A Dios, the meaning of life and the miracle chicken


Pilgrim life in an albergue in Santo Domingo de Calzada
Pilgrim life in an albergue in Santo Domingo de Calzada

NOTE: This post is from last week.  I had a few set backs with WIFI, etc… this week’s post is coming soon….

Written 8/17/15

Walking the camino for fourteen days has taken a toll on our bodies. Some have been camino-ending. Fortunately I’ve only had to deal with a bout of exhaustion and seemingly never-ending blisters. There’s a rhythm to life now. Walking between 20 to 26 km/day is typical. The longest walk was 33 km and lead to me having to back off a day and only walk 10 km. I’m learning what my body can handle. It is profound that one of the lessons of the camino is knowing your own body. Feeling every inch of it. Listening to my body’s wants and needs and praying for God’s protection and strength is the only way to Santiago. When I arrived in Burgos there was a change in my experience. People I knew and people I didn’t were ending their camino.

“The group is nice but it’s always been an individual thing.” a young man says to another.

“We’ve spent two weeks together and flew in on the same flight to St. Jean Pied de Port.”

“Stay in touch. I have to send email. I’ll help you. Maybe the people I know can help you.”

As I begin to fall asleep, on the bunk next to mine, a girl gushes to her friend about how “he” scrawled his name and number on a Euro. She cries a little hoping he will come to Munich to see her. She speaks with a friend about what is good and being strong and about the tears they cry. The lights go out in the albergue. There’s a final hug. One camino ends here, one continues. Snoring rises and falls.

And I know now, unlike I never knew before that the camino will mean so much more in its afterglow. The camino, like so many parts of my life, can be easy to take for granted. Much of it is snap shots. A special place in time where our openness meets the kindness of strangers and we become more than we were before. The pilgrim bond is strong and we have the privilege of learning from each other. People I know so well, I may never see again come tomorrow. And then there is The Way. The reason we are all here. The step-by-step discovery of ourselves and our world, today.

I’ve met a great lady who works for the UN in Jordan and she’s helped me with tips on finding work in the humanitarian field. She’s burned out after nine years of working in the Middle East. We talk about why and what lead her to the camino–a common question among pilgrims.

Soon I will be hiking across the Maseta. Tanja, a German woman, warned me that unless I had someone to hike with who could talk about God and the meaning of life the Maseta goes on forever. No water for kilometers. No shade. I begin to think how I will do when I cross it. Who I might cross it with and what I think about the meaning of life.


After typing the last sentence, I realize how funny that must sound to people off the camino. I mean how much time does the average person really spend pondering the meaning of life? What it means to them, what they want their life to be? Who has time, right? And it sounds so incredibly serious. But it’s really a light-hearted question. One that I found the most glorious comfort in as I climbed into my bunk in my beautiful albergue in Santo Domingo de Calzada on the Feast Day of the Assumption of Mary where we celebrated mass in the cathedral in town, along with some sacred hens and a rooster. The holy cage is entombed in the wall of the cathedral because of a miracle that occurred in the little village that involved unrequited love, a hanging boy who didn’t die and a chicken dinner that came back to life.

Holy hen and rooster cage in the cathedral of Santo Domingo De Calzada
Holy hen and rooster cage in the cathedral of Santo Domingo De Calzada
Amazing pastries made in the image of hens to honor the miracle of the pueblo
Amazing pastries made in the image of hens to honor the miracle of the pueblo

Legend says that if a pilgrim hears a call of the chicken or the rooster during mass that their camino will be a happy one. I heard a hen at the beautiful service. I am beginning to think that no one can put on a mass like the Spanish. This mass did not include the typical pilgrim blessing as all the other masses I attended as it was a high holy day. This might help you to understand when such things happen almost daily the meaning of life can cross my mind. But it was much later after I settled into my bunk when the real miracle happened for me. From about midnight––for an entire hour––the church bells of the cathedral rang, which was only blocks away from my albergue. They rang unlike any bells I’ve ever heard before and I doubt I will hear again. A symphony of bells so beautiful it seemed the song of the angels. And that’s when I thanked God for revealing the meaning of life in His hilarious, glorious way on The Way during my Buen Camino.


Yellow butterflies and the key to the castillo


I am writing tonight from my bottom bunk at the albergue as thunder and lightning from a sudden storm sweeps over the one-time Kingdom of Navarra, what I never knew this region of Spain was called until I walked the camino. At dinner tonight a Basque man named David told me “Laura” means flower in the Basque language. Tonight a man plays classical Spanish guitar, people talk and laugh in the plaza. Last night as I wrote in my journal a crowd gathered outside in the courtyard below. A sweet voice rose above the noisy crowd which silenced as she sang. Applause and shouts broke out. The girl sang again, more applause. Falling fast asleep to the beautiful spirit of the camino opens my heart.

Conversations reach a deep level quickly here. Within 8 KM an Italian friend shared that he believed The Bible teaches a good way to live but he doesn’t believe Jesus existed, citing a book that points out there is no physical evidence of his existence. We sat down so he could change into his sandals as his ten blisters made his boots painful. He observed that pain brings people together. I replied that beauty does too. His thoughts on the evidence behind the existence of Christ made me think for many kilometers about why this would be. Our God is mighty. He could have left as much physical evidence behind as he wanted to, but that’s not what belief is about. It’s about faith. And faith involves trust.

Most of the pilgrims I’ve met have come here by ourselves yet we could have never ended up this far alone. By now the constant walking over the Pyrenees and over the hills of the Spanish countryside has taken its toll on our bodies and our minds. Our friend Adolfo wrapped Lucy’s blister in a café as we headed out of Pamplona and he was there to help me later that day when the heat of the camino got to me. We are a group of Italians, Spanish, German, French and Mexican. I am the only person from the United States in our pilgrim family. We come together and lose each other and then when we meet up again. It’s an interesting combination of loosely holding each other and never knowing when we will see each other for the last time.

I have lightened my load twice now, leaving things at the Hemingway Hostel in Pamplona and then again last night in Puente de la Reina. The lesson is clear. The camino is as hard as you decide to make it. We all bring our own baggage and eliminating as much of it as possible is essential to hope to get to the finish line. How much weight we carry is our choice. I find peace in the metaphor.

I am fortunate to have minor “boo-boos” as a fellow French pilgrim calls them—bruises, blisters, swelling, pain, as yet nothing too hobbling. Some have suffered the effects of dehydration, cramps, tendonitis, ankle twists and knee problems. We all continue to walk—mas despacio (much slower).

Today instead of going all the way from Estella to Los Arcos we decide to give our bodies a rest by walking only 10 KM and staying at Alergue Hogar in Villamayor Monjardin. There’s a Roman castillo here and we heard the castle was closed, but discovered we could pick up the key to the castle at a bar. So we did. I’ve never been handed the keys to a castle before and expected it to be heavy and large and very metallic, you know castle-worthy. Instead it looked like the key to my old apartment. The next time I have a home I will put my key on a keychain marked castillo, to remember this beautiful afternoon when I was handed the keys to the castle.


Yellow butterflies have followed me everywhere since June. Every time I spot one I feel the love of the Lord surround me. When I walked around the ruins of the castillo, a fortress that once defended the Kingdom of Navarra, swarms of yellow butterflies flew all around me reminding me that the Lord has given me the key to the castillo.


The pretty pilgrim (la pellegrina bonita) & the fifth threshold


The pilgrim waiting for Le car
The pilgrim waiting for Le car

Me + TGVs + France = LOL!!!

I literally sprinted to make my train this afternoon. Not because of missed connections or anything. As a matter of fact I was feeling pretty proud of myself as I sat in the “Le car” winding my way through the streets of Paris to Gare Montparnasse. “Les cars” by Air France (lescarsairfrance.com) are the fastest/most economical way to get from Charles De Gaulle Airport to the Montparnasse train station. They have 4 bus lines (the one to Montparnasse is line 4) that shuttle passengers to places all over Paris. My fare was 17.5 Euro and it only took 1 hr and 15 min. “Les cars” picks up every 30 min. A lady at the airport info booth let me know I could pic up my “Les car” if I walk to the Starbucks in the airport and turn left out to the curb. I crack up how so many of my directions this week  have had a Starbucks reference.

When I arrived at Gare Montparnasse I had a whole hour before my train would depart. Considering what happened to me the last time I took a TGV in France, this was a good thing. I’d need all the time I could get. I got my e-ticket, walked around, ordered a smoothie and sauntered onto the wrong train. The right track mind you, what I didn’t know was that there was another whole train in front of it––the one I needed to be on. French people have all been so friendly. I speak a little French, but I never learned “am I on the right train?” (note to self) Something just felt off so I asked a few guys hanging outside the train to take a look at my ticket. By that time a few people had told me different things about where I should be sitting on the train. The guys pointed down the track enthusiastically, motioned to run and pointed to their hearts in a sympathetic way like I might die. 🙂  Me + light backpack + sprint = Right train. I had just boarded, slung my backpack up in the storage area over my seat when the train pulled out of the station. People around me sort of applauded. Hee-hee. Looks like my pilgrimage, starts with a sprint. There’s a beagle sitting next to me too. He’s really cute. Ahhh…the French.

Le dog
Le dog
included in the price of the room and soooo yummy
included in the price of the room and soooo yummy

At breakfast this morning at the Pure White Hotel in Praha,  I wrote in my journal with a light blue pen that says “I <3 Prague.” It has silver sparkles at the top. The sparkles remind me how Praha bewitched me at night with castle spires lit against star-filled skies, the full moon taking center stage. A city where even the buildings dance.

Gehry's dancing house
Gehry’s dancing house

The city got her name from a woman gifted with prophecy. She saw the hillside and declared a city would be built there and it would become great and gave it the name Praha, which means threshold in Czech.

It’s no accident that I visit Prague now. It’s more than the call to the mission trip for Christian Associates or the interest in exploring the city where my Great Grandfather was born and who likely attended Prague University the same time Einstein taught there.

People I've met have reminded me that it's my camino
People I’ve met have reminded me that it’s my camino

I wanted to know more about the word threshold. There’s the meaning I usually think of: “a strip of wood, or metal that forms the bottom of a doorway.” Underneath this meaning another was listed…”the magnitude or intensity that must be exceeded for a certain reaction, phenomenon, result, or condition to occur or be manifested––nothing happens until the signal passes the threshold.”

After learning the meaning of Praha, I recalled all my thresholds. I’ve been carried over four. Each brings a big smile, every threshold different, every one special. I was carried over the first as a young bride and the last one was to be my last, a place where we’d grow old together. Now I’ve been granted a fifth which will not involve a house at all and one that will take me 40 days and 500 miles to cross. In the Bible God talks about being sure of our calling. St. James keeps me company as I discern my call, as will all the other pilgrims past and present that have walked the Camino. God-willing I’ll arrive in Santiago having some incite into the threshold I’m crossing.

All I can remember from the previous ones I’ve crossed is a feeling of joy and happiness. To me that’s what thresholds represent. A promise of hope and excitement, of embracing what will be. It’s important to me to be a pretty pilgrim, so I’ve packed my tiara and painted my toes “pilgrim purple” even if they’ll all most likely fall off 🙂 I won’t be wearing much make up but I found a tinted sunscreen for my lips and that makes me happy too.

Tomorrow I’ill be a pilgrim along with thousands of others with thousands of stories. Everyone called to walk. One thing is certain…I am in divine hands.

James 1:2-8 NIV
“[2] Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, [3] because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. [4] Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. [5] If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. [6] But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. [7] That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. [8] Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

So what the heck is this pilgrimage I’ve been writing about? It’s the Camino de Santiago.
A 500-mile walk that begins in France and ends on the coast of Spain. Some people walk part of the way. Some take years to complete the pilgrimage.

“Pilgrims have been walking the “Camino de Santiago” for over 1,200 years. According to
anecdotal testimony, the Disciple James (brother of John) spread the gospel to
Galicia (northwest Spain) some time after the ascension of Jesus. At some point, James returned to Jerusalem where he was beheaded by Herod in 43AD. Following his martyrdom, St. James’ disciples brought his body back to this region in Spain. In 813, a shepherd was guided by a star (stella in Latin) to a field (compos in Latin) close to today’s Santiago where St. James (Sant Iago in Latin) was buried. Lore is that St. James reappeared to help banish the Islamic Moors from Spain, and the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage was born. St. James eventually became the patron saint of Spain, and “Pellegrinos” began making long pilgrimages to Santiago from all over Europe to honor the Saint and be healed of various afflictions.
There are many Pilgrim routes, but the most traveled one (and the focus of this guide) is the Camino Frances, which stretches ~800 kilometers or ~500 miles from St Jean Pied-de-Port, France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain.”

–– I’m quoting for the Camino Guide APP I have on my phone. (I recommend it for all pilgrims dreaming of or embarking on the Camino. It definitely helped me prepare, now I’ll find out how it will be on the walk.)

here’s to a buen camino, your pretty pilgrim…

Hermits, dandelions, ladybugs…and a prayer

“If the path is beautiful, let us not ask where it leads.” –– Anatole France

In my last post I mentioned that The Spirit has revealed Himself to me a handful of times in my life. In the week after I typed those words, during my mission work here in Prague at the Christian Associates VBS (Vacation Bible School) at their Summit Conference, it’s become apparent that the Spirit is with me all the time.

In the of making dandelion chains….


In the joy of a little girl treasuring a ladybug….


In a little boy’s invitation to play….


Incidents of serendipity filled the months before I left LA and all during my move. It appeared in the moving guys’ certainty they could get my car and remaining possessions into a storage unit that appeared to my unbelieving eyes as much too small. The guys taught me about the power of belief…especially as three of them had to direct me how to park my car into the unit––which could be a short story in and of itself about trust and faith.

(After the guys placed the piano in the back of the darkened storage unit, I sat at the piano and played it for the last time. I’d been practicing some pieces over the last few years and finally flawlessly played Solfeggietto in C Minor by CPE Bach.)

To a friend in need who happily took furniture that would have cost me a lot of money to store…

To my neighbor, Desi, a woman of beautiful faith, who’s helping me as my assistant with mail and things…

To my dear friend Jeanne, who called and asked if I needed a ride to the airport, which led to a gorgeous send-off filled with stories and laughing our whole ride to LAX….

To hearing my name at the gate at LAX––a friend of a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. We flew the same flight to Moscow…. be sure to watch Jonathan’s show The Road Less Traveled on The Outside Network.


To arriving in Prague, running into shuttle problems then finding exactly who I needed to help me figure out how to ride two buses and take a few metro lines which took me to within a few blocks of my hotel….
These are all the works of The Spirit helping me along an unknown path, but one that it’s clear I take. Every time I get overwhelmed, I believe The Spirit visits and gives me just what I need to help me along the way.

And this leads me to a prayer that I pray almost every day. Ever since I was invited to a friend’s birthday party. A lady I hadn’t met that night felt the need to introduce herself at the end of the evening and shake my hand. She said she had hoped to speak with me, but since we hadn’t she at least wanted to share a simple prayer she prays every day. Yet again, The Spirit found me. At the end of a friend’s birthday party. I mean how many times do you meet people that share a powerful prayer with you? Um…never. With a big smile she shared her prayer:

“Lord, please bring me the people I need; and, please bring me to the people who need me.”

She told me to pray that prayer every day. Ever since, I’ve been praying her prayer for myself and those I love. And  here for missionaries at the conference. I was invited to talk about leadership at one of the round tables and when asked to share a prayer, I prayed the lady’s prayer over them too.

Tomorrow I’m off to see a beautiful castle here in the Prague countryside as we get a day rest between conferences. In a week I’ll begin my pilgrimage on The El Camino de Santiago. I can’t believe it’s nearly here. I am preparing myself for the journey and open to whatever adventure the Spirit calls me to.

“In 814, a strange shower of shooting starts over Mount Libredón (now Compostela) attracted the attention of the hermit Paio. As he approached, he saw (hidden) tomb of Santiago (St James). This event turned Compostela a focal point for the Christian faith.”

I’m all over pilgrimages that come about because of things that grab the attention of hermits:)

“God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” ––Hebrews 2:4 NIV

A world begins….freedom in The Spirit

My girls look to the west together...
My girls look to the west together…

There are a handful of moments in my life when God’s revealed Himself to me. One of them was when I delivered my daughter Candice. I’d been given too much morphine too quickly and found it hard to breathe on the operating table. The Spirit spoke to me through the voice of my ex-husband. He said, “Laura, breathe in and out.” He held my hand and repeated these words the length of the surgery. His voice calmed me. I smile at the memory on this, Candy’s birthday.

Years later He’d speak to me again. Last March I had cancer surgery. The last time I’d been operated on was when I delivered Margaux. As I lay on the operating table a flood of happy memories couldn’t stem the fear rising inside of me. The Lord, in his very playful way, would comfort me yet again. It was just another day at the office for my plastic surgeon and as he cut and stitched he began to sing along with the songs that played over the speakers in the operating room, “Lean On Me” and “With A Little Help From My Friends.”  To me, my surgeon’s serenade was a heavenly one. I smiled at the thought of Los Angeles as the home of singing plastic surgeon angels.

In the days afterward as I recuperated, the Lord put it on my heart to journey to Prague to take care of missionary children while their parents attend a conference. A trip that would take place in July. Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I managed to go to a meeting for the trip but had to excuse myself early because of the pain and how fragile I felt. I told the Lord that I didn’t think I could do what He was asking. The idea of taking care of children in Prague seemed too much for me to handle. Too big an experience for me to wrap my head around.

By Palm Sunday I’d signed up and committed to the trip.

Something larger has been at work in me since that day. I’ve felt the need to sell or give away most of my possessions, store what’s left and go where The Spirit is calling me. I have no idea exactly where the Lord and I are headed.

“Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. – Matthew 14:29

This verse sounds so calm and soothing, but Peter stepped out of the boat in stormy seas. He must have been frightened. I believe doubt rather than fear caused Peter to sink into the water. This morning on a hike I breathed in the damp scent of sage and rosemary, filling my lungs with the freedom that is mine in The Spirit.

I leave this Friday for Prague and will be walking the Camino de Santiago afterwards, a 500-mile pilgrimage that begins in France and continues across Northern Spain to the tomb of St. James. I plan on taking 40 days to walk the Camino and have been advised to only carry 10% of my body weight. I’ll be walking into the world with 13 pounds on my back.

13 pounds? Hilarious 🙂 I can’t wait to see what He has planned. I’ll be posting about the journey here. I hope you can join us.

I’d like to share a wonderful book that’s inspired my journey Beautiful Outlaw :  Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus by John Eldredge.


Ultimate Dream Dinner — Phuket, Thailand


The most important ingredient in my ultimate dining experience? Dreams.

The kind people at smartling.com asked if I could have or make dinner anywhere in the world, where would it be and what would I eat?

My dream dinner abroad finds me cooking in an open-air kitchen on the shores of the Andaman Sea in Phuket, Thailand.


For me, dreams and dinners-of-a-lifetime are made up of exotic surprises. It was a surprise to meet my younger daughter in Phuket. Since we only had a few days together we met between Vietnam–where she’d traveled for work–and Nepal–where I’d volunteered for dental relief. An early Mother’s Day present, our day of cooking at The Phuket Thai Cookery School started at the local market with a charming guide who showed us how they make the freshest coconut milk and how to pick ingredients for our dinner.


Back at the school, after a few demos by the hilarious staff, we were let loose in their open-air kitchens to recreate the traditional Thai recipes they’d demonstrated. Our cooking areas had a view of the sea with all of our ingredients measured out for us–a cook’s dream. The best cooking tip I received there has become a tradition in my own cooking ever since. When squeezing the juice out of a lime (or lemon) squeeze it around the blade of a knife and the juice flows down the blade beautifully.


On the menu:

Tom Kha Kai (Chicken in Coconut Milk Soup)

Kaeng Kiew Wan Kai (Green Curry with Chicken)

Phad Thai (Thai Fried Noodles with Prawns)

Som Tam (Papaya Salad)

Khao Niew Mamuang (Mango with Sticky Rice)

The food seemed to flavor our passions and had all the best ingredients: Thailand, a reunion with my daughter and the intoxicating aromas found only among mixtures of kaffir limes, lemongrass, curries, the freshest of seafood, and mangoes. Cooking in the open air kitchen and eating the five-course meal seaside in conversation with new friends blessed me with fulfilling a dream.

Once upon a time, cooking was a big part of my life. We’d have the family over for Easter. I’d cook a rack of lamb for a few dozen people. Housewarmings featured Indonesian rijsttafel (rice table)–a family tradition. But when life as I knew it took a turn I didn’t expect, I lost the joy of cooking which left me unable to even enter a grocery store. My daughter knew this. Wise beyond her years, she sent me back into the kitchen. Lovingly. For Mother’s Day. In Thailand. My daughter and I set a few of our dreams in motion over Tom Kha Kai, our favorite course. I raised my chopsticks full of Phad Thai and looked to the Andaman sea, giving thanks for this time together, an exotic, delicious surprise.

Pray for Nepal – 90 days around the world


This time last year I trekked the Everest Base Camp trail in Nepal.

There are no words for what’s happened to Nepalis the past few days. Not only have they lost homes, a way of life, and their livelihoods––their culture and history have been leveled too. The loss, too big to process, will take time. It will be up to each one of us to find beauty in this devastation. Unearthing it will take “small steps,” like my guide Kalyan would tell me on the trail. “Slowly and slowly,” he’d remind me when I lost my breath. When I got tired he would say to walk ten steps and breathe ten times.

Slowly and slowly. Step by step. Forward. Sure. One foot in front of the other. With gratitude that my friends in Nepal are all alive, I dedicate this post to them. The mountain to climb now is very different. You can’t climb a mountain in one day. It takes time. It’s important to know what trail to take. To listen to your body. To go slow, and to eat. Rest when it all gets to be too much. Celebrate the twists and turns and have faith. Trust and believe that we will always have enough. Just enough. Enough light to get to the next day. Enough strength to make the next decision. The wisdom to know when it’s time to rest. This is my prayer.

This time last year the largest disaster on Everest to date occurred. An avalanche took the lives of sixteen sherpas. We witnessed the grief of the sherpas and their families as Kaylan’s life-long friend was among the missing.



Today when I walked on the suspension bridge for the first time. I felt like I was flying. My heart is light and the experience felt so beautiful that I thanked God for His creation, even as the avalanche brought about so many needless deaths. The eyes of the stupa remind me to awaken. To let the old ways go. The ways that no longer serve me. The key will be love, light and liberation.

Helicopters evacuate climbers


We found out today that the Nepali government decided this year would be a black year. For the first time in history no climber will be allowed to summit Everest this season. There is a steady stream of helicopters airlifting the climbers from Base Camp to Loukla. We’ve been constantly flown over by helicopters shuttling climbers out, and there is a consistent parade of Yaks carrying supplies in one direction, down the mountain—back to Loukla. Once hopeful climbers now taking flights back to Kathmandu.

In the center of Kathmandu there is a statue of the first female sherpa who summited Everest only a few years ago. On the descent she died. When she got into trouble on the mountain the weather got bad and nobody could get to her for nineteen days. She died of exposure.

I’m trying to put the pieces together of such things. Great victories coupled with great sorrow. The answer to the riddle lies in the balance of nature, the balance of life. Life’s duality. It seems as though the Nepali people I meet believe they brought on the avalanche somehow. A people who won’t kill chickens in the shadow of their holy mountain. A mountain no one is allowed to climb because it is believed that a god lives under it and to walk on the mountain would be like walking on his head and this would anger the god and visit bad luck upon them. Prayer wheels here invite you to spin them in order to purify your soul. And I ask myself what a purified soul would look like. Is it ever really free of the evils in the Buddhist Wheel of Life — ignorance, anger and lust. Does Buddhist purification mean to know in one’s soul that even the gods are transient and that is why the Wheel of Life is held in the claws of the god of death?


As I put one foot in front of the other on the Everest Base Camp trail I am meeting myself. A self who now knows that magic originates and blossoms inside of myself and that home is wherever my heart is. No longer any particular place. I am, it seems, at home in the world. The very top of the world.


-Namche Bazzar 4/27/2014

Love is the wind

It might fade,

But always blows

There’s no containing it

No stopping it

And it can choose to

Blow in different


4/27/2014 Khumjung

Meeting the grieving widow of one of the sherpas and her children and their grandmother was overwhelming. Now, with her husband dead, they have no way to make a living. After the Puja, a prayer ritual, they will take her husband’s ashes––the cremation has already happened high in the Himalayas––and fashion sacred Buddha statues out of them. We briefly helped keep a vigil with the widow in her home, in a room alight with candles. So many candles. The candles are lit to purify her husband’s spirit so that he might find peace in heaven. This is true love. A home filled with happy memories. The death of such a love overwhelms me.

As I hugged her, in that moment when I briefly shared her pain, giving what I could to help ease it, a strange sense of peace washed over me. True love never dies. Life is beautiful and joyous and I prayed for the day when she can smile again. I pray for them to get through the next few days and ask for God’s help to help them survive.

Pray for Nepal.


Jesus in Nepal : 90 days around the world

While traveling, I rarely knew what day of the week it was and dates didn’t mean much. I totally immersed myself in the experience of awakening to the world. A world very different from the one I’d known before. Easter caught up with me in Nepal and it took my breath away.

I used puppets, string games and coloring to help the kids at the Global Dental Relief Clinic pass the time until their treatments. They drew pictures of their houses surrounded by lots of very steep mountains. They drew beautiful Rhododendrons, the national flower of Nepal, and also drew lots pictures of each other. There were some talented cartoonists too. I taped every picture on the wall with torn-up stickers, as tape was scarce. The kids smiled big when they spotted their pictures and sometimes brought their friends to see the spot on the wall where their picture hung.


I was so busy teaching them how to brush their teeth and playing with them that I didn’t really have time to admire their artwork. But one afternoon, there was a slow spell. A time between schools picking up students and dropping off the next group. While tidying the benches and organizing our supplies, I had a chance to really look at their drawings. Taped to the wall among gorgeous Himalayan landscapes and superheroes and portraits of friends and princesses and castles, there were a few portraits of…me––as a woman or a butterfly or a flower, with the word “Laura” written underneath. And next to me in each drawing, an even bigger surprise. A large cross with the word “Jesus” written in crayon or pencil. Jesus.


Somewhere between LA and Nepal I had come home to myself and the Lord. Seeing myself so beautifully in pink, gold, red, yellow and brown crayon made the transformation all the more amazing. I hadn’t felt beautiful or amazing in a very long time. They saw me the way Jesus did. I was blind. A picture of the cross was about the last thing I expected the children to draw in the mostly Hindu country. Especially with a likeness of me and my name written beside the name of Jesus. I love how the Lord likes to blow all our expectations. Humbled, I hit my knees. It would have been really easy to not celebrate Easter in Nepal. But the kids and the Lord wouldn’t let me. While applying fluoride to a beautiful young girl’s teeth it hit me…


I’d been doing dental relief work here and realized Easter is tomorrow. I don’t want to ignore Easter. Not this year. Not when the person sitting next to me on this entire journey has been Jesus. This year I wasn’t alone, even though at times I never felt more alone. When I thought I lost everyone and everything I loved. This year I realized I’ll never be alone. Who would have ever guessed that I would celebrate the most meaningful Easter of my life in the Buddhist section of a mostly Hindu country? Jesus.

When I was walking in darkness, He held my hand. The Spirit moved me to ask Sonam if there were any Easter services in Kathmandu. She said she wasn’t sure but she would ask around. Sonam and her husband Karma founded a local girls’ school that cares for and educates the lowliest in Nepal’s society, orphaned/abandoned girls. Sonam was such a girl. Their passion and graciousness are an inspiration.

Later that night Sonam found some Christians that celebrated Easter and arranged my transportation to the service––a brief car ride and walk through her village with a sweet, beautifully dressed, bible-carrying Nepali woman. Shortly after sunrise, we arrived at a converted mosque. Everyone took their shoes off. Men kneeled on one side of the mosque and women kneeled on the other side. Some women wore veils. A Nepali man offered me a translation machine so that I’d get the most out of the service. The teenage girls of the congregation put on a uniquely Nepali passion play that brought me to tears.

The words over the altar read: “God is the way, the truth, and the life.” Easter will always remind me of the time that Jesus spoke to me through the drawings of the children, whispering He’d always been and always will be holding tight to my hand.

Happiness – 90 days around the world

I beheld the sight of the sun’s rays bathing the slopes and drifts of the Arabian desert from the air at dawn, painting the sand pink and gold. After a stop in Abu Dhabi, I arrived in Kathmandu that afternoon. The evening found me celebrating yet another New Year, The Nepali New Year, in Bouddhanath––a neighborhood I’d call home while working the Global Dental Relief Clinic set up at Shree Mangal DVIP school, a boarding school.



Shirley, the school director, shared that most of the children attending are from “Yackland,” an area above 10,000 feet with no electricity, running water or communications in their villages. To get to their villages requires a week trek and a day’s drive. She informed us that they lost three fathers this year on their treks down to Kathmandu. The kids survived. Shirley told us that what makes the kids at their school special is their mastery of Buddha’s greatest teaching––the ability to turn a problem into happiness. 


Shirley went on to tell us that the man who founded the school, Thrangu Rinpoche, fled Tibet. Most of the Buddhists in Nepal are Tibetan refugees from Communist China’s take over of their country. The story goes that Thrangu Rinpoche lived in a shack. He said that if he ever had the power to, he would see to it that the kids of Nepal had access to a free education, health care and dental. The Global Dental Relief team is part of his dream. She said that we were all there because we not only have good hearts but we are doing something with them. She blew me away with the stories she shared and the goodness that comes out of tragedy. I keep thinking about the power in losing everything as I witness my first Puja, walk the streets of Boudha, around the stupa mindful of the monks prayers and sacred bead counting. 

It was clear to me that the universe was trying to tell me something about newness, about faith and promise, about beginnings and happiness and the power of dreams. In the silence of Bali’s Nyepi Day my inner voice cried out. In the candlelight and chanting of the Nepali New Year celebration around the Boudha Stupa, I awakened to a new world of wonder and possibility.



(Nepal is among the poorest and least developed countries in the world with 42% of its population living below the poverty line. Poverty, mass illiteracy, ignorance and conservatism causes a majority of Nepali children to be deprived of their basic rights to education.)

Going Big : 90 days around the world

java indonesia rice paddies, travel, inspiration

For me, Going Big is the joy of feeling totally alive and terrified. My mom named the thrill “horrible-wonderful.” While very real, horrible drops away pretty quick when I’m wonderfully following my heart.

On Gili Air and in the silence of Nyepi, I decided to return to Java and write the screenplay. I flew from one kingdom to another, from Bali to Yogyakarta. It’s difficult to describe how freeing and scary this choice was for me. For nearly thirty years I’d made every big decision together with my husband. Going Big alone was new to me. Since the trip to Indonesia had met with so much resistance in my past life, the fact that I had actually taken the trip was huge. Extending my trip meant Going Big for myself, my art and my faith. Going Big became my new mantra.

I’d begun to write the screenplay in LA before I left, but something was missing. I hadn’t been to Indonesia and the script was the poorer for it. I touched down on Java painfully aware that the last time my dad had been on Javanese soil was as a prisoner of the Japanese. I would spend the next two weeks writing the screenplay about how dad fought for his life, while I was fighting for mine. Java’s perilous past fascinated me as I faced a seemingly perilous future. Was there some kind of message here about how I might survive?

As catastrophic as the end days were for Dad and our family on Java, the Indonesian way of life gave him constant joy. I’d find him in our Chicago basement hacking a coconut with an axe to extract its fresh milk, frying krepuk (shrimp crackers) on our back porch, filling the house with the scent of coconut curry chicken, topping jasmine rice with serundang (toasted coconut). Dad never said a bad word about the Japanese. He’d even encouraged me to buy a Honda when I’d saved enough of my waitressing tips to buy half of my first car—my parents treated me to the other half. Over the years, Mom and Dad would travel to Kyoto, Hiroshima, Nikko, Tokyo and entertain Japanese engineers at our home in Chicago. No one ever knew about his experience, not even Mom. I certainly didn’t. Not until Dad turned eighty. We spent the next ten years talking. Sometimes we corresponded by letters, but most of the time we’d sit in his room in Florida and we’d chat for a few hours at a time.

The final draft of the screenplay is nearly completed.


I just arrived at the d’Omah hotel. The perfect place to write. They even offer an amazing Rijsttafel here on Sundays (Rijsttafel is a Dutch word which means “rice table” and is an elaborate meal the Dutch had during the colonial days when Indonesia was the Dutch East Indies). Omah means “home” in Indonesian. I’m on a quest to find a home in the world. This truly feels like one. 

As I settle in I hear buzzing, lots and lots of buzzing in the background. I walk down the road past the rice fields to the main street where parades of motorcycles, very loud motorcycles, wave large red flags. Villagers at the roadside watch the spectacle. Indonesian elections come with throngs of motorcycle-riding, flag-flying, noise-making party people. I’m hooked. I’ve never seen anything like their intensity. Some wear face masks. I’m standing here watching the scene among the masks and the revving. This is definitely Going Big.  I film what I see. As election day approaches, I can’t wait to start writing.