Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Twenty Years is Nothing...

Dan and I in 1994
Es un soplo la vida y veinte años no es nada... 

A popular Tango song from the thirties called "Volver", made famous by Carlos Gardel,  probably the most iconoclastic tango singer, song-writer of all times says something like:

Life is but a puff of wind
and twenty years is nothing...


Today I woke up thinking about this song because twenty years ago Dan and I got married in my home church down in Panama.  I am saying it, but I can't believe it.  Where has time gone????  It sure does not feel like 20 years at least not to me : )  Life has been anything but boring.  So, I guess time flies when you are having fun, right? Although, not everything during the last 20 years could be categorized as "fun" life has been good.  We have had to weather many, MANY storms...we have experienced tremendous loss and we have struggled in many areas, but we are still here.  He is still the one...and I hope I am still the one for him too.  We have had to pay many dues, and will continue to pay them as we move along our paths, but the rewards have been great as well, and the blessings more than I can count.

Life is, indeed, nothing but a puff of wind...twenty years is certainly nothing, and we are not who we were, but we keep on striving to become who we are designed to be, and to one day, share in each other's company for eternity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. and Mrs. Dieter

My Mom (RIP) and I

My Dad (RIP) and I

Dan and I...


Sunday, August 24, 2014


Do you trust lifeguards? Do you trust those perfectly tanned, whistle-wielding, barely-post-adolescence, red-wearing professionals with your life or the lives of your children and loved ones? 

I sort of do. But I sort of don’t either.

Even though there are usually more than a few lifeguards walking about most pools, I am always on edge when my sons are carelessly flapping away in the water. Most recently, as we spent a wonderful week at the beach, we had a lifeguard practically right outside of our beach-house door. He arrived shortly after dawn and sat up high in that totally cool chair, under a huge umbrella, “on-duty” flag always flying next to him all day long. It was still not enough for me. Either my husband or I had to be there with our kids every time they were in the water. I just didn’t trust Ivan enough (that was the lifeguard’s name, even though we endearingly called him Sven behind his back : ). 

He didn’t give me any reason to not trust him. He seemed always alert and commanding. He made his whistle and instructions heard every time any swimmer drifted in deeper than allowed…but …what if he blinks just when my kids need help? What if a bird flies by at the precise moment when one of my children’s heads goes under for longer than safe? What if he gets sleepy and dozes off? What if he gets distracted saving other people and he takes his eyes off my kids? What if a cute girl in a bikini walks by???


Today, as I contemplate the end of summer break and the inevitability of my sons’ back-to-school trek, I feel anxiety creeping into my heart. I want them to have a wonderful experience. I want them to have fun as well as learn valuable lessons. They are both still relatively new to the school so there are many things and classmates they will be meeting this year, and I am nervous about them being able to establish godly friendships and staying safe from the evils of the world. I want to protect them. And it is killing me that I can’t be there for them watching their every move. It kills me not to be there to counsel them and to steer them in the right direction. It kills me not to be there to offer them my comfort during hard times.

I have to admit that I don’t trust anyone to be able to take care of my sons the way I do. At school, everyone is so busy and there are so many other kids, nobody is going to pay attention to my sons. Nobody is going to care. I feel as if it is worse than sending them into the ocean to swim alone! At least they had Sven there! Then I remember we have a Heavenly Lifeguard. And this one, I most definitively need to trust. But, do I?

If I am honest, really honest…I must admit to myself that I, often, don’t completely trust Him either. That is one of my biggest struggles. I don’t trust God all the time. I don’t trust that He’s got His eye on me and on my loved ones. I don’t trust that He will take care of us. I don’t trust His unique kind of love. 

Double sigh…

I try to device ways in which I can control the outcomes of situations and manipulate circumstances so I can spare myself any discomfort. I get nervous, afraid and anxious when I see the possibility of hardship and unpredictability coming my way. I shudder when I discover that part of His plan includes certain amount of struggle and pain…I don’t trust His promise that He’ll be there, and that I can count on His protection and provision in every and any situation. I forget His promise that He’ll never slumber or sleep on the job and that His outstretched arm will always grab me as I begin to sink, and will not allow me to drown. 

I forget He is the one Lifeguard I can fully trust with my life and the lives of those who are my own.

Well, I don’t have to foolishly send my sons into the ocean or the swimming pool by themselves just because I blindly trust the lifeguards that sit up on that fancy high chair. But I do need to remember that I can and should completely trust the Holy Lifeguard who Sits up on high. He is the Only One who is worthy of my entire confidence for He controls our destinies and His love is more than we can possibly even begin to imagine…His eye is on us, all the time… He will not get distracted by anything, not even a bikini-clad girl passing by…  : )

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Seeking Sadness?

“You enjoy being sad…”


This is a half-joking-comment that has come out of my husband’s mouth on several occasions. And I’ve always tended to disregard it…except…today…

Perhaps it is because the end of summer is approaching and that is always a melancholic time for me. Or maybe it is because my vacation is almost over…or it may even be the fact that I could not resist the impulse to buy a Nick Spark’s double feature I saw in the $5.00 DVD bin at Walmart a couple of days ago (Message in a Bottle and Nights in Rodanthe…if you know anything about Nick Spark’s movies, you may agree with my husband’s assessment of my desire for self-torture).

At any rate, I don’t know what it is, but sometimes I do sense myself wrapping sadness’ dark blanket around my shoulders with my own two hands. In those moments, if I am honest, it is, indeed, as if I’m purposely seeking it.

I’m not sure why. It could be the fact that depression runs in my family or that certain amount of estrogen creates a craving for melodrama…I don’t know…

…but whatever the reason, I don’t like it.

I don’t want to be perceived as someone who seeks sadness. I want those who walk around me to know that I seek the Light! I want to walk on the Way that takes me to Him who is Life!

I want to walk by faith in the promises of Him who is Faithful and not by the fear of the distorted reality that I see guided by a heart that is deceitful.

I want to rest in Him who controls my destiny.

I want His joy to fill my soul and His hope to be my true north.


Jesus tells us in John 10: 10 that He came to give us life, and to give it to us in abundance. I looked up this passage in a couple of different translations and I liked the Amplified, 

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).

And I also liked the Message,

I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

He is not a thief. He is not a taker. He is the giver of all things. He gives so much it overflows! And He gives it everywhere…not just in heaven. He gives it during this present reality as well. Regardless of our circumstances, Christ calls us to live a full life even here, in this valley of tears. He surpasses our dreams and transforms our desires. Even in the midst of loss, pain and sadness, we are held by the One who is Good all of the time. We are in the arms of the One who calls us to enjoy life!

I pray that even though my husband may have a point, I may see myself also as someone who knows how to hang on to truth, to hope and to light…even while indulging in the occasional melancholic chick flick…

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Farewell to the Beach...

It was 6:00 a.m. and I stood by the huge windows of our bedroom. As I’ve done every morning during the last week, I stared at the immensity of the ocean right in front of us, contemplating the playful dance of the waves and the wind, and hearing the gentle rustle of their interaction which had lulled me to sleep for the last seven days. The sting of melancholy rushed to my soul and stayed in my lungs as I held my breath not to let out a painful sigh when I saw a handful of people in their leisure morning walks on the wet sand. Nothing weighing heavy on their shoulders, painful things left behind to be dealt with another time, the morning walkers let their legs carelessly take them wherever it seemed the most pleasant, no detailed plans laid out in their mental agendas, except for the one goal, to relax and enjoy their stay to the fullest. I know because for the last 6 mornings that had been me, out there, seeking the same goal.

Today, however, it was time to wake up, pack the rented car and say good bye…

Not looking forward to the 12-hour-long road trip back home, we pulled out of the beach house that had now added ours to its list of endless memories of those who have rented it over the years. If its walls could talk, what would they say?

I bet they would say things like, “wow, these crowd was really loud!” or “yep, it never ceases to amaze us how much junk food teenagers can consume” or “when are visitors going to learn to use the outside showers properly?!” But I hope they’d also comment on how a group comprised of 14 people of all kinds of different ages could come together to have semi-delirious and crazy fun playing several rounds of the game “Tabu” ending it with a victory “discussion” that wrapped up with most of the participants standing on chairs and tables, some of them thinking there was a giant wave coming towards them, which turned out to be an unmentionable bug that a brave pair crushed with a flip-flop. (This very confusing sentence is nothing but a poor reflection of the real-life confusion of that night!)

The shared meals, the birthday celebrations, the teasing, the shopping, the activities, the lazy naps on the sand, the sunburned faces, even the occasional arguments all now form part of a collection of unforgettable summer memories that will stay with me as part of the first time ever that I spent a week at the beach with the family. 

It was a true gift, a gift that doesn’t come around often, which makes it all the more precious. It was a gift that showed me, once again, how magnificent our Great God is. It was a gift that displayed God’s love reflected in the beauty of His creation and on the perfection of His Provision. It was a gift that gave me the opportunity to see Him ever since the moment my eyes saw the beauty of the ocean and my feet felt the warmth of the sand. 

He definitively showed up at the beach to meet me in the sunshine, in the breeze, in the sound of the waves and even in the rain. His presence was with us as we greeted each morning with anticipation and said farewell to the days in the evenings with contented exhaustion. 

As we parted ways, the sadness in my sons’ faces was hard to bear. “We’ll be back,” I said not only to comfort them but myself as well. I sure pray that the Lord is generous to us again to allow us for more summer holidays at the beach with family, and that those who couldn’t come this time could be there too, to make the picture complete. I pray that I can see Him and His sufficiency in all that surrounds me and that the memories made this year would carry us through the days ahead as we say goodbye to the summer break and begin a new adventure by the Hand of Him who controls our ways.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Grass Buddy

Summer is the time to think about seeds, blossoms, dirt, and the like, not because I am a gardener whatsoever, but because the lessons we learn from nature become alive again in the growing seasons of the year (and also because I am allergic to many garden-related things, which makes the growing seasons much of a growing pain for upper respiratory system : )

The point is that the analogies between nature and Biblical principles are not lost in this gardening-challenged individual. 

A few mornings ago, as it is my custom, I looked out the window to soak in the new day’s delight. Unlike most mornings, however, I saw something different. I saw a comical creature. Sitting on my patio table was Dylan’s “grass buddy” which he made at BVS earlier this summer. It is a plastic cup for the body and a nylon pantyhose filled with dirt and grass seeds for a head. It used to have a face, but it is long gone now. It is a truly hilarious thing right now because the grass seeds germinated and there is a crown of pretty tall grass growing on the top of its head. It actually looks like a Hawaiian grass crown (we’ve thought about making it a grass skirt to go with it…)

The grass buddy is sitting in the same vicinity of two potted tomato plants and one potted string bean plant. There is also a beautiful pot with bright orange marigolds and one more with yellow ones. They are all Dylan’s. As it happens, he has an inclination toward planting, and I try to indulge as much as possible.

The thing is that my deck is looking more and more like a real garden where living things are growing at a nice rate. At the same time, it is becoming a source of life-lesson illustrations.

Today as I contemplate how tall and lush those tomato plants are, marvel at the gorgeous purple bean flowers and laugh at the grass buddy, I remember how they all came from seeds. I think back at the day Dylan and I filled up the pot with dirt and tucked in the beans snug under a thick layer of dark and fertile soil. I remember how we watered that pot for weeks before anything would show. I remember Dylan’s impatient inquiries about how long it would take until we can eat the beans. I remember staring closely at the dirt every day until one day I saw something budding ever so slightly. I remember thinking how much we are like those seeds.

We too yield fruit. They are the fruits of the Spirit who dwells in us. He laboriously tills the unbroken soil of our soul until it is ready for planting. Then, in go the seeds of what He will eventually germinate and nurture until it grows into what He intended to be His fruits in us. But it all starts from a tiny and seemingly insignificant seed.

The crazy thing is that, I cannot make the seeds of the Holy Spirit’s fruits germinate in me any more than I can make those beans my sons and I planted in the ground back in the spring. I just simply can’t!

What I can do, however, is to make sure I give those seeds the best chances to bloom that I can provide. I can be intentional about making sure the soil is fertile. I can be watchful so I pull every weed as soon as I see it, and rid the area of harmful pests. I can make sure I water. And most important of all, I can make sure I place it where they can bask in the light of the sun. 

Regardless of whether or not I am directly in charge of making that seed break open to let a fruit-bearing plant come out of it, I can certainly do my part and provide the most optimal conditions to help it along. The results are up to God. Some of the seeds He plants in me may turn out to be like the fresh produce we are expecting from the plants on our deck, which will provide much nutritious and healthy nurturing to our bodies. Some other fruits may be for the sole purpose of providing amusement and much needed chuckles like Dylan’s grass buddy. But whatever it is, the Lord gives us a task in the growing process of our fruits, and we are responsible for it.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Philippians 4: 8

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Visit With a Younger Self

This evening is the last meeting of the summer Bible Study I was blessed to be part of. And for some explainable reason, I was asked to facilitate this last session…

Of course, I am nervous. I don’t want to mess up, especially since this has been such a great opportunity to meet wonderful ladies in my new town. 

At any rate, one of the neat things each facilitator has done at every meeting is to come up with an ice-breaker to be done before we start the discussion. I have really enjoyed these activities because they have given me a chance to get to know more about the ladies in the group. Well, guess what? I have to think of an ice-breaker for tonight.

I’ve been fretting about this for a while. I’m so bad at these kinds of things…and now, I am out of time to waste worrying. I need to think of something. 

Well, I guess I have…

I think it is because my birthday is fast approaching and with it I usually become a bit lost in my reminiscing that I thought, maybe, perhaps, it would be interesting to take a short trip to the past. I thought what if I could visit with a younger version of myself and have a chat…with myself…what could I say? What advice would I give…to myself? 

Even if we are very young, as we mature, we all figure a few things out that we wish we’d known before to avoid some heartache and headache.

In my case, I would travel to the time when I was in my mid to late teens. That was a time of great anxiety for me. I think it was the hormonal ups and downs of the age (hormones and I had never gotten along…not looking forward to menopause!) but I lived in a constant state of stress accompanied by deep sadness and loneliness. I couldn’t help it. I looked around me and everyone seemed to be having a good time, except me. I was so self-conscious and awkward. I didn’t know what to do with myself. So I reverted to day-dreaming. That was my escape. In my imaginary world, I could be whoever I wanted to and look, have, do whatever I wanted to (needless to say, that kind of escapism didn’t help my low self-esteem and loneliness).

Anyway, I would like to visit that girl and tell her a few things. The first thing I’d like to tell her is:

“Life is NOT about you.”

“It is all about Him! And your job is to allow yourself to be His instrument and to be used for the furthering of His Kingdom. Surrender yourself to Him. Lose your life. Don’t worry about it. Let Him invade you and you’ll never be lonely again.”

I think if someone wise had told me this, I would not have been so self-absorbed. I know all teenagers are, but I think, realizing life is not about ourselves is a good lesson to learn as early as we can. 

I would also tell myself to get a grip of my emotions so they don’t run me wild. Nobody ever told me that I can control my emotions…that I don’t have to let them control me…

And finally, I would tell myself, “don’t worry…everything is going to be OK.” 

“No matter what, Christ got you, and He is not going to let you go. God has your name written on the palm of His hand. And the Holy Spirit is your guide…so breathe and experience His peace.”

I am not sure how much of these I would have understood or believed or assimilated (none of it, if I’d say it in English, that’s for sure, since I didn’t speak English back then : ) but I think it would have done me good to have had those seeds planted in my heart and brain back then, so life would not be so hard today…so I wouldn’t be so selfish…so I wouldn’t be so self-centered.

Well, I don’t know if the ladies in my group are going to enjoy this ice-breaker or reject it. I hope they embrace it and go with it because it sure has been thought-provoking for me. What do you think? Would you like to do this exercise? Let me know. I will let you know what happens at Bible Study!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Side by Side

I can’t believe it’s August. This is such an eventful month for me. Many important things happen in August in my life, beginning with…precisely…the beginning of my life. Yes, August is my birthday month. It is also my wedding anniversary month. And it is the anniversary of my thyroid cancer diagnosis. 

As I wrap up my summer Bible Study, I am reminded of all these things when Beth Moore asked us, as part of our homework, to think about the last year and a half and write down, side by side, the good and the bad that had happened to us in that time-span. 

I sat there, pen in hand, staring out my favorite window, and with a sigh, I thought to myself… “what a difficult task.”

The task wasn’t difficult because I couldn’t remember what had happened. It was difficult because I didn’t want to put these things in writing…

I knew, however, deep inside, that the exercise would be beneficial to my soul. So, of course, I began my list with:

The Bad
The Good
Two surgeries followed by thyroid cancer diagnosis. 
- Excellent prognosis.  After close to 4 years  
of excruciating silence, my brother called me.

The thought of these events stirred an avalanche of emotions and feelings of an age-old anxiety that hasn’t gone away still. I pressed on, however, and the memories began to flow easier after that…

I had to move away from the only place I’ve ever known as home in the US
Got a beautiful new house.  Reduced my commute to work to 3 min. from 45.  Got the conveniences of living in a small town as supposed to a rural area.
I had to leave our home church of almost 20 years (it was my husband’s childhood church)
Began the exciting process of finding a new church and discover new opportunities to serve in unexpected ways.
My husband lost his job
He found 2 new jobs and financial peace invaded us once more, with a renewed focus on our goals.
My sons started in a new school with no friends
New, unexplored venues and possibilities have opened up for them.


After I looked at my list, the exercise proved beneficial, indeed. Seeing the bad side by side with the good that has spun out of each one of them made me realized that the good far outweighed the bad. The hurdles became doors. The trials became pathways. The pain became excitement. 

Re-reading my now neatly organized list I see that the Lord has, really, walked beside me.

This isn’t even a comprehensive list. Much more has happened in the last one and a half year. Good and bad…but looking at it side by side, has given me a gift that I wasn’t expecting. It has given me peace. God is Good all the time. God is all-knowing and always in control. God is the Great Provider, His Grace is sufficient.

Perhaps, this would be a good exercise for you too.  Why don't you try it?  I pray the Holy Spirit inspires you to it.  And may the Prince of Peace open up the flood-gates and let His peace flow like a river.

Linking with:  Whole Hearted Home and Rosilind