Where’s the Youth Group?

Flashback:

I was visiting my family while on winter break from college. They were still pretty new to California life, and hadn’t yet found a church. One night, we visited a little dinky place in a rundown old neighborhood. There was more dirt than grass, more stray dogs than people, and everything had a chain-link fence surrounding it. The church members didn’t seem to have much more life in them than the neighborhood. They were pretty much all old, except for a few little girls. I was already unenthused. Campus devotionals and church-bound carpools were my norm in Florida. Worship without peers seemed so…dull. Then the singing started, and my judgement was sealed. After all, I usually worshipped surrounded by college students with Pitch Perfect singing skills. After services, I adamantly instructed my mom, “no matter what, you can’t choose this church.” The unfortunate acoustics and aged demographics of the congregation just weren’t up to snuff for my teenage siblings’ needs—I was convinced of it.

Next school break, I found myself in that same decrepit building. My mom had blatantly disregarded my words. The Angelos were officially members of the Musically and Youthfully Challenged Congregation, and there was nothing I could do about it. I had no choice but to sing along and try to get to know my new church family. Now, four years later, I’m saying goodbye to the group that I tried so hard to avoid, and I can’t imaging this last episode of my life without them all. It’s hard to imagine how I could have had such judgement sentiments about such a beautiful group, and the remembrance fills me with a wave of humility.

A bit of a rant:

There’s a misconception in modern church culture that it’s absolutely normal for everyone to kind of just “church” with the people they have stuff in common with, and that misconception is particularly accepted when it comes to age. Even our seating arrangements betray our partiality, with “college” sections, “high school” sections, and “young parent” sections, we demonstrate our relationships in pew form.

Youth groups cater to young people’s prioritization of peers, making communion with like-minds more focal than communion with Christ-minds. In a culture that values youth over experience, we say, “Hey young people, don’t leave God! If you come to church we’ll plan fun events for you and your fellow young Christians. Don’t worry, you don’t have to hang out with the old people.” Veteran members age out, some eventually becoming “shut-ins” who are only members in name. We might visit them in their houses sometimes, or maybe send a card. At the least, we’ll remember to pray about them occasionally. For the most part, though, we seem to buy into the world’s value system of age: entertain and engage the youth so that they will stay with you during their adult years. They’re the ones who need—and demand, and deserve—the attention.

Maybe it’s not as caste-system-esque as all that. Maybe we all just like being around our friends, around the people with whom we have things in common. Still, this is pretty short-sighted. No, I’m not saying that sitting with people of similar ages is inherently sinful or wrong. What I am saying is that there’s something selfish about seeking out people in the church who are similar to you. That statement sounds pretty judge-y, and please don’t think that I’m propagating that I am free of the charge. I think I do that all the time. I think it’s human nature. But then, human nature is a lot of what we’re called to rise above.

When I surround myself with only peers, I’m safe. We have things in common. We’re in a similar stage of life, we’ve more likely had similar childhoods. We are seeking the same things. We think the same things are fun. We wear similar clothing. We know similar people. We talk in a similar way about similar stuff. We have similar obligations and struggles and thoughts. Our peers are our equals. They give us our sense of self worth, and we can measure ourselves against them. They’re comfortable, because they are familiar. It’s easy. So easy, in fact, that we fall into relationship without even intending to preference one group over another.

I’m not saying that surrounding yourself with peers is malicious. I’m just saying it’s the kind of self-centered activity that inhibits us from fully living out the unified beauty of church that God intended.

Don’t take my word for it:

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Five reasons why you should try to befriend a non-age-similar Christian:

  1. Jesus cared about the children, even when the apostles were like, “Hey get out of here you little brats.”
  2. Jesus cared about the societally marginalized, even when everyone was like, “Hey, why are you breaking in through the ceiling?”
  3. Christians with different perspectives can enrich your walk and challenge you to view your faith from a different angle
  4. You can offer different blessings/perspectives/etc. to those other Christians, too
  5. Celebrating our diversity in Christ’s unity is the beauty of the church, and it’s another vital way that we are called to shine out as examples to the world.

The end:

If I have literally nothing else in common with an old man at my church, I still have Christ in common. And that’s not a trivial tie. No. We have both been adopted by the same Lord of the universe and creator of all. We have the same redeemer, same mission, same enemy, same family. While our struggles and our strengths may differ, that ought to only serve to unite us.

I’m not saying that you should stop spending time with your best Christian friends, or that you need to suddenly change your seating chart during assemblies (although, why not try a new pew…). I’m just saying check yourself. God created the church the way he did for a reason. He tells the old men and women to instruct the young ones. Our various ages and walks of life should serve as ways for us to encourage and serve one another, not as features to help us voluntarily segregate ourselves. My mom used her dorky homeschool kids both to encourage old, sick, elderly people and to give a bit of a break to a young mom who needed it. She found ways to use her particular moment in life to serve fellow Christians who were in different steps. Sure, she had friends her age, too, but she didn’t limit herself to her own age group.

Maybe spending time with a alternately-aged Christian sounds really boring to you. Or maybe it sounds intimidating. Or awkward. You probably won’t have as much in common with them, right off the bat. But the Christian life isn’t about what’s easy or convenient, and often times the most rewarding relationships are the unexpected ones.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with forming close relationships with people who you’re close in age with. I’m just saying distance in age is no excuse to ignore people. I’m grateful God gave me a mom who can see past ages and superficial differences, because obviously I’m not wise enough to get there on my own. I’m very grateful for my current church family, because I’ve had the opportunity to be forced into real relationships with people ages 7-70. I’m grateful that God put me into relationship with a congregation of musically and youthfully challenged people, and I’m humiliated to admit the biases and superficiality that would have prevented me from building relationship with them (if I’d been the one selecting a congregation). I would have missed out on getting to know and grow with some of the most amazing, generous, caring Christians around. I would have missed out on countless fireside chats, evening home bible studies, and shared meals. I would have missed out on my crazy quirky California family. on the laughs and tears and hugs. on watching those little girls grow up, and on saying goodbye to the elderly that pass. I would have missed out on finding commonality with people who look like Christ, all because I was preoccupied with finding people who were more like me.

Present(s under the tree):

This Christmas break was different. My mom has a church family. When I met them, I wasn’t looking for “my group.” I was blessed to get to know an amazing group of Christ-followers of all ages, and it was beautiful. Cue random Christmas montage:

The blog I didn’t really feel like posting

It’s a little late to post this, but I feel like I can’t move on with my blog until I address some thoughts that have been pinballing around in my brain. So, here it is: the blog I didn’t really feel like posting.

My Thanksgiving was lovely and quirky and very Angelo. While the rest of the country was on fire over Ferguson events and aftermath, I was preoccupied with making sure that my first holiday ham didn’t burn. We spent the break with my cousins, and had a riotous time which included Las Vegas, Full-Contact Monopoly, the assembly of and experimentation with a Back Inversion Table, and high school basketball games. There are many inside jokes and awkward quotes from the visit which I would love to share with you, but would be highly inappropriate for the internet. Angelo functions are definitely uncensored.

On the day of our departure, all the cousins made an appearance at Grandma’s church. As with most grandparents, she was thrilled to show off so much of her progeny. We played our role well: we smiled, shook hands, accepted loaves of bread, fake laughed when necessary, and sat in our pew. As I sat in the pew, transfixed by the piercing stare of the overly attractive image of Jesus on the projector screen (Isaiah 53:2, anyone?), my (half Jamaican) cousin leaned over and whispered, “My brother and I are the only black people in the room…and Grandma says this place is America.” “Hah…yeah…” I snickered in response, “the darkest thing in the building is the coffee.”

handsome jesus cannedjello

I’m pretty sure this is the exact Jesus that was staring into my soul from the projector screen.

But as we sat, silently laughing together at the gross misrepresentation of the population, I wondered how I hadn’t noticed it before. I’d only noticed Jesus’ beautiful green eyes, not the paleness of the people around me. I notice when I’m the minority, but not when someone else is. I notice when I’m the only English speaker at the Spanish congregation. When I was one of few white kids in my high school. When my cousins took us to a soul food restaurant in Las Vegas and all eyes turned on me and my sister. But at grandma’s church? I was in my element. I didn’t notice.

What’s my point? Well, certainly not that my grandma’s church should be condemned for it’s caucasian constituency. No. I just think it’s worth reminding you that you have prejudices, no matter who you are. You have prejudices, and you probably also tend to view the world from your own perspective. So whether it’s someone with a different color of skin or a different shade of doctrine, next time you’re judging or ignoring or just plain writing them off, pause for a moment.

Over these past few months, I’ve seen a lot of posts by a lot of people with a lot of opinions about racial and political topics. So, my second point is that, for a Christian, your freedom of speech is freedom to speak for Christ. Your purpose on this earth is to live for Christ, and living for Christ also includes using your words to glorify Him, too. Freedom to speak for a Christ who chose to appear in a Middle Eastern body and who probably didn’t have piercing green eyes. A Christ who, when asked about his political views, chose to avoid giving any answer that would detract from His gospel. A Christ who united a zealot and a tax collector, who united Jews and Gentiles. Basically, if your politics are screaming louder than our Savior’s gospel, your priorities need their own inversion table. If your bad news is distracting people from the good news, there are bigger issues afoot. I’m not trying to minimize any realities or injustices, I just think it’s worth taking the time to reflect on how your personal agenda fits into His.

Oh, and happy Christmas, Harry. My gift to you is an assortment of awkward pictures form my Thanksgiving holiday:

ThanksFriendsing

The Car

Rachel yelled at me from across the parking lot, “Emma, your car is on!”

It took 30 whole seconds of coaxing and convincing until I was able to grasp the hard truth that my Forester was somehow running, and locked, despite the fact that I had been diligently serving chicken for the past six hours. Dear reader, I am ashamed to tell you that I’d locked my keys in my car—with the car on—and gone along with my morning. I did that. That is a thing that I did.

“Would you mind if I took a ten?” I asked, in my fake-calm voice, before sprinting outside to inspect the situation.

Somehow, thanks to smart phone technology, Rachel’s help, and some delightful AAA employees, we managed to get a service truck on its way. There are few situations which feel more hopeless than waiting for AAA while watching your car slowly run itself to death. The “E” light had been on for who knows how long. Ricky and I passed the never-ending twenty minutes by attempting to break into my car using the wire hanger that he’d miraculously found somewhere.

We were profoundly unsuccessful in that effort, but the AAA man came just-in-the-knick-of-time. While my car seems to have survived, I’m not sure my Chick-fil-A rep’ will ever be the same.

The Attitude

You may have noticed from my last post that my return to Food Service Stardom was not exactly what I’d intended for my post-collegiate career. I must again regretfully inform you of a short-coming: I’ve had difficulty with keeping my patience levels where they need to be at all times. Thankfully, a friend pulled me aside to bring my attitude to my attention. It was uncomfortable, it was embarrassing, but I am glad she did. It’s hard to keep everything in focus sometimes, and…

The Job

If you had spoken with me last week, you would have found me high on life. I was interviewing with a company I really liked, for a position I really wanted. You could say I was engaged to the company. You could call it my Company Fiance, if you wanted to be weird about it. Yesterday, however, one of my friends texted me to ask if I’d heard about the lawsuit pending against my Company Fiance. No, I hadn’t. And honestly, I didn’t want to. I wanted to want this job. I wanted my six months of ceaseless job boards and cover letters to be over. But I had to look, and what I found wasn’t pretty. It was so un-pretty, in fact, that I declined the position when it was offered to me this morning.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the phrase “Friendsgiving” has been trending this holiday. What does that even mean? I’m supposed to give stuff to my friends? MMmm, no thanks that’s Christmas. Anyway, I named this post ThanksFriendsing because this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for my friends. Specifically, I’m grateful for the friends who speak up. I’m grateful for the friends who tell you when something’s wrong. The folks who yell at you when they find your car puttering away. The friends who help you get your attitude back on track, when everyone else is just muttering about you behind your back. I’m thanking God for the friends who tell you when they think you shouldn’t take a job. The people who stick by your side through the whole ordeal, whether it’s a twenty-minute car break-in or a year long job hunt. Some situations are sticky and messy and really rather unpleasant, but they’re a whole lot uglier without friends to keep you focused and encouraged. [holding moses hands up in battle]

Life is Not Like a Box of Chocolates

I’m sure you’re aware of the famous Forrest Gump scene:

How lovely. Isn’t that cute.

Speaking of candy, my friend Liv brought me back a box of See’s candy and a box of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans from her NYC trip. I can tell that she knows me well, because she goes to the coolest city in the USA and brings me candy and Harry Potter themed candy for my birthday. A true gem, that girl.

If you aren’t familiar with BBEFB, they’re a Jelly Bean like confection modeled after a fictional candy in the Harry Potter series. Basically, they’re Jelly Beans, but with some nasty flavours mixed in.

Life is not like a box of chocolates.

Life is like a box of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans.

Can you imagine breaking into your box of See’s Truffles, only to discover that the peanut butter chocolate somehow tasted like earwax? No. No. That’s just so wrong.

On the other hand, anyone who becomes disgruntled about a rotten egg flavoured BBEFB is obviously taking themselves too seriously. You expect vomit flavored candy in that box. That’s just part of the deal. And do you know what? Eating three earthworms in a row makes that one candyfloss bean so much more special.

When I approach life as if it is a box of chocolates, I’m setting myself up for disappointment. The chocolate box mentality creates really high expectations for my physical experience: Well, I don’t know. This candy could be milk chocolate, which is not necessarily my favourite flavour. Then the milk chocolate candy actually tastes like crap, and I end up acting all surprised and offended.

No. Life is not like a box of chocolates, and God never said it would be. This is a fallen world, and my joy should be found in Him and in His hope. When that is true, rotten egg flavoured situations won’t matter nearly so much, and they won’t be such a shock.

Speaking of rotten egg flavoured situations, I am officially re-employed at Chick-fil-A. Maris is all-too excited for me to be her co-worker, asking sickeningly sweet questions like, “Will you sing songs with me when we work together,” and garbage like that.

Sarcasm aside, though, I’m struggling with this a lot. My BFFL Emma H. helped me to see the truth in this situation by her own example, but it’s hard for me nonetheless. I’m struggling to see God’s plan, to have a good attitude, and to grow and serve in this situation. Intellectually, I know that I am blessed to have an income, blessed to work with great people, and blessed to avoid re-orientation (seriously, dodged a bullet). I know that Paul was a tent maker, and David was a shepherd, and Rahab was…well…anyway. I know these things, but it’s another thing to truly believe them. Probably because I’ve been going around expecting a box of chocolates.

sees candy emma angelo

Four things I learned from Ed Sheeran

Sarah the Musical Connoisseur introduced me to Ed Sheeran while we were at Pepperdine. It didn’t take long before I found myself listening to Plus every night. He has since become one of my favourite artists ever, despite the fact that he’s a Brit ginger rapper/singer whose music has very little to do with my personal life. Perhaps it’s related to the fact that I am basically a real life version of Hermione Granger, and Sheeran’s doppelgänger is Rupert Grint:

Last week, Sarah called to ask if I could come up to San Jose a bit earlier. “I’m only asking because I won a radio contest…and guess whose concert it is?”

Of course the first person who came to my mind was Ed Sheeran, but I didn’t want to make the concert anticlimactic if it was actually Nickelback or Luke Bryan. “Who?” “ED SHEERAN…it’s a concert and a Meet-and-Greet.”

After I’d recovered from my fainting spell, I called her back and assured her that for Ed Sheeran, I would even be willing to surf my way up to San Jose.

The night of the concert did not go according to plan. Then again, when do things go according to the plan?

  1. We left the house late, got stuck in very foreseeable 5:30pm weekday traffic, and hadn’t even gotten to our exit by the time 6:00 arrived (the time we were supposed to be outside of the box office). “See if there’s a number you can call…what does the slip say?” Sarah urged. There wasn’t really any helpful information on the sheet, but there was a very ominous line in red ink: If you are late you will not be allowed backstage! As I read that line, I relinquished the idea of meeting Ed. Sarah wasn’t so easily dissuaded.
  2. No exaggeration: we circled the entire arena more than once, frantically questioning every security guard on the premises. It was like a real life Dora the Explorer. Each Blue Jacket told us something different, but the general consensus was you are too late. They told us give up. There’s no way. It’s not happening. Impossible.
  3. By 6:40, both of us had accepted our fates. Dejected, sweating, and weary, we began our long walk back around to the box office. As we passed a large metal gate, Sarah decided to try one last time. She asked the security guard about the meet and greet, and he said, “Well, the lady in charge is right there,” and pointed to a thin, fashionable woman standing right behind us. Of course, after walking in circles and questioning everyone, we would find her standing right behind us.
  4. FancyPants was escorting some VIP guests through the gate, but told us she would check for our names and come back. We watched her–our last shred of hope–disappear through the gate. Then she stopped after twenty paces and turned back towards us. She’d found our names on her guest list. “Come with me,” she said. “You were really late and really lucky.”

Shocked by the sudden turn of events, we quickly and quietly followed her and the VIPs through a labyrinth of doors. One of us was almost in tears, overcome with relief and disbelief. Eventually, we approached a door, and Ms. FancyPants adamantly whispered “Okay, be very quiet!” We silently filed in and followed FancyPants’ inaudible instructions to sit on the floor. We were just in time to hear the last 20 seconds of Ed’s last song, and then line up for pictures.

Yes. Flustered, flushed, and smelling like we hadn’t showered in days (because we hadn’t) we were about to meet Ed Sheeran. Sarah went first with her fisheye camera, which seemed to be a bit much for Ed’s capabilities. He can handle a loop pedal fine, but add a fisheye lens to an iPhone and he’s lost. After 10 seconds of trying to explain the devise to him, Sarah offered to snap the picture.

ed sheeran cannedjello 4

Then, she gave him the beanie she’d made for him (she’s made a habit of giving musicians homemade hats). Oh, did you knit it? he asked. In case you didn’t know, the phrase “Knit it,” sounds about 100x more lovely in a British accent. Sarah eventually responded in the affirmative, although his accent + her hearing deficiencies and emotional state rendered her speechless for a few seconds.

At least she was able to formulate words. I was mute. We took our picture together, we smiled at each other, and I walked away. I think I might have said, “Thanks,” possibly. Not “My name is Emma,” or “Can I ha’ yo numba?” or “Will you sign my arm?” or anything. But hey: our picture looks like we are straight up BFFs, so there’s that.

ed sheeran cannedjello 4

Here’s the obligatory list of things I learned from this nearly-failed function:

  1. Leave early—We would have avoided a lot of stress and heard a whole lot more of his performance if we’d just left earlier.
  2. Never give up—It took us 40 minutes, many steps, and a lot of confusing conversations with security guards, but it was totally worth it.
  3. Have something to say—Just be sure it isn’t “Hey, could you perform Shake it Off?” One girl actually asked that. As if he goes around memorizing TSwift songs. N00b.
  4. Ed Sheeran and I make an oddly adorable couple—What would our couple name be? Edma? Sheelo? I guess we’ll never know. Here’s a conversation between Sarah and a mutual friend had about the Edma couple status. I’m still not sure how I feel about the “compliment.”

 

Sarah is always late, and I am always afraid to push for what I want. We both could benefit from growth in punctuality and pushiness, respectively. If we’d been on time, we wouldn’t have had to endure so much just to see Sheeran. Then again, maybe we wouldn’t have appreciated it as much as we did once we’d finally broken through the bars. Who knows. Either way, I know that I can learn from Sarah’s determination and persistence when she truly wants something. Too often, I’d rather not rock the boat, and instead I settle for giving up or giving in.

Want a spiritual application? I’d say my go-along-get-along mentality stops me from sharing Jesus and standing up for what is right as often as I should. It’s not just that I don’t stand up for myself, I don’t stand up for God. I’m more worried about pleasing other people than I am pleasing Him. I don’t pursue the truth single-mindedly. I need to be trying to get into heaven with the same dogged dedication that Sarah applied to that Meet-and-Greet.

Oh, and after the Meet-and-Greet Sarah tried to get us into the pit. “It never hurts to ask.”

Staying out of dumpsters and sorority houses from now on

I like to think that I am fairly capable with verbally expressing myself, but some experiences just cannot be portrayed within the feeble constraints of language. You will never fully understand the outlandish living arrangements of our cul-de-sac house, and that’s probably a good thing. In order to give you a vague impression, let me share a few highlights.

This past school year:

  1. I probably had as many German citizen housemates as I did American citizen housemates (for the record, the German citizens were generally more tidy).
  2. I cannot count the number of nights I came home to a stranger sleeping on my couch.
  3. At one point, a house guest attempted to buy one of our homemade paintings off of our wall.
  4. Shampoo, conditioner, gummy bears, and laundry detergent were just a few of the personal items that disappeared on a regular basis.
  5. More than once, I woke up at 2:00am to the sound of rocks hitting my window and my name being yelled from the backyard. A certain housemate made a habit of forgetting her key.
  6. More than one housemate required an intervention-style lesson on How the American Trash System Works. One subleaser got her own personal lesson in Why We don’t Put Metal in the Microwave.
  7. All housemates were instructed to Please Stop Putting Bones Down the Garbage Disposal.
  8. I came home to a handwritten note on the toilet saying “PLEASE WIPE ALL BODILY FLUIDS OFF OF THE TOILET SEAT,” and a second note that read, “SORRY WE WILL!”
  9. K’s terrifying (we’re talking, cut chunks of K’s hair out while she was sleeping, whispered K’s name under her breath, etc.) roommate from freshman year randomly appeared in our house one day, and told us she was spending the night She mainly stayed hidden during the daytime, but Sarah heard her pacing back and forth in the hallway that night as we slept.
  10. When a few subleasers locked themselves out of the rock-thrower’s room, she told them to climb onto the roof and through the window, like she does.
  11. Every walk from the street to the door was like navigating a mine field. No one wanted to be caught in an uncomfortable thirty-minute conversation with our (reportedly bipolar) next-door-porch-dwelling-neighbor-lady. It got even worse when her sister came to visit. I never met the sister, but I heard the stories.

All we lacked were the cameramen, and our reality TV experience would have been complete. After quite the epic social experiment in hostel-style living, we finally had our walk-through yesterday. As you can probably imagine, the house was a disaster. Most of the random transients had long since passed through, and only left their quirky food remnants and carpet stains as proof that they’d visited.

When I arrived at the house, I found a mountain of miscellaneous trash bags and boxes piled in the center of the kitchen. Thankfully, my sense of smell is virtually nonexistent, but K informed me that the house reeked. Our trash can was already overflowing with refuse (apparently everyone had learned how to use it at this point), so Karre and I loaded the garbage into our cars and tossed it at her new apartment complex. Seriously, guys: we couldn’t fit all the trash in both of our cars combined. We had to actually threaten some of our other housemates to come and throw away some of the trash. That was a thing that happened.

During the walk through, Boris pointed out that one of the decorative wooden valances was missing. “Have you guys seen it?”

I’m going to admit something. I had seen it. It had been in our kitchen, protruding out of the peak of Mount Rubbish. It had been, that is, until I packed it up in my Forester and threw it into K’s dumpster. But I couldn’t very well say, “Oh yeah! I saw it as I threw it into a garbage heap this evening!” So I didn’t. Boris told us we could look for it, and Karre and I silently agreed to “look for it” in a very specific and smelly location.

Maybe I should stop confessing my dumpster diving stories to the internet. I highly doubt that it’s helping my job hunting efforts. Oh well. Anyway, long story short, at the end of the evening I found myself inside the dumpster, rifling through bags of trash, hunting for a ridiculously important stick of wood. I found it, K returned it, happy ending. So what did I learn from all this? A lot (mainly that Kirkland brand trash bags will leak all over your car)—but here are the top two take-aways from last night:

  1. Think before you toss—I don’t know why, after this year of madness, I just accepted the fact that everything in the trash mountain was disposable. If I had thought for myself, instead of trusting the assumptions that had been given to me, I would have saved myself a whole lot of trouble. I think that goes for other things in life, too. Traditions, doctrines, interpretations, stigmas, proofs, stories, whatever. Sure, you can assume that your piles of presuppositions are perfectly accurate, but you might find yourself in a hot mess later on.
  2. Messy jobs are better with friends—I’m glad I had Karre with me to shine a light on the situation (literally). She held the flashlight, helped sort the trash, and snapchatted a lovely video of me as I shifted trash. There is nothing enjoyable about being knee deep in germs, but having a friend around makes it just slightly bearable and humorous. Some stages of life are about as pleasant as a metal box of garbage, but having friends with you can make all the difference.

Despite all the odd and ridiculous memories that I associate with that house, I’m grateful for our time there: for our semi-monthly dinner parties, our backyard twinkle lights, our fireplace, our sporadic deep conversations (or discussions about Beyonce), and the many great and interesting friends I made under that expansive roof. Sarah and I had no idea what we were getting into when we signed a lease with three complete strangers (and one coworker). Now, none of us has a clue what this next chapter holds for us either, but I’m sure that if it is anything like this last one, we have nothing to worry about.

Through a great deal of expert planning and perseverance, we managed to avoid ever having a complete house dinner, and we do not have single image containing all six of the housemates.

Here’s the closest we ever got, you’ll just have to imagine the missing girl (and the boyfriends, and the subleasers, and the unwanted former roommates, and the of-balanced neighbors…

suite pic 1 suite pic 2

 

*************EDIT***************

Sarah pointed out that one morning we went downstairs to find a bean-bag sized trash bag full of movie theatre popcorn in our living room. I guess that’d be weird story #12.

Skateboarding and Other Such Tests of Persistence

The clattering and grinding of a skateboard against pavement drifts up from the cul-de-sac and in through my open window. The embarrassingly  stereotypical sounds of Southern California Suburban Nightlife would be much less of a nuisance to me if I weren’t having so much trouble falling asleep as it is. Sleeplessness seems to be negatively correlated with busyness, or perhaps positively related to the number of unanswered job applications I’ve submitted.

Today a good friend of mine messaged me to ask me if I’d been applying to such-and-such jobs. Her friend so-and-so had been rather lazy in college, but had miraculously managed to get a job after filling out a single application. As encouraging as my well meaning friend’s message was intended to be, it unfortunately harmonized with a chorus of kindly meant comments that have been echoing in my ears over the past few months.

Have you applied for A, B, C? Have you looked to see if 1, 2, 3 is hiring? Have you done this, that, and the other? I am going to find you a job! You will find a job. Joe Loser found a job, and he barely graduated from State University! How is the job hunt going? Have you found anything yet? Have you heard back from anyone yet? I’m going to look for you. I hope you find something.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, really. I am thankful for all the encouragement, prayers, and hints. It’s just that sometimes the swelling song of edification ends up sounding like a discordant verse of you’re doing something wrong. After all, if Joe Loser managed to get such a great job, then Sweet Baby Moses, what is wrong with me?

The thing is, I don’t know. I’ve applied for nearly 100 jobs since graduation. I follow all the rules. I troll all the best job boards. I keep an Excel spreadsheet of the jobs I’ve applied for. I customize the resumes and the cover letters. I follow-up. I leave my imaginary friends at home when I go to interviews. I even thank you cards, and yet I still feel like we are picking teams in P.E. and I am the one with the broken foot and inhaler.

My only answer is that my plan is not God’s plan. In my version of this story, I would currently be semi-permanently situated in my own fabulous apartment somewhere and sleeping soundly after enjoying my Saturday off (from my deeply rewarding, challenging, and well-paying job) with my friends. Instead I am wide awake and worrying at 11:47pm, while my sister snores next to me in our shared bed in the spare room of a house in a town where I know four people.

What is the point? Why this long dry spell? I’m not sure, but I don’t have to know. If there’s one thing I learned from Job (the Bible character, not the employment), it’s that I shouldn’t need to understand in order to trust. On the other hand, it sure makes the waiting a whole lot more bearable when there is a silver lining in sight. With my admittedly near-sighted view of the situation, here are the…

Upsides to Unemployment as seen in the thick of it

  1. An otherwise impossibly long visit with all of my dear friends in Florida
  2. Practice writing witty cover letters in record time (practice is an understatement)
  3. A fuller understanding of the Fuller girls and Morro Bay
  4. An acquaintance with the charming and quirky local coffee shop and its mysteriously loyal patrons
  5. An overabundance of quality time and Netflix time with my sister
  6. One of the most spectacular hikes I’ve been on in California: Paradise Falls
  7. The opportunity to volunteer with School on Wheels
  8. A heaping helping of humble pie
  9. A Ventura Fair venture
  10. The creation of a second blog (as if I write frequently enough with one)
  11. A much larger share of understanding and sympathy for others who have been/are chronically unemployed
  12. A marathon experience in trusting God in the hard times (an activity which looks about as pathetic as when I tried to skateboard that one time)

So by all means, please continue to give me your kind words and suggestions, and I’ll keep trying to remember that they aren’t meant as jabs at my personhood. It sounds like the skateboarder has gone inside for the night, and I should wrap things up as well. Tomorrow, we’ll both get back on our boards and try again.

and fall again. and try again. and fall again. and try again. Because in order to succeed, you have to keep getting up.

 

 

Life is not a line dance

Somehow time flies away from me and before I know it I’ve moved to Germany, gotten married, had twins, joined the marines, and forgotten to update my blog. Okay. So, I’m single, childless, jobless, and still in SoCal. But hey, to my credit—I was in a wedding, I babysat, I applied for about 60 jobs, and I was in Sweet Home Tampa for three weeks. That’s gotta count for something.

I’ll update you first about my time in the 813. To make a very long story short, God vetoed my earthly-focused, fear-driven desire to just find a job and only go to weddings if they were convenient. He answered my prayers for direction with unmistakeable unemployment. I decided that I might as well be jobless in Tampa for a month, and I’m so glad He led me there. So much happened, I could have written a blog post about each day. Instead, I’ll give you a few lists about my time there (you know how I love lists), and then we’ll move on.

Awkward Things That Happened To Me

  • Getting locked in the Snapps’ Guest Bathroom
  • Getting locked out of the Snapps’ House—This resulted in me accidentally inviting myself over to my ex’s house three times in one day, and inviting myself on a married-couple-double-date to Starbucks.
  • Playing “Pass the Pig.” Oh, you’ve never heard of Pass the Pig? Bless your heart.
  • Ordering a Chick-Fil-A Sandwich, lettuce wrapped—All the employees mocked my California-ness, and the cook told me to “take my order to KFC.” When I finally got my low-carb order, it was more like a salad than a sandwich.
  • Being tricked into going on a double date with a guy who spoke a grand total of 22 words during the whole meal. I counted.
  • Spending four days at the beach house with six children. There are too many stories to recount. One involved a fish in someone’s swimsuit. I wish we could blame the children for that one.
  • Not showering for four days at the beach. I’m pretty sure that if I’d gone another 24 hours, I would have successfully developed dreads. Who needs shampoo when you have salt water and chlorine? *This girl*
  • Using DPS codes in radio conversations with the kids—”10-22″ doesn’t mean a whole lot when you’re seven.
  • Buying much-too-small-for-me Cinderella underwear at Hot Topic—It was for a bridal gag gift, obviously, but the cashier probably just thought that I had Reverse Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
  • Discovering a stash of Popsicle Stick People in a friend’s glove box—If you think that you want to know what a popsicle stick person is, you’re wrong.
  • Trying to comfort an anxious barista by telling him that my friend was, “Mexican, not Cuban,” and that she would be perfectly content with the Americanized Cuban Coffee he’d made her. He didn’t think I was funny.
  • Celebrating Tutu Tuesday as a 22-year-old. Somehow, it’s just less excusable as a college graduate.
  • Becoming a regular at the new Dunkin’ in less than a week. I think that’s a new record. The cashier told me I should “Come every single day” until I went back to California. I pretty much did.
  • Compiling a Bedroom-Related-Song CD (to plant in the Binghammontree Honeymoon Car), while women within earshot practiced their talks for the church’s ladies’ day. The details of this story are about 500 times worse than it sounds. Again, wedding gags getting me into trouble.
  • Getting a manicure from a woman who looked eerily like the creatures from the We Like The Moon YouTube video.
  • Being the same height as the best man. We pulled it off well. I did the whole one-leg-bent thing, he stood tall.
  • Dancing at the weddings. JKJK you know nobody dances at COC weddings. Good thing, too, because white people can’t dance. Or at least that’s what they say. You know what was awkward about the weddings, though? Being one of the single ladies who is obligated to clump with the other single women in a giant blob of singleness and fight over some second-hand bundle of flowers. Nothing says “desperate” like moshing in a dress over a magical-marriage-plant. I’m allergic to flowers, anyhow.
  • Receiving congratulatory texts about my wedding. I guess that’s an unavoidable hazard when you have the same first name as the bride.

Things I loved

  • Deep theological discussions in trucks and Taco Bells
  • Good Sweet Tea
  • Morris Food
  • Third Wheeling
  • Afternoon Thunderstorms
  • Late night chats with the Snapps
  • Dunkin’ Donuts, my long lost lover
  • Singing with so many saints
  • A social life, community, and family
  • My bathwater ocean (none of that Pacific Coast 60-degree-water garbage)
  • Watching the raindrops on the river
  • Air that envelopes you in a warm hug the moment you step outside
  • Eating at The Oxford Exchange, Wright’s, and Which Wich
  • Watching The Lego Movie and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  • Weddings, and all things related

I had a great time. I learned a lot. I loved a lot. I cringed at my own awkwardness a lot. I was blessed with valuable time with people who mean the world to me, and generosity and hospitality was shown to me by so many.

I also interviewed a lot. Okay, maybe “a lot” is strong language, but it was a lot for me. It was a lot for one job. I had two interviews and one special project, all for one position. They seemed to like me, they even wanted me to interview as soon as I got back to LA (read: five hours after my plane landed in LA). After rushing from LAX to Calabasas back to Santa Monica, I left Maris at Philz Coffee and headed to my interview. It seemed to go well, for the most part. At the end, one of the team members suggested that I try the Mint Mojito at Philz when I picked Maris back up. I was a bit surprised that Philz served alcohol, until I realized that the Mint Mojito was a coffee flavor. An amazing, out-of-this-world, shaming-all-things-Dunkin-Donuts, coffee flavor. My life changed with that first sip.

Well, I guess you probably know this if you read the intro, but I didn’t get the job. I found out today. I kinda feel like I just endured a break-up. Or, at least, I imagine this is what a break-up feels like. Letsbehonest I haven’t dated anyone since Call Me Maybe was still a song people pretended to like. But I’ll be okay. In fact, I have another list for you. I knew you’d be excited.

Reflections on not getting this job (or any of the 60+ jobs I’ve applied for in the past 60 days)

  • I have really great friends. I can’t count the people who have been praying for me during this job hunt, who have bad-mouthed whatever job I told them I didn’t get, who continue to support me through this fun time.
  • God is good, all the time. I know that’s a cliche, but it’s true.
  • Money doesn’t matter. I know, I know, that’s pretty cliche too. But I guess I needed to it, because Dr. Dickey followed me to two different congregation just so that I could hear the same lesson about greed, twice. I guess, what I mistake for responsibility is often just a lack of trust in disguise.
  • It’s all worth it, if you walk away with a new favorite coffee.
  • “White people have no rhythm, but everyone can line dance. They literally tell you what to do.” That’s a quote from one of the brilliant high schoolers sitting at the neighboring table outside this Starbucks.

I’ve been spending my unemployment binge-watching tacky Netflix TV-shows (family members, please do not judge me for the embarrassing things on my recent views—I blame the Morris Sisters), beach-bumming, and spontaneously napping. Life could be worse. Monday, I’m starting up again with my full-blown Job Safari. 61st time is the charm? For right now, however, I’m taking a moment to thank God. For forcing me to Florida. For Florida thunderstorms and for California sunsets. For countless homes away from home. For new letters from old friends. For mentors. For music. For encouragement. For hope. For Dunkin’ Donuts and Mint Mojitos.

But most importantly, I am thankful that life is not a line dance. Sure, I have no rhythm, and step-by-step instructions would be way easier. Sure, “everyone can line dance,” but that’s not what it’s about. I’m thankful for a life with no pre-set track, for a life with twists and turns and unique little side-steps. I’m thankful for the ambiguity and unpredictability that makes it all the more exciting, and forces me to let the Spirit lead, even when it’s uncomfortable.

 

New Heights

It’s 1:50AM, and I can’t sleep.

You’d think that my insomnia was induced by the creeping realization that I have 3 weeks left in my undergraduate career, but that wasn’t it. This is one of those ill-timed-coffee-consumption situations. You see, we’ve come to the point in the year where no matter how well I manage my time, I will have to sacrifice either grades or sleep (my social life met with the prioritization guillotine long ago). I had a group meeting in my old dorm at 10:00pm, and Matt was kind enough to brew me some coffee at 9:50pm. Matt loves three things: Academia, bumper stickers, and strong coffee.

It was funny being back in my old dorm. I hadn’t really been in there all year, and it brought back a lot of “old” memories. I hadn’t realized it, but there is even a distinct Towers-Parking-Lot smell. All of my junior-year struggles seemed so distant and small: a perpetually full Towers parking lot, sharing a wall with the temperamental elevator, and the most awkwardly arranged bathrooms imaginable. Okay, I suppose there was also that one time that our shower flooded the bathroom. Still, I didn’t realize at the time just how small those issues were, how petty. Even with The Curse of the Angry Shower Drain, all I had to do was call DPS. Now, we have a dirty kitchen, a clogged canyon, and a water-logged garage. I’d like to say that these new issues are somehow more grown-up, but part of me realizes the distinct first-world flavor that these new, sophisticated issues still possess.

Speaking of canyons, did I mention I went to the Grand Canyon for the first time ever last weekend? It was, to put it quite simply, epic. As of late, I have been perpetually impressed with the beauty of God’s creation, and The Giant Hole in the Ground was quite a sight. It was a bit terrifying, standing on a tiny isthmus of rock in the middle of that vast expanse of nothingness, but it was the good kind of terrifying, the kind that makes me think about the Lord. Standing there, I couldn’t help but think about how small I am in relation to Him, how insignificant in comparison to His glory, and how blessed I am to be able to experience His power. Having s’mores for breakfast was pretty cool too.

I’m still a bit shocked that I spent a weekend roadtripping, given my impending graduation and joblessness. Basically, everything I do right now is internally narrated with the phrase “I’d rather rage be applying for jobs.” To be honest with you, I’ve been struggling a lot with worrying. Worrying about my grades. Worrying about my future. Worrying about finding a subleaser. Worrying, worrying, worrying. I mean, if you know me at all, you know that fretting is kind of my M.O. I don’t think it really hit me until one night when I was venting about my qualms to Sarah, and she laughed out loud (that’s “LOL’ed” for you young folk) and said, “Emma, you worry SO much.” (For a reenactment of this conversation between me and Sarah, click this link).

I think I always knew that I worried, but I rationalized it:

I just care a lot.

I have really high standards.

I am responsible for myself—I don’t have a safety net.

Seriously? What weaksauce excuses. Lately, I have felt very convicted about my worrying. I’ve finally come to realize that it displays a lack of faith and a lack of focus. If I truly believe God’s promises, I won’t stress about things I can’t control. If I truly care about what’s important, I won’t let myself get caught up on the little things.

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

There’s a picture of me, back before my vampire years, when I was still cute. I’m standing on a stump. It’s actually quite adorable. Anyway, the backstory to the picture is that I was apparently standing on this stump, and I was frozen in fear at the idea of jumping off of it. Terrified. My mom knew that it was not a dangerous situation, but her coaxing did no good. I didn’t trust her. The distance seemed too great. It was too risky. I’ve known that story for a while, but only recently did I realize that I was still that terrified two year old, not trusting her parent, peering down from a minuscule height, immobilized by my apprehension. I don’t want to be that toddler anymore. Nothing good comes from worrying. It doesn’t glorify God. It doesn’t help me improve things. It doesn’t let me enjoy the view.

God treats me like a timid child—he started me off with tree stumps, and he’s working me up to Grand Canyon. In His infinite wisdom, He helps me grow incrementally. And yet, somehow, each step is painful. At each level, my initial reaction is fear. How much more joyful it would be, if I could just skip that first stage of the climbing process. How much more purposeful it would be, if I could react with faith instead of fear.

So, that’s my goal for this next 3 weeks: faith over fear. I don’t know about the subleasers, the job market, or my future, but I do know that the Lord reigns, and that that’s really all that matters. If something is going to keep me up at night, best believe it’s going to be coffee, not worrying. I’m going to enjoy this view, until it’s time for me to move on to new heights.

Disclaimer: I wrote this blog post before Andrea published hers. It’s great, check it out.