I really did mean to write a blog before I left a couple of weeks ago, mostly about our crazy snow and missing work and no power and fun snow walks and friendly visits and so on... but I never did. I would have also loved to tell you about the Albino show (jazzy jam band + fire tribe performances)... but there's wasn't time. So now you get to hear about my trips instead.

I went to Panama with my brother for just 4 days, but they were impacting to say the least. After flying overnight (read: little sleep), I met him at the Houston airport and we flew to Panama City. We immediately went to the Embera Drua village (taking an insanely rugged road to a river where we road in a canoe to the village - no roads there). The village is home to one of the tribes of the Embera people who decades ago moved into the region because of warfare in the Darien region on the Columbian border. They maintain their cultural identity, with limited influence from the outside world.

My brother became connected with them originally by going as a tourist, which is their main source of income, since they are not allowed by the Panamanian government to farm on the land. Since then, he's gone on more visits and gotten to know the people better, and with a friend decided to ask them what they might like help with. Their response was to have their youth educated. The goal of the trip was to bring them the money for the scholarships that Joseph puts together for any middle school, high school, or university students, because education beyond the 6th grade isn't available in the village itself, and most everyone needs help to be able to afford schooling in the city. Usually my sister-in-law goes too, but this time had schedule conflicts, so Joseph asked me if I could go as an interpreter. Of course, I said Yes!

In the village, we:

-said hi to everyone and played with the kids.
-sang and read some scriptures with Jinko.
-held a meeting to see how the students were doing and take their scholarship applications.
-told Joseph's story of how he's needed financial aid in the past and why he wants to give to others and encouraged them to give back to their community through their education.
-saw their cultural presentation for a group of tourists from Canada.
-met with some of the leaders of the village about the scholarships and discussed their goals as a people and how their education will help them accomplish these goals.
-looked over the applications and distributed the scholarship money to about 17 students.
-watched The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with some of the kids.
-talked with a mother who's past mistakes have led her family to be ostracized and tried to encourage her and offered her help.
-ate delicious food.
-heard and saw lots of wildlife, including an adorable river otter and a tiny monkey.

We were in Panama City for a couple of days too, since originally we planned to turn in the tuition money ourselves, but realized since it was Carnival (Mardi Gras), the schools would be closed anyway. We brought the mom I mentioned and her kids with us to try to by one of the girls' things for school, but the stores were closed as well. So, we settled on taking them to McDonald's, since that is something really special for them.

We got to experience some of the Carnival celebration too - getting sprayed with water and "espuma" (foam, kind of like shaving cream) and confetti while cramming into the street with hundreds of Panamanians dancing and eating and drinking and laughing and having a grand holiday. It was great! One kid got me so good with his water gun that I screamed. A few different people were looking out for us and told us what streets to stay away from, and also asked us where we were from and how we were enjoying the party. Very nice people, and very diverse too, especially compared to Mexico City.

We also looked around the old downtown, but everything, again, was closed. It was fun to ride around the city and see the buildings though. We went back to the hotel to rest before going out again, but were so tired that we just decided to order room service (great Panamanian food!) and watch movies. The next day we just hung out and talked. It was nice to have time to spend with my brother amidst the craziness.

I could say so much more, but this is long enough. I'll just sum it up to say that I learned that the language barrier is honestly the biggest barrier in connecting with other people, because even though these people's lives are incredibly different than mine, I felt connected with them, partly because of their relationship with my brother, but mostly because I could communicate with them. It was a really amazing and humbling experience.

I'll save my Lubbock tales for next time.


February flying by

Reading, doubting, crying, loving, laughing, dancing, working, praising, experiencing, discussing, calling, writing, creating, singing, hugging, sleeping...

It's always ironic how time will go by because I feel like I have nothing to say, then once I finally sit down to update, I inevitably feel like there's too much.

Bullet points:

-I went to a Quaker meeting for the first time and loved hearing Leland's Iraq presentation.
-We've started having Spanish conversation nights, finally, and they are a success!
-Lots of parties and get-togethers, grand old times, even if they are inspired by goodbyes. (My friend Billi moved to Tulsa; oh the irony of life.)
-I read a book by an atheist, and many subsequent conversations have really stimulated my faith even in the face of deep questions and doubts.
-I'm still profusely missing Mexico, not least of all for the fact that many of my friends visited a couple of weeks ago.
-I'm going to Panama with Joseph for a few days next month, then visiting Lubbock for '08 graduation.

There is more. But that is enough. :)


Houston, cell phones, and vitamins

So, as you may remember, I went to Houston for a few days to see Julieta Venegas in concert with my brother Joseph and got to see my sister Lerin, her family, and my parents as an awesome bonus. It was really fun! It would have been more fun if I hadn't have been sick the whole time... but you know, that's how it goes sometimes. I got to play lots of Simon Says, Hide and Seek, Candy Land, etc. and I even dressed up like a princess to be saved by "Batman" and "Batgirl" from dinosaurs, hahaha. I also got to play Rummikub and Yahtzee with the grown ups. :) And going to the concert with my brother was super fun - we were so close and she did most of my favorite songs and so fabulously! Four days went by really quickly, although the plane rides seemed awfully long with excruciating ear pain and a stomachache, but hey, I survived!

One consequence of my trip and being sick and a little out of it (or as my mom says, I'm just always a mess) is that I left my phone in Houston. I never realized how incredibly dependent I am on it. I made plans to call two friends, which has been infinitely complicated. I had to borrow an alarm clock that I didn't work right and therefore was late to work this morning. I never seem to know what time it is. I'm always wondering if someone is trying to get ahold of me. I don't know what to do with myself when I'm bored and have no one to text. I hardly know anyone's phone number and can't call anyone to make plans or ask questions. And I didn't even know my work schedule because I had saved it in a note on my phone. It's so crazy how much I use that tiny object!

Earlier when I was at the grocery store to buy juice, I decided to stock up on some medicine. I don't like using medicine if I can help it, but sometimes it's really handy to have Mucinex or Alavert around. Also, I've decided to cut out milk temporarily to see if that helps my stomach out, so I bought calcium suppliments. To my delight, the vitamins were buy one get one free. So I was about to call someone to see if they could advise me as to what my other vitamin should be. Of course, I realized I didn't have my phone, so I settled on iron suppliments and hoped that was a good choice.

I have a lot more to say about thinking positively, being somewhat of a perfectionist, and praying constantly, but that must all be left for another time.



This week I reinstated my Tulsa tradition of staying after work late (or here sometimes going early) in order to have some special time dedicated to prayer, reading or journaling. I've only done this twice so far and already I feel so blessed to have this routine forming. It's so hard for me to read or pray at home when there is so much to be distracted by - the internet, fun roommates, chores, etc. So when I'm outside somewhere, even if there are people around, it's so much easier to focus.

Today, I started by writing this: "I want the music I make and poems I write and art I create to instill a longing for something more in the listeners, readers, and viewers - I want them to want heaven. I think most good music does that without even trying, even if the artist is unaware. I just want to acknowledge that from the start."

I've been thinking a lot about C.S. Lewis' comments on heaven, about how the Christians most focused on the next world are the ones who make the most difference in this one, about how every longing and feeling of nostalgia we endure is best recognized as a desire for the after-life with our Creator. Being a single twenty-something, I tend to get lonely, even surrounded by so many friends. I mean, I want a family someday, a husband and kids and everything. So sometimes it's hard to be just, me. But when I'm pining away for a certain person or even that general concept, or when I'm missing home or Mexico or family or friends or whatever, or even when I'm going through struggles with others or personally, I've started to use that as a prayer to God telling him about how much I'm excited for heaven and how happy I'll be to finally be completely satisfied in his perfect presence. And that hope makes me more content in this moment and maybe more able to live in the now in the way that I ought. Kind of ironic, maybe, but it seems to be doing me good these days.

On the radio the other day the Modest Mouse song "Ocean Breathes Salty" came on and I started singing along without realizing it. I used to have this CD but got rid of it when I realized this particular song was making fun of Christians - "For your sake I hope heaven and hell are really there, but I wouldn't hold my breath (you missed, you missed). You wasted life, why wouldn't you waste death (you missed, you missed)?" But then I got to thinking, you know, Paul said the same thing in a way. "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith... your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men... If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." But since Christ was risen, and heaven does exist, for that reason our hope is beyond this life, and our faith is the most valuable thing we have. That's why I got the symbol of this hope etched permanently on my skin. I hope to live a life that's different because of what I believe about when I die. "But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure."

Wow, that was long and maybe a bit heavy. I'll end on a completely random note: I started reading Harry Potter aloud to my roommate Jo every night, and it's so much fun for both of us, since she's completely new to all things Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling is a genius. And this is good practice for when I do have kids someday. :)


day off!

Sometimes, all it takes is an iced soy latte from Starbucks to remind me that I'm so happy to be alive.

It's the little things: sleeping in, sunny skies, sitting by the creek, talking with friends, getting things done, listening to good music... It's been a good day off. I miss people and places, but I'm very present where I am.

And I'm extremely excited to enroll in school this fall. Tyler and I went to ask Sierra College questions. I'm going to apply for scholarships before the deadline next month. My residency status should be good to go by the time the semester starts August 22nd. (NOT the 13th, which scared me to death that I missed the living in CA for one year mark by only a few days!) I'm so ready to be going to classes and learning and working towards my degree again after so long.

Tonight I'm going to church with the youth girl's class, then headed to Jeffrey's to have a special night with friends and plan our poetry reading for the next Bistro event the 28th.

This verse stood out to me while I read today: "The teaching about the cross is foolishness to those who are being lost, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." - 1 Corinthians 1:18. I am always inspired by the present tense-ity of the Bible.

And lastly, my brother Joseph surprised me with a trip to Houston and a ticket to see Julieta Venegas, one of my favorite Mexican musicians, in just a week and a half! I bought her latest album to get ready for the concert, and I love it! The best part of course is that I'll get to see all of my family that I missed over Christmas.


failure, and hope

I find it ironic that after writing yesterday's blog and having similar conversations with friends, today would be one of my grumpiest days ever at work. I didn't exactly call anyone a mean name, but I sure did let people and circumstances bother me excessively, and I complained a LOT. It's frustrating to fail, to prove myself weak and flawed. It's so much easier to talk about Jesus than to actually act like him.

And yet, there's hope. Tomorrow is a new day. This moment is a new moment.

Beyond that, there's the hope of heaven. This is what I mentioned yesterday when I said I had more on my mind; I've been thinking of heaven a lot these days. I've been contemplating what is really means to be the bride of Christ, longing for the day when I will truly be entirely satisfied and see him face to face and exist in the tangible presence of God. I want to live without fear and neediness, and see what grand implications that will have on my relationships with my brothers and sisters.

Obviously, we're to be striving for this sort of contentment with God here in this life, and there are moments when I feel close to true contentment. But there are also times when I feel alone, confused, estranged, and really just exhausted by life. In both of these times, hoping in heaven is essential. Hope of completion grants you closeness in the present. On the one hand, we never want to be too comfortable away from our true home. Yet on the other hand, we never want to despair of life itself and doubt God's love and purpose for us.

I feel like I'm rambling now. To sum it up, I'm excited for the day when all of my relationships, with God and everyone else, will be exactly as they were meant to be. And until then, it's going to be hard, but I'm going to work to embody the love that Christ calls us to live.

As a side note, if anyone has any insight as to what it means for us to be the bride of Christ, feel free to share it. Also, feel free to share any reasons why you look forward to heaven. Thanks!



I had a spiritual epiphany yesterday at work.

You remember how a long long time ago I said that I prayed before I went to work, that I would do well and be a blessing and so on? Well, I haven't done that in awhile. It became normal I guess.

So yesterday this woman came in and demanded a latte with low-fat milk, LOW-fat, half caffeinated, and at precisely 160 degrees. None of this would have been a problem, but the way she asked was soaking with disdain. She was very unpleasant with how she ordered her food, and about 5 minutes later was loudly complaining about how long it was taking and how she needed to leave. As I walked back to the kitchen, I called her a mean name in a low voice to everyone.

This isn't the first time I've done this, but this time, I instantly repented. I thought, what does it accomplish to call this woman something ugly behind her back and complain about her to everyone else? And what about that makes me anything like Christ?

It's true. She was mean and it was uncalled for. But that doesn't make it okay for me to be mean back.

And so I thought of Eli's sermon on Sunday about praying for our enemies. It suddenly dawned on me, that woman is my enemy. I never knew who or what to think of when I thought of enemies, so I never knew how to think about verses that talk about it. I don't live in a place where I have to face intense persecution, I don't live in a war zone, I don't even go to a school with cliques. But, there are those horrible customers at work.

And what does Jesus have to say about them? To love them, serve them, and pray for them.

I feel a renewed sense of purpose. I will start praying about work again.

There are more things I've been thinking about, but this is long enough for now. Until next time...


Holidays, etc.

Why, hello everyone. What do you know, it's a new year! Here's an overview of the past several weeks:

I commemorated my year-since-leaving-Mexico on November 23rd by spending the day in prayer, reflection, journaling, and reading, ending with a dessert get-together with friends at Diego's. It was a meaningful day, and I was glad for the alone time as well as the time with friends.

Thanksgiving was really nice at the Sikorski's with a few other families from the church. It was a great day to get to know my church family better and honestly feel at home with everyone, not to mention the delicious food!

I went home to Tulsa on December 12th for two weeks. I loved getting to see so many friends and spend Christmas with my family. My brother Kendall, his wife Rachel, and my sister Lindsay with her family all came to Tulsa too. It was good for me to spend quality time with everyone.

But I was happy to come back. The 28th was my friend Leland's birthday, so we had a small party at Tara's house, eating and playing games. The next week was filled with visits from various friends. Miguel came to spend Christmas with his family in Petaluma, just north of San Francisco, and he spent a few days here in Grass Valley to meet everyone and see everything and celebrate New Year's. We also spent a day in San Fran with a group of friends. He already wants to come back. :) Ann Cardamone from the AIM team that worked here a few years ago came to visit with her boyfriend Joel and good friend Amber, and that was fun too. Johnathan Ledbetter, my other friend Amber's brother, was also visiting from Lubbock. And lastly, Erika Carley has been back home from college, and she heads back to Abilene on Saturday.

I went back to work on Friday, and things have been a bit slower but not too bad. My hours haven't been cut, so that's really nice. It's good to see everyone again, and even though I had such a great holiday season, it's nice to get back to life as usual again. I'm looking forward to starting new Spanish lessons, talking to Sierra College to get things going for the fall, helping out with the youth girls' class at church, and continuing music and poetry endeavors.

One last bit of news: yesterday I finally got the tattoo I've wanted for years - the empty tomb on my foot, a symbol of hope and life. For some reason the picture uploader isn't working, but if you're on facebook, there's a picture there!

Love you guys, and hope your 2011 has begun as beautifully as mine has, thanks to God. :)