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Our 5 Best Moments of 2011

31 Dec

Tonight for New Year’s Eve we’ll be heading out to celebrate with our friends, so last night we went out on our last date night of 2011.

We splurged and took a taxi from our place to Las Cholas in the foodie neighborhood of Las Cañitas ($8.84, but worth it over the 58-cents-for-two-people, 1-hour bus ride). We arrived early at 8:30pm and placed our order for a bottle of malbec wine, a grilled sausage link for an appetizer, a salmon and spinach casserole, and the classic Andean stew, locro.

The locro was originally my dinner, but Maggie kept reaching over for more as she was profoundly amazed by the texture of the hominy and the overall flavor. By the end of the dinner, I was eating the casserole and she was savoring the locro.

In between switching dishes, we reflected on the year and just how crazy it was that we actually made it to Buenos Aires. With the crayons on the table, I wrote down each of our 5 best moments of 2011, in no particular order.

Stephen’s 5 Best Moments

  1. My farewell from South Pasadena Christian Church. Not many people leave a job with the gift I was given that day. To not only have people like me even though I was leaving them, but to have them express their appreciation one-by-one over a home-made Argentinean lunch still brings tears of gratitude to my eyes.
  2. Arriving in Buenos Aires. It really happened!
  3. Getting The Culinary Institute of America website gig. This project stands as the marker for when I realized that I’ll be able to earn enough money for us to keep this dream alive for a while.
  4. The garden at SPCC. I loved that garden and was thoroughly impressed that we were able to grow some good stuff back there after that area had served as a junk yard for decades.
  5. My family’s recent visit to Buenos Aires. As I wrote about, it was perfectly timed and simply refreshing to have us all together again.
  6. Runner-up: Justo and Marie’s wedding. I got to be with the boys again and get the last of us married off. What relief I felt afterward!
Maggie’s 5 Best Moments

  1. Overall decision to come to Buenos Aires. The exact moment the decision was sealed is elusive, but the feeling of no turning back now and repeated confirmation that it would all work out stands out.
  2. Christmas Day. This was her first Christmas not to wake up in her mom’s place, so she was missing it. The day turned out to be amazing as we celebrated together in the morning and later with friends.
  3. Crab in San Francisco. Her favorite meal in San Francisco, which is saying a lot because we ate amazing food the whole time.
  4. New Year’s Eve 2010. This hits her list because it marked a time when I was introduced to the Ohio family traditions and was the last significant time she was able to spend with her late grandmother.
  5. Studying Spanish at Verbum. Being a student again and having the perspective to truly appreciate and enjoy it after 5 years as a teacher.
  6. Runner-up: Emily and Ryan’s Wedding. Little Emilita all grown up now and got herself a good man.

We’d love to hear about some of your best moments of 2011.

Our Christmas Story

26 Dec

‘Twas Christmas day, and all through our home

candles were burning of cinnamon and plum.

The stockings were hung over the bed-couch with care.

While a fire roared for that holiday flare.

Stephen in his new slippers prepped dinner to keep pace.

Maggie decorated using her new vintage vase.

The table was set

with tastes from back home.

Merry Christmas to all and God bless us everyone!

Why Buenos Aires?

7 Aug

We’ve been asked many times, “Why did you choose Buenos Aires?” The decision was easy, really, for several reasons.

Reason #1
We wanted to move to a Spanish-speaking country to immerse ourselves in the language. Even though Maggie has been offered a very lucrative position teaching English in Korea, we’ve turned it down, because Spanish is our number one goal. And of all the Spanish-speaking countries, Argentina has some major perks.

Reason #2
I have been to Buenos Aires before, and so we are already connected with the language school I went to ( The prices are some of the most reasonable in all of Buenos Aires and the owner, Marina, has been very kind to us in this whole process. Knowing the city and having a connection are huge advantages.

Reason #3
BA will allow us to live a city life, which we both enjoy. There’s plenty to see and do to keep us interested and exploring. The public transportation (subway, buses, taxis) mean we can get around without need for a car.

Reason #4
We can both work there. Though finding work for Maggie will not be easy, the city has opportunities. There are thousands of schools, private and public, and plenty of people wanting to learn English. My work is based in the U.S., so all I need is an occasional Internet connection and a place to sit. It’s exactly what I do now, just in a different city.

Reason #5
Cost of living. Though everything has gotten much more expensive in BA since when I was there in 2006, it is still relatively affordable for us. Much more than LA! There are cheaper cities, but putting all of these reasons together, we’re willing to give it a go.

Last Sunday at South Pasadena Christian Church

26 Jul

This past Sunday was my last Sunday at South Pasadena Christian Church.

For the past 3 years and 5 months I have served that little church as its Senior Pastor. I came in at age 28 without a completed theological degree, without any previous preaching experience, and a strange sense none of that would matter.

Even though I’m not the most “spiritual” person in the world — I prefer to say I’m “religious, not spiritual” in direct antagonism to the popular description of “spiritual, not religious” — I supposed my lack of pastoral training would not matter, because the job seemed exactly what God had called to me do.

I have likened my story to Jonah’s.

Jonah despised God’s call for him to preach and so ran away only to find that God didn’t give a rat’s ass what he thought. In the end, Jonah preached and his preaching was successful, but the man couldn’t stand it. He hated it.

Likewise, the call to step up and be a spokesperson for God came upon me. I wasn’t planning on ever becoming a pastor and the thought of speaking for God freaked me out. Yet, once I realized what was happening, I knew two choices existed: enjoy it or end up depressed like Jonah. Thankfully, I chose to enjoy to watch it all unfold.

In the end, I walk away with several treasures in my pocket: a breadth of experience from failures and successes, the pleasure of knowing a good number of impressive people, a clearer hope for what a church can become, and a confirmation that this was not a one-time gig. I will return to working in a church, whether its as a head pastor or some subordinate minion. That will wait though. For now, it’s time for a new adventure!

To everyone at SPCC, thank you so much for being gracious to me and for allowing me into your lives in such significant ways. You have blessed me immensely. Continue to seek faithfulness to the gospel above productivity and comfort.