Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Post #10--I'll Be Home For Christmas

 It used to be that missionaries, when they left for their assignments, would buy a wooden coffin, pack it full of all the belongings they could fit, and sell the rest.  Then they’d get on a boat and (hopefully) survive the months-long journey to wherever it was God had called them, weeping and waving to their mothers as they left because they knew they’d never see them alive again.
            I, however, got to come home for Christmas.  So yeah, I’d say my life is pretty good. 
            How excited I feel about Christmas varies from year to year. And when I say that, I mean it varies from “Yeah, I’m pretty excited” to “LITERAL SWEET BABY JESUS.”  I like Christmas. It brings out my six-year-old excitement.  Every year since I can remember, my family has spent Christmas Eve at church, where we are all (despite our best efforts) heavily involved in the services, and then spend Christmas day opening presents, and ABSOLUTELY NOT EVER getting out of our pajamas. I am generally more excited about Christmas than the rest of my family.  Last year I got fed up the day before Christmas Eve when we didn’t have a tree, and I decorated the whole thing by myself in a sullen yuletide rage, glaring holiday guilt into the souls of my brother and sister. And that’s how they learned the true meaning of Christmas.

            This year, possibly because I knew I’d get to go home and possibly because I started the season off with a visit from the Boyfriend and the most perfect Christmas tree ever, my Christmas excitement levels were really high.  Really. 
            And since this kind of excitement about Christmas is supposed to be reserved for six-year-olds, I did my best to repress the childish version of myself and be an adult about the rest of life.  This was difficult for me, as adulthood is a scary place full of bills and weighty life decisions.  But I did my best.
            I researched travel options months in advance.  I compared prices.  I chose to leave on the 2:00pm BoltBus from Vancouver to Portland.
            I pre-packed.  I packed. I unpacked.  I re-packed.
            I cleaned my apartment.  I paid next month’s rent.
            I printed my ticket.

            I was READY! I WAS AN ADULT!

            Joan drove me to the train station (I WASN’T EVEN LATE!), where I deposited my suitcase (I ONLY HAD ONE!) and presented my passport (which I DID NOT FORGET!) and my ticket (which I printed out WAY IN ADVANCE!).

            And then…
            “Hold it,” said Bus Driving Citizen, “Did you get the schedule wrong?”
            What? Did I what?  What do you mean, did I get the schedule wrong? I showed him my ticket (which I printed out WAY IN ADVANCE! LIKE AN ADULT!)
            “This ticket is for the 6:30am BoltBus from Vancouver to Portland,” said Bus Driving Citizen, “That bus left like eight hours ago.”

            What?  It most certainly did not.  That was absolutely not possible.  Obviously no, I did NOT get the schedule wrong.  I am an ADULT, and adults don’t do that. Also are you not looking at my cape, sir?
            I tried to tell Bus Driving Citizen that there must be some mistake, but he just pointed to my ticket.



            And just like that, I crumbled from Adult Amy to six-year-old Amy, who knows for certain that the best way to deal with a situation like this is to crawl under your bed with a box of cereal and never come out again.  Which was a problem, because my Vancouver bed was now 20 miles away and my Portland bed was like 350 miles away, and I was here with one adult suitcase, a wasted eighty-dollar ticket, no cereal, and definitely no way to get home for Christmas.

Don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry

            Adult Amy rallied for a little bit, and I got the sense to ask, “please, is there any way, any way at all, that I can ride stand-by?  Are there any empty seats?  Anything?”
            “We’ll see,” said Bus Driving Citizen, “This is supposed to be a full bus, but stay here and we’ll see.”
            Then six-year-old Amy got the better of me for a second, and I got a little sniffly and tried to think of a plan B.  I watched as people kept coming for the bus.  I called my sister, who called my brother, who then called me back.  We arranged that Brother could pick me up in Seattle.  THERE IS HOPE!
            By this time, the bus is nearly full.  To my dismay, another guy has joined me in the stand-by line.  

The Dude

He seems upset, and is grumbling stuff like “why aren’t they ready?  I called the place and they didn’t tell me anything about how this works.  They just told me to be here and get on.”
            I try to have compassion for this guy, but can’t.  He is DEFINITELY young enough to know how to use the Internet.
            Bus Driving Citizen asks if Dude has a ticket. Dude does, but doesn’t have it.  The people on the phone didn’t tell him anything about how this works.  They just told him to be here and get on.
            “Ok, but you definitely have a ticket, right?” asks both Bus Driving Citizen and myself. 

Dude seems very confused about how busses work.
I would make fun of him, but I apparently have the same problem.

            Both Adult Amy and six-year-old Amy understand this as a moral dilemma.  Suppose there is only one seat left?  Should I, as a follower of Jesus and long-time lover of random acts of kindness during Christmastime, allow him to have my seat and spend Christmas away from church and pajamas and my family?  Who will angrily teach my siblings about tree decorating?  Who will play the violin at the service?  And (puke noise) what would Jesus do?
            Bus Driving Citizen must now call the bus company to confirm Dude’s ticket.  Adult Amy would like to point out that I can definitely confirm my ticket, since I printed it out way in advance LIKE AN ADULT, but does not do so because that’s obnoxious.
            Bus Driving Citizen is put on hold. He is becoming disgruntle, because we are now late for our departure. Dude begins biting his fingernails and spitting them onto the sidewalk. All versions of Amy are having a hard time thinking about Jesus.
            Bus Driving Citizen, still on hold, asks where I need to go.
            “If I could just get to Seattle.  Please, just get me across the border to Seattle, and I PROMISE I will not get back on the bus.  Please, anything.”
            Bus driver says “We’ll see,” wand we all wait another 10 minutes while he’s on hold. At this point, everybody on the bus is as stressed out as we are.
            Finally, Dude taps Bus Driving Citizen (still on hold) on the shoulder, and loudly says, “So, do I pay you now or later?”

He repeats: “Do I pay now or later? How does this work?”


            Bus Driver voices the opinion of both of us: “Do you mean to tell me…that YOU DO NOT HAVE A TICKET?”
            “Well,” says Dude, “I haven’t paid or anything…”
            Bus Driving Citizen cuts him off. “So you need to ride stand-by? You both need to ride stand-by? Look, I only have 1 seat left.”
            Dude and I look at each other.  That seat is rightfully mine.  I already paid.  But no, I can’t help thinking this guy was probably just trying to be an adult, and got all ready to go home, and just missed one tiny little detail. And it’s Christmas.
Dang it, Jesus.
            So Adult Amy takes a deep breath and starts telling six-year-old Amy to calm down.  After all, most missionaries don’t even think about getting to come home for Christmas. It comes with the job.  I’ve never had to pack all my belongings into my own coffin, and that should probably be enough to make me thankful.  Compared to most people in the world, this doesn't even classify as a problem.
            But six-year-old Amy takes one more chance, tears and all.

“So…there’s really nothing else?  Just one more seat?”
            Bus Driver sighs.  “Look,” he says, “I don’t normally do this, but if you’re just going to Seattle, there’s a shelf in the back of the bus where people put their extra carry-on luggage.  I guess one of you could ride on that.  It’s not a real seat, though.”

            And that is the story of how I rode on the BoltBus luggage shelf from Vancouver to Seattle because a kind bus driver saved my Christmas.  It’s also a story about how God works things out for me, even though I never seem to do things right.  The luggage shelf wasn’t so bad.  Even though it wasn’t the most comfy, curling up between the suitcases was the same kind of cozy as curling up under my bed with a box of cereal, and the six-year-old in me really enjoyed that.  Plus, once I got to Seattle, my fabulous brother picked me up, and we listened to awesome indy music all the way home (If you know my brother, you should probably ask him about music.  He knows.)  And really, it was a comfort to sit back there and thank Jesus that I’ve never had to wave goodbye forever to my mom from the deck of a boat or ride a smelly donkey through a desert to find a shack in Bethehem.  Maybe one day, He’ll ask me to do one of those things.  And it will be scary.  But when I’m sitting on the shelf in the back of the bus, finally on my way home, it’s easy to remember that He never sends me anywhere without giving me what I need.  I think it will be okay.

Please consider donating, because I really need to get groceries.  Merry Christmas, y'all.  See you next year.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Post 8-- Sames and Differences: Portland and Vancouver

    Perhaps my favorite ironic thing about Vancouver is that it has a huge crush on Portland.  This is because I know (but Vancouver doesn't) that Portland also has a huge crush on Vancouver.  Seriously, you talk to a Portlander and they're all:
"Oh man, I've heard Vancouver's so progressive.
 Like they're really doing cool stuff up there. So cool."

Meanwhile, up Vancouver, they're all:
"Oh man, Portland's such a cool town. There's so much to do. It's so happening."

No seriously, they've posted these signs up all over town:

Portland is happening now? Like, my Portland? Is Portland an event now?  
Was it not happening before? Like at any point in time, 
Portland may or may not be occurring? Wow, so hip. 

Well, December marks five months since my arrival in Vancouver, which means I've had plenty of time to observe this wonderful place, to experience several different aspects of the culture, and to come to the paradigm-shattering conclusion that Canada and America are not actually that different. Trust me.  I'm pretty sure I'm an expert.

HOWEVER.  There are some distinctions I'd be remiss to leave out.  Canada is definitely a different country (even if I forget it sometimes).  So, as one of Canada's bloggers-in-residence, I thought I'd lay down some sick facts for you all. Here goes:

Sames and Differences in Vancouver and Portland

I know "sames" is not a word.  This is my blog, fools.

Same #1--The Climate.

All my Pacific Northwesters will feel me here.  You know that feeling you get in early October?  That feeling that says, "Wow, it sure has been beautiful for the last four months.  I really live in a beautiful place.  Why do I have this horrible sense of dread that I might never see sunlight again?"  Yeah, we have that here, too.

Difference #1-- The Response to the Climate.

Here's the difference

Vancouver: "Wow, it sure is rainy!"

Portland: "Wow, it sure is--ackplh! Sweet mother of wharrgarbl"

Portlanders, how long must we fight?  Invest in an umbrella.

Same #2--The Public Transit.

Where Portland has the MAX, Vancouver has the SkyTrain.  The pros are the same: cheap, reliable travel and less money towards ExxonMobile. The cons are also the same: Waiting in the rain, doubled travel time, and lots and lots of people asking for your spare change.

Difference #2--The Languages on Public Transit.

The SkyTrain is, in my opinion, the best place to experience the cultural mosaic that is Vancouver.  Over half the population of this city has immigrated from other countries, which means "What Language is My Neighbor Speaking?" is the most-played game in the metro area (closely followed by "Muslim or Nun?" It's surprisingly hard to tell from a distance.)  IT'S SO AWESOME.

Same #3--The Donuts


Voodoo Donuts and Tim Hortons are so different that it's useless to try and pit them against each other in competition.  But someday, I hope someone does.  And I hope it's me. And that I get to be the judge.

Difference #3--The Coffee.


Same #4--The Groceries

Five months here and I'm still not sure if there's such a thing as authentic Canadian food.  Everything seems basically the same.  The only exception is poutine, which looks like this and is not so tasty:

Difference #4--The Prices

I, like every visiting American I know, had heard that Vancouver was expensive and had said, "well, that sucks, but it can't be that bad."  Until I actually went to my local Safeway:

Wait...Wait, is that...eight bucks for milk?

TEN bucks for cereal??



I realized I may have some deep-seated miserly qualities when I kept leaving grocery stores in fits of rage.

I'm still working on this.

Same #5--The Gluten-Free Options.

I'm usually not gluten-free, but some people I love are (in the actual, don't-give-them-gluten-or-they'll-die kind of way), so it makes me very happy that there are a lot of different options in both of my cities for the bread-impaired.  When the Boyfriend came to visit, we got to spend an evening ranking the local gluten-free treats in terms of taste, texture, and how bad we felt about ourselves afterwards:
The donuts won. At everything.

Difference #5--The Jingling.

Canada uses coins exclusively for both $1 and $2 amounts, which means a handful of change is actually a substantial of money (visitors: please, PLEASE remember this before handing all your change away in one go):

This, for example, could probably pay my entire phone bill. Not a joke.

The vast amount of change in everyone's pockets means that Canadians are, in my opinion, the Jingly-est people on the planet.  This is great news for me when I am running to catch a bus (everyone knows I'm coming), and bad news for the ninja community, who I've heard are having a hard time remaining incognito.  Thank goodness Canada got rid of pennies, or they might be completely extinct.

Difference #6--What? No Pennies?

No pennies!! The government was spending way more that one cent to create each penny, so they just decided to get rid of them.  So how do they still use prices like $9.96 or $4.47? Get this: they just ROUND TO THE NEAREST NUMBER! Like if something costs 9.99, you pay exactly $10.00 and get no change back, but if it costs $9.96, you just pay $9.95 and call it even!  And apparently, everything evens out and no one is upset about it?

I do not know why this is so fascinating to me, but it really, really is.

So there you have it, my pretties, 5 Sames and 6 Differences between these two cities that I love.  Have you noticed any more?  Leave me a comment!

Also, please consider donating.  You saw those grocery prices.

You are all God's gifts to me.  Such love,


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Post 7--Sparrows

When I was a kid, I thought adults were the weirdest. Especially at Christmas time.  They got excited about the dumbest presents.  I would be just dying in the anticipation of opening a new Scooby-Doo backpack, American Girl set, or Redwall book (like a NORMAL PERSON) and my mom would open something like, say, a set of dishes or a washer/dryer combo, and get SO FREAKING EXCITED.

In response to these gifts, she would say all sorts of nice things.  She was probably saying something reasonable:

 "This is such an awesome gift!  I know it was really expensive, but it means a lot!"

But all I heard was: 
"Laundry? DISHES?"



But having recently begun living in my first ever apartment, I realize I owe Mom a pretty big apology:

Mom, I'm so sorry. I totally get it now. 

Because in receiving things for my apartment, I keep finding myself having large tantrums of joy about what used to seem like trivial items.  YOU GUYS I AM SO FREAKING EXCITED.



(You just don't know them like I do.)

And so many more.  It helps, of course, that nearly every single item for my apartment was provided at no cost to me.  The Lord is very excellent about His timing that way.  Here's the story: the month my job began was also the month ULI ended.  ULI was a training program that  housed missionaries-to-be in Vancouver and taught them how to live in big cities.  Due to several changes, the program has had a huge makeover and is no longer located here.  Which means there were just shy of 15 apartments (full of apartment stuff) just lying around. And I saw all the stuff and I just...

(Something tells me this is not the last "Sorry, Mom" card I'll need to make.)

So, Tim and Joan, being the resourceful and wonderful bosses that they are, stocked my entire apartment (and many, many others) with furniture, dishes, bedding, and anything else you can think of. And in addition to being very and trendy and freegan of them (where my Portlanders at?), it was also an overwhelming blessing to me. 

I knew what the Lord had promised me: "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, an yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?" And again: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care. And even the very hairs of your head (or, if you're me, dishes on your table, or pounds of food in your cupboard) are numbered. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Matthew 6 and Matthew 10, italics mine.)

But it's one thing to have memorized those verses in Sunday school or, say, sung that song at my grandmother's funeral, and it's quite another to watch all I needed (more than I needed! Abundantly more than I'd have asked for!) come into my new home as if from nothing.  Why should I worry?

To bring it home, I've asked my friends Tonya and Lauryn to help me out.  Sing it, girls. (By the way, if you have not seen Sister Act II: Back in the Habit, I just don't know what you're doing with your life...)

Please remember that donations are an important way that the Lord provides for me. I am so blessed by all of you.  More to come.

Love, Ames.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Khodaye Man Khoobeh Part 2--Jesus Loves Lemonade.

My friends Isaac is ten, and his sister Erin is almost seven.  But they're also really cool.

I say this, first of all, because I know them.  I got to know Isaac when I volunteered in his kindergarten Sunday School class, and I've known Erin since she was a brand new baby who visited us at worship team practice.  These kids are the real deal.  They are the kind of kids Hailey Joel Osmont played in movies (think more Pay it Forward, less Sixth Sense).  I was reminded of this about ten days before I left for The Canada, when their dad approached me at church.

"Look," he said, "Isaac has this idea.  He really wants to do a lemonade stand."

"Go on..." said I. (Spelling is hard).

"And he really wants to give the money he makes to missions.  Specifically, he wants to give it to you."

Now, think about that.


NO, I DON'T THINK YOU UNDERSTAND. This kid is TEN.  His sister is NOT EVEN SEVEN.  We live in 2013, the age of iPods and iPads and iDon'tCares and Whichever Starlet Was Naked this Week and anti-discipline campaigns and self-entitlement and me me me me ME.  And these kids want to do a LEMONADE STAND (adorable) and give the money to ME, the missionary intern who is addicted to Bollywood movies and can't tell the difference between a pound and a kilo.

I am proud to know Isaac and Erin, not only because we can now purchase $125.00 worth of markers, pens, and tea for our Centre, but also because I am humbled by their self-sacrifice and desire to put others first.  You know what that is?  That's living like Jesus. That's thinking about the world. That's really rare in 10- and almost-7-year-olds.

I've been thinking about Isaac and Erin a lot because I know them through the Church, and the Church has been heavy on my mind these last couple months. When I say "The Church," I mean both Greater Gresham Baptist Church (my home) and the global institution that is The Evangelical Christian Church (note the capital E and C.  It's getting serious, y'all.) Recently, with self-entitled and exhaustingly redundant really new and edgy articles being passed around, I've felt the hate against the capital C Church a little more personally.

And sometimes, I totally get where the haters are coming from.  People actuallly have done some awful things in the name of Christianity. Really horrible. And it's easy to hate a lot of dead, old, white men who screwed up the world with Colonialism and sucked fun out of things. And Jesus and Macklemore really do disagree on several points, and that is just not the thing to do right now. I mean come on, Jesus, the man has Grammies.

Except that Isaac and Erin aren't horrible, and they aren't old, dead, white men, either. And neither were the 12 people from Greater Gresham who came as volunteers in August. This was a special group to me, because they're from my home church.  I count all of them as part of my personal history, even though they are a pretty random mix of ages, professions, statuses, and et ceteras. I grew up with them.  They've known me at every stage.  And having them with me in this new, adult stage was a reminder to me of God's faithfulness to me--the way He never wastes experiences, and makes bad things into good things, and never leaves me alone.

Kyle, Katie, Garren, Matt, and Bobby, whom I have known through youth groups, mission trips, birthdays, and funerals, carried heavy boxes up the approximately 1 million steps to my new apartment. Jonathan, whom I met during GGBC's worship team, saved my butt and became a 1-man worship band at Sunday service. Janice and Tanya, who have known me since before I had braces, washed and found a place for everything in my new kitchen. Janice, who's known me since age 6, stocked my first-ever adult fridge.  Eli, whose children I taught in Sunday school with Isaac and Erin, and Jim, who taught my own Sunday school in 5th and 6th grade, did their darnedest to assembly the Ikea Dresser of Doom.  Jeremy and Lance, who still liked me during my awkward stage, took care of me when my window broke.  These people are part of my family, and they are the Church. And you know what?  They're not horrible.

Everybody say, "Institution of Western Oppression!"

And then there's Zendeh Living Church, here in BC.  We currently meet in a Chinese E Free Church in Burnaby, and have a congregation of about 20.  We have service in Farsi, English, and (sometimes) Spanish. This is Church. And after we sing and pray and share what God's been doing in our lives, we have tea.  And this is Church, too. During this hour and a half, we find out what's really going on in each other's lives. Who is sick?  What do we have that we can give? When can we visit again?  Where are the needs? How do we help? This little community has quickly turned into the people who call me when they hear I'm sick, who find extra bags of groceries to give me for no good reason, and who give me a reason to be excited for Thanksgiving (which is in October in this heathen land). They're the Church. And they're not so bad, either.

But hey, isn't it all just about the show?  And the money?

One of the ways the Bible describes the Church is as a young bride, waiting for her husband-to-be to return so they can start the marriage celebration. Sometimes, she's not a good bride. The Church is full of people like me, and so she is often cruel, lazy, quick to judge, and slow to listen.  She is imperfect and undeserving of her bridegroom.  But she is also filled with people like Isaac and Erin, and so she can be generous, self-sacrificing, and willing to serve.  Jesus loves her.  And because of that, I'm going to love her, too.  I'm going to stand up for her, and stick with her even when she acts ugly.  I'm going to find ways to make her beautiful again.

So the next time you start to criticize the Church, remember that you're not just talking about dead old men. You're talking about my friends Isaac and Erin.

And you don't get to talk bad about my friends Isaac and Erin.

You're talking about Isaac and Erin, and 12 family members who visited me, and 20 Farsi speakers in a borrowed sanctuary, and me.  And, if you are a Christian, you are also talking about yourself.  Perhaps we, as members of the church, should take our own advice.  Isn't the Church judgmental? Well, Believer, aren't you?  Does she need to be more welcoming?  Don't you?  Does she teach oppression?  Are you oppressed? Are her Christians unlike her Christ? What have you done to change that?

I've grown more and more convinced in the last two months that it's time to stop commenting on the Church's ugliness and started doing something to help her.  I thank God for all of my different manifestations of Church, because I find comfort in the fact that the next generation has some good ones to help us.

To Isaac and Erin: I am so happy God put you in my life.  When you give to other people, like you've given to me, you are acting like Jesus.  I think Jesus is crazy about you guys, and I think he loved your idea even more than I do (which is a lot, because I LOVED your idea).  When you act like Jesus, things aren't always easy.  Sometimes, it is really hard to be generous, and it's almost always really hard to think about others before yourself.  But acting like Jesus is a beautiful thing, and if you live your life like Him, He will take you on amazing adventures.  He will make your life into something special. I am praying that you will continue to act like Jesus for your whole lives, and I'm so excited to see it happen.  Thank you again for your precious gift to me, and expect to hear from me soon.

As always, donations are needed.  Thanks for being my Church, guys. You make a beautiful bride.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Khodaye Man Khoobeh: Part 1--Livin on a Prayer

When I was little, my mom wrote me a song.  It went like this: 

Jesus loves Amy so much, so much, so much
Jesus loves Amy so much, so, so much.

And I love that song because the lyrics are so accurate. Ripped from the headlines, if you will. Jesus does, in fact, love me so much, and my happiness about that fact is matched only by my awe at its absurdity.  Because let's face it, I'm not that cool. 

His love has been clear to me in a zillion ways this last month (man, has it really been a month? That's my bad, y'all), so the next few posts will be dedicated to trying to articulate how good the Lord has been to me.  Khodaye Man Khoobeh, by the way, is phonetic Farsi for "my God is good."  He is.

When I last posted, we had just finished our picnic and our first volunteer team had come, conquered, and gone home.  After those experiences, my bosses left for a trip to see their children in South Asia and the Middle East. They were gone for three weeks.  And since I was living with them at the time, I got the whole house to myself for three weeks.  So the first few days of their absence looked a lot like this:





And other professional things. 
Actually, I focused a lot of my time on settling into a schedule.  I took notes on my schedule one Tuesday in my little notebook that I carry everywhere.  So, should you ever wish to replicate my Tuesday, I present to you...

How to Replicate Ames's Schedule in Twenty-Eight Easy Steps!

Step One:  Intend to get up at 6:30.

Step Two: Actually get up at 8:30.

Step Three: Ask Jesus for better discipline.

Step Four: Spend time with Jesus.  This looks a little different for everyone, but for me it involves studying and meditating on Scripture.  Studying involves reading, researching, and memorizing Scripture, and meditation means praying about what I've read and asking God to help me know Him better through it. After that, I spend a lot of time journalling. So, I search Scripture to find more clues as to who God is, and then I write all my findings in my handy-dandy notebook.  In that way, spending time with Jesus looks a lot like this:

Step Five: Stretch. Because you don't want back problems when you're older.

Step Six: Water Joan's flowers.  Attempt to make conversation with elderly Sikh neighbor.  Realize, once again, that he knows only "Good morning! No rain!" in English, and you know absolutely nothing in Punjabi.  Smile anyway.

Step Seven: Take the C7 bus to the Skytrain Station, and then the 106 to Middlegate Bakery. Our friend Reza runs this bakery, and generously donates free bread for us to give away at the Centre.

Step Eight: Notice that Reza is selling Zulbia today.  This is Zulbia:

It is a Persian pastry made of fried dough, dipped in a honey/rose water/saffron sauce.  It tastes like sugar and Jesus.

Step Nine: Buy a kilo of zulbia.

Step Ten: Recall that a kilo is more than twice the size of a pound.  Regret this decision.*

*Note: you will make the same mistake a week later.

Step Eleven: Go to the library to browse Easy Readers for this week's reading day. Read through each and make a glossary of words that are hard to explain. (Sidenote:  Can someone please tell me how to explain the word "adventure" to a newcomer? Anyone? Please?)

Step Twelve:  Take the 106 back to the station and the 112 to Life Community Centre (Again, notice the flagrant role-reversal of the "r" and the "e." Canada: pushing boundaries since 1867.)

Step Thirteen: Immediately make tea.

Step Fourteen: Tidy classroom and put lesson materials and newly-checked-out Easy Readers in order. Pray for class.

Step Fifteen: Shahnaz arrives to teach Farsi vocabulary.  Offer her some of your mountain of Zulbia. Try to explain why you don't know what a kilo is.

Step Sixteen: 1 hour of Farsi class with Shahnaz. Make the "I'm sorry, I'm American" face a lot.

Step Seventeen:  ESL class.  In these hour-and-a-half classes, we work mostly on conversation.  During these last three weeks, we worked on how to describe common ailments ("I have a backache, I have a cold, I am dizzy, etc"), how to talk on the telephone (which makes me nervous even in my first language), and how to set up a doctor's appointment by phone.

Step Eighteen: Tea break.

Step Nineteen: Finish class and talk with Mohammad/Ghasem/anyone that has stayed after class.  This is English practice for them and Farsi practice for you.  Ask a lot of questions about Iran.  Make the "I'm sorry, I'm American" some more.

Step Twenty: Return to the house via the 112 and the C7.

Step Twenty-One: Intend to exercise a lot.

Step Twenty-Two: Exercise a little.

Step Twenty-Three: Select Songs for church this week, and practice them on the guitar.

Step Twenty-Four: Visit with Fernanda, who is your neighbor.  Drink coffee, get to know each other. Thank the Lord for your new friends.

Step Twenty-Five: Dinner! Sometimes with Fernanda and Nasser, sometimes making pizza and eating the whole thing yourself BECAUSE YOU ARE A GROWN WOMAN, DANGIT.

Step Twenty-Six: Read. Lately,  I've been on a huge Mother Teresa kick.  I'm just saying, if you haven't read No Greater Love, maybe you should.

Step Twenty-Seven: Try to be brave and go to bed without the light off.

Step Twenty-Eight: Turn the light on, just in case.

So this is my schedule, and I'm in love with it.  It is getting steadily busier as I meet new people, add more classes to the Centre and plan more activities, but this is its foundation.  And at every turn, on every bus ride, during every class, I cannot escape the reality of how good God is to me.  I feel like I don't deserve to be this blessed.  And yes, I'm probably still in the honeymoon stage. But shoot, honeymoons are fun.

Details about my new house and schedule will be coming very soon (way sooner than this post did; sorry it took me so long).

Again, if you can find it in your heart or pocketbook to donate, I appreciate it now more than ever (The rent! It's hideous!) Just click here!

Blessings to you all! God made you special, and He loves you very much.