4 Years to Normal

A lot can happen in 4 years. In the past 4 years, I have taught in 4 different buildings. I have earned my masters degree. I have added a furry friend to my home and my heart. I have loved, been loved and been brokenhearted. I have been blessed to add inspirational, loyal friends to my life. I have witnessed friends get married and have babies. I have run until I thought my legs would give out. I have become a part of a new and amazing church that has inspired me to give my whole heart and my whole life to God. I have traveled the world and left my heart in San Salvador. I have watched one of my best friends conquer cancer year after year.

4 years ago, I watched my mom take on cancer for one final battle. I think back on all the things that have happened in the past 4 years and wish so desperately that she would have been a part of each one. I believe she would be proud of my perseverance as I am bounced from school to school. Dewey’s antics would drive Mom crazy, but she would love him for his fantastic cuddling abilities. She would have held me as I cried over yet another love lost and asked too many questions at the mention of another possibility of love. Mom would absolutely love my new friends. And she would be so of the ones that have stayed through the years. Kristen & Trai’s wedding would have BLOWN. HER. MIND. And she would have rolled her eyes because she would have known that the wedding bar had been raised. And oh my goodness, she would have never give Baby Dominick back once she had him in her arms. Mom loved babies! She might not have understood why I felt the need to run 13.1 miles, but she would have been there at the finish line cheering me on. Rock City Church would be exactly the kind of church she could thrive in. Creating a life in another country is definitely not something Mom would have ever done, but I hope she would be proud of my passion to see God’s love shown through me all over the world. And oh how proud she would be to see Amee kick cancer’s ass year after year and really show cancer who’s boss with the upcoming Baby BellWanzo!

I would give every moment up for just one more hug, one more “I love you too!”

There isn’t a moment I don’t want to share with Mom. It doesn’t get easier as time goes on; it just becomes more normal.

If you are as blessed as I was to have The World’s Best Mom (because, let’s be honest…we all do!), give her a hug, send her a text, pick up the phone…let her know that just 1 day is too long to go without sharing even the smallest of moments.

Ohio University Mom’s Weekend, Spring 2005
Advertisements

Beyond My Walls, An Open Letter to My Readers

Buenos Días!

As you hopefully read in my blog post from Tuesday, I returned just 11 days ago from my first ever mission trip to San Salvador, El Salvador. To say that my life was forever changed is truly and understatement. I prayed for months about whether or not God wanted me there and once I realized He did, I was eager to discover His plan and purpose for my Central American adventure. It took a few days and even a few tears, but by Thursday of our weeklong trip, I knew why God wanted me there.

I was blessed to be able to visit a local private school in San Salvador, Colegio Ceren, to talk with a group of high schoolers (most of them were around the 15-18 age range). I figured that this wasn’t God’s purpose for me, since it’s what I do for a job and I was sure there was something bigger for me in San Salvador. Once again, I was wrong. I spent two and a half days at the school talking with the teenagers about my faith and theirs, comparing high school experiences and laughing. One of the boys I met, Josué, pulled at my heartstrings from Day 1. It was something beyond the fact that he was at least 5’10″ (unusually tall for a Latino!), had skin as pale as mine, bright blue eyes and naturally red hair. It took me a few days and numerous people to piece together his backstory, but in a nutshell, his dad left when he was little, his mom passed away from breast cancer, his brother is in jail, and Josué is living alone in a tiny apartment with just enough money from a family friend in the states to cover tuition and a little food.

Friday afternoon at Ceren with Josué!

Friday afternoon at Ceren with Josué!

After 3 days with Josué and his peers, I knew why God had sent me to San Salvador. After discussing the idea with Pastor Victor (the head pastor at the San Salvador church we partner with, Iglesia Gran Comision), we decided that I would become Josué’s sponsor. My financial support will go through the Great Commission Latin America (GCLA), the same organization Rock City Church uses to sponsor the little kids. From there, my money will be specifically designated for Josué and will go to Pastor Victor and he will use it as he best sees fit for Josué’s needs at that time. In 2 years, when he graduates from high school, I can continue donating money to go towards Josué’s college fund. Then, once he is stable and on his own, he will no longer need my financial support. Through all of this, Josué and I will be able to email one another and build a friendship that spans many years and thousands of miles. I have a dream of seeing Josué graduate high school 2 years from now!

Working with the high schoolers didn’t feel “special” at first, it just felt like another day at work (I’m an 11th & 12th grade English teacher in Columbus). But maybe that is how God shows us our spiritual gifts and purpose. The things that we love to do and can do without hesitation are the things He wants us to do for His glory. Yes, he will challenge us and push us to “flex, flex, flex” (this was our motto for the week to remind us to be flexible!) out of our comfort zone, but it’s only to make us stronger in His purpose for us. 

I have only been home a little while, and I already know that my time in San Salvador is far from over. It was definitely hard for me to leave. Part of my heart was ready to be home, share my experience with my friends and family, and cuddle with Dewey, but the other part ached for the new friends I had made.

This past Sunday, an opportunity to return to San Salvador presented itself. I was sitting next to Annie, a woman I became friends with on the trip, at church on Sunday, and in the middle of the service, she leaned over and whispered that she was joining up with the August mission trip. My heart immediately longed to return, so I spent some serious time in prayer begging God for a sign of whether I was to go back in August or not. I realized that really the only thing keeping me from going was raising the money. As a teacher, I’m on summer break, so the timing is perfect.

Yesterday in the mail, I got a check for $425 as an AEP Electric refund. “HEY ASHLEY!!! HERE’S YOUR SIGN!!!” -Love, God

I am hoping and seriously praying that God will come through, not just for me, but for the Salvadorians as well, and help me to raise the extra $1325.

Our trip is August 2-10 and our role will be to serve the community through working with the children, assisting in the health clinic and possibly some construction work. We will share the love and message of Jesus Christ and build relationships with people that are eager to share their life stories and hear why we have the hope we have. I realize that it might not fit into the schedule to visit Colegio Ceren, but I trusted God once to stretch me and grow me, and I know He will do it again. Obviously, I hope and pray that we do, but if not, I am eager to see what God has in store for me this time.

I am asking for your support in two ways. First and foremost, I need some diligent, persistent prayer partners! If you remember to do nothing else on our behalf, please remember to pray! This is so imperative as I begin making VERY QUICK preparations for my trip and then as I actually arrive on site to minister to the poor and hurting of San Salvador. 

Please add us to your daily prayer list!

Secondly, I am asking for support financially in this outreach endeavor. The total cost is $1750 per person for the 9 days we will be in San Salvador. I believe that God has put this trip on my heart (again!) for a reason and I am very confident that He will put this request on the hearts of the people he would have support this mission opportunity. All that I ask of you to do is to pray about it and then follow what God wants you to do for His Kingdom. If you decide to donate, directions are below.

I realize that you may have never met me, maybe this is your first time stopping by adorable lil blog ;), or maybe you’ve never donated to something like this before. Please understand that when you donate, your money IS NOT going into my pocket! First of all, when you donate, you go through Rock City Church. You simply designate your donation for Mission Trips, and then include my name so it goes towards my fundraising. This process will not only assure you that you are not sending money to some quirky girl with pink hair (oh yeah, I dyed my hair pink last week!) to do who knows what with, but it also makes your donation tax deductible! YAY!

I hope that you will also be assured that your hard earned money is going towards a cause bigger than me, bigger than you, greater than the sum of us combined. Your money will be used to show the poor and disadvantaged people of San Salvador God’s love. You will be helping me to connect with Josué, the 16 year old boy I am supporting financially, spiritually and emotionally. And a little bit selfishly on my end, you will be supporting me in finally feeling like I am fulfilling God’s purpose for me.

Your prayer and financial partnership will help our team to influence many for Christ as we serve them in different ways while we are in their country. For those of you that are serious planners like myself, this might be a bit last minute, but remember, “FLEX, FLEX, FLEX!” I must have ALL of this financial support by July 6th. I look forward to hearing from you! Together, we can make an impact on the lives of these precious Salvadorians!

With love, Ashley

If you feel led to donate to my Salvadorian Adventure or have ANY questions whatsoever about donating, please let me know by using this form to contact me!

To read more in depth about my first of many San Salvadorian adventures and see the beautiful faces of the people God has blessed, please check out my blog post:

EndingUpHere.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/san-sal  

† † † † †

How to Give

Online Donations

  • Rock City Church can accept donations online through our website www.rockcitychurch.tv
  • In the upper right corner, click the little black box with 3 lines. Scroll to the bottom and click “Give Online.”
  • On the next page, click the large box that says “One-Time Gift.”
  • On the next page, in the first drop down menu, select “Mission Trips”

This next part is important!!

  • Currently the merchant services that Rock City Church uses does not offer an option to leave a memo with my name, designating your donation to me. Along with your online donation, please send an email to missions@rockcitychurch.tv with the subject being “Missions Donation For Ashley Arend.”

Turning support funds in to Rock City Church via an “actual” check:

  • Double check that all checks are made out to “Rock City Church.”
  • Double check that the memo section states “Rock City Missions: A. Arend”
  • Once you have verified that all the checks are completed correctly you may:
    • Drop them in the offering OR
    • Mail them to: Rock City Church / Attn: Mission Trips / PO Box 474 / Hilliard, Ohio / 43026

Example Check:

***IMPORTANT: DISCLAIMER!***

To insure the tax deductibility of your support gift, IRS regulations stipulate that support contributions may NOT specify that an individual be the beneficiary of or direct recipient of the contribution. However, you may indicate a preference below and the Church will endeavor to honor that preference. Make all checks payable to “Rock City Church.”

Thank you for considering giving to this cause. Any amount you would like to give will be greatly appreciated.

Beyond My Walls, San Salvador Mission Trip: Love Is My Purpose

{please click HERE to see ALL my photos from San Salvador!} Well, I think it is quite obvious that I was unable to complete a daily blog while in San Salvador. I got to the point where I was so … Continue reading

Beyond My Walls, San Salvador Mission Trip: Day 3

{please follow my journey through photos here!}

Goooood morning! It is 5:30am Tuesday morning here in San Salvador! Yesterday was our first day of work at the Children’s Center (CDI)! My day started off with another cloudy morning sunrise (much like the one today!), but once again, it’s better than any sunrise I’ve seen in Columbus, Ohio. Before I got to work praying, I actually did a little rooftop yoga to help center my mind and wake up my brain and body! I then spent a good amount of time journaling, praying and reviewing God’s word so that I would be ready for our house visit later that morning. I prayed in Child’s Pose and asked God to use me for Him in whatever way was necessary. I asked Him to take away any barrier I might have from speaking and simply use my words and my body to His glory.

After breakfast and a devotional from Bob (he is on this trip with his 4 kids, one of which, Jenna, is my roommate!), we got on our way to Guayabo! Along the way, the “micro-bus” I was in stopped to pick up 5 of our translators for the day. Suddenly, our van, which should safely sit about 11 people, was stuffed with SEVENTEEN people! Our translators are kids in their early 20s and most of them are in college. They are all hilarious, infinitely helpful, beautiful people. Some of them have visited the United States before, giving us something in common to talk about. In fact, although we live thousands of miles apart, we have quite a few things in common! There are 3 big things that I clicked on with each of the translators immediately: Facebook, Instagram & Twitter! I have also learned that “Selfie” in Spanish, is “Selfie!”

When we arrived at the CDI, we got a quick tour, downed some coffee, and organized into our morning groups. John, Annie and I were introduced to the woman whose home we would be visiting. Unfortunately, none of us can remember her name! We were teamed up with Andrea (Andi) as our translator. I feel as though Andi and I would be great friends if she lived in the US! I am pretty sure she is the Salvadorian Patron Saint of Selfies! We walked with this woman to her home, probably 25-30 minutes away and uphill the whole way! Whenever we came to a fork in the road, we’d ask which way, and of course she would point the direction going UP! Thank God for all my workout classes! We got tothe woman’s home and her husband was there working inside the house. Their land was actually quite nice for Guayabo! They had 5 jugs filled with water, which is important when you don’t have running city water like we do, chickens (one was even a pet and lived inside the house!), and a dog! When you peeked in the house, it was just one room for everything. Their beds we against the walls on 2 sides, the kitchen was on another side and the front door was on the 4th side.

The woman introduced us to her husband and pulled out three stools for us to sit on her front porch. Their dog was wandering the home and immediately got shooed away to make room for the visitors. We graciously accepted the seats and proceeded to have small talk to try to get to know the family and where they were with their faith. Juan has a job where he picks vegetables and carries them in giant bags on his back. Some days, the woman, although she looks frail and weak, carries just as much weight as her male counterparts. They have 5 children, 3 of which are young enough to be enrolled at the Children’s Center. We discovered that the woman seems to understand Christianity fairly well and that God’s love is a gift that we can do nothing to earn. She belongs to the Catholic Church down the hill from their home and attends weekly. Juan, on the other hand, attends church about once a month. We asked them if they had a Bible, and they brought out this old, worn, falling apart Bible. I heard once that if a Bible is falling apart, it must be owned by someone who isn’t. That might explain why the woman was able to walk nimbly up and down the steep Guayabo hills in dress shoes without the slightest of stumbles. We proceeded to go through our pre-marked verses, stopping after each one to check for understanding. Both Juan and his wife understood what we were attempting to tell them until we got to the part about not being able to earn God’s unconditional love. This is common amongst many Catholics; they believe that we can only get to Heaven by doing good works. Salvation can be earned. After many verses and discussions, John asked Juan if he was ready to accept Jesus into his heart. Juan stood silent and gazed over the horizon. We gave him a moment to collect his thoughts before John asked him what was holding him back. It was revealed to us that he felt as if he wasn’t good enough God’s love; that he hadn’t yet earned it. No matter how many verses we showed Juan and explained to him that if we believe the Bible to be true, which we do, and something is in the Bible, it must be true, he still wasn’t ready to commit. At this point, had I been alone, I would’ve quit and said, “Well, thanks for your time! I’ll check back in later!” But Annie pushed through. She told a story about her struggles with being good enough and how she worked through it to finally realize that she can’t ever be worthy of God’s love. Something in her story struck a cord with Juan and he connected with what God was trying to tell him. John asked again if he was ready to give his life to Jesus and this time he said that he was!! His first question was, “Now what??” We explained that John would recite a prayer, Andi would translate it into Spanish and Juan would repeat it in Spanish. Hearing Juan tell God that he was ready to accept his undeserved, unconditional love was a blessing like I’d never experienced before. After the prayer, we celebrated with Juan and encouraged him to get connected to other believers. Fortunately his wife is a believer and can help him with this. I hope we are able to keep updated with Juan somehow and make sure that he is able to find other believers and strengthen his faith.

On the walk back to the center, I felt frustrated because during our house visit, I really didn’t say much. I pretty much sat with John, Annie and Andi and followed along. At one point, the family dog returned and I pet the dog for a long time. At one point, her even rested his head on my lap! But I didn’t really have much to say that I felt could have helped Juan or his wife’s understanding of God’s grace. I felt useless. Like here are John and Annie, two amazing people with so much to offer, and I just sat and smiled like an awkward bump on a log. I was disappointed in myself. I was just really hoping that God was going to use me during that house visit and I don’t feel like he needed me. I suppose it’s true that sometimes we have to get out of God’s way and let Him do His thing. Sometimes that involves us and sometimes it doesn’t. While walking, I prayed that god would have another way to use me that day.

As Melissa got ready to deliver her lesson, I wandered around the children taking photos. At one point, I found two of the daughters of the family we had just visited! As Melissa and her translator were talking, these kids were rowdy! It’s truly a good thing I can’t speak Spanish because my teacher mode would have come out in full force!!! After the lessons, there was a craft the kids got to make and take home. I had fun helping the kids. They didn’t care that we had a communication barrier, they just wanted someone to pay attention to them and help them.

IMG_9666

Once the kids’ lesson was completed, they were allowed free time to run around and play. I went to check out the construction area where we are building a playground and completing some other tasks. Still trying to be useful for God, I picked up a shovel and began helping where I could.

Our entire group got to go to the home of Victor and Sylvia Turcios for dinner. Victor is the pastor at Iglesia Gran Comision and works very closely with the CDI. Their home was very simple and not a mansion by any means, but they worked very hard to make it welcoming for us. Dinner wasn’t quite ready when we got there, so a group of us went to the playground next door to play soccer. I didn’t play, but took photos and held cell phones instead! When we returned to the house, we were treated to a delicious meal of homemade tortilla soup, homemade jalapeño pesto dip (I tried it even though I’m a weakling when it comes to spices! It was very good, but very spicy!!!), quesadillas, pound cake and coffee.

Sylvia serving us her delicious meal!

Sylvia serving us her delicious meal!

IMG_9981

 

It was then back “home” to the hotel for our debriefing meeting and bed! All in all, I had a wonderful day and got to experience some truly incredible things. I am still working through my frustrations of not feeling useful for God, but I know that He has a place where He will use me for his glory.

Beyond My Walls, San Salvador Mission Trip: Day 2

Our first full day here in San Salvador was of course, AMAZING. I am realizing though, that with the incredibly full and busy days ahead of us, I may not have time to provide detailed posts every night. I can survive on 5 hours of sleep, but the way I usually write and edit…I’d only get 3 hours of sleep! SO, I will provide as much detail as possible, but I just hope that between my handful of words and bevy of photos, your curiosity about my current adventure will be satiated!

  • I woke up at 5am this morning to experience my first Salvadorian sunset. Unfortunately, it was a little cloudy from last night’s  rainstorm, but the sunrise was still more beautiful than any I’d seen in Columbus for a while! I tried to have some quiet alone time of journaling, but as soon as I’d get to writing, the sun would rise a little higher, creating the “just right” Kodak moment.

IMG_9486

  • Breakfast was at 6:30am. During breakfast, we went over the plan for the day, fellowshipped together and had a short time of devotion to put our heads and hearts in order for the day.
Eggs, beans, ham & cheese roll, plantains, and OF COURSE...COFFEEEEEE!!!!

Eggs, beans, ham & cheese roll, plantains, and OF COURSE…COFFEEEEEE!!!!

  • After breakfast, we left for Iglesia Gran Comisión San Salvador and the first of 3 church services we would attend and serve at throughout the day. At each service, our pastor, John Ransom was preaching! The only thing that made this slightly challenging was the fact that John was speaking with a translator. John would say a sentence or phrase and then the translator would speak in Spanish. Everyone at the church was so kind and welcoming and eager to have us there. I met hermanos Gerson (pronounced hair-son with a rolled rrrr.) and Emilio and their father, Emilio Sr. Gerson and Emilio sang in the church worship band. We sang songs in Spanish, that I could pick out a few words from. We also sang an old familiar song, How Great is Our God, but in Spanish! It was a unique experience to be able to worship with our hosts in their language and know that God not only hears us, but understands our hearts and our words.
  • We stayed at Iglesia Gran Comisión for another service, but instead of sitting in for the service, a group of us sat outside the worship hall and fellowshipped a bit. I am really enjoying getting to know the people on our trip. We are all connected in some way!
Church Worship Band at

Church Worship Band at Iglesia Gran Comision

  • By the time the 2nd service ended, it was lunchtime! We traveled to the local mall to eat in the food court. We were each given $5 to spend on food. San Salvador uses dollars like in the United States, but it goes much further down here than it does up north. Another difference is the popularity of the Sunday lunch crowd at the mall! We walked in and it was PACKED! I can’t remember the last time I saw any mall in Columbus so filled with people! Wait….Yes I can. 1998, City Center Mall was filled with teenage girls hoping to catch a glance of the popular boy group Hanson. I was one of said girls. But I digress. Apparently the thing to do with your friends and family on Sunday is go to the mall and have lunch in the food court. We were given our money and a partner and sent on our way. I was partnered with Alyssa and we TOTALLY underestimated how difficult it would be to acquire food in a Salvadorian mall food court when neither of us speak Spanish. Thank God we serendipitously chose the same line as Sarah! She was able to help us figure out exactly what we wanted!
  • After lunch, we headed to Soyapongo for church service #3. In Soyapongo, I met Mario, a guy that works with the church to run sound and helps with the children’s ministry. Mario’s English was better than some of my friends back home! I asked how old he was and he told me to guess. I hate guessing ages, but I played along and guessed 18. WRONG! 25!!! Such a babyface! I noticed that Mario was wearing a pristine pair of Nike Jordan shoes. I commented that my students back home LOVE their Jordan’s too. He said that he has to have them and has worked very, very hard to pay for THREE pairs of them! Mario does something working with computers and networking (even in his near perfect English, I had a hard time understanding exactly what he does! Ha!) and is currently studying for an exam for either a promotion or job change (again, even English didn’t help my lack of technical knowledge.). He showed me on his phone the reading he’s doing. No wonder his English is so good! He was reading words that would take me a few tries to comprehend! It was nice to talk to someone from San Salvador without struggling with a language barrier. Plus, I was truly inspired by his perseverance and hard work not only to get something he wanted but also his dedication to the church, which he has grown up in since he was a little boy. Just something about his joyfulness was magnetizing! I could have talked with him for hours! We also had a few good laughs watching the little kids interact with each other. Turns out kids are the same no matter what country you’re in!

IMG_9587

  • Since the third church service was so late in the afternoon, by the time it was over, it was dinnertime! Dinner was at a local restaurant, Tipicos Margoth. I had my first pupusa! A pupusa is a traditional Salvadoran dish made of a thick, handmade corn tortilla that is usually filled with a blend of the following: cheese cooked pork meat ground to a paste consistency refried beans, or queso con loroco. It was a simple, but delicious dish!
I was so hungry, I started eating before I remembered to take a picture!

I was so hungry, I started eating before I remembered to take a picture!

  • Post dinner, we had our debriefing meeting back at the hotel and figured out who would be doing what tomorrow at the children’s center. John asked if I would go with him and Annie on a house visit (i.e. evangelizing) in the morning. Of course I said I would go. Evangelizing has been my biggest anxiety in planning for this trip. I simply don’t think my story of coming to faith is all that exciting or meaningful. It’s not something that brings me to tears, and I think the ones that do are some of the most impressive stories. Heck, I can’t even identify the exact moment I was saved. I have just always known that Jesus is my Savior because I was raised in a strong Christian home. Sure, at some point I had to make the decision to follow Christ for myself, but I really can’t identify when that moment was. Yes, I have had times of trial where I have been angry with or confused by God, but I have never questioned his existence. Needless to say, I just don’t think my testimony is very strong or really even worth sharing. I am glad that I will be on my first visit with John, our pastor who obviously know what he’s doing and what to say. I will be able to learn a great deal from him and observe how he talks to people about his faith and what they believe.

Today was a long, exhausting day. I am eager and anxious to see what tomorrow brings!

Beyond My Walls, San Salvador Mission Trip: Day 1

PHEW! It’s 8:45pm here in San Salvador (10:45pm back home in Ohio) and for some odd reason, I am not tired yet! I should mention I have been up since 3am (thanks for the wake up call, Dad…ughhh), have been on 2 flights totaling 5 hours in the air and 1 45-minute van ride. I should be exhausted! But I’m glad I’m not so I can give everyone an update!

Our first flight left from Columbus, Ohio at 5:50 am this morning and landed us in Miami, Florida. From Miami, we flew to San Salvador, El Salvador.

In case you're as clueless as I was...

In case you’re as clueless as I was…

Right in the heart of it all!!

Right in the heart of it all!!

Both flights for me were pretty uneventful. I already knew that even with the best of intentions to be productive during either of the flights, I knew I’d fall asleep eventually. So I gave in and tried to catch some extra zzz’s before the long day ahead. Flying into San Salvador was simply breathtaking. Everything was so green! I could see homes and buildings from above, but the land far outweighed the buildings.

Once we landed, we went straight to Immigration. The woman checked my passport and documentation and ask how many days I’d be staying. My Spanish is beyond lacking, but I can at least count to 10, and we’ll only be here 9 days! WOO! I know the answer to this one! So I happily blurted, “NINE!” Well, there went my first opportunity for real Spanish. She looked at me confused, “What? Oh…ok.” She was very sweet and smiled at the silly blonde girl who couldn’t even figure out how to say “NUEVE!”

After Immigration came Customs. Once again, the friendly Salvadorian laughed at my lack of Spanish and asked me to push a button right below a giant red and green traffic light looking contraption. “OH! Ok! It’s green….what’s that mean??” I was hoping for some sort of exciting prize for following directions so well! WRONG! Apparently it’s a randomizer that randomly lights up red or green. Green – you pass through into San Salvador. Red – you have to put your bag through the x-ray machine.

Everyone made it through both Immigrations and Customs without a hitch. The only slight problem was that one of our bags got lost, and both fortunately and unfortunately, it wasn’t anyone’s personal items, “just” donations for the villagers.

My new best friend and San Salvador reference, Sarah, met us outside. Sarah works as the Missions Coordinator and her husband, Jorge, is the head of college ministry. She reminded us of a few important tips (DON’T drink the water and don’t flush toilet paper!) and gave us a rundown of the rest of the afternoon and evening before escorting us to our van drivers for the week. We all piled in and began the 45-minute trek to our hotel.

Looking out the window on the drive was incredible. We saw everything from horses just chillin on the side of the road, to dogs wandering around, to graffiti, to shirtless workers enjoying an afternoon siesta.

 

Okay…the tired is starting to hit me, so I’m going to wrap up the rest of the day kinda quickly:

  • We arrived at the hotel and received our room assignments. I am rooming with 2 lovely girls, Jenna and Becca. Small world! I graduate high school with Becca’s older sister! Our room is basically 2 queen sized beds and one twin. They are very quaint, but perfect. It feels kinda like a dorm room (but we have our own bathroom!).
  • We had orientation (schedule for the week, do’s and don’t’s, cultural traditions, etc.).
  • Our first outing was to the local grocery store! I stuck close to Sarah and she showed me some delicious treats you can only get in San Salvador. I will be returning home with plantain chips, white chocolate and peanut butter candies, cream soda and Oreo Wafers! YEAH! I’ve never seen Oreo WAFERS in the US!!! I also scored some delicious pastries from the bakery. Since I will not be able to bring them home, I documented the banana puff pastry that might have been one of the greatest things I’ve ever tasted.
I'M GOIN' IN!!!

I’M GOIN’ IN!!!

I couldn't even get a picture of the entire thing before my mouth took over and I started chomping!

I couldn’t even get a picture of the entire thing before my mouth took over and I started chomping!

  • After our grocery outing, we came home (the hotel) for dinner. PIZZA!!!! A little taste of home was fantastic!
  • Our last group activity for the night was getting to know each other a little better by sharing what we are most looking forward to this week. I shared that I am simply looking forward to everything!! I’m really not sure what to expect this week, so I am excited for it all! I will be paying attention to opportunities to be stretched beyond my comfort level and open to God’s changes in my heart.
  • It had started to rain during our meeting, so after we had concluded in prayer, a few of us when to the roof (yeah, you can just go chill on the roof!). It’s covered, so we weren’t being rained on. I tried to capture some photos of the storm, but I did not have any success. I will just have to remember it. That roof is going to be home to many of my quiet times this week. In fact, I’m just crazy enough to dare to get up for the sunrise tomorrow!

Speaking of which, I am now officially tired. Please follow me here on Ending Up Here, Instagram, and Flickr for as many updates as I can muster before passing out from exhaustion each night!! Thank you so much to each and every one of you for your support through kind words, encouraging texts, and just by keeping up with me here!! Noches! (I’ve picked up that the “Buenos” isn’t necessary. 😉 )

View from the airplane as we arrived in San Salvador. Created with the iPhone app Vrsly.

View from the airplane as we arrived in San Salvador. Created with the iPhone app Vrsly.

 

Welcome to the World, Dominick. Take Notes.

On May 25th, 2014, one of my best friends, Kristen, gave birth to her first child! She is not the first of my friends to have a baby, but she is the first of my best friends to have a baby and be living in the same city as me, so this is a big deal. Kristen, her husband Trai, and both their parents labored for an entire weekend before Baby D burst into this world with plans to do some fiercely amazing things.

Kristen and Trai

Kristen is an only child, so she views her close girlfriends as sisters. This means I’m an aunt! I plan on being a major part of Dominick’s life and I can’t wait to experience life with him.

In honor of Dom being born on May 25th, I have written a list of 25 things I hope to teach him in his life.

    1. I swear to the Good Lord, your mom was super cool once. Don’t ask me to prove it. She’d kill me if I told you half of the things that make her so cool. OR at least wait until I’m 3 vodka sodas in to ask me.
    2. The great game of flip cup. Your mom and I were and still are champion players. It’s like riding a bike.
    3. Be nice to your teachers and do as they say, even if it doesn’t make sense to you. Confession: I grade the “good” kids way easier than the pain in my ass kids. And trust me, your mother will kill you if you don’t get good grades.
    4. Reading is sexy. I mean, sure…video games are cool, but a girl is going to be way more likely to talk to you if you’re a reader.
    5. Gay? Fine by me! Seriously. I’d actually prefer it if you’re gay. By the time you’re able to read and comprehend this, I pray that who people decide to love and marry isn’t even worth a discussion anymore. Plus, I’ll probably be married to a slew of gay men, so I’m sure you’re already in tune with the gay community.
    6. It’s okay to make giant mistakes. Believe me…your mom and I have made some DOOZIES in our day! But when you need help, go to your parents. There isn’t anything you can do to make them love you less. They might be frustrated with you, but I can guarantee that they will do anything in their power to help you out.
    7. Exercise is AWESOME! Getting your heart rate up for just 30 minutes each day boosts your endorphins by like a gadzillion percent. And endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t. Ugh. In this moment, I’m really hoping you’re gay so that you can appreciate that Elle Woods quote.
    8. Hold onto your faith. Your friends will let you down. Your family will let you down. God will never let you down. He may frustrate and confuse you, but He will ALWAYS be at your side with your best interest in mind. God has a wonderful, beautiful plan for your life. When life sucks, just trust that God is working in everything for a reason.
    9. Be good to your friends. Apologize when you’ve wronged them and forgive them when they screw up. We’re human, it happens. But life truly is not worth living without some badass friends at your side. Look at all your aunts and uncles; very few of us are genetically related to you, but consider ourselves family. We couldn’t have made this family work without a little bit of forgiveness, understanding and A LOT of love.
    10. Do whatever it takes to get along with your parents and introduce them to your friends. Yes, they’re super annoying, but they are your #1 fans! They are going to be way more likely to let you borrow the car and stay out past curfew if they know and trust who you are with.
    11. Be nice to girls. They are fragile creatures that need to be treated with respect and care.
    12. Is Facebook still at thing in 2029? God, I hope so! I can only imagine all the cool foods I will be eating and fantastic things I will be doing in 15 years! I will want to make sure all my friends know about it! I digress… Don’t friend your parents on Facebook! Sure, you should be open and honest with them about your life, but your friends are idiots and are going to post stupid things that you would much rather your parents didn’t know about. And the truth is, they probably don’t need to know. Don’t worry… I’ll talk to them about this.
    13. Call your grandparents! Once again, you come from a very loving and supportive family. Would it kill you to tell your grandparents what is going on in your life? Plus, they’ll be more likely to slip a 20 in your Christmas card!
    14. YOU’RE a badass kid, but don’t let that go to YOUR head. Let’s go THERE so we can drink THEIR beer THEY’RE dumb enough to be giving away. If you learn nothing else from me, know the difference between these five words!
    15. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. Embrace EVERY day you are blessed with by finding some small bit of happiness in it.
    16. Surround yourself with people that make you a better man. Shake the haters off and latch onto the friends that tell you when you’re being an idiot, but encourage you to be better than you were before.
    17. You are going to fail at things in life. What will impress people is when you get up and try again EVERY time. You’ll probably even impress yourself.
    18. NEVER drink straight Everclear. You’ll go blind and your man bits will never work right again! Okay…maybe not, but seriously. Not worth the risk.
    19. Be silly and laugh at yourself! People will laugh with you and life is more fun when you’re not worried what other people are thinking.
    20. A few days after you were born, Maya Angelou passed away. She was a brilliant poet and author. She was also an actress, screenwriter, director, civil rights activist, and educator. One of her most famous quotes is “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” In my 29 years in this world, I have learned this to be absolutely true. I can’t remember what one of my ex-boyfriends said to make me angry, but I remember being so angry I threw a hairbrush at his foot. I can’t remember every kind act your mom has ever done for me, but I know she has made me feel loved. The point is, don’t overthink saying the right thing or doing everything right; focus on how your words and actions will affect people later.
    21. Don’t let your significant other be the focus of your life 100% of the time. You still need to put effort into your friendships because who else is going to listen while you ramble on about how perfectly fantastic they are?? And trust me – it can be very hard to earn back friendships you pushed aside for a relationship that lasted half as long.
    22. Learn to cook. There is nothing sexier than a man offering to make dinner.
    23. Something my mom taught me: Never rely on anyone to take care of you financially past the age of 22(ish). Not even your parents. You could and should rely on Mom and Dad to help you when you need it, but learn to be self-sufficient. And never, EVER, expect your significant other to support you 100%. Life happens and you need to know how to take care of yourself.
    24. Something my dad taught me: Always have more than one toolbox to work from. Be good at more than one thing. Your first career choice might cease to interest you someday, or for reasons outside of your control, you are unable to maintain your dream job. Be able to make money doing something else and be willing to learn new skills.
    25. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) When we love people, it is more difficult to wrong each other, but when we do (we’re human, so it’s going to happen!), they will see the love in our hearts and be better able to forgive us. Plus, you want to be remembered as the nice guy and not the bully. Loving people should come naturally to you because your parents are two of the most loving people I have ever met. It has never quite made sense to me how two people can be so short in stature and yet have hearts so big. You are truly blessed, Dominick.

Dominick

BFF Spotlight: Tim Orr

Hellllooooooo????? Anyone out there?? I know it’s been eons since I’ve written last, so I hope you haven’t forgotten about me! I’m here!!!

There’s nothing like the promise of a new blogger on the block to make me realize what a craptastic blogger I’ve been lately! It isn’t that I don’t still love it or want to do it, just life is busy, busy, busy! I need to make it a goal to write at least twice a month next year! I was on a roll before!

I have a billion things to write about! When I was deciding what I should write about first, I realized that it should be something y’all would want to read about! And what’s more enticing than holidays and best friends?? So Imma tell you about how both of those things came together to form one white trash, relaxing, amazing, fun-filled Thanksgiving!

I will start off by introducing you to one of my best friends, Tim Orr. Tim and I have only actually know each other for about 2 years. I knew the moment I met him that we would be friends forever.

IMG_0035_2

It was mid-February 2012. My boyfriend had just broken up with me a week or so before. For Christmas and my birthday (January 21st. Mark your calendars!), my dad got me a gift card to Coach (the handbag store. Lookit, Tim! I’m using handbag instead of purse almost 100% of the time! Ain’t you proud of me?!?). In an attempt to move on past the ex, I started a blog, got lots of mani/pedis, and began searching for the perfect Coach handbag to compliment my new, boyfriend-free life. I had finally found the one I wanted, but being that I don’t do “patient” well, instead of ordering online, I went to the Easton Coach store to purchase my one, true love. 

Once I was in the store, this adorably chic, toothpick of a man approached me. 

“Hi! Is there anything special you’re shopping for?”

“Actually yes! Do you have the Mini Willis purse in pink (this was before I knew better. It is a HANDBAG.) in stock?”

“We are actually all out of that one in our store, but I can search for it at another store for you!”

“Aww man! Yeah, okay, that works too!”

This character of a man led me to the counter where he began typing away on the computer.

“Well, it doesn’t seem that any of our Ohio stores have it either. Let me see where I can get one…”

I was becoming more and more frustrated. Didn’t he know that I was going through an awful breakup and needed retail therapy like…YESTERDAY?!? This purse would be the only thing that would truly love me and be loyal to be FOREVER. I needed it NOW.

“Oh! There’s one in Vegas! And who doesn’t love Vegas?!”

“Yay! Perfect! Can you call them and reserve it??”

“I have to do it through the computer.”

“Ok! Here’s my credit card, my social security, the promise of my first born….just get me that purse.”

And he did. That day, Tim became my savior and my soon-to-be best friend.

At then end of my transaction, I looked up at him and said, “You seem pretty fabulous. We should probably be best friends.”

Without skipping a beat, he responded, “I was just thinking the same thing!!”

And that was that!

Well…not exactly. We didn’t exchange phone numbers and I didn’t know his last name, so I was going to have to a little more shadier to really pull Tim into my life.

I went home that night and regaled my roommate Kelly with the story of our encounter. She was not nearly as excited about our new friend as I was.

“Kelly, I think I’m gonna call the Coach store back and ask if he wants to hang out with me and be my best friend for real!”

And that’s exactly what I did. For about a week or so, I called the Coach store almost daily to see if Tim was working and invite him to hang out.

“Hey! It’s a sunshiny day and I’m headed to Union to have dinner and drinks with some friends you should join!”

There were a few of these invites before he finally caved and met my friend Rachel and me for some drinks. It was a Thursday. I don’t remember the exact date, but I know it was a Thursday because Thursday is Long Island night at Union and I distinctly remember having one too many (this would become a reoccurring theme in our friendship).

After that evening, we spent more and more time together, eventually spending almost every weekend together. Tim quickly rose to the top of my “In Case of Emergency” List (“emergency” was loosely translated on many occasions…). I called Tim when boys were mean. He fed me pizza and turned on RuPaul’s Drag Race. He called me when work sucked. I fed him liquor and turned on Glee. We went on bike rides. We oiled up and fried at the pool (Summer 2012: Best. Tan. Ever.). 

I think after only 2 months of these shenanigans I knew that Tim would be a forever best friend.

Our first photo together! ComFest, June 2012

Our first photo together! ComFest, June 2012

Fast-Forward 2 years!!!

This past May, Tim moved to Chicago! The tragedy!!! But not even 350 some miles can interrupt our friendship! 

When Tim moved, he became the Assistant Manager of Coach on Michigan Avenue!!! (here Boo, lemme brush that dust off your shoulder…) Because of his impressive job, he was unable to come home to Columbus for Thanksgiving. Well. I was NOT about to let him spend the holiday alone, so I drove my skinny ass out there a few days before the holiday. 

Now, it should be noted that Tim has a lovely, but not ideal for a large Thanksgiving dinner, studio apartment. We knew months before that we would not be celebrating in the traditional way. We would keep it simple. The important part was that we would be together on Thanksgiving.

As it is almost every year ( 😉 ), Thanksgiving was on a Thursday. I drove up the Tuesday evening before. Tim had to work Wednesday. I would use my time in the city alone to get our Thanksgiving fixin’s. Had we been home, in Columbus, this would have been no big deal. Hop in the car, drive to the grocery, pick up the food and come home. Well. I wasn’t in CBus any more! I was in THE WINDY CITY! This meant that I would have to take the bus to the grocery and back! One of my least favorite things in being lost. Ever since I started driving, it has given me great anxiety. 

Flash Back to 2001. I had just gotten my driver’s license. Cell phones were just becoming something that everyone had. My parents bought me one in case of emergencies.

“DAAAAAAAAD!!!! I don’t know where I am! I am trying to get home from the mall! (Mind you, this mall was approximately 8 miles from home. I know. I should be embarrassed.) Where am I?? I don’t know! Wait! There’s a sign! Holy crap Dad, I’m in Grovetucky (This was really Grove City. We had given it this silly nickname!)!!! 

….10 minutes later…

DAAAAAAAAD!!!! Now I’m lost somewhere on OSU’s campus! Ugh! It’s all one-way streets!!! HELP!!!!

Back to 2013…

So the idea of getting on a bus (something I never have to do at home) and making sure said bus was going the right direction, was scaring the piss out of me. But I did it! I have to give some credit to Amee here:

“You’re not lost… you haven’t even left the apartment yet! Sheesh! I can’t believe I’m giving you a pep talk for this. Big sis says SACK UP!”

So I did. I sacked up, got on the right bus and made it to the grocery.

…3 hours later (I dillydallied around the apartment for awhile…)

“AHHHH! HOLY F!#K I DID IT! Ha! I made it to the grocery!”

Now I had a small added challenge of not over shopping, considering I had to carry everything home on the bus!! But I did it! I made it back with our dinner! HUZZAH!!!!

Now, I know you are dying to know what our dinner consisted of!!! We had a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, microwaveable steamed veggies, pre-made mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie! Imma stop here. As much as our dinner was certainly was a little poor man’s/white trash, the pumpkin pie was LEGIT!!!! My one job every year for Thanksgiving is pumpkin pie. For the past 3 or 4 years, I have made my pies from an actual pumpkin! I did it again this year. I took the pre-made pumpkin stuff and crust and simply had to bake the pie. So there. Our dinner wasn’t completely a sham!

TAAA DAAA! Dinner!!!

TAAA DAAA! Dinner!!!

Our Thanksgiving was wonderful. Simple and wonderful. We had spent the night before dancing until 4am and there wasn’t going to be the smell of turkey cooking to wake me, so needless to say, it was necessary to set an alarm for the morning. I was NOT going to miss the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade!! I woke up and had watched the parade and proceeding dog show when Tim finally joined me on the couch. And that is where we stayed. All day. We did not shower, change clothes….it was amazing! Maybe a little stinky, but it was just what we both needed; a day filled with nothing but relaxing.

An earlier trip this summer to Chicago with Amee!

An earlier trip this summer to Chicago with Amee!

…………

Amee's Top Gun themed, cancer-free party with the A-Squad, including Amanda and Allie!

Amee’s Top Gun themed, cancer-free party with the A-Squad, including Amanda and Allie!

I’m not sure exactly why my heart reached out to Tim so strongly and so quickly. But I am glad it did. He has filled my life with laughter (hot yoga in tutus!), music (no one does Britney like Tim!), and love (how many best friend bracelets have we gone through?? 3?!?).  In my life, I have learned that you can’t help who you love, for better or for worse, and when it comes to my dear, sweet Timberly, “My loneliness is killing me, I must confess I still believe, when I’m not with you I lose my mind….

HIT ME BABY ONE MORE TIME!”

Typical Sillyness

Typical Sillyness

Ta-Ta to Tim in Tutus! Tim's final hot yoga class before moving to Chicago!

Ta-Ta to Tim in Tutus! Tim’s final hot yoga class before moving to Chicago!

My birthday present to Tim this year - BFF bracelets with the coordinates of where we first met - The Coach Store!

My birthday present to Tim this year – BFF bracelets with the coordinates of where we first met – The Coach Store!

A typical weekend out with My Boo!

A typical weekend out with My Boo!