This cube is not my home

Angelos move. A lot. I’m pretty sure it’s part of our DNA or genetic predisposition or whatever. As legend has it, my ancestors pioneered West with the Donner party (the Angelos gave up and stopped somewhere before the Cannibalistic Pass, as the story goes). I haven’t been able to substantiate the claim for myself, but you get the idea. I’ve lived in eleven houses, four dorms, and eight cities. At this point, I’m Tetris Master Level when it comes to fitting boxes in cars. I buy vehicles based on how well they’ll transport furniture, and “good at packing boxes” is one of the most desirable qualities I look for in men.

I’ve been at my new job for 2.5 months, and already had three different workspaces. At this rate, we’re looking at a different cubicle for every month of work. I’m not the only one: the company is consolidating onto two floors, so we’re all playing a lengthy game of Corporate Musical Chairs.

It wouldn’t be quite so disruptive, except the construction is going more quickly than planned (pretty sure that’s the first time since men stopped living in caves). I’ve had several coworkers who’ve come in for work only to discover that their desk is bare, and that all of their effects have been moved to a new (and often unknown) location. Some of the kitchen tables are missing from the breakroom, and rumor has it they’ve been spotted doubling as makeshift desks in an office somewhere. It’s been feeling a little rapture-esque, what with my peers disappearing unexpectedly.

I was barely at my desk for ten minutes together before lunch on Thursday. After training on a different floor for the majority of the morning, I returned to my cube right before lunch, only to spot this lovely note on my monitor:

cannedjello moving

Okay. So, first off: this is a pet peeve of mine. Have you ever gone to a local restaurant or something, and there’s a sign on the door that says “back in an hour,” or some such nonsense? Dear cryptic-message-writer, we don’t know when you wrote this note. We can’t smell the post-it and tell if it’s “still fresh.” Is this 5 minutes from 10:00 am? or 5 minutes from 11:54 am? I’m at a loss.

Thankfully, I’d already seen the fates of my friends, and been living out of boxes for several days. All I had to do was find my new destination (consequentially, only a mere couple yards away). Since I’ll be moving again within a few days, I’m trying to do as much as I can without unpacking my hole puncher.

Friday morning was even more shocking: while my belongings were still safely where I’d left them the night before, all the cubicles surrounding my office had been removed during the night. A lone printer remained (a printer, it turns out, that was now only good for scanning, since its network cables had been cut during the cube-removal-madness).

Have you ever seen an old office space without its workstations? It’s a similar experience to taking all the seat cushions off of an old couch: very insightful, and a little bit repulsive. From what I hear, the creative department found a lot of floor-almonds where their desks used to be. Our space was a bit more diverse—with old candy, post-its, and a dangerous number of thumbtacks littering the ground.

True to their character, studio seized the opportunity to make art out of madness. They went around and took pictures of the random remains, and plastered the images to the walls for all to see. I loved it—visiting an art gallery without even leaving my office.

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Somewhere around ten moves ago, my church’s “theme song of the year” was This World is Not My Home. We sang it probably every Sunday, so you could say the lyrics stuck with me.

This world is not my home I’m just a-passin’ through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

It’s easy for me to become caught up in my life and what’s happening to me. Sometimes this world feels like a game of Monopoly, and I’m just pulling Chance cards, waiting to see how they turn out. “The printer’s network cables have been cut: move back two spaces.” “Post-it on monitor: move across hall.” But instead of making me reactionary, it should make me purposeful. C.S. Lewis put it best (as always) in the Screwtape Letters:

We want him to be in the maximum uncertainty, so that his mind will be filled with contradictory pictures of the future, every one of which arouses hope or fear. There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.

Satan wants us preoccupied with worrying about what will happen to us. God wants us focusing on how we can be like Jesus, not on what our circumstances are like. We know we’ll end up on the 7th floor with our coworkers eventually, so it doesn’t really matter how many random cubicles or makeshift “desks” we occupy in the meantime.

Likewise, when this world is finished, the distractions will be removed, and our legacies will be on display for everyone to see. The trash we left behind and thought would go unnoticed? It won’t. Our unseen acts of light and shadow will suddenly be a focal point, so it makes much more sense to focus on what we do on this earth, rather than what’s being done to us by others.

I pray that God gives me a moving spirit. The mindset of a migrant, focusing on my final destination. I pray He keeps me traveling light, and processing life through the viewpoint of one who knows they don’t belong.

Drop the baton

I like to consider myself moderately intelligent.

But then I accidentally lock myself in stairwells, unintentionally sabotage workplace wedding showers, and unknowingly break into cars.

In fact, I’ve done all of those things in this week alone.

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I was deeply engrossed in a task when a coworker came by my cube and surreptitiously handed me a file folder. It’s fairly commonplace to receive vague folders with birthday cards enclosed. We pass them around the office and sign them without letting the birthday person notice. It usually goes off seamlessly.

Or it did, before I joined the company. I accepted the file without even peeking to see whose birthday we were celebrating, and let the file chill on my desk. The file chilled so long, in fact, that I forgot about it for the majority of the day. four hours later, still deeply engrossed in a task, I was interrupted by one of those handy email alerts: I had a meeting coming up in 15 minutes.

Except it wasn’t a meeting, it was a secret wedding shower.

And then I remembered the card. The card that wasn’t actually for an upcoming birthday, but for an impending wedding shower. A 15-minutes-away wedding shower.

I frantically opened the folder, and my fears were verified when I read something hokey about love on the front of the card. I scribbled some generic notes and passed the card along. Returning to my desk, I saw an update for the meeting: “Has anyone seen the card? It’s missing and we need it!”

Yikes.

Anyway. There isn’t really a point to this story, except for the fact that I am a total failure and am probably subconsciously sabotaging the nuptial happiness of others due to my own single spite. Maybe my boss has noticed, because last week she said,

“You’re going to make mistakes, and I’m much more interested in how you handle them.”

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I love learning about the geeky details of people’s lives. One friend recently admitted that she’d done competitive baton twirling as a child. I hadn’t even realized competitive baton twirling was a thing that existed. Anyway, she explained further, “people always ask if I ever dropped it in a competition. Everyone drops it! Because you’re trying new stuff. You do tricks that you know you can do, and then you push yourself to try stuff that you aren’t sure you can pull off.”

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Contrary to popular belief, I have a life (and plans this afternoon)—so i don’t really have time to dive into an essay about mistakes, and the attitude of the church, and how we only confess our sins to each other when we’re worried about people discovering them on their own, and how God’s grace deserves much more trust and merit than we give it when we are dead-set against ever dropping the baton.

So I’ll let Francis Chan rant about it for me:

Timecards

Warning: this blog post contains no pictures, and has not even been proofread. “Wow, Emma’s really let herself go—have you seen the state of her blog?” Shut up, snarky reader. Either accept this for what it is, or go waste your time on Buzzfeed.

Precisely 365 days ago, I sat in between two strangers for several hours, baking inside a human-sized Chipotle-style burrito foil. Or, that’s what it felt like. One year ago today, I graduated from Pepperdine and embarked upon one of the most challenging, frustrating years of my life. I lost my cap a few times due to the wind, and tried not to lose my cool as I considered the uncertainty of the coming months. And from a worldly perspective, I had every reason to worry. It’s been 300 days of job hunting and anxious prayer, of penny-pinching, interviewing, resume tweaking, and fast-food working. It’s been a year full of tears, toilet cleaning, angsty blog posts, and soul searching. I spent an entire year working towards securing a job, but God was preoccupied with a different project.

Now I have my first “grown up” job. I have a steady income that doesn’t involve any polyester, and I love it. I have a cubicle, and a timesheet, and I even have to bill my time down to 15 minute increments. In fact, the time billing thing was probably the biggest adjustment. I’m always doing something wrong with the timecard. Either I’m using the wrong date range, or I’m making up billing codes that don’t actually exist, or I’m billing to timecodes that belong to completely different departments, or I’m accidentally typing “AM” instead of “PM,” and wondering why the program is mad at me. You’d think this was my first job or something.

I have trouble remembering my own mother’s birthday (sorry, mom), let alone how I spent every 15 minutes of my workday. In the long-run, though, it’s made me work smarter. I’m a serial to-do-lister, and could easily spend 15 minutes just analyzing my list of projects. When I’m overwhelmed, I just think. When I’m stressed, I think. It’s a problem, to say the least. Logging my 15 minute list meditations has made me more aware of my time wasting, and helped me to move from project to project more effectively.

I wish I were forced to be more accountable for my personal time on a regular basis, as well. If every two weeks, God asked to see your timecard, broken down into 15 minute increments, do you think you’d change how you spent your time? I would. I would stare at my phone screen less. I would watch less Netflix (although Vanilla Ice Goes Amish is pure gold, in case you haven’t seen it). I would serve more, pray more, praise more, study more. Instead of billing my time to naps, procrastination, and gossip, I’d put it towards “jobs” that God would be pleased with.

However, I am unaware of any biweekly celestial timekeeping system, and must therefore persist in my efforts to conceptualize my time differently through other means. The lack of a heavenly punchcard isn’t the only pitfall through which I’ve squandered my time this past year:

1. Homesickness crippled me

When I moved to Washington, I missed my Oregon friend. When I moved to Florida, I missed my family in Oregon. When I moved to California, I yearned for the Florida life and community I’d left behind. The day after my college graduation, my mom moved to Idaho. I’ve spent a year trying to silence the dull, constant throbbing of my heart. But it’s hard to put down roots, when you were uprooted from a different soil. When part of your heart is on a different coast, it can be hard to share your heart with new people.

There are a lot of weird things about Girl Scouts—those vests, naming a whole age bracket after a dessert (brownies, anyone?), encouraging little girls to go door to door selling baked goods to strangers, etc. My troupe used to sing a song, “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold. A circle’s round, it has no end, that’s how long I’m going to be your friend.” It was a creepy song, and I haven’t been able to forget it after all these years. As a seven year old, I thought it was weird to rate your friends like different types of metals. Now, I feel like actually fall into that trap. Why would I want to invest in new silver friends, when I miss my gold friends so much?

There’s nothing wrong with missing people or staying in touch, but if my melancholy over long-distance friendships is keeping me from being present, something is amiss.

2. Perfectionism petrified me

If you think I’m weird, neurotic, or OCD now, you should have seen me as a child. Still, I often avoid investing in working on a skill or trying out new things because I hate being imperfect at them. You mean I’m not the best writer in the history of the world’s existence? Well, I think I’ll just shut down my blog, then. Instead of letting God work through me in whatever method He chooses, I try to curate my conduct by paring my pastimes down to only what I know I can succeed in. And do you know what that leaves me with? Very, very little.

3. Self-centeredness blinded me

Do you remember what I said in the first paragraph?

“No, impudent girl! Your blog is far too wordy and rambling. How could you presume to ask if we’d hung on the minute details of the introductory paragraph.”

Sorry. I was telling you how I’d spent this past year: with frantic and fervent job hunting. And I told you that God had been spending that year working towards a different goal in my life.

Yesterday, I talked on the phone with my sister for two and a half hours. We live an hour apart, so if one of us had just driven towards the other one while we’d chatted, we could have probably made much better use of that time. Anyway, we reflected together on our past year, and how glad we each were that we’d spent it together. We’d always thought we were close. Sure, we’d fought, but only because her slovenliness rivals the Lord of the Rings dwarves. Just kidding. The point is, not until spending a year together could we have conceptualized how close our relationship could become.

Only yesterday was I able to see that a year of joblessness and uncertainty was a bargain for the lifelong bliss of having such an enhanced relationship with my sister. While I was begging God to free me from the trap of unemployment, he was knitting my soul to my sister’s, making us laugh together, work together, comfort and teach each other. While I mouthed the words “thy will” countless times throughout the year, I couldn’t conceptualize how God’s will was dependent on my working in a fast-food drive thru and sharing a room with my sister. I said the words, but my heart was in rebellion. While I am grateful for the blessing of sisterly affection God has blessed me with, I only regret that I’d submitted to His plan so unwillingly.

“He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.”

I guess it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: with this next 365 days, I intend to be more mindful about every 15 minutes. I want to build up my relationships in Pasadena, not just nurture the ones I’ve left in other towns. I’ll focus less on being perfect, and more on using the tools and the time God has given me. I’ll try to internalize the truth I’ve known for some time: that my to-do list might not match up with God’s, and that His is the master list. And I’m gonna really try to figure out this whole timecard system thing at work, because it’s starting to become pretty embarrassing, actually.

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.