Grass Valley + Guadalajara

This weekend Chutney, Toby and I went to Guadalajara to visit the AIMers there and to be with the Grass Valley group for their mission trip. It really was exactly what we needed. We got to work with kids there, do skits, sing and pray together, encourage each other with what God had done in our lives and with his word, have worship this morning sitting on rocks in someone's back yard, and so on. While I was trying to scheme a way to stay longer, my more responsible team mates urged me to return for class tomorrow.

I think one major thing that happened for me this weekend was restoring value to our work here. I was reminded after a long week that I'm useful right now, even when I'm not done with Spanish classes, even when I'm not totally "settled in." And the sacrifices I'm making by being away from people I love are meaningful and worthwhile.

It was amazing to see another part of the body here in Mexico, and I'm so grateful for their work. It was amazing as well to be appreciated for the work we're doing too.

This is a very rambly blog and I'm sorry for that. Just know that I had a wonderfully rejuvenating weekend and I love the church in Mexico and in California very, very much. And you know, everywhere else for that matter. :)


A little better all the time

Spanish has been going well these days.

Last night at small group I was even able to say a few things without making Sean translate for me. :)

What was even better, after group I had a really good conversation with one of the ladies, Sara. She had mentioned how she tries to reach out to her sister who's not a Christian, who's always having a hard time. Sara tries to help her and to talk about God but she never wants to hear. I was telling her just how when I feel really bad for someone like that I just have to remember how God saved me, and God saved all of these people (fill in the blank with a really, really long list) whom I love. I have to believe that God loves everyone even more than I do, and that helps me to trust him for the people I love most. Jesus is the only savior, and no matter how hard I try, my only job is to direct others to him. She went on to talk about how she prays every night for her sister and her daughter and told me more about their situations. It was SO good to be able to encourage someone like that.

I even had a dream with some Spanish last night. However, Diego reminded me that some people say when you dream in another language, that means you're fluent. Whoever says that is a liar. Haha.

Two more things:

I'm going to Guadalajara tomorrow! I'm praying that even if travelling doesn't go smoothly, it's at least not disastrous. I have to admit I'm slightly nervous. But I'm SO excited to see everyone there!

And I'm feeling a lot better these days too. I miss my mom a lot when I'm sick, but Jeni fills in nicely when I need American over-the-counters, and love. She's awesome.

And now I pack.


And I have paint in my fingernails

Some people are just naturally talented at certain things, such as music, painting, or poetry.

I, on the other hand, just act as though I had these talents, take up the challenge, and occasionally end up happy with the results. I have long sense forgone the internal battle of wanting to be "the best" at such things. That's just a silly robbery of joy. There are more important things to be concerned about, anyway.

We're painting our apartment, but not like most normal people. We painted a mural where either an entertainment center (or a shrine to Mary - we're not quite sure) is supposed to go. I just finished my part - the branches (purple) and leaves (turquoise) of the tree. The only time I used a brush was to stir the paint.

Tiffany and I still have no idea what we're doing in our room, but I'm sure we'll figure that out eventually.


This weekend was really relaxing and restful, which was just what I needed. However, if you're already praying for me, I've been experiencing a lot of pain concerning my digestive system. I think that's the nicest way I can put it. So yeah, it would be nice if that were over. :)


Why am I here?

Yesterday I woke up with a semi-panic attack. Not sure why, but two things were occuring - I instantly felt really stressed, and I couldn't breathe well. It was the feeling I get when something really bad is happening, but this was for no apparent reason. When I took my inhaler, I got "the shakes." But I got better pretty soon.

This morning, I didn't wake up panicked, but I did know why I felt stressed - our midterm was today. And on the way to school, I started to feel really bad about sins from my past. I think revisited guilt is my own special brand of culture-shock manifestation. 1 John is really helpful in those times because God is faithful to forgive us when we confess our sins.

So while I was trying to focus on my Bible, the guy sitting next to me was listening to Shania Twain's "I feel like a woman" on his iPod, really, really loudly.

Times like that make me stop and ask myself "Why am I here?" It's not pessimistic - it's my way of reminding myself, even when I feel like crap, what is my purpose? I look at the faces of the people around me, and I remember. I'm here to listen. And I'm here to be heard.

The Shania Twain was awful, but it ended up making me laugh. Sense of humor is so important. When we were walking from one bus to the next, I heard "Bittersweet Symphony," which was great not only because it replaced Shania, but also it reminded me of Kelli's 90s music night in Grass Valley, and of the glorious fact that I'm going to Guadalajara and seeing those people in just a week! I think that's just what I need.

The test went better than I thought it would. My brain went completely numb when I saw my oral test topic, and I felt like I did poorly, but I got a good grade. Go figure. The written part consisted of many vocabulary words I've never seen... but we'll see how that went next week.

Also, a couple of us talked to this lady on the bus. I've been wanting to talk to people in transit, but I'm always afraid that we won't understand each other. Now I know there's no reason to be afraid. So what if I mess up my Spanish? I mess up my English all the time! :)


Three things

So I'm really tired and need to be asleep, but I have three things to say:

1) I made the best sandwich I have ever eaten yesterday, with the cheapest vegetables I've ever bought. Tomato + avocado = love.

2) I really should have taken a shower today... but maybe I won't go back to sleep tomorrow morning.

3) Chutney, Toby and I finished our newsletter. Yay! If you're not on our mailing list and you would like to be, give me your email address and I can make that happen.

Love you everyone!


...por que?

I have a special Mexican story for you:

We have a friend named Ivana, a neighbor of Sean and Jeni's, fifteen years old. She's about to have a baby, and her baby shower was yesterday. All of us girls chipped in for a present (3 onesies and some diapers),but only Chutney and I planned to attend. It was supposed to begin at 4:00, so we went at 5:30, because nothing starts on time here. However, we were informed that the party had been postponed until 6:00, so we should come back "whenever we want." We returned at about 7:00. We ate some food with her aunt and grandma, met her brother's friends, and met people as they came. At about 8:20, we went upstairs to tell Ivana we needed to go. The baby shower still hadn't actually started, but we were both really tired and Chutney had a stomach-ache. But they wouldn't let us leave. "This is her baby shower, we haven't played games! You're going to go to sleep at 8:00??" haha. So we hung around until about 10:00 before insisting that we needed to go. We had fun, ate good food, and made a new friend. But the fact that it started 4 1/2 hours late really cracks me up. Yikes.

Again, can't wait until I can have an unbroken conversation. But I'm learning to be patient with myself. Hopefully we'll hang out with one of the girls in the youth group, Clara, this weekend. I'll invite our new friend Ave (short for a name I can't pronounce or spell). I like the fact that I'm actually making friends here. It's really hard, but it's making me feel more at home. I think something I didn't realize about the language barrier is that it prevents me from completely being myself. I'm looking forward to being able to joke, to explain myself, to ask deep questions, etc.etc.etc. But again, I just need patience. They're more patient with me than I am with myself.

In other news, two people got married this morning at church. Well, let me explain. In Mexico, if you don't have certain government papers, you can't get legally married. Because of that, and sometimes because people just don't want to divorce their previous spouse, there are many "married" couples that never were actually married. So we had a ceremony for two couples this morning. It was a beautiful service - I loved the fact that they literally tied a knot, and all the singles (first girls, then guys) played a sort of London Bridges game. There was a group from Kentucky visiting, and I'm pretty sure they thought I was Mexican. I take that as a compliment.

And finally, I cannot for the life of me figure out why Mexicans think it's ok to ask me why I don't have a boyfriend. Seriously, any time people find out I'm single they ask "Por que?" How do you answer that? Even the Mexican girls I worked with in Tulsa asked me that. Weird.

Ok, that's more than enough for now. First full week of 6-hour Spanish classes, coming up!



It's been awhile, a whole week. We finally got internet in our apartment yesterday, so that will help me update more often again.

The small group with the youth went well, but I wish I could get to know the youth better. I just have to be patient. The longer I'm here, the more I value meaningful communication. I know Spanish a bit, but I can't have a deep conversation, or really even a normal one. And there are periods that my brain goes completely numb to Spanish.

So! That means I'm really glad that Spanish classes started yesterday. Seriously, I am so very grateful to my supporters for giving me the opportunity to take these classes. They help a lot, I can already tell. And it's been cool to meet other people from the US as well as people from all over the world - Korea, Japan, Italy, Canada, Holland, Haiti, Russia...

And while I'm talking about being thankful, can I also take a moment to tell you how incredibly grateful I am to you guys who are praying for me? I don't know if you've ever experienced this (I sincerely hope that you have), but when I know that people are praying for me, I can feel it. If I start to despair about any given situation, that knowledge alone reminds me that God is with me and that I have a purpose. That's not to say that I feel happy all the time, but I definitely feel empowered and loved. And those two things can make all the difference.

Let me know how I can pray for you too, ok? God hears us - isn't that astounding?


I have a home!

So all the girls just slept in our apartment for the first time last night. :) It has 3 bedrooms (me and Tiffany share the master bedroom), 2 bathrooms, a nice kitchen, lots of living space, and a little backyard. When I first saw it I was amazed because it's better than the one we had in Lubbock, and I didn't expect that. It's definitely within our budget, and it will be perfect for having small groups or people stay with us or whatever. All of our furniture is pretty low to the ground, so it has almost an Asian feel. :) Instead of couches we're using these nice comfy (cheap) mats. I like it a lot. And we're planning on painting a mural in the living room, and maybe bits in other places too.

We still don't have our fridge delivered yet, so no food, and no laundry machine yet (laundromats here are all full service, so it's much more economical to buy a machine and do it yourself), but we have mattresses and we'll have bed frames soon too. We have a little pretty coffee table, and we're trying to decide what more furniture we should have. We're getting our dining room table from someone for really cheap, so that's a blessing.

I don't think any of us have ever had to start from scratch like this before, so it's been a stressful adventure. It feels gross to spend all this money on things I always take for granted, like brooms, trashcans, mattresses, etc etc etc. And when we all have to consider one anothers' preferences and our budget and so on, it's even more difficult. But it has been fun too - feels independent. And it was nice to finally unpack. :)

I'll also add that small groups have been really great too. Wednesday night we all shared some encouragement with one another. I read Colossians (of course haha) 1:3-6. We really felt like a family, and I think we learned from each other. Then last night we sang a lot. I was thinking a lot about 1 John 1:5-10, especially v. 9. Lately I've been discouraged about sins from the past, and so this verse reminds me that God is faithful even when I haven't been. When we walk in the light, Jesus' blood cleanses us. That's wonderful news.


Expecting the unexpected

Going to Sunday morning, feeling like you know less Spanish than you did the last time you were in Mexico.

Being the only AIMer back at the house, sitting in a room full of people you don't really understand...

Lo and behold, a mariachi band enters...

And once the rest of your team and basically the rest of the congregation come, you are dragged onto an impromtu dance floor with someone who was 5 seconds previous, a stranger.

After some fun at the park, you meet some ADD teenagers who feed you chips that taste a bit like vomit and show you a video on youtube that makes you want to vomit...

All while being extremely brain-dead and tired...

And yet when you try to go to sleep, crying in your pillow for an hour instead, about things that had absolutely no relevance to the day.

Wake up the next morning, realizing that instead of leaving at 7:30 we're now leaving at 6:10 and you now have 30 minutes to get ready with three other girls and one bathroom.

Going to a preschool before your adventure at the high school, where all the kids run away from you...

and there's no toilet paper in the tiny bathrooms.

Going back to the high school to find something completely different than you had envisioned for their English day, not being able to hear everyone...

Where kids are acting out smoking joints for a skit about hippie culture...

And your teammate kicks a guy for getting too fresh. (haha)

And again, no toilet paper.

Go to a house, where there is toilet paper, but no flush.

Stab a mango with a spear and get yummy mess all over yourself.

Fall asleep on the long ride home and suddenly jolt awake to find a stranger next to you, to whom you decide to offer gum.


If you're feeling sorry for me, you got a very wrong message from all of this. Mostly these things made me laugh. (That mariachi band was priceless!) Mexico has been exhausting these past couple of days, but I'm growing to appreciate it even more than before.

I'm just very excited for our Spanish classes, haha.


A mystery

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. [...] that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. [...] At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison[...]
—Col 1:24-26, 2:2-3, 4:3

Our job as Christians, and even more so as "missionaries," is to proclaim this mystery - that Christ is in us, and this mystery is for everyone who responds to the gospel, God's word.

So for right now, most of us have very little knowledge of Spanish. And many people we talk to have very little knowledge of English. But even now, even before we take our Spanish classes, we can proclaim this mystery by being something different than the spring-breakers that stereotype Americans, by just being here and showing them that yes, even people from far away love you, our brothers and sisters.

Sometimes, in contrast to a relativistic world, I forget just how powerful encouragement really is. In Colossians 4:8, Paul sends Tychicus to Colosse "for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts." For right now, that's what we're doing in Mexico. And for right now, that's enough.