The Story behind the Book

A special memory from my family’s years in Guatemala is of Dad sitting at the dinner table and pulling bits of paper out of his shirt pocket. Those bits of paper held his notes about words or folk medicine practices he had learned from his patients that day. As he read his jottings to us, some made us curious and ask questions, some made us groan, and some made us laugh.

You see, while Guatemala’s national language is, of course, Spanish, twenty-some Mayan languages are still spoken there as well. During the nine years Dad spent in Guatemala, he served many patients who spoke Spanish as a second language and, thus, used some words differently or mixed with their Mayan tongue. Combine that fact with an average education level of second grade and you have a recipe for some pretty interesting health ideas! 

I personally found those mealtime conversations intriguing. After all, I was the girl who had considered becoming a brain surgeon and a writer. Dad’s stories from the clinic melded my interest in science and my love for words and people together.

Before we returned to the States, Dad compiled all of those slips of paper into a small glossary. A friend printed simple copies for him to share with healthcare workers or missionaries working with Guatemalans. 

In the following years, I decided not to pursue a medical career but continued to be a word person. One of my favorite classes in college was Spanish. Obviously, my Guatemala years gave me an advantage in that class, but I think another reason for me liking it was that talking actually equaled studying! 

After I graduated from college, one day I came across a copy of Dad’s glossary and cracked the cover. My editor brain kicked in. “Hey, Dad, there are some things that need to get fixed in here…” 

That’s how I found myself a job going over the details of that glossary like an art inspector trying to discern if a work is a master’s original. I jumped into it because I saw how useful the words on the pages could be. As I worked, I learned a lot about those words and what it takes to put a book together. One lesson was that authors definitely need editors. There are simply too many details that can slip past even a brilliant mind like my dad’s, especially when it’s read-through #20 and all the words blur together.

Dad and I spent hours collaborating. It actually took years of off-and-on work to bring the project near completion. A trip to Guatemala provided the perfect opportunity to have some Guatemalan friends (medical and otherwise) look over copies for us. The feedback we received gave me more editing to do.

When the time came to go to press, I wavered. What if no one wants it? Maybe it’s not good enough. What if I missed something important? 

Enter Mom. She basically said, “Kristen, this information could save someone’s life. Go for it!”

Yeah, it’s definitely cool to have a mom like her. 

So we pressed on. Finally, the happy day came when we could actually hold the pocket-sized books filled with 600+ Spanish-English definitions, not to mention the English-Spanish entries, in our hands. The picture of the Guatemalan girl and baby – drawn by my sister from a photo by my Dad – seemed perfect on the cover. It represented the people of Guatemala whom we wanted to help. 

An equally happy day came when the book went up on Amazon, and we started selling copies. The first letter I received from an organization praising the book was such an encouragement. Maybe Mom was right again!

Since then, little by little, orders have come in. It’s been exciting to see where the books go. Just the other day, we distributed 100 copies to an organization that will get them into the hands of those serving the Guatemalan people. That puts a smile on my face because that’s what this project was all about from the start: serving those who serve the Guatemalan people. My hope and prayer is that this book will also be a part of moments when not only people’s bodies are healed but also their souls are mended through the love of the Great Physician Jesus. 

That’s the story behind Understanding the Guatemalan Patient: A Glossary of Spanish Medical Terms and Folk Medicine. I would be the last person to ever say producing a book is easy, but I’m thankful I had the opportunity to be a part of it. 

Now I might even use that knowledge as a medical interpreter somday. Who knows? We’ll see what God has in store for this next chapter. I’ll keep you posted on at least some of the storyful moments. 

If you would like to learn more about Understanding the Guatemalan Patient, please visit or check it out on Amazon. 

The Unknown Author

While authors craft their stories, they spend a lot of time with those who populate the pages, and good authors put effort into creating “real” characters. In fact, authors may begin to feel that they know their characters as if they were real!

But authors construct much more than characters. They have to think about time and transitions, location and looks. Tiny details can affect the story in big ways. With that in mind, I wonder sometimes…what would happen if an author could enter the world of his story as if it were the real world?

Let’s imagine it like this. You are the author of a fantastic tale. Suddenly, you find yourself swept into it. The world of your imagination has become ice-cream-sundae real!

At long last, you can talk with your characters face to face. Of course, you relish meeting them and exploring the land in which they live. How could it be otherwise? Eventually, though, you begin to notice something funny. You know all about these people, but they seem to know nothing about you. That wouldn’t be surprising if you were just some random person, but your fingerprints are clearly all over this place. When you venture to ask one of your favorite characters – the gluten-free girl who runs the caramel apple shop in town and has that darling dog –  if she knows how she came to be, she raises an eyebrow and responds, “Oh, I’ve always been here!”

No you haven’t, you think to yourself. It took me a lot of work to get you here!

You think many versions of those thoughts over the next few days because everyone responds the same way in this world of your imagination. Even the man who captains boat cruises during the day and catches criminals by night!

The same thing happens when you mention the beautiful landscapes – like how the hills dip at just the right places and the trees grow thick amidst the rocky terrain. “Oh, yes, it’s stunning!” a woman responds. “Isn’t it amazing that the glaciers made it that way? And, of course, we thank the bears for planting the vegetation!”

Glaciers! Well, yes, they did carve the terrain that way, but I was the one who planned that all out! And the bears? Sure they help, but, uh, they didn’t decide to plant oak trees there in the first place. Those came before the berries, you know. Maybe my people aren’t as smart as I thought!

After a while, you can’t take it anymore. “It wasn’t the glaciers or the bears or the river ways or the eons that gave you this place, it was me!”

Instead of a glimmer of recognition in their eyes, you see only stares that speak, “That’s impossible.”


Ok, maybe that wasn’t the most fun version of jumping into your own book, but this idea has been tumbling around in my head. My question is: Are we – as characters in the story of life – ever like the characters in that imaginary story? Do we ever forget the One who is not only plotting each detail of our lives but is also the Master Artist behind the scenery that surrounds us – the sunrises, hills, trees, flowers, lakes, clouds, stars – and so much more?

Summer is a special time for enjoying this beauty and living new chapters of our adventures – at least in my book. As we wrap up this season and give it away to Autumn, I hope we take time to know and applaud our Author and Illustrator Jesus, “[f]or by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together,” (Colossians 1:16-17, ESV).

Trees and Lakes

Made New

Ever wonder where your favorite story was written? Tolkien used his stately desk, Laura Ingalls Wilder enjoyed her farmhouse nook and Robin Jones Gunn loves her Hawaiian nest. And me? Well, I wouldn’t claim to stand amongst writers like them, but I can still show you the corner of the world where I often pen letters, jot journal entries or scribble story plots.

First I have to share its story. A writing cabinet with three shelves, a cupboard, a mirror and a fold-down desk stood in my (living) Grandma’s childhood home and later served one of her sisters. It was well used and loved like many pieces that saw the Great Depression. This past fall, it was given to me. The glass door was long gone, but the mirror was still there. I especially loved the cubbies above the desk! After spending a few days hearing tales about the world this cabinet watched, I knew I wanted to do something special with it. However, before anything else, it needed some work.

My family pitched in to refresh this heirloom piece. Cleaning, shellacking, sanding, painting, repairing…It took a fair amount of TLC. Was all the work worth it? See for yourself!

Ready for a makeover

Ready for a makeover



A close-up of the cubbies

A close-up of the cubbies

Pretty darling, isn’t it? The brown paint represents the hard work of past generations who put down roots. The green represents growth and new life. I like to think this cabinet got a fresh start. In some ways, it’s like it’s a whole new creation.

It makes me think of what God does for His children. He makes us new. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV). It’s like He gets out His brushes, paints, sandpaper and cleaning cloths and gives a cobwebby, musty, chipped, scratched heart a makeover. Sure, there will still be some rough edges or the paint will need a touch up, but where it counts the Master Carpenter gives His workmanship a fresh start.

That’s a theme that rambles through my head when I come to my little writing desk.

“Finish, then, thy new creation;                                                                                                                                  Pure and spotless let us be.                                                                                                                                            Let us see thy great salvation                                                                                                                              Perfectly restored in thee;                                                                                                                                    Changed from glory into glory,                                                                                                                                      Till in heav’n we take our place,                                                                                                                                      Till we cast our crowns before thee,                                                                                                                         Lost in wonder, love and praise.”

~”Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” by Charles Welsey (Trinity Hymnal, #460)


My Grandma who went to heaven earlier this year told me that there was a cabinet nearly identical to this one in her childhood home as well. Her minister father kept his sermons organized on the shelves. You can imagine the “made new” cabinet is even dearer to me now.