December 31, 2011
Sometimes life can seem mundane…until you look at all the un-mundane moments all together. Then, any life can be an epic in the making! I find it healthy and uplifting, then, to reflect on the major moments of every year. This way I can remind myself how far I’ve come, how much I’ve learned and celebrate the people who have joined me in my journey.
This is a ritual I began about ten years ago and now am delighted to share with you, the interested reader.
I worked a few shifts at Janus Youth Programs, both at Garfield House and the Streetlight/Porchlight shelter. These were mostly shadow shifts and I soon ran out of time to pick up work there.
I settled into a routine at Mental Health agency as a Residential Counselor. With this agency, I achieved my QMHA credential.
I continued my internship at The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center doing A&D counseling. I peaked at 12 clients and 1 group per week.
I continued to attend the Masters in Counseling Program at Multnomah University.
My wife and I continued to attend church at The Gathering Community Church.
In January, I sighed up for a 12 week men’s group with Dayspring Ministries and Al Faatz. I found the other men in the group to be very kind and accepting and genuinely interested in learning another person. I was struck for the first time, though, by the incongruity of commuting to a community.
In February, I began pursuing music involvement at The Gathering Community Church. This began with me playing piano behind Lucas and Zach and matured into me putting together my own groups and sets. Baffled by the attention given to sound and performance and format and ‘Christian worship music culture,’ I pursued the questions of, “Why do we do what we do?” and “What is it exactly we are doing?”
For spring break, my wife and I traveled to Medford and spent a few days with my family. My parents came up from Southern California and we all stayed at my brother Jeremy and his wife Julie’s house. This was the first time the six of us had been together since Jeremy and Julie’s wedding.
During that same trip, I had the epiphany that hurrying is severely overrated, especially in a small town like Medford where very few big things happen. I have since attempted to integrate that principle into the rest of my life. “What am I in such a hurry to get to anyway?” If I believe that God is with me here and now and that I can learn something in every moment, then why rush?
Sometime during the spring, I made friends with Gulni, an Ecuadorean woman also in the counseling program at school. She began coaching me in Spanish.
Spring Semester, I taught Bible Study Methods for the fourth time. This was not a delightful experience for me. I quickly encountered burnout as a result of trying to do too many things at once. And it was an 8:00 a.m. class. With great relief, I finished the class and resolved not to teach it again the following year.
As often happens, within a few months, I started coming up with ideas about how to make the course better. This time, though, my resolution was to do the class in a church setting. It didn’t happen this calendar year, but I began taking steps toward it.
The relationships at The Gathering Community Church continued to deepen. Notable were friendship developed with Sam , Dan , Brandon , Paul , Jordan , Aaron , Justin , Alex , Gabe , Dawson , Dino and Deborah…all these in addition to relationships already in place with Matt and Lucas. I quickly came to see these men as some of my closest friends.
Along with these relationships though, I began to cultivate functional relationships with my pastors…or in the case of the Gathering, Elders. I was actually able to meet with my pastoral figures outside of church and talk about real life matters. Daniel F in particular, created a very safe space for me to share thoughts and explore ideas. He was the first pastoral figure to seek out my thoughts on issues…which I found very uplifting!
Writing now, at the end of the year, I see that I am more understood, more welcome, and more accepted by this group. Early on in the year, I felt frustration because I felt less accepted. I wanted to do things like teach Bible Study Methods at church and, more than that, function as a counselor, offering to my church family all the wealth of resources and insight and training I was gathering at school. I encountered reluctance to the concept of psychology and counseling, even traces of hostility owing to a lack of information. I was tempted to flee the church, but after staying with the group, found that the dynamic changed. My belief is that, as they became comfortable with me as a person, they began to become comfortable with the ideas I presented as well. As of this calendar year, I have yet to function as more than a Sunday musician(a role which I love), but I’m hopeful that more opportunities might open up soon.
I went on a short men’s retreat with The Gathering at a lake-side camp near Newberg. I broke a rule to spent several hours lazing on a canoe on the lake with my shirt off…it was perfect, and God spoke to me in that experience.
By June, I finished the rough manuscript for the first book of my story, entitled Eyes of the Ten. Aaron E and Dan T became the first people to read it in its entirety.
In July, my wife and I traveled to Southern California for family reunions. We stayed at my parents’ house and saw Papa and Grandma, Dan and Nila with Jonathan and Matthew, Auntie Collette, then saw my dad’s side of the family. Lola, most of my uncles and aunts, some of my cousins and a whole host of second cousins, other titos and titas. In particular, I met my uncle(?) Vinci who is several years younger than me. We decided to go to the Philippines together at some point in the future.
One of my “kids” got married over the summer in Canon Beach. I met Elijah when he was a freshman in high school and now got to see him get married. I road tripped with Ben and Jessica to attend.
I connected with my cousin Bobby over Facebook. I was at his mom(my aunt’s) wedding, but haven’t been in contact with anyone in that branch of the family since. Now, all of a sudden, my still as yet un-met cousin is fourteen and now we can be friends…albeit distant ones.
In an effort to develop a more consistent prayer life, I constructed an experimental prayer aid for myself. I collected beads from people and a bead store and strung them together into a sort of amulet/medallion that functions something like a Rosary. Each bead represents a life that is connected to mine. I hope that by touching the beads as I make intercessions, the object itself will become infused with God’s energy. I also hope that the depth and range of my prayers will far surpass the beads and that I will someday not need their weight around my neck to remind me to go into the presence of God. For now though, they are a tangible reminder of my most important task…
At the beginning of the school year, Aaron E came to live with my wife and me. He was coming back from the Philippines by way of Prosser and we, having the extra room, offered him a place to stay. For us, it was our first experience sharing our living space with another person. We found that we liked it and we found in Aaron a true friend.
In September, I went to an audition for a pilot episode of a proposed sci-fi series called Shatterpoint. I didn’t get any parts, but it was a fun experience.
Several weeks later, I followed a craigslist add and got to be an extra in a short film based off of Chuck Palunuik’s short story “Romance.” Again…no long term benefit, but it was fun. Alluring as the movie world is, up close, it’s weird…
With my school and internship commitments starting to wrap up, I found myself with more time gaps with which I could invest in other hobbies. I began hunting for other writers with whom I could collaborate. I teamed up with my long time friend Adina C. We both had our writing projects and we began meeting to read to each other, critique each other, and encourage each other in our writing journeys. We created a rare space where I felt like I was unquestionably doing the right thing.
Portland experienced a very mild summer into autumn, autumn into winter. We had many days, not only of no rain, but of sun and blue skies! For many days it was neither rainy, nor windy, nor cloudy. Temperatures did dip below freezing several times, but in was a dry cold. As a bicyclist, I appreciated this trend very much…even though this year I was finally outfitted with waterproof boots!
In October, my backpack was stolen, and with it my computer… journal…wedding ring…honeymoon beanie…favorite pair of pants…wallet… The experience taught me(well it taught me to be cautious with my objects) but it also taught me to reevaluate my relationship with my objects. I got to see what I could live without and how I could really be fine without the leash of a laptop computer. I got to see how God provided funds for a new computer. Slowly by slowly, the items are being replaced. I’m particularly grateful, though, that my book was backed up and that none of the story was lost. Whew!!!
November 5, The Gathering Community Church hosted Compassion Cherry Park, a free medical clinic. I volunteered as a Spanish/English Interpreter and loved it! The experience was so highly satisfying that it made me question my career path. I began looking for work and opportunity to work with language or work abroad. Nothing overtly opened up this calendar year, but my love of languages has without a doubt had a profound shaping influence on my career choices of the future.
With graduation came a money crisis. I had planned on having at least until March to pay off the semester, but then I found out I needed to pay it off by December 6, the last day of classes. This left me a significant amount short. Here, I had opportunity to learn to trust God…but to still be responsible and clever…and to be humble and ask my parents for help. My parents gave me a lot…which was nice. But I was most touched that my church body gave me financial aid as well. This to me was the most tangible sign, so far, that they really do care and that Christ really is real to them. My faith in the church was restored a significant bit…
Following the love of language and culture, my friend at church Paul R connect me with his mentor at Wycliffe, Alan W. Mr. Alan and I began a dialogue about my new interest – counseling for missionaries. As of now, my long term counseling goal is to be a counselor for missionaries, ideally in a foreign context.
On December 9, I graduated from Multnomah University with a Master of Arts in Counseling. Hallelujah, thank you, Jesus!! At last, it’s done!
Graduation coincided with my parents and my brother and sister-in-law coming up to Portland to visit. This was twice in one year that we all six had been together and I felt very rich because of it. We also all six went to church together for the first time ever. This was more a dream of my mom’s than anything I had thought about, but after she mentioned it, I was very excited about it as well.
Also for graduation, my wife orchestrated an open house party at our little apartment. For several hours that Saturday, our house was filled with people, laughter, talking, and a very loving energy. There were school people, church people, work people, family. The party was great! The crash immediately afterwards when it was suddenly silent and I still had energy was hard, but it was worth it to have filled the house with love and friends.
I had the realization that most of life is mixed…mixed feelings, mixed blessings, mixed motives, mixed relationships…might as well have a mixed drink to go with it! 😉 Seriously though, I began to learn that sometimes you just have to move on in rugged imperfection and steadfastly cling to what is good and right.
The Christmas Holiday was nondescript. I worked Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We saw friends and family we don’t normally see. We didn’t do many decorations and chose not to emphasize gifts.
Also in December, I reconnected with Daniel H, a friend from Medford I have known for over a decade. He was more of my brother’s friend than mine, yet we found it very easy to talk about deep things together.
The year closed with my wife and I looking forward to some exciting events and changes in the very near future.
I was beginning to talk with the leaders of Compassion Connect about potentially creating a counselor position for me. It was all very grassroots, vague, and probably would not pay…but it was an organization I was starting to love. They said of me, “You’re an answer to prayer; we just don’t know what to do with you yet.”
But even more tangible was the opportunity presented by mental health agency. Once I had my degree, I began applying for Masters level counseling jobs. The most favorable response was from my home company. I applied for a counselor job and shortly thereafter went through a series of three interviews with a fourth being promised. Last time I spoke with the man-who-would-be-my-boss, he was saying, “We want to hire you,” and said he would arrange a meeting between me and his boss. At the same time, my task is to track down a copy of my new diploma.
I’m thankful to God for all I’ve seen, the people who have touched my life, and all I’ve learned.