Creating Columbine

One of my personal joys throughout this Create Challenge year has been creating a community platform for creatives who have walked a leg of my own creative journey. Today’s guest post-er is such a one. Many moons ago, she was an editor at a Christian publishing house where I was invited to participate as a writer. Together we created some wacky and significant experiences for junior and senior high kids to get hands-on with the Bible and discover God’s Truth. I treasure those days as formational to the work I continue to do in encouraging others to think creatively and deeply about God and His role in their lives. Thank you, Lisa!

Create Challenge #29: Lisa LaufferCreating Columbine

The Bloom of Creating

The germ of an idea.
A seed we plant.
Waiting in the dark, pondering,
Hoping to see light.
Pushing through as tender sprout,
Absorbing the energy of sun,
The refreshment of rain,
The nutrients of soil.
Bursting in color and beauty to inspire and heal.
Dropping seeds for the future.

LLaufferLisa Lauffer inspires others into their creating through encouragement and example. She teaches art online through Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Online ( as well as the movement fitness program called Nia ( and taekwondo. You can read about her own creating adventures at

Meatless Monday – Apple Pie Oatmeal

Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out
Stressed Out, 21 Pilots

I’m no singer but, like many mamas, I sang my babies to sleep. I even made up my own lullaby for Baby Teen which became Baby Tween’s lullaby as well. It was part of our ritual, a favorite few moments at the end of each day.

I don’t sing to them anymore. And there are absolutely times when any one of us might agree to take a spin on Hermione Granger’s time turner, back to those good old low-stress days.

An acquaintance inquired after Teen the other day. She said, “Every time I see him he seems so stressed out.”

He’s a high school senior attending a top 1% school in an extremely competitive, achievement-oriented community. So, yes, he is stressed out. And, bummer.

Unfortunately but not surprisingly, Back to School week did not go swimmingly. No, swimmingly is for summertime: fun in the sun, no set schedules, no morning hustle-bustle, and most importantly, No Homework, just learning and reading for fun. And far fewer arguments.

School Day 1 ended with a parent-child shouting match. Topic: stress and stress avoidance.

School Day 2 included Tween promising that he didn’t need his trumpet until next week. Later, a text that read: “I need my trumpet RIGHT NOW!”

School Day 3 we forgot high school late start day, so Teen arrived to school an hour early. You’d think by senior year we’d all be dialed in to the school schedule.

You know what helps?

Hanging on to gratitude, a regular priority with renewed back-to-school emphasis.

I am grateful for…

Smart, strong, healthy, energetic boys who will be and do well in this world despite adolescent bumps.

Good schools, albeit imperfect.

A fantastic Day 2 conversation with Teen to make up for the previous day’s shouting match. We shared a sweet half-hour talking through pros and cons of different decisions and how each might affect his days, senior year, and whatever comes next.

Tween’s Day 2 homework: a half-page explanation of “What Makes Me Special.” I think this should be a regular assignment for all humans. We are special, and we should gratefully appreciate the characteristics that make us so.

Consistent day-to-day routines: exercise after drop-off, bedtime reading with Tween. What a gift that he still enjoys reading aloud with Mama at 12 years old!

Also, a healthy, hearty breakfast made once and quickly warmed up to enjoy throughout the week. Sure makes the morning rush more delicious!

The kids add Craisins, I add fresh fruit

The kids add Craisins, I add fresh fruit

Apple Pie Oatmeal
Serves 4

Boil three cups water. Add 1 cup steel cut oats (I use Bob’s Red Mill) and 1 cored and diced apple. Return to boil and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 tsp cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice). Serve with a sprinkle of cinnamon, Craisins, raisins, or fresh fruit, and a splash of non-dairy milk. Recipe can be easily doubled.


romansHonestly, when our pastor announced that we’d study Romans for fifteen weeks, spring straight through summer, I felt more apprehension than enthusiasm. Paul’s letter to the church in Rome contains some of my favorite verses in Scripture but, as a book, it has not been my favorite. Paul’s convoluted courtroom argument hurts my brain.

So when our pastor also invited me to take a turn in the pulpit, my first in the ten years we’ve been in this congregation, I uttered a flattered maybe.

When I prayerfully read my text, Romans 5:1-11, I thought, Well, huh, maybe… But I would need the right story, the perfect illustration.

The next day, at a ministry meeting, the right story materialized. The encouragement I needed to say yes.

I put aside all other creative projects and spent a month working on a sermon. Day 1 I waffled. Why had I said yes? I have taught but I haven’t preached in years. I’ve been trained for this (that seminary degree accounts for something), but I’m rusty. For the love, pastors make it look easy but preaching is hard work!

Prone to dramatics, I had to silence the voices: the “You’re not good enough—what if you blow it?” crazy. Not one for personal political statements, I never want to be “The Woman” in the pulpit, so I fought against that added pressure. I prayed myself out of my tizzy tendency.

And then God Showed Up:

Already one story had presented itself. Others flooded my sight.

Out of the blue, a friend texted how she has grown spiritually for my presence in her life.

Another friend posted a workplace video about using “your unique fingerprint” to imprint your business, and how people long for your unique fingerprint–encouragement that I would preach this passage with my unique voice, the same and yet differently than any other preacher.romans (1)

I read and studied and took notes. I put all the notes away, went back to the passage, and started writing. And what God wanted me to say flowed from my head and heart through my fingers, filtered by the voice that would speak it.

Pastors all around the world preach every Sunday. In some ways, it’s no big deal. And yet this was, for me, a very big deal. I had the privilege to boast about God. And so I did.

In addition, I wrote our small group Bible study guides for Romans 1-8 all spring-summer long. Fifteen weeks of Bible study. One of my favorite work tasks, we usually take a welcome summer break. But since this series began in spring, we continued the study guides for the groups who would meet during summer. I hope groups/people used them but, even if not, I wrote them. This biblical book that previously had me stymied, well, God showed up. The guides seemed to almost write themselves, we trust because the Spirit flowed.

This summer God has broken a barrier I hadn’t realized I’d constructed. For one who loves reading, studying, discussing, and writing about the Bible, there remained a book I wouldn’t willingly touch. Until I was required to. Once again, He proved Himself faithful. “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Thank God He helped me conquer Romans!

Hear my sermon.
And the study guide

Other sermons in the Romans 1-8 series
Romans 1-8 study guides

Creating Opportunity

For years I heard about Leslie. Then I heard from Leslie when she spoke at our church. Finally I had the opportunity to know Leslie when we visited her in the Dominican Republic. Five years ago my family participated in a mission trip from our church to the DR and, despite my quaking anxiety about being a parent and participant, God used that trip to change us, as individuals and as a family. The ministry Leslie and her family lead has created opportunity and hope for countless of Dominicans, and I am thrilled that today YOU get to hear from Leslie. Maybe one day you’ll also have an opportunity to know her.

Create Challenge # 28: Leslie Trautwein

Create? That’s a tricky word.

I am the oldest of three girls. When we were young, my youngest sister excelled in ballet, creating beauty with disciplined and well-practiced movement. She possessed an incredible vocabulary and ability to wield those words with skill. And my other sister created hilarious stories and illustrations of her pet gerbils. Skillfully, she drew horses rippling with muscles which evoked deep emotion and even awe. My horse renderings at that time appeared more like hot dogs on toothpick legs, and I happily quit ballet in exchange for a ball and field. I never viewed myself as creative, but something in me yearned for an outlet.

With some encouragement I eventually learned to enjoy playing with watercolors and returned to the calligraphy I had learned in junior high. My greatest creative outlet, however, I found behind a camera. I followed in my dad’s footsteps and he blessed me with his old Nikon EL, which weighed a ton but faithfully endured many travels and much abuse. I don’t know if I ever became a good photographer, but I am not sure that was my goal. I love capturing moments, natural beauty, expressions, relationships. I don’t create them, I just capture an inadequate image of something awesome that God created.LT girls

When I think of the word “create” and ask myself, What do I create these days?, my thoughts and answers fall far from the artistic definition of the word. It’s easy to conjure up some of the ‘things’ I create, things that at the end of the day I own, by choice or by force. Some of those things are not pretty or inspiring, in fact they are rather embarrassing… like conflict, stress, unrest, and even pain. But that is not the desire of my heart. That is not what I was created for. That is my fallen, selfish self exerting control.

In my heart, I desire to follow the One who made me, in whose image I myself was created. I want to daily be more conformed to the image of Christ, and glorify my Creator in all I do. Sometimes, by God’s grace, I think I manage to stay focused on Him and shut out the lies the world and my own flesh so adamantly want me to embrace. Sometimes, I think I let God use me to create opportunities for people around me to see Him, to know Him, to experience His love.

I find that my soul rests and rejoices in God’s creation, the wilderness… and the wilder the better! God blessed me with a spouse who enjoys the same. When dating we were dubbed “outdoorsy” by dear friends who consider themselves “indoorsy.” Taking others along on our outdoorsy adventures has created the opportunity to introduce others to the awesome Creator. In our eagerness over the years, we have fortunately survived what some might call ‘poor’ judgement, such as miscalculating tidal shifts on kayaking adventures or overestimating our ability to beat the setting sun on back country ski trips (yes, the list is LONG). It is not uncommon for “How the Trautweins Tried to Kill Us in the Wilderness” stories to surface at gatherings. Sharing time outside has afforded great conversations about creation and the Creator.LT more girls

More recently we have created opportunities for kids at risk in the Dominican Republic to get out into God’s creation. Even though there are amazing waterfalls and mountains within minutes of our mountain town, most of these youth would not get to experience such power without an opportunity… transportation is costly, care-givers are tired after a day’s work in the fields. Some of my greatest joys in these past years have been sitting with the teenagers from our orphanage and our own kids around a campfire on backpacking trips up the highest peak in the Caribbean (one access trail is only an hour from our town) talking about God, His power and faithfulness. Leading groups of youth up Pico Duarte creates an environment for great growth. What a privilege I have seeing these young people experience God in the wilderness through pushing their bodies, interacting first-hand with His creation, and hearing about His faithfulness from their peers. Creating opportunity for relationship, horizontal and vertical.

As a missionary involved in developing and running schools and orphanages for kids who likely would not be in school at all and/or be living on the street, I get to be part of creating an opportunity for education and breaking the cycle of poverty. In the seven schools we oversee in the Dominican Republic, over 1800 children are not only given an incredible education, but most graduate from high school (national rate is less than 20%) and are also offered Kids Alive scholarships to go to university (less than 5% of Dominicans graduate from university). These children and young adults receive hardy nutrition, appropriate love, healthy guidance, and a faithful family in these ministries.LT shot

As a pediatrician, I also get to create the opportunity of preventative and urgent health care to these children and families who would otherwise have minimal access to such privileges. What a joy to pass on my education and experience for the well-being of others, from vaccinations to machete wounds. Through creating opportunities for North Americans to come work alongside nationals to help achieve these educational and health goals, many lives of all nationalities and ages have been impacted and changed as language and cultural barriers fade in the overwhelming glow of God’s all-powerful love.

I love creating opportunities for people to meet and know each other, transparently sharing life’s hardships and victories, encouraging each other along the road. With the desire to allow others to own and share their stories, I treasure opportunities to share how God has powerfully and faithfully carried me through challenging places and circumstances, such as miscarriage, raising third culture kids, and breast cancer.

Blessed with deep and growing relationships with both young and old, in Spanish and English, I count the opportunities I have been allowed to help create as a great gift. Years ago a young man from our school gave me the opportunity to be his madrina at his graduation, and several years later he asked my husband stand up as the padrino at his wedding. Recently, as he acknowledged his Heavenly Father, he spoke about being the father to his newborn daughter that his father was unable to be. Stories like his make every moment of ‘creating opportunity’ worth all the work. My hope is that I leave people feeling loved and knowing the love of our Father after having spent time with me.

In the end, I am a small cog in a big wheel. It is an honor to work alongside Dominicans, Haitians, Columbians, Europeans, and fellow North Americans to create such opportunities. I count it a privilege that God can use even me, broken and fallen, to help create opportunities that allowing soulful health and healing. Opportunities to be in right relationship with God’s creation – both the natural world around us as well as people – and with God Himself.

And I will continue my feeble attempt to capture glimpses of God and His creation through my camera lens.

LTrautweinI am a daughter of the Lord Most High, the original Creator, wife of the most amazing and devoted guy I know, mom to four awesome individuals who challenge and stretch me (three of whom have flown the coop!). We just completed 14 years in the DR serving with Kids Alive International, where I work in the aforementioned roles of wife and mom, as well as pediatrician and homeschool teacher. I still LOVE being out in God’s creation, especially in the snow. I praise God for the plans He created for each of us! Jeremiah 29:11


Bucks for Beauty?

skin-care-1122664_960_720Most days, when I think about it at all, I believe I won the Good Skin lottery.

My grandmother never used a facial cream of any sort and, at her passing at age 96, her face wore only the normal road map of life experience. In her mid-70s, my mom is only just beginning to look ‘mature.’

Last week on vacation in Carmel, I walked past a shop in which a man stood in the doorway behind a big bowl featuring a sign that read “Enjoy a Free Sample.” I thought it was a candy shop until I saw the beautiful jeweled soaps in the window and did a hard about-face. He smiled and handed me and my mom each an envelope of facial moisturizer. He asked, “Would you also like to sample our eye cream?” Well, why not?

He invited me to follow him. Uh oh…

Alejandro, a charming 29-year-old Argentinian, warned me not to fall in love with him, though I was free to fall in love with the products. I pointed to Guy through the open door and promised we were safe on the falling in love front. I mentioned charming?

He gently smoothed the tiniest spot of cream at the outside corner of one eye, oh so faintly dabbing at the sensitive under-eye skin. He fanned my face with a black Spanish lace fan and told me to let him know when the lotion penetrated the eye muscle. At first it felt cold and I felt confused—what would I feel? And then I felt it, a sensation akin to the tingle of peppermint lip balm.

He added just a drop of another cream on top of that and then showed me a mirror: I gasped at the noticeable difference between the lotioned left eye and the untreated right eye. I’ve never in my life seen a beauty product work so instantly. The poster behind Alejandro promised that this cream would be better than Botox—and it was.

To even things up Alejandro treated the other eye and explained that if I purchased these two creams, to be used just once a week at bedtime, I would receive a daily eye cream free. When I asked if the creams could do anything about the loose skin under my chin, he laughed, his salesman’s face cracking just a bit. What was my concern?

Truthfully, I haven’t been concerned about my eyes but I’ve been aware of that chin since Teen was in 1st grade. Reading a book side-by-side, he looked up at me and asked, “What’s that?”

Confused, I asked what he meant. He stabbed his little finger below my chin and exclaimed, “That! I don’t have one, do I?” Great. Thanks, kid. So let’s add that insecurity to the list.

Alejandro slathered another cream on my chin and neck. This was one felt wet, slimy even, but as he applied it, my smooth-talking salesman stumbled on his words. He confessed that I have beautiful skin, not one wrinkle (pretty good as I nudge my way toward 50…). He admitted that purchasing and using these creams now would not be restorative so much as preventative.

Then the one-two punch: the free-with-purchase eye cream would be a savings of $350! The two weekly creams would cost $500, but I would receive $850 in products. Sounds like a deal, right? Or a scam. Or, simply, like really expensive beauty products to soothe the insecurities of aging. The sales pitch continued: since I would use the creams only once a week, they would last a full year. $500 for a year’s worth of weekly lotion meant they cost only about $35-40 per month.

Except I’m not sure I spend more than $40 a year on lotion; $35-40 per month for facial cream would absolutely amount to an extravagant splurge.

Still, I waffled. If a product works, maybe it’s worth the splurge?

The kids confirmed that my eyes did, in fact, look different while Guy laughed at my new insecurity. No way were we going to spend $500 on lotions I hadn’t known I might need.

I valued Guy’s confirmation that, for me, for now, this wasn’t a worthy indulgence. And yet, for the rest of the day, I felt like I’d lost out. I wondered how Alejandro had seen me: did he see an edging-towards-50 woman, a woman of mature age? Or did he see the Me I see, young at heart and still young in face? Do I look older than I think I look? Would he have been able to accurately guess my age?

I had to work hard to silence the new crazy voices in my head. What does it matter how a stranger-salesman sees me? What does it matter even if I do look my age? While I may feel younger than I am, I’m also grateful for the lessons learned in my 20s, 30s, and now 40s. Aging is not a problem. Being needlessly insecure about aging would be a problem.

I didn’t lose out; rather, I gained a new insight, and it didn’t cost me a penny.

Ritual: Cation House

One of my favorite weeks of the year is coming right up: our annual trip to the Cation House. I originally wrote this post for my friend Cara Meredith‘s blog during her 2015 guest post series on rituals (please go check out her blog – great stuff happening over there!). I can’t wait for another week of beach-y rest, relaxation, and walking down Memory Lane even as we create new memories.Cation House

Writ large on the walls of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Pablo Neruda’s words strike a chord in my soul: “I spin on the circle of wave upon wave of the sea.”

My life has felt like constant spinning, waves of joy and laughter, wash of chaos and drama, waves of peaceful beauty. My parents’ lives spun on disorder and turmoil until they spun into each other and, quickly, marriage. They attempted to overcome the tidal pull of established patterns; they did their best to remain upright in swirling waters. Still, my Airline Captain father flew in and out of our lives on air currents rather than water.

While I attended college my parents purchased a Time Share blocks from a NorCal beach (we lived a short drive from SoCal beaches). Recently I asked my mom, “Why?”

“To create family memories, to have a place we could come back to year after year.”

My parents, siblings and I never spent a week there as a family. My family, however–my mom and nephew, my husband and sons–has spent a week there every summer since Teen was two years old. We call it the “Cation House.”

We look forward to the Cation House all year, one of our most significant shared family rituals. The three kids have each created school essays and projects about the Cation House. Each generation swimming against currents of the past, I asked my boys which traditions, rituals, have meant the most to them in our family life: Cation House!, their unequivocal shared response.

When we all lived in SoCal, we rented a minivan and made the ten-hour journey a road trip. Now that four of us live in NorCal, the others fly up and extend their stay on either end for a longer vacation.

Each vacation is the same. We go to the same beaches (Lovers’ Point, Asilomar). We walk the same streets (Lighthouse Ave and Ocean View Blvd). We take the same pictures (kids in wet suits, holding sea stars). We do the same things (“journal pages” before dinner, hiking at Point Lobos, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Farmers’ Market, beach, beach and More Beach!).

Each vacation is different. The kids grow (drat that, both blessing and curse). The toys change–Thomas the Tank Engine has been replaced by an inflatable kayak. Some years we paddle boat, others we maneuver a surrey-bike. Scheduling has gotten harder as kids get older, with more demands competing for their time. We have had to drive/fly the older two in late, allowing them to miss days without missing the whole experience (always a cost to us and to them, but the week is a priority and so we flex). Last year, surprisingly?, the boys could not only tolerate but enjoy a lecture on sea turtles by the American Cetacean Society, held at the Stanford Marine Research Center. How can we possibly have gotten here?

Rituals help us remember and reflect. Each year we remember years previous: the first trip when Teen and Nephew laughed “diapo” back and forth for the whole drive, their 2-year-old diaper “dirty joke”; the many times enthusiastic boys stripped naked and charged lapping waters before adults could grab suits and towels; the time boys slipped behind the bakery counter and helped themselves to cookies; the year boys felt sufficiently confident for Guy to take them kayaking.

Each year we reflect on who we have been, where we have been, how we have changed and where we are going. Kids have grown, demonstrating God-given gifts, strengths, aptitudes. So have adults. Several years Guy and I walked late at night, wondering if God would grant us only one child; other years we pondered job responsibilities and changes. During the years we’ve visited the Cation House, my dear dad and precious grandma have passed; siblings have married, cousins have been born; my family moved most of a long state away. Mom has cheered family in different directions while her big once-family-filled house has emptied, filled, emptied again.

Fifteen years ago, realizing my frazzled Mom needed a vacation, I queried: “Don’t you have a Time Share? Could we take the babies and go?” So we did, and It Was Good. We moved at kid-speed. We walked and played at beaches and play grounds. We prepared easy food. We relaxed and read and talked, good for our souls. We pondered, “Why don’t we do this again next year?”

Next Year became Every Year. What began as a vacation became a ritual. With The Kids we have created family memories, a place they can come back to year after year. These kids plan to come back, again and again, year after year, together and, eventually, with their own families. Undoubtedly, they will go to the same beaches, walk the same streets, take the same pictures, do the same things. Each year it will be the Same and Different. They will Remember and Reflect. They will spin on the circle of wave upon wave of the sea…and of family ritual.