Family time, snow, and Mexico

Thanksgiving is coming up, and although I'm going home in just a couple of weeks for Christmas and although I have great friends to spend the holiday with and although this isn't the first Thanksgiving I've spent away, it still is a bit sad to miss out on family time this week.

However, my brother Joseph had a conference to go to in Santa Clara, just 3 hours south of me, so for my day off I got to drive down and see him. It was a lot of fun - eating delicious Indian food, eating icecream with one of my old classmates from GFA and her two adorable kids, going shopping, playing at Dave and Buster's, and calling our grandpa the next day to sing happy birthday. I'm so thankful for the chance to hang out.

The past few days have been really snowy. My car got stuck at Tyler's, so we've been hanging out at Tara and Billi's since he came and rescued us. I know, I live in California, but I am in the mountains, just like I was in Mexico, haha, so no eternal spring for me ever. :)

Speaking of Mexico, tomorrow is my year marker since I've lived there. It's a bittersweet memory. I wrote this when I came back, and even though most of you won't understand because it's in Spanish, I'll leave you with it anyway.

es que
tengo una rara forma de
nostalgia, absurda, ya se
es tanto por las coasas que han pasado
como por las cosas que hubieran pasado
asi que
extrano a lo intocable
extrano a lo inolvidable.

te extrano, mi vida,


brownbag 11/17/10

The latest letter I wrote to the AIMers and AIM staff in Lubbock right now:

Hey everyone, it's been a little while since I've written, but I certainly haven't forgotten you guys. I've been thinking of you even more these past few weeks of team formations - I remember how antsy I felt during that time, and I don't miss it, haha. But I'm praying not only that God puts you "where you're supposed to be" but that you can have peace in this moment, and in future moments, concerning where you're at. I'm so excited to hear who's going where, but I guess I'll just have to wait too. ;)

I have two quick stories to share. Recently I went on a retreat with the youth group here in Grass Valley, and it was really good for me to establish relationships, reconnect with Steve and Jewel, and spend some good time with Jesus by reading the Gospel of John. But one of the most memorable things for me was singing with them Saturday night. I started to feel really emotional, and realized that since I came back from Mexico, I had only sung devo songs with a group of people maybe a handful of times, tops. I know as an AIMer it can get old to sing all the time, and you don't always feel like it, but it really is a blessing to praise God intimately with a group like that. I meditated on how God is omnipresent - in Lubbock, in Tulsa, in Mexico, in California, all at once, even though I can't be. It's a comforting thought.

Which sort of brings me to my next story - in just under a week, I will be commemorating my one-year-since-I-left-the-field day. I don't really want to say "celebrating," because it was kind of a terrible day, but I don't want to say "mourning," because it was kind of a good day at the same time. It was so hard to leave some of my best friends behind (like you, Angel) and I cried a lot. But before that, we had a party with the church. It was the beginning of what has now become a weekly event for me - singing karaoke. haha! The church hired a karaoke man and we sang all kinds of songs that day. And do any of you know about the Mexican tradition called "la mordida"? Well, it's pretty special - it means that when there's a cake for you, they all yell "bite!" until you bend down to take a bite, and inevitably someone will shove your face in it. Wendy pushed my head so hard that my glasses got stuck in the cake. And then guess what? We ate it anyway. hahaha

Anyway, I just wanted to mention that this past year since leaving Mexico has undoubtedly been the hardest year of my life, and I'm not just referring to reverse culture-shock, though I'm sure that had something to do with it. But now that I've been healing from my own mistakes and hurts from others, I can honestly say that God is faithful, and I trust him now more than I ever have before. I pray to God that you all will say the same years down the line.

I'm sorry guys, I'm feeling too overwhelmed to write shout outs, there's too many of you. I just want to say to everyone, staff and students alike, I love you, I miss you, I'm praying for you, and I hope you all have a super happy Thanksgiving wherever you may be.


delicious irony

So, without delving into details, I'll just say there's been something heavy on my mind and heart for the past few months. I wish I could explain more, but I really shouldn't. However, I did want to share something incredible: this past week was the first time I really let myself be completely happy in spite of this situation that caused me so much emotional turmoil. Even though the circumstances hadn't gotten any better (it actually seemed that they had gotten worse), I realized that I had still gotten better. I've been healing a lot, thanks to God, from my past mistakes and hurts from others, without even taking the time to honestly acknowledge it. So, this past week I did acknowledge it. I started telling people I was really happy. I started thinking more intentionally of the things I'm thankful for. I even wrote a poem about it just two days ago.

And you know what happened?

Today, the situation got better. Very suddenly and very obviously.

I got the feeling of when you hastily take a huge gulp of something way to hot, except instead of in my throat, in my soul. And I cried, a lot. I didn't even really know why I was crying so much until I remembered that it was when I had finally, finally let go of my problem that it finally, finally, completely out of my control, took a bold baby step towards better. And all I could do was pray, thank you.

I still don't really know where to go from here, but yet again, in case there was ever any doubt, God has proven himself faithful to me. And I had to share it with you. Love you guys.


A lovely weekend

When I went to church today, I had no idea what I would be doing afterward, and as I chatted with various friends quickly everyone began to disappear, and I realized I might end up at home alone. But then I started talking with my friend Stephanie, and we ended up going to eat in Nevada City and walking around downtown. It's always so refreshing to talk with her. On the one hand, she's about my mom's age, and I have so much I can learn from her life experience. But on the other hand, she's a brand new Christian, and so I feel like I have a lot of knowledge and experience from my life in the church that I can reciprocate. I know that there's always this potential give-and-take of knowledge and experience with any relationship, but it's nice when it's so obvious and readily available. She's so open and sincere, and I love all of our conversations, even when we disagree sometimes. What a great friend. We've been trying to get together like that for a long time, so it's funny that it finally happened kind of on accident.

Yesterday was nice too. I went to lift weights with Tara, Leland and Jeffrey at Jeffrey's house, haha, something very different for me but surprisingly fun. After work, we hung out at Tara's and watched Toy Story 3. :)

I'm excited to say Friday night at the Bistro went wonderfully! As the first set, Jeffrey, Leland, and I did a sort of reading panel where we took turns sharing 3 things we had written. I was honored to participate, and by the time I was sitting up there, I didn't even feel nervous anymore. I hope that this can be just the start of more times of sharing. Tara and I are thinking of starting a monthly time even just amongst us friends to play music together and/or create art or whatever comes up. This is such a great community of talented friends, and I'm so glad to be a part. In case you're interested, here are the three poems I chose to read:

Voice cracks, control lapse,
breach in the dam behind brown eyes.
No flood, no stream, just a swell and a gleam of
shining tears that so cautiously create
trembling pools, the meniscus in the
graduated cylinder from high school chemistry.

Everything is different and
nothing has changed.

Homesick much? Maybe so, but
this list that's ever lengthening
is difficult to name.
So many spaces, places, faces,
phases, gazes upon an album full
or seven or twenty-two...
all organized and boxed and shelved and away
but swirling and boiling and fermenting and here to stay,
heavy here in these hands, this head, this heart.
I'm homesick, maybe, mostly for you.

You were my home, and away I moved,
sitting here weeping and homesick for you.


"Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands[...]" - Isaiah 49:15-16

Loving you
has left its mark on
me, your face on
my heart, deep.

Loving me
has left its mark on
him, my name on
his palm, permanently.

Loving you
changes me
changes you
loving me
making marks on
our identity
loving, deep
marking, permanently.

My deep, a drop
in his eternity –
individually, collectively on
his palm, permanently.


It's raining,

And while it's not your fault,
you're still the reason I
inhale and
take in and
And while I'll never blame you for
everything we do,
it couldn't be we
if it weren't for you.

My empathy exhausts itself
with you.
I'm the sponge that soaks the stuff you spill.
And it's not your fault,
but you're still the reason.
And while I'll never blame you for
everything we feel,
if it weren't for you,
it could never be we.

It's raining,

And these complications cause conflict
in my consistency, confidence, concept
of who I am.
(it's more than I generally like to let on,
the influence we've had on each other.)
And I'll never blame you because:
the rain makes others hide,
but it makes me glow inside.
(how could I make you apologize when
the rain makes me alive?)

It's never your fault
but you're always the reason
because without the you
I wouldn't, I couldn't
be me.


Demon Days

Some people don't feel the same way I do, but I just love it when I find bits of truth to connect with through whatever means of media I may encounter. I've listened to this particular song a million times, but I especially liked it again today. Gorillaz are a totally rad hip-hop group, been around since at least I was a freshman in high school. They're more true to the roots of hip-hop I think in the sense that they aren't all about the glamor and decadence and hate that usually saturates this particular genre these days, and how appropriate: this is from their 2006 album, Demon Days, the title song. What a great picture of repentance and hope. Love it.

In these demon days
It's so cold inside
So hard for a good soul to survive
You can't even trust the air you breathe
Because mother earth wants us all to leave
When lies become reality
You numb yourself with drugs and T.V.
So pick yourself up, it's a brand new day
So turn yourself round
Don't burn yourself, turn yourself
Turn yourself around
To the sun!

To the sun, to the sun...
To the sun, to the sun...


Today's prayer

I had to get a ride to work from Tyler this morning, so I was two hours early. It was really nice to have so much time to read the Bible - Hebrews is one of those favorites that I forget about too often. After reading, I felt really moved to write down a prayer. So, I decided to share it:

God, it's been too long, again. Your word cuts deep even as it brings hope and joy. I know it's real and I love it and I love you, but I'm lazy, distracted, confused, and I feel alone sometimes. Help me to "spur others on to love and good deeds." Help me to "watch my tongue!" Give me eternal perspective. Help me to pray and remember those who are suffering. Help me to believe and to obey and to love, truly, whatever anyone else does. Most of all, let me live moment by moment, not for pleasure, but by faith in You, the one true, living God. Thank you for salvation, for Christ's sacrifice, for conquering death and giving value to our sufferings and giving us something to look forward to. Help me to share this with others even as you help me to share my belongings and time and resources with others. Let me be patient and wait on you and spend time with you even before I dive in and "do" too much. But God, answer soon so I can know what to do instead [of other meaningless things]. Thank you for hearing me. Speak to me, speak through me, give me peace and make me a peacemaker. I love you I love you I love you - take away my other, contrary affections. Be with me. Please. <3



I'm so excited!

I just bought my plane ticket home, December 12-27. I can't wait to see you then, Tulsa! And I think my whole family is coming too. I'm almost bouncing off of the walls just thinking about it!

My friend Miguel is planning to spend Christmas in San Francisco, so I'll go meet him there when I get back and bring him to Grass Valley to hang out for awhile, including for New Year's, and I'm already getting excited because I think there's going to be a party in Tahoe, so even though it's going to be cold, it will be beautiful! (longest sentence ever, sorry!)

I already mentioned this, but I'm reading poems for an event one week from today, hooray!

I'm learning guitar and about to start teaching Spanish to my friend Jeffrey tomorrow in exchange.

I just saved $50 from tips without even really trying, so that makes me think if I really do try harder, maybe I really can save enough to go to Mexico City this summer...

The leaves are changing on the trees, Karaoke Night is tonight, Documentary night with the Comptons is tomorrow, Thanksgiving is coming and I already have 3 different invitations to celebrate, I mean, I could just go on and on.

God is good, all the time, but it's really nice to believe it in the good times too. :)


El Día de los Muertos

Today was a beautiful day. First of all, I slept in a lot, which was nice. I didn't have to work, also very nice. I had my second guitar lesson, and it went really well especially considering that I hadn't practiced so much because my fingertips still can't handle the pain for too long, haha. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. I ate lunch with friends, walked to the post office, called my sister Lindsay to say happy birthday, and spent some time praying in the car. It was one of those days when you're just so grateful to be alive, really.

Then it stuck me that today was el Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, and that there was an event at the fairgrounds. I was hoping it would be an opportunity to get in touch with the hispanic community here, but it was mostly just a bunch of gringos' art, haha. It wasn't exactly what I expected, but it was really cool anyway. They had about 60 altars set up in this expo building, most of them remembering loved ones who have passed on, some commemorating famous people or making statements for peace in places like Israel. A few weren't even really about death at all, oddly. I really enjoyed soaking up the creativity exhibited and the stories people had to share. As I was leaving they invited me to be on the mailing list so that maybe next year I can make an altar too. Pretty sweet.

I was thinking about heading to SanFran today or tomorrow, but decided against it for several reasons, but soon I want to visit. Instead, Tyler and I went to Auburn for a couple of hours to go to Target and In n Out. The trip was a success. :)

Until next time!



I just got back from the youth retreat, and I'm really glad I went. It was fun to get to know the youth group, most of whom I didn't even know their names prior to the trip. I enjoyed the chance to hang out with not only the Hoopers but also the Meltons - Steve and Jewel just moved here after being in Lubbock for several years of assisting with AIM. They're going to head up West Coast Missions here in the near future. It was great to reconnect with them. Over the last few years I feel like I've totally completed my transition from "youth" to "adult," which is still interesting for me to recognize in myself. I want to still connect with middle- and high schoolers even though I am pretty far removed from that stage of life by now. And the nice thing is, seems like they want to be my friends still too. :)

Honestly though, the best part for me was our time we spent in the Word. We read the whole Gospel of John in pairs together, out in the woods (it got really cold!). Reading the whole thing in context was so powerful for me; I feel closer to Jesus now, like we caught up after being apart for awhile. The thing that hit me the most was how incredibly honest Jesus always was to everyone. I've been praised for my honesty, and I do think that I'm a pretty honest person, but I was so challenged by his blunt truth and love in every situation that I feel like... well, I have an eternity to go before I could begin to call myself Christ-like even in that one aspect.

Singing was also really good. I've only sang devotional songs like that a handful of times since being in Mexico, and it really made me miss my teammates, my coordinators, and my Mexican church family. But the cool part was that I was really aware of the open communication that happens in worship between us and God and was reminded of his omnipresence. Sometimes all I feel like I have to offer God is a "Please, help." And it's nice to know that he hears and responds.

I got really sad on my way home because Daniel is gone now. I'm excited for his new phase of life, but I'm going to miss him a LOT. Not that missing people is new for me, but I do get really tired of it sometimes...

I work tomorrow, then Tuesday and Wednesday I'm off. Besides errands I need to run, I'm planning on spending some good alone time. For now, I'm here with Felicia, and her friendship is wonderful. Tonight I'm hoping to celebrate Halloween with some friends - we'll see if anything happens.

Until next time!



Reasons why I'm excited about life right now:

-I had my first guitar lesson today with my friend Jeffrey, and next week I'll start giving him Spanish lessons in return. He's a great teacher, hopefully I can be too.
-Leland is coming home tonight!
-I'm going to read a couple of poems for an event at the bistro on the evening of November 12th, which just happens to be my half birthday. :)
-We got the heat turned on at our house.
-I'm going on the youth retreat this weekend, looking forward to getting to know them better, hanging out with the Hoopers, and brainstorming for ministry ideas.
-I've had a great time hanging out with Daniel Lee, even though I'm NOT excited for him to go back to Tulsa, I'm excited to hang out for these last few moments, this time around.
-Halloween is coming...
-...as is el Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and I'm hoping to meet some people and get invovled in the Hispanic community here.

And so on and so forth. God is good! Love you guys!

To Suffer With

I'm the new editor of the AIM Alumni Blog, www.aimalumniassociation.blogspot.com, and so I decided to share the article I wrote for this week:

One of the things I learned while I was on the field is how to suffer.

I know, I know, that’s so dramatic. But it’s true. There are so many different kinds of trials that it’s hard to talk about them in generalities, so right now I’m going to focus on compassion, otherwise known as suffering with others.

When I was in Mexico, I learned something about three different friends in the youth group there: one who was 15 and pregnant, one struggling with homosexual feelings, and one who was abusing drugs. I was totally overwhelmed by each of these situations, knowing full well that I had never dealt with any of those specific things, and I had no idea how to help. These were obviously not the only overwhelming or painful situations I encountered in my ministry, but these were the ones that hurt me most. I remember one night in particular, going into the bathroom in our apartment and just sobbing as silently as I could. I didn’t even know what to pray to God, much less what to say to them. I felt helpless as a missionary, and even more importantly, as a friend.

But the story isn't over. A favorite verse of mine is Psalm 56:8 – “Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll – are they not in your record?” I love the thought that God knows our every tear. One of the shortest verses in the Bible, “Jesus wept,” demonstrates one of Jesus’ defining attributes: his compassion on humanity, manifested by his coming to our world and suffering with us to show us that he cares and to save us from the worst of fates. Paul says to the Colossians that he rejoices in his sufferings for them, that he is “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, the church”.

These words convince me that there is something inherently and yet intangibly valuable in our sufferings here on earth. I wish I could calculate it right away, but I guess that’s where trust comes in; it’s not an exact equation. In these situations with my friends that I described, I cried for them and let my tears be a prayer for healing and redemption. My suffering isn’t like Jesus’ in the sense that his washed away our sins, but my suffering can, like Paul’s, make a difference in my own soul as well as others, by the grace of God. Sometimes there are happy endings, and other times we just have to wait and watch, remembering that God really does care. I’ll end with this poem I wrote after that night of crying in the bathroom:








save them

in a cup, just

like you promised.

If you can walk on water,

you can build my tears into

something beautiful. I trust

you, more than ever tonight.

This pain must be used for

something valuable,

healing, like yours.



One day at a time

So, not much has changed over the past few weeks. In fact, I'm even sick again, except this time with bronchitis. Yuck.

Until Sunday, I was working a whole lot as usual and on top of that spending as much time as possible with my friends, two of whom are only hear temporarily, which always motivates me to sacrifice as much time as possible. We've had a lot of fun, singing, dancing, watching movies, late-night conversations, and so on. I realized I was off of work from Sunday through Tuesday, three days in a row, and decided even though it would be cool to take a trip somewhere, I should do a personal retreat to finally get back on track - reading, writing, praying, sleeping, things like that.

Sunday was wonderful. I've loved hearing what Eli has to say these days about helping others. The hymns we sang were particularly touching to me as well, especially "What a friend we have in Jesus." After church, Tyler and I joined the Hughes family over at the Sikorski's for lunch. We had a delicious meal thanks to Pam and great conversation. We also had some exquisite coffee. :) They were all really curious about Tyler's and my AIM experiences, so we got to share some too. It was rainy out, which always makes me nostalgic, but it was a good nostalgia, something to be shared and celebrated with good friends. I really felt like I was at home with family that day.

Then I started to feel sick. I had many aspirations for these couple of days, but mostly all I could do was sleep. I think I'm being really slow in learning this, but my being sick this time may have drilled it in for good - I need to take things a day at a time, and I must slow down. There are certain things I should cut out entirely, but mostly I just need balance. I can't spend every waking moment with friends, but I can do fun things and even connect deeply with people once in awhile. I'm not going to read the whole Bible in a day, but I want to take time to read a little. It's a lot easier to wash dishes when there aren't already a hundred dirty ones overflowing the sink. I just need to take it easy and be content to live life fully in every moment, whether I'm out or in, alone or surrounded by a crowd, doing chores or hanging out, eating a cookie or exercising, and so on.

Tyler was kind to take my shift today so I could have one more day to try to get well. I'm still coughing a lot, which isn't so compatible with a food job, but since I'm feeling well, hopefully with some medicine I can make it by tomorrow.

So, here's to balance. Mmhmm.


Extremely imperfect

So the reason I think I haven't written lately is that I've been pretty down on myself these days. I've felt uninspired to write anything. It kind of seems like a lot of people around me have been down on themselves too, so maybe it's contagious or something. I don't know. I just know that it's been a bit harder than usual to live with myself lately. Sometimes I start feeling like I'm the very same person making the very same mistakes as I was, well, really since forever. It can be hard to see growth or progress or anything encouraging about myself sometimes. My friend Leland is good for that though - he occasionally asks people, what's one characteristic about yourself that you like? Just so we're not always so negative. (Maybe it's because he's not around right now that it's been harder, hadn't thought of that.)

I also sometimes can second-guess things or doubt things or wish things were different or think of what ifs, but I know that none of that is healthy for me. I have a million things to be grateful for, so I need to learn to stop spending so much time on the relatively very few things that are wrong. My friend Sarah posted this passage on her facebook this morning and it really encouraged me:

"Not that I have already obtained all of this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14

Also, my sister Lindsay has recently been coming out of a hard time and said one thing that helped her immensely was just taking care of herself - sleeping enough, taking vitamins, things like that. I started exercising which is good, but I'm definitely lacking sleep and not really eating well. On top of that, I had a sinus infection last week. So that's one thing I could do better is just get some rest and take care of my body.

Anyway, thanks for reading and for those of you who are praying for me. I know I'll have more to write soon - I just need to get out of this funk first. Love you everyone!


Recent happenings

I've been working a lot lately and just generally busy with people, and I had this vague feeling of having nothing much to share. Then last night I realized how wrong that was because a lot has happened over the last week-and-a-half.

Like I said, I've been working a lot lately. It's been cool getting to know my coworkers and even some regulars already. Everyone's really nice and patient as I learn my way around. It's been great to have so many hours already too - thank you God. :) I love the free healthy food and free yummy chais too. I feel a little silly, but I pray a lot about my job, that I will be a good worker, that I won't be too tired if I've been up late the night before, that I'll be a good friend to people. I don't think I ever thought to pray about working at Panera, but after being in AIM and praying about my work then every day, it kind of just carried over. It even made sense maybe to pray for my job teaching preschool or my job translating in a hospital, but I'm learning that yeah, it really makes sense even to pray for a job at a café. I mean really, why not? :)

Last week (September 15th) was Mexican independence. I really missed Mexico a lot leading up to it and remembering the great times on past Quinces in Mexico City, so it would've been easy for it to be a sad day for me. But Eli and Kelcey were really nice to open up their home to me and some of our friends to celebrate together. With a lot of help from everyone, I made tinga de pollo, my favorite Mexican meal. We listened to some of my Mexican music and even had the chance to talk to Jeni, an AIMer from the church here in Grass Valley who is currently in Leon, Mexico. I wore my special apron that Sara from Mexico City made each of us AIM girls to wear on that day to work - I got some funny looks, but I think mostly because red, white, and green also happens to make people think of Christmas. :) That night I watched a live stream from downtown Mexico City for the huge celebration. It was so beautiful! I felt so proud of Mexico and very hopeful for them to overcome all of the hard times they're in right now. After that, Tara invited me over to have a michelada and hang out. I really saw how much everyone here cares about me and wants to share the things that are important to me. I feel very loved.

Friday was Leland's benefit dinner for his upcoming trip to Iraq with the Christian Peacemaker Team. We had pumpkin curry (soooo good!!) and listened to some good music, stories, and poetry by Leland and other friends of his. I'm excited for when we get to come together again and hear all about what he saw and did there. He'll be there for two weeks, but gone for a month altogether because he's spending time with his family in Houston first. Tyler is getting back from his trip home tomorrow, and Jo is leaving for two months in just a couple of weeks. Lots of people traveling these days, and I miss them when they're gone!

I guess that's more than enough for now. I'll try not to wait so long for next time and build up too many things to say all at once, haha.


Ladies Retreat

This weekend was the ladies retreat for the women of the church. I'm terrible with numbers so I can't really tell you how many were there, maybe 40? Maybe less.... However many there were, I definitely had ample opportunity to meet people and make new friends. I met Katie - she and her husband lead a worship service at the nursing home here. I met Laura - she reminds me a lot of my mentor from Gospel for Asia, Debi, though I can't pinpoint why. I met Kathy - we got to discuss the public school system among other things. I also got to know some ladies I already knew even better, most especially Erin and Stephanie - I had the chance to hear their life stories, of how they came to the church.

As for details of the trip, we drove about an hour north to Truckee and stayed in two separate cabins on the mountain. I'm used to youth retreats where the food is kind of junky most of the time, but these ladies made great salads, quiche, chicken and rice, I mean, it was wonderful. :) Friday night we sang and listened to Laura talk about the importance of real friendship with one another. Saturday we had two classes in the morning, one with a different Kathy about meditating on God's word instead of negative things, and the other with Alice Ruth about living a servant lifestyle. We had a lot of free time, so I went with a group to downtown Truckee to look at the quirky little shops. Some of them went out to eat, but us cheap girls cooked spaghetti at the house. We had a lot more singing and chatting until bedtime. This morning we had a service with Kelcey about Hebrews 12:1-3, took communion, sang, and prayed. Then it was time to pack and clean and go home!

I wish it could've lasted longer, honestly, but I know I have plenty of time to get to know the women here. I need to seek to spend good time with the friends I have already, and also with the women I have yet to get to know and learn from.

The main thing God spoke to me during this time was to really spend my time loving him with my thoughts. I've been dwelling too much on things that have hurt me in the recent past, and I need to choose every day to forgive others, accept God's grace on myself, and love him and praise him instead of worrying or moping. Jesus did say, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted," but I think I've been focused on the first half and not letting myself receive his comfort. I've been scared to let go of my pain because in an odd way it makes me who I am. But now I really want to define myself with good things, godly things, instead.

This is totally cheesy, I'm warning you, but I also wanted to add that I was listening to Beyoncé's "Smash Into You," one of my favorite songs of hers, and suddenly had the thought of singing it to God instead of whoever else. It was really powerful for me to be reminded that my longing for love can be fulfilled in God, truly. Here's some lyrics: "I'm soaked in your love, and love is right in my path, in my grasp, and me and you belong. I wanna run, smash into you." (It's better when she's singing it, I promise. haha)

Thanks for reading, really. I love you guys.


Good news!

I have a job! Hooray! Let me tell you the story:

When I first got here, Eli told me that he was certain that I could get a job at Safeway, a grocery store, as a deli clerk. My friends Felicia and Jonathan both work there, so it sounded great to me, especially since I wouldn't even really have to look for a job. So I applied just a few days after I arrived here and was really confident that I would hear back any day now.

Three weeks later...

I still hadn't heard back. Jonathan, Felicia, and Eli had all told me that Safeway people had my application and would call me really soon, but it hadn't happened still. However, over the previous couple of weeks, I heard a few stories about Safeway that weren't so appealing: they don't let people request off for holidays, they've been cutting hours but demanding the same amount of work, and they have ridiculous policies on how to handle people not completing all of their tasks. These are the woes of working for a major corporation, I hear. Plus, the deli has a negative atmosphere, and a couple of people recently quit just after a day of working.

Needless to say, I wasn't so excited to work there anymore. But as I was applying to more and more places and sending out more and more resumes, nothing else was coming up. I started to wonder if Safeway ever got around to calling me, would it be stupid to say no? Should I just be content with whatever I can get? I was praying about it, but still wasn't sure.

Yesterday morning I got a call. It went a little something like this:

"Yeah, hello, who is this?"
"This is ___ from Safeway!" [very upbeat and encouraging voice]
"Oh, hi!"
"Well, I've got your application in front of me, I was seeing if we could set up an interview. Are you still interested in the position?"
"Oh, yeah, definitely. I've just been waiting to hear back from a couple of places, but I would love to have an interview with you guys."
[Safeway lady has a complete change of tone; no more enthusiasm for me. In fact, she sounds really put off.]
"Oh, well, I don't really want to do an interview and wait around, so why don't you just figure things out, and I'll call some other people, and if there's still a position and you're still interested, we'll talk later."
"...ok. That sounds good. Thanks for calling."

I was like, um, excuse me for mentioning that I have in fact been looking for a job other places too, but I was still interested! I thought, well, maybe this is God's answer and I shouldn't work there. But I couldn't help feeling a little worried that I'd blown my chance with the only employer that had actually expressed interest in me so far.

However, my good friend Tara has worked at a café for years now and had told me the night before that they may be hiring soon, so maybe I could swing by just to meet Theresa, the manager. She still wasn't expecting them to hire for another 2-3 weeks, but at least I could put myself at the top of the list.

So that's what I did that afternoon. I met Theresa, but then she started asking me just a few questions about my experience and availability. She also asked me if I was okay with having to clean. I talked about my experience at Panera, said I was extremely flexible since I'm still not a student and don't have another job, and of course, I've cleaned a lot of places before, no problem. Then she started explaining how things run there, and I'm thinking, do I already have this job? She said she would look at a couple more applications and get back to me soon after she and Tara talk it over. Feeling pretty confident, I went back to the dining room and sat with Tyler for literally 5 minutes when Tara came up to me and said, "Hey, you're hired, yay! Let's come look at the schedule."

I was so excited! What started off as a lame day ended up with me having the best job I could imagine myself having right now - at a café where I can meet a lot of people (coworkers and regulars), with a positive environment and already lots of friends (Jo and Tyler also work there), where I can have really good, healthy food and coffee drinks for free, and where the schedule is so flexible they say they can only remember a couple of times when they couldn't give someone their request off.

I started today. Training was a little bit overwhelming since I'm being trained to do everything - drinks, food, register, etc. - but everyone is so patient and kind that it's not so intimidating, especially since Tara herself was training me. I'll probably still need to get another job soon, hopefully something like Spanish tutoring or maybe baby-sitting, but for now, this is perfect. Thank you for praying for me, and thank you God for providing in unexpected ways. :)


"O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds Thy hands hath made..."

I just wanted to tell you a little bit about how much I've been getting to enjoy nature these past few weeks.

First of all, the sky here is such an incredibly deep blue, and I've never lived in a place where I could see so, so many stars every night. Every single time I walk outside I have to look up, and half of the time I have to say, "Wow!"

Then there are the parks - Leland, Tyler, and I went to play disc golf (I played horribly but it was still fun!) in a park totally filled with towering trees. I shared a sub with Leland in a little park by the miner museum. And a couple of days ago Tyler and I walked around Pioneer Park and sat by the creek to read.

Finally, I've really loved every opportunity to spend in these amazingly clear waters. I like going to the lake in Oklahoma, but I never knew a lake could be so beautiful! And the river almost seems magical with the glittering gold dust and the rippling sun on the surface and all the huge white rocks to climb down or sit on. I don't feel gross at all getting out - it's like taking a cold bath, so refreshing.

Honestly, I can see why so many religions worship nature or have sacred trees or consult the stars - there really is something holy about what God has created, and yet it's because his presence is there, pieces of his identity can be seen there. So here's a hymn we sang at church the other night that illustrates these things to me:

O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

When through the woods and forest glades I wander;
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze;

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin;

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee,
How great thou art, how great Thou art!


Service projects and Mexican parties

The past couple of days have been really good for me. Since I have an abundance of free time (which, I heard that Safeway will be calling me any day now, so unemployment will have an end soon!), Eli has let me tag along on some of his work projects. I got another friend April to come with us to Joyce's house, an elderly lady full of personality, to replace her kitchen floor. There were moments where I couldn't do much more than give spiritual support, but I did learn to wield a hammer. Today, Eli, Leland and I went to an older man's house named Roger to clear out his yard and prevent a fire-hazard. It reminded me a lot of the work we would do at the park Huayamilpas in Mexico City. Between the hard work, we've had good conversations about ministry and good laughs about most anything. :)

Also, we're planning on celebrating Mexican Independence Wednesday the 15th by eating pozole, singing some Spanish songs, and praying for Mexico. It's really good for me to be able to connect my life before to my life now in real, tangible ways.

I did however have a hard time sleeping the other night with too many things on my mind. So please keep praying for me. And let me know how I can pray for you, too! :)


two things I wrote today:

Do you guys know the song "Give us clean hands" by Charlie Hall? I love singing this song, in devo groups or even by myself. Anyway, I meant to do this... wow, I can almost literally say "years ago." But yeah, I finally got around to writing my Spanish translation for it and thought I'd share it. It's strange, but worshiping in Spanish seems just as right and natural to me now as worshiping in English. I guess that's what happens when you spend so much time relating to God in a foreign language, it becomes like home. It's been great talking with Felicia about her time in Honduras and my time in Mexico. We miss it so much, but we're so happy to be here now too. God is good. Anyway, here's the song:

Nos arrodillamos -
Espíritu, humíllanos.

No echamos, Dios, ni un ojo
a la maldad en el mundo.

Danos manos limpias.
Danos almas puras.
No nos dejes alabar a un ídolo.

Que seamos, Dios, una generación
que busca tu rostro, O Dios de Jacob.

The other thing I wrote today was a brownbag for the AIMers in Lubbock. If you don't remember or know what that means, just ask. :) Here it is:

Hey everyone, it's Brettin. How are you doing? Already got a couple of trips in, started your new area churches, getting ready to go to Ruidoso... not to mention all the classtime you've had. I'm so proud of you guys, seriously, I know how hard it can be to have no free time and so much pressure, but I hope you're really enjoying it too, because it's fantastic, really.

Well, I'm here in Grass Valley California, and I'm doing well. I've had some really homesick moments (funny how much my concept of home has grown and changed throughout and beyond AIM...) but God is so good and so faithful through it all. I'm still job searching, but I've got most everything else done on my checklist, including passing the smog check on my car, thank you God! Funny thing about living here is it seems that all the native Californians are so sympathetic to and simultaneously astounded by my being from Oklahoma. "Wow! Oh, you're really going to love it here!" they say. And while I agree, I kind of want to say, well, it's not like Oklahoma is some kind of wasteland, haha. Also, everyone asks, "Why don't you have an accent?" They find it incredible that I can talk like they do! :) Anyway, it's been really fun to start getting involved with the church here and reconnect with my friends, including some of my former AIM classmates. (P.S. we miss all you '07ers out there assisting!)

Ok, so I did have something serious I wanted to talk about. I know you guys are only just getting to know each other, but I remember that by now there were already some hurt feelings, some misunderstandings, and some people that just didn't like each other. You guys will talk a lot about conflict resolution during team dynamics in the far-distant future, but I just wanted to encourage you from the beginning, please, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." (That's from Romans 12, but the whole chapter is so life-changing.) One way I've learned recently to live this verse is to apologize first. If you feel like there have been wrongs done between you and someone else, whether that's a classmate, assistant, Kris, or even your parents back home, please don't wait to apologize. Don't justify your delay on the fact that they haven't apologized first. And if you can't think of what you've done to hurt the other person, spend some time praying about it. 9 times out of 10 when there's a relationship problem, both people contributed to it. I've written several letters in the past few months doing just that, apologizing for specific things that I've done wrong to the other. And you know what? It's always scary at first, but it feels a million times better once it's done. And usually the other person ends up apologizing in return for whatever it was that I was tempted to either pretend to ignore or point out and confront them about. Let's all work on letting love be our first response. But even if it's been awhile, it's never too late to love someone truly.

Shout outs:
Erin Joy - I heard a rumor that you may be out here someday far, far away after AIM. That would be fantastic! Eli speaks highly of you, and I hope to get to know you more someday soon.
Angel - Dios está a tu lado siempre, nunca lo olvides. Eres genial, ya sabes, jaja. Sigue adelante, pero ya estoy muy orgullosa de ti.
All Denver City AIMers - I just teared up the other night remembering and missing that place. Love it. I know you will.
Jennie - I miss you every day. I was just recounting preschool stories to Felicia... I miss that a little too, I guess, haha. TQMM
Barb - did you guys ever send out a list of all the AIMers and assistants? That helps me remember who to shout out to. Thank you for everything!
I love you everyone!!


Don't cry for me!

Hey, thanks for all the response to my last blog, some by comment and others even on the phone. I really am doing well! Here's a bit of an update:

I'm still on a job-search rampage. I haven't heard back yet from either of the two that I originally applied to, but I've been finding some interesting things on craigslist and the newspaper classifieds, so we'll see! Ideally I would love to do something involving Spanish - I got kind of spoiled with that with my jobs in Tulsa. But really, I'm up for pretty much anything.

Living with the Yoder girls has been wonderful. They're so down-to-earth, a refreshing combination of fun and calm. It's also been great having so much random company with Tyler, Leland, Chelsea, Jonathan, and others popping in and out. The neighbor kids are cute too. I didn't mention before, but our house is surrounded by trees, so it's really beautiful, but it's also within walking distance of downtown Grass Valley, a nice place to wander where you can find cool coffee shops, restaurants, the movie theater, and best of all, the library! :)

I've also gotten to spend a lot of time with the Hoopers. In case you don't know, Eli Hooper is the preacher at the church of Christ on Whiting Street, and we've been friends for several years now. His wife, Kelcey, is really great too and I'm just now getting to know her more. She's my good friend Kim Rush's sister, so that's a cool connection already. Their oldest daughter Kira is 13, and I can tell we're going to be good friends. Today we hung out downtown Nevada City (just a couple of miles away) and later played basketball at the church building. Anyway, they're a family with a lot going on, but I think they may become my home-away-from-home. I'm very excited to learn from them and serve with them whenever possible.

And last but certainly not least, Tyler discovered karaoke night at the National Inn downtown Nevada City, where we are usually by far the youngest souls around. So far I've sung "Just a Girl" by No Doubt and "Kiss Me" by Sixpence None the Richer. :) We also did a duet with "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," only to discover that I didn't know the verses so well after all... haha! Too much fun.

Thank you for reading and caring. But please, no worrying! ;) I love you, everyone.


"Are you homesick?"

I'm going to transcript what I wrote in my journal Sunday evening with some minor edits:

I'm at Sunday evening service, but I started crying during the singing and craving the blue sky and my journal. So many things, let's see if I can write them all.

The main feeling I have right now is a deep homesickness. But not even primarily for Tulsa. It's more of an AIM-sickness, or maybe not... I miss Denver City area church. I miss my AIM class. I miss Mexico. I miss Lubbock-now. I miss the Rush family, too much. And I miss Toby, and Chutney, and Jennie, and Miguel, and everyone.

Another thing I'm experiencing is a kind of identity shock. I almost have to remind myself, I'm not an AIMer anymore. People aren't just going to invite me to their homes just because. I'm balancing real life with missional living, or something, I mean I'm not a "missionary" but I still want to live missionally and that is confusing. I'm a single girl, alone, no team, no coordinator, no family [here], no significant other. I have friends and I have a church and I have roommates. That's all. And it's good, and it's enough, but that's all, and it's less than I'm used to.

I'm already overwhelmed with the idea of creating new best friends and new mentor-relationships. I mean, how many am I already keeping up with, and which ones will fall by the wayside?

And so all of these things and more are happening inside, and I'm trying so hard to keep it together. I think if I had my car I'd have just left already, but as it is there's all these new people and I don't want them to think strange things about me. And at the same time, I'm like, well, I'm at the church for crying out loud, if this place isn't safe to be real, what is? I don't want to appear unstable, yet I don't want to fake happiness. It's rough.

But then just now Carol came out, I mean, I don't even know her and she gave me a hug and asked if I was homesick. :) Then Kelcey came out right after service was over and we got to talk a bit. It'll be OK, no, more than OK. It'll be good. It is good. Just doesn't mean that it will be easy.

I love you God. Thank you for providing for me. Help me to grow and to not be afraid, to not hate myself like I can sometimes. Thank you for loving me more than I even love myself, so much more than I love you, and I'm sorry for that, God. I do love you - increase my love, God. Blessed be your name.


Turning the page

Hello from Grass Valley, California!

This blog was formerly known as Adventures in Mexico, and I regret never having much closure with that, but decided to go ahead and keep the old entries here in case you're interested. I moved back to Tulsa last November and since then ran through countless options and opportunities of "what's next" until at last, I landed here in California, the place I really wanted to be all along.

Even though I graduated AIM several months ago now, I feel like this is my real transition, a real new chapter for my life. I set out here on my own, and while I have lots of great friends here to receive me, in a lot of ways I feel like Abraham, called by God to be a stranger in a foreign land and wait on him to see what's next. I have several ideas of what I'd like to do while I'm here, but for the moment, I'm just waiting on God to guide and provide.

I'm living with two wonderful sisters, Jo and Felicia Yoder. I'm working on getting settled and putting everything in its right place, inside and out. I've applied to work a couple of different places and will continue to seek out the "right" job. I'm going to be a member of the Grass Valley Church of Christ, and Lord-willing, be a mentor for the West Coast Missions program coming soon. This is what I know. The rest I'll discover in the days, weeks, months, maybe even years to come.

Thank you for caring enough to keep up with me. I'll try to be consistent. I love you, everyone!