Early in the month, Darrell (the crazy old bus driver who organizes the bi-monthly soup kitchen service events I help at) hosted me and a young couple from my church for dinner and a campfire and conversation. I love Darrell. I know whenever he's involved, a good, thought-provoking conversation is going to happen. I also enjoyed getting to know Nick and Alison - I knew them in passing before, but not on any deep level. Having the night off from thinking about work and just focusing on the people in the here and now, was wonderful. Reminded me of conversations from having "Pub Church" with friends my senior year of college.
Matthew finally was moved to his long-term prison, so a mutual friend and I road-tripped out to visit him. I feel regret about not visiting more often but the reality is that, outside his prison walls, life continues to happen. This new prison, while still definitely a prison, was radically different in atmosphere than where I'd visited Matthew before; the guards weren't scowling, there was more natural light, and the building just "felt" less depressing. Still, my heart absolutely broke hearing Matthew's stories of other men there who had no friends or family, no one who would visit them, no support system for when they get out. He said there was one man who'd been there nine years, and had had only one visitor in all that time.
As far back as 2006 (maybe even around 1998?) I remember feeling I might be Called to prison ministry, and that feeling continues to be re-affirmed. Prayers appreciated for me to figure out that Call, but even more importantly, for the men and women in jails/prisons who have no support network and so desperately need to feel Love.
Stand by a moment, that song makes me tear up every time. Hard to type when you're crying.
Mom and Dad took their annual trip to DisneyWorld, and as usual I was invited but declined. I love my parents, but I've told them the next time I go to DisneyWorld (with them or otherwise) I want to go with someone, like a significant-other someone. (see a future blog post, 'Part 4: Emotional reflections, lessons learned, and "what's next?"' in this "Where's Jeremy" series, for more comments about relationships)
Coincidentally, my Aunt and cousin happened to visit DisneyWorld at the same time as my parents. You also need to know that my Aunt hates White Castle hamburgers - the taste, the smell, everything. (I promise this isn't a non sequitur) This means my Uncle, who has always LOVED White Castle burgers, doesn't get to eat them often. So while our families were in Florida partying with Mickey and Pooh Bear, Uncle Mark and I got together for dinner at White Castle, just the two of us. (when we left Mark said something about visiting the dry-cleaner's to get rid of the White Castle smell before my Aunt got home).
Mid-month, I got to see myself on the big screen! A movie I'd acted in two years ago was finally done and the director hosted a premiere at a local theatre. What's that? You didn't know I could act? Actually I was surprised how much my acting didn't suck! I don't consider myself an actor, I don't go out to auditions or have any lofty dreams of becoming a famous Hollywood star. But I have acted (Jacey Squires in The Music Man, senior year of high school!), so when Jon reached out to me specifically to ask if I'd act in his movie, I was flattered and said yes. It was a Harry Potter parody - shockingly no, I didn't play the Harry character - and it was a lot of fun to shoot. The cast of characters was... quite the cast of characters, and that made every day on set a blast.
For months now, my friend Lindsay has been egging me on to volunteer on a take-down team at our evening church, where she's the volunteer coordinator. Let me digress for a moment to describe what a take-down team does, because when I told John about this a few days ago his mental image was of a squad of navy SEALS engaging in covert black ops missions to "take down" someone at a church. But, surprising as this may be, that's not what we do. For churches like Jacob's Well (my morning church) or Upper Room (my evening church) that meet in spaces owned by someone else, every week we need to re-arrange chairs, set up banners and sound equipment, etc., before church, and then reset everything back the way it was after the service. Upper Room has it easy, I think, because they get to leave the band and sound equipment in place. At JW the only thing we can leave are the speakers mounted on the wall; the sound board, snake, mics, sub, etc, all have to get wrapped and stowed away each week.
Back to Lindsay's friendly pestering, I finally agreed to help on a take-down team. It's taken me this long primarily because I was so overworked and busy before, that I couldn't add "one more thing" to my plate. Now that the database project is done, I have more time on my hands. But even more importantly, I also made two conscious decisions in the last few months: 1) that I will not let myself work on Sundays (which alleviates the urgency I used to feel after church to rush home to get work done), and 2) that I want to be more involved in my church communities. Therefore, in the interest of getting to know more people - and once more let's be honest: in a selfish hope of getting to know a particular person... - I asked Lindsay to put me on a team. Joe joined, too, since he and I always hang out after the service anyway. Take-down teams work two weeks on, two weeks off, and the timing there worked perfectly around my trip to LA.
October 21st, at long last, I donated blood again! (Donation #19: Successful) It's taken three years to get re-instated as a blood donor, and it felt so good finally to be back. As frustrating as my three-year hiatus was, I always try to learn something from my set-backs; the spiritual lesson I learned here is that I placed a lot of my self-worth and value in the fact that I was a donor, in the same way I still place too much value in my career, income, business, and overall busy-ness, rather than in who God sees me to be. Coming down off that shaky platform has been one of my goals over the last year and I continue to wrestle with it. My over-spiritualization of my donor experience rests on the belief God is giving me a second chance to be a little more grounded, and not let my donor status define who I am.
At the end of October I flew out to beautiful downtown Burbank (Los Angeles area) to visit friends and vacation. Highlights included:
- Visiting my favorite church, Mosaic.
- Hanging out with my friends Anne, Bernadett, Melanie, Matt, Mitch, Brooke, Laura, and also some new friends this trip: Rosemary, Victoria, and Liz.
- Seeing Keeley, an actress from my second movie, in a play at her college.
- Meeting lots of Anne and Bernadett's sword fighting classmates at a combination Halloween / birthday party they hosted for Bernadett (her BD is on Halloween); one of their instructors taught me how to crack a whip, and someone else from the class brought some fancy light-up lightsabers - duels (with vocal soundtracks) were had.
- Listening to musician Megan Arial at Universal Studios City Walk. I'd seen her play there last year when I visited also, so I made it a point to hear her again this year.
- Seeing Laura Hall's band perform at the Republic of Pie, a lovely coffee shop near Burbank (you may know Laura as the pianist on "Whose Line is it Anyway?"). We got to meet Laura and her husband Rick, and they are both delightful, lovely people.
- Visiting the Getty Center, Griffith park, and the Santa Monica promenade.
- Buying paintings for my work cube and at home (same store I'd visited in January 2012).
- Driving a really nice rental car.
- Having long, meaningful conversations, late into the night.
I could keep going, but then I'd never be able to move on to Parts 2, 3, and 4 of this blog series. So let's pretend we're now caught up to present day. Keep in mind everything here was in addition to many dinners and phone dates with friends and family, a lot of audiobook listening (The Shack, the Mercy Thompson series, the Star Wars Thrawn Trilogy, Rob Bell's new book, and the novel versions of Star Wars episodes I & II, which have made me hate JarJar Binks even more than I did from the movies), and listening to dozens of awesome sermons from a New York preacher named Timothy Keller. It has been a busy, busy year!