Sunday, March 12, 2017

Fall, Winter and Finally Spring

It seems like I start the majority of these saying, “wow, I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve written.”  Maybe I should just resign to the fact that I’m only writing twice a year and a many are probably thinking that is quite sufficient.  But folks, if I write less than that it will be awkward, like Christmas cards where people try to think of the most epic thing that happened ALL year and come up with…well you know…like what they ate at one restaurant they went to.  Pretending that these are semi-regular updates takes off a lot of pressure.

Through the fall I was able to keep up my “work-from-home Fridays” schedule, and that allowed me to continue settling into my home, go to brunch a lot and even fit in a few trips.  In October I hit up NY, NJ and PA for what I classified as a “long weekend,” in November I spent a week in LA for my cousin’s wedding and other visits and December I went down to San Diego/Mexico.   I really like visiting people so if you’re someone I stayed with for free and without even bringing a hostess gift (my sister is so much better at that than I am), thanks, it was great, and cheap!

Other than visiting people, I also had the opportunity to go over the border and visit Door of Faith orphanage in Baja (  I had been once in college overnight with a roommate, but this time I got to go with a group to pass out Christmas stockings (that we helped purchase) to the 125 kids there. I’m sure it’s changed since I was in college, but really I think this time I just was impressed by different things.  It’s an awesome place with such a strong emphasis on creating a stable/family-like environment.  I mean so many times they said stuff like, “in a family, you learn how to cook, so here they learn how to cook,” or “in a family you don’t get cut off when you’re 18 so here we’re involved for life.” My 5-year old niece Stella summed it up nicely when she said, “I thought it was going to be sad, but it wasn’t…and they have their own dogs.”

Unrelated, during one of those trips my boss decided we should hire a temp to help me out.  This is funny right? because I was getting all my work done in less than 30 hours.  But really it was going to be someone who would sit in the trailer at the refinery so I wouldn’t have to walk through the mud and avoid the port-a-potty.  After exactly one recommendation and a very strange interview we hired someone with 0 computer skills to do a job that is 100% computer based. It was a very stressful two months, but then I got to fire her and got a lot of flack (and 3 months later it keeps trickling in).  But I have this boss who thinks I can do no wrong and he said if anyone has a problem working with me that’s their problem.  This is the same boss who wrote on my annual review that there is not one thing he could think of to tell me to improve on.  He’s like the overly supportive parent I never had. 

Anyways, now I don’t have anyone helping me and in January/February we had this huge project and my 30 hours doubled to 60 hours.  How do people do it? This whole working thing?  I mean look at this picture of my fridge (don’t be fooled that peanut butter is empty):

Fortunately it’s dying down and my boss said I can go back to my afternoons of meditation and iced tea soon.

So working more also means I’m around my coworkers more.  When they used to ask me, “Joy, how can you handle working here?” and I would say, “four days a week, that’s how I can handle it.”  Moving to 6 days has really pressed me.  I thought it would help if I carved out a little more personal space in the trailer.  Maybe I could work better if I didn’t shuffle papers so much and heard a little less lunch-time chatter (a few weeks ago a real sentence began with “Well, the last time I got out of San Quentin…” )  The project manger was going to get right on moving another desk into the portion of the trailer that isn’t really used.  He seemed real gung-ho but then the enthusiasm died down so I followed up with him and he said there was mold.  That’s what bleach is for, right?  But then I saw it. 

We’re supposed to be getting a new trailer now (2 months after we discovered the mold).  I am way more excited about that prospect than I ever thought I would be.  I mean it’s still going to be in a refinery and have no plumbing.

But work is good, right?  It teaches me a lot about human nature.  I want to believe if I do kind things to my coworkers they will in turn do their jobs better; turn things in on-time, respond to emails, follow through, have manners, etc.  Similarly, I think if I’m the fun aunt and let my nieces and nephews sleep over and buy them ice cream we’ll have a nice pleasant time and they’ll sleep in past 5:45.  This is not how life works. And of course it doesn’t, I shouldn’t be surprised…I mean look at my life.  God gives me so many good things, all good things, yet my behavior doesn’t change.  What do I learn from this?  He continues being good to me, but He isn’t doing these good things to manipulate or coerce me into doing what He wants.  He just really, really loves me and wants me to be who He created me to be.  So also, as I serve, or give, or act Christ-like I can’t be motivated by the response of others.  I have to be motivated by love for Him and His love for me and continue with that motivation even when things aren’t going my way.   

So this was my big work-lesson the last few months.  But now I’m onto a new one:
Just last week God gave me 2 Timothy 2:4 “No one serving as a solider gets entangled in the concerns of civilian life; he seeks to please the recruiter.”  So when my coworkers are talking about trips to San Quentin, or how drunk they got the night before or $1,000 tennis shoes and all these stories you would not even believe, I don’t need to concern myself.  That’s none of my business; my job is verse 8, to “keep my attention on Jesus.”  And somehow with my attention on Him he’ll show me how to respond when real life issues are coming up and I’m surrounded with people with zero capability of dealing with them.

So that was a lot about work but here’s a little reflection I wrote but don’t know how to transition into it, think if this was in newsletter format this would be a side-bar:

Sometimes I fail at adulting: like forgetting to pay rent, and, well you saw that picture of my fridge, and then I realize my hair isn't even clean enough to go to work in a refinery. I mean sure, I have bright moments too, like Joypardy 2.0. 

But where is the balance?  And a friend reminded me recently that were not adulting, it's not a game. We're actually adults. Who have to keep doing grown-up things, because we grew-up. But it's also nice when you're sick and your dad stops by to pick up your laundry for your mom to do.  Or when you’re sick again and just give up completely and stay at your parents so you don’t have face the empty fridge and they offer you bottomless cups of tea.

I have all these other stories to tell about what I eat when I have more than capers in the fridge and there was a whole fiasco with rain entering my house and my landlords building me a porch cover.  Or maybe you really wanted to know that I bought a cozy little heater that looks like a fireplace and my sister got me a Woodwick candle that crackles so I can pretend the fire is real.  And I’ve been doing BSF this year, studying the gospel of John, and it’s really great but a few weeks ago I ditched and went to dinner with my sister and that was really great too.   And suddenly in the midst of all my crazy February work I had three perfect weekends; I went to Santa Cruz with church and Texas for “work” and hosted my college roommates.  And those trips were only possible because one night when I was driving home God told me how to make a spreadsheet that I could use to delegate responsibility.  And then this weekend it’s SPRING weather and it’s not raining and I am a new person.  But this is already very long so I’ll fill you in in person next time, or you can share your stories with me.  I’ve decided in spite of the fact that people don’t always conform to my ideals I still really like being w

Sunday, August 21, 2016

End of summer update

Hi! I just realized I haven’t written since February and I’m sure you agree that it has been way too long.  More than once I thought I about it, but either was too lazy or realized it’s probably better if I don’t share everything (see, I do have a filter).

When I last wrote I was debating whether I should switch departments at my job or stay with the same one.  I switched.  I think it’s good, I now know what I’m supposed to be doing, and most of the time I know how to do it.  Also I got a better office, with a window, and negotiated working from home on Fridays.  I also had fish for a little while, but I killed all 12 of them and switched to plants, people are less judgey when they die. Another perk of my job is my boss is only in town every other week and for some reason thinks I get off at 3. So when he’s around and sees me working until almost 4 most days he’s really impressed.  Plus I’m drama free (his words) and regularly bring him cookies or fruit.  The downside is that in the mornings I have to work in a refinery trailer.  It is really dirty (in every sense of the word) and doesn’t have a bathroom but I’ve been decorating; they really love me there.  

And, in case you were wondering, the sign hasn’t worked, but that might be a good thing because one of the guys did give up tobacco, sugar and drinking one week and was terrible to be around.  Actually quite a few of my coworkers have been terrible to be around lately, but nothing like workplace conflict to keep me humble. 

The spring/summer I went on a few trips and fortunately saw many of you.  One of the trips was to Chico with my college roommates (minus Katharine).  It was a little startling to realize it had been 10 years since we graduated but such a blessing to not only reflect on the Lord’s goodness while we lived together, but how He has continued to be faithful since then.  Here are 2 pictures from the weekend; the one with a very sad baby Tirzah was taken right before we left.  

Also this summer friends came to visit and I got to do all sorts of Bay Area exploring, it’s very pretty here and those work from home Fridays come in handy.

But guys, I made a local friend too (move over mom).  Here’s how it went down.  My friend Jenn was in town and we met up for lunch at a coffee shop. At this coffee shop I saw this girl reading her Bible so I strategically sat down next to her.  Then I pulled out a really classic conversation starter like, “Hi, I see you’re reading your Bible, we’re Christians too.”  I then pretty much told her I have no friends and asked her if she would be mine.  She was like, “oh yeah sure let’s exchange numbers and I’ll text you,” but never did.  Anyways, I’m not that easily deterred so I followed up with her and now we’re legit friends. But she stays up too late so I’ve learned I have to limit hanging out so it doesn’t conflict with my sleep schedule. Here’s a picture of me with her friends at the beach on 4th of July.

Since I moved back, almost two years ago, I’ve been living with my parents (and whoever has been living with them) and it’s been great.  But then my aunt’s neighbor was getting rid of these really awesome dishes and I became the proud owner of approximately 50 pieces of hand painted Mexican dishware; ashtray and cat shaped sugar bowl included.  They were boxed up and stuck in the attic with those wooden salt and pepper shakers I made a while back (remember).  Anyways, these dishes got me thinking that maybe it was time to move out.   Contrary to popular belief, my parents did not agree, but my dad and I also don’t see eye-to-eye on the dishes.  I mean it’s not that the dishes made me move out, but I think the Lord used them to get me to think about how I could be serving Him differently living on my own.   Long story short, at the beginning of August I moved to a 450 sq. foot attached in-law unit a whole 1.5 miles from my parents.  My coworker pointed out that it’s essentially the same size (and shape) as the trailer, but it’s not dirty and it has a bathroom so it’s much better. 

After completely switching out three couches (evidently visualization isn’t one of my strong-suits) I’m mostly settled in…as long as it stays warm; I’m not quite sure where I’m supposed to put coats.  So feel free to come visit.  But don’t come next weekend because, although the winning couch has a pull out bed, it’s already reserved.  But really you should come because I’m not used to this much alone time, right before I moved there were 6 extra people staying with us.  Overall it’s been great, I’ve been watching the Olympics, having people over, obsessing over Craigslist, eating the same things over and over and nesting.  And I’ve been learning a lot too, like don’t trust Ace Hardware’s color swatches of wood stain, and cantaloupe doesn’t freeze well, or, more specifically, it doesn’t defrost well.   And maybe I’ll learn a little of how to practice what Paul was living in Acts 28:30-31 “Then he stayed two whole years in his own rented house.  And he welcomed all who visited him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldness and without hindrance.”

Here's a picture of my current view, from my winning couch with the shelf my brother build me and I stained. 

Well, that about sums up the past 6 months, give or take a lot of lessons in Proverbs 19:21 “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.”  But no one wants to read about potentially great things that didn’t happen.

What’s going on with you?

Friday, February 26, 2016

Winter livin'

I hear in parts of the country it’s winter.  It isn’t in California.  I mean I still wear cardigans most days, mostly to combat air conditioning.  But El Niño might be coming back, and that would be great because then I could stop saving the water I run in the shower waiting for it to get hot and toting it to the washing machine. 

Much of my life revolves around work and you’re dying to know what my job actually is…oh wait…that’s me who’s dying to know what my job actually is.  For the first 8 months I did very little work, so since November they’ve decided that every time someone quit they would have me “temporarily fill in.” An example.  At the end of December I was offered a job in a different department, it sounded a little too job-like, and there were some specific reservations I had so I declined.   Then I was told I actually had to do it until they hire someone else, or as the head of that department says, “I was conscripted.”  They still haven’t hired anyone else, nor have they attempted.  For a few days this was really too much work. I mean I was staying 30 minutes late some days.  But really time wise my old fulltime job was taking like 30% of my time/brain power and this one is like 85% (on it’s busiest days) so I’m just occasionally slightly over-taxed.  Monday I’m supposed to meet with both departments and negotiate a longer-term solution.  You should pray for me.

The main problem working with the two departments is I just get confused.  Like the other day I got a calendar invite for an offsite training (with free lunch!) for one of our customers and the day before I realized I had no clue who signed me up.  I went to the training anyways and tried not to let it show that I was pretty sure I was wrongfully enrolled.  The good news was I’d been praying just this week about making connections in my neighborhood and the lady hosting it is my neighbor. 

Speaking of aimless training, they sent me to LA twice.  This was great because while down there I got to see lots of lovely non-work people.  And one of those trips un-coincidently lined up with a youth retreat I was already planning on going to so that was super convenient.  I added a picture from that retreat, the 3 Joys with squinty eyes.  

Now that there’s more daylight I don’t feel quite as lethargic (except last Saturday when I went to brunch and then came home and took a nap at noon) so I can whip-up mid-week dinners like these Quinoa Burgers.  My mom was a big fan, obviously, but when she said I could definitely make them again my dad full on glared at her.    

Other food related news a few Wednesdays a month I try to have dinner with my grandpa.  If my parents are free they’ll come with me and my mom will bring food.  If they can’t come usually I’ll invite him to take me out for dinner.  So far Panera Bread is a safe bet, but I keep trying to diversify.  He says he likes Chinese so I took him to Panda Express – hated it with a passion, then my aunt took him somewhere-also a flop, and then I tried out a 3rd place.  We had a really nice time and I thought the food was great he said, and I quote, “the water is good here.” I mean he had to DIG DEEP to find that compliment.  The next time I called him to invite him to dinner he said he wasn’t hungry, and he doesn’t like any of the restaurants around here, and just plain no.  He forgets a lot of things these days, but evidently his taste-memory is strong.   Anyways, as my sister dearest pointed out he’d rather starve then eat out with me. 

So that is my life: work and food and Jesus (who makes all things good).

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

my trip to cuba

Tomorrow marks one month since I’ve been back from Cuba and I’m still not sure what to write about.  I started out a draft of this giving an in depth analysis of the struggle of summarizing this trip but, lucky for you, I realized that no one wants to read that.  
Sorry in advance to those who think even my regular updates are too long.
WHO:  I went with Ben and June Hiebert and Mark and Bonnie Swecker.  This was Ben & June’s 48th trip over the past 20 years and Mark and Bonnie’s 4th. 
WHAT: A trip to Cuba. More on this later.
WHERE: Mostly Santa Clara, right in the middle of the country (home of Che Guevara’s gravesite and   one of the biggest universities) and a few days in Habana (evidently that’s what it’s called, one of the many things I didn’t know ahead of time).
WHEN: September 21st – October 5th.
WHY:  To facilitate production and distribution of Christian literature and meet with individuals and small groups associated with one of the churches in Santa Clara.  I mean that’s why they were going, I was invited to bring down the average age of the group and offer sporadic poor translation (but, as someone told me a few months back – the best ability is availability, and that I have).
HOW: Legally I went on a religious Visa with a letter from my home church saying I was going to do religious work (what that means is I gave them a letter I drafted from a template and Lee Gerke signed it).  With this Visa you can fly directly from Miami on a charter flight.  Financially even before I even decided to go my trip was paid for.   Practically I had to get time off work and I asked, via text, and they granted.
Back to the what. 
What housing was like: We flew into Santa Clara and stayed at little hotelish place.  Initially I was going to stay in the home of someone from the congregation but staying in homes on a religious Visa seems to be a grey area.  The hotel was a home with 5 converted individual rooms and bathrooms.  The rooms had hot water and mini fridges and air conditioning, I was not rouging it
What we ate: We would eat breakfast at the hotel including lots fresh fruit, instant oatmeal we packed from home, and coffee.  I usually don’t drink coffee and the first few days back, when I switched back to tea, were rough.  Lunch and dinner we ate at either the church building or a home where they would serve us deliciously extravagant meals.  I was warned ahead of time that I would be eating a lot of beans and rice and somehow was under the impression that there wouldn’t be much more than that.  But no, every lunch and dinner we would have beans and rice (together and separate) and the most delicious mangoes in the world and like three types of meat and fried plantains, and green beans and usually flan too (but sometimes ice cream or arroz con leche or pudding).  So no, I did not come back looking haggard and skinny like a real missionary.  Dinners were especially lovely because each night a few families would get together and prepare us a meal and usually they would eat with us (unless the table was too small or they ran out of dishes, then they would watch us eat and then eat later).  After dinner we would either go to a neighborhood Bible study with them or an extended time of fellowship around the table.  They didn’t even make us feel high maintenance drinking bottled water and passing out hand sanitizer.
These dinners were a great time to eat, hear about their sincere love for the Lord, and laugh.  During one of the most entertaining meals, along with all the usual fare, we had a bowl of shredded meat.  We asked what it was and they said “a surprise.”  This turned into a half hour of Mark and Ben (mostly) playing 20 questions with our hosts while trying to guess the animal.  It lives in trees.  No it’s not a monkey. It has a tail.  It has hair.  It has the diet of a rabbit.  No, it’s not in the zoo. Etc.   All done through my translating.  Finally they told us what it was…Hutia.  Unfortunately the name didn’t help so they let us know that it’s pretty much like a giant rat.  Google it.   Another memorable food experience was in Habana when we offered to take our hosts out to dinner, their choice.  They picked a pizza place…in China town…Los Tres Chinitos y Mas.  Actually pizza wasn’t on their main menu so we had to ask for a special menu.  It was much how you would expect pizza in China town in Cuba to be. 
What the church was like:  The church we worked with in Santa Clara was really amazing.  Technically it’s a house church, so not affiliated with any denomination but the “house” had converted the back yard into pretty much a building, with a stage and cement floors and a permanent roof, but with only half walls around it.  100’s of people meet there on Sundays and various groups for leadership or prayer or youth during the week.  The church started 20 years ago out of a college aged ministry and still most of the leadership is young couples dedicating their lives to spreading the gospel and encouraging believers in their daily walks.  But, because most Cubans don’t have convenient transportation, a lot of church activities aren’t at that building.  During the week there are 150(!!!!) discipleship groups (Bible Studies) in homes all over Santa Clara with 15-30 attending each group.  Most nights after dinner we got to go to one of these groups, not to lead or teach, but to see what God is already doing there.  We would sing and share scriptures and prayer requests and praises and have some Bible teaching.  They weren’t using methods, or curriculum, just sharing the Lord together.  There were special groups too, some for youth or kids and one group that visits and serves the sick and needy.  I asked what they meant by serve and they said you know, bringing food, washing dishes, babysitting, praying…meeting practical needs.
What our days were like:  I’ve covered food and evenings but the days varied a lot.  Usually after breakfast we would head over to the church and see what was going on there.  Sometimes we would meet with people one-on-one.  And by “we” I mean they would and, since the good Cuban translators weren’t always available in the daytime, I would translate.  On topics like marital problems, or safe driving practices, or baptism, or how to repair a violin…you know…Spanish 1 stuff.  In the afternoons we would usually head back to the hotel for rest time or to walk around and shop at some of the 100 stores that all sold the same few items.   And by few items I mean, if they had what you wanted, they would have it everywhere and if they didn’t have what you wanted, no one would have it. Like tape.  They used to sell it, now they don’t.  So we learned if you need tape you ask around until someone you know has some for you to use and the people are lovely and generous so if they have it (or know someone who might) and you need it they will go out of their way to help.  I think toilet paper falls into the same category (that’s why we packed our own).
What Habana was like:  For 3 nights we went to Habana and there we were able to stay with a family that they’ve worked with in the past.  Most organizational headquarters are in Habana so we met with a few denominations, printing presses and the Cuban Bible Commission.  The Bible Commission is the secular governmental organization that receives all the shipments of Bibles and literature that Ben and June get shipped into the country.  They then distribute the containers full of literature to denominations that are recognized by the government.  Meeting with them we were able to receive Bibles and pamphlets and pass them out to believers we knew who did not have adequate resources.  We were also able to purchase Bibles from one of the churches there and bring them back to Santa  Clara with us  These  were study Bibles that were only $4 and exclaimed to be the most beautiful Bibles they had ever seen.  Also in Habana we meet with two organizations who had printing presses and were able to leave them money to print tracts that they will be able to use to further the gospel work.  And in Habana there were lots of classic American cars (proportionately, overall there are very few cars at all) and we saw the embassy and China town. 
What other things stood out:  My life is very dependent on internet, phones and technology in general but I can survive with out it, the Cubans do it all the time.  I really don’t understand the role the government plays in the everyday lives of the people but there were quite a few conversations peppered with, “don’t tell anyone about this,” and one “Joy, don’t say that…you don’t know who’s listening” and I never had any clue what the big deal was.  I also learned that while I’ve always used the word ahorita as “right now” in Cuba it means “in a little while.”  So when someone kept asking me for clarification if I meant ahora or ahorita they weren’t asking me if I meant “now” or “right now.”
What else is going on:  This weekend I’m going to San Diego and next weekend to New York. Yesterday at work I learned what materials we actually process.  Today at work we had no internet (flashbacks to Cuba) so I spent some time on this email and then left early.