and 2nd to last is Ana Sofia from Guatemala.” But not here.  Do you know how they announced it here in Guatemala? “Ana Sofia is the 22nd best gymnast in the world!” 22nd best. Not 2nd to last. Maybe just a matter of perspective, right?


3) Erik Barrondo: You probabaly haven’t heard this name, unless you follow race-walking (yes, it’s an Olympic sport) or Guatemalan Olympians. Erick is a 21-year old Guatemalan Olympian who was born in a poor, indigenous village near San Christobal Verapaz, about 5 hours away from Guatemala city. Erick started out training as a middle distance runner, but due to an injury his coach encouraged him to try race walking.


This is a picture of him in front of his home after he won a gold medal at the Pan America Games last year. Before he left for London he bought his parents a TV so they could watch him compete.


And last Saturday he competed in the 20k race-walk and won the silver medal. Let me clarify…

He won Guatemala’s FIRST Olympic medal EVER.

You can imagine what it felt like to be in a country where they had never watched one of their own athletes on the podium. Gerber and I watched from a local coffee shop last Saturday morning as Guatemalans cheered and screamed as Erick crossed the finish line. He stood on the podium, next to two men from China, and received his silver medal with a humble pride. You can read more of his inspirational story here or watch this:


Erik told a reporter after he won:

“I feel like this is the biggest privilege life has granted me…to win the first Olympic medal for Guatemala. It’s a country that has suffered much, but it also has dreamed much.”

•   •   •


It makes me wonder if that gratefulness wears off in the US because, for better or worse, because we are used to winning gold. Can there be too much of a good thing?


I value my country’s effort to create a land of opportunities and unlimited access to things that most people in the world could never imagine having. But I sometimes mourn the fact that we become greedy and focused on winning for the sake of numbers, for a score. It seems that we easily forget the individuals and the honor that it is to simply compete in the Olympics. We forget to give thanks and acknowledge what a privilege it is to represent one’s country, even if there were no endorsement offers, no parades, no promises of fame and glory.


I like that the attitude deeply embedded in Guatemala is different. Nothing is taken for granted. Gratefulness is the only expectation. Not gold medals.


9th August
written by Michelle

I’ve been out of the blogging world for the past few weeks— thanks to a wonderful group of 35 high schoolers who were here for 7 days and a terribly persistent head cold that has kept me in bed, coughing and congested. But I wanted to give a little update about what’s been going on and a look at day-to-day life in Guatemala.

So, here’s what we’ve been…

Doing: G has been building installing and building water filters like crazy. If you don’t know about the water filter project you can read more here or if you’re really into the engineering and design you can see the technology they use here. I’ve been hosting teams, responding to emails with bzillions of questions, and meeting to plan out 2013. I know, I know 2013 planning is so un-Guatemalan- but since we work with schools and churches that have their master calendars set years ahead of time we have to adjust  : )


Eating: When I was in the states in June one of my many treasures that I brought back was a CROCKPOT and I’ve been loving it. I’ve made this whole chicken recipe a few times since then and it’s delish. Who knew cooking a whole chicken could be so easy? And the best part is you can use the left overs to make chicken stalk or soup for the following day!


Reading: G’s favorite nightly reading is anything on this website. I just finished Michael Pollan’s, Food Rules and a novel called The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee.


Learning: That the culture wars fought over facebook and twitter that pin the right versus the left and argue over chicken sandwiches and who said what is really not what it’s all about. It’s actually quite embarrassing. I’m thankful for voices like these that offer a different perspective and hope for what I believe really matters: Jen Hatmaker and Meredith Miller. (one blog friend, one real friend : )


Watching: the Olympics…obviously. But, with Spanish commentators. More on that later.


Listening to: If you’re at all interested in justice work and wonder how short term mission is or is not effective listen to this: Kara Powell from the Fuller Youth Institute gives a challenging and humbling message that should cause you and I to question how or why we serve.


Hoping for: That this horrible cold will be gone- I’ve exhausted all of my natural cold remedies and am getting frustrated that I’m still not getting better (c’mon honey-lemon-tea, warm-salt-water-gargles, wheatgrass-shots, and your magic, pleeeaaassse.)

Celebrating: My sister and Brian’s ENGAGEMENT- You can read the whole proposal story here- Getting excited for another family wedding (and not so secretly looking forward to the fact that I don’t have to plan this one : )


What have you been____? (fill in the blank)