German and Suzie’s daughters entertained and hosted us throughout the week in Xenacoj.

I sometimes wondered what they thought of the gringo families invading their house.  Did they like us?  Did they think we were weird?  Did they mind?

Their parents certainly set an unbelievable example of servant leadership. I will cherish this family forever.


No matter how hard I tried, I could never make a tortilla as nice as the women in Xenacoj.

These women are spending the decent part of their morning making tortillas for the feeding programs at the various schools in and around Xenacoj.  A couple of tortillas, a spoonful of beans, and a smile goes a long way for most of the children receiving these meals.  In fact, this will often be their biggest and best (and sometimes only) meal of the day.

What you do matters!

If you make tortillas, do it well – do it to the glory of God.  If you sweep trash, do it well – do it to the glory of God.  If you design buildings, do it well – do it to the glory of God.

Whatever you do, do it with excellence!


Each week on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question. The questions are designed to help us get to know each other here in The Stretched Community. I’ll provide my answer to the question here in the post, and then you can leave your response in the comments. While you’re in the comments section, see how others answered the ice breaker question.

(I’m always looking for Ice Breaker question ideas.  If you have an idea, send me an email at  If I use your question, I’ll give you credit and share your links.)

Question:  What is one of your favorite smart phone applications, tablet applications, or computer programs?

My Answer:  I use many different software packages for my phone, tablet, and laptop.  It’s hard to pick out a clear favorite.  One that I recently stumbled upon that I’m really liking is Periscope by Twitter.  Periscope is an application for your smart phone that lets you live-stream to other viewers.  It also lets you watch in on your friends when they live-stream.  I love the comments and likes that appear on the screen throughout the live clip.  Follow me at @jonstolpe.

Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment. I look forward to reading your response! (As always, feel free to share links.) And keep Stretching!


Gringos aren’t supposed to be all that great at making tortillas, but Hope Sgro proves this theory wrong. She makes tortillas nearly as well as the Guatemalan women. It doesn’t hurt that she lived here in Xenacoj for three years.

Gringo is the slang term used by Guatemalans to describe us – the white folk from elsewhere. Perhaps, it was meant to slam us, but it typically made us chuckle.



The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.

Oprah Winfrey


Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the release of my book, On Track: Life Lessons from the Track & Field.

I’ve learned a lot through the process of writing and self-publishing my first book.  The book hasn’t become a best seller yet, but it has brought me rich experiences.  This is a reason to celebrate.

When was the last time you stopped to celebrate?

In the pursuit of stretch, we sometimes forget to stop and celebrate the good things in our life.

In honor of this week’s milestone, I’d like to invite you to celebrate with me.  For the next week starting TODAY, I have reduced the price on the Kindle version of On Track: Life Lessons from the Track & Field to 99 cents.

Please pass the world along, so others can join in the celebration.

Click HERE to go to Amazon to get the eBook.

How would your world be different if you made the decision to celebrate more often?  How has celebration made a difference in your life?

The women of Guatemala are amazing.

They shape tortillas with their hands in a matter of seconds. Then they put them on the pan over the fire.  Who needs spatulas when you have hands?  They turn them by hand to make sure they cook through.  And they are ready to go.  This is a skill all the women and young ladies know in the village of Xenacoj.



“We’ve fallen into a trap of ever-widening orbits of contact, and there is a total disregard for the present moment.”

Jerry Seinfeld

Yesterday, I wrote about the discipline of showing up.  Now that you understand the importance of showing up, it’s time to make the most of your time here. The discipline of being present is crucial to your overall success in your life.

What does it mean to be present?

Being present means being in tune with what is going on around you. It means really listening to what others have to say. And it means contributing to the conversation.

Being present means engaging with others. It means actively participating in life. It means listening to the others and providing constructive feedback to help others grow. It also means listening to the feedback of others to help you grow.

When you show up, be on time. Introduce yourself to others. Talk to others.  Learn to put aside your other distractions and focus on those in front of you in the moment.

Being present will stretch you to become a better leader and a better human being.

How would your world be different if you made the decision to be present?  How has being present made a difference in your life?

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s never a wrong time (or a bad time) for a handmade tortilla.

These became a stable at almost all our meals while we were in Guatemala. I’ve tried to duplicate them at home, but I just can’t get them 100% right compared to those produced by the women in Guatemala.

Besides ice cream (of course), what is one food item you would eat for every meal?



Eighty percent of success is showing up.

Woody Allen

Have you ever signed up for something with initial excitement and enthusiasm?

Have you seen this excitement and enthusiasm wear off?

Do you sometimes feel like quitting or simply staying at home?

I don’t think you’re alone.

I have singed up for a hundred different activities, events, and commitments.  My initial excitement carries me for a while.  I want to see great things happen, but I get bored, frustrated, or tired.  The initial feelings of euphoria turn into dread as I fight the inner battle inside my head – should i stay at home or should I show up?

This is my story.

I signed up to help with youth group at our church after our youth pastor invited me to go on a missions trip to Guatemala with our church’s teenagers.  I remember the excitement as I attended my first few meetings after the trip.  It was fun to interact with the kids.  I was fueled by the momentum from our life changing trip together.  This feeling lasted for a little while but then it started to fade.  I was one of the older leaders at the weekly meetings.  I felt awkward at times in my interactions with the teenagers.  And there times when I would have preferred to be at home with my wife.

Generally, I kept going.  I decided to show up even when I didn’t feel like it.

Some nights were better than others.  There were many nights that turned into something very positive for me and hopefully for the teenagers I was hanging around each week.  This would not have happened if I decided not to show up.

I signed up for Toastmasters almost a year ago.  Again, I was initially excited about this opportunity, but this hasn’t always been the case as my time with the club has continued.  There our times when my mind is focused on things in my office, and I struggle to shift my brain into a Toastmasters mindset for our lunchtime meetings.

And yet, I have decided to show up.  This has led to many new friendships, tremendous personal growth, and improved self-confidence.  This week, I’ll be giving my tenth speech at our club’s bi-weekly meeting.  This means I will officially become a Competent Communicator – the first in a series of Toastmasters significant milestones.  This would not happen if I decided to stay across the street at my office.  I’m only three projects away from completing my Competent Leader, and this won’t happen if I don’t show up.

At home, there I are times when I come home exhausted after a hard day of work.  I want to be the best husband and father I can be.  I want to be intentional in my interactions with my wife and my kids.  This starts by simply showing up.

Showing up takes discipline.

Showing up will STRETCH you.

Showing up matters.

Showing up can change the world.

How would your world be different if you made the decision to simply show up?  How has showing up made a difference in your life?

Here is German and Suzie’s kitchen where we ate most of our meals this year during our trip to Xenacoj.  Most of our meals – even breakfast – included beans and handmade tortillas.

Today, our first morning of the trip, we also enjoyed cereal, Tampico (citrus punch), and apparently Pepsi.  The dining table in Suzie’s kitchen was long with two benches on either side.  Meal times provided an opportunity to sit with our team and to interact with German’s family.

Some day, German and Suzie hope to open up a restaurant just outside their kitchen where Suzie can feed villagers with her unbelievable cooking.  I look forward to seeing this dream become reality.