Yet

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Buds that laid dormant and

birds that quieted their song for too long

reappear from a winter that was mild at best.

I tell myself that things are fine

and I tell myself that it should be better but

I find myself quieting my mind as the rest of life

welcomes Spring.

Shadows hover over the room and

the sheets entangle over my toes.

Bits of sunlight waver in as

the wind brushes past yet,

the shade of grey lingers.

The day passes slowly and

soon enough, it is night time and I

am still awake.

Deeply longing for sleep.

The weeks go by

one at a time and it is

all a blur,

filled with events, but never fulfilling.

I ask God, “Shouldn’t this be over?”

Being told to talk about it and to

push, prod, and poke at the core.

I am sick of being the sad girl.

I do not want to talk anymore because I am convinced that

healing already took place.

I have done my share of the fight and

I am tired.

But her words ring true,

“You were healed, but,

the weeds slipped through

and grew through the cracks.

You were not perfectly healed.”

Although I picked up the pieces

I didn’t carefully place them back where they belonged,

finding myself now, facing the consequences.

Lies infiltrate my thoughts.

Even though the original pain does not affect me,

the collateral does.

Like a jar that is accidentally pushed,

breaks and scatters across the floor.

The parts are all there but

not in the right order.

Resulting as

functioning and satisfactory.

Passing the test of

“How are you?”

but ultimately slipping by.

Jokingly admitting that the end result

is like a Mr. Potato head and

laughing at the irony of how the jumbled parts

resemble my soul.

It needs to be retaken apart and

reassembled back together again.

“It’ll be painful.”

But I want to be right again.

To start back at the beginning and

go over the days that I want to forget because

I have lived them over enough in my mind.

But true healing calls me to go back.

Go back, and find the real truth in those times.

Renounce and leave those lies behind

that I picked up along the way.

It will get worse before it gets better.

To press into those days that

make me want to shrink.

To reopen old wounds and emotions that

I felt so deeply and clearly.

To enter into a community that

forces me to see my true self.

This takes work.

No longer under the safe scaffolding

where a community was easy and

supportive and

I did not have to try.

The scaffolding was lifted and

it was the right time for it to go but,

I am realizing how much I relied on that support.

And so in the desert, I am where

the metaphor is too loud to ignore,

that like an Israelite clinging on to only

what can be seen; not trusting the promises given ahead.

Healing, I admit that

I still need help.

I am still not okay.

Yet.

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Exciting news!

For the past week, I have worn a clunky boot to stabilize my foot. Apparently 2 months ago I broke a bone near my big toe, and although there was some pain I was able to walk around on it and teach Jazzercise. According to my doctor, it’s called a tibial sesamoid fracture. Below is a picture I found on the internet to show which bone I’m talking about, and you get the added bonus of seeing my awesome accessory for the next month!

 

It’s crazy that I went to LA, D.C., and did various activities in El Paso with a broken bone. If the boot doesn’t heal it completely, then I can either have steroid shots or have the bone surgically removed. I do not want surgery.

But that is not my exciting news… 🙂

I am officially the new Middle School Coordinator for Ciudad Nueva starting this summer! Simon, the current Middle School coordinator, will train me until then to make sure I have a smooth transition. Accepting this job means I am committing to staying in El Paso for at least 2 more years.

I went to Pasadena, CA about 3 weeks ago to check out another non-profit to get new ideas to help better our programs at Ciudad Nueva. I am stepping into this position with a lot of ideas and motivation to change the program. Knowing that some of my coworkers will read this, here are my honest feelings:

It is simultaneously scary and exciting to accept this position. I had a long phone conversation with my friend Christi about it, and although I am ready to do it I am scared about the challenges ahead. I know it will be a hard year. The change means facing conflict, whether from people I work with, the students I lead, their parents, or other outside sources. I am not fluent in Spanish, which makes it challenging to connect with the students and their parents (and quite frankly, it is something I am self-conscious about because being fluent in Spanish would be so helpful).

This past Friday our staff had leadership training. One of the things we learned is that trust is the foundation of leadership. Without trust, nothing can be done. I am grateful that Ciudad Nueva trusts me to step into this position, and I’m grateful for the relationships I have already established among the students. But there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to build relationships with other community members.

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The Middle School team! (Angel, Simon, Gustavo, Gaby, and me)

Another thing we learned is the difference between managing and leading. According to their separate definitions, I am an amazing manager. I am good with a schedule, I like structure, am very good at planning, and can maintain programs well. It is not in my nature to see beyond what is already tangible, to envision and create goals for the future. It is hard for me to be flexible. There are a lot of things that I am not good at, but God chooses the least likely to do His work. I am faithful and confident that for some reason, I am allowed to do this job because God has a purpose for it. I will attempt to remain humble, and that I cannot claim any success as my own, but will attribute that success to the Lord who has placed me in this position.

So, I am overwhelmed, excited, scared, nervous, excited…and WOW. Two more years in El Paso!!! Other things are coming together, too. I have a possible living situation for next year but haven’t made any commitments to that just yet. Prayers for guidance are much appreciated!

Happy days!

 

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YAY Ciudad Nueva!

The sweetness of home

I traveled from the southwest to the west coast, then all the way to the east coast, and then back to the southwest in a span of 2 weeks. Keisha and I drove to Los Angeles to check out another non-profit called Lake Avenue Community Foundation (LACF). We were researching new ideas on how to better our programs at Ciudad Nueva, and LACF gave us some great ideas! I feel encouraged, ready, strengthened, and motivated to enhance the middle school program at Ciudad Nueva.

Keisha and I also did a bit of sight-seeing in LA. We went to the Getty Center, Griffith Observatory, explored downtown and saw a few Hollywood stars (not the people, but the actual geometric shape on the ground), hiked up to the Hollywood sign, explored Burbank and walked the outskirts of Warner Brother’s studios, went to Hacienda Heights to hang out with Simon, picked up Bethany from the airport and went to Santa Monica Pier, and endured a bit of LA traffic (it was busier than usual because of the Oscars! I’ve never been physically near so many famous people in my entire life…even though I didn’t see their faces). The day before we were in San Diego, and we went to Coronado Island/Beach. I lost my contacts so I was forced to wear my glasses for the next 1.5 weeks. Since Keisha and I were being adventurous, we decided to spend the night sleeping in the car in a Walmart parking lot. It was definitely a bonding experience.

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And just as quickly as we arrived in LA, I soon found myself on a flight from Burbank to BWI where my mother picked me up at almost 1:00 am.

It was truly a gift to be home for a week. I looked forward to it for a long time. I attended Lissy’s wedding (I was a sobbing mess during the entire ceremony), got to be with my parents and have our tradition of Chinese food and movie night, ate brunch with Elaine, hung out with Carrie, reconnected with high school and college friends, and explored D.C. and Northern Virginia.

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Time flies when you’re having fun, and the fun ended too soon. As I said goodbye to my mom at the airport, I had to push aside the bitter, burning feeling that arose to the top of my throat. I focused on the process: checking in, dropping my bag off, walking through TSA security, and finding my gate. The feeling came back, so again, I pushed it away and decided to call Sierra because we had been trying to catch up for weeks, and we were able to chat for about 45 minutes. The moment we hung up, it came back again. It’s a feeling that takes awhile to shake off.

Home is easy, safe, fun, and comfortable. Those qualities make it hard to leave when I know the work in El Paso is challenging, daunting, and often leaves me questioning, “How can I do this better? How can I be better?” I know deep in my heart that I am called to live my life outside of my comfort zone. These challenges provide new opportunities for growth and learning, and I fully accept and welcome those changes. As a follower of Christ, I am not meant to live in easy and comfortable environments for the rest of my life.

I have no doubt that I am meant to be in El Paso for now, yet I cannot deny that being home felt good. I miss home. Perhaps I’ll move back to NOVA in the future, but for now, I am content with where life is at – in El Paso. If I were given the option to stay in VA and never go back to El Paso, I wouldn’t take it. The people I know and the work I do in El Paso are very important to me. The Southwest has become a home in itself. I love it, and I always will. Yet, nothing can beat being in the place where you grew up and in the presence of those who have loved you for many, many years.

And so, I am back in El Paso for another extended amount of time. I am sad, but not empty. I am full of hope for the changes that will be happening at Ciudad Nueva, I am encouraged in my faith, excited to continue developing friendships here, and I am motivated to continue loving the community of El Paso!

Be careful what you pray for…

…because it will be answered. Perhaps different than what you wanted. Perhaps just the way you asked.

Today was a bad day. BUT, today was a great blessing.

First, it is Monday, which in itself sets the stage to be a downer.

Yesterday, I returned from a Women’s Retreat at Holy Cross Retreat Center in Las Cruces. It was an amazing weekend. I spent my time with incredible, wise, amazing, loving, and beautiful women from the church of St. Clement. I learned what intimacy with the Lord looks like through the wilderness, brokenness, business, suffering, and spending time in the Bible. It was restfully exhausting if that makes sense.

On Saturday we were given the passage from Psalm 139 to read and reflect on. It’s a great passage and I would highly recommend reading it in its entirety, but I want to focus on one part that stood out to me:

“Explore me, O God, and know the real me. Dig deeply and discover who I am. Put me to the test and watch how I handle the strain. Examine me to see if there is an evil bone in me, and guide me down Your path forever.” – Psalm 139: 23-24 (The Voice translation)

My immediate thought was, “Woah. That’s a bold prayer.” It was intimidating to even read that because I knew deep in my heart, God would answer it. “Put me to the test and watch how I handle the strain.” Yikes, but I immediately knew that I needed to pray those words to the Lord. And so I did, and I really meant it. Because I want to be near to God, and I know in order to do that I need Him to point out the things within me that need to be taken away or changed.

Well, today was surely an answer to that prayer, but I did not realize it until my drive back home from teaching Jazzercise in Las Cruces around 7:00PM.

Today was the struggle for many reasons. I contacted a woman to help me with my taxes (because lord knows I need all the help I can get), and she told me I needed my Social Security card, a bank statement, my driver’s license, last year’s tax return, and any other tax papers I’ve received. I started to panic because I do not have my SS card with me in El Paso, and in fact, I had no idea where it would possibly be. And at the risk of sounding like a spoiled only child, I have never done my taxes before. My parents were kind enough to do them for me up until this point of my life, so I didn’t have a tax return either. I didn’t have a physical copy of a bank statement because I use an online app. After I got off of the phone with the CPA, I panicked and did what all daughters usually do, I frantically texted my mom for help. I probably sent her 10 texts in a row with less than 2 seconds in between. Stress!

Then, I tried to make an appointment with a local podiatrist because I have weird foot pain that I want to be examined. So I called to make an appointment and asked if they accepted Tricare Young Adult, which they do, but since I did not have a referral they were not sure if they would be able to accept my insurance. I asked how much it would be if I did not use insurance, and they said it would be $150 for the checkup plus whatever else needs to be done. My heart clenched. $150 may not be the most expensive medical thing in the world, but for a very limited budget, it is a lot of money. The receptionist was sweet enough to spend 3 hours on the phone with Tricare on my behalf, basically advocating and battling them so that I could receive coverage. Tricare essentially told her that because I am no longer on the East Coast, I would not receive coverage from them. BLEH. But, the sweet receptionist said she would continue to fight for me to make sure I get the coverage. Pray that it works out. Stress!!

Then, I was busy trying to plan for the upcoming week. I need to buy snacks for the middle school kids. I need to make a class plan since I’m teaching an art class this semester (where is Rebecca Hurt when I need her the most). I need to do this, I need to do that…I made so many lists of “things to do” that my brain was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of silly lists with pointless words that told me to do things. Stress!!!

AND THEN, I thought my crazy day was over as I left staff meeting to drive to Las Cruces to teach Jazzercise. I love doing that. I looked forward to exercising the stress away and seeing the awesome women. I usually teach 2 classes back-to-back, a 4:30pm and a 5:30pm. Halfway through the first class, I felt so exhausted. I usually teach both classes just fine, but tonight I felt like I was about to faint within the first 20 minutes of the first class. My muscles were weak and it was hard to maintain a smile on my face. I kept going and somehow I made it to the end, but I still had another class/hour to teach! My foot started to hurt (the one that I mentioned earlier), and I thought, “How the heck am I going to do this?” But yet again, I somehow managed to make it, and it seemed like everyone had a good time. Stress!!!!

So finally, I got into my car to make the 45-minute drive back to El Paso. I was not feeling too well, and I think it was because I did not eat enough food before teaching 2 Jazzercise classes. I needed silence. I turned off the music in my car and began to reflect on my day. What. A. Day. A lot of little things happened that piled up and turned my mood from “meh” to “UGH.” And so, I started to talk with God.

“God, today was rough!!!” I said out loud. I began to vent to Him and did not hold back. After some time, I remembered the prayer I said while on the Women’s Retreat: “Put me to the test and watch how I handle the strain.” The words danced across my mind and…

I laughed. I literally laughed out loud. OH, the joy that flooded into my bones and to the depth of my soul. WOW LORD, you are faithful and answered my prayer! I surely was put to the test, and I handled the strain so poorly. And a slightly pathetic thing was that I wasn’t even faced with truly “hard” things. I struggled with the little things and became a ball of anxiety.

Perhaps you may be confused as to why having a bad day ended up giving me so much joy. It’s because I believe in a living God who LOVES me enough to answer my prayers. After coming from a retreat completely themed on intimacy, I realized just how close and near my savior is to me. Today was very humbling. It was a reminder that I crack and break over the small things, and I need Jesus’ strength to help me get through each day. And maybe this doesn’t make sense to you at all, and you’re thinking, “How does a bad day turn into you praising Jesus?” It’s because God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.

So, be careful what you pray for. You never know…we have a God who is a good listener and exceptionally good at answering.

*PS – my parents are amazing because my mom found my SS card, she printed off last year’s tax return with my information on it, and my dad drove to the post office to mail it to me. My mom is an amazing selfless human, that in the midst of her physical shoulder pain she went on a hunt for my SS card around the house. My dad took his time out of his day to drive somewhere he did not have to go. I do not deserve their kindness. Also, I was able to print off a bank statement, so hopefully, taxes won’t be an issue! Stress relieved!!! 🙂

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me and Callie after team-teaching a Jazzercise class!

Right now, or right now right now?

At one point in your life, I am sure someone asked you to do something and you did not want to do it, but instead of completely shutting the person down by saying, “No,” you ended up saying something like,

“I’ll do it in a minute,” or, “In a bit,” or my favorite, “Yeah, yeah. Okay.”

It is a phrase that translates into, “I am acknowledging that I heard you (or maybe it is an automated response) and I will try to get to it later, but I am not going to do it this very second.” Whatever task that needs to be done will not be done immediately (even if the person requesting your help may want you to do it ASAP).

But if you were to reply to the request with, “Ok. I’ll do it right now,” then that is a little different. You are acknowledging to the other person (and maybe even to yourself) that you will do the task right then and there. Immediately. Presto.

In the Spanish language, there is this funny little word, “ahorita,” which directly translates to “right now.” Let me tell you, this word has confused the heck out of me.

I worked alongside this guy who is native to El Paso and speaks Spanish at home. If he was asked to help with something around Ciudad Nueva, he would say something like, “Okay, yeah, I’ll do it right now.” But then he would continue doing whatever he was originally doing.

Then there are the middle school kids I work with, and I will tell them to clean up after themselves, and they will say, “Yeah Miss. We’ll do it right now.” But then they continue talking to each other or playing with the soccer ball as if they ignored me.

This might make them sound lazy, but laziness is not the main issue. I realized that the words “right now” to native Spanish speakers do not mean RIGHT now. So I jokingly asked my friend about it, and he was like, “OH…I did not even realize that. It’s the “Mexican” right now…which means “in a bit” or “later.”

I now lovingly tease him and others about it when they say, “I’ll do it right now.” Most of my friends do not even realize they are doing it. We joke that it is the “Mexican Right Now.” If I actually want something done immediately, I have to make sure that I say, “Hey! Can you do this right now, right now?”  I have to emphasize and say it twice!

Time is relative in El Paso. Growing up with the phrase, “To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is to be forgotten,” has really clashed with the culture here. It is an unspoken rule that if you are having a party at 7:00pm, then it might be a good idea to tell people it is at 5:00pm so that they actually show up (semi) on-time.

Anyways, I am still loving El Paso and everything it has to offer. There are some exciting things coming up, and I am excited to share them with you. Until then, have a beautiful rest of your weekend!

 

New Year’s Resolution

Happy New Year! It’s officially 2018. Can you believe that people who were born in 2000 will now be legal adults and hitting up da clubs?! Wild…

A new year can mean a lot of different things. There’s the standard “new year, new me” phrase that we all just love. It also means resolutions are back! If you’re anything like me, then you probably don’t give much thought, or honestly even care, to make one. Besides, I usually have a horrible time keeping up with them. For example, last year, I tried the #Whole30 diet and FAILED. I failed miserably. I barely made it past 4 days because:

1) I didn’t meal prep

2) I love bread (but not as much as Oprah does)

However, this time I thought, “Ah, let’s give it a go and be serious about it.” Instead of making a resolution based on food, weight loss, or being more physically fit, I decided to make a resolution that seems a bit odd, but will hopefully be more beneficial in the long run.

I want to purposefully put myself in uncomfortable situations so that I can learn more about the world and people around me, and grow as a human being.

To calm my mother’s fears about “uncomfortable situations,” I don’t mean putting myself in extreme danger or harm’s way. Let me explain a bit more:

About a month ago I went on a search for a clipboard. It contained a list of all the names of middle schoolers in the Kids Create program. I needed to find the clipboard before the program started so that we could take attendance. As I entered into the YAC (youth activity center), I saw Maria, who cleans one of the buildings for Ciudad Nueva. I smiled, waved, said, “Hola! Cómo está?,” and continued my search.

I knew Maria did not speak English, but I was desperate to find the clipboard since the program was about to start. I thought it would be helpful to ask Maria if she had seen the clipboard. The only problem was, I had no idea how to say “clipboard” in Spanish. I juggled the idea of leaving and finding someone else who would be able to speak to her more clearly than I could, but then I thought, “What is the worst thing that could happen with me attempting to ask her a very simple question?” SO…alas…here is what I asked her:

“Maria, sabes dónde está la lista… de los nombres…de los niños?” –> “Maria, do you know where is the list…of the names…of the kids?”

Obviously, she was very confused. It then became a silly game of charades as I tried to act out what I was looking for. I used my hands to make a rectangle shape. I started to laugh because I felt ridiculous, but Maria was incredibly sweet to look for something that she had no idea what she was looking for.

Eventually, I found it. I thanked her profusely and walked out. I felt a little silly but ultimately, was thankful for that interaction. It was originally uncomfortable to even think about asking Maria for help, but I learned that it is okay to mess up Spanish. I don’t have to be perfect at it (although I really, really want to be).

Another example: Two nights ago I was sitting on a couch watching YouTube videos. I was simultaneously thinking about what I wanted to do for the rest of the evening. I had the entire house to myself and thought, “I will put on my PJs, cuddle up in bed with a fuzzy blanket, and watch 2 movies back-to-back because I have nothing going on tomorrow and #yolo.”

Almost two minutes later, my phone rang. I looked down and saw a number that I did not recognize. It was past 7:00 pm and I honestly considered not answering, but with a split second decision, I decided to answer.

“Hello, this is Lexi?”

“Hey, Lexi. This is Joseph from church. Hope you had an awesome Christmas with your family. I was wondering if you could do me a huge favor?”

“Yeah, sure. What’s up?”

“Well, I’m not sure if you know, but the church received about 20 refugees this weekend. I was wondering if you were free to spend the night tonight at the YAC with them? Usually, I would spend the night, but there are only women and children here, and I just don’t want to risk it…could you help me out?”

In my mind, I thought, “But…but… I want to watch movies and be cozy!!!”

Thankfully, I said, “Oh, yeah! Sure! That’s not a problem. Let me just pack an overnight bag really quick and I’ll head on over!”

It was certainly not how I planned for the evening to go. I got to the YAC around 8:00 pm. The women were sitting on air mattresses while the young children played with large wooden blocks, lining them up like dominos and delighting in them falling down. I met Joseph in the back room where an air mattress was set up for me, too.

My job was simple enough. Just spend the night. If there happened to be an emergency, call 911. Joseph assured me that there had never been any past emergencies. He and Gustavo, another volunteer, left around 8:30 pm and told me they’d be back early in the morning. Soon enough, I was left alone with women and children from Guatemala who did not speak any English.

I don’t think the women initially knew that I wasn’t a fluent Spanish speaker because I had a girl come up to me asking for help. I understood every-other-word, and through context clues, I was able to understand that she needed a piece of paper that she accidentally threw away in a trashcan, and needed help looking for it. So, I found two pairs of cleaning gloves, and away we went digging through a 4-foot trashcan.

In my very imperfect Spanish, I tried to have a conversation with her. We did not get very far into the conversation because I had a lot of difficulties understanding what she said. It was uncomfortable, but we laughed it off. Another woman came over and started to ask me a question, and I could feel my eyes grow large, like a deer in the headlights type of look. She pointed to her head and then pointed to the table behind me, and I thought she asked for a hat. Nope, turns out she wanted some Ibuprophen pills behind me. It was very hard to say no to her because she was persistent. I honestly wanted to give the pills to her, but I wasn’t sure if it was “allowed,” so I thought I should not risk it. She finally gave up, but not without giving me a good 10-minute plea as to why she wanted medicine for her headache in Spanish.

Resolution: I want to purposefully put myself in uncomfortable situations so that I can learn more about the world and people around me, and grow as a human being.

Basically, I desire to have more situations like the ones listed above in the 2018 year. I’m sure there will be plenty more, and they do not have to be Spanish related (those were just the top two that stuck out). My resolution is to go into these situations with more confidence, to be willing to make a fool out of myself, to step out of the boundaries of comfort, and just try. 

As Cara once said to me, “It only takes 10 seconds of courage to just do it.”

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The Grand Canyon on Christmas Day, 2017

Social Norms

It has been awhile since my last post. I haven’t written much because frankly, life feels normal again. Nothing fascinating has happened and I did not want to bore myself (or readers) on a post that consisted of “I woke up, I ate, I worked, I slept.” The newness of El Paso is wearing off and I am settling into the very unpredictable routine of a Border Fellow. Each day is still different: I have a basic idea of what my day will look like, but it often changes last minute. I am thankful for being a flexible person because I am sure this would drive a lot of people nuts (I never thought I would adjust to unpredictability, but now it is familiar like a long-time friend).

I thought I would write about an interesting El Paso social norm I’ve slowly adjusted to. Actually, I am not adjusted to it at all, and it has resulted in some fairly awkward and possibly uncomfortable situations (for me and others involved). Granted, Keisha would tell you that I am, in general, an awkward person…so maybe this isn’t an “El Paso thing,” and perhaps it’s just a “me thing.”

I love hugs and greeting people, but those are two separate things for me. I love hugs from close friends. I like greeting new people in social settings. However, I do not like hugging and greeting people I do not know at the same time. This also means I do not like hugging and saying “goodbye” to people I just met.

In college, I felt very comfortable around my friends. I always found myself spending time with my roommates, social work class friends, or small group. I did not find it necessary to hug every single person “hello!” as I walked into the room. It was more common to say one, big, general “hello” as we walked in the door and then sat down and started to talk. Before I, or anyone else left, we announced to the entire group that we had to leave, we would all say “goodbye,” wave and smile, and then I (or the others) would leave.

It was simple. Easy. It did not take that long to say hello and/or goodbye.

WELL. Let’s just say in El Paso, it is a very warm, embracing, and welcoming city. Apparently, being raised in Virginia means I’ve learned to create some strict physical boundaries that often leaves me fairly uncomfortable in social settings. (Which is sooooo funny, because compared to a lot of people, I would consider myself a very warm and embracing person. But when I’m compared to El Pasoens….I do not even come close).

Shall I give an example? Here we go (oh, and by the way, this social norm only applies to smaller group settings, between 3-15 people):

Let’s say you are attending a little social gathering in El Paso. You know that there will be about 10 people there, perhaps you know them, and perhaps you do not. As you walk in the door, it is expected that you go around and say hello to every single person. You hug, shake hands, kiss cheeks, etc. You probably will not set your purse down or take off your jacket until every person has been greeted in some capacity. You may even have mini-conversations along the way as you make your rounds, but you can’t sit and settle down until EVERY person is greeted.

Okay, so greetings aren’t so bad. In fact, this actually seems somewhat normal to me. It’s when you have to leave.

Remember, I am used to saying one general goodbye – I might even add a wave. Maybe I’ll hug one or two people, but it’s not a necessity.

In El Paso, you hug every person goodbye. It doesn’t matter if it adds 10-30 minutes to your departure… You better hug people goodbye.

Now, there were many times when I left a meeting or group hangout without saying goodbye, and apparently, it was noticed and felt “off” to the others. It can seem cold and insincere. So now, I am trying to be more aware of this and make more of an effort to say my warmest regards, give a hug, and leave without being ingenuine to those I’m around.

Maybe it’s just me, but this has been the hardest social norm to adapt to.

I would love to know ya’lls thoughts! Feel free to comment and share. Who knows, maybe it’s just me and this is a normal thing throughout the entire U.S. and somehow, I haven’t gotten with it lol.

Hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas, Happy Chanuka, and a wonderful holiday season!

Peace and blessings ❤

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Helped Launch Pad (Elementary school kids) go farm and pick sweet potatoes! The sweet potatoes will be delivered to our local food pantry (the Kelley Memorial Food Pantry to be exact).

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Me and Keisha in front of the altar at church. They decorated it with beautiful flowers for Thanksgiving.

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Our middle schoolers getting a quick lesson from a lawyer!

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The middle school boys do love game time…

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Oh, and P.S. – I got a haircut. So here’s my shameless selfie 😉

Conviction

A part of the Border Fellows program is to have a mentor who meets with me occasionally to see how I’m doing. Mentoring can look different depending on the needs of the mentor and mentee. You can choose to go through a book together, a Bible study, etc. I was paired with a woman named Patsy, who also attends the Church of St. Clements and is a mother to two grown children. Patsy and I decided to meet twice a month and just talk about life. I like to process information verbally, so I was grateful that we mutually decided that meeting up for morning coffee to talk would be best.

Patsy is wonderful. She is a petite Hispanic woman who is gracious, kind, and fiercely loves the Lord. She is loyal to her family and friends. She is very eager to listen and hear how I’m doing. She genuinely cares for me, even though she has only known me for less than 1.5 months. Patsy grew up in El Paso and witnessed the many changes across the borderland. Through her personal experiences, she guides and helps me process a lot of what I am learning.

About a month ago we met at a Starbucks off of Redd and I-10 in the early morning. I had just returned from Nogales, AZ and was excited to share everything I learned. It was still fresh and raw, and I was ready to take action, contend for shalom, and do all of the “justice-y” things.

  • Some of the stuff I learned in Arizona may be considered radical to the Church. It is on topics that many people do not like to hear, like how racism and slavery are deeply rooted in the Anglican church’s history. It’s hard to justify and reconcile with that, especially as Christians. (Look up Albert Thompson from Northern VA. He’s a professor at NOVA community college and has online podcasts on U.S. history and slavery. It is fascinating.) We learned that we should lament and repent of this history for the rest of our lives. (Some people do not like to hear this and claim that they are not a racist, so why should they repent? It may seem like a valid point until you recognize that prejudices are subtly intertwined into our daily lives. We all have them, even myself. These prejudices were taught to us formally and informally – they are from our environments, social media, families, and school systems. No one is an exception to this. So regardless if you don’t think you’re a racist, we all have, or have had, racist thoughts at some point in our lives, and we need to repent of that. I need to, too.)

Anyways. I was sharing this with Patsy, not quite sure how she would react to all of this. But I went for it, and I’m thankful I did.

After I was done word vomiting, she shared with me her conservative background and upbringing. When she started to learn about social and biblical justice in her late 30’s, she acknowledged that it was important, but it felt like an attack on her personal character. Patsy admitted that she felt like people were blaming her for every wrong in America’s history just because she grew up conservatively and had more resources than other vulnerable populations. She became defensive, claiming, “I’m Hispanic! How can you call me a racist?” But as time went on, she became more educated on the issues and realized that people weren’t calling her a “racist” to be mean. Instead, they were calling out that racism exists as a systemic and institutionalized problem, and it has hidden itself really well within the walls of our homes, schools, and churches. It needs to be called out so that it can be stopped. As Albert Thompson said in his talk a month ago, “Slavery was never abolished. Racism never ended. It just evolved.”

So then, Patsy said her “pendulum swung the exact opposite way.” She confronted racism and social justice issues head-on. If she heard someone complain or say a rude comment, she would immediately speak up and defend the person that was being targeted by malicious words. Patsy felt a personal responsibility for the protection of those most vulnerable and that it was her duty and calling to save them all.

But then, God gave her a vision one day.

In her vision, she is standing in front of a mass of people. Her arms are spread open, reaching from side-to-side as far as they can go. Protectingly she tells the people to “stand behind me.” Then the Lord gently asks her,

“My child, what are you doing?”

And she responds, “Lord, I am protecting my people.”

“Do you not know that they are my people? I will protect them. I have already spread my arms wide to die on the cross for them. I will save them. Even more, how can you protect them when you’re not even looking at them? You are facing the wrong way. How can you know what they need when your back is turned to the people?”

Geez. Isn’t that super convicting? How often do I go out and help those who are marginalized, fight their battles and “pursue justice and contend for shalom,” but I don’t even care to look at those who I am helping? I am so so guilty of this!

God honestly doesn’t need my help. Quite frankly, He doesn’t need anyone’s help to do His work. But He chooses to use us and allows us to serve Him. We don’t need to be the saviors of the people, but we do need to notice, listen, and establish relationships with people. It doesn’t do much good to solve someone’s problems without hearing a person share their story.  You may be solving a “problem” that doesn’t need to be solved.

I’m grateful that the Lord is patient with us. I’m thankful that the Holy Spirit is a constant guide through this very messy life.

Let’s pray that we notice people, hear them, and create relationships that will hopefully turn into lasting friendships. God is a relational God. Let Him do the hard work so that we can focus on loving people well, by the grace of God.

elpjz

Mural. Juarez and El Paso.

Me too

Earlier this afternoon I walked to the downtown bank to deposit some checks. It’s about a 10-minute walk there and back from Ciudad Nueva. After seeing a few “me too” posts throughout the day, I couldn’t help but be more aware of my surroundings as I walked through the streets. I decided to wear sunglasses, not only because it is always sunny in El Paso, but because for some reason, wearing something over my eyes makes me feel more confident. It’s a false sense of security. It’s a shield from the sun and reality. (Have you ever noticed that more people are likely to stare/look at you when you’re wearing sunglasses? Perhaps it’s because they can’t tell you’re looking back at them.)

On my walk, I was whistled at once and counted 25 men of various ages who actively turned their heads to stare at me as they drove past. 25. And I mean really turned their heads and stared for a few seconds after already driving past me. Those were just the noticeable ones.

It was extremely uncomfortable to see the many pairs of eyes examining me up and down. It always is, but today was even worse since sexual assault, sexual harassment and any kind of aggressive behavior were at the front of my mind.

“Me too” has forced me to reflect on the many times I’ve felt invaded, intruded, and unsafe in my own body. The memories flooded and surfaced –

  • Two guys, who at the time I considered friends, decided to grab my butt because they thought it was funny. I was too embarrassed to tell them to stop because I thought, “These are my friends. They’re just joking. It means nothing.” I was in middle school.
  • I decided to go for a run this past spring break around Harrisonburg. Since it was spring break, a lot of people were at home or on vacation. As I ran through downtown, I heard a car rumble behind me, but it never passed by. After a few seconds of hearing it, I turned my head to look back and saw a middle-aged man glaring at me. His eyes didn’t blink as I made eye contact with him. I sped up and sprinted down the road. His car accelerated to keep up with me. I ended up running through someone’s yard and cut through a few backyards to escape this man. I hid behind a bush for a few moments and saw his car slowly drive down the street. I assume he was probably looking for me. I waited a few more seconds before once again, sprinting back to my apartment. It was 4:00PM on a Thursday, and I couldn’t have been more relieved to arrive back safely inside of my apartment and spend the rest of the night inside.
  • When I was in Spain as a sophomore in high school, my friends and I were trying to avoid the rain and madness of Madrid since it was the night of the Real Madrid vs. Barcelona soccer game. We found temporary shelter in a bar, sat down and ordered fries and water. We were approached by a guy who gestured to himself, then to us, and said, “Queréis f***?” We screamed no and ran away. I don’t even think we paid for our food. We ran through the crowded streets, almost losing each other many times. The people we ran past yelled, “Corre! Corre!” It was one of the most terrifying things I experienced as a 16-year-old girl – running through unfamiliar streets in a foreign country away from a creepy guy.
  • I went on a “date” with a guy when I was a sophomore in high school. It was with a guy from church, and I was super excited because I had liked him for a long time. I remember squealing to my mom in excitement about it and hoping I’d have good news to share once I got back home. He picked me up and said, “So uh…want to go to McDonald’s?” I was slightly shocked since I thought it was going to be a nice dinner date, but regardless, I was excited to be with him so I went with the flow. We got McFlurrys, and then he drove me to a soccer field that’s less than 5 minutes away from my house. He parked away from the street lights and in a secluded part of the parking lot, crawled into the back of his car (he had carefully planned this ahead of time, as his back seats were taken out to make it flat and roomier). He proceeded to unbuckle me, drag and pull me out of the passenger side and said something like, “C’mon. Let’s have some fun.” He pushed me down to my back and tried to hold me. I resisted and slapped him, appalled and mortified. He thankfully backed away and didn’t say anything except to pull out his phone and text another girl right in front of me. “What the hell?!” I yelled. I could feel my anger, confusion, and terror bursting within me. He shrugged, and said, “Well…if we’re not going to have fun, what’s the point?”  I immediately got out of the car and started to walk back home. He pulled up next to me and stated, “I can take you home.” I should’ve just said no thanks and called my mom, but I didn’t. I got back into his car and he dropped me off. I was livid, but also felt very rejected. The boy I had liked for so long finally wanted me but wanted me for all the wrong reasons.

These are not fun stories to share, especially since I know my parents read my posts and it is embarrassing for me to be vulnerable about this, even when I know that (unfortunately) a lot of people can relate. It shouldn’t be embarrassing! Yet, that’s how a lot of women AND men feel when things like this happen – embarrassed, ashamed, isolated, invisible, lost, unwanted, undesired, used. Yes, it happens to men as well. I hope we don’t forget that. Most of the “me too” posts I’ve seen have been made by women, but I can almost guarantee that there are men who have stories of their own about sexual assault and harassment.

I think “me too” is a great way to spread awareness, but it’s also a sad realization of how we are living in a broken humanity. We are broken people. Sin sucks. We can’t keep ignoring this! We need to teach both boys AND girls to treat each with kindness, to see each other as people who are worthy of dignity and respect, and to not be seen as objects. We need to teach ourselves how to listen better and be available to our fellow neighbors. We can be so wrapped up in our own lives that we can easily forget about someone else’s pain. You may or may not agree with me, but I believe the porn industry has a significant negative impact on the way we treat and view others – porn views sex as an immediate pleasure for the individual. Yes, there are humans involved, but it easy to see them as tools/objects to be used to “get off.” It is not about love – it is about lust. This is not the way God intended human relationships to look like.

May we not shame those who have experienced grief, embarrassment, and guilt. May we open our arms with a loving embrace, but also be understanding and aware if physical touch is not the correct way to love in the present moment. May our ears be bigger than our mouths, and when words are appropriate to let our tongues be encouragers to our brothers and sisters who are mourning.

My heart and soul are with you. You are not alone.

La equis (The X) – at la feria in Juarez

 

 

 

I met a man

Lord, I pray that I am able to tell this story correctly and that I will always remember the emotions I felt, and the details currently ingrained in my mind, and that these words are glorifying to you. Amen.

Last week I met a man, and this man changed my life.

I was in Mexico last Saturday, near the U.S. border of Nogales, AZ. It was a warm day, about 96 degrees with little wind. My team was warned about the signs of dehydration; in the desert, you don’t realize how quickly you’re losing water until it’s too late. We were brought to a men and women’s shelter, which offers a place of refuge. Many of the people there were caught by border patrol and deported. The shelter was located in an eight-story apartment building complex. We climbed about four floors to reach a small room. The room was the length of about two queen sized beds pushed together and the width of maybe 10-12 feet. We sat and gathered twelve people in a circle and introduced ourselves:

“Hola. Soy Lexi, y tengo 22 años. Hablo un poquito Español. Soy de Virginia, pero vivo en El Paso, Texas para mi trabajo.”

“Hi. I’m Lexi and I’m 22 years old. I speak a little Spanish. I am from Virginia, but I live in El Paso, Texas for my job.”

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The entire team – we were split into 2 groups. Half of us went to the women’s shelter, and the other half went to the comedor (dining room). This picture was taken after meeting R – I was wearing my sunglasses because I had just cried a lot and had very puffy eyes.

My team continued to introduce themselves while I observed the demeanor of a man who sat directly across from me. He was hunched over and his head hung low, but he seemed to pay attention to everyone. His eyes never broke contact with the person who was talking. He wore a red polo shirt that looked like it had never been ironed, light-washed jeans, and dark brown tennis shoes. His hair was disheveled, curls going this way and that, and it looked like he hadn’t shaved in a few weeks. I noticed that he did not have a left arm; the empty red polo sleeve jostled unnaturally as he leaned over and rested his right elbow on his thigh. He had the prettiest blue-green eyes I ever saw, but there was something even more striking about him. His eyes, although pretty, seemed to be carrying the weight of the world. His eyes were physically open but were glazed over with a look of despair. It was apparent that this man suffered a grief that was incomparable to anything I had ever been through.

At the end of the introductions, someone from my team finally stated, “We are here to learn more about you, your lives, and stories.”

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Almost immediately the man spoke up. Unfortunately, I do not remember his name. I know it started with an R, so that is how I’ll refer to him. In Spanish, R began his tale of how he got to Mexico. R is from East Honduras and lived with his pregnant wife. In January of 2017, he was forced to flee his home country due to extreme gang violence. The gangs threatened to kill him, so he decided that leaving and trying to make his way into the United States would offer him better financial opportunities to provide for his family. Taking what little money and food he had, R rode buses throughout Honduras to get to Guatemala. Traveling through Honduras was not an issue for R, but once he made it into Guatemala he realized that the journey would become far more difficult. He walked for many miles to save his money, found shelter within various towns, and encountered people who generously fed him.

border

You can see the border wall running up the hill (near the middle of the photo).

I can only imagine the miles his feet walked. Have you ever gone on a hike, and afterwards your legs ache? Or have you ever worn unsupportive shoes and the next day, your calves burn with every step? Now, take those feelings of discomfort and add hunger, dehydration, and tiredness. The only thing that keeps you going is the hope that there is a better future ahead.

R said he was finally able to make it to the trains after a few weeks of traveling north. There are many people who ride the trains, but it can be a dangerous way to travel. Sometimes they are overtaken by gangs that steal everything you have and leave you for dead, or the trains themselves can be perilous. Knowing the possible negative outcomes, R climbed to the top of the train and watched it speed towards the United States.

At night, it became very cold. The wind was brutally slapping R’s face. He didn’t have any extra clothes with him except for what he was wearing. After what felt like hours on the train, R decided to climb down to avoid some of the wind and possibly find some warmth. He had very little sleep, but decided the risk of climbing down the moving train was worth it. As he descended, the train passed some hanging cables that caught on to his leg and caused him to fall off of the train. The force of impact made him dive head-first into the ground. Before he passed out, he watched his left arm became mutilated by the train wheels as they continued to charge into the night.

R awoke to the sound of silence. His vision was blurry, he felt light-headed, and then he saw the damage of the accident. His left arm was completely destroyed – you couldn’t even tell that it was an arm. His blood pooled and sank into the ground. The only thing that was left in somewhat okay condition was his left hand. R, somehow, was able to pick himself up, pick up his left hand, and walk to the nearest house he could find to ask for help. Door to door he went begging for someone to show him kindness and mercy. No one offered their services. R was losing a lot of blood, but he kept walking.

Finally, someone called an ambulance for him, but they left him on the streets. R passed out in bushes along the side of the road before the ambulance arrived. Unfortunately, the ambulance was unable to find him, so they gave up their search. R probably would’ve died if a police officer hadn’t been driving by. The police officer noticed R, got him into his vehicle, and drove him to a nearby hospital. At the hospital, they performed an amputation surgery to completely cut off his left arm. I am not sure how R was able to pay for it, or if he will have medical bills following him, but I do know that the hospital forced R to leave the hospital less than a day after his surgery.

R felt hopeless. He fled his home country by himself, fought his way through miles of heat, little food, and limited resources. He left his pregnant wife of 7 months so that he could hopefully find a job in the United States to send her money and help support the future of his unborn child. Instead, he found himself without a job, stranded in Mexico, without family or friends, without clothes (because they got ruined from the accident), and without a left arm. He wondered, “What is the point of my life?”

Although I am unaware of many details, R was able to get in contact with The Red Cross, who provided him a prosthetic arm. R stated that he doesn’t like to wear because it is uncomfortable and makes him sore underneath his right armpit. It is a painful reminder of what happened to him.

R looked at me almost the entire time while he shared his story. His eyes would swell and tears flooded when he started to talk about his wife and daughter who he hasn’t met yet. I felt like our souls truly connected. I felt the depths of his heart, and although he was speaking in Spanish the entire time, language was not a barrier in that moment. You don’t need to speak the same language to feel grief and loss.

walkkk

I want to put into perspective how far R traveled. R said he was from East Honduras, but didn’t specify which city. I picked La Esperanza, Honduras on Google maps just to have a place in mind. If R were to have traveled from La Esperanza to the border of Mexico/Nogales, AZ, then that would equal about 48 hours of driving non-stop. That’s a total of 2,434 miles. When I moved to El Paso from Northern Virginia, it was about 28 hours of driving (a total of 1,954 miles). Now remember, R didn’t have a personal car and he wasn’t driving non-stop to get to the border. He rode buses, walked, and rode a train. This blows my mind.

We all gathered around R at the end. He wept as we laid our hands on him and prayed for his life and family. This is my brother, and I will probably never see him again. But I will carry his story and the memory of his face with me for the rest of my life.

In Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline, he states that the “inner sense of compassion is one of the clearest indications from the Lord that this is a prayer project for you” (Foster, 1988). My heart was overflowing with compassion for this man, people seeking refuge, immigration, and the border. I think I am called to pray for immigration issues not only within the U.S. but also worldwide.

If you have the desire to learn more about people who have immigrated/stories similar to this, then I would highly recommend this book.

new-cover