Beach Reading List of 2015

First real "family vacation" last fall lent to some good reading time. Do not be deceived - this is not my everyday!

First real “family vacation” last fall lent to some good reading time. Do not be deceived – this is not my everyday!

Ok, I’ll be honest – it’s more of a “pray to God that nap time lasts 2 hours” reading list. You know – #lifewithatoddler

But seriously, these books have challenged me in my faith, allowed me to escape to a different world, and helped me see this big world in a new, fresh way.

If you are on the hunt for a good book to dive into this summer, here are some recommendations…

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

If you know you can only tackle one book this summer, grab this one. Father G invites you into his world on the streets of Los Angeles and in the life of his homies. Have your tissues ready and be prepared to have your heart stretched beyond comfortable limits – to a place of compassion that Jesus exemplified.

Snake Oil: The Art of Healing and Truth-Telling

Author Becca Stevens is a personal hero – having founded Magdalene, a residential program in Nashville for survivors of human trafficking, and Thistle Farms, the social enterprise birthed out of that business. Many friends have gotten into essential oils as a way to bring healing to their families – I’d highly recommend reading this book if that’s you!

Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together

Another book to have your tissues handy for! And don’t read it on the plane without being prepared to sob uncontrollably next to a stranger #reallife

This book will change your life and your perspective of people different than yourself. What would happen if you were able to look beyond differences and find a lifelong friend in someone who’s story is completely different than yours? Maybe initiating that first conversation will be the best decision you ever made.

Enrique’s Journey

I first read this book nearly 10 years ago. But it’s relevance is even more critical today, as our nation has had to recently confront the issue of minors crossing the US-Mexican border. The author traveled alongside the main character, Enrique, as he searches for his mother who left their native Honduras to work in the United States. She does an amazing job in remaining neutral, yet your heart breaks at the big systems and personal decisions that effect this family.


What book would you recommend?


Summer Lovin’ Chicken Tostadas

It was made clear to me when we got married that food is important. I mean we’ve all heard it said that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” <insert eye roll> But honestly, when your husband is so homesick and he’s not able to go home (or even 1/2 an hour south to Tijuana for some legit tacos)*, you scramble for some feel-good recipes.

The first couple of years we were married, we were living in San Diego. We made some really dear friends while out there. One of those amigos para toda la vida, Lili, passed along this recipe. It was perfect – easy enough for a quick dinner solution, great for hot evenings when it’s unbearable to think about turning on the stove, and adaptable to most diets/budgets.

Above all, it was one of the first recipes I incorporated into our meal plans that felt like a true comfort food to both of us. I didn’t even need to ask the hubby if he wanted tortillas (or the occasional tostada) on the side (note: after nine years of marriage I’ve figured out the golden rule: unless it’s pasta, there better be tortillas AND  there better be hot sauce 100% of the time).

Ladies who are about to marry a man of Mexican descent: this is the most important rule of your marriage. Memorize it. Learn from my mistakes. I literally just saved you at least three unnecessary fights. You’re welcome 😉

Summer Lovin' Chicken Tostadas

Summer Lovin’ Chicken Tostadas

  • 3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (on especially hot days – just buy a rotisserie chicken and shred it)
  • 2 heads of romaine lettuce, chopped and washed/dried
  • 2 cups of corn, cooked (I like to use fresh off the cob, but canned or dethawed frozen works, too)
  • 2 Tbsp ranch dressing
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (you can lighten it wish light or sour cream, but we like regular Hellmans/Best Foods)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Tostadas (tortilla chips work, too!)
  • Salsa Valentina (optional)

Mix first six ingredients in a huge bowl. Serve immediately on tostadas and top with Salsa Valentina if you want a little kick.

We’re not fancy over here!! We like simple and yummy.


What’s your favorite go-to meal as a couple? For those of you with spouses born outside the US, what recipes do they crave?


*While going through the immigration process, the applicant is not allowed to leave the country, drive or work until the necessary papers arrive. This was one of the most trying times of our lives – it was also the start of our marriage. We are grateful for ALL the help and prayers poured out upon us during that time. If you know of anyone going through the paperwork stage of immigration, please do not hesitate to ask them how you can support them during that time. You as well will be gifted with an amigo para toda la vida (and maybe some tamales at Christmastime 😉

3 Tips to Make Long Distance Dating (Bearably) Amazing

Oblivious to the fact that my sister had learned the phrase “You can marry my sister” in Spanish and practiced it on my amigo-at-the-time, Karlos, I returned back home from my latest mission trip to Mexico.

Chatting online (oh, the days of Messenger 😉 – we found ourselves at a crossroads. Nations apart and yet, the thought had been planted that maybe, just maybe, we could be brave and explore what being novios might look like. I could almost hear the deep breath he took as his calculated typing appeared on my screen:

“Your sister said I have her permission to marry you…what do you think about that?”

Um – I think that would be amazing. But also hard and scary.

“Well, I really love being your amiga and would be open to seeing what else the Lord has in mind.”

“Yo, tambien.”

So there we were. Both willing to explore what this may look like.

Looking back, the decision to date my husband came super facil. But we learned a lot of lessons once we jumped into dating long distance. Though nowhere near “experts” in the field, here are some tips for folks who may be embarking on the same journey:

#1 – Communicate!

I thought I was a good communicator, but then we started dating. From two separate countries. In two different languages. Man, it was (still is!) hard work. But honestly, I look back and I think this was actually a highlight in that chapter of our lives. We learned how to communicate. We had phone dates – at least once a week. And we texted at least once a day.

Mind you, this was before Facebook had really taken off, so we had to be really intentional about sharing what was going on, how we were feeling, etc. But I think this general tip needs to hold true even in this very “social” era. You can’t replace genuine, uninterrupted conversation with random, quick glimpses into your lives. That’s not fully sharing who you are and the life you lead.

#2 – Community!

Before we officially became a couple, during that initial “do we dive into dating?” Messenger conversation, we decided to take the following year to pray, fast and seek counsel from our people. We knew the decision to date was going to be a serious one (why else would you torture yourself by being separated by thousands of miles?!) and we wanted to step into that season prepared and sure of the next step.

Who are your people? Your roommate, parents, pastor, best friend, sibling, small group leader – whoever it is that “gets you” makes the cut.

Ask them to commit to two crucial things: 1.) to be praying for you (individually and as a couple) and 2.) to be asking you the hard questions.

#3 – Convene!

Throughout our 12 months of long-distance dating, it was crucial that I mentally had a date in mind of when we would next see one another. Whether it was 3 weeks or 6 months. It didn’t matter the time in between – just as long as I knew it was happening.

For us, because of immigration, Karlos was not permitted in the US. So that meant any time we wanted to see one another, it was myself crossing the border to meet him in Mexico. Tricky, complicated, expensive, but absolutely necessary.

You need to learn how that person is in real life. How does she spend her money? How does he interact with his mom? How do we decide which on restaurant to eat at? You can’t learn everything over Instagram and a weekly phone call.

Convening at the border.

Convening at the border.

Above all – trust your instinct, amigos. It’s ok to have questions and doubts and to be madly in love, but talk through all the emotions with your novio(a), your people and with God.


Does your love story include a time of being separated by distance? What are some tips that helped you get through that stretch?