Monday, December 17, 2007


sometimes i come up with crazy ideas for hillcrest...mostly because after doing this thing twice a week for 7 months i'm all out of creativity. so i just try to think of what i would want to do that would require some feat of memory. presidents of the united states and their political party? countries? us capitals? Jane didn't like any of these ideas today. :) i love that woman. she has permanent burns on her hand from smoking so much...flips the camera off and tells the slow wheelchairs to get the hell out of her way....and somehow all of it just makes everyone smile. so instead of memorizing the names and political affiliations of a bunch of old dead guys, we just talked for an hour. Jane's an amazing story teller, and has such a sarcastic sense of humor. she thinks her brother's "a crazy weirdo" for loving stupid horror movies like "kaw", but she loves him anyway. Michelle's brother is a three star general (or something like that) in the marines...but when he visits his little sister he's in street clothes like anybody else...and you could just see the affection she has for him in her eyes as she told us all about him.
I met ron's brother in law when i walked in today. Bartley (sweet name). Ron's excitement was overflowing as he mouthed something to me. I had to slow him down and finally made out "i'm getting my voice back". i was confused and looked at Bartley who explained to me that they were on their way to get a computer that will be mounted on Ron's wheelchair. He'll be able to type into it and it will speak for him. I can't begin to describe the joy in his eyes. I've watched this incredibly intelligent, conscious man work and work and persistently try to tell me so many things, participate in so many games and stories...and 4 out of 5 times he has to just give up and silently mouth "pass". i've felt that frustration with him in whatever limited way that someone who has her voice could attempt to understand. and now he'll be able to communicate with the rest of the world!!!! finally he can tell us what's going on at 90 mph inside his head. I'm at a loss for words...just crazy happy and grateful.

Friday, December 7, 2007


There's this girl at COA...michelle. She's 24, mexican, long black hair, dark eyes (usually with smudged mascara and eyeliner hiding them), dresses a little provocatively. She cycles between extreme shyness where she won't look you in the eyes or seems afraid of you or talking super fast about something silly like how she likes my sweatshirt, or how she loves to drink milk. She was there the first few weeks I started back in June...and I still see her pretty consistently now.
There's this guy who started out with a stone cold face....well almost...basically anytime I tried to crack a joke or wish him a good morning he just rolled his eyes. Pretty well put together tall black man, maybe in his 40s. Always with a crisp new hat after a while I started calling out the fact that he has so many hats. and he told me they're usually new everyday (don't ask me where he gets said hats). So instead of trying to be funny or nice, i just started excitedly proclaiming that day's hat color. Somehow we've become friends. :) Wednesday and today he was pretty talkative...which for him means "so is it getting too cold out there for you?" To which i replied, "too cold to bike at least...I've been driving down here..." (which I immediately regretted...translation: my spoiled little self doesn't feel like riding my $300 bike while wearing one of many sweatshirts I have to pick from, so instead I jump into my warm car...anyways, enough about me, where'd you sleep last night in the rain??....i always struggle with this...this desire to identify with these people instead of separating myself from them. Jesus was among them!!! Moved into the lives of those he served...i digress...)

Michelle overheard this conversation about bikes and cars and started sheepishly asking about my transportation habits....and eventually got the courage to ask, "do you think you could give me a ride to the village? It's real close but it's so cold I don't want to walk". She'd been hanging out up where we serve so the steam trays would warm her. After she asked me I hesitated...looked for an excuse...told her I usually stay until 8:30....stalled, and finally couldn't find any reason to say long as she was cool with waiting until 8:30. We got in my car and as we drove off she informed me that the village doesn't open until 9. she wanted to know where I lived and if it was close...I was vague and said something like oh, it's only 10 minutes by car, 30 by bike...and this whole time I'm trying to figure out why I'm acting like such a scared little brat. She would have had to wait outside the doors so I offered to drop her off at a coffee shop, she asked me for a dime. I told her I'd give her everything in my wallet...knowing I had no more than $2 in change. Still I had no idea why i was being so reluctant....why i was avoiding giving her information...(society tells me I should be careful? watch my back? protect my stuff and worry about myself)...I had told her I had somewhere to be, but really, it was 8:30 and I didn't need to be at hillcrest till 10. so I parked and we went into the coffee shop together. She pulled out some pennies from her pocket...I told her not to worry about it. I ordered for her after she stood speechless at the counter for a while. One large hot chocolate and a small soy hot chocolate for me. I told them my name for the cups. I didn't even think about it...but she was really upset by this. she wanted her own name on her cup. what's funny is my name is michelle too...but SHELLY was all huge on her cup and I think it was mostly a sense of ownership that she wanted for that hot chocolate. who knows.
this is getting long....I'm just disturbed by my hesitancy through all of this. i kept my purse close...put it at my feet in the car instead of the console between us. didn't know what else to ask while we sat so after it got awkward I just tried to practice patience while holding my cup...she thought i was mad after a long pause, but i reassured her over and over that i was just quiet.
Jesus didn't withhold a damn thing. he wasn't afraid of being taken advantage of. he didn't care if someone stole his possessions...possessions were fluid...things are things and they have no real value. and while i'm worried about myself and my ego and whatever was going on inside of me, this girl is going on 7 months on the street or much more as far as I know. and as she says hello to a friend on the street and he eyeballs her and gives a crude, degrading response I have a feeling she's had it pretty rough out there...and her heart's very much in pain and she's been abused and mistreated and forgotten that she's a child of God. if she's ever known that. she has a brother and sister and mom and dad in new mexico. she took a greyhound out here 4 years ago. first to LA, then long beach. I don't know...don't know much at all. just wish she could go home for christmas...stay warm and dry and know that she's valued and loved. i don't know if a hot chocolate communicates love or helps to accomplish any of those things...but i hope the next time someone asks me for a ride 3 blocks away, 30 minutes of time, and a dime I don't wait so long to offer what I have.

Monday, December 3, 2007

so cold....

i'm bundled in bed with two comfortors, fuzzy red socks, purple fleece pj pants (thanks gramma), and the hood pulled up on my sweatshirt. and as i read i try to figure out a way to have my hands inside the warmth of my blankets while still holding the book in a position that is conducive to...reading.
Scott saw Phoung outside walmart a few weeks ago with one shoe on. i have no deep meaningful thoughts...just worry and heartache for her. i sat in church today doodling a manger scene through a sermon on a topic i've heard discussed over and over and then something came through loud and clear. the world is not the way that it was intended to be. and Jesus' life gave us glimpses of the kingdom that will be restored. Phoung should be sleeping in a warm bed. Anita should be able to eat all the cookies she wants without needing to be fed. Ron was meant to laugh out loud with a full rich voice instead of his silent formation of words. my gramma should be jumping on a couch as she cheers on the sooners. my dad should be able to wrestle on the floor and play catch with his grandkids. i know this leads into a big debate on what heaven is and whether or not the sooners will be there...(my gramma says yes for what it's worth)...imagining all this hurts my heart. i think it's easy for me to take in all the suffering around me and just sit with's sort of like sticky mud. you get stuck and it's miserable and you just want to escape but you can't because it covers you even as you try to walk away into your "normal" life of school and work. But something i was reading the other day painted a beautiful picture of the glimpses that Jesus offers.
Nouwen tells about his friend...
"who is so deeply connected to God that he can see joy where I expect only sadness. He travels much and meets countless people. When he returns home, I always expect him to tell me about the difficult economic situation of the countries he visited, about the great injustices he heard about, and the pain he has seen. but even though he is very aware of the great upheaval of the world, he seldom speaks of it. When he shares his experiences, he tells about he hidden joys he has discovered. He tells about a man, a woman, or a child who brought him hope and peace. He tells about little groups of people who are faithful to each other in the midst of all the turmoil. He tells about hte small wonders of God. At times I realize that I am disappointed because I want to hear "newspaper news," exciting and exhilarating stories that can be talked about among friends. but he never responds to my need for sensationalism, He keeps saying: "I saw something very small and very beatuiful, something that gave me much joy."

a few weeks ago at coa i was helping a woman get some new clothes and on my way back from showing her to the restroom i heard a beautiful stream of music coming down the stairs from an old beat up piano above. it wasn't the best playing i've ever heard...but in the place that it was in -surrounded by pain and weathered people from a weathered piano- it was heavenly. a few days ago at a christmas party anita and jane from hillcrest had some pretty outrageous make up on...lipstick on their teeth and mascara smudged all around their eyes...and they were gorgeous. and the activities were not spectacular and the gifts were humble...and love filled that place. at church today i had a very real moment of remembering my gramma. an older woman came up to a table i was at and straightened the table cloth with her elderly hands and tapped it gently just like my gramma would have seems so silly, but she was there with me for a second as i closed my eyes.
it's these moments that keep me going. which is strange...i used to operate out of a need to see this horrific suffering eradicated. a desperate pain that needed to be removed...and when i realized that there was just more pain to be discovered i eventually burnt out and gave up in my heart and continued the work out of obligation or guilt. But when i accept that this world is broken...i can move on from there and take joy and find hope in those glimpses of the kingdom...not even a kingdom that will come...but moments when a bit of the kingdom is right here among us.
and these are the glimpses that lead me to wait with anticipation for Jesus and the restoration that is to come.