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! :)