Wednesday, April 30, 2008


It's been a little stressful around here lately. I guess a better way to say that would be that it's been a little stressful inside lately. It's not just that I'm busy, it's that I'm busy with so many different types of things.

I remember back in college, feeling stressed out because there was so much to read, or so many tests coming up, or such a huge paper to write, but the stress I feel now is different. Although there is still a time crunch and that anxious feeling of an impossible amount of tas
ks on the To Do list before the looming Deadline, this stress has taken on a life of it's own. It's the stress of having too many things to stress about-- the stress spawned from stress that is simply a lack of space in my brain to keep track of all that is important.

When Chris & I were driving home from staff meeting yesterday, my brain actually felt swollen-- like there were too many things I was trying to hold in the front (of my mind) and I was in danger of popping.

I finally made a list, a very detailed list of all the thin
gs I had to do and what days I would do them on, and told myself that the stress spawn (the one that came simply from having too much to stress about) was defeated. But, this morning when I woke up feeling nauseated, with strange aches & pains in places that shouldn't normally hurt (i.e. it felt like I had dry swallowed a huge pill all morning, and that it was just stuck in my throat. Yuck). I knew then that the stress spawn was back.

After many deep breaths, some centering prayer & a day full of actual work and great students, I feel a heck of a lot better. Hooray!

But even better than deep breaths & centering prayer (okay, not better than prayer, but close!) is a new diversion I discovered yesterday. Sitting next to me at the table was a tiny vile of bubbles left over from a weekend wedding, and it occurred to me that our darling mutt had never experienced bubbles before.

I am sad to say that the vicious pit bull was actually afraid of the bubbles. He hid under the table (his favorite place) and watched in panic as tiny aliens fell from the sky and then disappeared into the ground. And then, he took action. I have to tell you that it is absolutely therapeutic to watch Gavin leap through the air, eating bubbles, frantically looking around (but never above him, to the source) for another bubble to kill. Hours of entertainment.

If you are ever feeling anxious, and have a less-than-intelligent dog, I would highly recommend it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New Home

We just got some photos from Uganda of our future homes! The women in the photos are the very same ones that we will be working with at Child Voice International-- women who were kidnapped as little girls, taken from their families, forced into prostitution, and who now have little babies strapped to their backs.

It was a sobering moment seeing these photos this morning. For the last several weeks, I have been thinking about our budget and support raising, and our itinerary. I had kind of forgotten about the actual women & children that we will be working with-- the reason why we're going.

It made me pause for a moment and say, "These women have actual faces and names and stories." It was so different from seeing a documentary or reading a news article or a book. These are women I will see and touch-- I will look into their eyes and hear their stories and hold their babies. They are building my home right now, sweating and working hard for something I will sleep in.

It is a very surreal and beautiful feeling. I'm really going to Africa, and those are the bricks that will make my home.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Aaaalll Byyyy Myyysee-eelf

I've been singing that Celine Dion song in my head for the last few minutes, as Chris drove off into the sunset (except that it's only 2:30) to leave me aaaalll byy myseee-eelf this weekend. That scene from Bridget Jones Diary has also been rolling around in my mind (and making me laugh), although I sincerely doubt life will be quite that tragic over the next three days.

Chris is having the perfect boy's weekend down in Monterey--
camping with old friends (one even drove out from Colorado, and another flew up from San Diego!), competing in a few bicycle races, and gaping at all the pretty shiny things at the bike expo that inevitably comes with the exciting bike races. It's going to be great (he's been looking forward to it for a really long time, and it all came together perfectly for him!).

As for myself, I'm realizing this is th
e first time I've ever really been in San Francisco by myself. There have been other weekends when Chris has left, but I've always had the great fortune of having someone come visit me while he was away.

This time, I decided to be a big girl, and take on the City alone. Well,
not completely alone. Saturday, I'm going to a women's coffee talk at church (didn't Mike Myers play a character on SNL that did Coffee Talk? Hopefully it won't be the same; otherwise, I'll get Verklempt), and Saturday evening, I'm having a bunch of SF State girls over for Breakfast for Dinner. I think I even have two girl-dates on Sunday-- I pretty big weekend for me!

Hopefully I can survive-- and even have fun tonight, watching chick flicks, eating popcorn, making jewelery & painting my nails. I think it will be nice =)

It's strange, though, how even our tiny apartment feels a little empty without him in it (and our California King sized bed will feel even bigger!).

Wish me luck!

ps. Man, can I tell you how hard it is to pick the perfect picture of Celine Dion? For a good time, google Celine Dion images-- it's quite entertaining.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

God Grew Tired of Us

Netflix is great because it forces us to watch movies that we really want to watch, but would never actually pick up off the shelf at Blockbuster. Such was the case with the movie that we finally got around to watching last night-- the movie that came in the mail almost a week ago & that we were too afraid to actually pop in the DVD player.

That movie was a documentary called God Grew Tired of Us, about the Lost Boys of Sudan-- an entire generation of boys who literally walked 1,000 miles to flee genocide targeting Christian
Sudanese boys under the age of twelve.

Okay, I know it sounds horribly depressing (which is why it took us a week to actually watch it), and I won't say that I didn't do a lot of crying & gasping & shaking my head in disbelief... BUT, it was actually very uplifting & hopeful as well.

The documentary follows a group of Sudanese refugees who are given an opportunity to come to America to make better lives for themselves.

Now, I expected a film about the horrors of genocide (which I got, a bit), but I was also surprised
to find a social commentary on America. It was really interesting to see the cultural poverty we have here in the US. The documentary shows how lonely & isolated these African are once they come to The States, how puzzled they are when no one talks to them, and how poor they feel here when it comes to relationships & community.

There is a beautiful & hilarious scene where these boys go to the mall at Christmas time to see Santa Claus & the huge Christmas tree. One boy tells the camera, "I wish someone could explain to me who this Santa Claus is. Is he in the Bible? How does he welcome the birth of Christ?" He is genuinely confused as he says, "This tree is very nice, very beautiful, but I do not understand what it has to do with Christmas." I wish they had filmed some Americans trying to explain Christmas culture to these sweet African boys.

Anyways, it really is a beautiful film-- funny & heartbreaking & fascinating & hopeful. I would definitely recommend it! Put it on your Netflix right now =)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Siren Call of "The New"

Let it be said that I love new things. Whether it's a new toothbrush or a new outfit-- I just love getting something new. I even love going to the grocery store, putting all those shiny new fruits & veggies in my cart, looking at all the interesting items my friend, Trader Joe, has to offer. If it were up to me (and if my paycheck had an extra zero), the economy would be doing much better, my friends. I suppose I'm a capitalist at heart. Or maybe I'm just a material girl (hey, that's catchy-- I should write a song about that).

Despite the whole puny paycheck thing, it seems like I've been getting (or will be getting) lots of
new stuff lately. I was recently treated to a manicure & pedicure-- a huge luxury. I purchased some amazing new makeup with a gift card (and every time I look at that pretty little bottle, it makes my heart soar). Tomorrow, I get an extra special treat of buying a super fancy new cell phone with some of our tax return money. We are even looking into getting a new car, and the excitement of getting to test drive so many pretty things, and smell all that new car smell is just almost too much for me!

The down side to all of this is that I have been reading this book called The Irresistible Revolution... and it's su
ch a buzz kill. It's all about our responsibility as Christians to take care of the poor, to live simply, and to be (as he puts it) an "ordinary radical".

Now, if you know me at all, you would probably think that this book would be right up my alley. I mean, these are supposed to be principles that I'm all about-- principles that I get me fired up, and make me bang my fist against the table and get all teared up over.

The problem is that this guy, this Shane Claiborne freak, is way, way too radical for me. He's just over the top. He s
ays things like "When Jesus tells us to sell our possessions and give them to the poor, he wants us to sell our possessions and give them to the poor." Freak. Where does he come up with stuff like this?

On Saturday, while we were enjoying the incredible warmth & sunshine, I was laying in the park, reading his stupid book. He said that in Matthew 25, when Jesus said "I was a stranger & you invited me in" he did not mean that we should write a check to the local homeless shelter and leave our spare bedrooms empty. He meant that we should actually invite people into our homes (whew, good thing we don't have a spare bedroom!). It was very challenging.

I was wrestling through these thoughts Sunday morning as I was getting ready for church. As I looked in the mirror, doing my hair, a homeless man stopped his cart outside the bathroom window & began rearranging his items. I was in a foul mood, and I was late for church, and it was so hard for me to straighten my hair & rush off to church while watching this homeless man carefully organize his treasures right in my line of vision.

You're probably waiting for the beautiful part of the story where I put down my flat iron and offered this homeless man some breakfast. Well, I didn't. What I did do was skip that church service (thank God for the noon service), and go for a walk with Chris while I processed through my foul mood and these deep thoughts.

"We don't know any poor people" I mused when we got to the park. "I think our first step should be getting to know some poor people. We can't help the poor if we don't know them."

At that very moment, a clumsy pit bull puppy rambled up and tackled Gavin. A thuggish 16 year old kid followed behind, and we struck up a conversation about his pit bull, Mafiosa. His English was broken, and I struggled to follow as he showed me pictures on his cell phone of Mafiosa's father, the biggest, scariest dog I have ever seen in my life (I almost wet myself just looking at his cell phone). But despite his puppy's heritage, this kid was really sweet-- I mean, I really great kid.

A half an hour later, as we were walking home, I smiled to myself, thinking, "Maybe this won't be as hard as I thought." Step One: Talk to a sweet teenage thug. It's a good place to start.

From there, maybe I can start slowly letting go of those little things-- the things that come in shiny new packages-- and work on some of the nutty, "radical" principles I keep reading in this book.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Malnourished [An Allegory]

I have a friend who is allergic to gluten. She spent her whole life constantly feeling sick, and only recently did she discover that the reason why was that she was poisoning her body with bread, pasta, and other "simple" foods that most people eat when they feel sick.

The doctor who discovered her allergy told her that, despite the fact that she didn't look anything like a concentration camp victim
, she was actually malnourished-- practically starving to death because her body wasn't processing any of the nutrients she was putting into it. So, although she was eating & absorbing calories and feeling full, her body was wasting away because it wasn't getting what it really needed.

I tell this little story because I had a realization last week-- not about physical nourishment, but something a little harder to detect.

What I realized was that I am relationally malnourished.

I'll explain: Although Chris & I have many friends & acquaintances in San Francisco, we actually have few to no deep relationships-- the kind of people you would call up when you're crying or hang out with in your PJ's, or invite over even when your house is a mess.

I came to this discovery slowly over the last 2-3 weeks, as I was traveling all over God's Green Earth (Austin, San Diego, Pasadena, etc, etc) and connecting with all sorts of new people. I realized that during the 3 weeks I spent traveling, I had more deep, intimate connections and conversations with new friends than I have had in my 3 years of living in San Francisco.

[Correction: A huge chunk of my job is sitting & having deep, intimate conversations, both with students and with our staff team. I love that part of my job. I would have whithered up & died without that part of my job. But, there is something very different about connecting deeply with people because it's your job and connecting deeply with people because, well, you just connect.]

Over that last 3 weeks, I met some really great women. I had tons of fun getting to know them, laughing with them, having deep & personal conversations, and connecting in real & genuine ways. And as I did that, something ached inside. It's like something woke up inside me that had been silently hungry for a long time.

The strange part about all of this, though, was that when I got home, I didn't rush off to form
deep friendships. It was actually the opposite. We had several opportunities to hang out this week-- opportunities we passed up because we were just so exhausted from all the traveling, all the extroverted people-time, all the intense conversations with students and all the "pouring out" that we do all week. I just couldn't make myself be social.

I realize that this sounds very bleak and depressing... maybe even a little martyr-ish. I don't
mean it to be that way at all. Mostly, this is a problem I am trying to work out in my head-- like one of those awful math problems about how long it will take a train to reach its destination if it goes X miles an hour and has Y number of miles to travel.

I'm trying to figure out why it is so difficult to make friends here-- why people feel so closed off in the City, and why I myself can even feel that wall around me. Why is it so difficult to form relationships here, and how do I find the energy to do so when I am so drained by the end of the week?

I really am hungry for friendships & intimacy, but-- like my friend's strange allergy-- it seems like something is keeping me from taking it in.

I am hopeful, though. I really do believe that it is possible to find those relationships here... and maybe even help to cultivate a place where true community can take place. I hope & pray that I can be a part of developing that-- or at least getting in on someone else's great invention. In the mean time, I thank God that I have Chris-- and those beautiful, deep interactions with students a decade younger than me, that truly give me meaning & fulfillment.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Muddled Thoughts

If I'm not mistaken, tomorrow night will be our first free night that Chris & I have had in three weeks.
Gosh, that just sounds bad.

It's not that we haven't spent time together, and it's not that we haven't had a mo
ment of time off (although, in the last few days, it has felt that way!), it's just things have been really full lately.

The suitcases are still half-packed, lying on the floor (alth
ough things definitely aren't as bad as they were yesterday), my brain is just about dripping out my ears, and unfortunately, the Netflix we just received for tomorrow is a documentary called God Grew Tired of Us. Not exactly the pick me up I was hoping for. [Maybe I can talk Chris into renting Enchanted!]

I will, however, share 2 highlights from my day, and a few things I'm looking forward to...

Highlight #1: Sitting in the cafeteria at SF State, and watching an old man slip his dentures out of his mouth, slide them into his pocket and gum his donut right across from me. Come to think of it, it might have been a lowlight, but I'm really not sure.

Highlight #2: Watching Gavin fit 3 pine cones into his mouth at the same time on the way home from his walk-- he just picked up on after another as he walked along, and before I knew it, there were 3 pine cones in his mouth. He managed to chew & swallow all of them, and seemed to be very happy about it. They were pretty small pine cones... and in case you're wondering, he was able to say "Chubby Bunny" after each one.

Some things I'm looking forward to:
  • This weekend and... sleeping in (can't remember the last time!), hiking with Chris, being lazy, watching movies on the couch, getting groceries, cooking (again, it's been a while), church...
  • settling into my own space again
  • tax returns (hooray for free money!)
  • our "Day with the Lord" next week (kind of like "Forced Fun": we have to spend a day hanging out with God... no work allowed)
  • not living out of a suitcase
  • alone time (it's been about 3 weeks)
  • going a whole day without eating out
  • watching the new Narnia movie, Prince Caspian (May 16th!)
  • using my $20 gift card to Ulta... I discovered the greatest new makeup!
  • selling both our cars and buying an Element, a Matrix, or a VW Rabbit (that's the plan/dream of the moment).
Obviously, the list could go on & on. There's a lot to be thankful for right now. For now, though, I'm looking forward to that beautiful moment (which will happen in about 15 minutes) when I finally sink into my spectacularly comfortable bed and feel warm & cozy, inside & out.
It's the little things...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What Makes a House a Home

I think it's essential at any dwelling place to have a favorite go-to restaurant for take-out on those busy week nights. It's that last little tidbit that makes a house a home (or in this case, what makes a tiny apartment a home)

I've been away for almost 3 weeks, and with a very full day of work and a very messy apartment (there's literally no room in our bedroom for our suitcases, so until we unpack them, they are strewn all over our living room), there was just no way I was making dinner tonight. Besides, all we had was peanut butter, bacon & rice... I couldn't come up with anything creative with that.

Chris decided to take a risk and try the Chinese restaurant that left a menu rubber banded to our door... and the result was that San Francisco is now officially our home.

It might seem strange, but until tonight, if you had asked us about our favorite Chinese
restaurant in San Francisco, we would have given you a blank stare. Vietnamese, Indian, Japanese: Yes. Chinese: No.

But that was all until Shiso.
Twenty minutes after we ordered (and twenty dollars later), there was a nice man at our door handing us a bag of double happiness delight. Chicken & veggies, orange peel beef, chicken chow mien, brown rice, and fried sesame balls... all was delicious, fresh, and surprisingly high-quality.

I am a very happy, very full girl. I might even be ready to tackle those suitcases.