Catching Up- an update

So I've been MIA from my blog for a few months. To get back on track I thought I would give an update on some of the stories I've shared in the past.  Here is what has been going on in our neighborhood, I'll give you the good news first:

  • We are celebrating with my friend who I wrote about being simaltaneously detained by ICE and recognized by the City Council for our her community service.      After a two year legal process she was able to obtain a U visa to live and work in the US.  She is studying for her GED and looking for jobs.  She continues to be one of our strongest neighborhood leaders.           
  •  The family who wason the brink of getting their legal documents was not able to get their long term employer to sign the papers and their case fell out of the process.  My neighbor left that job after 21 years with the company that refused to acknowledge his contribution.  It has been hard finding another job and last week his wife called to ask me for help with the rent.   They continue to struggle and have missed their window of opportunity to legalize their status.
  •  While I haven't had any calls from neighbors hiding in closets, I had dinner with a neighbor this week who is renting a closet to live in for $150 a month.  She is working but the hours are sparse and her work is far from her house.  The gas prices are taking a toll.  The other night she told me, "At this point, living here is like how it was in Guatemala- day to day survival."  She is exhausted.
  • Tomorrow I'm heading out to UYWI's Reload LA with a group from Mika CDC.  Roman's sisters will be going with us since they both have joined their mother as leaders in the Neighborhood Action Committee.   Roman was a neighbor was passed away in the desert almost two years ago.  While grieving their brother's death has not been easy, I see a focus and clarity in each of the girls that was not there before.  It is like they want their lives to count for something.  They have both delved into their studies and participation in the community.  I am inspired by how they have harnessed their grief to serve others.  
  • The friend I visit in jail got moved upstate to prison.   I have been approved to visit him but have not made the trip yet.  He has not written in a long time and feel badly that I haven't gone to visit.  I must do that soon.
  • And finally, my dog Layla had an unfortunate mishap at the groomer and was shaved almost completely.  She moped around for a few days completely depressed as if she could tell how ridiculous she looks.    
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Dinner Disaster

Last night’s dinner was a disaster. Our 9-year-old son, Noah, was recently diagnosed with Celiac disease and we’re in the process of removing gluten from our diet. It’s been a bit tricky, especially for me as I try to find tasty meals that don’t have gluten hidden in the ingredients and attempt to recreate our favorite dishes without it.

Noah has been a trooper so I thought I’d have a go and make his meal of choice, broccoli cheese quiche. It was a challenge. It took me an hour to perfect the gluten free piecrust enough for it to hold the other ingredients. Excited about my accomplishment, I popped it in the oven. Everyone was hungry and eager to try it.

Thirty minutes later the timer sounded. I pulled it out of the oven, unaware that our 70lb lab was behind me.

Four Friends and a Funeral

On a recent Saturday, I attended a funeral to honor the passing of a friend’s mom. All I knew driving to the funeral was that she died of cancer, and that funerals are almost always sad. This particular day proved the latter wrong.

People say, or at least I’ve heard it said, that funerals bring people and memories together. The strange thing with this funeral is that I hardly knew my friend’s mom. All I wanted to do was support my friend through what has been a tough year. I decided to carpool with four friends, all of which shared the same sentiment: support our friend during this time of loss.

If you Google mapped our journey, it began in New York City to North Jersey to a quick stop at a rest area for gas and coffee and then a straight shot down the New Jersey Turnpike toward Princeton. During our drive, the five of us caught up on life, discussed various current events, commented on the blandness of the Turnpike scenery and then before you knew it, arrived at our destination.
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A Funny Thing Happened On Facebook

 

When I was in junior high school, a buddy of mine invited me to join the on campus Christian Club.  Realizing that students who participated in an on campus club got a “go to lunch 5 minutes early” pass, I jumped at the offer.  Our lunch lines were horrendous!  The student-led club was basically a Bible study that met once a week, with the occasional guest speaker thrown in.  I wasn’t raised in the church, but I was struck by the good company and became interested in what the big deal was about God and church and stuff.

 

This buddy of mine then invited me to attend church with him.  So, on Sunday mornings, he would bike to my house and then the two of us would pedal through the morning fog for Sunday services.  It was on one of these treks that my friend realized I did not own a Bible.  A few days later, my friend passed down his own well-worn Bible.  The dedication page was covered in white-out, and over the crusty paste he had written my name as the owner of the Bible and scrawled his name on the “From” line.

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The Power Of Community

Have you ever noticed that you can measure life stages in the way that you move?  Usually, it looks something like this:

Stage 1:  Borrow a pick-up truck, bribe your friends with beer and pizza, and toss your belongings half-hazardly in a an eclectic mix of boxes (or directly in the truck)

 

Stage 2:  Pay for a moving truck, bribe your friends with beer and pizza, and toss your belongings into pre-purchased moving boxes a few days before the move

 

Stage 3:  Pay for movers to pack up your house and move your stuff for you.  Tip them with pizza and beer.  Notice you suddenly have more friends in your life.

 

Like most 20-somethings, I have yet to progress to moving stage 3.  But I have had my fair share of moves - at last count, I’ve moved seven times in just as many years.  At least two of the moves were related to being newly married or newly divorced, but there is also some serious wanderlust mixed in, too.  

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Quality Time?

Two people sitting in the same room are certainly in close proximity, but they are not necessarily together. Togetherness has to do with focused attention. It is giving someone your undivided attention. As humans, we have a fundamental desire to connect with others. We may be in the presence of people all day long, but we do not always feel connected.

Physician Albert Schweitzer said, “We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness.” Professor Leo Buscaglia notes, “There seems to be accumulating evidence that there is actually an inborn need for this togetherness, this human interaction, this love. It seems that without these close ties with other human beings, a newborn infant, for example, can regress developmentally, lose consciousness, fall into idiocy and die.”

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Loving Those Who Don’t Love Us

Most of us don’t have a problem loving people who love us back. That is why the challenge Jesus gave His followers seems so unattainable: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

It is interesting that Jesus gave God as our model when He said, “Your Father in heaven...causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Perhaps you are thinking, That’s fine for God but I’m not God. I cannot love the people who have mistreated me in life. Apart from God’s help, that is true. But the Scriptures say, “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Love is the central message of the Christian church. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Imagine what would happen if the single adults who call themselves Christians truly acted this way. Everyone desperately needs love. And those who give love are those who truly succeed.

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Really Connect, Really Serve

It seems as if the more technology we get, the more friends we have. The more we network on the Internet, the more we communicate over long distances, and the more we are able to multitask at everything—the bigger our circles become.

If we’re not careful, this might result in a growing number of acquaintances, and a decreasing number of real, authentic friendships. However, we live in a brave new world and it might very well be out of this pool of acquaintances that those great friendships we all crave are born. Learning to use your own primary love language as a means of encouraging and loving others allows you to contribute meaningfully to the lives of the people around you.

Marcie, a young single adult, acknowledges that her love language is acts of service. “I receive the greatest joy by serving others,” she said. “Professionally, I work in the food service industry. So, I volunteer to work in the kitchen at my church. We serve Wednesday night meals, and on special occasions we do banquets. One of the things I enjoy most is putting on a Valentine’s banquet for the married couples at our church.
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Gifts Don't Grow on Trees?

We all have specific friends who love receiving gifts-it's their primary love language. It is what makes them feel loved most deeply.

Gifts need not be expensive; after all, "it's the thought that counts." But I remind you, it is not the thought left in your head that counts; it is the gift that came out of the thought that communicates emotional love.

The gift can be any size, shape, color, or price. It may be purchased, found, or made. To the individual whose primary love language is receiving gifts, the cost of the gift won't really matter. If you can afford it, you can purchase a beautiful card for less than five dollars. If you cannot, you can make one for free. Just go get the paper out of the trash can where you work, fold it in the middle, take scissors and cut out a heart, write "I love you," and sign your name. Gifts don't need to be expensive to have meaning.

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