Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Is this you?

Right now I'm reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan. It's all the rage right now in the Christian bookstores, and while I usually don't care about what's "all the rage" anywhere, enough friends have told me how great it is that I figured it might make some good Christmas break reading. After all, it's not a very long book.

I'm in the fourth chapter, People of the Lukewarm, and was struck by this paragraph. Read this, and examine your heart. Could he be talking about you??

"Lukewarm people don't really want to be saved from their sin; they only want to be saved from the penalty of their sin. They don't genuinely hate sin and aren't truly sorry for it; they're merely sorry because God is going to punish them. Lukewarm people don't really believe that this new life Jesus offers is better than the old sinful one."

I confess, that has been me before.

But not anymore.

The more we learn about God - His holiness, righteousness, goodness, mercy, grace, and so much more, the more we will begin to hate what God hates, and love what God loves. And then we see how all our supposed goodness is merely "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6 - literally, those "filthy rags" are used menstrual cloths) in comparison with God's goodness.

That's not pessimistic. It's realistic.

God is good.

We are not.

I am not.

And yet God chooses to love us.

He seeks a relationship with us.

He saves us, not only from the penalty of our sin, but sin itself.

Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).

And yet so many of us are lukewarm.

We want to be saved from the penalty of our sin, but we don't want to be saved from sin itself.

Sin is fun.

We want to play by our own rules.

Who is God to tell us what we can and can't do??

Therein lies the problem: WHO IS GOD??

We don't understand WHO this great God is.

If we saw him like Isaiah did (Is 6), or as John described in the book of Revelation, we also would fall to our knees and exclaim "Woe is me!" as we recognize our filth in light of His holiness.

And yet,

He loves us, with a love beyond comprehension, a crazy love, you could say.

So I recommend to you Crazy Love. Not even because the book is so spectacular. While it is a great book, it's true value lies in the fact that it directs you the Scriptures. The Bible tells us who God is, and how we should respond to Him. Crazy Love will remind you of what you already know, or maybe what you didn't already know. It will point you to the Scriptures, to the Word direct from God Himself. To the love of God, direct from Himself.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

"Spreading Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!

Remember that quote from Elf?

"Spreading Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!"

Yeah, that one.

Well, maybe you can't sing.

Let me tell you about someone who can!

My brother-in-law, Toby Baxley, is selling his Christmas album, Worship the Newborn King, on his website www.tobybaxley.com for only $10.

And even better, $2 of every album goes to Sweet Sleep. Sweet Sleep is an organization that provides beds for orphanages around the world.

So when you buy my brother-in-law's Christmas album, you're helping little children in Africa, Moldova, and Haiti sleep well on clean beds this Christmas.

So go to www.tobybaxley.com and buy his album ASAP! You have to buy the physical copy of the album on his website in order for the $2 to go to Sweet Sleep, so while iTunes is great for other music, buying this album direct from him will be providing for precious children around the world.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Spiritual Disciplines

I just finished reading this book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, by Donald S. Whitney.

I had to read it for one of my classes here in seminary, and to be honest, I wasn't looking forward to it. I had a paper to write, other books to read for other classes, assignments to complete...I was not looking forward to a dry, boring, book about reading the Bible. I'd rather just read the Bible itself.

The book turned out to be wonderful. It was inspiring, encouraging, motivating, convicting...I found it to be so beneficial that not only am I buying a copy for myself (the book I used was borrowed), but I also want to share it with you. Over the next few weeks I'll be doing a series on the disciplines discussed in the book. It won't be exactly a summary of the book (I hope that you'll buy the book for yourself - it is well worth the investment), but my desire is that it may encourage you to exercise some spiritual disciplines in your own life.

You may be asking, "what are these spiritual disciplines to which you refer?"

Well, they are:

Bible intake (which includes reading, memorization, and meditation)
Silence and Solitude

These are the "Biblical" spiritual disciplines - the ones that are explicitly commanded/expected from us in the Bible. Also recommendable is journaling, in order to keep a record of what God has been teaching you through the other disciplines.

Now you may be thinking, "Isn't that legalism?"

Suppose you want to run a marathon. So you get up every Sunday morning and watch the runners at the park. You read books on marathon training and even jog a mile or two. Maybe you run on Wednesday evenings, too. Though you may read about running, watch runners, and even job twice a week for one, two, or three years, you won't be able to run a marathon. You have to get up and run. Train daily. Eat well. Discipline yourself.

Suppose you want to lose 20 pounds. So every Sunday, you go to a weight-loss support group. Wednesdays you eat salads. But the rest of the week, you eat hamburgers, chips, cookies, etc. Are you going to lose 20 pounds? Not likely. You have to change your eating habits. You have to create new, healthy habits. You have to exercise. You have to discipline yourself.

Suppose you want to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix, or Eric Clapton. So every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening you watch videos of Jimi or Eric playing. You read books about guitar. You even pick it up and play a scale every now and then. Will you ever reach fame as a talented guitarist? Of course not. You should probably take lessons. You definitely need to practice daily. You have to train your fingers to move quickly, to play the right notes. You have to discipline yourself.

So it is in our walk with Christ.

1 Peter 1:15-16 says, "But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'"

Romans 12:1 says, "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship."

Christians also have a goal. Holiness. Godliness. Christ-likeness.

Just as marathon runners must discipline their bodies to run and their minds to persevere when they lack motivation; just as dieters must discipline their minds to resist cravings and train their bodies to crave good food and exercise; just as aspiring guitarists musts train their fingers to respond to the notes on the page, so must Christians discipline their minds, bodies, and spirits to submit to godliness.

Now don't go thinking that I'm talking about salvation by works. The Bible is VERY clear that we are saved by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone, as revealed in Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."

I'm not talking about spiritual disciplines for the sake of salvation. There is no "magic formula" to salvation. Only Jesus Christ can save - the only thing required of us is to respond to him. He has already justified us before the Father through His blood.

Nor am I talking about self-made godliness, aka, legalism. Just as we cannot justify ourselves, nor can we sanctify ourselves. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.

But just as a marathon runner may have a trainer, he still has to get up and run. Just as a dieter may have a nutritionist, he still has to eat well. Just as a guitarist may have a teacher, he still has to practice. Our sanctification is an active process. The Holy Spirit works in us and through us, and we must respond. We must not harden our hearts to the Spirit's workings.

Hebrews 3:16 says, "Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

Our response is to draw near. And if we draw near, we will "receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

The spiritual disciplines are really just ways of drawing near to the Lord. And that is what I am encouraging you to do - draw near to Him.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Please Don't...

Right now I'm listening to a lecture on Scripture memorization for my Spiritual Formation class here at seminary. He said something that really struck me:

"When you walk away from God, the first thing you do is walk away from His Word....the next thing you do is walk away from His People."

This is so true.

And so sad.

Please, read the Word.

Please, find a church that teaches the Word. Then go to it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Also at Starbucks...

The Starbucks I usually go to is connected to a Barnes and Noble. Last night after studying, I decided to take a few minutes to stroll around the store and clear my mind looking at books, such as everybody's childhood favorite (that I somehow missed out on) Where The Wild Things Are.

Upon re-entering Starbucks, a short, round, grey-haired man in a yamaka was teaching the barista Spanish by saying things like "fat" and "ugly", pointing to himself.

He was speaking Spanish! How could I possibly resist the urge to talk to him??

Well I couldn't, so I did talk to him. :)

It turns out he's from Argentina, and a Rabbi. He made me laugh incessantly and asked me, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" ("Que quieres ser cuando seas grande?"), something nobody has asked me since I was a kid.

I told him that I'm a Christian and he said that when he gets back from his trip (he was on his way to the airport at that moment) we should meet for a cup of coffee and talk about spiritual things.

Before leaving we traded phone numbers and he asked what he should save as my last name.

"Gorda? No no no, no puede ser"
"Fat? No no no, that can't be."
"Flaca? No no, eso tampoco esta bien"
"Skinny? No no, that's not right either."
"Te dije que soy bueno? Porque si te lo dije, fue mentira."
"Did I tell you that I'm good? Because if I did, it was a lie."

If he weren't an Argentinian Rabbi, I might have had to slap the man! But Argentines have a way of making you laugh no matter what they say. It's impossible to stay mad an Argentine because he'll make you laugh so much you forgot why you were mad in the first place.

And of course, you can't slap a Rabbi. That would just be wrong.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Welcome To Texas

A guy just walked into Starbucks with a buckle on his belt and spurs on his boots.

Real spurs.

His one year old son is wearing cowboy boots as well.

I'm officially back in Texas.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Be Wise

"Make your ear attentive to wisdom,

Incline your heart to understanding;

For if you cry for discernment,

Lift your voice for understanding;

If you seek her as silver

And search for her as for hidden treasures;

Then you will discern the fear of the Lord

And discover the knowledge of God.

For the Lord gives wisdom;

From His mouth come knowledge and understanding."

Proverbs 2:2-6 NASB

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Three down.

One to go.

In case you forgot, I'm in seminary.

And somehow I managed to sign up for four of the most challenging professors in the school, all in one semester.

BUT I'm thankful. I came here to be challenged. I came here to learn. And I'm learning a whole stinkin' lot!!

My schedule this semester is:

Church History 1 (New Testament church through...the Reformation? I'm not sure at what point in history the class ends)

Old Testament 1

Hermeneutics (that means "the art or science of interpreting texts")

Elementary Greek 1 (I'll take a a total of four semesters of Greek, and two of Hebrew)

and Spiritual Formation, a class that deals with yourpersonal spiritual life.

Last week I had three midterms...so far I only know the grade for Church History. I made an A. :)

Thursday I have Old Testament. Those who have taken the class before me have given their advice for doing well on this exam, which covers The Pentateuch (Genesis - Deuteronomy). They say, "basically, just memorize the Pentateuch."


I think I'll be satisfied if I can memorize the three Scripture passages we're required to write from memory, complete all the readings (Gen-Deut twice, two text books, Justin's Dialogue w/ Trypho, and something else which I haven't even started...), and still remember my own name.

It's hard work, but it's totally worth it.

"Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Exodus 34:6-7

"Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed,

'The Lord,

the Lord God,

and gracious,

slow to anger,

and abounding in
and truth;

who keeps lovingkindness
for thousands,

who forgives iniquity,
and sin;

yet He will
by no means
leave the guilty

visiting the iniquity of fathers
on the children
and on the grandchildren
to the third
and fourth generations.'"

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Remember when we were little, and all it took to make friends was to walk up to someone and say, "Do you want to be my friend?"

And soon you were sitting together in the dirt digging holes, completely satisfied and comfortable with each other as if you had known each other your whole lives.

Monday, September 14, 2009

More Update!

Two posts in two days!  Incredible!!

You may be wondering what's been going on in my world, aside from reading.

Well I already wrote about coming back from Spain.

Since then, a month has passed.  The first almost weekish was spent with my family, followed by a near week with friends in Virginia.  The day before going to Virginia my family moved me to Ft. Worth, where the seminary is.  When I got back to DFW, my new car was waiting for me in "The Parking Spot."  If you've ever been to DFW airport, you've seen those goofy polka dot vans.  I got to ride one of those.  :)

Then, classes started.

I'll be honest - that first week was rough.  

Not because of the classes in themselves, but the rather, the whole process of moving overseas (from a place I LOVED), starting over in a new city, returning to way of life that I thought I had left behind, driving again (terrifying!), missing my friends back in Spain...the list goes on.

Honestly, I just wanted to curl up into a ball and cry.  

I'm pretty sure I did a few times.

But since that first week of class, things have improved greatly.  A guy in Spain put me in touch with a girl he knew that would also be starting here this Fall, and we just happened to bump into each other the first week.  We've been hanging out ever since.

For my birthday, instead of sitting at Starbucks by myself with no friends (what would have happened), she decided we had to do something.  So she and I and two other girls and one guy went to Macaroni Grill and bowling.  Let me tell you, that was the best date of his life.  Four girls, one guy - can it get much better?  We had a blast.  The pasta was delicious, the bowling was a blast (I bowled 136 in the first game!), and we loved watching the guys next to us bowl.  They were awesome.

Then on Friday I went home to my sister's house for my birthday dinner with the family.  She told me that the kids wanted to surprise me, so I walked back to my room, opened the door, turned on the light and.....SURPRISE!!  The kids jumped out from behind the bed which MY MOM was sitting on.

My mom.  

The one living in Asia.

The one who told me she'd be home the next week.

I stared at her.  Turned to my sister.  Stared at her again.  Finally she stood up, we hugged, and the sobbing began.  It's been a rough month, and no matter how old a girl gets, there's nothing like crying it all away in your momma's arms.

I'm sure my brother-in-law will be posting a terribly embarrassing video soon.  I'll be sure link you to it.

And now...back to reading.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Life Lately

Is reading.


All the time.

And more reading.

Why didn't anybody warn me about this??

Why didn't somebody tell me, "Laura, going to seminary is NOT like undergrad."

I've never had more reading in my life!

Completing the reading assignments for my Old Testament class alone seems next to impossible, and I've got three and a half classes on top of that!

Greek is supposed to be one of the more challenging classes, but so far I'm having an easier time keeping up with my Greek work than any other class, including the half-class.

Not that being a math major was easy, but at least the answers were clear. You either understood or didn't understand. And if you didn't understand, you could usually make some stuff up, quote a few theorems, mention Pythagoras or Descartes and still get some credit.

So while I thoroughly enjoy reading about Marcion (early church heretic), the Abrahamic Covenant, allegorical vs. literal interpretation, and first and second declensions of Greek nouns, when is a girl supposed to eat? sleep? flirt? (just kidding! boys scare me).

It is only by the grace of God that I'm going to survive this semester with any amount of sanity intact. And while I spend plenty of time reading the Bible for my Old Testament and my Hermeneutics classes, I'm even having difficult finding time to sit down and soak it in as anything more than a textbook. You can certainly pray for me in that.

However I must say, I LOVE that we're studying the Pentateuch right now in OT. The Lord led me to study Exodus last Spring and it was life changing. Literally. Through it He told me to come back to Texas. So here I am, wandering in the wilderness of Ft. Worth, hanging on to His promises for dear life. And as I read and study Exodus as a textbook, I can't help but remember the sweet (but challenging! let's not over-romanticize it!) times I had in Spain, reading Éxodo (I studied it in Spanish) at my dining room table each morning, looking out the window towards Atocha train station, knowing that the time was coming to say "see you later", but never "goodbye."

España, te quiero.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Leaving Spain

Many of my faithful readers* may be wondering why I have been silent for so long. My silence can only be explained by two weeks in Germany, moving across the ocean, unpacking, repacking, moving again, going to Virginia, lack of internet, starting school...the excuses are endless.

Despite the reasons for my absence, I apologize. So get excited, because I'm back!

Let me catch you up to speed:

Just under a month ago, I visited my Spanish Starbucks for the last time.

That morning I met up with my friends Paola and Rosi in an attempt to see the Sorolla exhibit at the Prado museum. We were unsuccessful. So we saw the Matisse exhibit instead. After a cup of coffee we parted ways. It's always so hard to say goodbye!!

I then walked down the street to Starbucks for the last time, and they surprised me with my very own apron! They each signed it for me before I left for church.

Church was filled with many more hugs, goodbyes, and see-you-laters. But it was such a blessing!

The next morning I woke up at dark-30 to hop on a plane to Frankfurt with my friend Emily. Long before I knew I would be leaving Spain we bought tickets to go on vacation in Germany. Our first stop was the train station, where they had....Starbucks!!

It was not my intent to buy a drink that day, but we decided to stop and see what sandwiches they had for our picnic the next day. We were just looking, and then...the check-out boy asked if I wanted a free drink.

Fo' realz, yo.

So I got a free drink. :)

We spent the rest of the day wandering around town, walking by the river, attempting to enter closed museums, seeing the cathedral, exploring downtown, talking to strangers...the typical Emily-Laura vacation combo. I had heard that there wasn't much to see in Frankfurt, but we really enjoyed it and I wished we could have stayed another day to see some of the museums (they are all closed on Mondays).

One of our favorite parts of the day was wandering through the massive greenbelt that passes through the city. It's full of businessmen and women leaving work, soft green grass, fun statues, and bunny rabbits.

We attempted to get close to the rabbits, but they were a bit scared of us. I can't imagine why. but as we were reclining near our naked friend, a baby rabbit who had not yet learned to be afraid of humans came out looking for something to eat. He/she came and sniffed my hand, and gave Emily a little kiss on the elbow.

The next day we went hiking outside of Frankfurt, somewhere with some old Celtic ruins. The ruins turned out to be not very exciting, but what was exciting were the wild blueberries on the top of the hike. Emily and I picked blueberries for about an hour and snacked on them the whole way home. By the end of the day our fingers and tongues were bright purple.

The next day we hopped a train to Munich where we met up with our friend Darby. Munich was a GORGEOUS city and I would recommend it to anybody. The architecture was beautiful, the people were friendly, and there were plenty of museums to choose from.

We only went to one museum, but we had plenty of fun wandering around, having a picnic in the grass, playing frisbee, eating some weinerschnitzel (is that how you spell it??) and enjoying each other's company.

One of the coolest things they have in Munich is a surf river. In the middle of the city there's a river with machines that create a wake to practice surfing. Surfers take turns riding the waves while onlookers watch from a bridge above. I was inspired by a new passion to learn how to surf. The only problem is the lack of a nearby ocean...

We also went to Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp that became the blueprint for the camps to follow. Dachau was a work-camp where they were worked until they died, as opposed to an extermination camp where they were mass-murdered. It was heart breaking to see. The gate entrance says "Work Makes Free" in German. It was a Nazi joke because they knew that the only way anybody left Dachau was through the chimney.
It's heartbreaking to see the horrors that mankind can commit when we give in to the darkness of our hearts. The Nazis who worked at the camp had normal lives outside of the camp walls - wives, children, hobbies - just as those inside the walls once had before it was taken away from them. The townspeople nearby knew all about the camp but chose to live in ignorance and deny the atrocities of what was going on inside. They may not have beaten and killed any prisoners, but their inaction against injustice revealed the same darkness within their hearts. The camp was a reminder that when apart from God, anybody is capable of committing any sort of atrocity. Even you and me, and it is only by the grace of God that I have done any good thing.

We also went to the Neuschwanstein castle a few hours outside of Munich. Many say that this is where Walt Disney got his inspiration for Sleeping Beauty's castle (however some say it was Segovia, in Spain). I can see where they would have got the idea. The castle is amazingly similar and fairy-tale-esque.

After Germany I had one more night in Spain. I went out with my friends Sebas, Rocío, Fede, and Del (who is actually an American and was staying with some of my friends that night). We ate dinner at the place where I had my first Spanish dinner. It was fabulous. Then we walked around downtown enjoying the beauty of the city at night. We walked past Sol, the palace, the opera...it was beautiful.
The next morning some friends took me to the airport to say farewell. While I didn't cry at the airport, I couldn't hold in the tears once the plane took off. I cried from Madrid to Dublin, all through the airport (I think scared the customs agent!), and from Dublin to Chicago. Chicago to Dallas I was able to calm myself down, but when I hugged my brother at the baggage claim, the tears began to flow again. I finally got to hold my nephew for the first time! Hayden Charles was born January 5th, 2009. On August 8th, I finally got to hold and kiss my little nephew.

The next day (Sunday) we went to none other than Jason's Deli for lunch. Oh how I missed their salad bar!!
Later I met my best friend Julie for coffee. It was so good to catch up! And now that we're finally in the same time zone, hopefully it will be much easier to keep up with each others lives!

And at that, my dear readers, I shall leave you. This update is already too long. Later I'll update about Mineola, my new car, Virginia, moving to Ft. Worth and beginning seminary.

Until then, ¡hasta luego!

*Do I even have any faithful readers?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Starbucks and Sushi

Once upon a time there was a girl named Bruner.

Bruner had no fear of strangers, an insatiable curiosity, and an utter lack of an efficient inner monologue to stop her from saying the first thing that crossed her mind.

One day while Bruner was at Starbucks (because really, when is she not at Starbucks?) she noticed a deep looking soul sitting not too far away. She knew he was deep because of his shaggy hair, little black notebook, and self mumblings as he scrawled his deepest most profound musings into the notebook.

"I wonder what he's writing? Is he a poet? A song writer? A philosopher?. It must be deep because that's a Moleskine, used only for the deepest, most profound thoughts."

After that day she saw the deep, shaggy haired poet every so often and constantly asked herself what kinds of tragically romantic thoughts he might be scribbling that day.

Until one day...

Bruner sat across from Deep Boy. She watched him mumble to himself with furrowed brow, his lips silently composing, his hand drawing tiny circles in the air before jotting down his latest revelation. As she was studying for a Spanish exam, and he was Spanish, she found this was the perfect excuse to begin a conversation.

"Excuse me, could you explain to me what (insert Spanish idiomatic phrase here) means?"

After his polite response the two returned to their tasks. He with his deepness and her with her Spanish. Until suddenly her auto-stop failed - she could no longer resist the temptation - she gave in to her curiosity and said:

"Do you mind if I ask what you're writing?"

She prepared herself for the most philosophical of responses, most certainly far beyond her scope of understanding when he replied:




And all that time she thought he was deep and sensitive.

Deep-Boy-Turned-Comedian was named Alvaro.

From that day on Bruner and Alvaro always found each other on the sofas and spent the evenings talking and laughing; Bruner using Alvaro as her own personal Spanish dictionary, and Alvaro using Bruner as a test audience for his jokes.

Their friendship grew and grew as each night they sipped coffee until closing time, accompanied each other home, Gchat-ed the next day and then returned to Starbucks to do it all again.

They carried on like this for months and months, but alas, all good things must come to an end.

Bruner had to return to the land of pick-up trucks and BBQ, and Alvaro got a job in another city as a comedy writer for late-night TV. All of those jokes finally paid off.

The day before he left, Alvaro took Bruner to her very first Sushi restaurant.

Not only was it her first sushi experience ever, but it was also the best in the city, making Bruner very happy when she finally tasted the more-delicious-than-she-could-imagine-raw-fish, plus she got to eat with chopsticks and we all know that Bruner loves chopsticks. Alvaro knew just what to order to please the palate.

Just as they met at Starbucks and thus began their friendship, so they must also say farewell there and thus begin a new phase - the long-distance friendship. So they went to Starbucks to enjoy one last drink together on the oft visited sofas.

As it turns out, Alvaro really is a deep, sensitive soul. But he just so happens to be a funny one, which is much better than the emotional moody poetic one she originally thought he was.

Bruner was sad to say goodbye to Alvaro, but thankful to have known him, learned from him, laughed with him, and enjoyed his friendship. And when he comes to visit her in the land of pick-ups and BBQ, she'll buy him a drink at Starbucks. :)

Thanks, Alvaro :)

Monday, July 20, 2009


Last weekend a few friends and I went to Salamanca, Ivan and Rocío's hometown. The city is famous for it's university, the oldest in Spain and one of the oldest in Europe. Ivan, Dámaris, Sebas, and Rocío and I all piled into Ivan's car and made the 2+ hour drive to this ancient city.

While Sebas and Rocío spent the day with their family, Ivan and Dámaris showed me around town, beginning with the Plaza Mayor:

Later we went to the old university. On the facade there's a frog hiding out somewhere, and legend has it that on the first day of class students had to find the frog, and if they were able to find it they would succeed and complete their degree, but if they couldn't find it, they were sure to fail. I was determined to find it, but after straining my next for just three minutes I said to Ivan, "I'm not sure I have the patience to find it." Now, I didn't mean I was going to give up just yet; I was just commenting. But Ivan took that to mean "I give up" and proceeded to tell me exactly where it was. Oh well. I guess it's a good thing I've already got my degree. :) Now see if you can find this famous frog:

Later we went to a juice/smoothie bar. I got pineapple/raspberry juice, Dámaris got a raspberry smoothie, and Ivan a strawberry smoothie. Here we are enjoying our refreshing drinks on a hot Summer day:

At one point we toured the free part of the cathedral (the "new" part, built in the 1500's), and later in the evening (when it wasn't so hot anymore) we were able to climb to the top and explore the roof of the cathedral, as well as view the old part (the part you have to pay for). From the roof we could see brides galore, all waiting to get married in the 12th century cathedral. Each bride got a 15ish minute wedding. They all walked in, sat down, the organ played, the priest gave them the wafer and the wine, pronounced them man and wife, and as the cameras flashed he shooed them out so the next bride could take her turn. Not exactly what I dream of for my own wedding.

In the "new" part of the cathedral they had a mirror underneath the dome so you could get a better view without straining your neck. But I saw greater potential:

All in all it was a great weekend with great friends. I enjoyed getting to know a new town, getting to know my friends better, and replacing the noise and bustle of a big city with the calm and quiet of a town.

Monday, July 13, 2009


For the past two weeks I've been helping out in our annual basketball camp. This year we had more or less 120 kids each day from ages 4-15.

The first week I found myself translating a LOT. So much so that by the end of the week I had nearly lost my voice. And while I wasn't with any one particular group, I had the blessing of seeing all the kids on a daily basis as they came to my station to learn about good sportsmanship, giving your best effort, playing good offense and defense, and of course, being like Jesus. During that time I got to know these three girls pretty well:

In the second week I was translating for the 12-15 year old girls' coach, so I had the opportunity of getting to know these girls a lot better. I had so much fun!

Of course, it was stinkin' HOT, but thanks to the prayers of many, it wasn't intolerable. Nobody got heatstroke or dehydrated that I'm aware of, and my sunburn was only minor. :)

Next year I won't be living here anymore, but I'm hoping to have the opportunity to come back with the volunteer team to help out with the camp. Who knows, maybe I can bring a team over myself? Anybody ready to sign up?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Russian Tim, Women and Fire Jumping

A few weeks ago one of my friends from college, Tim, came to visit with his mom. Tim's been working in Russia for nearly a year, so when his mom went to visit they decided to take a little European tour and come see me.

It was so great to see a friend from home - somebody who knows me, understands me, and now that he, too, is living internationally, somebody who can relate to living cross-culturally, learning a new language, and so many of the strange experiences that are so hard to describe unless you've "been there."

I had so much fun showing he and his mom my city. I love this city so much and want for everybody who comes here to have a great experience and fall in love with it as I have. That's why I'm starting to think I might enjoy becoming a tour guide. :) Something to think about for the future...

We also went to Toledo one day. And without knowing it, we went the day before a huge festival, the Corpus Cristi, when the city is packed. So we got to see the decorations and some of the pre-holiday festivities without the massive crowds.

One of the pre-holiday festivities involved marching these giants through the city. They were probably about 15-20 feet tall and dressed as men, women, old Spaniards, Moors, and various other characters. Check out the guy behind us scratching his belly:

The day that Tim and his mom left I went on a women's retreat with my local church. What a blessing! There were women of all ages - from 20 and 21 (or 24 like myself) all the way up to "señoras mayores", women who usually don't tell you how old they are. :) I loved getting to know more women from the church, learn from them, worship with them, and spend a weekend out of the city. I also made a new friend, Cristina, who's just as crazy as me, or maybe crazier:

Two days after the women's retreat I went with my friend Paola to the Fiesta de San Juan, the day of Saint John. When she invited me, I was expecting a late-night picnic, families, music, and other benign activities. What I found when I got there was much different:

In the park behind a large church hundreds upon hundreds of 20-somethings has set up bonfire after bonfire and were taking turns jumping through them. They explained to me that it was originally a Celtic pagan ritual, but when Catholicism took over they turned it into Saint John's day.

What Paola's friends told me is that you're supposed to write down the bad things that happened over the past year and throw them into the fire, and then jump over it. It's a rite of purification, a sort of "cleansing." Knowing that I'm a Christian, they asked me if I was going to jump. I told them that I've been cleansed by the blood of Jesus and I've got the fire of the Holy Spirit, so I'd already got it taken care of. We all had a good laugh, drank lemon Fanta (well...some of us), and watched people burn their leg hair jumping over completely un-safe bonfires. All the while a woman pushed her two year old child on a nearby swing despite the fact that it was nearly 1am.

Overall it was a great week - time with an old friend, making new friends, and getting to know better some recently made friends. :)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Birthday Melissa!!!! (and usa)

Today is July 4th! And we all know what that means!

It's Melissa's birthday!

Yup, that's right. Our own personal firecracker, Melissa Jane Baxley (formerly Bruner) was born on July 4th, 1978 (I think it was around then - I'm terrible at remembering how old people are!).

Since I can't be there to give you your gift in person, I'll just have to get creative.


Get ready to open your gift!!

Open the bag and pull the little box out...

Open the box and pull the little packet out...

Open the paper and begin to see...

Happy birthday!! I hope you like it!!

We saw this necklace at a store when Melissa was visiting in May and she just LOVED it. So I went back to buy it, and while they no longer had the same necklace, they had this one that's almost the same.

I hope you can enjoy it just as much as you would have the other!

Since I'll be seeing you in just over a month, I decided to hold on to it to give it to you in person. Plus...now you'll have time to look for some matching earrings!!

I love you Big Sister!

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Family Affair

On My 20th, 2009 my Mom arrived to Spain for her second visit.

To start the trip off, we went to Barcelona. I had been there once before but it was for a conference so I didn't have much time to do any "touristy" things. So we went for two days and saw everything we could possibly squeeze in, beginning with the cathedral.

While we toured they were having mass so I stopped to listen. I must say, I was quite heart-broken by what I heard. The priest was talking about heaven (a topic about which we all like to hear) and how we will spend eternity in the presence of God. That sounds great to me! But then he began to say that the way to heaven is by living a good life, and that those parents who love their children will baptize them so that, should they not live good lives, they will still be allowed to enter heaven. It broke my heart to see the people in the pews listening, knowing that they trust this man to give them words of life, and instead he is leading them down a road that leads only to death, for we know that "it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no man can boast." (Eph 2:8-9)

But I shall continue with our visit.

Later we went to the Aquarium, which is supposed to be the largest in Europe. If you want to make me happy, take me to the zoo or the aquarium. I will then be your best friend for life. This aquarium had a really awesome shark tank (the kind with the moving sidewalk and the tunnel effect) and I finally figured out what one of my favorite fish (to eat) is! Here in Spain you see "sepia a la plancha" on menus all the time, and I must say that it's quite delicious, but I've always wondered what the fish actually is. Well, it's cuttlefish! These guys:

I'll be honest, I'm glad I ate the fish before I saw the live version of it. I'm not sure I would have had the bravery to eat him knowing what he really looks like.

Our second day was our "Day of Gaudí". We went to the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló (but only from the outside, they were both expensive and the Sagrada Familia had a LONG line), and toured La Pedrera, which means "the rock quarry."

The top of the building looks like ice cream cones, but the outside of the building looks like smooth boulders (sort of), which is where it got it's name from.

Then on the 26th my sister, brother-in-law, his mom, and my niece and nephew came! I can't tell you how awesome it was to finally see them, and show them this place that has captured my heart, and see Garrett and Vivian who are so much bigger than they were the last time I saw them!

The first day they were exhausted, so to keep them awake I took them to the park where the kids played on the playground and fed ducks and goldfish in the pond, and then we ate at a neat little café before letting them crash at the apartment they had rented. Little did we know that our first day would leave such an impression on the kids. All week long all they wanted to do was go back to the park.

Really, who needs more than a playground and some ducks? Apparently that's the key to happiness in life. While you can't see the water, they're feeding the ducks in this picture.

I ended up spending the night at their apartment a few nights. Even when I didn't, usually they were just having breakfast when I arrived at their place, meaning that every morning I got to wake up to this:

After calling my sister's house my home for so long and living with them during my transition period, it sure felt good to see those precious faces in the morning again.

We also toured the palace, went to the zoo, rode the cable car over the city, had some of my friends over for dinner, saw a flamenco show, and visited the majority of the playgrounds in the city.

Now most people who know me well know that I'm terrified of birds. I had a bad experience. So at the zoo, we went to the bird show. It wasn't my idea, I can assure you of that. But I didn't want to be a party pooper and since everybody else was interested, I wasn't going to say anything. Besides, they're all trained birds, right? At one point a hawk flew out and landed on somebody in the audience's head, way on the other side of the stage. I thought, "whew! I'm so glad that's over there." And then...it flew over and landed on...my sister's head. Right next to me.

I knew what came next. I squeezed my fists, closed my eyes, and prepared myself for the worst. It hopped onto my head. I could feel it's claws in my scalp. I could feel it's mighty weight, pressing down on me. And just as soon as it began, it was all over.

I realize that my fear of birds is slightly irrational, therefore I don't jump and scream every time a pigeon crosses my path. But a hawk? On my head? Talk about immersion therapy. When I opened my eyes again I was laughing and crying, rational enough to recognize the humor in the situation but still unable to control the tears. My wonderful brother-in-law was astute enough to get a few seconds of the moment on video. I'm sure my red face will be posted all over the internet very soon.

On their next-to-last day we took a day trip to Segovia. We saw the Roman aqueduct (how can you miss it?) the cathedral, and the Cinderella Castle, as Vivian called it.

Finally it was time for them to go home, and I could hardly believe that it was over so quickly. Those eight days flew by and I think we only accomplished half of the activities planned, but that was okay, because the number one activity - just enjoying each other's presence - was completed. Saying goodbye at the airport I was able to laugh and have fun knowing that I'll be seeing them soon - in August, to be exact - when I move back to Texas. But until then, I've got a plethora of good memories to dwell on. :)

Sunday, May 31, 2009


I've been AWOL lately because

1) I've been busy


2) My family is here visiting.

So far it's been a pretty crazy adventure. There have been quite a few "blog worthy" moments (trip to the theatre, trying to make it to church, buying the wrong train tickets...) but the madness of our days seems to blur my memory so that I'm not quite sure just what I've done these past twelve days since my mom arrived, and I've even less an idea of what has happened since my sister, brother-in-law, his mom, and my niece and nephew arrived last Tuesday.

But I hope to regain my mental capacities in a short while and when I do, I'll be sure to fill you in on all the quirky details.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Art and Ice Cream

One of the things I love about Europe is the art.

It's accessible to the public.

It's often free (or at least there are certain times when it's free).

It's everywhere - in museums, in parks, on buildings, in the streets.

Art is a daily part of life.








Crazy modern things that have no names.

It's everywhere and in everything.

You just can't help but appreciate it:

But sometimes you find it in the most unlikely places.

Like in a bathroom.

On the towel dispenser.

It doesn't surprise me to find a sticker like that in a bathroom. Given that it's a kid having a poo while reading a book, I can't think of a more appropriate place to put it than a bathroom, except maybe a library bathroom.

But what I wonder is, who thought it would be a good idea to make a sticker with a silhouette pooper?

Who decided to print those up?

What purpose was it meant to serve, if any?

What did the man at the sticker factory think of them?

Where did they sell the stickers? Are they still for sale? Can I buy some?

What kind of label did they put on them?

"Stinker Sticker?"

In other news, last week was FREE ICE CREAM DAY at Ben & Jerry's, which is only the most delicious ice cream that ever existed. If it weren't for the price, I would prefer it even to Blue Bell ("GASP!" go all the Texans).

My friend Kaotar and I met up to go get some free scoops, but before we could go she had to give something to Aisha, who was taking care of sweet little Ayu for the afternoon. As Aisha had nothing to do, and Ayu is 5, we decided to all go together. Who can't resist free ice cream?

We started out at the Ben & Jerry's at Sol and ate our scoop as we walked to Plaza Mayor where the other Ben & Jerrry's is located. On the way we saw musicians, clowns, a crazy llama dude, a magician, a man covered in plastic fruit, and various other street statue/performer people.

Ayu was in heaven. He got TWO WHOLE SCOOPS of ice cream AND saw all kinds of fun things in shop windows AND got his picture taken with the man covered in plastic fruit. What 5 year old wouldn't love that?

Aisha and Ayu left us and then Katoar and I continued on to meet my friend Paola for a third scoop of the deliciously sweet frozen calories. And it was worth each and every one of them. :)

Saturday, April 18, 2009


The first time I saw María I was waiting for my drink at the end of the bar in Starbucks. Suddenly her little head ran across the store at table height as she accosted Roberto, who was making my tall mocha (two pumps, no whip cream), and demanded, "Give me a chocolate!"

Roberto was caught off-guard by her boldness. He hesitated.

"Um, go ask your parents."

And off she went, running back to the register where her father was ordering a frappaccino.

A few weeks later I sat by myself in a nook of four comfy armchairs and her parents approached and asked, "do you mind if we sit here?"

I recognized the tiny-tot immediately.

They sat and the madness began. All the energy of an atomic bomb, the cuteness of a toddler, the sass of a teenager, and an ability of speech far beyond my own wrapped up in a tiny little three year old adult with marker all over her face. Her parents are both actors, and it doesn't take long to realize that María has inheirited the drama-gene, particularly of the comedic variety.

Tonight I saw her family sitting by the door and waved from across the café. Not five minutes later while I sat on my comfy sofa chair María, accompanied by her mom, dad, two of their friends and her baby brother joined me and a poor, slightly overwhelmed stranger in my nook, bringing with them all the noise and energy they could offer. Apparently María wanted to say hi to me, and since they were sitting by the door in a cold draft and saw that I was by myself in a warm corner, they decided to relocate all together so that I would have some company and they could have some warmth. :)

Tonight María had a butterfly, heart, and a flower drawn on her face. She wore a brightly striped dress over a purple long-sleeved shirt and kelly-green aladdin pants. She looked just like a little hippy, without a care in the world.

At one point her mother told her that I'm studying their language. I said, "that's right, so I'm still learning how to speak like you" and she told me that her brother only knows how to say, "AAAAHHH." Well, I suppose that makes sense, seeing as how he's not yet a year old.

Then she pulled up her sleeve, bent her arm and stuck her elbow out, pointed at it and said, "look at this!"

Thinking there must be a boo-boo or a freckle of some sort, I asked, "what is it?"

She responded with, "my elbow, of course!" and looked at me as if I were the most dense person she had ever met. How could I not know what an elbow was?

We all had a good laugh and then I said, "Yes, but what's on it?" (Keep in mind that the word of "on" is the same as the word for "in").

"Bone," with a sweet smile.

Of course. Common sense.

She then extended her arm so that her elbow disappeared and declared, "and now it's gone! It's magic!"

She then took an umbrella, dropped it behind her and held up her empty hands while saying, "ta da!"

We asked, "where did it go?"

"It flew away."

Simple as that. The umbrella flew away.

Can we all go back to being three again? How much fun would that be? We can jump in puddles, make our lap disappear, and drink caramel cream frappaccinos without worrying about how many calories we're consuming.

Life is so beautiful when you're three. :)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Paris, City of Light

Last week, another childhood dream became a reality:

I went to Paris!!

The week before Easter is "Spring Break" not only for all the students here, but also for the majority of work force. Last year, I was uninformed of the mass exodus of the general populace and was left alone with no friends and nothing to do. It was lame, to say the least.

I decided that this year would be different. No lonely Laura in 2009. No sir-ee.

So I took part in the coordinated, overpriced group exit of the country and went to Paris with a few friends, along with a third of the rest of the country.

Now, some people rave about how absolutely faaa-bulous Paris is, while others shrug and say, "it's alright."

And of course, we all hear stories about how rude the French are.

And let's face it: I've come across some of those French who have left such a "memorable" impression on the rest of the world and thus marred the French reputation for all eternity.

But I must say: everybody was so polite, helpful, even friendly. I was very pleasantly surprised. Not that they all wanted to best friend, but I had already accepted that not everybody says "Howdy" a few months after leaving Aggieland (otherwise known as Utopia).

We saw just about everything there is to see in Paris, at least as much as our budgets would allow. We saw (and went to the top of) the Eiffel Tower:

We took a day trip to the palace in Versailles:

We went to the Louvre:

And we picnic-ed and ate pastries in the park, surrounded by tulips:

In general we had great weather. It rained a few times, but mostly while we were inside museums, and when we did have to face the elements, we chose to enjoy the moment rather than run for cover:

I am now one of those who will rave about how faaaaa-bulous Paris is. Yes, it is overpriced, but that's the reason why I ate homemade salad and leftover lasagna every night for the past month, and it was worth every bite of frostbitten veggie lasagna.

Speaking of being a thrifty spender, my dad would be very proud of me.

At the airport while trying to decide which overpriced meal we were going to purchase, I noticed a tray of trash, just waiting for the food court employees to throw to the trash can, with a sad, lonely, unopened yogurt.

That yogurt called to me.

It cried out for help.

"Laura! Save me! They're going to throw me away! Don't let them throw me away! I haven't expired yet! I'm still cold! I must be eaten!"

I looked around.

Nobody was coming to claim that tray of trash.

I waited a minute.

Still nobody.

So I saved the yogurt from a sad, lonely fate in the trash can, where he didn't belong.

And it was tasty, too.

After 5 full days of fun, from 4:30am Monday morning to 2am Friday night (Saturday morning), we were pooped!

Paris may have been expensive, and our hostel may have been creepy, but it was worth every penny spent and parasite we might have contracted. I look forward to the day I go back.