Friday, December 21, 2007

Does this describe me?

Almost 6 years later, I completed StrengthsQuest again. It's an online 'test' which highlights your top strengths out of 34 areas.

It's interesting to see how my strengths have shifted since I was a freshman in college. I'm still a "feeler" and much more of a "thinker." I live more in the gray area than I do in the black and white. My experiences back up what I believe and I've figured out more of who I am instead of who I want to be.
  • Adaptability
    • Prefers to "go with the flow."
    • They tend to be "now" people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.
    • Flexible, can stay productive when the demands of work are pulling you in many different directions at once.
    • Don't resent sudden requests or unforeseen detours.
    • The genius of adaptability talents lie in the way you respond to chaos. (haha!)
  • Empathy
    • Senses the feelings of other people by imagining themselves in others' lives or others' situations.
    • Doesn't condone anyone's choices, but does understands why they made them.
    • Hears the unvoiced questions.
    • Anticipates need.
    • Other people feel heard by you and experience your compassion
  • Includer:
    • Accepting of others.
    • Shows awareness of those who feel left out, and makes an effort to include them.
    • No one should be ignored.
    • Notices people who might feel like outsiders or who feel unappreciated.
  • Input:
    • A craving to know more.
    • Likes to collect and archive all kinds of information.
    • Inquisitive/ active curiosity.
  • Strategic:
    • Creates alternative ways to proceed.
    • Faced with any given scenario, you can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.
    • Thinks through every possible "what if?" (aka: over-analyzing!)
  • Relator:
    • Enjoys close relationships with others.
    • Finds deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal.
    • Derives a great deal of pleasure and strength by being around close friends.
    • Wants to understand their friends' feelings, fears, dreams, goals
    • Vulnerable
During my staff retreat, I was asked to describe a time when I was at my "best" - exercising my strengths at work:
I was the HAC On-Site Director at Tilikum. I created the middle school curriculum for the week, strategically designed the schedule, and incorporated creative input from my amazing staff. I got to be empathetic with the campers who were afraid of heights, relate with my staff who became family, try to include the left-out camper, and adapt to the weekly chaos of camp!

I remember feeling refreshed, energetic, creative, peaceful, and FULL.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Party Planning

I've come to the revelation that I can't do things the 'normal' way. I have this insane notion that it must be creative; it must be better; it must be different.

I like to call myself a recovering perfectionist. Emphasis on recovering.

We had our RA Christmas Party this evening.
It would have been just fine to order a pizza and watch a movie.

Instead, I busted my bootie all day long to finish tonight's party preparations. I found out each RA's favorite Christmas song and burned them a cd. I wrote on each cd. I decorated the CD cover and typed out each track. I handmade Christmas cards with individual messages, taped it to the cd, and tied ribbon around each one.

I adopted a family from the Salvation Army so our staff could sponsor them. I made preparations for gift purchases and deliveries.

And I made dinner: white-bean-chicken-chili... from scratch. And now I have dishpan hands from hand-washing a mountain of dishes, and my fingers still smell like garlic.
And I coordinated a white elephant gift exchange.
And I reserved the school van so we could buy gifts for our adopted family as part of our party.

Our party started at 6:30 and I was ready to call the whole thing off at 5pm. The planning was fine, but I didn't want to go through with it because I was already so exhausted.

I finally kicked my feet up at 10:30pm. My living room is clean, the dishes are drying, the garbage is out, and my apartment smells like chili.

It was fun and I'm glad it's over.

Pizza and a movie would have been fun, too. :)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Fill-in-the-blank

A couple weeks ago, I had my best staff meeting ever. I'm shifting the focus of our meetings to include more time for team building and bonding.
Step one: change staff meeting time from 6:30am to 9pm.
Step two: change staff meeting location from stark, cold, white room with plastic chairs to my living room with couches, Christmas lights, colors, and carpet... cozy.
Step three: implement agendas, games and initiatives, devotion, prayer time, chill time, being still time.

The fill-in-the-blank activity:
Each person had 15 minutes to respond to a list of various words and phrases. They could only write as much as much as would fit on the dotted line next to the word. (Some got creative and turned the paper upside down to write on both sides of the line or abbreviated several words.)

Responses:
  • Everyone has..................................................
                  • an iPod/cell phone
                  • a heart/soul/feelings
                  • something great about them
                  • the potential to be someone great - they just don't know it
                  • hands
                  • eyes
  • Love letter....................................................
                  • I often write them to myself, then send them off and pretend to get exc.
                  • (s) to Jesus make me happy
                  • the Bible
                  • someone should write me one please
                  • are really fun to receive, fun to write, and embarrassing to deliver
                  • (s) are something I have a hard time writing
                  • from KC Gilliland, football player, SO high school
  • I'm annoyed by.............................................
                  • people who don't get it.
                  • people who judge me.
                  • mean people
                  • loud noises that wake me in the a.m.
                  • disrespectful actions towards others
                  • people who refuse to flush cuz I hate finding surprises when I lift the seat.
                  • cigarette smoke. I'd rather smell cow manure.
  • Why can't we................................................
                  • speak Spanish?
                  • be friends, why can't we be friends, why can't we be friends - the guy I had a crush on sang this to me in 7th grade and I felt a connection.
                  • love each other unconditionally and more than ourselves?
                  • just find a truck full of $ to pay for school?
                  • just live at NCC and not go to school?
                  • take care of each other?
                  • all dance naked in the quad around a huge bonfire?
  • Secrets.........................................................
                  • are for people who have something to hide
                  • count people's freckles & look in their eyes
                  • ah, good? bad? Both. Depends.
                  • don't make friends, but they keep them.
                  • I'm not good at keeping them - don't trust me.
                  • are funny cuz some things are really dumb to keep secret. Others are legitimate.
                  • special.
  • The Tooth Fairy.........................................
                  • is a lie.
                  • didn't have much money.
                  • should leave more money. Really, only 25 cents?
                  • should scare more kids than she does. Think about it.
                  • was not very, very good to me.
                  • isn't real but I thought I saw her once and made up an elaborate story that I told my mom the next morning.
                  • was cool when i was a child. Quarters in the cup.
                  • left me silver dollars under my pillow. Daaaad.
  • I've never......................................................
                  • done anything.
                  • been in love.
                  • been on a missions trip out of the U.S.
                  • touched a cow.
                  • been to Africa.
                  • been 21, but when I have I'm going gambling.
                  • jumped out of a plane.
                  • owned a cat, been fishing, or been snowboarding.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Just elfing around

I laughed out loud when Chrislyn shared this link with me, featuring my brother, sister, dog, and I.

I still think she's the funny one in the family... Parker, too. :)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Te extraño.

Oh, Bo-liv... Tonight, I am missing you. A lot. Este noche, te extraño mucho.

I miss the way you made me cry; I miss the way you made me laugh. Te extraño.
I miss sitting with you at lunchtime. I miss your homemade chicken-foot soup. Te extraño.

I miss the dusty walk to Missionaries of Charity in my feo walkabout boots. I miss your toothless smile, your abrasive embrace, your blind eyes, your stinky wheelchair, your stained sheets, your disfigured fingers that held my face in your warm, calloused hands. I miss your yellow soccer ball. I miss spoon-feeding you. Te extraño.

I miss your faithfulness and commitment. Te extraño.

I miss sharing a blanket with you as we napped and cuddled on the sofa while the rice was cooking. I miss watching The Simpsons in Espanol. Te extraño.

I miss linking arms with you as we skipped past pot holes and sleeping dogs. I miss the way you shouted my name "Eli!" when you saw me a couple blocks away. I miss the black gate that was home. Te extraño.

I miss breaking bread with you and drinking tea with you in the morning. Te extraño.

I miss your holey sweater and over-sized jacket. I miss the way you held onto my arm as your limped along. I miss the way you called me your daughter and your love. Te extraño.

I miss the way you stared at me when I sang, the way you giggled at my mispronounced palabras, and the countless times you asked me about "my country". Te extraño.

I miss learning from you and teaching you. I miss your brown, round eyes. I miss your kind words as you struggled to translate for me. I miss offering hot chocolate to you. I miss visiting you at work. Te extraño.

I miss the way you made me miss other things, like comfort, familiarity, English, mis amigos.
I miss the way I struggled with brokenness, suffering, simplicity, and sacrifice because of you.

Te extraño.

No puedo olvidarte porque tienes parte de mi corazon.

I can't forget you because you have a piece of my heart.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Leftovers

I was in the office for 10 1/2 hours today and yet I still have difficulty answering the question "what do you do besides take people out for coffee?"

An idea of today:
2 hour Student Development meeting
1 hour 1x1
45 minute lunch
3 RA interviews (1 1/2 hours)
1 hour 1x1
10 minutes to be pulled in for an unexpected really important meeting
8 mission trip interviews (2 hours)
1+ hours of random conversations with people stopping by or checking in
1/2 hour of e-mail

I thought I'd be ready for a quiet evening to myself after a very full day. My empty apartment, however, wasn't at all what I hoped it would be. My 16 oz nonfat white chocolate peppermint mocha from Starbucks left me feeling jittery and antsy and I should be exhausted. Caffeine works wonders.

This probably sounds crazy coming from someone who lives in a dorm with 50 people, but I feel alone tonight. It's not necessarily a sad thing or a bad thing -- just a concept that's been a reality this evening as I unwind.

The ladies upstairs are drinking hot chocolate, eating Safeway cookies, and turning their hall into a winter wonderland. The men on the 3rd floor are playing Halo or Guitar Hero.

I'm eating leftover mashed potatoes and turkey, sitting on the carpet in the glow of my newly added Christmas lights and listening to selections from my iTunes library. (Highlights include Jimmy Needham, Hillsong: United We Stand, and Andrew Peterson: Behold the Lamb of God)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The simple, complicated Truth

He's the lone male RA on staff and cares for 30 freshmen guys. He "gets it." During our last one on one, he expressed his frustration that not everyone in his hall "gets it." He talked about his struggle with being negatively influenced instead of positively influencing when he hangs out with them. Several of the guys don't want to even want to be around him. (I told him I couldn't understand why.)

"How do I draw the line? They don't even want to be around me. When I'm around, I find myself doing things I don't want to. They bring me down and I really want to reach out to them."

We talked about living in a state of tension and I used the infamous illustration of a rope: it's not doing any good when it's coiled up on the ground. Only when it's pulled taut is it serving its purpose. We must be accomplishing something when we're living in tension. It's challenging and downright frustrating. We ask more questions than we have answers for. We seek. We struggle. We wrestle. We are not lying dormant or stagnant. We are uncomfortable. (And there is something to be said for living in a state of discomfort...)

We also discussed the concept of living in the world but not being of the world. We're often taught that we ought not to be OF the world. The focus is rarely on living IN the world, which is a reality for all of us. We live IN the world; so how do we do it?

The question remains: How does he live in the world without being of it? How does he reach out to his guys without being pulled down?

I reminded him that Jesus chose to eat dinner with tax collectors. These were definitely people who didn't "get it." Their knowledge about Jesus didn't influence the way they lived their lives. They were con men... and Jesus went into their homes and dined with them.

I wish you could hear the angst in his voice... "But at least he was having dinner with them! What was it about Jesus that made these guys want to be around him?"

I thought about it. All day, in fact.
So, when he asked to speak with me after our staff meeting, I was thrilled. He began by sharing some concerns about some guys on his floor and we problem-solved together. He told me he was feeling threatened and disrespected by someone on his floor, and felt so sad. He's doing everything right; why can't they see it?

I told him I'd been thinking about our earlier conversation and that there was only one explanation that I could come up with. Jesus LOVED people. The tax collectors didn't feel judged, condemned, or threatened by Jesus, which is why they didn't avoid him. We know Jesus was capable of being tempted and somehow he resisted.
These guys ate with him and lounged with him. It was probably a bit uncomfortable, I mean, it was Jesus after all, and he's sinless! Nonetheless, they opened their doors for him and all He did was love them. It's as simple and as complicated as that.

It wasn't a foreign or profound concept. Of course he's heard it before, and yet he still responded with a "hmmm" that seemed to provoke some deeper thoughts. We sat in silence for a few moments and I think we both independently decided to give love a try.

It's less about fixing people and getting them on the right track and worrying about how they are affecting us.

Maybe it's just more about loving people.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

ring-ring-bling-bling

I should know better by now... 2 hour naps on Sunday afternoons lead to sleepless nights on Sunday evenings. My mind is very alert; processing a number of dear phone calls and devastating car accidents.

It's perplexing to me how quickly our emotions can change.
And how easy it is to confuse joy with happiness, depending on our circumstances.

I'm rejoicing today at the news of my dear friend who just got engaged... Yes, she was my former roommate, which means I've still got the "live with me and you'll get married" charm. 'Living With El' seems to beat the 'Ring-By-Spring' philosophy; it's already worked NINE times! :)

(Sorry, Chrislyn - either we were roommates for too long or my "charm" doesn't apply to family.)
(Pictured above from L to R: married, engaged, engaged, single, married.)
I can't remember what we were all praying for - perhaps it was for me and the future-love-of-my-life?!

The engagement news genuinely thrills me. "My girls" are true testaments of God's prevailing faithfulness, tenderness, and love. Their relationships reflect Christ and I am honored to be called sister, friend, daughter, bridesmaid, and roommate.

Meg M., Carley W., Annie K., Amy W., Kayla M., Stef P., Li H., Megan L., Rachel H., Brooke V., Amy B., Meredith D., & Mom: I admire you and thank God for the way you've spoken Truth into my life through your own God-centered relationships.
You simply amaze me!

More apartment pictures

















My humble abode. :) It definitely has it's quirks, and I really, really like it!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

My Apartment

At last: some photos of my apartment! If it looks small, it's because it is. (Although I prefer the term "cozy.")

I have two entrances and I haven't figured out which one to call the "back door." One opens up to the hallway across from the Rug Room (a bunch of comfy furniture, a flat screen TV, pool
table, and coffee shop - considerably larger than my living room). The other door opens up to 12th street, marked with Rennie's Bar & Grill and Barry's Bakery. Starbucks is one block down (Shall we say... convenient?!)

My toilet is an "industrial flush" with a lever you'd find at most public bathrooms.

Everything is miniature in my kitchen - the oven, stove top, microwave, and fridge. The dishwasher is life-size, though - it's ME!

Four Visits

The more things I've hung on the walls makes my apartment feel more like "my space (not to be confused with myspace)." The more it feels like "my space," the more I want to guard it. The more I want to guard "my space," the more intentional I am about leaving my door open for visitors.

For 1 hour, my door stood open and 4 students stopped by.

  1. One of them, with a bottle of Gatorade in hand, bet me a dollar that she could roll her juice down to the other end of the hall and hit the water fountain with it. The juice, rolling full speed ahead, completely missed her mark and she never gave me a dollar.
  2. A guy stopped by to decipher the faint note he had left on my door with a dry erase marker that was nearly out of commission.
  3. My new favorite worship cd (Hillsong United) was playing and a girl poked her head in to tell me she shared my love for that music.
  4. The final visit of the night came from a freshman boy. I had just developed several photographs from the night of my surprise party (thanks Amy & Stef!). Nine 8x10s were meticulously arranged on my carpet and I was trying to find a place for them on my walls. This boy walked in, leaned over my pictures, and without hesitation said "I would date them." WHAT?! I, wide-eyed and flabbergasted, was left speechless.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Casual

Tuesday, I ditched the fancy pants and shiny shoes for a pair of jeans and something without a heel. I'm not even sure I was allowed to, but it just felt right. I had 3 1x1s, which meant a trip to Target and two walks around the U of O campus (and a jaunt to Starbucks down the street), none of which are conducive for high heels.

Today, on the other hand, was a dress up day. I enjoyed the click of my fancy shoes at first, but now I fear everyone knows when I'm coming because the tile hallways echo my arrival. My usual quick walking pace has slowed because I'm paranoid I'm going to fall on my face!

Now, I'm sporting my sweats and slippers, joining 8 students around a flat screen tv, watching the Ducks get whooped... if they lose, all of Eugene will be mourning tonight. (On a positive note, maybe this will mean no loud parties at Rennie's bar to disturb my REM cycle.)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

13 freshmen boys & ice cream

I knew I was going to have ice cream with the freshmen class Friday night as part of my 'supervisor responsibilities'. I did not know I would be the only lady with 13 freshmen boys.

I sat at the Pearl Street Ice Cream Parlor attempting to carry on a conversation with these young men. Some were less awkward than others. (Only one glass of water tipped over.)

By the time I had eaten one of my double scoops of mint chocolate chip, they had already finished enormous floats, shakes, and triple-scoop sundaes, hungry for more.

Oh, to be have been a freshman girl for the evening...

November 11th

I still think about her; it was this weekend 3 years ago. I talk about her; she came up as I answered an interview question: "tell us how you responded in a crisis situation." And then I shared about her in chapel as a significant piece of my story.

3 years ago, I stood outside on the deck overlooking the bay in Lincoln City. I rested my arms on the rails and leaned over the side, my body shaking with every sob-filled breath. My last memories of her include making breakfast and laughing at the ridiculous joke book we found on the coffee table.

It would have been this Sunday that I arrived back on campus. I remember pulling into the parking lot, watching the faces of my friends as they searched for mine.

Today, though, I drove my car onto a different campus. No one was waiting for me to arrive and everything was 'normal. '

My last visit to Lincoln City included a brief stop at the outlet malls. I bought a couple bath towels and then stepped in the Bath & Body Works store where my nose buds (similar to taste buds) did a little dance.

A lot has changed in 3 years except my memories of the ocean, butterflies, the color purple, and the "miracle oranges."

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Paint Therapy

Aside from the occasional birthday card, I haven't been artsy since I put together my Bolivia photo album 4 months ago. 4 months ago! Have I really not created anything since then? How can it be that I've been home for that long? I'm 11 days short of my 5 month mark...
This time last year I was sending out support letters, facilitating at Tilikum during the day and waiting tables at night.

Painting is therapeutic for me. Have I not needed 'therapy' since I've been home? That is certainly not the case considering the continued reverse culture shock tensions, my 6th move of the year, and this new job.

Therapy happened today.

Maybe it's because of the quiet day I carved out for myself with an afternoon nap that I've been craving for weeks. I chose not to answer my ARC cell phone. I got to hug my mom this morning, and then I attended an amazing church service where being a Christian was FUN. A mom and her 2 daughters danced in the front during the songs. People were glad to be at church - and church was in a cold, school gymnasium. We sang about life and freedom. We clapped, prayed, held hands, and embraced. The pastor was genuine. In a couple weeks, church is moving to the streets to feed the homeless; this is their Sunday morning service.

I painted tonight. I dug out my paints and brushes and found an empty canvass tucked behind the couch. It doesn't really match the rest of my decor, but I set the finished product in my kitchen, anyway. It's a simple scene of grass and a few flowers with the word "splendor" scrawled across the top. The word is underlined in my Bible and I commented in the margin: "I like this word." Splendor. Read about splendor in Isaiah 60 & 61. I hope it gives you the chills. :)

...And so my therapy session concludes.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

From chapel speaker to Christmas tree

Thanks for checking up to see how chapel went...I'm relieved to report that the sick feeling I had in my stomach disappeared within seconds of turning on my fancy headset microphone. I was comfortable and words somehow flowed from my heart to my lips to their ears...and hopefully their heart.

They laughed... no one cried (and neither did I!)


And this is what I shared:


We all like stories. It started with Saturday morning cartoons and movies like "Land Before Time". We heard bedtime stories. We heard stories in Sunday School thanks to giant felt boards and felt characters. We listened to Odyssey Tapes and watched McGee & Me.


Middle school stories consisted of who started wearing deodorant and embarrassing stories of changing in the locker room. High school stories about football players and cheerleaders, and rumors like "Bobby smiled at Jenny who told Katie who was dating Fred who was playing soccer with Bobby, that she wants to go to Prom with Bobby."


High School ends... and then we talked about how it's the end of the world... We listened to Admissions Counselors tell stories of various colleges. And then, you ended up at NCC. And now you tell stories of things that are happening back home. You tell stories of how many papers you had to write and how many tests you had to study for and how many hours of sleep you didn't get last night.


Movies tell stories. Books tell stories. We flip through photo albums because the pictures tell stories. The news tells us stories. Reality TV shows tell us stories of real people, and we are sickly fascinated by it. The Bachelor, America's Next Top Model, The Life of Ryan...

We like these stories because we relate to them. They make us laugh, they make us cry, they make us angry.


It's incredible how many stories I've heard in the last 2 1/2 weeks of being at NCC:
  • You said you're alone during the holidays because you don't have anywhere to go home to.
  • You said you've been sick for weeks but you can't go to the doctor because you don't have health insurance
  • You said you sneaked a pizza through the window in the library
  • You said you don't even want to think about graduating because that means you have to face the real world in just 6 months
  • You told me why you chose NCC
  • You told me about the boy whom you think is a-mazing
  • You said your car broke down
  • I heard that you don't really get this whole "Christian thing"
  • I heard that you really want to go on a date
  • You talked about going to a party and things got out of hand
These are parts of your story and you need to keep telling them.
If you're like me, you've made up excuses to not tell your story. You think your story is boring. Someone might think you're a big nerd. No one could ever benefit from hearing your story. No one cares.
WRONG.
We're at a Christian college and a lot of people share their testimony - the story of how they became a Christian. It can be scary to talk about if you don't have the right verses memorized or the right answers to the tough questions.
The more I learn about Christ, though, the more I learn that all He expects is for me to share what I know to be true for ME. MY story.
Jesus calls us to TESTIFY. Think about a witness stand at a trial. That person has been called forward to testify. They are asked to talk about what they know to be true. They might not know all the facts, but they know what is true for them. They talk about what they've seen, heard, and experienced.
Every part of your story is significant. I am who I am because of who I was. You are who you are because of who you were.
(At this point, a volunteer came up and put on various props that I used to explain parts of my story:
  • a pair of HUGE glasses to represent all the things I've learned in my college courses, and also the comment from the cutest boy in 6th grade who said, when I wore my new pair of round glasses to school, "when are you going to get contacts?"
  • a tiara to represent the moment I became a Christian, a Daughter of the King
  • a bouquet of fake flowers to represent what I've learned about dating... or maybe about not dating
  • a leopard print visor to represent the traveling I've done
These things are easy to talk about, but that's not all there is to my story.
  • a Hawaiian sarong to represent the beach where Karissa died
  • oven mitts to represent being burned by people I trusted
  • a Bolivian scarf to represent the women I met in Bolivia
(The guy wearing all these things looked absolutely ridiculous, which was perfect to set me up for the next part...)
Our stories are unique. No one's story will look like mine; it looks funny. But, if I was to leave these things in my duffel bag, then no one would know the real me. My friends get a glimpse of who I am by the parts of my story that I put on, and I begin to take shape. We can haul our stuff around behind us, or we can put it on and let it be part of us. Our experiences tell our story...
Jesus used people with crazy stories...
Levi the tax collector had dinner with Jesus. Jesus said "follow me!" It's not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. (Luke 5:27-31)
(Luke 8:26-39) A naked wacko became a witness... this man was demon possessed, came running up to Jesus without any clothes on and shackles on his ankles and wrists. Jesus cast out the demons, and, when the man pleaded to accompany Jesus, Jesus told him "Go home and tell how much God has done for you!"
All Jesus told this man to do was to tell about what GOd had done is his life. He asked this man to testify, to share about what was true for him.
When I tell my story, I talk about how Jesus wrecked my life. I am ruined because of my relationship with Him. Because I know Jesus, I am not the same. Jesus has broken my heart for the hurting people in this world...and at NCC.
The more broken I am, the more I understand God's heart for the world. Our Heavenly Father is grieved infinitely more than we are. He knows every piece of our story that hurts... He knows every student here at NCC, in all of Eugene, in all of Oregon, in all the US, in all of Bolivia, in all of the world.
I got to know some stories from some women who prostitute in Bolivia. I've seen their desparation and brokenness. I visited the brothels where they work. I watched guys hand them money to pay for sex. The next day, I ate lunch with these same women and they told stories of how they were afraid to go back to work that night because their friend was murdered in her brothel room. But if they don't go back to work, they can't make money. If they can't make money, they can't buy food. If they can't buy food, their kids don't eat.
It's their story. It's REAL. It's TRUE for them. It's softened my heart and changed my life. I've told their story and it's become part of mine.
It's OUR story.
My 3 challenges:
  1. Acknowledge the power of your story. Let it speak for itself. No one can discount your story because it is true for you. You are who you are because of who you were.
  2. Let Jesus wreck your life. Tell the hard pieces of your story and watch how people respond. People are waiting to find someone to relate to, who can understand parts of their story...
  3. Tell someone your story. Tell about the funny things, the hard things, the painful things. Tell how Jesus has wrecked your life.

8 hours later, I was a 'chaperone' at the campus Halloween Dance Party. I dressed up like a Christmas Tree and Kirsten was a Present. :)
I had to stay next to an outlet so I could plug my lights in, and we sat in a corner and lamented about how old we felt.




Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Chapel... tomorrow!

As of 43 minutes ago, it's been confirmed that I am indeed speaking in chapel tomorrow. I desperately want to cancel all meetings and obligations for the rest of the afternoon to seek the quiet of my apartment to just Be. Think. Pray. Write. Listen.

Instead, I blog from my office desk in an attempt to sort out my thoughts.

The physical response of my body is hard to ignore: my mind races, my heart beats a little faster, and my stomach feels like it's training for the Olympic trials for gymnastics.

How do I even begin to decipher/discern what to share with these students... many of who don't even want to be at chapel in the first place?!

There is a lot on my heart and mind and I don't have words for any of it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

My ring

A student told me that one of her friends was wondering if I was married. She had seen the ring on my left hand and was curious.
"What did you tell her?" I asked.
"Well... it didn't seem like you had a husband living with you... so I assumed you weren't."

We agreed that a long distance marriage would be really difficult.

I told her I hoped my wedding ring wouldn't be made of sterling silver.
I explained that it is my purity ring - a gift from my dad for my Sweet 16 (or was it 13)?

She's not the only one who has asked which has made me reconsider the ring placement. Now that I'm of "marrying age" I question:
Should I switch the ring to my other hand?
It would be a simple solution except my ring finger is the only finger it fits on. Not to mention, I have a sweet tan line from it and my finger feels naked without it.

I'm saving myself for him. My ring tan and white dress will prove it.



Someday.

14 Dollars and Credit Card Bills

In an effort to be the 'cool, new ARC,' I bought a couple of bags of candy to pass out to residents at the building meeting. The total came to $5.99 and I paid with a $20 bill. The fancy change machine, which I'm consistently mesmerized by, spat out a penny. I collected my one cent with my receipt from the cashier and left...without my 14 dollars in change.

I thought I just paid the biggest credit card bill of my life, and then I peeked at next month's bill. Thankfully, I was sitting down. Now, I'm breathing slowly, mentally preparing myself to surrender my entire first paycheck to pay it off. Oh, money.

It's quite a change to move from a fully-furnished apartment with ideal roommates to a space that is entirely my own and the daunting truth that I didn't own anything to sit on, eat on, put stuff on, or sleep on. And now I own (my credit card bill proves it) a futon, full bed, futon, and bookshelves. I find myself seat-hopping, trying out mattresses and cushions in an attempt to fully believe that this stuff is mine.

And then I remember that it's just stuff...
And I remember my mattress in Bolivia... the wood slats that my hips felt through the thin stuffing.
And I remember my folding table and two chairs printed with a beer slogan.
And I remember the couch with cushions that were hand sewn and recovered, doubling as Dino the Dog's bed.
And I remember my small bookshelf which housed my toothbrush, contact solution, and Spanish dictionary.

And I can't possibly fathom how it's already been a year since I first found out I was going to Bolivia.
Nor can I describe how content I was with a simple life and one suitcase to this feeling of home in Eugene with an apartment full of stuff.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

"Prostitutes sew lips together in Bolivia protest"

This isn't a happy post...

My heart is heavy this morning as I read and reread the news articles that were forwarded to me yesterday.
"Prostitutes sew lips together in Bolivia protest"
"Prostitutes strike in Bolivia"

These are my friends that I sat with at the lunch table.
I gave her hot chocolate.
I sobbed after I saw her in the brothels because I was so distraught because of the torture and violation she experiences night after night.

In an effort to regulate the distance between brothels from school grounds and other public places, mobs and riots broke out. Brothels were burnt down and prostitutes and transvestites were stripped down, brutally beaten. As though their bodies aren't violated enough as it is, the humiliation and mutilation continues.

The government has since closed down all the brothels located too close to public places but has taken no action to prosecute the angry mobsters who stripped these women of their belongings, their only source of income, and their identity.

Now the women are striking. Some have literally sewed their lips together as part of a hunger strike; they won't eat until they can work. They choose to fast and their families are starving because mom is out of a job...

35 thousand are refusing their routine health inspections. These checkups are required every 20 days in order for them to keep working - they must pass health exams to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Without these inspections, the infections are undoubtedly spreading.

Oh, I ache. I'm frustrated with the inhumanity of it all. Where is the justice?! Haven't these women experienced enough?!

Please read more:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1675348,00.html?imw=Y
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/oukoe_uk_bolivia_prostitutes?=&submit=Done
(The slideshow on the left features photos of women that I know. I know their names and their stories.)

They continue to suffer, to fight, to live. They continue to work, to please, to feed.
They need our prayers.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Get Your Beac-On

In this frustrating state of "blogging perfection" I'm currently in, I couldn't seem to think of the "perfect" title for this entry. I'm sporting my NCC bright yellow t-shirt with the phrase "Get Your Beac-On" in honor of Beacon Madness which happened tonight. And so, I settled with this screen-printed phrase...

I'm definitely getting my Beac-On here (we are the Beacons, in case you didn't catch that, and instead of getting our freak on, we're getting our beac-on). It's easy to feel discouraged when I think about all the people I don't know yet considering the semester is already halfway over. I attended a retention task force meeting and was so bummed out by how many students have chosen to discontinue their education at NCC before graduation. The numbers are bleak... The budget has been drastically cut. A second RA resigned last week. I spent a huge amount of money on moving expenses.

Impromptu karaoke down the hall finally ended at 11pm last night and a huge pep rally which started at 10pm tonight, were both preceded by 6:30AM meetings. I'm tuckered out.

I just need to write. It's therapeutic to spill my guts and know someone is reading. I've neglected my updates lately due to sheer exhaustion and also the concept of perfection. I've tried to write several times, yet sleep prevails because I end up staring at the computer screen in front of me. The partially-constructed sentences just haven't been conveying what I wish to share. I want to tell my stories in a colorful way that will prompt you to ask questions, to pray for me, and ask for more. But, If I keep cutting and pasting my thoughts in this little section to make it 'perfect,' I won't ever post a thing...

My refrigerator gurgles, the heat vent rattles, traffic roars by, karaoke blasts down the hall, and trains toot their horns. Strangely enough, these aren't the sounds that keep me awake at night or prematurely wake me up in the morning. It's the other things I'm hearing at NCC. The things my ears and heart pick up during 1 on 1s with RAs. Some of it is even what they aren't saying.

I'm lighthearted, though, and my energy level is somehow replenished each night even without an adequate amount of sleep. The conversations I'm having remind me of why I'm here and spur me on to speak more Truth, seek out residents, and confidently testify about what God has done and continues to do in my life. I'm decorating my apartment, laughing a TON (what's not funny about karaoke?) and having amazing coffee dates with students who blow me away with their level of maturity.

I promise to post more specific stories soon -- they are just too thought-provoking for this sleep-deprived mind. :)

Monday, October 15, 2007

I survived my first day!

Things I've learned in the past 24 hours since arriving on campus at NCC:
  • Cheap rugs that aren't specifically labeled as a "bath mat" should not be used as a bath mat. I made an emergency trip to Target last night to purchase a shower curtain. I was so excited to buy matching things in hopes of livening up my lonely apartment. I splurged and spent a whopping $3.83 on a 'bath mat.' It looks great in the bathroom. But, when I got out of the shower, I noticed that my shower curtain had leaked all over the floor and my 'bath mat' was soaked. As I wrung out the mat over the tub, green dye squirted out. Sure enough, there was a green rectangle on the floor where the mat had been. Thankfully, I haven't found any green footprints on my carpet.
  • Water pipes will burst on your first day of work. At lunch today, I was approached by the maintenance man (whom I met 20 minutes prior) and was informed that the dorm's (which includes my apartment) water would be shut off for most of the afternoon and that I needed to notify the residents. I don't even know the residents. Or even all of the RAs!
  • NCC's logo is often confused with North Carolina because most of their insignia contains only "NC" for Northwest Christian.
  • Students like to give nicknames. One resident asked what my last name was. He thought Seybold might start with a C, so he wanted to call me "E.C." to which he turned into "E.Z." Thankfully, we quickly decided that wouldn't be a good idea and I reminded him my last name started with an S. He said he'd call me "E.S." instead.
  • If I turn Left out of my apartment, I'll find Fred Meyer, Target, and Walmart.
  • I might be taking over the Missions component of Campus Ministries in addition to my role as the Area Residence Coordinator.
  • As of today, one of the RAs decided to step down from her role. Now I have 6!

That's all for now; more learning tomorrow after a good night's sleep!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

2 dozen dinner rolls & the card game

The 7 of us celebrated many things this past weekend: Chrislyn is halfway done with her last first semester of college. Parker flew in from New York and we celebrated his new job and 26th birthday. My grandparents flew in from Illinois for my grandma's birthday. I'm starting a new job.... my parents finally had all their kids under one roof for more than 1 hour. The dog even got a bath.

The waitress brought out a basket of warm, delicious dinner rolls before our meal. Our plates were already full from the self-serve salad bar, and yet we managed to finish off the basket. My grandpa, insistent on receiving the best service possible, asked her to bring out a second basket. The waitress gave us a motherly look as though to warn us not to fill up on rolls.

Contrary to what the rest of my family thought, 2 baskets of rolls was not enough. My grandpa asked for a 3rd. This time, the waitress did tell us not to spoil our appetites and although she didn't say anything, the look in her eyes said "you better eat all these rolls, or else...."

The whole situation was rather awkward and strange and I was feeling bad about letting the dinner rolls sit there, untouched. My mind drifted to thoughts of starving street children in Bolivia... And so, I reached for a 3rd dinner roll to top off my full plate of salad and large entree. No one said anything about the rolls until we were in the parking lot. Confessions began about how full we felt and now none of us would have liked to eat so much bread.

We sat around the dinner table a second time that evening. This time, however, it was for a healthy dose of cards called "O' Shaw." There was some stiff competition until my grandpa started playing very poorly. His response? "This game should be called 'O Hell' instead." "Hell" isn't a part of my family's everyday vocabulary. We all looked at each other, trying to stifle our giggles, but to no avail. Belly-aching laughter erupted from the Seybold Family.

I've heard it said that your family consists of the weirdest people you'll ever meet.
The truth?
Well, they sure do make me laugh a lot. :)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

P.Pie

P.Pie Chai.
P.Pie Latte.

"P.Pie" (pronounced: Pee Pie) is short for Pumpkin Pie on the beverage list at Chapter's.
It's much more enjoyable to order a P.Pie chai than a Pumpkin Pie chai; it's just more fun to say and equally as delightful to sip.

Chrislyn and I ordered P.Pie drinks today. I wanted to get drenched and begged her to accompany me on a long walk, but she said she was getting sick. We compromised and she humored me by walking in the rain one block to take cover in Chapter's.

We took comfort in the P.Pie - soothing her sore throat and my contemplative mind.

It hit me today that I'm relocating in 9 days...

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Smokers

I awoke this morning to the sound of tires sliding on wet pavement which was immediately followed by a dense 'thud!' and then an obnoxious car alarm. Curiously (and blindly) I peered out my window and then decided to investigate. I quickly put on my glasses, sweatshirt, and sandals and braved the chilly weather and neighbors in my favorite purple-flowered pajama pants. A very disappointed man stood by two parked cars on the street, both displaying fresh dents. He saw me and sheepishly asked if I knew whose car he had just hit. I was relieved to tell him it wasn't mine or my roommates and that I was sorry I couldn't help him identify the vehicle. My car was, however, parked on the street right across from the accident. I wish I could have helped him. Better yet, I wish I could hit the rewind button for him so he could be driving a little more slowly and attentively...

Through this incident, I struck up a conversation with my neighbors. He was smoking a cigarette and she was in her pajamas like me. This was my first interaction with them even though their cigarette smoke has wafted into our apartment on numerous occasions. My roommates and I endearingly refer to them as "The Smokers." As we gag in our living room and cough loudly and indiscreetly out the window, we joke about setting up a truth campaign outside their door with educational signs about the effects of secondhand smoke. I would rather smell cow manure than cigarette smoke.

They are not bad people, they are actually quite pleasant as I learned today. They just have a bad habit and bad lungs.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Endless Song

there is an endless song,
echoes in my soul
I hear the music ring
and though the storms may come,
I am holding on,
and to the rock I cling.

how can I keep from singing Your praise?
how can I ever say enough?
how amazing is Your love?
how can I keep from shouting Your name?
I know I am loved by the King
and it makes my heart want to sing

I will lift my eyes
in the darkest night
for I know my Savior lives
and I will walk with You
knowing You see me through
and sing the songs You give

how can I keep from singing Your praise?
how can I ever say enough?
how amazing is Your love?
how can I keep from shouting Your name?
I know I am loved by the King
and it makes my heart want to sing

I can sing in the troubled times,
sing when I win.
I can sing when I lose my step,
and I fall down again.
I can sing 'cause You pick me up,
sing 'cause You're there
I can sing 'cause You hear me Lord,
when I call to You in prayer
I can sing with my last breath
sing for I know
that I'll sing with the angels,
and the saints around the throne

how can I keep from singing Your praise?
how can I ever say enough?
how amazing is Your love?
how can I keep from shouting Your name?
I know I am loved by the King
and it makes my heart want to sing

-Chris Tomlin

Amy played this song on the piano this afternoon and we belted out the words from my apartment. Though the brisk, chilly weather calls for hot chocolate with jet-puffed marshmallows, we ate fudgesicles like it should still be summertime.

Being 'chosen' by Chrislyn to be her 'model' for her photography assignment made my day. She took pictures of me while I sat on a swing and sang along to my ipod - a lovely combo!

"The Office" season premiere brought 14 friends over for a nacho feast and homemade cookies, not to mention loads of laughter at Michael's absurdity.

I took Samba dance lessons last night and then watched "Freedom Writers" - I recommend both. :) Long phone conversations with friends 5 minutes away and friends far away leave me feeling loved and ready to love.


My new job, piano music, fudgesicles, "The Office", photos, dance lessons, conversations...
These things really do make my heart sing. I know I am loved by the King.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

All good things come to an end

...and so does unemployment! In just 16 days, I'll be starting my dream job as the Area Residence Coordinator at Northwest Christian College in the Oregon Duck-crazed city of Eugene. I'm thinking about adding two things to my wardrobe upon my arrival: a green U of O sweatshirt and an NCC Beacons t-shirt. You know, the necessities. :) Maybe my 4 months of non-shaven Bolivia legs will help ease the transition into this hippie culture?

100 students live on campus and I get to know them all! I'll work with 7 RAs and live on campus in a cozy apartment inside the dormitory. There are several quirks that accompany the close proximity of the U of O campus. A frat house neighbors one of the dorms. My apartment is across the street from a bar. I'll get a true taste of college-town life where establishments are hopping past 9pm, although I will miss the familiarity of seeing 9 Fox students at Fred Meyer at 10:56pm because it's the only place still open for another 4 minutes.

Weeknight and weekend commitments, one on ones, deep conversations at coffee shops, the college cafeteria, quiet hours... all to be part of my life again. Only this time, I'm not studying for exams or attending classes. This has been my dream since my sophomore year as an RA. I sat on my fold out bed on Ed One across from my AAC. I shared my dreams with her, and even as a naive 19 year old whose major was still "undecided", I was confident in my calling to Student Life. I remember thinking it was so cool that there was a job where "someone gets paid to take college students out for coffee." Granted, there is much more to this job than drinking coffee, and I'm pleased to say the love for this caffeinated beverage extends to student life professionals everywhere! (I was treated to coffee during both of my visits to NCC.)

I'll soon pull my "trunk-o-funk" out of storage to dress up for various activities. My favorite jeans, zip-up hoodie and sandals will soon be replaced by professional garb as I start work in an office. This means a paycheck (yahoo!), my very own parking space, and a business card. This all sounds very career-ish.

I'm shaking my head in disbelief and a smile is appearing on my face as I think about God's impeccable timing. All the closed doors up to this point meant God was preparing the perfect match for me.

There is something to be said about waiting for God's best and trusting the desires God has placed on your heart. An email from a good friend in Mexico encouraged me today: "I remember you sharing a verse with me that you like. Trust in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart -- Psalm something or other. And when you worked at Tilikum you came across a different version that said something like obey/do what the Lord wants and he will give you what YOU want. Don't remember the exact words but LOOK!!!! God was totally holding out on all those other jobs because he had something better in store for you. Something that was a DESIRE in YOUR heart and something that YOU wanted!!!! Wow, the stories never end with God's faithfulness."

Psalm 37:4 - "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." Delighting means serving and seeking wholeheartedly. My friend is exactly right; God has never failed me and the stories of His provision in my life keep getting better. I refused to settle on a job that didn't excite me; trusting the desires God placed in my heart left me available and ready for the best.

Now I'm waiting for God to provide a 3rd roommate for the amazing amazing amazing girls I've been living with, furniture to furnish my space in Eugene, a new church, a spiritual mentor/teacher, and friends to compensate for the families I'm leaving in Grants Pass and Portland.

At least I-5 North and South will lead me right to people I love... just a couple hours away. :)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Alive

Sitting on the carpet with my laptop in front of me, I look ahead. The side door to my apartment stands open, tempting me to visit the concrete patio of our tiny "veranda" which offers a stunning view of the parking lot. I imagine myself venturing outside, my bare feet soaking up the cool ground, the breeze gently awakening my senses and dancing through my freshly washed, untamed hair. I imagine the butterflies in my stomach spreading to my whole body where I uninhibitedly dance about, shouting at the top of my lungs, waving my arms above my head, letting the laughs erupt and the tears escape. It's a comical image that has been in my daydreams for a few weeks.

I feel alive. And I'm pleasantly surprised. :)

Very few things in my life make sense right now. I'm caught up in a perpetual state of searching - for where I belong, for a job, how to integrate the discomforts of Bolivia into the comforts of the United States, and how to find peace in the midst of so much tension. In this place of seeking, I'm keenly aware of my emotions. My senses are heightened. I am facing the challenges of sacrifice, abandonment, surrender, trust, and obedience. My faith is real.

Maybe it all makes more sense than I like to think.

If only the view of the parking lot weren't quite so grand (I'd much prefer a vast meadow, Tilikum Lake, a far away view of city lights, or a glorious mountain range), my neighbors not so near, and social norms not so restricting.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Various Work Opportunties

I've been all over the board with my job search. Here are a list of jobs I came across.

As found on craigslist:
  • The "funnest" job ever: a salesperson for Callaway Big Bertha Irons
  • Newspaper delivery person for morning route
  • A forklift driver
  • A surfboard model to hand out fliers and hold a surfboard ($15/hr!)
  • Part-time golf ball picker
  • Bartender and Cocktail server
  • Food prep for airline catering company
  • Telemarketer
  • Part-time motorcycle support position
  • Fight choreography: someone who can teach actors how to fight
  • 7-Eleven sales associate
  • Tow truck driver

Unexpected Emotion

It's a quiet, cloudy Saturday. After two loads of laundry, dishes in the dishwasher and a bowl of Rice Krispys, the clock reads 3:10 pm. An uneventful, somewhat productive and mostly lazy day.

I flipped through the channels on TV and caught the beginning of the movie "Monster Ball." One of the first scenes of the movie shows a man spending a few minutes with a woman... a prostitute. I am careful not to simply call her a prostitute because her identity is a woman, first.

Something strikes a chord deep within my soul as I understand more about prostitution.

Within seconds, my cheeks were wet as I shed a few tears for my sisters on the streets. In Bolivia, in Hollywood, and here in Portland. Seems I've been shedding quite a few tears lately... my re-entry to the states continues to be challenging and convicting.

Oppression continues and my hope is on fire. I looked through my journal this morning and read some sermon notes: "Hope does NOT disappoint. Hope is absolute confidence that God is always at work."

Hallelujah!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

a chocolate craving

Charlie slowly unwrapped his Wonka chocolate bar, his eyes grew wide with excitement as he pulled back a GOLD wrapper... the 5th winning ticket for a tour of the Chocolate Factory! The crowd erupted in cheers and applause.

Movies are much more entertaining when viewed with an interactive crowd. There were kids dancing like Oompa Loompas, improv karaoke (thanks to closed captioning), and even a man in Wonka-garb handing out candy - all in downtown Portland and entirely free.

I should be sleeping, but the enjoyment from the movie and the stillness of my new apartment are keeping me up, my thoughts running rampant. I know I'll fall right asleep the minute my head meets my pillow, I just haven't made it there yet.

I neeeeeeeeed a job. It's painful to look elsewhere when I have my heart set on one.

I know God has my best interests in mind. If it's not this job, then it IS something better. Sprawled out on the carpet, head in my hands, tears streaming down my face, the literal cry of my heart is "why is it so hard for me to trust you, God?!"

I want some chocolate.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Shocking!

I'm celebrating my one month anniversary of life in the USA!

The first couple of weeks I found myself in a state of euphoria; everything was so wonderful. A soak in the hot tub, a haircut, blended coffee drinks, cell phone land, green trees and green grass....hot weather (yes, I am loving it!)

These things are still wonderful and I'm seeking the balance between an attitude of thankfulness for what I have and the awareness and ache for those who have not.

The euphoria stage has long gone. Culture shock, accompanied by transition shock, show their intensity like this 100+ degree heat.

Trying to catch up has been difficult. I'm different and my friends are different. Life happened and continues to happen.

I don't feel angry or frustrated, just SAD.
lonely.
I'm missing that which was part of my daily routine in Bolivia.
the simplicity.
incarnational living.
speaking Spanish.

A huge Hispanic family-gathering was happening right next to our 4th of July potluck at the park. I walked by them and lingered in the Spanish words, almost feeling more at home around this group of strangers than with my former classmates.

I watched Oprah - the topic was "stuff" - how clutter is ruining lives - the need for more and the hesitancy to give things away. I usually don't watch Oprah, yet this particular episode intrigued me, affirming the extreme separation between the American life with that of life in El Alto, Bolivia.

Sharing at church yesterday refreshed my Bolivia experiences. I spoke about my visit to the brothels, reading my blog entry for the first time since I posted it. Emotion flooded my speech. Every time I share, my body trembles.

A friend recently encouraged me with the reminder that through my stages of instability and uncertainty, Jesus Christ remains the SAME: yesterday, today, and forever.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Coffee Shops

A few days before I left for El Alto, I sat in the original Dutch Brothers Coffee House with my journal and Bible, striking up a conversation with an amazing missionary woman who gave me advice for my journey ahead.

Now, I'm back at Dutch Brothers, this time with my laptop, Bolivia purse, cell phone, and white chocolate/macadamia nut Dutch Freeze. An older gentleman sits across from me with his over-sized laptop and a magazine used as a mouse pad. The tables were full so invited him to sit at mine.

He asked me if I was "in school or something", to which I ever-so nonchalantly responded that I graduated a year ago from college and just got back from Bolivia. He asked me a few questions about my experience and as I shared briefly about my thoughts on excess and poverty, I quickly understood he wasn't really that interested. I stopped talking and he began sharing with me. Using a few colorful words, he shared some strong opinions about people in 3rd world countries and their lack of "drive." He said that as long as you're content with what you have then it doesn't really matter, but people could have more if they just had more drive. I kept my mouth shut and smiled to myself, feeing sad that this man doesn't know that it's not about drive or wealth or material things. It's not about keeping or having or saving.

He sits across from me sipping his iced coffee and making small talk - but he interrupts me with "huh? what?" and I have to repeat myself and speak louder. In Bolivia, quietness is a virtue... the noise of this coffee shop would be overwhelming.

And so my processing begins.

Goodbye Stories

A few days before my departure, Felix slipped a farewell card in my door. I pushed the door open to go to bed and the card fell on the floor. I picked it up, noting the recycled Christmas card which had a new, hand-written message glued over the type-written one which made the back of the card a bit bubbly.

I read his words silently and let the tears flow as I sat on my bed.

Felix wrote that I was a "persona muy linda" in every sense of the word "linda" - basically a very lovely person. He called me his sister and said that he loved me. He asked repeatedly that I not forget him or Bolivia and hoped that I'd come back soon because he's going to miss me. He told me to share with my family in Oregon that they have a very sensational brother in Bolivia.

He asked me the next afternoon if I had found his card. I thanked him for it and told him it made me cry because of his kind words. He asked me if I thought the words came from his heart, to which I replied "absolutely!"

"Did you hear that, mom?" Felix exclaimed. "The words came from my heart!"
***********
Shirley knocked on my door the last night. I invited her in and she handed me a handmade card and asked me not to read it until after she left. She called me an angel that God had sent to her family.
***********
Saying goodbye to the Bolivian workers at La Casa de Esperanza was especially special - and difficult. Each woman shared about our presence over the last 4 months and how difficult it would be not to have us around anymore. Eli and Alicia both commented on my "corazon muy grande" - my big heart. Eli had seen me sob after my first visit to the brothels. Alicia commented on how happy her 2 year old son, Oscar, was whenever I'd come over to visit.

I got to present the photo album to Eli, filled with a couple hundred pictures from the last 3 years at La Casa. I personalized the album cover and drew a picture on the inside page. She was pleased with my contribution, and I loved watching the women flip through the pages as I ate lunch in their presence for the last time.

Eli and the other workers laid hands on us and prayed over our journey home, focusing on our ability to share our experiences with our friends, churches, and family back home.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Last visit to the brothels

The night seemed surprisingly quiet. Hundreds of men roamed the streets, scoured dark, narrow hallways with their eyes, and constantly entered and exited through the red doors. I felt like a ghost by the way they ignored me - they definitely had one thing on their mind.

The quietness came from inside the brothels. We didn't get a chance to talk to many of our friends because so many of their doors were shut and the traffic through the hallways was thick. It's always difficult to invite girls to La Casa when they don't know who we are. Humberto gave a brief introduction and told the girls what was on the menu for lunch the next day: Cerviche, raw fish (scales, too) soaked in lime. Many promised they'd come for lunch. I didn't expect to see them, though, because they often promise to show up and we never see them.

In one of the brothels, I noticed a fairly intense conversation happening. A man was questioning a woman about her keys and asked her why she was leaving. She was definitely a worker and he may have been the pimp, monitoring her coming and going. My guess was she wanted out...

We walked outside to find a huge group of men surrounding 3 other men - a couple of police officers and another guy. We quickly crossed the street to stay out of their way. I still don't know what had happened, and I know God protected us that evening.

One women asked us where the hot chocolate was, since we made our street visits without it that night. I apologized that we didn't have it and assured her we'd bring it next time. She grabbed my arm and giggled.

I'm home, now, where I can look out the windows and see LIFE - awesome greenery, raspberry vines, grass, and PEACE. I'm sad for my friends who still do not see life out their windows. I miss smiling at them.

Friday, June 8, 2007

I´m feeling tension-filled.
Home means:
family, friends, a cell phone, good food, a hair-dryer, a change of wardrobe, and coffee shops. Leaving means:
goodbyes, adios to this special simplicity, chao to my lack of distractions

Only 3 women showed up at La Casa today. One of them came with several devastating stories... She has a visible, painful outbreak of Herpes. She begged to receive some medication for free, even though it only costs 50 centavos, which is equivalent to 4 pennies - but she doesn´t have pennies to spare. Her young daughters are also always filthy, soaked in urine - we offer them lunch and showers at the center. I´m wondering if they don´t have running water in their home? Her sister just had a baby a few days ago and the baby has a bruised nasal passage, which has left the doctor in bewilderment and is sending her to a specialist. The baby´s mother is very sick and can hardly walk. I kissed her cheek as I said goodbye and couldn´t help but notice the pain in her eyes - physically and emotionally.

When I was at a table by myself, Humberto told me today that he is going to miss my presence here...

It´s painful to think about what I´m leaving behind, knowing that my friends here don´t have the immediate option of financial security, life off the streets, medical treatment....espresso drinks, cable television, cell phones. Their life is in El Alto, never to be elsewhere, and I get to go home... to comfort, relaxation, security.

My final days are filled with activity. We attended a soccer game in La Paz´s huge stadium. Last night we rested and watched a movie. Tonight we´re attending a worship service with several other missionaries in the area. Saturday and Sunday I´ll be in Copacabana with part of my B-family on our final outing. Monday night we´re having a dinner with all our families as a way to show our gratitude. Tuesday night I´ll visit the brothels one last time. Wednesday night is Cara´s birthday, and a sleepover at her house since we have to leave at 5am Thursday morning...

Please pray for me as I struggle to integrate dreams of home with my goodbyes here. Also, for my trip to the streets next Tuesday... (see my previous blog for suggestions on what to pray for). And finally, no flight delays on my trip home; I´m supposed to arrive HOME at 2am on June 15th, which gives me 5 hours with my brother before he moves to Boston, and delays might mean I won´t get to see him.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Mother Teresa and Shadow Puppets

I developed several pictures to share with the women at Missionaries of Charity. It was a joy to see them point each other out in the photos, as well as recognize their own faces. I wonder if some of them have ever seen pictures of themselves? We shared so much laughter today. I stood in the background and took more photos, thankful for the gift of digital photography. I´ll miss my friends there...

  • The woman who stuffs garbage up her sleeves and down her shirt, always carrying a plastic bag full of trash with her - she also only measures up to my bellybutton and gives the most gentle kisses on my hand
  • Silvina, who thinks she is 11 years old and always wants to play catch with her yellow soccer ball - she knows everyone´s name at M of C except for the Gringas
  • Estela who loves to wrap her arms around my waist and dance (I have a videoclip of this on my camera)
  • The Nuns who faithfully and patiently care for the residents - who have committed their life to this kind of service
  • Teresa, who loves to give high fives
A few women were teary as we said our goodbyes... one of the faithful sisters said ¨I´ll see you in heaven!¨

Last week, we were blessed by the Nuns and the Priest in a small, private chapel. They asked us to arrive early for a special Thanksgiving Mass... they prayed over us and presented us with handwritten thank you cards, tea, and a special Mother Teresa charm. I don´t deserve this acknowledgement... I was only there for 4 months, and these Sisters have committed their LIFE to this... I´m so humbled... and full of even more admiration for Mama T and more love for my Savior.

Last week, I hosted a slumber party in my bedroom with Silvia and Shirley. Silvia asked me if pajamas were required, or if she should just wear her clothes to bed. I said they were an added bonus. She promptly changed into a little, white miniskirt. I wore my long underwear layer underneath a thick, fleece layer. We apparantly have different perceptions of pajamas. We went to the corner market and bought popcorn kernels, then popped it on the stove - I´m not sure they had ever done it before. My flashlight was the perfect excuse for shadow puppets, so we took turn holding the light and telling stories while the other two acted it out. Thankfully, they moved their mattresses in so we didn´t have to all share my tiny bed (which was the original plan).
*****
Last night, my B-mom, Judi, Ana-Luz and Sergio all interrogated me about...... boys. So, I spilled my one, pathetic, high school boy story to them (dating back 6 years ago!) while they teased me. Ana-Luz told me I should visit Bolivia with my husband someday. And, when I mentioned the possibility of adoption in my future, Patricia (B-mom) said ¨Oh! You can adopt a Bolivian baby!¨

Ana-Luz and Judi looked up how to say ¨I´m going to miss you¨ in the Spanish-English dictionary.

It´s going to be hard to leave. This last weekend (despite my weird, creepy disease which is healing, thank God!) in Coroico helped me to think about closure and has given me butterflies about coming home... Woo-Hoo!!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Hand, Foot, and Mouth...

I have a disease. I made it 3 1\2 months, and now I have a disease...I can´t believe it! Since I´m in Coroico there isn´t a clinic closeby. So, I´ve been self-diagnosed by the internet useage of Jodi, the brilliant Med Student on my team.
I think I picked it up from the kids at Missionaries of Charity on Monday, though I was only with them for half an hour to take pictures. My hands and feet are covered with blister-like sores that are painful and seem to be getting worse before better. The worst part is that they are also covering the inside of my mouth, making eating, drinking, and even talking especially difficult and extremely painful. Gross, I know. My poor tongue... There isn´t treatment since it´s a virus, so I just have to wait it out. I´m feeling frustrated and miserable, especially since we´re going to a delicious German restaurant for lunch - which is a delightful break from potatoes and rice - and I´ll have to pick at my food and salivate...

If you could pray for me, that would be much appreciated! :)

Friday, June 1, 2007

World´s Most Dangerous Road

Talk about being hardcore... I survived cow stomach and the World´s Most Dangerous Road! The ride started at 15,400 feet in the high Andean plains and we descended 11,800 feet into the jungle below. It´s a very bumpy, twisty road with potholes, rocks, waterfalls, random dogs, and drug check-points. The views were absolutely breathtaking, although my eyes were so focused on staying upright and on the road that I may have missed some of it. 40 miles of downhill coasting (and a LOT of breaking) left me quite sore... my tushie and palms are quite bruised and tender.
We went with Gravity-Assisted-Moutain-Biking Tours which had hilarious guides and top of the line gear. We ended up at an animal refuge resort full of monkeys wearing diapers. We took some much-needed showers and got our free t-shirts for surviving the ride.

Now, I´m relaxing. Norah Jones (oh, just switched to Backstreet Boys) is playing in the background and I´m sitting at a computer overlooking the beautiful mountains of the North Yungas (Jungles) in Coroico, Bolivia - where I can also see the road I descended. I can see the snow-capped Mt. Illimani, which means El Alto is just on the other side. The trees and just plain GREEN-ness of this place makes me wonder why anyone would choose to live in El Alto over Coroico... We´re on our final debriefing retreat where we´re learning how to say goodbye to the last 4 months of our lives and think about what re-entry to the USA will be like.

I´m excited to be coming home in less than 2 weeks, yet it will all be bittersweet. I have a list of menu ideas (which I´ll soon be emailing home, mom!) and visions of hugging friends and family who I´ve missed so much.

I wonder if I´ll cry the minute I step of the plane. I wonder how I´ll respond to life in the USA (will my layover in Vegas be too much for me to handle?) I wonder how I´ll ever be able to share all my stories. I wonder who will want to listen. I wonder who will notice how I´ve changed. *sigh...* HOME!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Cow Curiosity

I tried cow heart last week, and it wasn´t that bad.
As a result, however, I have recently become quite curious about cows, specifically relating to their stomachs...
  • Why is cow stomach considered a delicacy when each cow has 4?
  • Do people eat all 4 stomachs?
  • Why would anyone ever choose to eat cow stomach?

It´s true. A special Mother´s Day meal: cow stomach. When the announcement was made regarding what we would be eating, my B-family started salivating while my stomach started churning. While the food was being prepared, I prepared myself for the food.

Without the stomach, the plate would have been fine: 4 potatoes with a large side of lettuce, tomatoes and onion. All one one plate, covered with cow stomach and cow stomach juice. The stomach was thinly sliced, white with goose-bumps. The first bite was okay, though extremely chewy. Judi told me to be sure to chew it really well... I´m still not sure why, though I followed her advice because I didn´t want to have any cow stomach stuck in my stomach, or anywhere else, for that matter. The more I ate, the more it tasted like stomach. I tried to mix the stomach with potatoes and salad to disguise the chewiness, but it was all covered in the stomach sauce.

I helped with the dishes after the meal, and was nauseated with the lingering scent of stomach in the kitchen. It´s just not good, and no one should eat it. Whatever is in your stomach or is IN your stomach should stay where it is - always.

The ¨Missionary´s Prayer¨ has new meaning to me now:

¨Where you lead me, I will follow. What you feed me, I will swallow.¨

Cake Overload


The damage
Originally uploaded by Elizabeth in Bolivia.
After having 3 surprise parties, and eating cake 8 or 9 times since Friday, I´m 23! I feel like I should be older... maybe it´s because of all these incredible experiences I´m having, mixed with the response from the Nuns at Missionaries of Charity and staff at La Casa who often remark, ¨oh, you are so young!¨

Surprise *1: An eventful day at La Casa for 100 of our friends from the streets. We showed a slideshow, had a cake eating contest, and gave away candy roses tied to verses and warm, fuzzy blankets. After the party, I was distracted downstairs while the rest of the staff congregated upstairs to surprise me with singing and a cake. It´s Bolivian tradition to chant ¨mate a la torta¨ which literally means ¨kill the cake!¨ I had to take a bite out of the cake, in which Humberto snuck up behind me and gave my head a shove, which made a beautiful dent in the cake (see picture).

Surprise *2:
My B-family surprised me by inviting all the Gringas over for dinner. We ate mashed potatoes, ¨hamburgers,¨ and tomato slices, all arranged in a smiley face, to which I observed, ¨hey, the face is white like mine!¨ Unfortunately, the Gringas didn´t get the memo that my B-family was serving dinner, so they had already eaten, not to mention, it is incredibly rude not to finish your plate. ugh. Poor girls... Then we ate more cake followed by jello. I found out later that my family waited until I had gone to bed Thursday night to start the cake, which meant they were up until at least midnight - all to surprise me. Their generosity still keeps me speechless. (I´m still the first one to be served dinner.)

Surprise *3:
The Gringo staff gathered for community dinner last night. We were supposed to show up at 6:30, but when I got there, they were all waiting for me with the lights off and posters on the wall that read ¨Happy Birthday - eat more cake!¨

Needless to say, I have eaten too much cake. And, Bolivian cake just isn´t tasty - like cardboard topped with whipped cream, but it always manages to look pretty.

I feel lively. I feel loved. I feel full of laughter.
Thank you!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Art


Art
Originally uploaded by Elizabeth in Bolivia.
Another art project I´m working on for La Casa

My version of El Alto

A little artwork I created... a rough sketch of where I am

Up my nose


Up my nose
Originally uploaded by Elizabeth in Bolivia.
More about my surprise birthday party later... but yes, I really did get cake up my nose - twice.

Also, I have stories about eating cow heart and cow stomach...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Up, Up, UP!


Cara and I
Originally uploaded by Elizabeth in Bolivia.
Despite the fact that my clothes and skin are covered in a perpetual film of dust from the atrocious wind we´ve been having, my toothpaste has been freezing because of the cold, and I´ve seen a few very large spiders, I´ve been feeling pretty ¨up¨ as of late.

It´s been in the 20s at night, which feels even colder without heaters, carpet, and an enclosed house.

I still think about the women in the brothels and my experience there, hoping for another visit to the streets before I leave. I´m also processing the recent announcement one of my teammates who has chosen to leave Bolivia early. I´m trying to find a balance of my feelings of disappointment and support.

Yesterday, I spent the morning in La Paz by myself. I developed some pictures for the photo album of La Casa de Esperanza that I´m putting together for my Servant Team project. I sent my parents another postcard. I wandered around in several shops with beautiful homemade handicrafts. I bought myself a birthday present. The fresh air and time to myself was invigorating after some especially difficult days last week.

When I arrived at the La Casa for lunch, I was immediately greeted by my little friend April, who is 3 years old. Since I had arrived late, she had been asking the other Gringos, ¨where is the ´other?´ I´ve befriended her many times at the center with gifts of stickers and questions about favorite colors. Her laughter is contagious, which could be another reason we´ve bonded. When she had to leave, she ran up to me to say ¨chao¨ and kiss me on the cheek, calling me her ¨Amigita¨ - ¨Little Friend.¨ I melted.

Chris Tomlin has donated $10,000 to WMF Bolivia for the purchase of a new building. We are thrilled by his generosity and excited to continue our search for another building that will be even more perfect than the one we currently have.

I cut Cara´s hair, which I must say, looks beautiful. We set up a beauty parlor in her hallway where a patch of sunlight was streaming through, while Jodi practiced the guitar and Jenna made the most delicious oatmeal chocolate chip M&M cookies. She has definitely perfected the art of high-altitude cooking. None of us wanted to leave when we were all finished with our various tasks, so I plugged in my iPod to Cara´s speakers and sang along to my favorite songs. I laid on her hardwood floor in a ray of sunlight, occasionally busting out with some awkward dance moves from my position on the floor.

We laughed. We rejoiced. We worshiped.

We ate delicious cookies... and Wheat Thins w/ Cheeze Whiz - the combined goodness of Jodi and Cara´s recent packages. I´m still not sure how I feel about cheese in a can, and it felt very non-Bolivian snack, which was a nice change.

I had my last Spanish class today... which begins the end of my time here. Tomorrow, I turn 23 (although I feel like I should be much older for some reason) and we´ll host our last party at La Casa de Esperanza to celebrate Bolivia´s Mother´s Day.

Good emails from incredible friends continue to lift me UP, as does my wall which is almost full of cards.

3 more weeks from today...

Monday, May 21, 2007

...and more brokenness

Not more than 24 hours after my visit to the brothels, a tragedy occurs.
One of our friends was murdered in her room in a brothel Friday evening. The same brothel I visited the night before.
She was beaten, then suffocated. Maybe it was an ex-boyfriend or an unhappy client, which isn´t uncommon, though no one knows for sure who ended her life. Justice is slim...

Her funeral was last night, which Cara described as one of the most depressing moments she´s ever experienced. It was a private function, so just a few staff from WMF attended, as well as the woman´s family, and her co-workers in the brothel. It was held in the back of a church -- lacking hope, lacking light.

Her name doesn´t ring a bell, though I may have recognized her face. I didn´t attend the funeral, and Humberto said it was probably a good thing, since I would have recognized her from my street visit, and also from her visits to La Casa for lunch.

We are sad, we are affected, we are moved to compassion.

I´ve been meditating on Psalm 86:1-7
Hear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am devoted to you. You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. In the day of my trouble I will call to you for you will answer me. Teach me your way, O Lord and I will walk in your truth. Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.

My salvation brings me great HOPE, and another reminder that this is NOT the earth God had in mind. He is still sovereign and worthy of my praise when I just feel like crying. He knows my pain, and is pained even more. His compassion is greater; His love is deeper.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Brokenness


Door
Originally uploaded by Elizabeth in Bolivia.
My eyes are tired and somewhat swollen; my headache hasn´t let up yet. I´m sad today, reflecting on last night´s sights and sounds, grieving for my friends in the brothels, aching because of the reality.

I was asked to look as androgynous as possible, as to avoid any attention from the men. I wore bulky, baggy clothes and a black baseball cap. My mittens protected my hands from the freezing cold outside and the burning hot chocolate that I poured and handed out.

I expected to smell alcohol, cigarette smoke, and urine. I expected it to be scarier and darker. What I experienced was even more disturbing... a mural of a naked woman just inside the red doors. Black lights, strobe lights, Christmas lights. Loud music, a dance floor, a bar area. It was all too normal and club-like, except the dance floor was empty and the bar was vacant. At first, I was confused. I felt frustrated that I wasn´t sick to my stomach.

Realization set in and I became angry. Satan disguises the ugliness. He masks oppression and injustice with things the world says are normal and acceptable.

The red, swinging doors announced the arrival of men...streams of men. The main, open area narrowed into a hallway, barely wide enough for two people to pass each other. Small rooms with tiny doorways reveal women in various types of clothing. Some in lingerie, others in traditional Chulita costumes with bowler hats. Jeans and tanktops or completely naked. Others with their faces covered, only their eyes revealed.

We followed the men down the hallway with our jug of hot chocolate and plastic cups. We greeted the women with smiles and hugs. I recognized some of them from La Casa, though their various disguises made it somewhat difficult. Most of the women dress differently at night - maybe so they´re not recognized during the day?

Most women readily accepted our hot chocolate once we assured them it was free. I didn´t say much, except to invite them to lunch and the upcoming Mother´s Day party. I observed the men observe the women. Some leaned in to smell her neck. Some lingered to check her out. Some immediately handed her money. Their movements were quick and the hallways were full... men milling about. Doors were constantly opening and closing, men coming and going. I didn´t want their attention, so when I wasn´t interacting with a woman, I looked down at the floor.

I gave hot chocolate to a young girl in another doorway - she couldn´t have been more than 15. I caught her gaze and could have cried right there. She was scared, uncomfortable, and innocent. Humberto told her she was much too young to be working, and if she wanted help, to find us at La Casa. I asked him about her later, and he said they´d probably never see her again since the brothel owners will most likely circulate her through various brothels - controlling her and keeping her from escaping. I can still see her eyes and her small frame. I want to go back, embrace her, take her by the hand, take her to a real home, offer her a bath, treat her like a beautiful 15-year old girl should be treated, erase the nightmares of her brothel life, tell her how much Jesus loves her.

We avoided a few of the worst brothels where minors work. One of them is a lottery system similar to Bingo.

We walked down a street and saw some of our friends leaning against buildings in the bitter cold. Three of them were laughing together, yet they were still ¨working.¨ These women aren´t ¨protected¨ by brothel owners, but can usually make more money by working on the streets because they don´t have to pay rent. This was once the most dangerous street...two years ago, over the span of 5 months, a murder was reported weekly. Now, less women work independently because it is so dangerous. Hotel rooms can be rented hourly. Gaps in the street revealed a parking garage of sorts... a dark, eery, concrete room which had doors attached. From the street, I could hear loud music and could see the pink glow from various rooms, where lightbulbs have been wrapped with toilet paper.

I made it through our rounds, though I was on the verge of tears. My servant team was waiting for me when I returned - they were praying while I was gone. I was welcomed with a hug which released my tears. I cried before I fell asleep last night - so hurt for the 15 year old girl, discouraged by the amount of men I saw, frustrated by the disguise and power satan has in the brothels.

I had asked God to show me His heart for His daughters, to be broken like He is night after night, to understand how far off this is from His intention for this world...

This morning we had devotions at La Casa with the WMF staff and volunteers. We sang about how big and holy God is, and then studied Psalm 139 -- Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

I couldn´t stop thinking about last night, (and still can´t) and cried for an hour or so. Some of the Bolivian women told me about their first time on the streets and said ¨I understand.¨ They hugged me and kissed me. We have so much more in common, now, with this shared experience. Humberto hugged me and said ¨you have a very sensitive heart.¨

These verses popped out to me and I think of my sisters in the brothels...

Isaiah 35:4 Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.

Isaiah 45:22 Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth (El Alto) for I am God, and there is no other.

Isaiah 59:15 The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice.

Isaiah 60:2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over his peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Isaiah 61 ...the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners...

And finally, a reminder that things are NOT the way they are supposed to be...
Isaiah 65:17 Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered.

I am exhausted... physically and emotionally. Spiritually, I understand more of God´s heart for this earth, more about the things that grieve the Holy Spirit, and more about my purpose here.