“There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.” ~ Anais Nin

An Ordinary Love – A Novel

An Ordinary Love_edited-1 copyAbout four years ago, I got this idea about a series of books that take place around a Bed and Breakfast on the San Juan Islands. I’ve always loved small towns, I love bed and breakfasts, and I adore long series of novels where I get to know the characters, their quirks, their personalities, and settle into a place as if I actually know the people in them. As a girl, I read Trixie Belden, I read the Mandy novels, Little House on the Prairie, I read every Janette Oke novel I could get my hands on, and always loved the idea of writing a long series with characters that became my friends. This is much harder to do than I thought! However, I began working with the idea of the novel, thinking through where I want the characters to go over the years, and started writing a daily word count … and eventually, I had a rough draft. I sent it to critique partners and worked through their feedback, and over time, my agent shopped it around.

Around that same time, I moved to Chile… and Christian publishing went through some very big changes – in particular to their fiction lines, and my agent just couldn’t get it sold. We shelved it for a while. And I think in the midst of a large life transition to another country, I decided to let it go. But then, it emerged again in my mind because I had an idea for the sequel and it wouldn’t let up. It’s hard to write a sequel if you don’t think you’re going to do anything with first book. Eventually, I had an editor read the manuscript and she had such kind things to say, I decided maybe it wasn’t quite ready for the back file on my computer.

I started working on the sequel, still trying to figure out what I was going to do with the original novel, and got stuck. Horribly stuck. Evening traffic stuck. I got to about 140 pages, and couldn’t write another word. I’d stare at my computer and see a graveyard of manuscripts and maybe a graveyard of dreams … (Have I mentioned moving countries is stressful and hard and sometimes overwhelming?)

So, I closed up my computer and started to go on long walks around my property in the mornings, with the fog and the cool air on my cheeks, and all my writing dreams dormant from too much change. I’d walk to the back of my land, around to the side, up and over the hill and stand on the peak and look out into the lush green valley and the rolling hills and the volcano in the distance, and then I’d walk down the hill with my dogs at my side and I’d think, and think, and then I’d get to a place on my walk where the silence and the solitude and the cool air calmed me enough to settle into the quiet and my tired mind and heart would find repose.

Eventually, the creative well filled up again, and the energy to write and to create came at me with hurricane force. I’m just finishing up the rough draft of something new. Of something that makes me proud and vulnerable and terrified… And along with that has come a renewed desire to share what I’ve written, to let my friends and dear readers see what it is I’ve got tucked up inside me. Writing is such a solitary thing, but the purpose of it is to give something away, to offer a piece of oneself to the world regardless of the cost, and when I shelved An Ordinary Love I shelved a piece of me.

So the other day, I wrote my agent and decided to follow up on a potential publishing opportunity and here we are!

An Ordinary Love is the first of what I hope will be several novels about a feisty red headed woman who runs a bed and breakfast, a shy doctor who lives next door, and a pastor who is trying to accept that God is more mysterious than he’d originally thought. I hope you like it. It certainly came from my heart.

Much Love,



Treasure out of the Darkness

Writing is how I make sense of the world. It’s how I bring meaning out of the chaos, how I find my own personal treasures in the darkness. 

I wrote this in a facebook post this morning to a fellow writer in response to something she wrote. And the more I reflected on it, the more it’s resonated with me.

I’ve been intentionally writing now for about ten years. One of my novels was published last year and although, I’m proud of it, it hasn’t received the attention I dreamed it would. I’ve tried to get pieces published in magazines and online blogs – to no avail. I spent three whole years on one novel and it didn’t get picked up by any publisher, no one wants it. I’ve cried over it and wondered what was wrong with it, what I did wrong. And now it’s sitting in a file on my computer taking up space.

But is it?

I’m not so sure. Each time I’ve written a novel, a blog, an article, or even a journal entry I wrote with the best that was in me. I wrote honestly and from my deepest self. Sometimes people like what I have to say. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I like what I have to say. Sometimes I don’t.

The question must be asked: How do I know if what I’m doing is worth it? How do I know if it will matter in the end that I wrote An Ordinary Love, or have the beginnings of a memoir sitting in a file on my computer, or that I’ve just spent nine months on a fantasy novel? If no one wanted to buy An Ordinary Love maybe I should not have wasted my time on it, and why even bother with another book? This is important truth about everything we do. How do we define success? Or signficance? Or a job well done? Do I decide my novel matters because it wins an award? Or makes the bestseller list? Or if hundreds of people write up great reviews?


Or… maybe it matters because it mattered to me. Maybe it’s significant because it was signficant to me. And came from a signficant place inside of me. When I wrote my novels, An Ordinary Love, and As Waters Gone By, I told my truth – and I gave it my absolute best. I brought up something real that was hidden inside of me. When I step back and read it months or years later, I see that my intuition and my sense of justice, my particular take on life and goodness and healing are all there, told as a story. Those books helped me make sense of my world, helped me understand something that was confused and chaotic. Those novels matter, because they matter to me.

One day, I hope others will enjoy what I write, that perhaps as my craft improves, my work will touch people and meet them in their dark places. Perhaps one day my work will help other people make sense of their lives, or speak to them in their confusion and bring meaning. But I can’t hope to ever do that, if I’m not first doing it for myself.

We don’t have control over what’s going to make it big or what will fall flat. We can’t control what others will like or not like. There’s no magic wand we wave as artists. But… we can tell the truth. And tell it in our very own slanted way, hoping that if it meets me, maybe it will meet someone else.

Each of us has gifts. Each of us has light and dark. Each of us has to process and figure out what to do with the pain and heartache and the joy in our lives. I write stories. I pull up thoughts and musings and beliefs and spin them into tales … What do you do?

I hope whatever you do … you do it with honesty, love, and a bit of laughter.

Much Love,


Still Writing, Still Breathing, Still Here


How does one go back to the public page after they’ve been away from it for so long? I suppose one starts writing and when they’re finished they hit the button that says “publish.” It’s as simple and as difficult as that.

I’ve taken months off Fragments. I don’t understand wholly why I chose to stop writing my blog – there even came a point when I wasn’t sure I’d ever return to it. I’ve been busy with writing a novel. A long one. One, I love. But that’s not to say I couldn’t have written a few blog posts in the middle of that. I chose to go silent without realizing it was what I needed.  It just happened. Sometimes, it’s good to to be still, to let your thoughts go down into the ground without everyone needing to know what they are.

I had the most wonderful summer, intermingled with frustrations and disappointments, the stuff of life. But it was good. The highlight was this incredible visit from some dear friends who stayed with us for a month.

At the beginning of February, Chris and Karissa Strovas and their six wonderful children dropped their lives, their jobs, their animal responsibilities, and came to see us. The Strovas family packed twelve suitcases, pulled out their carseats, bought sunscreen, sun hats, and lots of gluten free snacks, diapers, purchased plastic plates and bowls, weathered three horrific airplane rides and landed in Temuco ready for a big adventure.

They came to be a part of our lives, to see what life in Chile is like, to eat our meat and drink our wine and eat our bread (even though they’re gluten free!) To be here with us. And consequently, I’ve decided it was time to break the silence and acknowledge our time together.

Karissa and I met twenty years ago at a high school youth camp where we were thrown together as tent-mates, almost against our wills. It turns out, we got along. And over the last twenty years, we have learned how to love each other, how to accept each other for who we are, and how to encourage one another to press into the rigorous thing we call life rather than away from it. This is a great accomplishment. One we should never under-appreciate. She and I are both strong women, who do almost every single thing differently – We communicate in remarkably different ways, forgive in different ways, practice our faith uniquely, we parent differently, clean house differently, cook differently, give and take in different ways, show love in different ways, we even do laundry differently. We are unique, one from the other, in almost every possible way imagineable. And yet, we have a friendship that startles me in how relaxed and unofffended it is. We love each other without condition or constraint.

As a result, we had a remarkable time together this summer. We went to the beach, we went to the market, we drank a lot of pisco and wine, we laughed, we cried. Our children decided they were more like cousins than friends and built forts with each other, watched Little House on the Prairie together and then played dress-up out in the fields. We shared one bathtub, two toilets, and one kitchen. All twelve of us. For four weeks. The kids fought over their seats in the automobiles like true cousins, and we yelled at them and told them to shut-up like true parents. We stayed up late laughing and talking almost every night. We cooked together, got our laundry confused, and many times sat with each other and didn’t say a single word, because there was no need. Sometimes a comfortable silence is the most honest reflection of true friendship.

At the airport when we said good-bye, I cried like a baby. Mainly because I didn’t want them to leave. And also because I was thankful. I hugged their youngest daughter, Liberty and thought she won’t remember me in a few months. We live so far away … And here we are, still here. Still searching for goodness in hard places, still pressing into the rigors of life and very thankful for the times when friends make life feel easier, when they make the presence of God more palatable, and enrich the day to day with the overwhelming goodness of their love.

I left my phone at home and I’m at a gas station using their internet or I’d post photos … perhaps later this week I’ll get some pictures up. But for now … I’m here. Still writing.

Much Love,



Author Interview – Jennifer Murgia


I have been so silent! On every front — I’m finally writing a new novel, one I’m really happy to be writing, and it’s taken me away from all social media. Also, my mom and Wayne came to visit, which was absolutely wonderful. I’ll try to write about their visit next week.

Anyways, I came across Jennifer Murgia’s name a few months back when new owners took over the small press that published As Waters Gone By. Jennifer and I chatted on Facebook a couple of times and I liked her right away. Down to earth, kind, and very interested in what you’ve got to say. I read her latest historical novel and asked if I could do an author interview… If you’re a writer and you like write historical fiction, this is a great interview to read!  More Soon!

1.  Forest of Whispers is a wonderfully multi-layered historical novel. Can you tell me a little about how you came up with the idea of this story?

~ Thank you! I had so much fun writing it.  I’m sort of a history “sponge” and particularly fond of witch tales. My own family tree sprouted in Germany (both maternal and paternal sides) and there have been plenty of stories passed down involving rumors of witchcraft. That’s fodder for a novel! My grandmother lived with a gypsy witch for some time in Germany and read Tarot Cards. Further back, my mother was able to trace the lineage of a great, great, great grandmother rumored to have been a witch in Southwestern Germany, the very location FOREST OF WHISPERS unfolds.

2. I can only imagine you had to have spent considerable time researching your story. It takes place during the era of the Black Plague in Germany… Do tell… Why Germany? And what kind of research did you do?

~ I could spend hours combing for facts: online research, Medieval studies, books, movies… Even as a fiction author, I do believe bringing an authentic vibe to the table is crucial. Why Germany? German witch hunts started the original frenzied wave of perscecution. Not Salem. Not England. In Bavaria, Bamberg alone condemned over 60,000 men, women and children for witchcraft during a time that was particularly chaotic and full of religious tension.

The Great Plague first appeared in Germany in 1348, quickly spreading throughout Europe and not returning again until about 1709. In total, the Black Death is believed to have killed 137 million people during a span of 400 years.

3. Do you research and write together or did you do all the research at the beginning and then write your novel?

~ I did quite a bit of research at the onset of writing my novel to get a solid foothold, but I did do plenty of research as I wrote – sort of bouncing back and forth to make sure my facts were straight: the herbs that are indigenous to the Black Forest, the acts of torture and tools of the time period, clothing . . .

4. As I was reading this story, I couldn’t help but be impressed with the depth of your prose. You have rich layers of description but you never let your words get away from you. How many drafts does it take you to get your story to a place where you’re satisfied?

~ Wow, thank you! I wrote about 2 drafts after hearing back from my agent (I’m so terribly lucky that she’s editorial-minded) and fine tuned and polished the final draft numerous times before sending it out on submission. There were about 2 rounds of edits (nothing major) with my editor before it went to production. But I always feel I need draft after draft, after draft to get it right. I’m very critical of my writing and have been immensely lucky to be paired up with incredible people who share the same vision as I do.

5. Tell me a little about your writing journey… You helped start Playlist Fiction, didn’t you? And you run YA Fest on the East Coast … You are busy! You also recently came alongside the marketing side of Leap Books… Do you like marketing more than writing? Or are they two sides of a similar coin? In all the things you’ve done, your creativity shines… Is that your favorite part of the writing life?

~ Goodness, I guess it is a journey now that I look back on it. It’s so hard to believe FOREST OF WHISPERS is my 5th book. There will soon be six. Its sequel, CASTLE OF SIGHS releases Sept 15, 2015.

My writing journey started in 2007 when I wrote my first book, ANGEL STAR (Lands Atlantic Publishing). It was released in 2010. There are three books in the series.

My YA Contemporary, BETWEEN THESE LINES, was unable to find a home in the market, so under the hybrid umbrella Playlist Fiction, it was self published through MacGregor Literary Agency, along with four other incredible authors. Publishing under Playlist gave my book a home and it gave me the creative control to manage the book. However, I’ve really found that I prefer traditional publishing. It’s just my thing.

In 2012, I co-founded YA FEST with fellow author and friend, Cyn Balog. It’s become a POWERHOUSE of an event that unites teens and authors at the local library in my hometown. What was meant to be a homegrown festival has garnered interest from NY Times Bestselling authors nationwide and publishing houses who “book” their authors to appear. We now have a waiting list a mile long and are booked two years in advance. 2015 will also introduce YA FEST Junior, an event aimed for Middle Grade authors and readers.

Yes, I was asked to not only head the marketing department of Leap Books, LLC, but to join the ranks as partner with fellow authors Shannon Delany and Judith Graves. I never saw it coming and am enjoying it immensely, and yes, there are days where I truly think I’ve found my “other” passion. Creating, as a whole, brings me great joy.

6. Advice to other YA writers who want to do historical fiction? What are some of the important aspects to keep in mind?

~ I tend to think of historical fiction as “Literary Archaeology”. My advice  on retelling the past? Become the past. Absorb it. Read and research. Print pictures and leave images around to help pull that time into NOW. Imagine your life as it would have been back then and add your voice. You’ll find, I’m certain, that the past isn’t so different from today.

Once again, Jennifer Thank you! It’s so fun to meet and work with other writers. and I wish you all the best with this novel and many more to come…

~ Thank you!

Jennifer Murgia writes moody fiction for teens—from paranormal fantasy, to contemporary gut-punchers, to her latest, a 17thcentury historical mystery (about witches!) She also moonlights as Marketing Director for Leap Books and runs a teen book festival on the east coast called YA FEST. In her spare time she chills out with her kids, snuggles with her cat, obsesses over THE WALKING DEAD and tries not to eat too much ice cream. Find her at

FOREST OF WHISPERS is a 17th century Bavarian witch mystery published by Spencer Hill Press. It was chosen as a FALL 2014 HOT TITLE by School Library Journal and is a 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Award Winner. It is available in print and eBook through booksellers nationwide.



Indie Bound:


On Fear and Creativity

I’ve started a new novel. I actually started another novel about three months ago and quit half-way through. It’s been years since I quit writing a novel mid-way, but I had no choice. There was no more story. So instead of freaking out I went on a few long walks and thought about what was going on. I think I figured it out.

There’s this book I’ve wanted to write for a long time, one I’ve taken notes on and had dreams about in the night. One I’ve been afraid of. So I steered clear of it and talked myself out of writing it and tried to do something easier, something more obvious, something I had more control over. But finally, it dawned on me that it’s really hard to write what you don’t love because you are trying to be safe. Writing a novel takes months, years, many many hours of labor at the computer, in a notebook – scrawling words, submitting yourself to criticism, listening to people tell you where it’s bad, where it’s good, what’s wrong, what’s right with it. If you’re going to lay yourself out there – you might as well do it over something you believe in. 

But that’s the tricky part. If you write what you absolutely love and it still gets rejected, maybe it’s the tell-tale sign that you’re not supposed to be a writer. So, why not hang out in the land of security and write stories that make you feel safe?

Because it won’t feed your soul, that’s why.

And this is where you have to decide what it is you’re trying to accomplish when you write your books. What it is you’re doing with your gift with words. Telling stories is one of the oldest traditions and it’s one of the most widely used traditions. People write stories from all over the world. Why have I joined them? What is it that makes me want to write?

After ten years and dozens of rejections, heaps of criticism, some praise, and quite a lot of indifference, I’m still writing. I get up in the morning and find that when I put my 1,000 words to the page I like this world more. I see this world more clearly. But I have to decide: do I write for me, or because I’m trying to prove something, maybe because I want people to like me?

Truth is, I discover areas and secrets about myself when I’m writing a story and it’s fascinating. When I listen to the story and get out of the way and let it live, let it breathe – it comes to life and I find out things I didn’t know I knew and discover truths I didn’t know I believed. That’s one of my main reasons for writing. But in order to get to the deep things, in order to move past the obvious and into the intuitive, I have to trust and I have to risk. I have to go where I haven’t gone before.

In order to go where I haven’t gone before, in order to risk and let go of my fear — I have to make a decision. Will I let fear overcome me, or will I overcome fear with life?

Today, I’m going to overcome fear with life. I’m going to trust that the story brewing inside me is important and that it will one day serve a purpose. And I’m going to get out of the way and yield and let it breathe and live and become real.

Now faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you cannot see … It takes faith to be creative

I’ll keep you posted.

Much Love,



Life in Chile

Today, rather than writing words, I thought it was time to post some pictures. Pictures of life and growth, of hope and friendship, of the aching passage of time. I’m amazed how grown my children are, of how full they are of their own thoughts and opinions, of their own jokes and endless capacity to tease me and Rodrigo. I’m also amazed that this is the third October I’ve spent here in Chile and so far, my favorite. We’ve barely begun the month, but the spring here is mesmerizing. The sun is shining, flowers are coming into full bloom, and it’s warm.

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The kitchen is almost finished! And as for the other pictures …  I feel they speak for themselves. Just a small taste of life here.

Have a good week.

Much Love,




Random Bits and Pieces – September

I was going to share this on Wendesday, but I decided I couldn’t wait another moment. I have some fun news and some great book reviews to pass on and even though it’s Monday, I’ve decided to share.

Redbud Writers Guild
As a writer I’ve been feeling like I needed to find a way to expand and stretch myself and get to know some more artists and authors and writers out there. So, I began hanging out a lot more on Twitter. @TinaBustamante is my little twitter handle, just in case you want to connect there. While on Twitter, I started coming across so many incredible men and women writers – great writing quotes, blog posts with helpful advice, and I began to feel a greater sense of belonging in the larger writing community. There was this one group that kept jumping out at me and I looked them up – A wonderful writers guild of bold and daring women trying to make a difference. A new friend, Marlena Graves, encouraged me to apply and they accepted my application. I am a new member of the Redbud Writers Guild! Please check out their website, get to know this amazing group of writers and speakers … well worth your time.

What I’ve Been Reading:
The last few books I read were some of the best books I’ve read all year. My sister, mom, and my friend, Karissa sent me books for my birthday and so in August and the beginning of September I read:

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.
Oh my goodness. A fellow blogger and incredible writer mentioned this novel in one of her posts and I was intrigued. We tend to like a lot of the same stories and so I asked my mom to get it for my birthday. My sister sent it to me while she was in Seattle on a visit. It was such a beautiful novel. It takes place during WWII in Germany and in France. Honestly, I wasn’t very excited for yet another WWII novel. Don’t we have enough? Maybe not. It took Anthony Doerr ten years to get his story finished and I felt the weight of those ten years as it wrapped me up, whispered hope and integrity, light and loss, suffering and a great gentle silence. At the end, when I read the final pages and quietly closed the book, sitting on my bed late in the night, I cried feeling the great questions of life and death, evil and human responsibility invite me to sit with them and keep them company and be overwhelmed with them.

Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout:
This was the only Elizabeth Strout novel I hadn’t read. I have read her most recent The Burgess Boys about three times and I’ve shared how much I appreciated it. And I was deeply grateful for Olive Kitteridge. But Abide with Me sort of left me speechless. It’s a quiet book, many would probably find it boring and wonder what in the world it’s about. I read it in two big gulps and spent an afternoon in awe once I was finished. This story was incredible to me. Somehow Strout captured humanity and Christianity and cruelty and gossip and the desperate need we all have to accept ourselves and give ourselves and our good friends and fellow church members permission to be broken and to be weak, to grieve and mourn and to expect less performance and more love from one another. The novel built and built and then crescendoed in this quiet resolution that left me speechless. It’s her least popular novel – which does not surprise me because it’s about a pastor who’s grieving the loss of his wife in the late 1950′s in a small East Coast town in Maine. But if you have a tender heart and you like quiet books that speak about important things — you might just pick this one up and let Elizabeth Strout work her magic …

And the other book I absolutely adored last month was An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor.  Barbara Brown Taylor was a pastor for many years and in this book she pastored me, she beckoned me in and sat me down and gave me a cup of coffee and talked to me about the geography of faith – in new and old ways, in every day and in extraordinary language. My copy is underlined, ear marked, and crinkled from carrying it around everywhere because as soon as I finished it, I started it all over again. It’s probably one of my new favorite spiritual direction/spiritual formation books. Barbara Brown Taylor gave me courage to accept some of the ways that I love to pray, to go further down old and new roads in my walk with God, and she helped me see that so much of what we do is sacred and holy if we invite God to be on our journey with us. It’s a small book. It won’t take you long, but I encourage you to get a copy and drink it in … It’s well worth your time.

I will let you go now … Thank you for your friendships, your time, your interest. I haven’t shown a lot of pictures lately. This is because our internet is far from satisfactory and it takes a long time to download images. I apologize.

What have you been reading? I would love some recommendations.

Much Love,



Lisa Cronkhite – Author Interview


Hi Friends,

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of doing a quick interview with another Leap Books writer yesterday and thought I’d share! Lisa Cronkhite is the author of the novel Deep in the Meadows – a recent release with the same publishers as Waters …

Lisa Cronkhite lives in the United States and is not only a novelist, she is also a poet. It’s always a pleasure to find out what inspires other writers and glean as much as possible from their knowledge of the craft. Thank you Lisa for being answering a couple of my questions!


Tell me a little about your book… What do you hope people will enjoy about it?

 Deep in the Meadows is about a young girl, Bianca “Bee” who is still trying to get over her brother, Jimmy’s death that was 10 months ago. As his year anniversary comes, she starts to feel his presence more and more and starts to think Jimmy’s death may have not been an accident like the police reports say.

I hope people will enjoy the fact that they’re not alone when they grieve and that you can move on, and believe that presence is still with you always. Also about Bee’s mother and mental illness, I want people to become aware how it affects lives.

 When did you realize you were a writer?

When I started writing a poem a day, sometimes two a day, it kept pouring out to me. Seems I still have things in me to pour out.

What are some of the things you learned during the revisions?

Show don’t tell. Try to work on my character development as much as possible.

Who are your favorite writers?

Carol Goodman, Brenna Yovanoff

Advice for aspiring writers?

Keep writing. Keep trying new things out. If your POV isn’t working, try a different POV. If present tense isn’t working, try past. Keep having your work critiqued and keep critiquing others, you will gain a lot of insight to your work and build up a support group.

Thank you for your time, Lisa … I particularly appreciate the advice about how we need to keep writing. And the idea that it’s okay to try a different POV and learn from being critiqued. 

Feel free to hop on over to Amazon or Leap Books and buy a copy.

Please come back on Monday for some Fragments … and Wednesday for some Random Bits and Pieces … I have some fun things to share! What I’ve been reading and something else that I’m excited about.

Much Love,



Married Fifteen Years

IMG_1380On my fifteen year wedding anniversary I spent it at my neighbor’s house eating empanadas, sopaipillas, and roasted lamb. Emma and Lucas ran around all day riding four-wheelers with their friends. We had two girls staying with us from an orphanage, so I was busy making sure they were happy and eating, and whether they needed anything. Rodrigo and I hung out, meandering around with all the variety of people – laughing, toasting to marriage, toasting to life in Chile, feasting together. All in all it was kind of a wonderful way to ring in fifteen years.

When I got to Temuco two years ago, I didn’t know how life was going to turn out. I didn’t know who would become our friends, where we would live, or if we’d like it here. I only knew that it was time to move to Chile and more particularly, that it was time to risk something. We’d grown stagnant in the States and it was time to move out of our comfort zone and feel insecure, feel naked and vulnerable. And do something new and good for our family.

Fifteen years ago, I risked something as well. I gave some promises to a very handsome latino man whom I had fallen in love with. I was happy to make those promises and happy to make them to him. But they were scary, sacrificial, and in some way in this have-to-be-happy-all-the-time consumeristic culture they were downright daring. To make a promise to be someone’s other – no matter what comes – is one of the greatest gifts we’ll ever give. To promise to love that person as a verb and a noun. To hold unswerving to those promises even when everything in you wants to throw their laundry out the second story window and burn the underwear they can never quite get into the damn laundry basket is downright amazing.

I have two children from my marriage. Two children whom I love with every breath in me. This is because I loved another first. To give life to another human being because you and this one person have somehow figured out how to become one flesh, in spirit and in body, and want to bring a baby out of your love is one of life’s every day beautiful miracles.

It’s no small feat to make it fifteen years. We married young and have grown and changed and have had to find our way back to one anther on a couple of occasions. We’ve had to choose to make it work even when it wasn’t working and stand still and wait, choose love, choose to yield and choose to be for one another when almost everything begged otherwise. And here we are.

There have been a couple of times in my marriage when those promises we made were what held us in place. Till death do us part … kind of encompasses it all, doesn’t it? I’m not a stickler about marriage. Marriages end and break apart all the time in today’s world and there are reasons for this – some necessary and some incredibly selfish. It’s not my place to tell a person what they should or shouldn’t do, or my place to tell a person when it’s right to leave or stay. These things are personal. And private. There’s a whole world behind the closed door of a marriage room. We best be careful not to judge that which we cannot see.

However, I think it’s okay for me to say that if a person can stay and it’s safe to stay, if your life isn’t in danger and there’s some kind of mutual love and respect, even if small – it’s in your best interest to try and make it work. To hold to the promises you made, even if very young and even if very difficult. We can be a hard lot to love, us people. But love over time, heals wounds and gives one a safe place to grow.

The other night my neighbor, Sonia came to my house and told me her story. She and her husband live down the road from us. It’s obvious she absolutely adores her husband and he loves her. They’ve been married over thirty years. She told me that when she got married she didn’t love him. She only wanted to escape her family home and he seemed a good route to go. Her father didn’t like him and she decided that was good enough reason to marry him. They started dating on November 7th and got married two weeks later. I asked her how long it took to love him and she said a few months. Apparently, she went home for a visit about six months after they got married and she spent the entire time in the bathroom crying because she missed him so much and so she went home and told him she’d never leave his side again. I thought this precious. They are together every day. And when she was sick from surgery he was the only person who took care of her and she says, it was with the kindest care.

(The picture below is Sonia’s husband. I think she did well, don’t you?)


There is a great mystery to marriage. To watch the intermingling of two lives become one flesh is sacred stuff. And how they become a family, a whole unit, is a lovely thing to see and a lovely thing to be a part of …


I love Rodrigo Bustamante and I am so thankful that fifteen years ago he said he would love me. I hold his promises to be some of my most sacred gifts.

Much Love,



On Murder and Evil and God’s Goodness


For those who haven’t heard — A young woman named Erica Faith Hagan from Kentucky was found murdered in her small apartment on the Baptist school campus in Temuco Chile. My children do all their sports on this campus and we have many friends there.

Consequently, this last week has been filled with rumors: rumors of murder, of motive, of possibilities, and also a week of great fury and shock. “How could this have happened?” they ask.

It’s hard to accept the truth of great evil, the capacity we have to do harm to one another, to commit murder.

But deep down we know the truth. We are all capable of hurting each other.

From what we can tell and what the newspapers are saying, the police have found the murderer. A guard at the school, working night shift. He was a new guard, and had keys to every apartment. This explains why there was no break in. They found blood on his shoes, and various other pieces of evidence. When the police went to pick him up at his house, he was quietly reading his Bible.

Seriously, it sounds like something out of a horror movie.

The police concluded – as of now, it had to do with money. 300,000 Chilean pesos – which is the equivalent of six hundred dollars.

Her parents flew in a few days ago and from what I’ve heard, they will fly out with Erica’s ashes. Loss. Pain. Sadness.

And soon, the rumors will cease. This man will be tried, and will most likely spend the rest of his life in the prison we drive by almost daily.

Even though the rumors will cease, people will talk of this murder for many years to come. Of this American girl who was here for a month and then was killed on the school campus. And years from now, people will whisper as they walk by the apartment building and tell the story.

Truth is, we take murder seriously. Almost everywhere in the world. We value human life enough that when someone kills another person, the world rages, people cry out for justice.

Years ago, a friend asked me to come and see a house she was thinking of purchasing. She wanted me to pray in it with her and wouldn’t tell me why. I walked through the house and everything seemed fine. Turns out, she was worried because someone had been murdered there almost a decade earlier and she didn’t want to move into a haunted house. I appreciate her apprehension.

People at the school are struggling to make sense of it all, are trying to come to terms with what happened on their campus, and trying to figure out how to trust God in the midst of it. This is one of the great dilemmas we are all faced with at some point or another. How to trust in God’s goodness, in the face of great evil.

I don’t have the prescription. These things are so personal. Each person must come to terms with evil and with good, with God’s presence and with his silence in their own way. When we try to tell people how to make sense of it, or what to believe about it all, it is somehow so offensive. Take Job’s friends. They did their best to tell Job how everything should be looked at and it did not make Job feel any better. And they got it wrong.

I prayed with a man a few days ago who is struggling with a crisis of faith. He shared some of his story – his family history is filled with so much harm and cruelty I felt my own soul shake as he gave an account of everything. So much harm.

There is a promise that holds me steady. At the very end of the Bible, in the book of Revelation, God makes a declaration: “Behold. I am making all things new.”

For now, this is what I hold onto. This is what has helped me. I have seen God make things new. My own story cries out in declaration of God’s goodness and his capacity to redeem, to stand on ruins and rebuild. There are places in my life where I can point and say with absolute assurance, where evil tried to destroy, God did something tender and beautiful and used it for good. God took destruction and evil and made something beautiful with it, is still making something beautiful with it. No one can contradict your own story. This is why the power of one’s testimony is so strong.

So I pray for Erica’s family, for the teacher who found her body, for the murderer, for those involved in the investigation. I pray that God would weave His life, His love and His redemption through it all and somehow over time, make all things new. 

How have you wrestled with good and evil and God’s presence in it all? I’d love to hear.

Much Love,