Working For… Working With

Here are two snippets from my work life:

[people I work for]

Brian: how’s the boyfriend situation?

Me: Um, nonexistant?

Brian: What about at church?

Me: Everyone at my church is either already married with kids or in their mid to late twenties. Which isn’t old, but they think I’m too young or something.

Brian: but you’re twenty two.

Me: No, I’m twenty one. And the words twenty one scream “I just want to drink and party and get wasted all the time.”

Brian: Well that’s totally who you are. I mean, you go clubbing every weekend.

Me: Oh yeah! When you said about going clubbing tonight with Brandi, I was like: sign me up! I have my slutty clothes in the car!

Brian: You’ve got pimped out clothes in your car? Awesome!

Brandi: Oh yeah, let’s go clubbing, you in your slutty clothes and me with my pregnancy cellulite hanging out. We’ll be hot.

[people I work with]

Danielle: Why is everyone here married and having kids, or not married and still having kids?

Anna: I just got out of a long term relationship before I started working here.

Me: Really? Me too.

Danielle: Me too! It’s like a fresh start for all of us. We should go out tonight and celebrate and get wasted.

Yes ladies and gentlemen. My conversations at WF revolve around drinking, other people and their children, what it means to be religious and how many referrals we have to bankers. My conversations with Brandi and her husband Brian usually involve cars, the children, church stuff and cellulite. Welcome to my life. It’s awesome.

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A Messy Sort of Joy to the World

My family has had an interesting Christmas. My parents are more or less unemployed, so it was meant to be small and simple. Well, it has been almost anything but small and simple.

Joshua and Amanda arrived last Saturday night, amid a chaotic wave of travel as people struggled to find their way to the East Coast, awash in unusual amounts of snow. There were plans re-routed and connections missed. People, I’m sure, were upset, stressed and filled with something a little less than holiday cheer. Amanda and Joshua, however, were traveling west and they made it here quite smoothly. Unfortunately, their luggage didn’t come nearly as well. A few hours later, the suitcases full of diapers, pajamas and Christmas presents finally arrived.

But Joshua had brought something else with him from the airplane, or from Mississippi. Pneumonia set in soon after we went Christmas shopping for last minute gifts. He was laid out flat on the couch for several days, coughing into a tarnished silver trashcan and pretty much quarantined from his son and the rest of us. We juggled rooms so he’d be alone and away from the wide eyed five month old. I got to experience my first night with a gurgling baby in the crib next to the bed I shared with Amanda.

And the next day I came home from work after an hour long commute with the heater on full blast–shaking with chills and coughing up my lungs. Apparently I didn’t avoid Joshua well enough. By dinner my mum was feeling feverish and we were both in bed by nine pm. I called in sick for work the next day, drove in the blowing snow to the doctor’s office and after a very merry conversation with a doctor I have seen too often this year, we were given a diagnosis for the painful cough that was tearing my throat and giving me abs of steel. Bronchitis!

Today we opened presents with a happy and bright eyed baby boy who can’t get over all the sights and smells. My dad chopped wood so we could have a fire; the wonderful snow outside looked beautiful but we were determined to stay warm and have a cozy Christmas morning with my mum’s traditional cinnamon rolls. After Isaac went down for his nap, and we had finished opening our presents, my dad went out to chop some more wood. While my mum and I were in the kitchen rubbing down our massive turkey bird, my dad came in the garage and yelped for his wife.

“I hurt myself.” he said. And that was an understatement.

He’s home now from the hospital after smahsing two of his fingers, crushing a bone and severing a good deal of skin. His middle finger is splinted so it looks like he’s flipping off the world. The fire is still going, the turkey is in the oven, my mum is napping after an exciting week and we’re watching a movie that was a Christmas present.

So it hasn’t been the smoothest, simplest Christmas we’ve ever had. But then again, Christmas in my family is usually interesting. There’s the year we broke into the Shuck’s house after Dad left his wallet on the fridge. Or the time we drove over the Rocky Mountains in a car that my dad didn’t fit into. Or the year I got chicken pox and didn’t crust over till New Year’s Day.

That all probably sounds sad or somehow like a disappointing Christmas. But actually, I think it’s one of the best Christmases ever. My beautiful nephew is here, he rolled over from his back to his tummy today for the first time! There is snow on the ground and it’s one of the prettiest Christmases I’ve ever seen. God has shown up in all sorts of unexpected places. I got a zester for Christmas! A zester!! My sister in law and I have had some good conversations, my brother seems okay with the fact that I no longer have a life plan, and we’re along getting along suberbly–I guess that means I’m growing up becuase I’m not a punky little sister anymore. 🙂

And the only thing that worries me is that suddenly I have a few too many optoins for my future.

So Joy to the World, Jesus is come to make even the most messy and pagan of holidays lovely and holy.

The Break Room

It’s a very bland place. The walls are white, the ceiling tiles are speckled white, the floors are white linoleum of some kind with little grey and brown flecks. The nasty, dirty fridge is white with a brown psuedo-wood handle on the left side that creaks open to reveal grey shelves covered in dried liquids and sticky stains. The counter where the new microwave sits is low and off kilter, the cabinets below are either empty or filled with old and decaying paper products. There are two tables, one is covered with a jumbled assortment of forks, knives, plates and a decided lack of napkins. The other sits in the center of the room, facing the tv on its rolling stand, surrounded by a few uncomfortable chairs that are barely good enough for the employed, let alone seriously high valued customers.

It’s an uncomfortable place. We may enjoy one another on the teller line, and we may laugh like we are all friends, but just come down to our break room and you’ll see another side. We have nothing to say to one another. The tv is always on, a welcome distraction from the awkward silences that would otherwise lay heavily on our souls. Edmundo asks me about my time in Colorado: the usual small talk that I so desperately abhorr. He manages to ask if I have a boyfriend, since I remark that I have little to call a social life and my free time is taken up by running. The bizarre movie on the tele is broken up by my little laugh as I say no, no not anymore. To which he asks why, and I can hardly give him an answer that does not divulge more than I am willing to say in this cold and empty room.

Michael steps in, boasts that he eating tamales. They’ve been bought somewhere of course. Not even Edmundo has ever made tamales, though he admits to making his own tortillas. Sarah comes in as well and she sits in the corner, fiddling with her phone while eating McDonalds. We talk about sales, about kids, about the fact that Michael and his girlfriend looked at rings recently but he isn’t getting married any time soon. Edmundo seems surprised when I say I like cooking, Michael complains about the catering for hte Chamber of Commerce event the night before.

It’s awful this empty conversation. THere is nothing to it, though I think Edmundo wishes it were different. Befor eeveryone else arrived he asked how my Spanish was. I think he might be lonely away from home. It’s been three years since he went back to see his family. He said he just bought a tv recently and a cable package but there is nothing on with his 500 channels. Still, he says he appreciates the background noise. There is a blank look in his eyes, does he appreciate the background noise? Or does he need it because there is no one at home? No community, no family, just a cold apartment, full of things but no one to share them with. He does have a daughter, he says that the cartoons are useful when she comes over.

But Edmundo, if you aren’t married, and you share custody with your former girlfriend/wife/signifcant other, how often do you see your daughter? Don’t you want to spend time with her instead of puting her in front of the wildly colourful and perfectly unnecessary tv screen? Or are you so lost and confused and dazed by this bizarre culture we call “American” that you have lost sight of that? I know you say your father wanted you to play futbol, and I’m sure it was a rift when you refused, I’m sure that throws a wrench into family relations. But did no one model to you the love that a father can shower upon a child?

He seems a little quiet and unsure. Maybe it’s me. No one ever knows what to do with me. He says I seem older than I am, but he also doesn’t seem like he knows how to talk to me. He stares at the tv. I stare at the tv. It’s a safe escape from the awkward lack of conversation we are having.

I risk a sideways glance. He is one of the paler Mexicans I have known. His face is almost too round. But his leather jacket he wears to cover the stain he got on his shirt when preparing lunch, it’s familiar to me. I’m sure if I was sitting closer I could smell the open air market in Ciudad de Mexico. The way he walks is not quite macho enough to be truly Mexican, but his Spanish is beautiful, wringing my soul in almost painful longing.

Edmundo leaves the break room soon after he finishes eating his instant rice and meat that looks like my favorite dinner at La Leonesa. He looks like a man escaping, and this lunch room is a place that deserves to be fled. There is nothing substantial here, only empty souls longing and yet unsure of how to relate to one another.

I almost want to follow him. He looks so small and worried, I want to hug him. Edmundo, come with me. Let me show you my life. It’s better on this side. I promise. It’s not perfect, I’d laugh at that thought. It’s far from perfect because we may be reconciled to the creator but we are daily being reconciled to each other because we are daily pulling apart. I promise, it’s not like the Catholicism you knew as a child in Mexico. But come with me! It’s jacked up over here, it’s messy and it hurts. But there is something beautiful on this side as well. Let me introduce you to the Christian hedonists, the way we were meant to live and enjoy creation, each other and God.

Edmundo, there’s a way to live, it’s so much better than the lonely existence you know now. I don’t know what I’m doing half the time, I’m so screwed up I can hardly see straight, but there’s a sort of peace that seems to calm my spirit in the midst of the questions. I’m finally letting go and being okay with not understanding. I’m losing control and it doesn’t scare me as much as I expected. I am learning how to be loved and how to share that with others, isn’t that something you want? I’m learning it doesn’t have to be about me, that I can have a purpose outside of reputation and my self image–and it actually makes life better in a way.

Don’t you want that?

But I don’t know how to say that to him. So I slouch in my uncomfortable red chair and turn back to the tv after helplessly watching him leave the room. Michael is still chewing his tamale, Sarah is texting and I am wishing I had profound words to change the life of a man I hardly know.

What do you mean?

This would be the update on my life, care of “Facebook” status:

Sara Bibb yells at her knees a lot lately: “no! you will NOT hurt at mile one! Just wait, gosh dangit. Wait until mile three and then you can be crabby all you want!” But no more. Now I’m wearing too much money on my feet, all for the pleasure of my old woman knees.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Tonight, I dropped about 100 dollars on a pair of running shoes. And that was after the coupon. But I hadn’t bought shoes in about 2 years, and it was just time. So I’m going to run tomorrow, and we’ll see how well I spent my money.

And then I was out with my mum tonight, looking at Christmas presents. And all I can do is see other countries. Everywhere. We were in Macy’s, and here’s how it went:

I saw a scarf thing that didn’t have ends, it was a circle. I looked a little confused as I held it up and said to my mum, “it’s like… 1/8th of a sarong?” (with correct pronunciation, thank you very much)*

There was a scarf with swirls and paisley things and also those little checks that Caitlin’s yellow scarf has. And I said, “what? This is a mismatched scarf. It’s like, Pashmina, plus a little France.”

Or the red checkered thing that was gathered at various increments. “Um, I think they tried the Palestinan scarf thing here that Urban Outfitters brought to the US… and it failed miserably.”

Or the sweater vest that I swooned over “ahh, mama, it’s like Scotland.” (yes, a sweater vest can be Scotland)

Or the floppy hat I put on and asked my mum, “do I look French? Or just goofy?”**

Or the gloves that were black and leather and made me think of the mafia and dark alleys.

Or the fact that the man who checked us out at the cashier’s stand just looked… so American.

And on the way home, while I dreamed about homemade chai and worried about work in the morning, it struck me.

I don’t know that I belong here, exactly. But what do you mean, I don’t belong here? Where do I belong, if not here?

Well, it’s not a new thought. But there’s suddenly some more evidence for it.

_________________________________________

*I also yelled at my dad in Indonesian the other day. Because that’s not weird at all.

**I am aware that to some of you, “French” and “goofy” may be interchangeable terms.

A Very Merry Visit

This weekend a friend came to visit me and it was the best thing ever! We hardly did anything at all which was wonderful. She arrived on Thursday while I was at work, making small talk with customers and watching Cody freak out that his drawer was $849 over. I helped balance the vault and handled more money than I’ll ever make in my lifetime. And at 645 I shot out that door and on down to Lincoln road. I made the normal 26 minute drive out to be 19 minutes, and I hardly even had to speed!

Amanda was a good sport waiting for me on Thursday night and again on Friday morning. We had a delightful weekend of baking cookies, wandering over the Rocky Mountains to find the perfect Christmas tree and a lot of laughter. Amanda is a great friend, she lived across the hall from me at school one year and just down the hall during our second. I did laundry at her apartment our third year and we spent sometime crying on her couch while my clothes tossed in the dryer. She texted me in a peeved sort of manner when she had an awkward moment with Anthony–not knowing we’d broken up. And this weekend she hugged me and said it was all going to work out in the long run, someway, somehow.

It was great to have a friend who wanted to see me, talk with me and listen to me. She didn’t mind that I had other comitments and that we had to twist our schedule around my new job and my family’s car situation. She was fine to sit at home, happy to be in a coffee shop, content to be cheap and willing to hug me all the time.

Christmas time is here. Happiness and Cheer. This past weekend it was wrapped up in the package of snuggly Amanda. This coming weekend it’ll be in the shape of a five month old nephew in the arms of my awesome brother and sister in law.

And when my schedule slows down, we’ll chat about the other nifty things going on. Like Kacie and Kyle and Daniel and Ghena.

oh, and the Messiah. We can’t forget him. I’m pretty excited for Christmas, I feel like a little kid sometimes, wanting to jump up and down and tell the whole world: Jesus is coming! Jesus is coming! The world is soon to be set to rights! He’s on his way!

The “Christmas” Spirit

This is a shirt that was recently offered on woot.com. Enjoy.

In Europe, Santa’s not the only one watching

You know what’s missing from the holiday season? Unimaginable horror.

Parents, let’s be honest. The threat of coal no longer works. No matter how low the kids’ math scores are, no matter how many times you’ve told them to clean thier rooms only to be ignored, they know as well as you do that they are still going to have presents under the tree. Even if you actually go through with it, the biggest reaction you’ll get is a snicker, a smirk, and a “Cute, Mom. Now make with the Xbox.” What’s the parent of a pampered American brat to do?

Let’s take a page from the people of Old Europe. For hundreds of years, they’ve relied on good old fashion fear to keep their children in line. Fear of this switch-swingin’, kid-snatchin’ goat demon, the Krampus.

You see, long ago, Santa had himself a dark helper who would go door to door with him on his gift-giving mission. When he arrived, if you were a good boy or girl, you’d get a nice present. If you were bad, Old St. Nick would sigh, shake his head, and then sic his demon assistant on you. The naughty child would then be terrorized, beaten, locked in chains, and, as a service to the parents, I’m guessing, put in the Krampus’ own magic sack of inescapable horrors to be taken away, all while Santa finished up the cookies and milk.

Even today in some countries, men clad in goat’s fur and masks will roam the streets at Christmas time, ringing bells and rattling chains as frightened children fall to their knees begging not to be taken. Now that’s what I call pro-active community child-rearing. Sure, it’s not a tradition for everybody, but I bet the parents of those kids never have to worry about who’s going to help with the dishes over the holidays.

Wear this shirt: in line for your local mall Santa. You’re bound to get a few children asking about it, and you’ll be more than happy to tell them, won’t you?

Don’t wear this shirt: in front of your Great Uncle Olaf. His brother was taken away by a Krampus, you know.

This shirt tells the world: “Oh, you thought those hooves on the roof were reindeer. How quiant. Now get in the sack.”

We call this color: Khristmas Krampus Krimson

smallish announcements

Yesterday I had my first day of “work” at Wells Fargo.

I have a new page on here: it’s called “Causes” I’ll update it every so often, so you should check it out! Things that are near and dear to my heart that you too can support.

It’s SNOWING. On the website! Yep, you’re not imagining those funny white dots soaring across your screen. They really are there! I wanted to share the wintertime with you, and I love the holiday cheer that comes from snow. Even if it didn’t snow in Bethlehem, even if it was hot and sweaty, lights glowing beneath freshly fallen snow always makes me thing about Christmas time and Jesus.

Praise Him, Praise Him

From The Village Church:

Matt Chandler recognized his surgeon and was responding well after a seven-hour surgery to remove a brain tumor. The operation started at 2:30 p.m. on Friday.

The tumor’s pathology report, originally thought to be available on Friday, is not expected until next week. Doctors were pleased with the surgery, especially after Matt responded to questions in recovery. He will remain in the hospital for a few days before being released. His wife, Lauren, is staying with him. Full recovery is expected to take several weeks.

On behalf of the church, we thank God for Dr. David Barnett, for his skill and thoroughness of the surgery.

Evidences of God’s grace abounded throughout the day, as people from all over the world prayed and fasted. A young woman came to faith through this situation, and time and time again, everyone responded with prayers and testimonies of God’s goodness and mercy.

We will continue to post updates as they become available. Thank you for your continued prayers. Praise God for His grace. Praise Him. Praise Him.

Confession

I would marry a Jewish man just so I could be married under a prayer shawl.

Direct quote from talking with Becca:

“Some girls get excited about shoes and purses. I get excited about Jews and verses.”

Also: an update on the pastor I podcast from Texas–Matt Chandler. He saw the neurosurgeon yesterday and is having surgery on Friday to remove a tumor from his frontal lobe. The surgeon is very confident about the procedure and recovery. Please keep him in your prayers that God would heal him and more than that, God would use this in the lives of many for his glory. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I think it’s important. Many in the church community are going to fast and pray on Friday, if you can do that, it’d be awesome. If not, please just be praying for Matt, his wife Lauren and their kiddos.

A most interesting Tuesday

The computer screen flickered to life. As the dial twisted on the speakers, a soft buzzing crackled in the chill autumn air that warned of a coming storm. The window overlooking the street gave a beautiful view but a terrible draft. She opened an internet page and typed in where she wanted to go. Of course, it wasn’t really where she wanted to go, simply a page that showed her the life she wanted as she struggled not to live vicariously through the pictures and thoughts of others.

With frayed nerves thanks to ealier stress, she opened her inbox, only to discover a most mysterious message. It was not hte content, for that was simply put and clearly stated: How are you? We are thinking of you and praying for you. Hope things are well. The usual nonsense from a person reaching out but with nothing specific to say. It was the sender that made the message curious.

Her heart lept in fearful joy. She had never expected to hear from this person, but here they were, inviting her to communicate and expressing friendly love. Her hands rushed to the keys and she hurriedly typed out a reply. She had never typed so fast as she did now, almost afraid that the message would suddenly disappear and with it, the relationship. Frantically and joyfully she replied that things were well, if not a little difficult now and then. She had few complaints, a job, a shelter, love and a little hope. All her plans had come to naught and she found herself in a place completely foreign even in its familiarity. But she was well enough, interested and slightly unsure about what strange blessings the future might hold. In her excitement, she wrote a short novel back to the friend whose community she had missed. Anxiously, she pressed down the button to send and waited. Lunch went by, a phone call, a few hours, and then with one forlorn refreshing of the page: there it was! A reply to her own! Greedily she ate up the words, about the school, about the family, the state-side meetings, the beauty of a place she’d never been and all the questions he had for her.

Ecstatic about the response she wrote a second reply for the day–longer, more convoluted and more open. Perhaps it would be too much, too soon in the early correspondence. But he had asked and she would answer. He had a daughter of his own, he served in ministry most of his life, surely he wouldn’t mind her mentioning a few questions about God and ministry. If anyone could understand, surely he would be one for the job. So she wrote back, clicked “send” with a little more confidence and then waited.

She went to work, went to a friend’s, drank too much coffee and drove home far too late in the evening amid hail becoming snow. And when she arrived at home, what sat there, waiting for her? A newsletter about the school that she had requested, complete with pictures of smiling children and a list of ways to serve.

A most discouraging morning ended with a most encouraging night. Becuase Uncle Wally wrote me, totally out of hte blue, and totally unhindered by the fact that I had broken up with Anthony–who is almost a part of Wally’s family. I could have cried, I could have jumped for joy. I told Ghena about it over coffee tonight, laughing about other things and feeling the ache of the stitches on my temple. And I was so humbled and honoured that Uncle Wally and Aunt Joan are praying and thinking of me–all the way from Papua.