Monday, December 26, 2011

Remembering Lidia

For two and a half weeks I had spent most of my time filling out applications for cleaning positions at hotels, barista jobs at Starbucks, super-sizing at McDonald's...  I had drove, walked, and gotten lost all over the city of Milwaukee in pursuit of anyone who would hire me for the summer. 

With only four and a half weeks left in Milwaukee to work, I was beginning to grow disheartened.  I had many people praying for me and cheering me on.  I also had a new energy and purpose after realizing that God didn't want me to work for Him, He wanted to work through me.  There was a reason I hadn't gotten a job yet... I just didn't know what that reason was and my faith was beginning to falter.

Then, my two friends who I had been job-searching with, were hired!  I was so excited for them... but I still wanted (and needed) a job!  One of the staff members who had been cheering me on called her cousin on a long shot... maybe she would be willing to hire me on as a temp?

I met with Aimee, the staff member's cousin and Milwaukee temp placement agent, to fill out paperwork at Starbucks and learn that I would begin working for a fulfillment company in New Berlin the next day.  Apparently I was hired... just like that!

My first day... I was nervous, but so grateful.  Good wages, full-time hours.  It was a bit of a drive, but I had a job. 

When I arrived, I was told that I would be shadowing Carmen... but she was late.  I would have to work with Lidia until Carmen could work with me.

I was brought over to a group of tables, with boxes grouped all around it.  I was introduced to Lidia by the manager, and was told that I would be a "packer," while Lidia did the "picking."  The manager showed me how to pack a couple of boxes, then left me alone to figure out the rest.  Um, what?  You can bet that I was praying like crazy that God would help me to do this job and learn it quickly!

I tried to ask Lidia a few questions, but she gave short answers.  She seemed upset... probably because the new girl had been pushed on her and would slow her down.  I felt bad, but also intimidated that her English did not seem to be that great.

After about an hour (where I'm sure I spent more time looking helpless and lost than actually being productive), Carmen arrived.  Lidia stepped over to her table and there was a quick, loud exchange of Spanish.  I didn't really know what was going on, but I ended up staying with Lidia for the rest of the day.  Throughout the day, I kept trying to ask Lidia questions to get to know her better, as I figured I might be working with her often.  To my surprise, she offered up something to me that I did not expect.  She told me, "My daughters are about your age and they do not respect me.  I get so angry with them."

Ohh, I was so excited to be done with my first day!  I was mentally exhausted by learning a new job - figuring out how to pack different items from infomercials into boxes to be shipped to customers - physically exhausted from bending, lifting, and standing for 7 hours, and emotionally exhausted from the spiritually dark work environment that I had entered.  Stepping out the door and finding my car was a welcome sight!  I sped back to tell my friend Andrea all that had happened.  What a day!

In the days and weeks to come, I did work more with Lidia and prayed to make the most of my opportunities with her.  I learned about her family and asked her to help me learn Spanish.  I could tell that she was warming up to me, and appreciated that I was learning my job quickly at the same time.

We began to have spiritual conversations as we worked.  When I asked her what she thought about God, she told me, "I don't think about God."  She had grown up going to church with her mother, but her mother died when she was young and she stopped going.  Her sister-in-law had tried to take her to church, but it seemed too emotional for her.  Everyone screamed and fell down, but she didn't feel anything.  There were rules that they wanted her to follow, but she did not want to be forced into anything.

Oh, my heart ached for Lidia to know the God who created her and loved her!  One day, I mentioned to Lidia that I used to be an angry kid.  She was shocked - she tried to convince me that it couldn't be true.  I began to tell her my story of how Jesus had showed me the hurt that my anger was bringing and that He was the one who began to change my heart.  He began to soften me and fill me with His love.  Her face showed amazement.  I told her that God wanted to take her anger, too.  He was offering her forgiveness and unfailing love.  I asked Lidia to consider this offer.

At the end of the week, I gave Lidia a small booklet that explained the gospel.  I was so nervous, yet I knew it was not up to me to change her heart.  The next week, I asked Lidia what she thought of the booklet.  She told me "it was the most beautiful thing I've ever read."  She told me that she had prayed to trust Jesus as her Lord and Savior!  I was so excited!!  Lidia was now my sister in Christ!  We had known each other for just two and a half short weeks, but I had seen Lidia come from death unto life. 

Two and a half weeks I had searched and prayed for a job, and God provided!
Two and a half weeks I had prayed for boldness in sharing the gospel with Lidia and for her salvation, and God provided!

In the week and a half that followed, which was all I had left of my job for the summer, I shared with Lidia about what was now true of her in Christ.  We dreamed of heaven together, and laughed over my terrible Spanish together.  It was such a sweet time!

Since then, I've seen Lidia twice.  She thanked me so much for bringing joy and love to her life.  I had the chance to meet one of her daughters and her grandson.

It's been over 3 years now since I've seen or heard from Lidia... she has probably moved - perhaps back to Mexico.  But I cannot stop thinking about her life and praying for her impact for God's kingdom.  I can't wait to see Lidia in heaven and hear all that God did through her in her life!

Looking back, I am so amazed that God would have used me - a 19 year old college student, quiet and meek - to reach a 43 year old Hispanic woman, reserved and apathetic toward God.  I love thinking back on all of the conversations that I had with Lidia - and with the other people who worked at that factory.  I wonder at how God wove the fabrics of our lives together.  I pray that God may continue to multiply my life and Lidia's life!  I love to remember Lidia.  Her memory always brings me to worship Jesus again.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Winter Collage

I'm very fond of writing in rhyme, so let me share with you how I've been spending my time:
Cheering for the Pack at a Monday night game, the Vikings sure lost - and that's not a shame!
Boxes of Love came and went in a flash- with our church partners, we made quite a splash
Spending time with my friends in so many ways, from coffee to cooking and to Christmas plays
There's probably more I could add to this post, but keeping things simple is what I value most :)
At the game with some of my team: Jeff & Sarah, Kara, Me

I taught an evangelism training at Boxes of Love for our ministry partners

Kara and Tang are not only part of the HLIC staff team, they are also my roomies!

Our photographer cued us for different emotions... this was tired.

Scared... although, Tang looks a little too happy to be scared :)

Keepin' it real in the hood.


Life Light Up - HLIC Mission and Vision

Check out this slideshow that I put together to describe the ministry of Here's Life Inner City.  It gives a great picture of what we're all about!

Life Light Up - HLIC Mission and Vision

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hope Changes Everything

This past Friday night, over 80 people gathered for a night of fellowship and encouragement to hear what God is doing through the ministry of Here's Life Inner City and our partner ministries in Milwaukee.  It was an awesome evening filled with testimonies of how lives have been changed by the hope that Jesus brings.  We also presented our financial needs for the coming year and saw the Lord provide.

Thank you for your prayers!

I worked on putting together a video slideshow of the mission and vision of our ministries that we played at the event, but unfortunately it's not working for me to load it to this site.  We're working on putting it up on our website, so once that is complete, I'll attach a link so that you may enjoy it.  :)

In the meantime... just because I love pictures and don't think a post is complete without them, here are some recent pics with my niece, Julia, and nephew, Ben.  (I told Ben to be silly... this is what I got.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Enjoying Fall!

I am totally loving fall!  There have been some exciting things happening here - including my dear friend Andrea, who is on my staff team, having her twins in late September!  They've been in the NICU and I still have yet to see them in person, but I hope to meet them next week when they come home... Lord willing!  A week before baby boy (SD) and baby girl (EG) came into the world, a group of ladies came together to shower Andrea with lots of gifts, fun, and love. 

I've also been enjoying getting into a "normal" schedule and having time to bond with my roomies and other friends.  Above is my friend Kara who is also my roommate and my trainer.  She gets to spend a lot of time with me, so it's good that we get along.  :)

Our team is small and is really more of a family, so I get the privilege of spending a lot of time with my director's kids.  HB is a little 3.5 year old cutie and has 3 brothers, so she eats up the time that she gets to spend with girl friends.  She likes to tell me, "you're my friend a lot."  Totally adorable!  And of course, her mama is wrapped around her little finger.  Sarah has been such an encouragement to me through the transition to this team and a new season of life.  I'm so blessed to be among such awesome people!

Another fun part of my fall has been spending time with some friends that I originally met in Milwaukee during our summer missions project.  We all moved to Milwaukee this year.  Shira (left in red) and Emily (right in red) are serving with CityYear, a branch of Americorps, to work as tutors and mentors in inner city schools.  Their roommate, Courtney (far left), is student teaching in Milwaukee.  We've been enjoying the fall by cheering on the Packers together and going pumpkin picking.

This past weekend, I went with Kara to her hometown of Montello, where we visited with her parents and I was able to see many friends from Madison who were at a Christian camp there for Cru's fall retreat.  It was such a fun and refreshing weekend - especially seeing all the beautiful fall colors!  ...and of course, the famous Granite Falls in Montello.  :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Getting Here

It's interesting to me that I now live in Milwaukee and feel totally at home here.  Growing up, I used to play for a soccer club that would often require travel to the Milwaukee area.  My parents probably drove me to Milwaukee at least every other weekend - if not every weekend.  At that age, I didn't really know where I was, though, and now realize that we traveled to many suburbs of Milwaukee (specifically I remember Cedarburg, Brookfield, and Delafield)... but I was hardly ever in the city.

I wish I had pictures from those years on my computer... my team was the Middleton Fire.  We had some of the ugliest jerseys imaginable - yellow and blue in kind of a checkered pattern.  Okay, maybe there are worse... but none are coming to mind.

My senior year of high school, I had a friend who went to Marquette University whom I visited several times throughout the year.  It's funny to me now that I was literally blocks away from the office I now work in - in a neighborhood that she had warned me to stay away from.

I continued to travel to Milwaukee for soccer throughout high school.  At the end of my senior year, my varsity soccer team went to the state tournament at Uihlein Stadium and we won first place.  The year before, I had broken my nose at that tournament and we wound up 4th.  I was glad to have ended high school on a better note.

As a freshman in college, I began to visit my boyfriend at UW-Milwaukee monthly... the drive from Madison became very familiar and I grew very excited at seeing landmarks like Miller Park and Martin Luther King Jr Blvd that told me I was getting close to his apartment.  I remember driving up and down Oakland Ave quite often, and even spending several cold hours in my car outside of Noodles, listening to Fernando Ortego over and over while I waited for him to get out of class.

But after he transferred to Madison our sophomore year, the visits to Milwaukee stopped.

For whatever reason, though, God brought me back the summer after my sophomore year to experience one of the most impactful, memorable, and cherished seasons of my life.  That was the beginning of my experience with Here's Life Inner City and a group of people who lived out the gospel like I had never seen before.

Fast forward through countless visits back for fun, for volunteering, for comfort, for truth and grace... and here I am.  So different than when I first came, yet struggling with some of the same things.  So similar to when I first came, and yet seeing how much deeper and sweeter my ties not only to Milwaukee have become, but also to my friends here and to the truth of the gospel.  I'm so thankful for this opportunity to be in this city and to learn.  I have so much to learn! 

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Life of Job

Since the beginning of 2011 I've been on this kick of reading the Old Testament.  I know for most it can be the driest part of the Bible to read, but I've actually really been loving it.  In fact, reading through the book of Numbers became one of the favorite parts of my daily routine!  Probably strange, I know, but it was just so cool to see more of God's character through His interactions with His chosen people.

A few days ago, I just finished reading Job (now you may be thinking... 9 months and you've only gotten through Job?  Well, yes... but I've been reading other things too!).  There was a side note in my Bible about Job's reply to the Lord after the Lord finally appeared to Him.  It highlighted that Job was still in a pathetic state (children died, blistered body, poverty-stricken) when he recognized his folly in questioning God and submitted himself to God's will.

Then Job replied to the LORD:
  “I know that you can do all things;
   no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
  You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
   Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
   things too wonderful for me to know.
“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
   I will question you,
   and you shall answer me.’
  My ears had heard of you
   but now my eyes have seen you.
  Therefore I despise myself
   and repent in dust and ashes.” - Job 42:1-6

I feel like I've been questioning God lately about why I've had to go through some of the things I've gone through, feeling like I deserved an answer.  But God has been so faithful and continued to bless me in ways that show me His love, even though it is not required of Him.  I think I need to learn more from Job and see that even in the hard places, God is still in control and wants me to submit to His will.  God's love for me is incredible.  I want to be able to accept it with an open mind and heart.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Awkward, but true

So, I have 3 nephews and a niece all under the age of 5.  They are pretty stinkin' cute.  But they are just growing up so quickly!  The eldest is just a few months shy of turning 5 and I keep thinking about how this is the age that I really can start remembering back to.  And let me tell you... there are some awkward memories.

Like that time when I had a clown suit for dress up.  It was navy blue with white polka dots and had cute colored yarn puff balls that ran up the middle of it like buttons.  I think my mother may have made it.  Well, there was one day when I was around 4 that I got quite angry.  I can't even remember about what, but I do remember going down to the basement with that clown suit and letting it have the brunt of my anger by ripping it in two.  Not a proud moment to look back on, but pretty accurate in terms of how I acted out as a child.
This is 4th grade...right on the verge of the real awkward phase of life.  I'm the one in the plaid, if you weren't sure :)
Ah yes, or a little later on, like in 4th grade at our school's annual "Skate-a-Thon."  We spent the day at a roller rink, showing off and getting blistered feet.  There was a group of boys in my class who were very close.  I had a crush on one of them with brown, wavy hair; a beautiful smile; and soccer skills I was envious of.  Well, a few of these boys skated up to me and said, "Phil wants to hold your hand and skate with you."  Phil?!  He was the tallest boy in our class with dark brown hair, lanky arms, and big teeth.  I did not have a crush on Phil.  Flustered, I said, "Well, he'll have to catch me!"  And I quickly took off skating... but it was a loop - where in the world did I think I was going?  He never did catch me.

And like that time in fifth grade when I was a new student at an elementary school.  It was recess and I was playing on the monkey bars with some friends when a group of boys came over.  I knew they were friends of the boy (Jack) in my class whom I found most annoying because he had to make a comment about everything.  They said to me, "Hey - Jack wants to know your phone number."  They laughed among themselves as my face flushed.  Eager to get attention off of myself I responded, "it's 911!"  They quickly turned to run after poor Jack and tell him of how I had crushed his pride.

Or that time in sixth grade when I had a month to work on building a model of a castle.  Day 1 : I got a piece of green construction paper for the land it would sit on.  Days 2-28 : I probably sat around watching tv. Day 29 : Reminder in school that the castle was due the next day.  Panic.  Stayed up late and got up early to construct a shoddy gray construction paper castle.  I began walking to school, with the glue still wet and it collapsed before I got to the end of the block.  I cried and turned back toward home.  My mother agreed to call the school, telling them I'd be late so that I could redo my project.  Finally, I got it to school and was relieved to get this burden out of my hands.  A few days later... I found out I got a D on my castle.  My first ever grade below a B and I was devastated and ashamed.  But I knew I totally deserved it.

These moments of my life are awkward, but true... and they're just scratching the surface.  Praise the Lord that He is making me more like Jesus each day!  I'm not done with being awkward, but at least they are more Christ-like.  He was human after all... I'm sure he ran into some awkward moments.

So... what about you?  I'd love to hear your best "awkward, but true" stories :)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Beginning a New Chapter

My dad has been continually asking me if I have updated my blog, so this one is dedicated to him.  Happy, daddy?  Well, I suppose it is about time that I update this.  I have been doing a great deal of organizing today - my clothes, my closet, my car... why not my blog?  Although that doesn't start with a 'c,' unfortunately. 

In a few short weeks I will be moving into my apartment in Milwaukee with 3 other girls.  Our neighbor, Mama Ball, apparently makes great barbeque and knows all the ins and outs of the neighborhood.  I hope to make friends with her.  :)

I'm so glad that I have a good community already waiting for me in Milwaukee.  It's exciting, but still a little unnerving, to be moving to a new city and starting a new job.  But having my friends there will be very comforting.  They're very... mature.