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I have been simmering on this blog for a while now and I think it will be a series of blog posts of reflections from my time “after Hollywood.”  It seems weird to think that I have been back in North Carolina for over a year now.  I never thought that things would change as much as they have.  Sometimes I wish I could go back to Hollywood and never leave.  But I have been through enough of life to know that nothing ever stays the same.  People change, times change and you just have to try and hold onto the moments because they will be over before you know it.  

Things I miss about Hollywood?

-ben adam climer, Eva Hendrix-Shovlin, Tyler Mostul, Nathan Mast, Isaiah Rivera, Britney Witt

-Being reminded every day that the work I did was making a difference.

-Meeting people everyday that were working towards a better, more just world

-No bugs (or at least a lot less of them)

-No humidity

-Public Transportation

-Sunshine pretty much all the time

-La Casa de la Communidad

-The neighbors

-Purple Hair

-4 day work weeks (well we worked hard on Mondays)

-Summer Movie Nights

-The Hollywood Sign

-Eating dinner with 6 of the most amazing people EVER!

The list could go on and on but more importantly I wouldn’t change anything about where I am right now. I have figured out it is ok to miss somewhere but still be happy with where you are.  These things aren’t mutually exclusive.  

I’m almost out of words for tonight but I have a few thank you’s to hand out.

Thank you to Matthew Schmitt, DOOR the YAV program for taking a chance on me.  On paper I didn’t fit the program, but you let me in and forever have changed my life.

Thank you to ben adam, Tyler, Nathan, and Isaiah for loving me unconditionally.  It truly was a life changing experience.  Never underestimate the power of love and I am a testament to how transformational it can be.

Thank you to Eva and Britney for being the sisters I never had and never thought I needed.  I can’t imagine my life without you.  You never fail to inspire me and encourage me.

I could write forever, but it’s rambling at this point.  More to come…

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So, I’m speaking at church in the morning (as I suspect many a YAV and YAVA do….so here it goes)

 

Clemmons Presbyterian Church, Good Morning and Happy Mother’s Day. 

Next Sunday we will once again participate in the collection of one of the four special offerings designated by the PC (USA).  During the celebration of Pentecost we will collect the 2013 Pentecost Offering.  You should have inserts in your bulletin highlighting some of the programs supported though our giving to the Pentecost offering.  40% of the collection stays in our local congregation to be given towards local ministries helping young people.  60% of the funds collected are sent to the General Assembly who divides the funds up between ministries for children at risk, ministries with youth and young adult ministries. 

I am sure that every year around this time I will be standing here before a congregation talking about my time in the Young Adult Volunteer program but somehow I never really know what I will say to explain to everyone how vital it is that we support this offering.

Some of you have heard probably more stories than you ever wanted to hear about my year in Hollywood, but I hope that I will always have the opportunity to tell those stories because I never want to forget what happened there. 

When I arrived in Hollywood, I was an extremely broken person.  I didn’t really know it at the time, but as I reflect upon that year, having been back almost a year now I realize that I was defining looking for something I would never find.  I was looking for the answers to all of life’s questions inside myself.  I was convinced that with more hard work and commitment on my part I would become successful.  I would be financially successful, self sufficient and at peace with my life.  I was unconcerned with what God saw in me, I was unconcerned with seeing God in others.  I was pretty sure that I alone was responsible for my success.

Last year in Hollywood was not always fun, you can just ask my mother, but I realized that I had been looking at life all wrong.  I was looking for God in the obvious ways, when he had been there all along.  I wanted God to speak to me and tell me that he was there.  Out loud.  It wasn’t until last year, at 32 years old that I realized that isn’t the way it works.

I saw God in the faces of my 6 housemates that showed me the real life definition of unconditional love.  In those 6 young men and women who walked away from the comforts of middle class life to live simply for a year and even longer in some cases.  In 6 young men and women who accepted me for who I was, challenged me to be more than who I was and more than who I am today.  In 6 young men and women who guarded me and protected me from my own inadequacies and showed me that I am more than the things that have happened to me.  In 6 young men and women who proved to me that family doesn’t always have to mean blood. 

I saw God in the face of our neighbors, immigrant families, both documented and undocumented that have the same hopes and dreams for their children as each one of the mother’s sitting in the congregation this morning.  I saw God in their faces as they told me stories over dinners at their homes of not seeing their families for 15-20 years because they could not leave the United States because they knew they would not be able to get back in.  I saw God in their faces as their children graduated from high school and many continued onto college, the first in their families to do so.  I cried out to God in Sonora, Nogales Mexico as I saw a man made wall, built on top of God’s creation to separate us from them.  I saw God in the face of young men and women that were brought to this country as toddlers and now, as high school seniors are trying to figure out how to continue their education in the only place they know as home in a system that tells them they are not wanted.

I saw God in the face of men and women experiencing homelessness through no fault of their own.  Individuals priced out of a housing market that even someone with a great job would not be able to afford.  I saw God in the face of men and women suffering from mental illness with nowhere to live except under a bridge or a bus stop.  I cried out to God to help me be strong enough to help them.  I prayed to God that I would break down my own prejudices about those with addictions and realize that housing is a human right and that if I am deserving of God’s grace, so is anyone and everyone else.  I saw God through my tears in the tears of men and women brought in from the streets to shelter, to permanent housing, to brand new apartments, to their place to call home. 

And at the end of it all, I felt God in his power to forgive.  To forgive me for all of the times that I make decisions that cause the marginalization of others.  To forgive me for all of the times that I harm others through my selfishness.  I pray for the power to continue to lessons that I learned last year.  I came back to Clemmons a work in progress.  A person who is trying to appreciate all of the blessings that I have been given to be born in the United  States, to be born to college educated parents, to be born a Caucasian middle class person.   These are all truths of my life that exist through no hard work of my own.  I have done nothing to deserve these privileges.  I came back to Clemmons a different person, a better person, a transformed person.  And it is all thanks to God and every single person that has supported this ministry.

The only way for young people to continue to have their chance at seeing God in the world, whether it is on the streets of Hollywood, in the reconciliation efforts in Northern Ireland, in the deserts of Tucson, in the beauty of Kenya or any other YAV site is for people like you and me to support the Pentecost Offering.  Please give generously this year and every year.   

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I really cannot believe I haven’t blogged since returning home.  It isn’t like nothing is happening.  It isn’t like I don’t have anything to say.  In fact, I can’t seem to stop the voices in my head.  No matter how much I do, it seems like it is never enough. 

I returned home at the end of August and promptly went right back to work.  Things there have been much better than I could have anticipated.  I work quite a bit, but not too much.  I am learning new things and having new experiences, which is awesome.  I started Rosetta Stone, to try and learn Spanish.  I spent the night at the Samaritan Inn and am looking for some new ways to learn about and be a part of the homeless solution here in Winston-Salem.  I gave a presentation about my YAV year that was well received and have some interest from other organizations about hearing about my year.  For some reason though, sometimes it feel like something isn’t right.  Sometimes I have trouble sleeping at night.  Sometimes I miss Los Angeles so much that I can’t stand it.

What do I miss about Hollywood?  It isn’t just the weather (it is so freakin cold here), but I miss the coffee shops, I miss the diversity, I miss the buses and trains, I miss having a group of people to share my trials and tribulations with. I miss having a group of people to “share the work with” rather than having to do so much of it myself.  I miss the feeling of being free.  Free from judgment (no one gave a shit that I had purple hair in Hollywood,) free to wear what I wanted when I wanted to.  Free to have as many tattoos as I wanted.  How is it that I was living in the land of celebrity and felt freer than I have ever felt in my life? 

The problem is, I can’t really talk about those things.  I can’t talk about what I miss about Hollywood, without being misunderstood about being home.  I am so thankful that Beco wanted me back.  I am thankful to be collecting a paycheck that not only helps me pay my bills, but also helps me buy new gadgets like the Microsoft Surface Tablet I am working on right now.  I am thankful that I have a great church home to worship with.  A church that is growing, so much in fact, we are in the middle of a new capital campaign to build a new education building!  I am thankful to have my car so that when I was having a complete mental breakdown a few weeks ago I could throw my hands in the air and drive drive drive to Baltimore after work on Friday and see Eva for the weekend.  Something that would have been far more difficult if I had to rely on the bus or train. 

I miss working with the homeless.  I miss being challenged every day to live better.  I miss my community loving me, despite my obvious character flaws.  I miss feeling like I was making a difference.  I miss feeling palpable changes within myself.  I miss tamales.  I miss Pho.  I miss Jamba Juice.  I miss $6.00 movies on Saturday mornings.  I miss $1.50 movies on Tuesday nights.  I miss City Lights at FPCH.  I miss my clients, some of whom I hope are doing better than when I left.  But I miss them pushing me to do more, to work harder, to be better.  I miss watching Korean dramas with Eva and having coffee with Britney on Sunday mornings. I miss ben adam’s curry and Papo’s empanadillas.  I miss Nathan’s snarky humor and Tyler’s wookies noises.

I have been surprised how difficult the transition home has been.  Possibly because I came home on Thursday and went back to work on Monday.  But I think it more likely that I had absolutely no idea how big last year would be until it was over. 

I miss Hollywood, and I am glad to be home, I just wish that I could have it all.

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I have been wanting to blog about same sex marriage and the church for a while now, but I feel like I could only do that if I was willing to share some information about myself and I really didn’t want to do that. This past week, however, the PC (USA) voted down an amendment to change the definition of marriage.  There are many proponents of the amendment (and those like it in other faith groups) that say that they are preserving the sanctity of marriage.  To those people I say, YES, because good Christian, heterosexuals don’t get divorced.  I must have not lived through the most devastating, horrible, life altering event in my short life 5 years ago.  That didn’t happen to me.  Oh wait…I am getting ahead of myself.

14 years ago…(that would be 1998) There was a young woman named Jennifer who met a young man named A.  He was a junior at the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio.  She was a freshman at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC.    The formed a friendship and about a year after they met they began dating.  A graduated from college the next year and moved to Waco, Texas where he took a job with Baylor University.  By the time Jennifer graduated in 2001, A was living in Evansville, Indiana with a full time job.  Jennifer considered moving to New York City after graduation, but by this time, she was madly in love with A and decided that she was going to move to Evansville, Indiana to be with him.  It was hard at first.  A lived in a little one bedroom apartment and Jennifer didn’t have a job, but they made it work. Jennifer only had $400 in her pocket when she moved there, but after a few months she found a job and quite frankly was so happy to be with A that it really didn’t matter.  They had dated almost 3 years long distance, so now that they were in the same place at the same, they could conquer the world.

On Christmas day in 2002, A proposed to Jennifer with a ring she had picked out and of course, she accepted.  The way it felt to Jennifer, ALL of her dreams were coming true! This was only the tip of the iceberg though because over the next 18 months, A would get offered a dream job in Greensboro, NC, they would move back to Jennifer’s home, plan a dream wedding, build a dream house, by a brand new car and be well on their way to living the “American Dream”.  

Fast forward a couple of more years and in the fall of 2006 Jennifer decided to go back to school to get her Masters in Business Administration (MBA).  This again, was a dream of hers and she felt like once it was completed it would poise her for a long career that would compliment A’s growing career as well.  

In the Spring of 2007 though, things ran off the track.  On the afternoon of Palm Sunday, A blurted out that he didn’t want to be married anymore.  Considering they had just celebrated their 3rd anniversary, Jennifer was blown away.  Over the next 7 days, Jennifer spent countless sleepless hours trying to figure out what had gone wrong.  She didn’t eat, she didn’t sleep.  For lack of a better term, she was on auto-pilot.  Clearly this was all a big mistake.  A was just really stressed out.  He was just confused.  He was just overwhelmed with all of the things that had been happening.  Over the next few weeks it became pretty apparent that things had not been right for a while.  It became evident that A had been seeing other woman, on a regular basis since Jennifer started graduate school, but also other times over the course of their almost 10 year relationship.  There was sexual betrayal of course, but there was also financial betrayal.  Over the course of the 6 month long affair that A had with a prostitute he had spent almost $25,000 on gifts, dinners, hotel rooms, and simply companionship.  These were financial burdens that Jennifer chose to bear because it became apparent that A was completely financial broken and her attorney told her that there was no point in trying to get the money because there wasn’t any to get.  Jennifer had to visit the doctor every 6 months for 3 years getting tested for every disease under the sun.  Not because she had engaged in risky behavior, but because her husband had abused her trust and violated her body without her permission.  Jennifer had random women calling her, threatening her life, all because the man that she chose to love had betrayed their relationship.

Eventually Jennifer had to sell her house and her car because she couldn’t afford them on her own salary.  She had to move back in with her parents because she was essentially homeless.  Thank God she had a place to go.  She had no idea what she was supposed to do.  She was never supposed to be a statistic.  When she got married on March 24, 2007 that was forever.  Was she perfect?  Never.  But she had always loved, honored, and cherished A.  She had endured countless hours of punishment from A’s family just to love him.  Punishment you say?  Jennifer had one major strike against her when it came to love.  She is a Christian and A is Jewish.  As far as Jennifer was concerned this was a non-issue.  She fell in love with A and he was the one for her, but for A’s family they never fully got over the fact that Jennifer would never leave behind Jesus for the sake of love.  

To be fair though, Jennifer did leave behind Jesus, at least in practice.  She was attending church every few months, but as so many young people do she wasn’t practicing her faith on a regular basis.  So when her life fell apart she didn’t know what to do.  Obviously God was punishing her.  God hated her.  God had abandoned her.  God was showing her what happens when you fall in love with non-Christians.  THIS is GOD!  Angry, hateful, smite filled, punishing, all powerful.  There was no place for divorced people in the church.  

Over the next few years she would learn that this wasn’t God.  God is love.  God wants us to have love.  God wants us to be in relationship with others.  We, as humans, don’t get to choose who is accepted into the kingdom of God.  Jesus died so that we may live and while there were times that Jennifer considered taking her life, she owes it to Jesus and his sacrifice to keep trying.  

i don’t know why this story is so hard to tell, except it is embarrassing, disgusting, humiliating and shameful.  I don’t know why I can’t tell it in the first person.  But at least I had the chance to experience it.  I was able to experience the highest highs and the lowest lows.  I couldn’t control who I fell in love with, who God made me to be.  Almost 18 months ago, God showed his love to me through the Young Adult Volunteer program and in 30 days I will finish my year as a YAV.  It has been such a hard year and I am so surprised it is already over, but this year IS the reason that I went through those experiences.  This year had made it all worthwhile and I am leaving Hollywood filled with the grace, compassion, and love of my community.  There have been hard times over the past 11 months and I hope I have had an impact on their lives, but I never thought I would recover from divorce.  There I said it, DIVORCE.  I don’t know if I will ever fully recover, but I know that I closer than I ever have been before.

I know that God made me in his image, and he made us all in his image.  As Christians we are instructed to love one another, not just the ones that are like us.  Not just the ones that we are comfortable with.  Not just heterosexuals.  Everyone deserves the same choice that I had.  To share in the joy of marriage.  The joy of becoming one and growing together.  We can say to “call it something else” or whatever BS we want, but as long as we deny the rights of others to be in a mutually beneficial, equal rights relationship we are not living in the image of God.  We are saying that they are “less than” as humans.  That we are “more than.” 

I will never profess to be a Bible scholar.  Maybe one day, but not now.  But I know that I didn’t go through a divorce because A was Jewish, although some have said that to me.  I went through a divorce because marriage takes TWO, EQUALLY COMMITTED, EQUALLY ENGAGED, LOVING PEOPLE and unfortunately A wasn’t that person.  Those two people don’t have to be of opposite sexes.  I hope one day to fall in love again and be able to get married again. I can only hope that by that time, Presbyterians (and all Christians) have stopped focusing on the things that divide us and start focusing on the things that bring us together.  Until then, I will try to do my part in supporting same sex relationships and fighting for equal rights for all.

Preserving the sanctity of marriage requires all of us to value what it means to be married, not on the sexual orientation of the people wanting to be married.

I love you all,

Jenn

P.S.  Please email me if you want to know more/have further discussion.  I’m not speaking on behalf of anyone else or the church or anything.  I don’t think A is a bad person, but even on my worst day I didn’t deserve what happened to me.

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When I started this year I remember thinking that something profound was going to happen.  Something monumental, something like a firework going off in the sky.  Then I kept waiting for that to happen.  Like a bolt of lightning.  Then I realized it doesn’t EVER storm in Hollywood.  There isn’t thunder, there isn’t lightning.  There is just sun, pretty much all the time, everyday.  And then, after dark, it gets cool.  Gosh, that is AMAZING!  Probably my favorite thing about LA is how it cools down after dark.  The kids in the neighborhood think it is cold, but I LOVE IT!  But anyways, I got really angry.  I mean, apparently God had missed this memo and why was it that every single time I put my trust it God it never seems to work the way that I want it to.  Maybe I shouldn’t be trusting God for anything. 

Isn’t that what it means to be human though?  When things are going well we thank God (and ourselves) because obviously we had something to do with the really awesome things happening in our lives.  Then when things go all to shit we are mad at God (and typically not ourselves) for screwing everything up. 

Anyways, I say all of that for a purpose.  I have felt like I was somehow letting God down if I didn’t stay in LA, if I didn’t continue to devote my life to fighting for the rights of the oppressed.  If I somehow went back to my capitalistic life I was dishonoring this life that I have been living for the last year.  Haven’t I learned anything?

The answer is YES!  I have learned something.  Well, a lot of things, but right now I am talking about the fact that we are all human.  There are really great people that help the homeless because it is the right thing to do and there are people who help the homeless because they needed a job.  There are people that will give everything they possibly can to keep an individual housed and off the street because they believe that housing is a human right and there are those people that don’t mind when people fall through the cracks because they get to sleep in their house that night.  People who work in social services CAN be selfish assholes.  They CAN get paid to care.

Likewise, I have learned that there are really great people that pursue other God given talents because it is the right thing to do.  There are people that help the homeless without getting paid, without getting thanked, without any other motivation than believing that housing is a human right for everyone.

It is for that reason that I have decided to return back to North Carolina in the fall and resume my position at Beco Inc.  Although many things have changed in the position (yay for new experiences) I am fortunate that they still need me and want me in the same way that I want to be there. 

I will miss everything in Los Angeles…and I hope to continue to blog as I reflect about this year.

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Dear God…it’s me, Jennifer. (I know you knew that already.)

I have a bone to pick with you.  I followed your lead, I listened to your call and I came to Hollywood.  Thank you for that.  It has been nothing less than a transformational experience.  I am, however, ready to stop having them.  Especially without a Cliff’s Notes to go along with them to explain to me what I am supposed to do with all of this new-found knowledge. This year was supposed to move much more slowly to give me a chance to once again “see your sign” for my next step. Instead, the end is near and I am pretty sure I am losing my mind…

I feel like I can hear people screaming in my dreams at night. Crying out for help.  I know that you want me to listen to them, but when I wake in the morning I have no clear idea who it is crying. 

Is it your children that currently have no place to live, praying for someone to just give a shit about them?  Am I that person?

Is it your children who are being systematically placed into the prison system and being left to rot?  Am I that person?

Is it your children running through the desert, desperately trying to get to a better life in the United States?  Am I that person? 

Is it your children whose own ignorance is separating them from your love and the love of others who just need to hear the stories of your children that I have heard in order to care?  Can I tell them?

Or is it my own soul, crying out for happiness, comfort, and purpose?  Can I ever be that person?

I pray that you will let me know.

Amen

Answer
  • Question: What's up with the funny Asian models? - drputtswell
  • Answer:

    I am just totally obsessed with Korean dramas right now…I guess that is what happens in Hollyweird??

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Kind of obsessed with Song Seung Hun right now…

Source: inlovewithkdramas