December 31, 2014

Our Favorite Reads from 2014

As we finish up 2014, we thought that we would share with you our favorite reads from this past year, like we did last year.  Whether it be on the crowded city bus or lying on a hammock in our patio, we always enjoy entering a story. 

Both of us enjoy a variety of books - fiction, non-fiction, spiritual/theological, biography, historical and fantasy (Kevin only).  So here are a list of our favorites from this past year.  Keep in mind that we read them this past year, but that they may have been published previously.



  • Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott – One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, did it again with this powerful book.  She shares three simple prayers essential to coming through tough times, difficult days and the hardships of daily life.
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – This is said to be the “greatest romance novel of this decade.”  It was an unusual book for me to pick up, but I am so glad that I did.  I finished it in one sitting and ended absolutely sobbing.
  • Amerikanah by Chimamana Ngozi Adichie – Racism, Hair, Blogging, and Life in America for the Non-American Black Person.  This was an incredibly insightful book that combines social satire and heartfelt emotion.
  • Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala - On the morning of December 26, 2004, on the coast of Sri Lanka, Sonali Deraniyagala lost her parents, her husband, and her two young sons in the tsunami she miraculously survived.  This is her story.  Warning: I bought this book for my sister last Christmas and she said it was the most depressing book she has ever read.
  • All Joy, No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior – As we wait patiently to become parents, we often wonder how little ones will change our lives.  Jennifer Senior asks just this, What are the effects of children on their parents?
  • Attachment Focused Parenting by Daniel Hughes – Leading attachment specialist and clinician Daniel Hughes shares theory and insight for attachment focused parenting.  This is one of many attachment books that we have read in this past year and we expect to read it again.
  • Development to a Different Drummer by Richard Yoder – I thought it would be important to read this classic development book, being that we are working in Nicaragua with the Mennonites.  It was an insightful read, encouraging me in many of the best practices that we are already utilizing and providing ideas for how we can better our work.
  • Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey - Bessey speaks directly and compassionately to her fellow Evangelical Christians, arguing the case for viewing Jesus as unbounded by gender considerations in valuing the worthiness of humans.
  • Jumped In by Jorja Leap – Leap tells the story of the gangs of Los Angeles in the words of the gang members themselves as well as the people who interact with them on a daily basis.  Most importantly, she discusses gang members for exactly who they are – human beings.
  • Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan – I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this as much as I did, but Gaffigan had me laughing out loud.  Here he shares his humorous stories of parenting.
  • The Spirit Catches You and You Fall by Anne Fadiman - When three-month-old Lia Lee Arrived at the county hospital emergency room in Merced, California, a chain of events was set in motion from which neither she nor her parents nor her doctors would ever recover.  This is a true-story which discusses immigration issues, the history of Laos, child welfare and the American medical system.  This was by far my favorite book of the year!  Anne Fadiman, please write a second book.


  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen - I read Franzen's Freedom last year and was intrigued enough to pick up his earlier work. If you enjoy family drama and can relate to the ways in which Midwesterners passively communicate with one another I would highly recommend this dark comedy.
  • Immunity to Change: How to Overcome it and Unlock Potential in Yourself and Your Organization by Robert Kegan - Kegan, a psychologist who has spent the majority of his academic career studying how humans fail to differentiate and the difficulties they face because of this failure. Kegan's most recent work demonstrates human failure to act and how we as a species can work to overcome our impotence.
  • The End of Education by Neil Postman - Postman's work is as melancholy as it is humorous. This is a valuable book for anyone who works in the field of education, has children or pays taxes!
  • World Order by Henry Kissinger - How can the inhabitants of the world live in peace? Kissinger reflects on his years of international diplomacy in order to hypothesize ways in which 7 billion people can live in harmony as we move toward the 22nd century.
  • On Human Dignity: Political Theology and Ethics by Jürgen Moltmann - In a series of essays and lectures Molmann makes the argument that our view of human rights must stem from our createdness as Human Begins. Moltmann continues to show how this rooted belief should propel our lives into all spheres of our existence.
  • Any Book by Cormac McCarthy - I have fallen in love with the writing of this well aged man. During this year I have had the opportunity to read The Border Trilogy. I really appreciate his writing style, his gift of story telling and his take on life. If you have only taken the time to read The Road or No Country for Old Men I would encourage you to pick up another one of his works.

We would also like to give a shout out to the Hennepin County Library back in the frozen tundra.  We are so grateful for your amazing digital services, thank-you for providing free books to us year-round.

December 15, 2014

More Nica Food

Cassie and I have often shared with you the different flavors and tastes we experience as we venture into the culinary experience of Nicaragua. We continue to try new recipes and street foods as we encounter them. A recent favorite was a ripe plantain that had been gutted and stuffed with local cheeses and peppers. Thankfully the people of Nicaragua are passionate about their local delicacies and are more than willing to assist us in learning alongside them.

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Before coming home to visit our family and friends we invited some of our students over for a last supper in order to celebrate the holidays over a home-cooked meal and table fellowship. Our students at the seminary know our favorites. I made a lasagna (We have found that our Nicaraguan friends and family love casseroles and what is termed “comfort food”, but they have a fear of the oven and therefore usually do not bake), Cassie made a scrumptious salad and our students made the rest.

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Solkey made a plateful of buñuelos which is fried patty of cheese and shredded yuca that is then dipped into honey infused with cinnamon and clove. The real treat was that Solkey brought the majority of the buñuelos in unfried form. This meant that Cassie and I received a cooking lesson that very night as to how we too could prepare buñuelos in our home. As we waited for the lasagna to cook and other guests to arrive we grated, pressed and fried a mound full of buñuelos for the upcoming desert, though we did try a few and may have spoiled our appetite!

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Alvaro and Zayda were also invited for dinner that night - they are perpetually late people who we love dearly. Because of their tardiness Solkey had planned another cooking lesson for Cassie and I. We are not ashamed of our love for the quesillo, the cream drenched, cheese filled, onion loaded snack that is enjoyed anytime of the day here in Nicaragua. I have attempted to make quesillo (the food item gets its name from the type of cheese - quesillo - that makes up the majority of the food) before and had failed. However, Solkey showed me a technique that uses boiling water and now I am fully confident that I will be able to make fresh hot quesillo for Cassie and ourselves upon our return to Nicaragua.

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The night was a special one enjoyed by all. Our students stayed late into the night as we dined and then basically ate again, enjoying the traditional deserts that Solkey and Zayda - who makes excellent arroz con leche (recipe to soon be posted) brought into our home. 

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December 7, 2014

Our Home Leave – November Recap

We have been thoroughly enjoying our time back in the United States.  We arrived in the beginning of November and are now a month in.  It has been wonderful to reconnect with family and friends.  This month has been a busy one, however we are doing our best to rest and take time to reflect, heal and think about our last year in Nicaragua.  It has been difficult to image what life might look like back in the United States and to be honest, much of what life looks like here is not too appealing.  We really have come to love the simplicity of our lives in Nicaragua, the pace that we are able to live and the time and care that people have for one another there.  We will continue to process what this means for us, but for now, we wanted to share a few photos from our time here.

I spent my 31st birthday with my lovely nieces and nephew.  They, along with their momma spoiled me throughout the day.  It was a very memorable day together and while it was much different than last years birthday in El Salvador, it was just as special.


Here are a couple more nephew and niece pictures.  We have spent many wonderful days together, soaking up the time that we have missed.

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We have been to a couple of weddings over this past month.  One was the marriage of our Seminary friend Joe, who was married in Wisconsin to the lovely Jenny.  We were thrilled to be present on this beautiful day and Kevin had the opportunity to be a groomsman.

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My mom, SIL Kate and I hosted a bridal shower for my cousin Sarah.  We enjoyed a lovely pink themed afternoon together celebrating the love of Sarah and Eric.


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We have been spending a lot of time with our niece Ceanna Arita.  She was born in May and we were unable to meet her until this trip.  She is now six months and is such a joy.  We have been fortunate to watch her almost every Tuesday and are enjoying all of the special time that we have with her.

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Esther Zonnefeld, Kevin’s grandmother passed away on November 16th.  While we are saddened by the loss, we are grateful that she is no longer in pain.  We remembered and celebrated her life with family and friends while reflecting on the wonderful lady that she was.  This photo is of Kevin and his sister, Carrie.


We headed out to Colorado for the week of Thanksgiving visiting my sister Shawna.  We enjoyed time with Nate and Liz, who worked in Nicaragua with us.  We also visited my childhood friend Claire and her darling babies.  The rest of the week was spent in the beautiful mountains.  We enjoyed many outdoor activities, celebrating Thanksgiving with a wonderful meal as well as time with family.

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While I haven’t captured on photo all of our times with special friends and family, the moments and time have been captured in our hearts.  We are so grateful for the relationships that we have here.  I will leave you with a few more photos.

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