I Don’t Feel Much Like Pooh Today

I’ve been an avid reader since I can remember. Every birthday and Christmas I received a book to add to my personal library. As I got older, my books became cash (assuming I would rather have money for clothes or makeup), but I would still only ever use the money on books.

I attended a college where I read even more than I did in high school; I didn’t think it possible. Anyone who has attended Eternity Bible College can relate to this. It was only over breaks that a (dedicated) EBC student had time to devour non-school books. Early on, I decided that once I graduated from college, I would fulfill this resolution:

Read 100 books in one calendar year.

I was determined to make 2013 ‘the year’, since I had no idea what 2014 would hold. This was a kind of foolish decision, having been enrolled in EBC full-time for 4 months of the year, but I decided to give it my best. I love a daunting challenge!

This week, I hit my 50 book milestone. Although impressive in and of itself, it does not bode well for finishing the other fifty in just 4 months. I use this website. It keeps track of your books, finds recommendations, and you can see what your friends are reading. Pretty fantastic.

Since I am half way done with my challenge, I decided I would share what I’ve gleaned from a book I’ve read, one that spoke specifically to my heart; Humility, by Andrew Murray:

“Let us ask whether we have learnt to regard a reproof, just or unjust; a reproach from friend or enemy; an injury, or trouble, or difficulty into which others bring us; as above all an opportunity of proving how Jesus is all to us, how our own pleasure or honour are nothing, and how humiliation is, in very truth, what we take pleasure in. It is indeed blessed, the deep happiness of Heaven, to be so free from self that whatever is said of us or done to us is lost and swallowed up in the thought that Jesus is all.”


2013 has been my my most difficult year by far.

I’ve shed more tears in the past 3 months than I think I have in all my life. The tragedies and bad news are merciless in tracking me down and finding me in this distant corner of the world. What I’ve learned through hardship is the importance of not losing sight of the hope which is in me. Buried temporarily, though the hope may be, in difficult circumstances, in grief, in brokenness — I know it will pass…eventually. Although the fog closes in around me and I so frequently feel as though I’m drowning, God gives me His strength even then.

The chore of waking up in the morning is so much easier having bathed myself in the truth that Jesus is all. Isn’t it nice to know that you don’t have to figure things out by yourself? This reality does not dissipate the grief; but it does remind us we are capable of experiencing joy in spite of seemingly overwhelming circumstances.



First Day Uv Skool!

Well folks, after one whole week of summer break, I’m pleased to tell you that the Moffit school is back in session. I’ve spent the last few days lesson planning and reading through all the materials for school which started *gulp* 4 hours ago. Collectively, I think Belinda and I spent about 18 hours reading through the new curriculum. I don’t think either of us in our lives foresaw ourselves teaching as high as grade 8, but here we are…

It’s funny how God sometimes uses the most inadequate people to do various jobs. I think the reason behind this is partly so that people, like me, can be stretched past what we’re comfortable doing and learn how to make mistakes in the process. But I think also in order that he’ll receive all the glory from anything we do do well.

Holla at all you teachers of the world. New found respect for you.

I think I’m way more excited for school to start, than say, a certain 11 and 13 year-old I know. Come on, school is not cool…unless you’re a 1st grader. Because Neo, on the other hand, is stoked to start school. We have new Thomas pencils for him to use and Spongebob stickers to put on the work he does well. Oh, to be young…

Fun fact: The last time I moved here to teach school, 4 years ago, I was teaching Ally 1st grade. Now, returning for round #2, I am teaching Neo 1st grade.

Bête Noire

I first heard this from the mouth of my French piano teacher. He was a very animated individual, always going off on spewing rages regarding young people murdering the rendition of classic pieces, or one of his other dramatic rants. (I always thought it should have referred to Bartók or Bach inventions – my personal bête noires).

Bête Noire — A person or thing that one particularly dislikes. The bane of one’s existence.

There’s just something about saying it in French – so sophisticated.

Discontentment is my bête noire.

It doesn’t seem to matter how much the good outweighs the bad in life. It’s too easy to live under the single grey cloud in the sky. Literally. It’s monsoon season here. It’s just that much easier to find a little grey cloud to camp out under for a while.

Have you read the book, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”? The message of the book is that it doesn’t really matter where you live because a bad day is just a bad day; relocating is not going to solve any of your problems. After the outburst from 8-year-old Alexander about how terrible his day was, his mother responded with, “Some days are like that, even in Australia…”

Don’t we all struggle with discontentment in the present? We think, if I only could have that job, own that house, or if only I could live in _______. If only my spouse would change. If only I had a spouse. If. Only. We get stuck in a rut thinking if only circumstances would change – then my outlook on life would improve. Then I would be able to keep better control of my emotions. Then I would be a happier person…

It’s been one of those weeks.

Back home, in this week alone, there has been a birth, a person very close to me had a miscarriage, and by this weekend, I will have missed 2 very good friends’ weddings. And some time in the next few days/weeks, a new niece will be brought into the world as well! As much as I try to keep a good attitude about the life God has me lead, it is really hard sometimes. I know there are blessings to be had for sacrifices made in choosing to serve the Lord overseas, but it doesn’t make the sacrifices any smaller.

It’s not that I’m discontent living in Southeast Asia. Quite the contrary, in fact. I couldn’t be happier with who I spend my time with and what I spend my time doing. Isn’t it a part of human nature to always crave what you don’t (or can’t) have? When I’m here, my heart wants to be there. When I’m there, I miss being here… I can’t stand the inner bickering!

I don’t consider my discontentment or sadness worthy to compare with the hardships (real) missionaries and martyrs endure daily. For generations, people have suffered far worse; missing funerals and weddings is at the bottom of the ‘totem pole’ of hardships. But that really is the best place to begin adjusting my attitude, rather than later in life when I’ve become set in my ways.

I feel inclined to add that somewhere along the way I’ve learned it is okay to be sad when life deals hard blows. Just because I’ve chosen this life, does not mean I love everything that comes with the job description. I don’t know if this is an exclusive Hannah-ism, or if it’s common among others, but I’m so quick to feel guilty about feeling sad. However, wallowing in your sorrow is another thing. That being said…

I can not choose what comes my way, regrettably… but I am in charge of my response to it! I would love nothing better than for my life to juxtapose a flower blooming on a rocky precipice, against all odds. Alone I would be incapable of such a feat — the conditions would be my destruction; but to bloom radiantly, despite the “weather”, would be to the glory of God.


Oh, The Noise, Noise, Noise…

Stepping out of the airport in a jet-lag induced haze, I was bombarded. Everything was so different from what I knew and the humidity was so thick I felt like I was drowning. So many noises, so many smells! Maneuvering more luggage than I had hands for, I somehow made it on the right bus. Or I was about 75% sure it was the right one, anyway. I walked down the narrow aisle of the bus and couldn’t help but eye the red velour walls, yellow polyester curtains with giant tassels, and a lucky maneki-neko cat* figurine sitting at the front with its paw beckoning at each turn of the bus. So much beauty for the eye to behold… As I began to wonder why American bus systems haven’t yet adopted the ambiance of Asian buses, the guy walking down to collect the coins yelled something I couldn’t understand, and immediately everyone standing in the aisles found a lap to sit on. I tried to suppress a laugh; it came out as a snort instead.

I’m sure my experience conjures up memories of your first trip to a developing country. It’s pretty standard, from what I understand. It’s funny how quickly life overseas becomes normal and you actually come to expect the very things that once overwhelmed you.

Case in point:

Last week on my night to make dinner, I was preparing to make orange chicken and fortune cookies (by scratch, mind you) when I realized I didn’t have any oranges. Living in the-land-of-never-being-able-to-find-all-the-ingredients-needed, I’ve become queen at substitution. However, there’s no substituting orange in orange chicken; at least I wasn’t about to try to attempt it. Off to the store I went. I jumped into a motorela** and went to the store, which is approx. 2 km from our house, bought 4 oranges, hopped back on a ‘rela’ and came home. The trip took me an hour and fifteen minutes. When I walked in and glanced at the clock, I was shocked — at how quickly I had returned from my errand!

How did this become normal?

More recently, yesterday at 8 am to be precise, the day kicked off with a little kindergarten, 5th, and 7th grade math. After working on math for a few minutes in silence, Kuya Boy, (yes, that’s really his name) the guy working on the bathroom cabinet, turned on some manly machine – a chainsaw perhaps – right outside the schoolroom window. Whatever it was, it was loud. That’s fine. We can work with that. Then, “Iron Man” (I have yet to learn his real name) turns on a weed-eater, again, right outside the window. All right, testing my patience here. When I didn’t think the kids could possibly get more distracted, a parade walked by outside our house with live music and drums. A parade. At 8 in the morning. Only in the Philippines. Oh, the noise, noise, noise, noise! Sorry, I couldn’t resist getting a little Seuss-ical on you.

Yet somehow even then, I didn’t think much of the absurdity in the situation until all was quiet, and I realized I had been yelling the lesson to be heard over all the commotion.

*For those of you needing a visual image of my bus trip, this is a lucky maneki-neko cat. You clearly have not been in Asia or eaten bad Chinese food in the US if you have not seen one of these bad boys! You probably just didn’t know they were called that. Spread the word. 


**These are motorelas. They’re like a cross between Thai tuk-tuks, Mexican cucarachas…and I’m pretty sure a combination of any other motorised transportation you’ll find in another country. Motorcycle in the front, party in the back! It’s more fun in the Philippines.


For now, my maneki-neko cat and I are signing off. (Admit it, it’s fun to say!)

Birthdays & Rewards In Heaven

I’m not meaning to brag or anything, but my dad is pretty rad. He’s a stud.  He tans like no one’s business…without even trying. He’s an all-star athlete who’s in way better shape than me, and I’m apparently “in my prime”. Whatever that means. He’s been robbed at gun-point on numerous occasions, yet always stays level headed. He’s a pro at crossing borders, flying with 7 kids in tow, and mapping out our furloughs to the T. He’s extremely organised and has great people skills. He’s an expert at business and missions and I think he might actually be part robot. He has all 9 immediate members of my family’s social security numbers memorized, {I can hardly remember all their names}. If he’s called you more than once, he probably has your telephone number memorized, (not to sound creepy or anything). He remembers everyone’s names, even if he’s only met you once, and given enough time talking with a stranger in an airport, he can usually find that they have a mutual friend.

I don’t know how he does it.

Today he turns 60 and I’m sad I can’t be there. A downside to cross-cultural ministry is having a family of 15 going on 27 people and knowing that you’re pretty much guaranteed to miss every birthday, holiday, and get-together. It’s worth it, though. One event missed = one crown in Heaven, right? I’m pretty sure that’s somewhere in the Bible;)

As you can see, I am the first girl, and obviously the cutest of my siblings. Then another 3 meddlesome Mexicans were born and I went from being the favourite, to being the middle-kiddle and forgotten—sometimes. I get away with blaming quite a bit of my weirdness on this, so no complaints.

Family photo 1992

We were such a cute little Guatemalan family!

I love that my dad didn’t necessarily always treat me different just because I’m a girl. It probably helped that I had 3 older brothers, so I just got to tag along on all the cool things they got to do. I was still able to go on village trips, help mix cement for building projects with teams, and hang out with the ‘big kids’. One time, my dad, my brother Mike (on the far right), and I drove our van up to the Texas border to sell it, we then turned around and spent 48+ hours traveling by bus to come home again. I was maybe 7 at the time? I have NO idea how my dad kept a 7 and 9 year old entertained on a bus for 2 straight days, but kudos to him…and my mom of course. We were obviously pros at traveling.

My first “real” village trip was with my dad and oldest brother, Chris. It was the kind where you stay with a family and spend the night, or several nights. I was 4 at the time.

I was born for missions. Just look at my outfit!

Another time when I was little, I was sick on furlough with a raging fever and I fell asleep on the couch while my dad watched a baseball game. He woke me up to ask me how I was feeling and I told him I was still feeling pretty sick. Then he asked if I was too sick to go out and get some ice cream with him. Well, I guess I’m not really that sick…so we drove to Honey Hut and got a cone.

Ice cream fixes all wounds.

Although I may forget your name and have trouble remembering my own SSN, I do take after my dad in some ways: I favor my dad in his studly looks (minus the natural tan & brawny muscles, obviously). We have a shared love for the ocean, running, humidity, coffee, and cinnamon ice cream. I have also inherited his same humour. Sorry, world…


I love you, Dad! Happy birthday!

You’re Calling From Where??

Yesterday, I spent 30 minutes calling via Skype to America, which is a 15-hour time difference, to talk to a delightful Canadian man named Jay, (who I’m not entirely convinced wasn’t an angel) to start a new car insurance policy. Phew. What a sentence. It’s a long, boring story behind my car drama. Basically, he had to run through my old policy information to transfer it into a new account. It began like it always does:

“You learned how to drive in Mexico in 2005, you joined AAA in 2009 in Southern California, you then switched to a year-long Colorado policy in 2010, then back to Southern California, and I see here you’re calling from…wait, WHERE are you calling from exactly??”

“The Philippines.”

After an awkward silence, either due to a poor connection or Canadian-Jay still trying to figure me out, I sheepishly added, “I move around a lot…”

That is what got me thinking about the life of a TCK (Third-Culture Kid) and inspired this post. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, if you don’t already know this about me…

I love making pros and cons lists.

Now you know. When I think of growing up as a missionary kid (or TCK, if you prefer) in Latin America, one main pro and one con come to mind. There are plenty of blogs and books out there that address both of them, but I wanted to throw out my two centavos, or cents, or whatever you want to call them. The con is this:


Now we all know someone who has moved overseas, whether for long-term or short-term work: missionary or humanitarian, military, volunteer, retirement…etc. If you haven’t, then you probably will at some point in your adult life…unless you’ve never left your basement. (My mom doesn’t take a fancy to my offending people from rural Alabama, which was whom I was going to reference here. Oops. I guess I referenced them anyway.) But for TCKs, having all your friends move overseas, well, that kind of comes with the job description.

In my 22 years of opinion-having, the main downside to being a TCK is the fact that you don’t live in close proximity to the same friend for more than a few years (or months, or yes, even days sometimes). I don’t even have my family relocating as a reason for this. We were the minority in the missionary community, in that I lived in the same house from the time I was 3 until I graduated from high school (my parents are still living in the same house today!). It was everyone else that did the moving around.

I was devastated the first time a little friend moved far away and I knew I would never see him again. (If any of you have run into a 22 year old named Toby in Germany, who used to catch tadpoles with me in Mexico, and loved legos more than he loved me…tell him his girlfriend from when he was 3 would like him to call.) Despite friends moving away being a frequent occurrence, I remained overly optimistic and continued to make new friends like any little kid would do, until they too, relocated to another country or continent for good. Subconsciously, I began to distance myself from potential friends. I would befriend the new kid in town, but there was always a barrier preventing us from getting too close, so it would hurt less when they, too, moved away. I had learned early on in life that missionary kids just don’t stick around very long. And that’s all I have to say about that. But not really…

Now for my pro:

Friend Map

Wait a minute, you might think. “Your pro looks like your con!” The truth is, it’s pretty awesome to have friends all over (once you get past the fact that you hardly ever get to see any of them). I could pretty much go to any country and through the online missionary community, namely my parents’ network, and I’d be able to find somewhere to stay. In fact, once upon a time in Seattle, I had nowhere to stay and I called up my mom at 3 pm and within 20 minutes she gave me a name and an address for somewhere I could sleep that night.

This picture is a screen shot of an app called “My Friend Map” generated from Facebook and the “current cities” people have in their bio, so it’s definitely not up-to-date with reality. Who updates their current cities? Ain’t nobody got time for that. I love being connected with so many cultures through my friends and the technology that allows me to keep up with them — regardless where they are on the map. Now if only they had invented this app (or our town had internet) when I was 3. Maybe then things would have worked out long term and lest we forget, long distance, with Toby: the 3-year-old German, tadpole-catching, former boyfriend of mine. What a title…

I can’t relate to most TCKs stories about how they had lived in 15 countries by the time they graduated from high school, because I didn’t move frequently growing up. I did travel a lot every summer, and I’ve been able to see my fair share of the world. I was very fortunate to be able to have the same home to come back to at the end of it. However, since graduating high school, I seem to be making up for that fact with all the moving around I do now! During my college years, I lived in 12 “permanent” addresses, but that is another story for another time.

Conversations like the one I had with Jay are nothing out of the norm for me now. I always feel like I need to explain myself…like I’ve done something wrong. Or I feel like I need to give my entire life history to any customer service representative or immigration officer that asks me a question about where I’m from. “Then when I was 6 weeks old, we moved back to Guatemala…”

They never should have asked!