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True riches


Libyan cookies and chai are the best!

Quite the year, wasn’t it?  For me, it was a year of hills and valleys in the busiest season of my life.  My health declined (chronic pain and insomnia are my faithful companions). . . But my soul feels healthier.  We moved again (our fifth move since we landed in Portland) . . . But i am so delighted with our new neighborhood and community.  We took some hits financially . . . But I have never felt so rich in all my life!

Sounds so corny, right?  But as I’ve reflected on this past year recently, the word “rich” keeps rising to the surface.  It’s more than just a thought–my life feels so abundant right now that sometimes it’s hard to stop grinning 😉

This richness is a tapestry made up of precious threads:  the love of Jesus, my marriage, my family (is it rude to say “especially grandkids”?), my church and dear friends.  I have been a lonely person for most of my life, but this past year I’ve accumulated the great wealth of many friends.

Old friendships grew sweeter and stronger.  New friendships blossomed at our new church.  But honestly, I’ve been most richly blessed by my new Muslim friends, who have loved me so well this past year.

As I showed up each Friday morning to help my daughter teach English to parents (most of them refugees) at my granddaughter’s elementary school, friendships quickly developed between me and three of the moms.  Even though these women were from different countries: Myanmar, Libya and Afghanistan, they bonded with each other.  Each far from home, with their own traumatic stories, they formed their own special community.  And invited me in.


A plate of food (Libyan) sent home with me!

These friends call me mom or Mimi or sister (one day at class, Danielle introduced me to someone as her mom.  My Afghan friend corrected her: “No, she is my mom too!”).  They love to cook for me, and what an adventure in delicious, exotic food it has been!  When I protest that I am too full, they send me home with goodies that feed us for days!  When I told my Libyan friend I was having a Christmas party at my house for church friends, she offered to bake some of her exquisite cookies.  When I asked her why she would do that, my friend looked surprised.  “You are like a mom to me.  Of course I will help you!”


Cookies for my Christmas party!

My friend from Afghan invited me to a birthday party yesterday for her 10 year old daughter.  My daughter, my two other friends and their children came too.  We sang Happy Birthday (American style) and then the birthday girl fed bites of cake to her friends (Afghan style).  We ate cake and good food and drank tea and chatted.

“You did not need to bring presents,” my Afghan friend said.  “You are my gifts!”


The birthday girls giving my granddaughter a bite of birthday cake!

Tomorrow we are invited to a big New Year’s feast, and my friends from Myanmar and Libya will be doing the cooking.  What a wonderful way to end a bumpy year–surrounded by the grace and love extended by very different cultures.   I am so very richly blessed!


Biryanis rice with chicken–one of my faves!


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In the early nineties, Greg and I flew to Kauai to spend a week with friends.  Toward the end of our vacation, we visited a beach that was known for its amazing body surfing.  But I stayed on the shore that day, intimidated by the signs that warned of dangerous rip tides.

Greg paddled out with a bunch of the guys, however, and to all appearances he was having a great time.  But eventually it became apparent to me that one of our party had drifted out too far and was in trouble–and Greg swam out to help him.  But instead of heading toward shore, the two bobbed helplessly in the surf as the rip tide pulled them relentlessly toward the ocean.  No one else noticed, but I knew they were in danger of being swept out to sea.

Trusting my gut, I sweet talked a guy with a surf board into paddling out to assess the situation.  He agreed, and returned with our floundering friend in tow.  Greg assured the surfer he could swim back without assistance.  But he didn’t realize how much energy he’d spent trying to help our friend.

With Basil safely on the beach, I watched Greg’s slow progress toward shore.  But just a stone’s throw from the beach, he came to a halt, suspended between the sand and the deep.  I watched him raise his arm repeatedly and wave and was alarmed by the gesture.

“He needs help,” I told my brother in law, who watched from the beach chair next to me.

“He’s just waving,” Dave replied confidently, sipping his drink.

But I begged the kind surfer to go out once more and retrieve my husband.  Greg collapsed on the beach, puking sea water and gasping for air.

“I didn’t think I was going to make it,” he later said.  “But no one knew how much trouble I was in.”


Lately I’ve found myself caught in the rip tide, suspended between the sand and the sea.  I know I’m in trouble–I can’t sleep, can’t think straight, can’t function even in the daily routine.  Even though it goes against my very nature–I am a pastor’s wife, after all–I’ve been giving off distress signals for some time now.  But only those who are really watching see.

Most people think I’m just waving . . .


To all who are drowning and not waving, I want to see you.  I want you to know that God hears your cries of distress.  That He saves and sends us rescuers.  The currents of His love are more powerful than any rip tide.  He will not let you drown.

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We just moved into a house that we first made an offer on three years ago.

No, it’s not the world’s longest escrow.  But it’s a story about God’s faithfulness to give us the desire of our hearts in ways we coudn’t have imagined.

After we sold our home in Happy Valley three + years ago, we decided we wanted to buy a house with separate living quarters.  We looked at duplexes, mother-in-law units, loft apartments–but nothing suited us.  But then a good friend told us of a mutual acquaintance who had decided to sell her place–which had a separate living area (complete with a renter–also a friend) in the daylight basement.

We made arrangements to see the house.  And fell in love . . .

So we made an offer.  But several weeks and a flurry of inspections later, we realized the house would need a lot more work than we or the seller could afford at that point.  Extremely disappointed, we walked away, wondering why something that had seemed like such a “God thing” had not panned out.

But then our beloved agent took us to see the little house on the acre in Damascus.  Even though we knew it would be a ton of work, cost lots of $$ to get the property in shape–and was nothing like we’d been looking for–both Greg and I felt inexplicable joy every time we set foot on the property.  Our offer was accepted and we moved into a beautifully remodeled 1,100 sq. ft. House on an acre of fruit trees.

I’m certain some friends and family thought we were nuts at first (hadn’t we moved because we wanted to down-size? Wasn’t I still recovering from back surgery?), but we just threw ourselves gleefully into whipping the land into shape.  I took classes on how to prune/spray/fertilize fruit trees.  Greg waged an never ending war with moles and pine needles.  I became the queen of the burn pile and we turned that place into grandbaby heaven.   It was a labor of love and I felt like we’d carved out our own piece of paradise on those warm evenings as we sat in the glider and watched the reddening sun disappear behind the plum trees.

I may have loved that place more than any other home we owned.  But Greg and I both noticed something strange.  Whenever we drove through the part of town (Gresham) where the house we tried to buy was, we both felt a pang of loss.  Sometimes we’d talk about buying a place just like that when we were too feeble to care for the Damascus property.

Which happened way more quickly than we’d anticipated.

After a lovely trip to Maui in Septermber, we came back to a cold snap.  My back rebelled and no matter how strong the call of the burn pile, I couldn’t rake or do much of anything in the yard for more than a few minutes without experiencing severe pain.  I couldn’t keep up and we both wondered if it was time to find a place with less upkeep.  We told our beloved agent to keep her eye out for something “just like the place in Gresham.”

This is the part of the story where things get crazy fast . . .

Just days after we began discussing the possibility of moving, I had lunch with a friend.  D mentioned that they were getting ready to put their house on the market and look for a smaller place.

“What exactly are you looking for?” I asked.  “And where do you want to live?”

“We’d actually love something just like your property,” she answered quickly.  “A small house with an acre in Damascus would be perfect!”


The very next day, D and her family came over and checked out our place.  She called that night to say they were working on an offer . . . So with no agents or staging or fixing or showing, we sold our house!

Later that week, my friend who rented the basement apartment of the house we loved in Gresham posted on FB.  She said her landlord has decided to sell her house, so she was looking for another place to live!   Our beloved agent quickly contacted the owner and we were back in contract again–nearly three years later!

The fact that this process started in October and just came to a close mid-March testifies to the fact that God-things aren’t always easy things–usually the opposite in our case.  But our friends moved into the Damascus house a few weeks ago and we are settling into the Gresham house–with its issues mostly resolved.    God’s fingerprints are all over this story–and I’ve prayed that everyone involved in this process felt God’s hand upon them in some way.

I am looking forward to seeing what stories unfold as we use this property to serve the kingdom.

(And if you need an incredible realtor, here’s the link to ours:  http://kriscochran.com/)

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Out of the salt shaker

I went to my first protest yesterday.  God was pretty clear that I wasn’t to march, but even clearer that I needed to go pray.  So I grabbed some adventurous friends and headed for downtown Portland.

I was a little nervous, since I’d heard from a friend in law enforcement that anarchists were planning on hijacking the even.  That made me even more determined to pray for peace and protection over the event–especially since my three daughters and their friends were marching. They’d spent days making their signs and praying for the Kingdom of heaven to come be established in these chaotic times.  I can’t really speak for them, but I don’t think they were protesting the president or even his policies.  They were speaking out prophetically, marching hopefully toward a day where the climate of love prevails so strongly that racism, prejudice, inequality and other forms of injustice cannot flourish.

They were dazzling particles of salt and light, speaking up for those who cannot speak up for themselves and hoping for a kinder, gentler world to raise their sons and daughters.  I couldn’t be prouder.

If you found yourself frustrated or angered by the march, maybe even a tad judgement all of those who participated, I wish you had been there.  Praying, hugging, asking questions, growing in understanding.  Building bridges and speaking peace.  You don’t have to be in agreement to love.  

The protest was 100% peaceful, even though it was the largest and most diverse March to even take place in Portland.  That is a good sign, friends.  I saw many photos of cops and marchers hugging each other.  Maybe we can walk into the future, working out our differences with respect and love.  

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Every Tuesday morning, I drag my bleary-eyed self out of bed and drive to my granddaughter’s school.  A few months ago, my daughter Danielle started a community English class for any parents interested in improving their skills.  At first, it felt like such a sacrifice, to wake up 30 minutes early and drive a half-hour to help with whatever Danielle needed.  

Little did I know that Tuesday’s would quickly become the highlight of my week . . .

As we gathered together on this tumultuous Election Day, my daughter did a little lesson on voting and emotions.  She asked the women to share with each other if they were able to vote in their country of origin–and how they felt about this election.

The conversations that unfolded were fascinating.  I sat across from Petra, whose family arrived from Afganistan only a month ago.  Her husband worked for the US military, she told me, and they were forced to flee their homeland because of death threats by their own government.

I asked Petra if she could vote back home, and she nodded.  “Yes, but no matter who we vote for, the same person has been in power for over 20 years now.  It is very bad.”

She is very excited to be in America.  They are safe.  She has a degree in electrical engineering and was not able to get a job in her own country because she is a woman.  She is excited about the opportunities here.

Next to me sat my friend, Bela.  She moved to the US from Somalia 20 years ago and planned to vote today.

“Who are you going to vote for?” I asked

“Not Hillary or Trump, I don’t like either of them.  Maybe Gary Johnson?  Who did you vote for?”

“Actually, I wrote God’s name on my ballot,” I told her, wondering how she’d respond.

“You voted for God?” Bela exclaimed, eyes widening.  “Of course!  He is in control of all this–He will set his person in office!”

We actually high-fived each other, right in the middle of English class in my granddaughter’s school cafeteria.  

How ironic that my Muslim Somali friend understood my vote more than some of my Christian buddies.  I’ve been shamed, badgered and even bullied because I “wasted” my vote on Jesus.  

But no matter who our president is at the end of this day, my hope will not be shaken.  

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.” Isaiah 26:3

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Made perfect

Thirty-two years ago today, our son was made perfect. His beautiful soul slipped from his precious body, but his memory and presence have remained strong all these years. I see Jonah in Ransom’s dimples and grin. I witness his fearlessness through Tribe. His inquisitive nature and love of music radiate through Margot. Some days Juba and Ramona talk as if they know their Uncle Jonah.The photos have grown dim, but we still see him, maybe even more clearly by the light of God’s glory. The ache in our hearts has slowly transformed into a longing for reunion. So thankful for this hope we have in Jesus!

See you soon, son!

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Tonight, I say goodbye to my fifties.  This past decade has been most excellent to me, filled with feats and wonders I never could have anticipated.  I became a grandma–five times!–and scaled my first mountain.  I started running (in those really weird toe shoes) and travelled to Italy, Indonesia, Africa, India, Cambodia and Spain.  I taught myself how to garden and then can the fruits of my labor.  I had several nervous breakdowns and experienced incredible emotional and spiritual healing in their wake.  This past year, the Lord healed me from a serious heart condition.  

I take nothing for granted anymore.  Especially the little things.

I’ve been thinking for a while about how to close out this decade.  How to paint the big picture while disilling all I’ve learned and experienced into snapshots of these amazing ten years.  But what happened today reminded me that the Lord cares about the most mundane details of my life.  And that knowledge gives me hope for the decade to come.

A few months ago, I lost my most treasured jewelry; earrings I’ve purchased on my mission trips or have received from friends who travel.  They weren’t worth much monetarily, but meant a lot to me.  How do you replace the horn and bone hoops from Africa?  Or the lava stone drops from Mt. Vesuvius?  Or the turquoise from my Native Amerian friends?  I retraced my steps to the place I’d last seen my jewelry pouch (a recent trip), but my earrings weren’t to be found.  I knew it wasn’t a big deal, but I was still sad over the loss.

Today, the very last day of my fifties, I decided to hit a few garage sales.  As I drove to the first sale, I told the Lord it would be awesome if I could find some earrings to replace the ones I’d lost.  I especially missed the turquoise stones, since I wear that color a lot.  I reminded Him my birthday was coming up and that the earrings would make a lovely gift.

But I hardly expected Him to answer such a minor request.

I breezed through a few sales without spending a dime and decided to hit one more before I leaded home.  The offerings on the driveway weren’t too promising, but then I noticed dozens of earrings dangling from a rack at the back of the garage.  Turquoise and coral and other beautiful stones joined with sterling silver in the simple style I adore!  They were only $5 a pair and as I picked out my four favorites, I told the lady who’d made them how these earrings were a direct answer to prayer!

She was so touched by my story that she threw in another pair of earrings for me and one to give away!  So I spent $20 and came home with six pairs of hand-crafted earrings that I really love.  And a sweet reminder of how the Father of Creation loves me.

I am ready, 60.  Bring it on!

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