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


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


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


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.
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.