Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Firsts

2012 Firsts


A couple times throughout the year, I found myself thinking, “Wow, that’s the first time this has ever happened/I have ever done this/I have ever seen this.”  So, I thought it was a good “blog topic”---something for me to sit down and consciously spend time thinking about and forming into words.  Let’s see what comes out:

It all started with December 26, 2011, the day I purchased my first car.  A 2012 Chevy Sonic, white in color, small in size, excellent in gas mileage.  I know that this day was truly the beginning of my 2012, and my new life. 

Since my birthday is in the month of December, I think it’s appropriate for me to consider my years as December through December.  So, let’s go with that. 

When I came home with my new car (Ellsworth, Kansas at the time), it started a whole new set of conversations between myself and my significant other; real, tough, hard questions about whether our relationship was truly where we wanted it to be, whether each one of us was happy…those kinds of questions.  This conversation has continued all year, in various forms. 

Because of these conversations, January 2012 was a month of preparation for me to move out on my own.  For the first time in my life, I was researching apartments and houses to live in.  It was a scary experience.  I’m a very detail-oriented person, which is a nice way to say I absolutely need to feel in control of everything at all times, and so it was challenging for me to embark on an adventure I’d never been on before.  January was a month of research on the computer, phone calls to landlords, and physical visits to houses to check them out.  It was also the first month that I spent of my life commuting to work in my own vehicle.  At the end of January, I moved to Salina, Kansas.  I was already familiar with Salina, as it is 15 miles from where I went to college, and is always where I’d gone to church; “My whole life was in Salina”, as I was accustomed to saying, so the relocation merely felt like me accepting god’s will for me. 

February 2012 was the first month I made a car payment.  It was also the first time I’d lived in someone’s basement, and the first time I had a roommate outside of college (didn’t consider my significant other a “roommate”).  February also marked the first time I spent a night in Salina, not in a hotel.  February 8, 2012 was the first session of my first “real” bible study: a group of women all gathered with the same books in hand, willingly gathered to learn more about the Bible.  The study was a Beth Moore one, on the book of James.  It was called “James: Mercy Triumphs”.  I am convinced that this study could not have come at a more perfect time for me.  I was so emotionally exhausted and fighting off depression and anxiety at all times from my move and physical separation from my loved one.  I knew that if I let my focus shift or wander, or if I let my motivation dwindle, or let my mind feel sorry for itself, I would soon be headed into a dangerous tailspin (it had happened before, my junior year of college; a topic for another time).  I didn’t want to go there again.  So, I conveniently found something, a group to join, for every night of the week, a desperate attempt to keep my mind occupied at all times and only allow myself to go home to my miserable basement with enough time to get ready for bed and pass out for the night.  But my James study revealed so much to me; James is my first “favorite” book of the Bible. 

From my James study, comes another 2012 first: the first time I memorized any scripture (purposefully).  Part of the James study includes the challenge to memorize the whole book.  I’m still working on it, but I have mastered the entire first two chapters.  I also recited an entire chapter of a book of the Bible out loud to a friend for the first time during February.  (I lived in this basement through the end of June 2012.  It was only five months, but at times it felt like it would never end (more on that another time).)

I then spent weeks preparing for my first ever Sondra Miller-Emmanuel Foursquare Church Easter production, which by default, ended up being my first time performing on the Steiffel Theatre stage in Salina (awesome!!).  Easter was April 8th.  I also participated in my first Messiah Festival for Bethany College during which I was commuting from Salina for rehearsals, and it was my first Easter preparing for and participating in two Easter productions simultaneously. 

May 2012, was my first trip home (out West, Arizona) by myself since 2008.  It was the first trip I took home “just to visit”, in my adult life, not on a “break” from school, but on a “vacation” by myself, the working young adult.  Much of the purpose of the trip was to see my sister graduate from college, so this was also the first time I got to see my sister graduate from college.  J

In June, I ran in my first competitive run outside of organized school athletics; my first “on-my-own” race.  It was also the first time I went to the Salina Riverfest (good food, expensive jewelry).  June also marked the beginning of my lease at my very first apartment, all by myself, on my own.  No roommates, no boyfriend; just me, and eventually, my cat.  So, June included the first night I spent alone in a place all of my own.  Ever.

June 22nd was Jodi’s first birthday after having graduated from college, and it was the first time I ever sang karaoke by myself.  It was also the first time we had a bonfire at church on the new front patio area. 

My first concert at the Bicentennial Center in Salina was on August 25th.  It was Alan Jackson. 

This past summer included lots of firsts for which I don’t have specific dates, including:

  • First time running on the dike in Salina
  • First time parking at the church and taking off on a run from there
  • Frist time running on South Middle School’s track
  • First time doing a live Zumba class (Extravaganza at Genesis Health Club)
  • First time having shaved ice at Sno-Wizard in Salina
  • First time driving to a WV event on my own (Topeka Regionals)
  • First time looking up at the sky through a telescope, and seeing Venus transit the sun
  • First motorcycle ride, and first time in many of the tiny towns we rode through on the back roads on that ride
  • First time playing pool at Big Nose Kate’s in Salina and eating at Legends Bar & Grill
  • First time eating at Cotija’s in Salina
  • First time shopping at Sunset Dillons and Baby Dillons (which, sadly, closed)
  • First time watching the movie “Footloose”
  • My first dance class (“Devotion in Motion” with S’ambrosia)


Post-summer, the firsts continued.


  • First time making it to one year at a job after college
  • First time renting movies from Family Video in Salina
  • First time drinking coffee regularly
  • First time eating lox  
  • First time drinking homemade beer
  • First time visiting Rock City in Minneapolis, Ks
  • First time running on Ohio and Markley Streets in Salina
  • First time visiting the Salina YMCA
  • First time working a part-time job “just because” (didn’t last long)
  • First time attending a show at the Salina Community Theatre (“Footloose”)


And, other random firsts I cannot otherwise categorize (or am tired of trying to come up with categories for):

  • First time participating in women’s groups at church (Rachel, Nikki, Kristy)
  • First time attending a bible study with the “older gals” at Joy’s house
  • First time attending bible study with Jennifer’s church group
  • First time helping out and being a part of Anthem Youth Group at church
  • First time I visited Ad Astra books and coffeehouse!!
  • First time visiting White Peacock coffeehouse in Lindsborg, KS
  • First time I played racquetball
  • First time visiting Salina Animal Shelter
  • First time having a “regular dentist” and going for a cleaning since age 8
  • First root canal (at specialist in Newton, KS)
  • First time going to an American oral surgeon (wisdom teeth)
  • First time playing put-put golf in the mall in Salina
  • First time being exposed to “The Hobbit”
  • First time I went to a movie all by myself (“Pitch Perfect”)
  • First time I visited a friend’s house who lives “on the Hill” in Salina
  • First time going garage-saling in salina
  • First time visiting thrift stores in Salina
  • First time driving by myself from Tucson to Yuma
  • First time driving around and looking at Christmas lights in Salina (with Gloria)
  • First Kansas “family” Christmas with Mattisons
  • First time my sorority had a line of ONE cross (Headstrong)
  • First time I hiked at Lakewood park, and at Indian Rock (got stuck on the hill)

 This is the first year I write a “Firsts” blog; one of my goals for 2013 is to do this on a more regular basis, maybe sit down once a month and think really hard and get them all out, that way I can be sure I don’t miss any, because I’m sure I’ve missed a couple for this year.  It makes me a little sad, to think that there are some memories that are lost forever.  I see each memory as an integrally important piece of my soul... I hate to think that I let any of those pieces go unnoticed.  Here’s to 2013 being a year of noticing the subtle and magical things that make life what it is. 







Sunday, December 9, 2012

Attitude of Abundance, Part I

So I’ve been attending Tuesday night dinner at the Rivers’ house.   The Rivers are a family from church; they started opening their home every Tuesday night and feeding a bunch of us young, 20-somethings who have jobs, but no kids and big families, who might get lonely sometimes, and don’t get the privilege of sitting around a family dinner table too often.  It has been so nice getting to know them better and it’s been such a blessing and allowed to grow in my trust for God’s provision for my life.  So many things have come of these Tuesday night dinners, among them this new attitude I have of abundance.  Abundance is a theme at the Rivers house; the word is on all the walls, books, mantels, and tables around. 

And now, I’ve found another writing subject: ABUNDANCE

So, one Tuesday night, Debbie was telling us about how she wanted to put together this “Random Acts of Kindness” Party.  She talked to us a little bit about her idea: several of us would gather and collect items to give away, take a very limited amount of money with us, accept little gift packets from other folks who wanted to share, get in a car, and drive around Salina for a couple of hours.  It would be an adventure to drive around Salina with an open mind and an open heart to see what the Lord wanted us to do to bless someone else that day.  She got the “Ooooh, I want to participate!” from several of us (girls – just sayin’), and so we set a date.

The morning of our “party”, we gathered in Debbie’s living room at 10 am.  We divided up all our supplies between two cars; little gift packets of popcorn and soda; envelopes with encouraging cards and packets of hot chocolate mix inside; laundry packets with quarters and little detergents; 4 dolls to give away to little girls.  The idea was to think outside the box.  We had a designated amount of money so that we wouldn’t feel pressured to provide only blessings that cost us money; it could be as simple as giving people rides or carrying groceries.  We split up into a “young” team and an “old” team, and off we went.

I was designated the driver for the “young” vehicle, which was cool, because I love to drive.  I said, “Okay ladies- so where am I going?” and we took off in the direction of the North end of town.

Our first stop was the library, and it was not a success.  We politely asked the librarians if we could leave her some of the pop/popcorn packages to hand out to families who borrowed movies from the library, and she turned us down because some of our cards read “God bless you.”  Talk about disappointing.

But, we would not be deterred!

The fire station is right across the street, so we ran across, and handed the packages to some firefighters instead.  Success!

Then we discussed where to head next.

Jenna had a specific trailer park in mind.  We drove through, looking for something that we could call a sign from God pointing us in the correct direction.  We saw one lady in a yellow coat walking; but we had already passed her, so we kept driving. In the trailer park, we saw a lady walking around looking very distressed, and we decided she was our first “bless-ee”; so one of us hopped out of the car and handed her a little box of chocolates that was in our giveaway stash.  We didn’t see much of anything else in the parking lot, other than a couple of cats, which of course gave us the idea to bring pet supplies on a future “party”. 

Back on the road, we noticed a young couple with two small children playing at the park; we stopped and gave them some of our individually-packaged cupcakes.  They thanked us with smiles. 

While Katie and Jessica delivered cupcakes, Jenna noticed her lady in the yellow coat continuing to walk in our direction! So she hopped out of the car and walked toward her to start a conversation.  Once Katie and Jessica got back in the car, we drove over to where Jenna informed us that we were giving this lady a ride.  The lady talked about how she had had a very bad night and had been in a fight with her boyfriend who “had a knife to her throat” the night before.  We took this lady back to the trailer park we were at just minutes before.  We gave her cupcakes for her and for her daughter, who she was on her way to see.  She thanked us by saying, “I wish everyone was this nice.”

We decided we wanted to hit up Walmart next, which is on the south side of town.  We were right by the I-70, so we decided to hop on the interstate.  On our way to do so, we drove past a truck stop/travel station/gas station.  We noticed a man carrying a duffel bag walking towards the store.

“Gilda! Turn around! Flip a U-ey!”

So of course, I did (legally, of course).

What we found were two “travelers” sitting on a bench outside the store.  I had five dollars in my pocket from the night before, so I went with Katie and Jessica, who together asked one of the men if they could get him anything from inside.  They took him, and I took the other one.  They bought their guy a cup of soup and a pop, while mine just wanted a fountain drink.  They thanked us by saying, “You’ve done enough, young lady.”

On our way out of the store, we ran into Jenna who had started chatting with a few other “travelers”.  They asked us if we knew of any place they could get a gas voucher, as they were trying to make it to Missouri (they did not ask us for money).  Katie said, “Pull your car up to the pump; I’ll go get my credit card.”  And she filled their tank.  There was a carfull of them, with two dogs as well.  They thanked us with hugs and high-fives.

So, back into the car, and actually onto the interstate we went.  Each time we loaded back in, there was always a couple seconds of reflective silence as each one of us thought about the person we’d just helped.  It was neat to talk about what we had just done and feel our collective compassion for each group of folks we encountered.

We arrived at Walmart, and our first task was gathering carts from the parking lot to take into the store.  We then split up the coupons that were in our stash, and took off in opposite directions to place the coupons next to the items they were for.  We also noticed that the frat from K-State Salina was holding a food drive, so Jessica spent some of our cash and some of her own to buy some items and a can opener, which the boys happily accepted.  We also left baggies of quarters on candy machines and rides for the kids, with notes saying “Enjoy”.

We counted Walmart as a success, and continued our journey.  We decided we wanted to hit a laundrymat, so we picked the one on Iron street, Speedy Wash.  On our way there, we noticed people on the sidewalks, outside of shops and stores.  We got out of the car and handed out the rest of our soda and hot chocolate envelopes, and I scared a mail-lady by running up to her yelling, “Wait!”   When she acknowledged me, I said, “We wanted you to have this” and handed her the popcorn package.  She thought it was very sweet of us.

We all went into the Laundromat and placed our baggies of quarters and detergents, and handed out more cupcakes to the patrons.  On our way back up Iron, while we were heading back to the house, we noticed we still had the two dolls, and that we hadn’t found anyone to give them to yet.  Just then, we noticed “Little girls! Little girls!” coming out of a tattoo shop with what seemed to be their parents.  We pulled over and Katie and Jessica ran out with the dolls and some more packages for the adults.  Jenna and I got to watch the reactions of the little girls who received the dolls. 

Mission accomplished, we headed back to the house and had lunch with the “old” team and traded stories. It was a really unique, liberating way to spend a few hours. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012


"It’s so easy to fall into the trap of self-judgment and loathing.  It’s so easy to wish for something else, something more, something more beautiful.  Why can’t we all just be content with what we have?  What is it about the human condition that always makes us desire more?  I wish I knew. 

I also wish I knew what it was that makes us so stubborn.  What makes us want something that isn’t good for us, even when all the signs point to/God is showing us in every way that there is something better.  Something different.  The very thing we wanted in the first place."

Blessed Mess

"It is such a great feeling to know that I am so strong and centered in what I want and what I am doing, that when someone comes at me with an “irrestible offer”, I am honestly, confidently able to say, “SORRY, BUT YOU’RE WRONG.  I DON’T NEED THIS, BECAUSE I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I NEED.”

I’ve decided that I’m a blessed mess.  My life may look like it’s all over the place to some, but to me, it’s exactly the pace I need.  It’s the pace I need to find my passion, my purpose, and my destination.  Moreover, it’s the pace I need to be at peace with my journey.  And, I am! I am at peace being in submission to God, and knowing that His plans are what are best.  I am at peace not owning lots of material things.  That is part of who I am. 

While my life may seem overwhelming to others, those looking in from the outside perhaps, I’ve learned that the individuals who truly love me will support me in all I do...I am a lover of humanity.  I don’t have time to waste on earthly things.  I live for love, and I do that in my own way. 

 My life is two things: my church (God), and my job (from God/part of what God has called me to do).  Everything else is not as important. 

While everything I do in my life, I only do if I can make sure I do it in Jesus’ name, my church and my job are first.  (I am single with no children)

Being a blessed mess means being so caught up in what God has for you, that you don’t care what others think of it.  It means being so in love with all the beauty around you, that you don’t have time for the ugly.  It means being so obsessed with serving others, that yeah, sometimes you don’t make enough time for yourself, and your body comes to screeching halt and screams, “HELLLLPPP!!!”.  (Insert a gallon of orange juice and some chicken noodle soup here)

But in the end, you turn out just fine, because you fill your life only with things that grow you toward your purpose.  In my case, I have co-designed this purpose with my Creator. 

This is not complicated.  This is not “all over the place”.  This is grounded. 

It has taken me years to get to this point.  Probably about 12 years, if we’re counting.  I feel like much of the hard work is behind me.  All the moments of crisis, all the panic attacks, feelings of unworthiness or insufficiency, have all led me to this moment in time.  To some that’s complicated.

To me, it’s really very simple. "

I Have Been Broken

November 3, 2012

“Everything happens for a reason.” 

How cliché is that for an opening thought?

 Last night at our women’s mini conference, one of our group discussion questions was “What is something that you think God has allowed you to go through in order for you to help bless someone else?”

I laughed and asked, “You want just one thing?”

The more I stop and think, and the more I pour myself into God’s work and purpose for me, the more I realize how much each and every one of my life experiences, both positive and negative, has truly had an impact on the person I’ve discovered within myself.  (I don’t want to say “the person I’ve become”, because I believe I’ve always been this person; I’ve just taken some detours and back roads to arrive at the place where I can appreciate the scenery.)

I never thought that all my experiences with panic, stress, and anxiety would ever be of help to myself in the future, much less to anyone else. 

Today, when Beth Moore said something about, “…all these people hurting, and just needing someone to say loud and clear ‘I’ve been there! I understand!’”, I felt something in my heart twist and pop.  Lately, I’ve felt like I’ve done a lot of “I’ve been there; I understand.”  I can’t imagine not having experienced the things I have, and still be able to help my friends.  I’ve got a few close people in my life who are truly struggling right now. I would have no idea what to say to them, no idea how to make anything bearable or seem not as daunting, had I not first-hand experienced gut-wrenching depression and low self-esteem myself. 

What’s more, the confidence I have gained in the last several years is nearly beyond measure!  I have come to find peace by experiencing a loss of control.  I was talking to Tina tonight, about how I had to hit rock bottom and relinquish control, to regain any sense of control or order in my life at all.  I relinquished all my control over to God.  But even if there were no God, letting go and letting nature and the world and circumstances do what they are going to do is merely accepting your special role in the universe.  It is not complacency.  It is peace. 

Some people say, “Create the circumstances you want.”  I’ve decided that I am truly over this whole “I am the captain of my soul and fate” thing.  Yes, we have to decide to succeed.  Yes, we have to consciously decide to make positive choices.  Yes, unless we actively decide to participate in, appreciate, or dedicate something, it will not happen.  But we cannot control everything around us.  We can only choose how we respond to everything and everyone around us.  And I choose to respond by knowing that I take each step in the will that God has for me.  I have come to learn that his will is perfect for my life.  I stand firm in that, because it is my only choice.  But this single choice opens up world of endless possibilities for me. 

Choosing to submit to God’s will for your life does not mean confining yourself to a box.  God has numerous gifts for each person, numerous ways he can bless you, and numerous ways he can use you to bless others.  All things are possible for God, and you have no idea how He will use you from one day to the next!  It is refreshing to know that you are in his will, at peace, and prepared to serve. 

Coming to learn that I don’t need anyone else to complete me has been a liberating experience.  Beth Moore said something about, “Once you don’t need other people to fill you up, you become everybody’s favorite person.”

I want to speak on this till my voice fades.  I have felt people drawing close to me lately.  People have been coming to me, seeking advice, seeking knowledge.  I have come from rock bottom to being able to help others find their own voices and stand firm on their rock.  I never thought I’d be able to do that.  I have a ministry.  I, the broken teenager, the downtrodden college sophomore, the insecure girlfriend; I have a ministry.  I know what to say to people to challenge them to find their own identity, plead with them to think before acting, and help them glue the pieces of their life’s puzzle back together.  This is all because I have been broken too, and because I fight against my own brokenness every single day. 

I am no better, no smarter, no more put-together than anyone else.  I do not have a life that anyone should be envious of; I do not wish to parade my possessions for others to admire.  I am merely a part of this great human family, and am on a mission to help as many people as I can figure out their own special part in this family. 




Coffee Buzzed Thinkin'

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

I had a large coffee from Mcdonald’s tonight, between 7 and 8 pm, and I am buzzin’ and ready to take on the world.  It’s 10 pm.  I should be going to bed.  Between the recent time change (fall back), my hormones, my stress, my workout schedule, and my desire to read, damn it, read, and write, write, write, my sleep schedule is interesting, to say the least. 

I know I want to write, but I can’t decide about what.  I keep getting topic ideas during highly inappropriate times (youth group and work training seminars, for example), and then, I can never choose a topic from the topics list. 

Something I’ve been pondering lately is, “How am I gonna write everything out of my memory, and keep up with present stuff at the same time?”  I have to tell myself to take a chill pill.  I get really anxious about it (surprise, surprise), and I want to make sure I get EVERYTHING down.  I get all over the place and then I can’t decide what to write about.  It’s like having a plan hinders me and then I end up going all over the place.  But then I get mad because I didn’t stick to a topic or a plan, and then I feel disorganized, and that stresses me out.

So.  What to write about tonight? 

 Tonight, something sparked me at youth group.  One of our leaders was up speaking about how she does her daily devotional time, and she was telling us about how lately she’s been choosing a blessing from her life to thank God for and talk to Him about.  She told us that today, the blessing she had thanked God for was “not being blind”.  She said, “How bad would that be, to be blind?”  This statement sparked that slightly stubborn, argumentative side of me, the side that’s been like supportive of all people, and finding things to defend everywhere; the philosopher, the instigator. 

I kept thinking, “Well, what if the blind person you see on the street is blessed with gifts that we could not even begin to imagine?  Maybe it’s not so bad being blind.  How rude is it to say that it’s bad to blind?  What, you have to have eyes to see God’s creation and experience the beauty of it?”


(***I'd like to insert here that I have nothing against this particular person who made this statement; she presented some awesome ideas to our youth group!! This one statement she made just got me thinking, is all***)

It gets one thinking: What are our blessings that we take for granted every day?

But then it gets one thinking: What makes me think that my blessings are so awesome?  What makes me think that what I have is so much better than what anyone else has?

Since God works all things together for our good, it is only mature to realize and speculate about the fact that everyone has unique blessings, and unique ways of experiencing the world, and God.  I bet blind people are blessed through the other senses in ways that we are not; and maybe they don’t miss not being able to “see” with their eyes.  Maybe they feel sorry for us, for not being able to hear what they hear, or feel what they feel.  Maybe we’re the ones missing out.

I don’t think there’s anything particularly innovative or radical about my thinking here.  I just think that as human beings, we need to be a little more open-minded.  I wish we could get away from feeling sorry for people, and learn to just see the beauty in everyone as they are.  If we all spent a little more time learning one another’s stories, I think we could all just live in a more peaceful state of mind.  I don’t want to say, “put ourselves in each other’s shoes” because I don’t think that’s what I’m getting at.  And I don’t think we can necessarily do that all the time.  I just think that we need to keep in mind that what we see as a burden, might not be a burden to someone else; it may be their greatest enabler. 

Just because I have all my limbs and physical senses doesn’t mean I’m “complete”, and someone who doesn’t have their limbs, “isn’t”.  There is not just one meaning of complete.  There is not just one way to be whole.  There is not just one way of being human.  There is not just one way of being right.  There is no way of knowing what was “the way people were meant to be”.  The Bible says, “God created man”.  The Bible does not say “God created man with eyes to see and feet to walk”.  I think we need to just get over some things and experience our fellow man more fully.

Blame and Forgiveness

Some self-disclosure here...  what do you blame yourself for in your life?
"In my life...I’ve found it way too easy to blame myself for a lot.  I blame myself probably more than is fair for “messing it up” ... but the common thread is my being too eager to find something wrong with myself to blame ...  I don’t think I like to blame myself, but it just always seems like the easier thing to do.  I have always been my harshest critic; teachers, coaches, and counselors have told me this throughout the years.  They always pointed that out as my greatest weakness, my most debilitating quality.  I have been struggling for years to work with this quality and turn it into a positive, but it always seems to get the best of me and make me feel like the world is crashing down on me. 

I don’t know where the insatiable desire to achieve came from for me.  Lee says that I grew up feeling inadequate, like my mother didn’t love me (since she was never around, and I probably tried to decipher why that was).  I always tried to fill that hole and that need to be loved and appreciated by overachieving in school.  I was taught that perfection was the best way; we must strive to be the best we can.  I do remember Dad being upset once when I got a B instead of an A, but this was never a chronic, abusive environment, just high expectations.  I always knew that I represented my family and my race and that if I messed anything up, it made a lot of people look bad.  I always grew up being told that I had to help Mexicans look good, to change the way Americans thought of Mexicans.  I guess that was a lot of pressure.  And then growing up being the main responsible one in the home was a lot of pressure too.  I even blamed myself when Dad died.  I felt like there was more I could have done, more I should have known, more questions I should have asked, I should have been more involved with the hospital stay.  I’ve just always put so much pressure on myself for everything, like having too high expectations of myself and then letting everything disappoint me when it all went wrong.  "

AZ to KS

October 7, 2012

Today, I write to answer the question: “How did you end up in Kansas?”

I get asked this question a lot.  Not as much now, as I used to get asked in college, of course.  But when people find out I’m from Arizona, they still ask.  It’s an amazing thing to look back now and see exactly how my journey has been presented to me in pieces.  My life and my journey have always belonged to God. 

 I was a high school student like any other in the country, doing my best to be competitive academically, and like other over-achievers, trying hard to cram my resume full of anything that looked like I wanted to be a contributing member of society, worthy of scholarship money of course.

 My sophomore year of high school, my school hosted a “Health Careers Fair”; we had several local professionals come in and talk about their jobs and the education they had to attain to get their careers, etc.  I’m not sure why, but it was during these presentations that I decided that I wanted to end up in the health care field.  I knew in my heart that I wanted to help people, and that I wanted to make a difference.

 My friend Anhel was a close influence, I think.  She was a year older than I was, and was very mature and put-together, and during my junior year, she was a great example of the kind of girl I wanted to be: pure, smart, hard-working, and working towards a degree to eventually become a doctor. 

 By the time my junior year of high school rolled around, I had obviously been signing up for emails and snail-mail from state universities, as well as some universities and colleges in California.  Plus, I was in national databases that sent out my info to colleges everywhere, so I got a lot of mail between my sophomore and junior years.  In the fall of my junior year of high school, the University of Arizona hosted a “Multicultural Junior Day”; this day was designed specifically for high school juniors from minority families.  My mom and I went (my 3 month-old baby sister in tow), spent the night in a hotel room, spent Saturday touring campus and sitting in on mock lectures and interview processes, got lost on the way back to Yuma, took the long way around Gila Bend, and decided I would apply to the U of A.  I did, and, after taking ACT’s and SAT’s, was accepted into their pre-med program by the fall of my senior year.  Because I had spent 3 years of high school taking rigorous science and math classes, I felt prepared.  I had my game plan, and I was ready.  I would finish my senior year, graduate, and attend the U of A in the Fall of 2006. 

 Well, God decided he wanted to throw a monkey wrench in for me.  In about October of my senior year, I received an envelope in the mail from some school in Kansas.  I thought it was a mistake; plus I was already accepted to U of A, so I didn’t need it.  I tore it up (because my mother taught me to never throw an envelope in the trash without ripping it up, to prevent identity theft), and forgot about the envelope. I went on about my life for several weeks, and then got another envelope in the mail; this time, it said something about “Track and Field Program” or “Track and Field Office/scholarships” on it.  I actually opened it this time, and read that the coaching staff would like to talk to me about their program and earning scholarship money.  I briefly mentioned it to my mom, then called the number and began a few-month-long conversation with Coaches Joe Wilkerson and Alan Webb. 

 The more I talked to the coaches, the more interesting it all sounded.  I remember mentioning my talks with the coaches to my teammates and peers; I knew that I appreciated being sought by ANY college for my athletic abilities.  I didn’t ever think that I would go on to participate in athletics at the collegiate level, and so I knew this was probably all coming as a surprise to my high school community.  A little piece of me felt like I was proving everyone wrong, and I liked it.  I remember the first time I brought up the subject of going to Kansas as a serious consideration; my mom freaked out.  She asked, “Kansas?  I thought you already had the plan of going to Tucson (to U of A).”  I said, “I want to set up a campus visit.”

 My mom and I booked airplane tickets with her credit card, and over my spring break my senior year of high school, we flew to Wichita, Kansas to see what this place was all about.  I remember talking to the Coach Webb about specifics before our trip; What would the weather be like? Where would we stay in Wichita? Who would pick us up and drive us the 70 miles north to Lindsborg?  How big was Lindsborg again?

 Well, this trip was only my second time on a plane, and it was my mom’s first.  I remember all the freak-outs; the creepy guy standing up by the lavatory door, who my mom (and I, secretly) was convinced was a murderer or a bomber.  My mom’s reaction to turbulence was quite comical, although I had to keep a straight face to keep her calm throughout the trip.  Once we landed in Wichita, we took a cab or a shuttle, or something, to the hotel; the Regency Inn (to this day, when I drive by it on West Kellogg Avenue, I think of my first night in Kansas).  We walked over to the Walmart that evening, and we ate at Ryan’s buffet place.  I remember the hotel was run by people of Middle Eastern descent.  I don’t remember much else about the stay.  I don’t think either of us had a cell phone, so I’m pretty sure I used a phone card to call Coach Webb and tell him we were in Wichita, and to arrange our pick-up for the next morning.

 Coach Webb himself came and picked us up.  I remember when I got in the car, (I rode in the front, my mom in the back), the most incredible wind I’d ever known forced me to shut my hair in the car door.  That was the first of many, many times that this would happen over the next 6 years.  One of the first things Coach Webb said to me was, “I don’t have that problem” with a laugh.  He is bald.  And he makes lots of jokes about it, all the time, even now, 6 years later. 

 On the drive to Lindsborg, I remember thinking that Kansas was quite pretty.  Everything was pretty green; spring was starting.  Good thing I didn’t visit during the winter months, or I probably would have never come back.  Everything gets really dead and ugly here during the winter, and I don’t like it. 

 When we took the exit to Lindsborg, I remember my heart started fluttering.  I have always been an anxious traveler.  I don’t like not knowing what to expect, and yet here I was, flying to the middle of the country, getting in a car with a man I’d never met before, going to visit only the second college campus I’d ever been on.  What were people in Kansas like?  I was about to find out a whole lot more than the folks at the Regency Inn were able to tell me.

 I remember bits and pieces about the visit, which was about 2 days, I think.  I know I didn’t sit in on any classes, which was weird, now that I look back on it.  I went to practice with the team a couple different times; I remember throwing shot put for Coach Wilkerson for the first time, and him telling me I “wasn’t bad”.  I went in the weightroom with the team once, too.  Now that was nervewrecking.  Lifting weights with some intimidating college athletes.  Yikes.  I remember meeting Nathan, mostly because I thought he was cute, and I remember him cheering me on in the weightroom when I was with the girls.  I stayed in the dorm in Anna’s room, because she was an RA and had a futon I could sleep on.  I didn’t shower in the dorm.  I must have showered at some point because of going to practice, but that must have been on my second afternoon in Lindsborg, and then the second night I stayed with my mom in the hotel before taking back off to the airport. 

 Well, somewhere between the weight room, the cafeteria food, which my mom was a huge fan of, and shot put practice, I also squeezed in a visit with the camp registrar and financial aid office, and put down a $300.00 enrollment fee, and met with the head of the Biology department, Mark McDonald, and registered for my first semester of classes. 

 I remember my mom and I fell in love with the people.  All of the athletes, coaches, and professors we met made us feel immensely comfortable.  We felt like everyone was really helpful and considerate, and wanted us to be a part of the community.  I remember being really nervous about all the college guys who kept asking about me in the cafeteria to Coach Wilkerson ( I actually heard them say, “Who’s that? She fiiiiine.”)  I remember taking my student ID picture. 

 Everything just felt right.  When it came time to register for classes, I didn’t sit and ponder my decision, or pray about it really.  I just had this sense of “go with the flow” type of peace about me the whole time.  I just knew that I was doing what I was meant to do all along, and I was excited.  Now, of course, 6 years later, I know that God was guiding my each and every step.  I know that I was not nervous, because I was falling in line with God’s will for me. 

 I finished my school year, graduated from high school, and then the countdown began for the drive to Kansas.  Oh, as soon as I got back from Kansas, I couldn’t stop talking about it to my friend and teammate Michelle.  We ended up getting her hooked up with the coaches and the scholarship as well, and she never visited; she just registered over the phone.  So, for the entire summer, she and I counted down together until the morning when we would leave for our new lives.

 The preparation for the trip was really stressful.  We knew we would be driving, because there’s no way we could fly with all the things we needed for a college dorm.  We packed up all of our clothes and bedding into my mom’s minivan, and okay, I had already purchased some school supplies (my mom went nuts buying me lined paper; I still have like 6 packages of it, I think).  I remember being so panicked and nervous about being expected to share all my belongings and my things, mostly because my mom kept putting these awful thoughts in my brain about how to “take care of my own stuff” and “not be taken advantage of”.  It’s safe to say I was a wreck on the eve of our trip to Kansas.  My mom wanted Michelle and her mom to sign a piece of paper saying that Michelle would pay for half of the gas the whole way to Kansas; it was ridiculous, and made me feel so awkward.  I remember feeling sick to my stomach for some of the ways my mom was so rude and inconsiderate on this trip (not going out of her way to find cheap hotels; being high maintenance). 

 My mom’s then-boyfriend Oscar drove with us, because my mom didn’t want me driving at all (it was too dangerous, she said...).  We had to replace a windshield wiper on the road, we took back roads in the middle of the night and had to keep our eyes peeled for animals; I kept the atlas of the United States open on my lap for the entirety of the trip once we hit Flagstaff, because then we were entering into unfamiliar territory.  So, I kid you not, I am getting anxious feelings just writing about this trip; ugh it was stressful.  I hope you, reader, are not getting anxious as well.  If you are, I apologize, I’m almost through this part.

 It rained a lot on the drive.  I remember not sleeping at all while we were on the road (because of course, if anything happened while I was sleeping, it would be my fault; read: Anxiety is real, people). 

 We made it to Salina, Kansas late one night; we came in on the North side of Salina.  Now that I go back and think about it, I’m sure we drove through Ellsworth (where I ended up living 4 years later; a topic for another writing session).  We called Coach Webb to tell him we made it.  We got dinner and a hotel (stressful topic; I’m going to avoid it; let’s just say Michelle almost slept in the car.  And I cried.).  And we drove down to Lindsborg the next day.  My mom and I argued about which direction was North or South (I was right; I didn’t know my directions at this point, but I have an impeccable photographic memory).  And my mom and Oscar helped us move all of our stuff into the dorm.  Darcy and Michelle helped us (they were RA’s in Anna Marm, our residence hall), and I hugged my mom for the first time in years.  I remember fighting back some tears of nervousness, but overall being ok.  I don’t remember details about that first night; did I sleep?  Did I dream? 

 I know there were lots of awkward moments; figuring out where to get drinking water (fountain downstairs).  Michelle and I were glued to each other’s sides until classes started.  We had arrived on campus with the fall athletes, so a couple weeks earlier than everyone else.  Our days were filled with practices, meeting teammates, and telling the “We’re from Arizona/we went to high school together” story repeatedly for the first couple weeks. 

 And that, folks, is how this Arizona girl ended up in Kansas.  Or at least, briefly.  I actually feel kind of anxious and nervous sitting here wondering if I want to continue the story, and write about “Fall ‘06”, but I think I’m done reliving the past for now, and want to go think of something soothing and happy, so I will continue the story later.  At least now you kind of see how I got where I am.  Wait, no, that’s a lie.  Cuz there is so much more to the story. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Scientist vs Christian

...More from September 3rd...
I’ve started to thank God more.  I didn’t used to do that.  But now, I make a point of saying, “Thank you God, for my perfect little car.  Thanks for the roof over my head, this perfect little house that you have placed me in, that I can afford, and that I can come home to every day.  Thanks for my friends.  Thank you for my church family, a place I can really belong.  Thank you for all the new people you are constantly bringing into my life.”

I was not used to actively thanking God all the time!  But once you come to realize that his will is perfect and he knows what he’s doing, you start to get thankful. 

And then, I lose sight of that gratefulness a lot.  My brain chemistry is not always my friend.  I have not been blessed with a great upbringing and loving, supportive family.  I’ve been blessed with a messy upbringing, and a small, difficult, challenging family.  But, it’s made me who I am.  It’s made me able to appreciate people more.  It’s taught me how to love unconditionally, and give of myself, constantly, over and over again.  And, it is not always possible or easy to see this as a blessing!!  ßanother challenge.  Good grief. 

Because of my upbringing, my past experiences, my past challenges, and the way that I was supported or not through those challenges, my brain chemistry is wired a little differently than most.  I am blessed with the mind of a scientist as well as the mind of a spiritual leader, and so this can be very challenging as well.  I say this because I would not be able to understand brain chemistry, had I only been blessed with a spiritual mind and heart.  I am very in-tune with the physical world, very aware of our choices as physical beings on a physical planet.  And understanding the human mind is part of this.  Brain chemistry is a touchy subject, especially for Christians.  God is supposed to heal all, be in charge over all.  And he is…..BUT, I live the daily challenges of having your brain and mind fight you!  My brain fights me every day.  I have to fight back to make it line up and do what it’s supposed to.  I have to work very hard, relying on God of course (confusing as HELL, right??) to not let my brain chemistry constantly create clouds of darkness over my life.  It sucks.  It is not fun.  I have to take a little pink pill called Pristiq every morning to help balance stuff out in my brain, to help chemicals release when they are supposed to.  And then, I have to constantly work at self-affirmations, reminding myself that I have a God who created me wonderfully and fearfully, and for a purpose, thus fighting every single thing, physical, spiritual, or otherwise, that has always told me that I’m not good enough and not doing what I’m supposed to, and that I’m difficult, and that I’m whiny and I complain and I cry too much.  I have to fight all of that, every single day! What people rarely understand about mental illness or struggles is that we don’t CHOOSE to feel bad about ourselves or feel sorry for ourselves; we are in a constant battle with the chemicals and hormones that are creating all these feelings.  And it sucks! 

So, all these challenges, add to my challenges. They make the things that God wants me to do that much harder.  They make the things that I want to do, that much harder.  They make seeing my purpose, that much harder.  They make the desire to push through, that much harder to come by.  They make the desire to be better, that much harder to come by.  They make positive thinking, hard.  They make getting up and exercising and taking care of my body, hard.  I am in a constant battle.  With hormones and chemicals.  Really??!!

So I have no choice but to take my life one tiny step at a time.  One choice, one bite, one breath at a time.  Each choice is carefully calculated not because I’m an overly-analytical type-A, bitchy personality, but because I have to be so very careful with my brain chemistry and emotions.  I have to be careful because I have to protect myself.  I have to protect myself because I am constantly under attack; attack from my own body, and attack from The Enemy, who doesn’t want me to take care of myself, or listen to God.  So either way, it all comes back to God. 

And this is my greatest joy, and my greatest struggle.

Yup, I’m complicated.

My Plans are not your plans..

More excerpts from September 3rd...
I don’t really want to be like anyone else on this planet.  I am very happy being myself, and drawing inspiration from where I may, and spending time on the inside of myself, developing my goals and values.  So I think that’s my challenge, is working with people who intimidate me and make me uncomfortable.  I think what makes me uncomfortable is that they judge me.  They don’t understand me.  I am able to understand them, even though I don’t know them very well anymore.  They are motivated by different things than I am motivated by.  They like their cars, money, status, and hype, social circles.  I am not motivated by cars or money.  I’m just not.  I would love to have more money to help my mom and sisters, to help people in the neighborhood, and to have more in my savings account.  But, I also know that God is going to provide everything I need with everything I have.  I honestly don’t want a flat screen plasma TV.  I don’t want 400 channels of cable.  I don’t want designer clothes.  I just don’t.  I believe in using used things.  I believe in using things and resources that are already in existence.  Why create a bunch of crap that contributes to the energy crisis and a wasteful lifestyle?  ß That is honestly my lifestyle motto. 
So, it is extremely difficult for me to play a part and rely on people who don’t agree with that lifestyle at all, people who have to have the latest, best, and trendiest.  That’s just not me.  That’s my challenge.     I know people who are not into God’s timing, they are into their own.  So…this is very hard.  I have to listen to God and rely on his grace to give me the courage to proceed with this business as he sets apart for me.  I can do this business in the name of Jesus and for the glory of his’s kind of all up to me.  And then I stop and go, “No, it’s not all up to me, God will reveal.”  Exasperation!! Then, I have to fight the exasperation by taking deep breaths and reminding myself that God is in control.  I kind of feel schizophrenic.  J I feel like lots of different sides of my brain all battling each other, lots of different aspects of my personality constantly at work, and it’s kind of exhausting.  I think the biggest thing I’m learning in my walk with Jesus is this: yes, you’re going to have dreams, hopes, and goals for your future.  However, God has dreams, hopes, and goals for your future, too.  And guess, what?  These may not always line up.  Are you willing to sit still where God has placed you once in a while, and listen?  Are you willing to say, “God, you are in charge today, help me be everything I need to be today, please!”?  Or, are you going to say, “Sorry, God, but your plans for me just aren’t good enough.  I think I’ll do it my way today and see if you approve later.” 

Thinking and Growing

September 3, 2012

11:30 am

Okay, so here’s the deal.  Today, I am trying to do things differently.  For the last several weeks, I’ve really been itching to write again.  Just write, but still have it have some purpose or clarity.  In the last week or so, I’ve realized that I’ve been avoiding my thoughts.  I’ve been laying in bed on days where I can sleep in, and just willing myself back to sleep because I don’t want to busy myself with all the thoughts in my head.  This sent me to a bunch of blaring alarms going off in my head, because it reminds me of my really bad depression stages, back in 2008 and 2009.  I used to just sleep days away.  I haven’t wanted to go back to that.  I haven’t wanted to have days like that again.  But now, it seems that I want everything to slow down, and I’m almost willing myself to a stop in order to accomplish this.  I’m trying to see if it’s “a desire to slow down and have more ‘me’ time” OR “avoiding everything and hoping it will eventually go away/depressed type thinking”.  There’s been lots on my mind. 

My job is pretty awesome.  I work with kids and families, and I set my own schedule throughout the day.  I make my own appointments and then just have to follow through with them.  I then document pretty much everything I do, to show the progress the kid or the family is making.  When broken down like this, it seems much simpler than it actually feels during the day, especially the day when I get so bogged down with something small, like having a deadline for a treatment plan that needs updated.  I have gotten really stressed out the last several weeks; the beginning of the school year has been really messy for me, really stressful to try and figure out the new scheduling and stuff.  We work by quota, so we are responsible for a certain amount of hours of service we need to provide every month.  After like 3 months of not making this said quota, you start getting asked questions about how well you’re doing your job.  I don’t want to lose my job.  So I worry and I stress and I try to make myself better, and learn more about the job, and tips and tricks and shortcuts to make myself more effective. 

And then, I start to get angry.  I get angry because I get competitive with myself, if that’s the right word.  I start to expect more from myself.  I start to think, “You have your business; you’re not doing anything with it; if you were, you could be one step closer to not having to worry about this damn quota thing.”  It ticks me off that I have something so valuable in front of me that I haven’t been able to do much with at all. 

That’s where Jesus comes in.  I then think, “Well, it’s not my time.  God’s gonna put me where he wants me anyway, and then it’s my job to do what he’s asking and be happy with it.”  I don’t think it’s right to say that I get angry with where God has placed me.  I don’t think that accurately describes my feelings.  I think I get impatient.  And that I’m constantly being called to a deeper level of faith and understanding and trust, and I’m just not used to that.  The truth is, I am at a whole new level in the faith game.  I have a relationship with God like I haven’t had before.  And I look at the people around me, all the people in my life, and I can tell who puts God first, and who doesn’t.  Lots of people I know thank God when things are going well and “give him the glory”, but He isn’t first in their lives.  He doesn’t run their lives; they do.  They run their own lives.  I, on the other hand, am willing to let God take the wheel.  I feel like I have no other choice.  Why would I say, “I  CHOOSE to run my own life, be my own captain, run my own show”, when I know that I’m not going to do it perfectly?  God is.  He is doing it perfectly, according to his will, what he already has determined for me, and why would I want to mess with that??  I just don’t understand why I would want to mess with that.  I have been blessed with many talents that I have the opportunity to use on a daily basis.  No, I haven’t been able to minister and translate in as many settings and countries as I want to yet, but I have my whole life ahead of me, and who knows what God wants to do?! I can’t risk all that, just because “I want this residual income to happen right now, so I’m gonnna go out blindly and do it all myself, and find these people, and train them to do the same thing, etc etc etc.”.  It’s not up to me.  It’s up to God.  So why would I force it?