Friday, April 17, 2009


New Orleans, Louisiana

My road trip is complete and I'm now home with the Richters. I was greeted by kid hugs and a bigger and sassier baby Adelaide, who didn't quite remember me but appears to be my friend again now that I've been home a couple days.

As I reflect back on the trip, I am sooooo glad I did it. Who takes a 2-month road trip??! For all of you who I got to see along the way, THANK YOU for sharing your home/food/life with me. The conversations I had with old friends were truly the highlights of the trip. Oh, and I came up with a Top 5 moments of the trip, thanks to Shannon's suggestion (Dallas friend--holla). In no particular order:

1. Playing "Mow" with college friends in Chicago
2. Prayer with my sister, Liz, in Chicago
3. Sandhill Cranes with my grandma in NE
4. Being in the presence of God at the International House of Prayer
5. Snowball fight with Craig in CO

There were so many other fun, fun things I got to do and people I got to spend time with... my list could go on (but that was what the blog was for).

Thanks for following along on the journey.
Peace out to the readers!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Last Stop

Dallas, Texas

I've made it to my final destination before returning home. I'm visiting my super cool friends here in Texas, "The Dallas Girls". This afternoon we went to the Dallas Arboretum and enjoyed the beautiful spring weather. Now we're ordering in pizza and having a girls' night. :)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Route 66

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

The hitchhiker and I have arrived in his hometown of OKCity, OK. Here's his favorite place: Pop's! They sell every imaginable soda you could want. :)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Heading South

Albuquerque, New Mexico

A brand new state I've never been to! The hitchhiker I picked up back in Nebraska convinced me that NM was worth stopping in on my way back to New Orleans, so here I am. I got to stay at his aunt and uncle's beautiful home, which looked like a page out of Pottery Barn magazine. I also road the train with my hitchhiker friend up to Santa Fe and saw the sights. Tomorrow.... on to Oklahoma!


Denver, CO

First of all, my time in CO was AMAZING. My goal for my time there was to play, and play I did. I played games, snowboarded, had a snowball fight, and played with the dog in the snow. I saw Garden of the Gods, some old friends from college, and the Lundeens from New Orleans. The hitchhiker and I sat around discussing Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Why We Can't Wait" up at the Beyer's cabin, then ran outside and picked icicles off the house and pretended they were swords and walrus teeth.

Photos: Garden of the Gods, Jenga, playing with Denali, the Beyers (my hosts!), walrus teeth

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Rocky Fun

Denver, Colorado

My car has now put over 3,000 miles on it during this road trip! The drive out to CO was fairly exciting despite the incredibly monotonous landscape of western Nebraska. First of all, a piece of my car flew off in the high winds that I battled all the way from Lincoln to an hour outside Denver. And second of all I picked up a hitchhiker who helped me with the flat tire I got. Now I know what you're thinking: single girls traveling alone should not pick up hitchhikers. But this guy was pretty nice to help me get the lug nuts off, so I offered him a ride.

Anyway, this guy's a Christian and was heading to Denver. He kept the drive lively with his traveling stories and thoughts on life--it was nice to have some company. Now that we're in Denver we've even had a chance to hang out on the slopes. Here's some pics of me during my first time snowboarding!! What a blast.

Oh, and did I mention the wonderful hosts I'm staying with? :) They're great--more on them later...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Small Town Feel

Lincoln, Nebraska

Life here is slow and simple. For example, most nights, the headline on the nightly news is about the weather, or the other night it was about two teenage boys torturing a cat. My mom said that there were four homicides in Lincoln last year. New Orleans gets something like four a day! (And we would never hear about cat torture in the news.)

This quiet life is nice for a change and has allowed a good return to the friendliness of the Midwest. Last weekend my mom and I went to a quilt museum, and right now my mom, grandma, and I are working on a puzzle in my grandma's basement. To pass one afternoon my cousins and I played board games and they put on a magic show for me. Wholesome, simple fun. No surprises in life really, nothing spectacular. Just a small town feel.

Two days left in Nebraska, then on to... Colorado!

Friday, March 20, 2009

"Home" in Nebraska

Lincoln, Nebraska

Nebraska is not quite home any more, but I feel its deep-rooted home-ness in my spirit. When I come back to my parents', I feel a freedom to take a deep breath and spread out in the open spaces.

This is what I miss most about my deep-roots home: open sky, open fields. I always thought I would like to be a farmer's wife some day... I still kind of think that. Which is funny, because I love living in New Orleans and generally have a calling to the inner city. As my life is, I will enjoy my brief time back in the Midwest and spread out as much as possible.

Yesterday my grandma and I headed West in her CRV to try and catch the annual migration of the sandhill crane. They fly in late-February and stay for about a month, fattening up on leftover field corn and hooking up with a mate. Our goal was to see them land for the night on the Platte River, though neither of us knew quite what we were in for.

We drove for hours along country roads, her sitting in the passenger seat and I asking her non-stop questions about what it was like to grow up on the farm. We stopped every so often to pull off and watch the cranes in the fields with our binoculars. We also stopped to see thousands of snow geese on a pond. These geese were amazing! There were sooooo many of them, which was pretty spectacular in and of itself. The most amazing thing happened, though, when by some mysterious signal they all took flight at once. They converged into a giant cloud above us that twisted and formed loudly, swirling and changing. The birds created a live art exhibit with changing shapes, angles, colors, and seemingly choreographed patterns. Then they gathered shape in the sky as a hurricane cloud, circling, circling... then slowly unraveling downward. A ribbon of white and gray gently twisted down toward the water, and the ribbon widened so it looked like a tornado of birds.

My grandma and I stood there breathless at this beautiful sight. There was no way to describe its magnificence. And while the landing of hundreds of thousands of cranes on the Platte River at sunset was also amazing, I think my favorite part of the day was the snow geese.

Here's a couple pictures of the geese on the water. The first is of my grandma watching them through binoculars--all those white specks are the geese! The other one is of them taking flight.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Half Way


My bags are packed and I'm ready to go... to the next leg of my journey. I'm well-equipped for the 9 hours of driving time between my sister's place and my parents': I've got trail mix from Colleen, some good tunes from Sarah, and one last hug from Liz.

I'm sad to see my month in Chicago end, but it's been so rich and full that I leave with no regrets. My extension of 2 extra days here was a great decision because it gave me a little extra time with Kim, SB, AND Liz and her community in La Villita. The weather was nice enough on Saturday that we got to take a walk in the forest preserve near her house, which was one of our traditions when we lived together in college. As we walked we remembered the last time we did this--the day before her wedding. A lot has changed since then, but how great to still be able to get back together and not miss a beat.

SB and I met up with her friends Saturday night at their favorite neighborhood pub, The Firkin. We sat around discussing love, men, and life. :) And we felt the freedom to be loud and ourselves in the St. Patrick's Day festive atmosphere. It was great.

On Sunday Liz and I returned to La Villita together for a day of celebrating God's work in the members of the church and their community. They've been intentionally fasting and praying for a deeper walk with God, and yesterday was dedicated to telling about what He's doing. It was amazing to hear about his faithfulness.

Well, time to pack up the car and head out...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Return to New Orleans... Kind Of


This past weekend some old friends reunited in Naperville, IL, and it felt like we were back in New Orleans again! Sara Miller, Miss Jeri, and Andrew drove down from different places in WI to Chris and Colleen's house in Naperville, and we spent the weekend just being together. There was much good food involved, lots of Settlers of Catan games, and even nice weather to help us feel like we were in the city we adore.

All of these friends once worked for Urban Impact, so the bond I have with them lies in a unique area that I don't have with other friends up here. It was great to be together and talk about friends back "home" who we miss, worry about, love.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Embarrassment and Some Counsel


Yesterday my favorite pair of old jeans ripped open on the butt. I discovered this around 2 o'clock, though I am not sure when it happened nor how long I was walking around like that. When I discovered this I was at the gym changing into workout clothes and also realized that I had forgotten to grab a pair of white sports socks. I only had black dress socks on.

I felt really ridiculous with my basketball shorts, white gym shoes, and black dress socks up there on the Elliptical for an hour, but whatever, right? Hardly anyone was in the workout room, and most of the other people were older and not terribly concerned about fashion themselves. It was only when I went to leave that I realized that I could NOT change back into my jeans but would have to walk across the college campus looking like this. Not only would I look rediculous wearing shorts in the middle of winter, but they would be complimented with my supreme sense of sock choice. :)

In other news, I met up with two of my former education professors today, Carol and Suzanne, which was wonderful. They were their usual positive, but genuine and open selves. A lot of our conversation was spent reflecting on life and its sorrows and joys that have been experienced over time. Though all of us have reason to shrink back from the painful things life has handed us and be consumed by anger, depression, or even want to give up and lose hope, God has given us joy and security. This includes the trials of illness, losing loved ones, and changes in financial security. These women are a model to me of trusting Christ in and through everything. I feel honored that they continue to invest in me after being their student so long ago.

Monday, March 2, 2009

La Villita


For most of the year, my sister, Liz has been telling me about Little Village, or "La Villita", a neighborhood in Chicago where her church is. La Villita is located in the Lawndale community, a poor area separated mainly into Blacks and Hispanics. She spends her whole weekends there and never stops talking about how great everyone is. :) I couldn't wait to go down with her.

It's been a while since I've been immersed into the Hispanic culture or attempted to speak Spanish, but I was excited to go to the Spanish service at Liz's church. As soon as we walked in, memories of my time in Peru came back, and just hearing the language made me feel like I was in a fond and familiar place. I even understood a good bit of the sermon!

1 Corinthians 12 talks about how in Christ, we are united through the Holy Spirit. Verse 13 says that "Jews or Greeks, slave or free" are brought together into one body--all people! The reception I felt by this extension of the Body was a beautiful picture of this unity we have through the Holy Spirit. I was treated as a part of the family, though a stranger to them.

This hospitality didn't just stop after the church service was over, either! The members of this church are clearly a close community who enjoy each other's company, and they invited me to spend time with them, too. After the English service, Liz and I went over to the home of a couple 20-something girls and chilled out in their living room with tea and good conversation. After that, we headed over to the pastor and his family's home for the rest of the evening.

Paco, the pastor, and his wife, Sylvia, have seven (yes, SEVEN!) beautiful children, but their home es muy tranquilo (is very calm). The older kids look after the younger kids, and everyone is genuine and holds a deep joy in their spirits. It was so refreshing to be there... I didn't want to leave!! I was welcomed back by everyone numerous times, and if it weren't for the pull to return to New Orleans, I think I would just move into La Villita. :)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pasta, A Bean, and Some Ice


Wednesday, Feb. 25th
Ate dinner with Kim & Sam. Amazing food (pasta!), excellent (real and deep) conversation, and a thoughtful husband who sent Kim and I on a walk while he cooked dinner (aw! You're the best, Sam!).

Thursday, Feb. 26th
Had dinner with Georgia, the woman I student taught with in '02, and her family. I got to meet her two boys and see her husband again. So fun to catch up!

Friday, Feb. 27th
Colleen and I went down to the city and enjoyed a few hours in the Chicago Art Institute. The highlight was probably analyzing the painting "The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise" by Benjamin West. I said that I saw a horse and a lion in the corner, but C. didn't really see it at first. I started pointing at it and then set off the alarm because I got too close. Then she pointed at it and set it off. This was all after C. had set off the alarm at another painting in the same room.'s a wonder we didn't get kicked out.

After the Art Institute we walked over (through flurries of snow!) to The Bean and laughed a lot while we took pictures. Here's a few:

Saturday, Feb. 28th

This sweet family (minus the littlest who was napping) has grown since I saw them last!! Brian and Christina Hagedorn are friends from college who now live in WI with their three little ones. Olivia (to my left) and I have the same strawberry blond hair :) and Gabriel (between his mommy and daddy) has the cutest freckles you've ever seen.

I had a lot of fun being around these kids, especially since I miss the ones I usually see every day at the Richter house. Olivia showed me all her princess dresses and told me that if she didn't have to take a nap, she would be the princess and I would be the queen. Gabriel showed me his super cool room with his race car bed and all his books on tape. After an amazing lunch, I spectated as Brian and Gabriel had a sword fight, then Brian and I played a ping-pong game of sorts with 1-yr-old Anna as she toddled from him to me then back again. It was good to be with this beautiful, joyful family who clearly love each other and the friends who pass through their front door.

While I was in WI, I figured I should hop over to Milwaukee to find my friend Andrew. He and I used to be on staff with Urban Impact, but now he lives up in the cold country. Ice skating seemed a fitting way to spend some time together, so here we are, attempting a picture to show that we hung out on the ice (can you see the ice?! How about the skater in the background?!). Surprisingly, I did not fall on my butt, and neither did Andrew, though he did have a close call and a good recovery that got the applause of some middle school girls. :)

(And that's it. I realized that I used a lot of parentheses in this blog, which can be attributed to the late hour at which I create this entry. To bed now...)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Life at a Slower Pace


Today at noon I had the privilege of having lunch with my friend and former college philosophy professor, Dr. Clifford Williams. I climbed the familiar stairs to his office in the academic building and found him in his usual chair. After a warm reunion hug, I took my usual place in the old lumpy chair across from his and we began: Lunch, conversation, a return to friendship as it once was.

Cliff is one of those people who gives you space to be yourself, which I think makes some people feel a bit uncomfortable in his presence. He tends to lay aside social norms and expectations that most conversations hold, like saying the "right thing" or acting as adults must act--he's childlike, but deep. Life's pace is slow for him, in true philosopher form, and so conversations with him have quiet lulls to think and respond. When we talk I feel the freedom to ask him anything. He is gracious in his response, and honest: two qualities that seem rare these days. He doesn't seem pressured to be a certain way or say what he thinks I want to hear, and clearly doesn't expect that from me either.

It was good to be there--I felt refreshed and able to be myself. I heard about his travels in South America, thoughts on family interactions, and how when a student cheats he feels betrayed. I wish everyone could have an hour of time in Cliff's office. Here's a picture of us (eee, so off-center!) and a silly one I took on the sly of him adjusting the tripod. :)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Friends, Fun, and LOTS of Happy Things


My day began in really the best way possible: sleeping in, and doing it in the most comfortable bed ever made. Seriously: Egyptian cotton 20,000-count sheets, a pillow that adjusted to my head, a firm but not too firm mattress, and just the right amount of blankets. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Love it!

I tumbled out of bed around 9:30 and went to find Colleen and Little Jayden, pictured here with his momma's big water glass. He and I are birthday buddies, with the same first two initials and similar belly buttons (to his mom's dismay--she used to tease me about mine... it's not that weird!!!). He's great. And so are his parents, who were amazing hosts last night during my visit, and who put me up for the night in their guest room (which I may decide to spend the rest of my LIFE in, or at least the bed). It was good to see them again since they moved away from New Orleans last summer.

The rest of my day (8 hours!) was spent at Jason and Bonny Walters' house, where they hosted a get-together of old friends from college for a game day. We caught up with each other's current life news, then dove right back into the past and played our favorite game, Mow. Game # two was really the best--lots and lots of laughter, PLUS we discovered a fabulous new food pairing: a piece of fresh pineapple followed by an animal cracker. I don't know, it just brings something wonderful out in the animal cracker that you've never tasted before. Seriously.

I left the Walters' feeling healthier from all the laughter. What a joy!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Woke up at 5:30 am because my butt was lower than my head. Stupid air mattress plug... that I forgot to put on tightly...
Journaled and read until 7 am.
Went to SB's sanctuary of a house.
Ate breakfast.
Called Nate.
Took a 3 hour nap (does it count as a nap if it's only 9 am?).
Read the first 6 chapters of Hebrews.
Ate pizza.
Read the first two chapters of "The New Friars".
Cuddled with Linus the cat.
Took another nap (so did Linus).
Went grocery shopping.
Drove home in the beautiful snow (the 3rd time since I've been here!!! I love it!)
Cooked dinner.
Ate with my lovely sister, Liz.
Unpacked all my stuff at Liz's apartment (ahhhhh. I don't have to live out of a suitcase for the rest of my time here. Sweet.).
Looked a pictures of the Bogen kids and missed them.
And now I'm going to bed. :)

Monday, February 16, 2009

After Two Days in IL

The bitter cold of Chicago jolts me every time I walk outside, and its crisp bite thoroughly wakes me up into winter. I love making it find me buried deep inside my coat, hat, scarf, and mittens (loaned ever-so-lovingly to me by SB). I love how it brings me snowflakes that surround me in a winter wonderland, that fall on my eyelashes and shoulders. And I love how it drives me inside to warm mugs of tea with friends I love.

The time I’ve had with friends has been so rich. I absolutely have been away from them too long. Rediscovering Kim has been one of the best things about my time so far. A lot has happened in the year and a half since I last saw her, the most significant being motherhood. So I stand nearby and watch her, taking in her movements of this new role, and just feel glad. There she is with her husband and baby, and she’s no longer just Kim. She’s fuller… richer. She’s herself, but more beautiful, and surrounded by rich layers that add to her self (give me a paintbrush, baby, and I’ll paint out the description in my head). I celebrate her and feel more alive myself for being near.

SB and I have, as always, settled quickly into living life together. Our friendship is perhaps the deepest and richest I've ever experienced. A history of 9 1/2 years says a lot about how well we know each other, especially because 6 1/2 of that has been spent in different states/time zones/countries, which means it has required intentionality (book discussions, letters, care packages, thousands of wireless minutes!). Her direct, knowing questions and responses to my out-loud thoughts humble me. I can get away with nothing. She gives me good space for resting, playing, and reflecting.

And so it all begins, this time with community and friends so far away from home. Though this used to be my home, my heart is clearly now in New Orleans, and I do miss it. Miss the southern sway of Life's gait down there and the hospitable smiles of the neighborhoods I once walked through. Ah, if only I could have both worlds...

The beginning

The drive itself was releasing. I had all these thoughts of leaving New Orleans on some great musical number—my first CD choice felt really important. But as my distance from the city increased, so did my anxiety, and the music was only mixing in a sour taste. By track 12 I had turned off the noise and began to drive in silence. The sound of the road was the only soundtrack I had (though Louisiana roads aren’t very quiet :) )—I needed to clear my head.
With A LOT of road time ahead (60 some odd hours total over the next two months), I felt panicky that this anxiety would be the norm for my alone time. I felt isolated, and forced into it, and those same uneasy feelings also associated with flying, riding on public transportation, and sitting in tight quarters with strangers crept in… this would never do.

Why do I fear isolation so much? And why does change make me so uneasy?

The changes ahead in my two month road trip are unpredictable. I expect that I’ll have to rely on other people a lot, and with that comes a lot of unknowns. What will my bed be like (my first question of course, because a good night’s sleep is the most important thing)? Will I eat balanced meals? When will we eat dinner? Will it be later? If so, when should I grab lunch? Will the shower be clean? Will I have a safe place to put my toothbrush? These logistical questions continued…

And what about my interactions with people I visit? They are friends, yes, but will I need to feel “on” all the time? Will I get alone time to just be? Will they feel shafted if I do? …Why do their feelings and opinions about this matter so much? Am I projecting unfair assumptions on them?
These thoughts were traffic-jamming my mind as I drove, creating a reaction of acidic anxiety inside me as I got farther and farther away from my controlled, semi-predictable life.

STOP. Just stop: “Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace that passes all understanding will guard your minds in Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 4:6]

“What good is worrying about tomorrow when today has enough worry in itself?” [Matthew 6:34]

And there it was. Yes, these anxieties contained valid questions, but really, where was it getting me? And the feelings of isolation in the car were real, but as I’ve learned from dealing with them on planes, buses, and strange public places, I am not truly alone. EVER.

I started fighting for peace, claiming truth for my uneasy mind, and slinging mental rocks at my unproductive worries about the future. Slowly, as I spoke out against the anxiety, it subsided. I was able to turn the music back on and just be. May the road trip begin!