Thoughts that Can Slowly Suffocate Us


Having returned home to Portugal at the end of August after almost three months away in Germany serving at Steiger’s Missions School, I’ve often found my mind racing like a runaway freight train. There’s the processing of all that I saw God do in and through the students and volunteers – and us, the staff – during the school itself. The many things He spoke to me and challenged me in during these intense months. The unpacking, cleaning, reorganizing, scheduling and attempts to catch up that go along with repatriation after a long absence. And the reflections about the future when stepping into a new season: important choices and decisions to make for the coming year, propositions to consider, travels to plan including our upcoming trip to the US for our daughter Alana’s wedding. The list goes on. And on.


When my thoughts threaten to take over, to squelch my daily times of restful meditation with God and of listening to what He is saying, our garden is my “happy place”, my refuge. Somehow, quite magically, when I begin to weed and prune its plants and trees, as I dig my hands into its soil, the cacophony in my head is silenced. My ears are opened to listen, my soul stilled by the Prince of Peace.


So on this particular day,
I set out to weed our melon patch and its surroundings… and I found it to be overrun by thin, tendriled invaders.
They were almost beautiful
in their delicate appearance, some sporting
pretty white flowers.
Yet the tenacity with which
they wound themselves
around every branch –
clinging to, even choking them – was truly impressive.


I began to reflect on the subject of thoughts…
how easily we can allow these predators to wrap their slender arms around us, circling and circling, until we find ourselves trapped.

I have always loved and referred back to the scripture verse in the second book of Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 5. It says:  “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

I must remember this. Because I belong to Christ, and I have been redeemed by His amazing sacrifice and resurrection, I can demolish arguments and every ridiculous pretense that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. My thoughts try to do this all the time… those crazy, freight train thoughts that are so readily fueled by the frantic pace of this world. They would love to derail me, to send me on some ridiculous path of worry, fear and uncertainty; to wrap their slender arms around me and choke the life out of me. They set themselves up against the knowledge of my incredible God. And that’s when He asks me… no, better still – He empowers me! To take those thoughts captive and to make them obedient to Christ. HE is my Lord. HE directs my steps. Not my fears or worries. Not the absurd pace of the world around me. Only Jesus rules my life. And He will lead me in the way that I should go.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am for that. All that I am belongs to Him alone, so I am not the victim of this world’s freneticism. I can choose… and my God gives me the power to walk in that choice.


Steiger Missions School – photo cred Marina Bolobon

You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.


 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
 I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

Psalm 32:7,8


Thirty years plus one


So long ago
thirty years plus one
we stood together
quietly promising,
loudly proclaiming
before our people, our tribe.
We knew not the road
that lie before us,
hands open
with fear and trembling,
joyful, expectant,
hearts clasped
embracing the call
to step forward as one
into the unknown.
Armed with the assurance
that you our God
walked with us.
Our strength, our truth, our all.
The author of love itself.

Here we stand today
thirty years plus one
quietly confident,
loudly declaring
before the world and our God.
We know not the road
that lies before us
hands open
with grace and confidence,
joyful, expectant,
hearts intertwined
embracing You,
we step forward as one
wherever you lead.
Firm in the assurance
that you our God
hold us in the palm of your hand.
Our life, our breath, our all.
Wealthy beyond imagination
with the riches
only time
and your goodness
can bestow.
Thirty years plus one.


Even if there’s no white picket fence…

Photo on 6-4-16 at 3.13 PMI’ve become somewhat of a hybrid. Born and raised in New Jersey, I graduated from Fairfield University in Connecticut at age 21. Three months later, Denny and I married and left for Italy and we’ve lived in Southern Europe ever since. So the two decades of my most formative years were spent in the United States, while the last thirty-one have been lived out in Italy and Portugal.
This has made for a uniquely curious blend of character, lifestyle and perspective.

Growing up, I never considered myself an “average American” nor did I aspire toward the stereotypical dream of having a career, a spouse, a couple of children, a nice house with a white picket fence, two cars and an overall sense of stability that would carry me through life. I loved learning and adventure, pursued uniqueness, admired creative expression, had no particular attraction to the acquisition of material things, and enjoyed identifying and reaching out to the underdog, the broken, the alienated.

With the passage of time, I have had the privilege of living an increasingly simple life. Of learning to find immense value in the little things. As the years have gone by, and Denny and I have continued to follow the pathways and shifts that God has led us in, I have been challenged over and over again to open my hands (as I spoke of in my last post) and let go of all that I might be tempted to covet as my own.

But even simplicity can become an idol. I can begin to glory in all that I have so willingly laid aside; to find my very identity in the most minimal of practices and pleasures. Wonderful meals, leisurely prepared with wholesome ingredients and enjoyed with a tableful of loved ones or newly acquired friends. Quiet mornings spent in communion with God and with my husband, receiving direction and planning for what lies ahead. Motorhome and caravan living, with the freedom to travel and live almost anywhere at the drop of a hat. Warm Portuguese winters and hot summers with the ocean and beaches at our fingertips, barely a need for a coat or extensive heating systems.

with Maya too!

This bounty that has become part of God’s rich blessings and treasures in our Southern European life can itself become our “American dream”. We can begin to feel that this is our due; it’s our piece of the pie. It belongs to us.

Yet over the past few weeks, God has been leading me down a path of deeper surrender. It may not be the most well-traveled path, but I choose to follow because it’s my Beloved who beckons to me.


And while I understand that surrender does not necessarily mean walking away from these cherished aspects of my life, I don’t ever want them to become more important to me than my God Himself. Than walking in a beautiful relationship of love, and of obedience to Him. I know His plans for me are good, and I can trust that, most assuredly, wherever He may lead me, “goodness and loving kindness will follow me, every day of my life” (Psalm 23:6). So I cling to Him alone, my Rock, my Stability.

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.
Jeremiah 17:7-8


Opening our Hands, Releasing our Children

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 5.50.20 PM

Last week, I was once again asked a question that is frequently posed to me in conversation: “How, as a Mom, can you deal with having your kids so far away, spread out all over the world?”. An interesting inquiry indeed.
And one whose answer I’ve been reflecting on for quite some time.

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 8.12.45 PMI don’t think there’s any “How to” guide for parents living far away from their children. Each one of us is different in character and in our approach to parenting, and we all cope differently with separation. What I believe is fundamental, however, for each mother and father who has yielded herself or himself to God, is walking in that place of trust and surrender to the Father with regards to every aspect of life, including our children.

I love the biblical account of Hannah, Elkanah’s wife, whose story we read of in the first book of Samuel. Hannah was unable to have children, yet this was her deepest desire, a longing that caused her to weep before the Lord when she would go with her husband to worship and sacrifice before Him each year. We read:

And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look
on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant
but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life…”
1 Samuel 1: 11

What does Hannah’s attitude teach me? I see a woman who so deeply desired to bear and raise a child… yet she recognized that, if granted the honor of becoming a mother, her child would not be her own possession. He would be a gift from God, tenderly entrusted to her to parent for a time: to nurture and to care for, to point towards the Father and to then release back into His loving arms. Parenting truly is a gift mercifully bestowed upon us. It’s not a procured position nor a right we achieve.

When each of our three children were yet at a tender age, Denny and I stood before our church families and dedicated them to God. We relinquished ownership of them and publicly confessed our commitment to raising them according to His purposes for their lives. We did this out of obedience to what we felt God had called us to do… though we were as yet unaware of how exactly that would play out and what it would require of us.


Our amazing God so lovingly supports our hearts as we submit to Him in an attitude of confidence, causing our yielding to blossom into a beautiful flower. When it first germinates, we have little perception of the shape, color, texture and magnitude that such surrender will exhibit. Yet with each small step forward, with each loosening of our grip, we learn that He is worthy of our trust and that He loves our children more deeply and passionately than we ever could.

As Hannah rejoices over the gift of her son, she affirms:

The Lord brings death and makes alive;
    he brings down to the grave and raises up.
The Lord sends poverty and wealth;
    he humbles and he exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust
    and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
    and has them inherit a throne of honor.

For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s;
    on them he has set the world.
He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,
    but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.
1 Samuel 2:6-9


I still recall vividly the first time I took a week-long trip from Italy to the U.S., leaving our three and four-year-old girls with Denny. When I reserved my plane ticket, I was convinced that God was leading me to go, but as my departure date drew closer, I became increasingly anxious. What if something happened to them while I was away? What if a situation arose in which Denny didn’t know what to do? What if…? And how about…? I tortured myself with possible scenarios and how they could play out. Finally, I heard God speak clearly to me: Do you believe your children are safe, healthy and cared for because YOU watch over them or because I DO? 

Fast forward to today after years of experience in releasing our kids into the paths God is leading them down, and in particular to these past months. Our three children, now ages 27, 25 and just 19, have recently been on three different continents and often in situations in which their physical, emotional and/or spiritual well-being and safety have been challenged and stretched.


Whitney in Asia


Alana in North America


Isaac in Europe

With every difficulty that arises in their lives, I am reminded of that question whispered to me so long ago, and of the many promises in God’s Word regarding His perfect care for those whose lives are committed to Him.

He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,
but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.

Photo on 7-14-16 at 4.07 PMJust yesterday,
I was reading the introduction
to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community and one sentence stood out to me. Six years before his imprisonment by the Gestapo, he (Bonhoeffer) had written, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
I was reminded of the continual death to ourselves and to our own desire for control
that our Father daily beckons us to step into.

I am not my own. And neither are my husband and my children. I love my spouse and my kids like crazy and treasure every moment that we share together. But desiring to have them continually by my side over seeing them walk in the plans God has for them, using the gifts He has so graciously bestowed on them, would nullify that commitment that Denny and I made when we gave them back to Him so long ago.

Photo on 7-14-16 at 3.39 PM

It is in the beautiful mystery of releasing our precious ones into God’s marvelously capable care that we discover true freedom to love without condition. In that place of surrender, we experience the inexplicable rapture of seeing our children soar, becoming all they were intended to be.

And this, my friends, is the true joy of parenting.




Realigning Summer Plans


Following thirty straight
days of writing blog posts,
you may (or may not) have noticed
that I’ve been on a two week hiatus. Sometimes life throws
all kinds of crazy at us –
some of it challenging
us to the core  –
and we barely have time to reflect,
much less write about it.
But here I am once again,
happy to have a slower paced day
in which I can connect a few dots
and share my thoughts
about them with you.
Thanks for sticking with me,
despite the long pause.


When I left you at Day 30 of my challenge, I was headed to our mission Steiger’s International Center in Krögis, Germany, where I would be reunited with Denny, who’d been on tour with No Longer Music in Southern Europe for the past month. Together, we’d committed to serve for ten days during the beginning of the Steiger Missions School and Revolutionary Week, and then intended to return to Portugal for the Summer.


NLM band & crew, Revolutionary Week participants, SMS ’16 students, volunteers & staff

DSC01063Well, life can take many interesting twists and turns. And just when we get to thinking that we have a pretty good idea of what lies ahead, of where God is leading us and how it will play out, we may encounter a bump or pothole in the road. Or come upon an unexpected curve or intersection, where a quick decision must be made. What is our choice at that point? Do we plow on ahead, determined to stick to our original plan, despite evidence that something different seems to be happening? Or do we consider the possibility that God may be leading us on an unanticipated course?

Shortly after I arrived in Germany and was happily reunited with my husband, I began to sense that maybe we were supposed to be staying at the school for more than just ten days. This came as a surprise, as we’d already been asked to help out for the full ten weeks this year, but had turned down the opportunity, feeling that we should be in Portugal. Our heart’s desire is to see God break through there and Summer is such an important time to be with the people we are connected with and reaching out to.

The following day, this feeling was persisting, so I talked to Denny about it and we prayed together, asking God to make His will clear. We waited on Him, without sharing our thoughts with anyone else; a bit confused, but certain that He would speak. And of course, He did. We were approached by one of the leaders and told that certain circumstances had changed, and it would really be helpful if we’d stay for the whole summer.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
Proverbs 19:21


When the Lord’s purpose is clear, we still have a choice to make. My hope and prayer, my deepest desire, is to always say, “YES!”. I may not understand what’s going on, why or where all this will lead. But one thing is always certain: I CAN TRUST MY GOD. And when His intention is evident, I need not have reservations in submitting to it.


We were immediately (as in within 15 minutes) able to find a wonderful couple to stay in our home in Portugal and care for our animals and garden during the months we will be away (truly amazing!). I love seeing God’s care for us and for each detail that concerns us, as we respond affirmatively to His leading and in faith, take a step forward.

So, after one month apart and then ten wildly busy days together here with the start of the school and Revolutionary Week, Denny has flown back to Portugal to get things in order so we can be away until August 22, and I’ve remained in Germany. He’ll return to the school on July 3rd.

From Day 1 of saying yes to God’s purpose, I have seen His hand in us being here at the SMS, and am humbled by how we are being used here. It makes my heart sing to know that I never need to fear, nor hold onto my plans too tightly. His Spirit will always make all things clear and guide us along the path of righteousness.


The plans of the heart
belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue
is from the LORD.

Proverbs 16:1

For the LORD of hosts has planned,
and who can frustrate it?
And as for His stretched-out hand,
who can turn it back?

Isaiah 14:27



P.S. Much more has happened over these two weeks, but I need a bit more time to chew on it before writing about it, if I decide to at all. I am truly grateful for you all,
my friends…



Day 30: Journeying Again

Today marks the end of one journey and the beginning of another (both physically and figuratively).

I am so thrilled to have made it to the final day of My 30-day Challenge! I will be honest with you: if I’d known from the start how intense, involving and exhausting this challenge would have been, I’m not sure I would have undertaken it while home alone. But isn’t much of life that way?

If we really were cognizant of what we were committing to when we made certain choices, if we had the foresight to measure all that would be required of us, would we ever step out and do anything? God in His great mercy reveals one little bit of the journey to us at a time. And in faith, we take that first step, followed by a second and a third.

Had I not pursued this challenge, I would not have lived such deep richness and grace poured out from the hands of my God. I’d have missed out on discovering more about who He has made me to be and what He is calling me into. It will take me a while to process all that I’ve learnt and walked through, but as I do, I will share it with you.


As I end this challenge today, I will begin my travels to Krögis, Germany, where I’ll be reunited with my man and have the great honor and, yes, also challenge of serving with him during the first 10 days of the Steiger Missions School and Revolutionary Week. Second only to living a life of deep intimacy with God, my greatest passion is walking beside young adults as they pursue Him and get a deeper glimpse of His heart for this broken world, as they cry out for more of Him, so they can be equipped for all He is calling them to.

I remember well when, thirty-three years ago almost to the day, at nineteen years of age, I got on a plane to Holland for my first trip outside of the USA and my first experience as a missionary. I spent the summer involved with a Summer of Service through Youth with a Mission, reaching out to the city of Amsterdam. My heart was forever broken for a world dying without Jesus and my life changed, as God confirmed that He was calling me to a lifetime of serving Him in missions.

That summer, I first met
my husband Denny
(who I married two years later), and I also got to know
David & Jodi Pierce,
who we now have the joy
and privilege
of serving beside
in Steiger so many years later. Funny how God brings
things full circle.


So today, I embrace the challenge of a long day of travel and more importantly, of the ten days ahead at the Missions School. May my heart be open and willing to be used however God desires with all those I will meet, for His honor and glory!

For what is our hope, our joy,
or the crown in which we will glory
in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes?
Is it not you?
Indeed, you are our glory and joy.
1 Thessalonians 2:19-20


Day 29: Doing What’s Necessary


Well, I’m down to the wire here, folks. This is the 29th post in My 30-day Challenge! Can’t believe I’ve almost completed it!


Tomorrow, I’ll be leaving Portugal to fly up to Krögis, Germany, where our mission Steiger has their International Center. Denny has finished the part of No Longer Music‘s tour that he was serving as band pastor on, and he’ll be meeting me there, as we’ll be helping out with the first two weeks of Steiger’s Missions School and Revolutionary Week! I’m so looking forward to this time, pouring into the lives of amazing young people, who have a heart to reach their generation.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. And when I’m excited, I have a tendency to do this.
There are still all those little last-day-home tasks that need to be accomplished and I really must stay focused and in the now  in order to get them done.

A friend of mine, mom of three young children, recently wrote that when she feels overwhelmed, she keeps reminding  herself to only do what’s necessary. I’ve been thinking about that and trying to make that choice today. When I’m preparing for a trip, and there’s much to do, rather than concentrating on the tasks that really require my attention, I sometimes drift off course and begin devoting myself to completely irrelevant jobs, that can absolutely wait for my return home.

And the same principal goes for our thoughts: multitudes of ideas, worries and details can run wild in our heads throughout the day. Dwelling on situations or concerns that are outside of our control only serves to suck life and peace from us. Choosing to fix our minds on what is truly important and deserving of our energy takes a good amount of will power, but its benefits make it well worth our effort.

I want to continue to walk in a place of rest today, yet also accomplish what needs to be done here before I leave tomorrow.

So today, challenge #29 will be to stay on track, keep my head on straight and only tackle what is truly necessary. Enjoy your day, my friends! I’m determined to do the same!


And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable,
and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.
Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Philippians 4:8


Day 28: Finding New Strength

Today, I very nearly didn’t complete my challenge. I think it was the first time.

I began the day choosing the quite overwhelming task of weeding our fruit and vegetable garden. I had really let it go this past week, since I was spending time each day at the hospital with Ge and had so many other things to get done, as well.


IMG_20160606_111734I had ten good reasons not to embark on this undertaking,
and only one
in favor –
but it was an excellent one.
If I didn’t get rid
of those weeds,
my beloved tomato, melon, strawberry, carrot, onion and zucchini plants would very likely not survive the ten days that I would be away in Germany beginning Wednesday. So it really wasn’t a matter of choice, but rather of dire necessity.

I set out right after breakfast, attempting to get a good start before the heat of the day was upon me. I made sure to apply sunscreen to my shoulders and face, grabbed my weed bucket and hoe and got to work. After under two hours, I had freed less than half the garden of the evil predators, but it was getting very hot and I was completely spent.

My phone rang and it was Ge, saying the doctor had given the OK for his release from the hospital! Hooray! He still needed to wait for some paperwork but I got busy working on arrangements to get him to the house of a friend who would be hosting him overnight.

As I made phone calls and sent emails, I felt increasingly worse: my muscles were trembling and I needed to lay down and rest. I wondered how I was going to manage to accomplish my task for the day, which still required quite a bit of attention. Plans for Ge to be picked up became more complicated and I also started working on booking his flight up to our mission’s European headquarters in Germany.

The day got away from me and before I knew it, it was late afternoon! Since I still wasn’t feeling well and the sun was blazing, I decided to work indoors on getting the house ready for our friends, who would arrive tomorrow to housesit during our absence.

At 7 pm, in the cool of the day, I finally got myself in gear enough to head back to the garden, determined to complete my challenge and more importantly, safe my plants from impending doom.

I worked solidly for two and a half hours, despite my body’s complaints, blisters forming on my fingers from swinging the hoe, and mosquitos swarming and biting me like crazy. (There are few things more irritating than that constant whining in your ears!). It truly felt like I would never be done, but finally I WAS!

I returned to the house, took a long shower (and counted 30 bites on one leg alone while applying coconut oil to my tired skin), prepared a plate of prosciutto (Parma ham), melon and strawberries and sat on the sofa to rest.

Still can’t believe I did it! There were many moments when I wanted to give up and felt like I completely lacked the strength needed for this job, but I would cry out to God and He faithfully supplied just what I needed.


The garden is weeded. Ge is out of the hospital and flying to Germany tomorrow.
All is well with my soul and I am grateful to my God.

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Day 27: Resting Psalm More

Excuse the pun. Language is such a beautiful thing and so much fun to play with.

I still have much to do before flying up to the Steiger International Center in Krogis on Wednesday to spend ten days there with the Steiger Missions School: clean the house and prepare it for our dear friends, Rodney and Jenny, who’ll be coming from Ireland to stay with the animals while we’re gone. Weed the vegetable garden and stake all the tomato plants, that are growing so wonderfully tall. Make sure Ge is well taken care of at the hospital, where he’s steadily improving. Plus all my normal daily chores and online work – emails, writing, Skype conversations, etc.

I easily begin to feel overwhelmed as I go through the list in my head and confront it with the amount of energy I actually have at the moment. But it will get done.
And what doesn’t, well… doesn’t.

It’s a constant learning process for me, this choosing to rest despite all that is screaming to be finished. So for Day 27’s challenge, I will delve a bit more into the Psalms, as I did on Day 8, when I’d listened to a dramatic audio version of Psalms 1-50. Today, I’ve selected an audio reading of the entire book that I found on YouTube, and will enjoy the second 50, allowing their words of comfort, trust, hope and victory to wash over me and bring restoration to my soul.


Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Psalm 51: 10-12

10543594_1516469918566291_618558060984950114_oBe merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;

he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!
Psalm 57:1-3

Karmit & NonoFor a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.

I would rather be a doorkeeper
in the house of my God

than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;

the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!
Psalm 84: 10-12


For a thousand years
in your sight

    are but as yesterday
when it is past,

    or as a watch in the night.
So teach us to number
our days

    that we may
get a heart of wisdom.

Satisfy us in the morning
with your steadfast love,

    that we may rejoice
and be glad all our days.
Psalm 90:4, 12, 14

ocean wavesAscribe to the Lord,
O families
of the peoples,

ascribe to the Lord
glory and strength!

Ascribe to the Lord
the glory due his name;

bring an offering,
and come
into his courts!

Worship the Lord
in the splendor
of holiness;

tremble before him,
all the earth!

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness.
Psalm 96: 7-9,11-13


Day 26: Preparing Octopus!

I love seafood and in particular, shellfish. Totally love it. And Portugal is the place to be if you have such a passion, since roughly half the country is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean… and the Portuguese know how to prepare fish!

Our mission Steiger ended up providing a place for Denny and I to stay together last night, so I was easily convinced to remain in Spain after the concert and face the drive home today. I didn’t have the best night’s sleep and after yesterday’s long day, I was most definitely feeling the fatigue this morning.

Photo on 6-4-16 at 3.13 PM

As I headed back to Faro, I thought about what I could eat for dinner tonight that would be easy to prepare, yet yummy. I love to cook, but since eating alone is not very appetizing to me, I haven’t really had many decent meals this past month. Today, all I wanted to do was get home, snuggle our attention-starved animals a bit, and park myself on the couch for the remainder of the day to recover. The wheels of my Fiat turned, as did those of my mind, mentally taking inventory of what I had in the fridge that would be tasty yet require little work.

As the kilometers rolled on, I realized that what I was really craving was seafood. And since every self-respecting supermarket in Portugal offers a nice selection of freshly caught, reasonably-priced fish (and the personnel who work there will clean and prep it however you ask), my plan for the evening began to take shape. I’d stop at our city’s Pingo Doce and buy some pre-cooked, fresh shrimp, and then see what else might be on special.

I was elated to discover that the shrimp was on sale. And then I spotted the octopus at 25% off! Before Denny and I went on our honeymoon to Greece 31 years ago, I had never tasted octopus. But man, could they prepare it on the Greek islands: freshly caught, grilled with some garlic, lemon and herbs – it was so delicious. I think we ate it 4 or 5 times a week while there!

Since those days, I’d only ventured to prepare it myself once or twice – most recently for Christmas Eve, the last time all our kids were here with us in 2014. I’d been pleasantly surprised to discover that it was actually quite simple to make in our cast iron grill pan on the gas stovetop. This would be perfect: just what I was longing for and simple, too! A whole octopus was a bit much for just me to eat, but I’d cook half and freeze the rest for another time.

What made it even more wonderful was that I could season it with lemons from our tree and cilantro from our garden… accompanied by a salad, whose ingredients were also home-grown. All those fresh fragrances wafting through my kitchen make for one happy girl.

So cheers, my friends! Here’s to Day 26 of My 30-day Challenge: exhausted but savoring the life I’ve been so blessed to live! Now excuse me while I enjoy my dinner…

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But we rejoice in our sufferings,
knowing that suffering produces endurance,

and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope,

and hope does not put us to shame,
because God’s love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3-5