On the Dark Path

In the spring of 1996, the two of us started hiking down a trail to a place we’d never seen. It seemed a comforting, intriguing natural wonder, this “Bagby Warm Springs”. We realized a half hour in, though, that we had not planned sufficiently for this hike as we noticed the sky turning dim. He walked on. So I kept trekking the path by his side; it was too late to turn back. 1 1/2 miles seems a breeze! It can’t take that long to walk, right? “Adventure awaits!”, he convinced me. He had no idea how right he was.
Under the right (and bright) conditions, this journey would have proven simple, even beautiful. But as dusk shrouded the sky, the thought of us getting abandoned to a bleak fate clawed at my mind. Every minute that passed, a shade darker. Until I placed my hand 5 inches before my face and could not determine even its outline. I was guessing we were half way there. At least once we arrived, I thought, we could sink into some hot water and soak there until well past the raisin-fingertip stage. At least we had the comfort of our fingers interlocking, and a well-defined pathway that we could feel with our shoes, if not see with our eyes.
He was a smoker at the time, and it dawned on him that he had a light source in his pocket. A lighter. A stick. A T-shirt. Ingredients for a torch. YESSS! We were madcap gamblers, opportunists at large! And off we went…until the wind stole our thunder. He pulled his brother’s old Texas Longhorns sweatshirt out of his backpack, wrapped it around the stick and Torch #2 was lit…for another 5 minutes. We walked on, with vision and determination, and an old Amy Grant song came to my mind and out my lips, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. And nothing will I fear, as long as you are near. You are near me to the end…”
But where was the end?
We sat down and tried to create a fire with moss, sticks and lighter fluid. It was too damp to burn. So we just sat there in the middle of the path, surrounded by the fated darkness. The sounds of harmless animals, breaking twigs and wind sent chills down my spine that would only be comforted by his kiss and the fiercest of side-hugs. I would not let him let go of me. I began to cry.
And then a prayer and perhaps an hour later, we heard noises that were not from animals or wind. They were the fast footsteps of college kids who were heading our way with flashlights in tow. The one item we regretted forgetting most. These kids were definitely on “speed”, but they were also on a mission. And it was all we could do to gather our things and call out for permission to follow, before they’d pass us by. So without their permission, we were on their tail. A slow run and just ten minutes more led us to those hot springs. We couldn’t believe it. How could a 1 1/2 mile hike take us half the night? Just like that. We sunk and we soaked in a huge barrel filled with water from the depths of the earth…until well past raisin-fingertip stage.
We resisted sleep, but we knew the light of dawn would lead us back. We planned to take turns sleeping in the car as we drove home. And with each passing minute, the sky was a shade lighter. Our journey a shade brighter. Our love for each other a shade stronger.








17 years with this Guy

He got us some overnight childcare (the Piland’s!) and we had ourselves a great day on the town to celebrate 17 years of marriage.

I started the day at a local church parking lot sale fund raiser with Angel and made out like a bandit! Then I got to make out with my husband for a while…even more fun.


At Red Robin, we enjoyed fries and campfire sauce among other sauces – and the server GAVE us a free Mountain High Mud Pie which was so delicious. It was the exact meal we had on a date we had about a month ago. The server told us she was impressed at 17 years and added “my parents made until 17 years when they got a divorce. They regret it now. So DON’T GIVE UP!” Ricky kept bringing up her comment throughout the night saying she jinx’d us. We might get a divorce this year, but hey – at least we got a free Mountain High Mud Pie out of it.

We then drove around Wilsonville and made our way to Sherwood for the best Sushi around, at Crazy Sushi where we ran into some friends. That sushi is SO good! We were jammed packed with deliciousness.

We went over to Beaverton (per my lame direction giving) and eventually ended up where we wanted to go: Progress Ridge in Tigard – our first visit there.

We found ourselves pretty entertained at the candy / gag store, wide-eyed and smiling in the comfy GXL theater seats at Cinetopia (How to Train Your Dragon 2), fashionably inspired at Urban Outfitters, and in tastebud-heaven at Ava’s Coffee House which to me, was a throwback to a classy, warm SunRiver Resort-style café bordering a duck lake and donning a live guitarist. Plus i’s open 24 hrs! I’ll definitely be back and may just order the same drink Ricky did – their Kahlua Creme Latte’.





Trying on girlie stuff at Urban Outfitters

The print of my new skirt

at Crazy Sushi

Ava's Coffee House from the outside

Ava's Coffee House and Cafe' from the inside


St. Helens Day Trip

As Papa Bruce drove us (me, the kids, and mom) up I5, passing into Washington, he debated changing the course of the day-trip he ‘d planned. Looking to the east, we saw a thick haze shrouding the mountains, from summer forest fires. There was no use in going to Mt. St.Helens if it was just going to be smoky and visibility dull. The coast sounded like a good alternative to me. So at our pit-stop, the Kalama River picnic area, he declared, “Ok, ok…I can be democratic. Let’s take a vote. Hands up for the beach. Now hands up for St.Helens.” St. Helens won by 1 pair of hands so after exploring, berry picking, monkey bar swinging and discovering thousands of strange spidery snail-like creatures in the river, we revved up the minivan and were off for Braylon and Angel’s very first adventure to an erupted volcano.

Papa has a knack for finding places to stop that have hidden treasures. One stop we made was a simple turn-out o viewpoint. But when we got out we could hear the sound of rushing water across the road. When we followed him over, and through an opening in a bush, we saw the gorgeous flow of a waterfall splashing into tons of loose, slippery rocks. It was hot by then, so I sure welcomed the fresh water spray and the sight of this lil oasis. The kids were quite brave navigators til Angel started screaming wildly … she saw a bee. We stayed long enough to chat with another visitor who was traveling from the east coast and must have needed a shower, cause he had his shirt off and gave himself one right there in the fall. Off we took, to the land of parched and blasted trees.

Another stop we made on our way, was the Forestry Visitors Center…a very nice building and gift shop, where Bray and Angel got to buy souvenirs (a sling shot & a lil frog with magnetic limbs).

When we got to our destinations off of Spirit Lake Rd, an amazing viewpoint and the Johnston Observatory, the kids were all over the dry land. Throwing rocks, feeding squirrels and having an adventurous time. And so was I. The volcano was spectacular. We were so close to what Papa called its “throat”! And we even got in on an official tour-guide’s speech. Bray got himself an adventure-scope and mood ring – more assurance that he will never forget this day.
I honestly don’t think any of us will. It was a blast.
















Memorial Day Worship Leading

This last weekend was very fun, but a lot of work.
There was some tension on the team, a change in the “pastoral moment” I felt The Lord wanted me to make a few days prior to Sunday, practices (one with no drummer), sheet music copying, and working through an old song that the youngins on the team weren’t too familiar with (Israel H.’s You are Good).

The night before the Sunday I was to lead, the enemy woke me up 2-3 times with ambiguous anxious thoughts that seemed much more crucial in the moment than they were in reality. I rebuked them.

God really came thru. Of course!
He even gave me a fresh word for the team before we practiced Sunday, about how often times God uses people in spite of brokenness or foolishness.

And here are some other humbling little snippets of conversation about the day…




Three Months to Love

I cried today…

…when I took Angel to school, dropped her off, hung out a while and then had to leave when it sunk in that no chaperones called in sick and there was no room for me on the field trip to go see “The Adventures of Frog and Toad” play downtown. That was one of my favorite books i used to read to Angel and Braylon in Texas. I waited until I rounded the corner to the hallway, and the tears took me off guard. I couldn’t hold them back for nearly 20 minutes. I guess…you just never know when it may be the last day you have with someone you love.

…when it dawned on me that our friend since before we were married, Nate, may not live through the summer. He is 38. It is a reality, the cancer that is growing, spreading in his body. And although our God is just as real, Nate’s Doctor is giving him three months to live. And I just typed “love” with my big thumb, instead of “live”, which is really more accurate. Three months to love.

…when Angel put on “Hymn of Remembrance” by Warr Acres, on my iPhone and plugged it into the loud house-speakers.

…when I texted with Kim my sister in law, and was reminded of how much they are missing in Texas, not bein here in the NW… & how much she is missed here. Their family not being here just does not seem right and it makes me sad that they are 2100 miles away. Perhaps a Foursquare pastor position will open up around here and they will get to move back.

…when I watched Love Happens ~ a romantic drama with Jennifer Aniston about a motivational speaker who has a hard time overcoming his fears and denial about the death of his wife three years prior.

…when over dinner, we told Braylon and Angel the news of Nate’s prognosis & failing health, and Braylon began to cry, using his purple tee shirt to dab his tears. My eyes welled up too, when I saw his emotions showing. And then Angel said her eyes were getting watery. She is not as close to Nate as Bray. And doesn’t quite understand the finality of death like Bray might. But she is certainly compassionate and suddenly becomes sad when she sees others sad.

…when I called my friend and fellow musician, Shawn, to ask if he would be willing to play the song I wrote for Nate, and he said he has all day tomorrow free. Now I’ll be able to sing it while he plays acoustic, & Kenny is making himself available to record it for Nate to be able to listen/watch it on YouTube, (per his request as he spoke w/Ricky tonight).

I’m tired now. I’m fasting. Which is making things more exaggerated, I’m sure.

Thank you, Father, for bringing me through today and for the sweet short visit from my mom who brought me my dinner: a Venti White Mocha, extra hot, w/an extra shot.


A Tribute to my Austin Band, Illuminate…


The Making of a Band ~the soulful, seasonal music of Illuminate ~

I thought I’d write a little somethin’ about the band I was in, while living in the Austin area, from ’07-’10. It was a great experience & I never want to forget it. Since I live back in the NW now, there’s no need for an Illuminate Band “page” on my blog, so I changed it to a blog post instead, with the hopes that I’ll be replacing that band page with a new one. I love to jam. Love to write. Love to work with gifted musicians. I think that it’s just a matter of time before God leads the way for a new opportunity here in Oregon.

Three years with ILLUMINATE:

One month after moving to Austin in ’07, God put together our band, starting with acoustic guitarist & friend, Rene Ramos. The two of us were known as “Illuminate”. We got busy learning Christmas material, mostly songs that revealed the true nature & origin of the beautiful holiday.

In December ’07, we played our local Starbucks in Round Rock, Tx. & had a (short) blast – then took a (long) break. Much of ’08 & ’09 was spent writing original songs, but I don’t have quite enough written to go live in local venues, year-round…still a work in progress.

Christmas ’08, Illuminate joined forces a 2nd time, with new talent! On percussion, Elvis Lossa, on bass, Jason Kraft & on lead guitar, we had the humble Vincent “Lee” Flores.

We also added three more Starbucks locations to our schedule. Our hearts were really set on playing for a county jail, neglected kids at a children’s home, or a hospice facility…but apparently it’s a lot easier to get scheduled to play for the general coffee-sippin’ public than the oppressed. Either way, we’re booking early this year, & we’re more persistent. Illuminate ’09 consisted of:  Rene Ramos, Chelan Rene’ Russ, Lee Vincent Flores, Jason Kraft & Daniel Sadivar, our drummer.

We were able to do our thing at 7 diverse settings during December of ’09…

  • Sat. the 5th @ 4pm: The Querencia at Barton Creek (Austin’s premiere retirement community offering Assisted Living, Long-term and Skilled Nursing and Memory Support).
  • Sun. the 6th @ 4pm: SPJST (Taylor’s finest Rest Home providing medical, nursing and rehabilitative care, personal care & assisted living with programs that address social and spiritual needs of every resident).
  • Thurs. the 10th @ 5:30pm: The Top Drawer (as a non-profit thrift store, The Top Drawer supports Project Transitions, giving housing & hospice care for people in the Austin area dying with HIV/AIDS. Acoustic Night greatly helps to achieve  their mission).
  • 12th @ 7:30pm: Ricoco’s Latin Grill (family-owned by Richard & Coco. This place has the best Latin food in the greater Austin area. Fun for the whole family; definitely worth the drive to old town Taylor).
  • 18th @ 7pm: Blue Marble Java, supplying Pflugerville with the absolute best, freshest tasting premium gourmet coffees and service second to none. BMJ is proud to be as earth friendly as possible, showcase local musicians for a free & relaxing experience, and they provide free Wifi. What an artsy, roomy, & modern atmosphere!
  • 19th @ 1pm: Austin Recovery, where the healing begins. Austin Recovery has been providing “Affordable, Effective, Compassionate Alcohol and Drug Treatment since 1967″.
  • 22nd @ 7:30pm: Project Transitions, Roosevelt Gardens Housing Community, specializing in housing for those impacted by HIV/AIDS. For recorded live /streaming footage of this last show, go to illuminatelive.com/now. It was a 1st trial run using live streaming technology, so please excuse all the glitches! The show actually starts 20 minutes into the recording, the video freezes at about 37 minutes into it, but audio continues until the end.