To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly

Imagine a one-story building along a one-way street. The outside is bland; faded beige paint due to the constant sunlight with many windows and 5 wooden doors. The inside has plain white walls with various cracks, bumps, and bruises. In the main room, there are a few frames that hold pictures of random nature scenes. There are about 50 old, red, cushioned chairs that are sunken in from years of use. In the welcome desk room, there are about 20 different pictures of graduate students, proudly holding a certificate in front of a large sheet cake spelling, “Congratulations!” From the inside-out, the building is simple and modest. There is nothing magnificent about the architecture or interior design.

If you were to drive past this building without recognizing what it was, then you would not know the significance it carries to Latina women of various ages in the community. If you knew nothing about this non-profit organization and how it brings healing, restoration, comfort, peace, laughter, friendship, love, kindness, tenderness, and most importantly, Jesus, into the broken walls, then this building would just be a hollow room and an empty space to you.

Christian Women’s Job Corp (CWJC) located in downtown El Paso is a home to many Latina women in the community. It is a safe haven. It offers free childcare, English as a second language (ESOL) classes, and Bible study for Latina women. They meet in the mornings because most of these women have young children and families to take care of. Their lives are chaotic, and yet, they come four times a week to learn English and about a savior who desperately loves them.

These women are some of the most courageous women I’ve encountered. They are survivors. Many are abused and/or have been abused: physically, emotionally, and sexually. Many of their husbands or boyfriends expect them to have the house cleaned, food prepared, and whatever chores to be completed before the man of the household comes home from work. The women are hurting, but their spirits are not broken.

Today I went into CWJC to volunteer. I was hoping that this non-profit would be able to hire me, but unfortunately, they do not have the budget to afford me. Even though it was disappointing to hear, I was not upset about it. From the very first moment I entered into that building, I felt at home. I knew that I wanted to invest as much time as possible there. Their mission is to uplift, strengthen, and build up these women. They offer job, computer, and life skills training and various other classes. It is centered around Jesus and community, and without sounding too cheesy, you can literally feel the love and compassion in the atmosphere.

This morning, I sat in on a Bible study focusing on Mark 1. It was entirely in Spanish, and to be quite honest, I didn’t understand hardly a word. (In that moment, I have never in my life been so desperate to be fluent in Spanish). You would think that I’d be really uncomfortable sitting in a room full of women speaking a different language. But, I sat there in complete awe and with undivided attention. I listened to these ladies giggle at each other’s jokes, and then dive into God’s word. I was encouraged by their heartfelt prayers – “Gracias, Señor, Gracias para su sacrificio.” I immediately loved these women. Knowing nothing about them, their names, or the lives they lead, from the depths of my heart, I knew. I knew that this is where I wanted to be.

After the Bible study, the women walked to a different room to be taught English. They eagerly pulled out their workbooks from their red string-bags given to them by CWJC. They are currently learning how to read, spell, and sound out letters. I sat among them, and with my imperfect Spanish, I introduced myself to the women sitting around me. I could tell that they were suspicious of me, but after a few moments, their smiles grew wider. There was a comfort in sitting next to them in silence as class began.

Today, the ladies learned the letters A, B, C, D, F, G, H, and K.

The instructor slowly spoke in English so that the women could understand. “Turn to page 10. Página diez. Page 10. Look at the top. A ver… Repeat after me…Cat. Cat. kuh-at. Cat.”

They slowly went over the pages of the workbook. Each woman had the opportunity to speak and practice each letter. In that moment, I was humbled by their willingness to learn. There was a desperate eagerness to learn as much as they could. One of the ladies is 80 years old. She never attended school but is now learning how to read, write, and understand what she’s reading. They are all starting from the basics – something that we begin with in Kindergarten and 1st grade. Oh, how I take for granted the educational opportunities I was freely and graciously given!

If I had to summarize CWJC, it’s with this verse:

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

The Lord loves these women and is extending his mercy, grace, and compassion to them. This non-profit isn’t perfect, no system or organizaiton is, but it is acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly alongside of the community and Jesus.

I want to tell you to not pity these women. They are strong, courageous, loving, hardworking, and eager to learn. Love these women. Pray for these women. And not just for these women, but also for every child of God.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…Love your neighbor as yourself. ” – Mark 12:30-31

Dear sweet Jesus,

I thank you. I am so in awe of you and how you allowed me to be in the presence of these women this morning. I thank you for Christian Women’s Job Corp and for the work they are doing. I thank you for the Latina women I met today. I thank you, I thank you.

Lord, please humble me. May I not see myself as better than these women; their lives are so precious to you. I pray that I am present with them and not drifting off in a daydream during the few hours I’m at Christian Women’s Job Corp.

I ask that you’ll help me learn Spanish. As these women are so eager to learn English, I pray for a yearning to understand Spanish. I not only want to learn the language, but also about the women themselves and the hertiage they proudly come from. May I always be hungry to learn.

Lord, thank you for loving me and for knowing me so well. Thank you for Ciudad Nueva and the middle schoolers I work with. Thank you for El Paso and the people who live here. I am overwhelmed by your goodness.

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Hueco Tanks – This photo has nothing to do with my post…I just like the picture.

 

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“Are you a racist?”

I’ve let this simmer and then boil, and then deflate and re-inflate for awhile because I didn’t know how to write it. In fact, I’m still not sure how this post will end but I guess we will find out together.

I’m upset. I’m angry. To the simplest emotion, I’m down right mad. I’m mad mostly at myself, and that is the worst part.

On Friday evening I was invited to attend the El Paso High School football game. A few middle and high school Ciudad Nueva kids were going to be in the marching band during halftime, so I decided to go and support them along with a few friends. I was grateful that Yoli bought my entrance ticket into the game, and she led us to some other Ciudad Nueva staff members who were sitting at the top of the stadium. It was a very pretty El Paso evening. I was sitting, enjoying the start of the game and my friends around me when I noticed a piece of trash flutter past me and land on the ground. I realized it was an older man’s empty chip bag, so I started to hop down to pick it up for him when he stopped me by extending his right hand, tapped my left arm, and said, “don’t worry about it. That’s what the wind is for.”

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I just smiled and nodded. I might have even laughed a little. I should’ve just picked it up and taken it to the trash can right then because it probably would’ve saved me from the next 10 minutes.

As the game started I noticed that this man was very into the game. He was wildly cheering and screaming, “GO TIGERS, GO!” That didn’t bother me because I knew that some people are really into sports. I quietly observed the game. The man soon noticed that I wasn’t cheering, and immediately turned to me and said, “Why aren’t you cheering? Do you not like football?”

I responded quietly, “I like it. I’m just watching.”

“Well, you need to get more into the game. You need to scream like I am.” I ignored him and continued to watch quietly.

I thought my quick conversations were over with him, but he was persistent. The older man hit my left arm with the back of his right hand and said, “See? That’s a fumble. Do you know all the rules to football?”

“No. But I know enough to enjoy it.”

He again hit me with the back of his hand. “Well, let me explain it to you.” He goes on to say some football terminology that I didn’t recognize, again slapped my upper shoulder and said, “Do you even want me to explain this to you?”

“That’s alright. Thanks.” On the inside, I was screaming. stop. f-ing. touching. me.

He continued to holler and cheer for the team. At this point, I felt very uncomfortable with him and felt trapped that I was sitting less than 1 foot away – an easy reach for him to continue hitting my shoulder.

-Quick pause to the story. One of my top Love Languages is physical touch. I love hugs. I love it when people engage with me by putting a hand on my shoulder. I love massages and getting my head scratched. BUT there are boundaries to this. Boundaries confined within my friend and family groups, and even with people that I’ve grown up with (hugs are okay with strangers as long as they are quick).

Annnddd continue. I told myself in my mind that the next time he touched me, I would ask him politely to stop. I thought about what I would say. “Sir, would you please stop touching me?” Maybe too formal? “Stop touching me” No, that’s too rude. “I don’t like being touched.” Well, that’s not necessarily true. “I don’t like you touching me.” And so on and so on.

He hit me again and said, “Do you even go here? Why aren’t you cheering? Shouldn’t you be on the other side with the other team?”

“No, I don’t go here. I’m not from here. I just moved.” I avoided eye contact.

“Where are you from?” I felt him staring me down.

“Virginia.”

“What city?”

“Centreville.”

“Where the racist stuff was happening?”

“I think you mean Charlottesville. That’s a different place.”

“Ah. Are you a racist?”

Woah. That threw me off guard really fast. I immediately made eye contact with him and said, “No.” And gave him a confused look. He glared back with suspecting eyes, huffed and returned his gaze back to the game.

Keisha heard parts of what he said. She asked, “Are you okay? Do you want to move?” I said, “I’m fine.” But I wasn’t.

I felt my body collapse inward. I felt small and attacked. I wished him to leave. I wished myself to disappear. I was sitting next to a group of friends, yet I felt very isolated and alone. I couldn’t move. I was frozen.

-Second pause. If you have never been in a situation where you felt uncomfortable, then this may be hard to explain, but bear with me. I was frozen. Legit, my body couldn’t move. My mind was thinking of all the right things, like to move away from him. Tell him to stop. Find someone who is safe. But, I couldn’t make my body do what my mind wanted. It was surreal. I felt a tiny space in my brain open up, a tiny concrete box that opened where it beckoned me to hide, and so I hid. I escaped and hid and removed myself from my surroundings. I’m not able to do this often, only when I’m in flight or fight mode. It has happened a few times, and I always resort to retrieving within myself instead of physically removing myself from the situation.

And continue. The older man once again, hit me on my arm and asked, “Why are you even here if you’re not making noise?”

I hesitated. He waited. He agitatedly said, “Huh? Can you even talk?”

I meekly, ever so quietly, ever so softly said, “Um…I’d appreciate if you stopped touching me.” My shoulders dropped.

“I would appreciate if you got into the game a little more, or else you should just leave.”

Keisha overheard this part of the conversation and literally saved me. She fiercely said, “She is her OWN person and she can watch the game however she pleases. Leave her alone.”

I don’t remember much of anything else. I retrieved back into my mental box and hid. We managed to move down a few feet, but still close enough to him to hear his hollering. As I got up, I heard him say something like, “Yeah you better leave. We don’t need no damn Asians who can’t enjoy the game.” All I remember was feeling his harsh glare as we walked away.

I felt like I could breathe again, but only for a few seconds. My throat began to close up because I wanted to sob. I. Was. So. Angry. With. Myself.

Keisha asked, “Lexi, are you okay?”

My response makes me cringe. Even typing this hurts. I can’t believe I said these words, “Yeah, I mean, it’s bound to happen.”

Freakin dumb Lexi. That should never be an excuse to accept this. Ever. ever. ever. ever. Ugh. I am furious. I am furious that I taught myself to be okay with intolerable behavior.

Why was it so hard to say, “Stop.” ? It took every fiber of my body to say what I did, and I said it so pathetically that of course, he wasn’t going to take me seriously. I am mad that I couldn’t advocate for myself. How am I supposed to be a social worker who advocates for others if I can’t even protect my own well-being? I was mad that I couldn’t move my legs without the help of a friend. I am mad that I felt scared and intimidated by an old man using a cane who was clearly not in his right mind. I am mad. I am mad. I am mad.

Now, I hope you’re not even wondering this…but I have to assume some people are based on certain discussions I’ve had… I wasn’t wearing anything revealing for him to “come on to me” nor was I calling attention to myself. If you truly know me, then you will know that I am reserved and overly polite. I was sitting very quietly minding my own business. And yet, this happened. It sucks that I couldn’t prepare for it, but when in life do we ever truly get the chance to prepare for tough situations?

I guess good things can still come from Friday. I learned a few things that night.

  1. I need to practice saying stop, no, and all of the “get away from me” verbiages that ever existed.
  2. I need to be okay with being stern with other adults. I have never in my life been rude to an adult before…never (well, besides my parents. Love you mom and dad ❤ ).
  3. I need to be okay with protecting myself better. Like, duh. That’s obvious. But my previous history with relationships and other friendships will tell a different story.
  4. We need to step in when we see someone being harassed. I am a prime example of a scared and dumb sheep, and Keisha was superwoman. She stood up for me and was my voice, which meant the world. It is important to notice and jump in. Please, for the sake of those who can’t do it in the moment and/or haven’t learned how to do it yet.
  5. I need to learn how to speak my mind with clarity.
  6. I can’t always see the best in people. I have this habit where I will give people a thousand chances, and even then I will forgive them. Sometimes, there are truly just horrible people.
  7. It is never okay for anyone to make me feel uncomfortable. And if I feel uncomfortable, I need to leave. It is okay to leave.
  8. Listen to my instincts. I felt like something was off from the very first moment.

I hate being taken advantage of. Unfortunately, with my people-pleaser attitude, gentle spirit, and easily broken heart…it happens more than I’d like to admit. I recognize and see it, but the lesson still hasn’t been learned.

I know this post isn’t very uplifting. The reality of my life is that there are good and bad things, and I have to juggle both. El Paso is awesome and I love sharing the good things, but there are days when I, too, have really deep lows. I’m processing and will continue to mull this over because deep-thinking and self-introspection are what I do best.

I am angry. I’m upset. But most of all, I question why the hell did I get a degree as a social worker if I am so bad at standing up for myself? I question my abilities to help others who desperately need someone to be their voice. I feel very unqualified to be doing the work for the community of El Paso.

Now, I’m relying on the fact that God uses people who are the least likely to help in certain situations deemed worthy only for the strong and capable.

 

September already?!

Time for the weekly update of my life in El Paso!

First of all, thank you to everyone who texted and/or called me to check in to see if I was okay due to Hurricane Harvey. It meant a lot that so many people cared to reach out. El Paso was fortunate in that we didn’t get any rain. It was sunny and hot the entire week. Our fellow East Texas family, however, was not so fortunate. Many people in El Paso have family members that live in East Texas and are very worried. I’m sure most of you saw photos of the damage…it’s wild what water and wind can do.

Second, I have a prayer request for a girl I briefly met. This past week Caroline was taken to the hospital because she was having contractions and bleeding. She’s around my age, was 24 weeks pregnant, and had an emergency C-section Friday night. The baby was born weighing about 1 lb (like around 500 grams). Thankfully, the lungs seemed to be functioning and the BP was steady. I’m not aware of any more details, but I know that she and her husband are worried about the health of their baby. Please pray for them ❤

Remember how I talked about trying to find a part-time job in my last post? Well, God is weird (in the best way possible) in the way He works. I have a job now, and it’s basically to take over what Caroline was doing. Let me explain…

Last week I was taken to three different job locations, and none of them sat well with me. Besides, I wasn’t even offered any of the jobs. I said hello, handed them my resume, and hoped they’d be able to offer me something. Most nonprofits in El Paso are not looking for part-time workers and/or they don’t have the money to afford one. It was discouraging but at the same time, I felt like God was calling me to do something else. I ran into Steven Tighe, one of the guys who will be teaching the seminary classes I’ll start next week, and told me that he needed someone to help him with administrative work. Steven works for the youth program at the church, and one of his paid employees just had a baby so he was in need of a new helper. He offered to pay me as I tried to find another part-time job. I went to his house to start the work, and that’s where I met Caroline. She also works for Steven and was working on creating a website. We didn’t chat for too long since we both had separate tasks. I met her on Friday, August 25. When I went to church that Sunday, I was told that Caroline was taken to the hospital. So now, I’m the only person working for Steven since both of his workers are out (one on maternity leave, and the other experiencing complications with her pregnancy).

It’s been a crazy week because I was left to finish the tasks of both of these women. I am so grateful for the work, but it’s also been a whirlwind trying to figure out how to do web design (thank you, Lissy and Bri, for helping me with Squarespace!), graphics, filing bills, managing accounts, etc. And even though this has little to do with social work, I really enjoy doing administrative stuff. Although I wish I had this job under different circumstances…God provided and I am so grateful. I think this is where He wants me for now, and I am content.

Another big thing that happened this past week was that Ciudad Nueva Programs started! On Tuesday – Thursday from 2:45 PM – 6:00 PM I am with middle schoolers. The first day was overwhelming. I was the “new girl” who was out of place in the midst of established friend groups. Trying to impress middle schoolers is hard. I had to mentally say, “Just be yourself” over and over. But honestly, the middle schoolers are great. I’m really excited to get to know them better. (They love to listen to Spanish music and I got this song stuck in my head).

The last thing I want to discuss is slightly difficult to be honest about because I’d prefer to have this discussion in person, but I want this blog to be authentic of what’s going on with me, soooooo. Singleness. Let’s discuss it. For the longest time, I was so content in my singleness. It’s not that I don’t desire intimacy because I do. But my friendships at JMU and at home were so satisfying that I didn’t see the point of being in a dating relationship. I guess you could say that my emotional needs were satisfied because of those deep friendships. Now, being in El Paso where I haven’t established deep friendships yet, where I am known by name but not deeply and truly known, where I see so. many. couples…I have the desire to be in a dating relationship again. It’s frankly, annoying. I think about it often and it’s distracting. And I know why this desire is overtaking me – This desire is deeply rooted because I’ve been lacking intimacy with the Lord. I think it’s okay to have desires to be in a relationship, but when it overtakes every thought and action…then something is up. And that’s kind of what’s been happening. I find myself daydreaming about dating again, holding hands, being kissed, falling in love, etc., etc. (ew, ew). My mind and body simultaneously reject and crave the idea of it. I was so reliant on my friendships that I neglected the most important relationship – with God. So when those friendships were “taken away” (AKA me moving to El Paso), I think God was like, “Ummm hello, Lexi? I’ve been standing outside waiting for you to notice me this entire time, you dumb-dumb.” Okay, actually, He’s saying it much sweeter than that. He’s been by my side the entire time, always loving me, always pursuing me, and never ceasing. My true desire is for a strong and abiding relationship with Jesus.

Psalm 103:8 (NIV) – The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV) – 22 Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

And even though I just spent a paragraph discussing my slight discontent with singleness, singleness is actually pretty great. I have so much freedom to be the woman of God that I am meant to be. The best part is how I can connect with so many of the middle school girls (and guys) that I work with. I think singleness is vitally important for the Kingdom of God. It’s encouraging to see strong single women around me who actively serve those around them.  Okay, enough about me and my singleness and blah blah blah. I’m sure you want to hear about what I’ve done this past week 😉 

Sunday, August 27 – I was introduced in front of the congregation at the Church of St. Clement’s services. At the 10:45 AM service I sang with the praise and worship team. It is cool being involved with singing again. After church, I went to the Greek festival with Linda and her sister for lunch. I spent the rest of the day relaxing and napping (I love lazy Sundays).

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I was put in the church bulletin!

Monday, August 28 – I went to Steven’s house at 10:00 AM to do some data input into the computer. I was also assigned to finish the website design that Caroline started. I spent a few hours doing that, then attended a Ciudad Nueva staff meeting at 2:00 PM. I went home after the meeting to finish the website design and went to bed fairly early.

Tuesday, August 29 – I got coffee with Yoli at Hillside Coffee at 9:15 AM. We were able to discuss how I was doing so far. She is so sweet to connect with me every week to touch basis. From there, I went to the Church of St. Clement to meet Steven and work more on the website. At 2:00 PM I went to Ciudad Nueva and was tasked to make copies of registration forms for the program. I had a battle with the copier machine. I won, but my copies were still a mess (I was supposed to make separate English and Spanish copies, but I accidentally included both of them in one document). Oh well. Then at 3:00 PM I drove a 15-passenger van to pick up middle schoolers! These vans are massive and I was scared to drive it, but I ended up doing alright. The first day of program was alright. I met so many kids and immediately forgot their names. I led the kids in a game, which they were less than happy to participate in (pfft middle schoolers 😉 ) I had to leave around 5:30 PM to be introduced to the Vestry meeting. Then at 6:00 PM I attended the praise team practice for an hour. Then went home and crashed.

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In a 15-passenger van. Waiting for the kids to come…Also, this photo doesn’t show how massive of a van it is.

Wednesday, August 30 – I went to Steven’s house at 11:00 AM and worked again on the website, but was also tasked with emailing lots of people. I went to the Ciudad Nueva program at 2:45 PM – 6:00 PM. It was another day of middle schoolers being wild and running around. Afterwards, I attended a Young Adults bible study near downtown. It’s going to be meeting twice a month. We ate tacos (I think tacos are the staple food group here), fellowshipped, and then studied a passage from the Bible together. I got kinda sad on my drive home because I started to really miss my friends and family. To get over my sadness, I decided to blast some Beyonce in my car. It worked.

Thursday, August 31 – I went to Steven’s house at 9:00 AM and he showed me a lot of billing and receipt matching information that immediately went over my head. I was asked to sub for a Jazzercise class in Las Cruces for the next few weeks until the end of October! It will be good getting back to teaching. I worked until 2:00 PM, and then went to Ciudad Nueva from 2:30 PM – 5:30 PM. I then came home and forced myself to workout even though I felt drained.

Friday, September 1 – WOW, it’s September. I went to Steven’s house at 10:00 AM and worked until 2:00 PM. I was on and off of the phone most of the time trying to recreate a website that needed to be fixed. Then I went to Ciudad Nueva to hang out with Keisha for a little bit. I helped her set up for a high school fried chicken and movie night at the YAC (youth activity center). The high schoolers decided to watch The Maze Runner off of my Vudu account. I later met up with Callie and her grad school buddies at a gelato place. Callie and I went to UTEP’s Minorpalooza and got this weird drink concoction called a Michelada. It was good, but it was a lot. Slightly spicy…slighty sweet. I’m still deciding if I liked it. We also saw We The Kings perform a few songs! Definitely got to relieve some of my own middle school days, especially when they sang Check Yes Juliet.

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Callie and I with our Michelada

Saturday, September 2 – I had a pretty lazy morning. I slept in until about 9:00 AM, mozied around the house for a few hours, talked with Cara on the phone for 1.5 hours, and forced myself to workout. Keisha picked me up around 6:30 PM and we met Abby at a sushi restaurant. I ordered way too much sushi, but it was delicious and everything I could possibly ask for ❤ After dinner, we picked up a few desserts at Albertsons (a grocery store) and headed to Abby’s house to watch a few episodes of Jane the Virgin.

I hope you all have a beautiful week! Until next time!