Living the Forrest Gumpy Life

Yesterday was my first day on my own negotiating the streets of Tijuana, with only a hiking GPS and my instincts to direct me to which path to take.

I knew the day would come, but I didn’t expect it to be so soon. My mission yesterday was to gather information about  the families that Casa de Amor sponsors. Like my past visits to TJ, I expected to go with a chaperone/driver. But my ride to Tijuana had meetings all day, so I decided it was time to go on my own. After all how hard could’ve been right? I mean, I know how to drive (in a straight line); I had a GPS (the old hiking kind); and I could ask for directions without a language barrier (following those directions a little bit more tricky).

It took me 45 minutes to find the first home in one of the most challenging neighborhoods in Tijuana (unfortunately I’ve been told there are worse ones). The worst part was figuring out if what laid before me was an attempt of a dirt road, or a path created by surface runoff. I’m not a very confident driver, but when I saw a truck making it through the treacherous road, I had to trust that it was intended for driving and that all I needed was to follow the way the other driver had taken.

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The experience got me thinking of how life is a bigger version of those 45 minutes (I had a lot of time to think on my two hour border wait on the way back to the States).

In life, we don’t always know what’s around the corner or like an even more cliché yet fabulous metaphor: “Life is Box of Chocolates. You Never Know What You are Going to Get,” Forrest Gump’s Mom.

Life might require course corrections, backing ups and turn arounds. Some times we get ourselves in trouble for not asking for directions or because you can’t remember if you were told whether you needed to turn right or turn left at the second tree whose leaves were facing North, or did they say South, or was it the fifth tree?. (Maybe facetious, but if you’ve been given directions in Mexico you know what I’m talking about)

Sometimes we have to deal with the blind spots, broken AC, and bad radio reception… Ok, the last two are not really metaphorical and really a little bit of a complaint of yesterday’s experience. But seriously, we have to double check the blind spots in our lives otherwise we might run over someone if we are only focusing on where we are going and not where we are.

And some times you just have to go for it. Of course it helps to find those with the experience to mentor you, in order to follow their tracks so to speak to reduce uncertainty and risk. Yet nothing is guaranteed and no one is going to make it across the ravine for you.

Of course I could’ve gotten stuck in a hole and more than once I thanked God that it wasn’t raining season, that would definately could’ve make it worse.

Our journeys in life are often times delayed by difficulty designed to make us desist in our journey (I considered re-routing to the next home in my list in an easier neighborhood or to come another day). But when you got a clear mission. In my case yesterday was to get at least five interviews. The farther you go the harder it is to quit, and in some cases even if you try there is no going back.

And even if no one would’ve been home at the time, at least I would’ve known how to get there next time.

 

 

 

Catching Up on The Journey

IMG_3819It’s been a long time since I visited the blog that I had a hard time logging back into wordpress, struggling to remember my password.

I quit writing in part because I couldn’t physically,  then I got really busy and distracted. Also the longer I waited to put notes to keys the harder time I was having to come up with the right series of words to illustrate where the journey to Amor has taken me.

First of all and in case the picture hasn’t given it away I’m officially the new Social Media Specialist for Amor Come Build Hope. For how it all started you can go here.

Although I have not raise enough support via fundraising I was still able to come on board because my colleges at Amor decided I was key for the new direction the organization is taking by giving part of their own salaries to subsidize mine until I’m able to raise more. Technically each month as I gain new supporters, my support from Amor will decrease until I’m fully sponsored, for that reason I still need your generous donations. (Go to https://www.amor.org/give/staff and input my name FJOH in the comment box and let me know so we can stay in touch). 

But that’s not the whole story and I wish I could come up with the words and really say how much has been placed in my heart in the last weeks. My hope is that my rambling makes sense.

A month ago I was preparing for a small surgery, so small that the technical term is a procedure. A hernia no bigger than a dime developed after my last pregnancy (my baby just turned 4) and I decided to take care of it taking advantage of my time off (a.k.a unemployment). I was told it was a simple surgery, which it didn’t mean a simple recovery. The following two weeks became the most grueling, humbling, painful weeks of my life, but in an incredibly ironic paralel in my disability many opportunities and projects I had been working on reached fruition and despite my affliction it was time to act.

As I was heading into the O.R. my husband turned to me cognizant of my terror for everything hospitaly and gave me a hug, I took a deep breath and prayed a silent prayer, your will be done. I know a little bit dramatic.

Upon my return, I felt like I had taken the best nap in the world and I was ready to get into action. After 10 months of transformation I was coming out of my cocoon.

When we got home I noticed that I had a voicemail from a guy named Chris, inviting me to join him as a Youth leader to take a group of high school students from Newbreak for a one week-long trip down to San Jose, Costa Rica to partner with an organization called Latin American Child Care (LACC).  He said he had heard good things about me (always a good thing to hear out of surgery) besides the fact that I’m bilingual and that I had recently developed a heart for Missions, made me an excellent candidate.

I felt like it was another appointment that God had prepared for me. So needless to say I’m going to Costa Rica in less than two weeks. Which by the way, although my fare has been covered there is still time if you want to support a youth to donate towards their trip by contacting chris@newbreak.org. The info about the trip is here. (I realized I’ve become shameless, but you don’t have to give if you don’t want to, but part of my job as a social media specialist includes the getting used to ask you to exercise your giving muscles.)

By evening time though, the medication began fading and was replaced by the most excruciating physical torture I’ve ever endured (and I’m counting here labor pains sans meds). Two days followed where I feared I would loose my mind, a mix of the medication that barely took the edge off and the pain that despite the medication showed it’s ugly face. A cycle of pain, numbness, confusion and the wall that took me back to the torment.

I was eager to get back on my feet, for the first time I had kept a running program for longer than a couple of months. I was eager to get back because I was going to Costa Rica, and I was eager to get back because my husband was leaving in a couple of days for a business trip and we did not make arrangements to care for our children or for me for that matter (I didn’t expect the extend of the disability).

The worst part were the six days following the surgery, specially the last three because my husband left on his trip and I had to make do. Fortunately and despite my lack of preparation asking for help, my mother in Law and my step mother in Law stepped up to the plate, helping me where they could. I also discovered or rather rediscover the beauty of 11 year son’s spirit and his work ethic. Much like his dad he has an amazing heart. He anticipated my needs and without being asked took upon himself the hardest task of putting his little sister in bed every night. To save myself some writing and because God synced me with similar stories I want to share something I read which feels like a version of what it is to go on the road of recovery for any care taker here.

I want to think those weeks also make me a more compassionate person. Not because I understand pain better, but because I was able to grasp the full scope of emotions from loneliness to gratitude and then most importantly surrendering. It is true that part of the problem of not getting more help was because I wanted to take care of things myself. That is my default mechanism: Independence, self-sufficiency. God had shown me how broken  my default mechanism really is, but this time the lesson was absolute. I needed Him; I needed others; I needed something I could not give my self. I forgave my self and began to reach out and with each reaching out healing began. I prayed, because I was surrendering my pain, but mostly through all I learned to give thanks for each act of love, even if it was small, it was enough more than enough.

As I began healing we received the sad news that my husband’s grandfather, a man whom I admire and love deeply for his strength and soul, had to have an emergency gallbladder surgery. The same day I found out, I was given the fabulous news about my start date with Amor.

 “No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on. And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.” Rick Warren 

The following weeks are mostly a haze in my memory between visiting grandpa at the hospital, which very quickly made me forget any pain I had felt, and trying to rush to give my kids their last days of a very hurried fun summer before their mom headed back to work. Fortunately, and despite several complications, grandpa has a fabulous prognosis. He’s back on his feet, and although he still doesn’t look like his old self and has yet to get his swagger back, I feel confident he might even come back with a vengeance and I expect to see him soon back on the green.

As for Amor, I’ve been working at the office for one week and all I can say it’s a match made in heaven. I feel privileged to continue writing a story of Love and encourage people to follow and bravely act upon the call of Come Build Hope.

Everyone at Amor has an important job for the future of the ministry. You can be part of that vision by supporting me with a monthly donation, a one-time gift or by committing to pray for me to meet my needs to continue my employment with Amor.

You can make your donation online at https://www.amor.org/give/staff, just make sure to put designation “other” and input my name in the comment box.

You can also send a check at 1664 Precision Park Lane, San Diego, CA 92173 and put my name in the memo line (FJOH).  Or call 619.662.1200 to make a donation on my behalf.

Thank you for your support and God Bless,

Donations: It’s not all about the Economy Stupid

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Like you might know I’m in the process of raising funds to support my work with an amazing organization, Amor Ministries.

It definitely has been a journey. With its mountaintops and its valleys. At this point I’m thrilled because after a relatively long period of not being able to raise any money, money has started to come in again.

I won’t lie, it’s been a dry period and it made me question the utility of it all. I read a couple of books on fund raising, blogs and a book on giving; I’ve sent letters to friends, family and acquaintances; I contacted my church; I contacted other churches around San Diego; I prayed; and I asked for advice from elders. I reached the end of myself and I was getting tired.

Then temptation to start looking elsewhere crept in. I figured that if I was to get a “normal job” I could donate towards Amor and be more helpful. How pretentious of me. God never asked me for my money (at least not on this case. After we did our taxes last month, we realized we had not given as much as we would like). He asked me to use my God given talent and my faith.

Amor is His doing. I’m just the vehicle and I must let go, surrender.  And that was the message I got last month when I went to a women’s retreat with Newbreak. And I’m so grateful that during that trip I was without distraction to practice being in His presence. How wise was God to fill me up with His Joy. He knew I needed my vase filled up with His spirit to continue the journey.

He also asked me to take a break: To do nothing (I’ll share more about the experience in another post). How counterintuitive with our culture and my makeup is that?

Do nothing? As a wannabe athlete I’m well familiarized with the phrase “Good things come to those who work their [buttocks] off.” Maybe I should make more cold calls, follow up on my contacts (really good advice from my dad who’s been on sales most of his life), send flyers to my neighbors (I only know a handful), what about a fundraising party (please let me know if this sounds like fun and if you would like to give me advice on how to go about it), anyway you get the idea.

But I yielded and I stopped leaning on my own understanding.  During this time I’ve shared my vase with others. I’ve been running more (super excited of reaching my personal best), gone on more outings with my kids, explored my artistic side, planned a party I hosted last week, and I’ve been more available for my friends. Doing and enjoying those things when I have something to accomplish would normally turned me into a basket case, but I actually did it, anxiety free.

Yesterday my latest numbers came in. First of all, the small recurring donations have added up, thank you very much for your faithfulness, you are bringing me closer and sustain my faith.

And secondly one person very close to me made a sacrificial donation. I know it’s sacrificial because her husband just recently lost his job. It overwhelmed me. I wanted to give it back. And then it hit me. How conceited of me. I don’t know how God plans to bless her. I know God multiplies and I can’t ask for abundance for others or me from a poverty mentality.

I know her gift has already blessed me. It reminded me, actually, for the first time it made me understand I’m not alone on this journey.

This might be a blog about the journey of how an unexceptional woman goes into joining a great non-profit to build homes to the poor, but actually this is our journey. To you who reads this and encourages me from the sidelines, to you who gave what was asked from you faithfully even when you might be scared, and to you who becomes encouraged by these lines, for these lines are my gift back to you.

It’s amazing what someone believing in you can do. I sometimes doubt myself. I don’t know how I will be able to come with the rest of the money, but I must keep putting one foot in front the other. I’ll go to battle, no matter how woefully unprepared I feel. Like for Gideon, God has a plan. And like Gideon, I’m not alone.

 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you,mighty warrior.”

 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” Judges 6:12-16 NIV

I pray God’s gentle hand directs me to whatever is next.

 

Everyone at Amor has an important job for the future of the ministry. You can be part of that vision by supporting me with a monthly donation, a one-time gift or by committing to pray for me to meet my needs to continue my employment with Amor.

You can make your donation online at https://www.amor.org/give/staff, just make sure to put designation “other” and input my name in the comment box.

You can also send a check at 1664 Precision Park Lane, San Diego, CA 92173 and put my name in the memo line (FJOH).  Or call 619.662.1200 to make a donation on my behalf.

Thank you for your support and God Bless,