Sunday, January 2, 2011

123 Days of Life

Well, it has been 123 days since returning from Mexico and even longer since I last blogged. So, I thought it would be a good idea to update you all on what I am up to and how life in the States has been.

Since 4 days after returning from Mexico, I have been working at my home church (Elim Gospel Church) as the office manager and administrative assistant to the lead and executive pastors. I am also taking classes online to finish my BA in business administration. If all goes well I will be done in the summer. So that is what I am "doing."

Emotionally, though, the transition has not been so simple. When I went to Mexico, I experienced virtually no culture shock of any kind. Sure there were things that were different, but I did not notice it effecting me. Returning has been very interesting, because I have felt reverse culture stress or re-entry shock more than I anticipated.

Let me explain it this way. Everyone has an emotional bandwidth. This is the amount of emotional energy that each one of us have that allows us to respond to the highs and lows of our day in an appropriate manner. We obviously sometimes encounter situations that require more emotional energy than we have, either because it is a very demanding situation or we have already used up our emotional energy on other things without refilling it, and we thus feel taxed and stressed.

Since returning, I feel that I have a very small emotional bandwidth with very little emotional energy. I have contributed this to the idea that my emotional bandwidth has not shrunk, but rather that I am subconsciously using my emotional energy to readjust back to life in America in ways that I am not even aware of. This results in me being much more stressed and emotional than I have ever been in my life. It seems, especially when I first returned, but even still at times, that I do not even have a sufficient emotional bandwidth to handle the everyday normal small spikes and dips on the emotional radar. For example, when I first returned, you could have told me, "Good work Traci, I appreciate you" and I would have burst into tears with an overwhelming since of appreciation. While "words of appreciation" ranks last in my 5 love languages, this would obviously not be a typical response for me, but yet I would find myself fighting back tears all day long. Or for example, one of my bosses asked me to do a very simple calendar planning task a few weeks after returning. A task that would normally take 15 minutes and very little brain power. And for reasons that I still cannot grasp or understand, it totally stressed me out. It stressed me out to the point where I took a half day and went home and watched 4 straight hours of The Cake Boss. Now that is not normal activity for anyone, and even less normal for someone who's favorite week of the year just 2 years ago was the should-be-stressful week of the 1000+ person conference she organized and was responsible for.

This uncharacteristic emotionalism has been the hardest part of my re-entry stress. Obviously there are other things like readjusting to the English language, being away from close friends in Mexico, just being away from everything I love about Morelia, not being able to walk 2 blocks to eat $2 quesadilla meal for dinner, etc. There is a bunch to readjust to, but not having the emotional energy to adequately readjust makes everything harder. It makes the effort to reconnect with old friends or even make new ones a battle, because when you don't have enough emotional energy to deal with the little things, it means the energy that is exerted to connect with others is non existent. It also means getting frustrated at the little things which brings added friction into relationships. It means not knowing what to do with yourself when you don't fit in where you did when you left.

But, it also means some other things that are just little stresses that add onto the pile, which sometimes tip the scale. A lot of this has to do with information overload. If my work email inbox doesn't all fit in one screen without scrolling, I start to get anxious and quite often will just have to walk away until I can muster up enough emotional energy to tackle it. And while a minor stress like this should only take 5-10 minutes to get the energy to accomplish, it will sometimes take me days. Restaurant menus whether sit down or fast-food overwhelm me. The thought of browsing through each item is a daunting task and so I order whatever the giant picture tells me to. Large groups of people, or any size group of people including someone I do not know or do not know well now cause this outgoing extrovert to socially shut down and sit quiet until called upon. And the list could go on.

The hard part is, I don't know how to make it better. I have found some relief in running. What I used to despise has become a good release/relaxer for me. (So much so, I signed up for a triathlon that will take place in August). But aside from that, I think I just have to wait this out. Which is not easy.

There are some definite positives of being back as well. I love my job and my co-workers. My bosses (Pastor Josh Finley and Pastor Wayne Hedlund) have been particularly awesome in helping me adjust. (For proof of my emotionalism, I will confess that tears are rolling down my cheeks just thinking about how awesome and supportive they are. They really are the best. Which is probably why I love my job so much.) I have also been able to spend time with my family, which has been awesome. It had been 10 years since we have all been together for an extended time. And my 6-month-old niece is adorable and just makes everything better.

Many people ask me, "What are your plans for the future?" or "Do you plan on going back to Mexico?"
My answer is: When I felt the Lord telling me to come back to NY for a season, I also felt very strongly that my time in Mexico was not yet completed. I admit that I do not know what that means - perhaps it will look like me leading short term teams a few weeks each year or spending my summers there or maybe it means going down more permanently. So while having a complete peace in knowing that this is the right place for me right now helps a ton with not feeling regret, it still doesn't tell me the future nor console me when I miss Mexico. So I guess the answer is for this season I am here. And well, when this season will end, I am not sure. I am committed at my job until Sept 2011, but honestly, I think I will stay at least another year after that. I have thought about considering the possibility of starting a master's program in the Fall, but still don't have a complete peace about that. So, I am just waiting for the Lord to make the future clear, while leaning on the peace that He has me here.

I know this was a long post, but thanks for reading. Hopefully that helps clear up some answers and give you a little peek into what is going on with me. Please be patient with me during this time, but please also lift me up in prayer.

Monday, August 9, 2010

...nothing $100 pesos can't do...

At 8:17am I arrived at my friend's house where we had decided to meet the night before so I could accompany him to get his license. I arrive to greet his aunt who was not expecting me and to find out he was still in bed. After he dragged himself downstairs and let his aunt know what was going on, they started the search for the documents needed. After realizing they didn't have an original birth certificate to turn in to the "dmv", I started to walk home to head back to bed. About 12 blocks away my leg starts to vibrate. I answer and my friend tells me to return. We're going to give it a go regardless of our lack of documents.
The trip starts out at the Red Cross for a $4 medical exam. After waiting in line for about an hour, we get what we need and head out. After a pit stop for breakfast we go to his aunt's office to pick up some papers. There we head to the road test place. As we drive in and start looking for a parking spot, a man asks us if we would like our car washed. The guy driving us parks where directed and leans towards the car-washer and says, "we're here to get a license." A few glances, we hand him my friend's ID, and he walks away. About 4 minutes later he walks back with a signed paper saying the road test was passed.
...nothing $100 pesos can't do...
Then from there we head to a State building on the other side of town where they didn't even ask for a birth certificate. They took a picture and WAHLAH in a matter of minutes the shiny new hall-o-gram filled license was in our hands.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Life Change

"I have been so selfish."
The powerful words that reflect a deep heart transformation that has been occurring in one young woman who has been here in Mexico the past week. The past week a short term team of 20 youth and young adults has been here ministering. We have gone to a rehab center, orphanage, and two different church plants, as well as helping out here at me home church preparing for the youth conference that starts tomorrow. It has been very tiring for me on every level as I have been organizing it all on top of traveling, working, and ministering with them. But it has been so good. God is using them in powerful ways and it is incredible to see the transformation happening in their lives as they step out of their comfort zones and serve. This was my vision for first coming down--to see God use me to help young people get sparked with a passion for the Lord and the lost. It is happening. I am seeing it before my eyes and it is incredible. And it has only been the first week. I will be with teams from the States until July 29!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

OH How He Loves Us!

"If you could just understand how much God loves, you it would change everything!" I shared with the room filled with 75 young Mexicans.
Some of my closest friends here in Mexico have a band and they put on concerts and events to share the Gospel. This time, they invited me to speak. It was a powerful night ministering with some of my best friends as I preached the revelation that the Lord has been giving me this past year of His love. Like always, they Lord came through and despite my short-comings, He moved in a powerful way! The ministry time was incredible. I received some very specific words for people and feel that chains and bondage were broken. It was special for me personally as I was able to embrace and pray for a woman (mother and aunt of two of my best friends) as tears rolled down her face as she experienced the love of Christ. And even better as I was able to lead a friend here in a prayer for salvation.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Popcorn and Marshmallows

"Uh.... the fire doesn't normally burn that strong." I thought to myself as I noticed the flame on my stove top extremely high and abnormally orange while I was cooking some hamburger meat to make lasagna. I opened the door to the preheating oven to find a even larger flame and lots of smoke. Confused and slightly afraid I was going to burn my apartment building down due to a gas leak or something, I studied the mini bonfire coming from my gas stove to realize that there was something down there that had caught on fire. I lifted up the bottom cover only to find my stove had turned into a popcorn machine.
For the last week, a woman in the church and her two kids have ben staying with me. Apparently, out of fear that her kids would eat too much junk food, the mother hid some cookies and popcorn in the bottom part of the stove. While I don't approve of the dangerousness of this, I must admit it was a great hiding place. So, when I went to preheat the oven for the lasagna, the hidden boxes caught on fire. It was probably one of the funniest experiences I have had here as the kids and I took advantage of the opportunity and roasted marshmallows over the fire that had popcorn shooting out of it. :-)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I am NOT a fan

Wednesday nights I do the "Word" half of the "Worship with the Word" session in the House of Prayer. From 7-8pm I was on the platform adoring Daddy. At 8pm when the set switches gears a little I stepped down and went into my office to check something real quick. I walked in and realized that not everything was as I had left it. Almost everything was in order, but one thing was missing... my laptop!

Thinking that maybe one of my friends had borrowed it I quickly walked downstairs to see who was there. No sign of any of my friends. So, what else could I do but head back to the House of Prayer. I finished the session, and as it ended one of my friends asked me, "What's up"... I looked at him and said, "Well, I think someone stole my laptop."

I wish this story had a better end to it, but that is it. Some one stole my laptop. :( I am far from happy about it, but I know that it isn't the end of the world. While I am sad about some special photos and irreplacible documents I lost, I hope that the theif is blessed by my virus infected laptop :)

I hope to buy a new one soon. Right now I'm in the middle of the Mac vs. PC debate...

Monday, March 15, 2010


"Um you should come to Mexico for break instead of NY :) come on... get to see me, get a tan, and well get to see me. So much better than NY!" That is how it all started, a well intentioned hoping for the best but not acutally believing for anything. Turns out the next day she had bought a plane ticket to Mexico and 4 days later arrived.

Lifetime friends are hard to come by, but when you find one, you treasure them forever. This past week I had the opportunity to spend some time with one of those friends. My next door neighbor and one of my best childhood friends, Beth Allport came to visit me.
We had so much fun together. We went horseback riding, got our nails done, saw the sites, went to the waterpark, got sunburned, went shopping, and ate the goodness of Mexico. But, the best part about was we just got to be together and talk. It has been a few years since we had spent extended time together and I was just so blessed by the opportunity to hang out and chat with the closest person I've ever had to a sister. It was such a blast!