Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lost in New York

I file behind my small group, trying to fit into the subway. It's March. I'm in New York. It's freezing.

I can't believe I got to go. It was a trip that came almost out of nowhere. I was preparing to go home for Spring Break and was approached about an opportunity to attend a conference- in New York! A city I'd always heard about, seen on the news and in movies- that's where all the superheros live, you know. And there are taxis! I mean, I've seen a few taxis in my lifetime, but not as many or as yellow as they are in New York.

The conference was fun. We sat and listened to people pray and sing and preach and teach. We were given a few hours to tour the city and my mentor, Sonia, and her husband were our tour guides. About a dozen of us filed out of the Soul Saving Station in Harlem, NY and headed for the subway. We passed the Apollo Theater on the way. I had no idea where we were, exactly, but I didn't worry about it since I was with a group. I should have. I'm always careful now.

The day was a blur- we didn't have time to do everything so we pretty much looked as we walked, rarely stopping. I saw the Statue of Liberty, the Bull from Wall Street (I think it's been sold and moved since then), Ground Zero, the Rockerfeller Center, Times Square, went inside the Trump building and the Apple Store, walked through a corner of Central Park while eating a hotdog, passed a couple of beautiful churches, and several other famous places that I would have to google the names of because I am no New York expert. It was while we were walking past Tiffany's that we heard the CRASH. We stopped on the sidewalk and stared at the intersection. A taxi cab had just slammed into the back of a VERY nice car. Car doors were thrown open, a couple of policemen came running and it was very loud. The New York accent is pretty strong when they're upset. One of the last places we browsed through was Chinatown- where I was forced to buy a purse.*

Finally, we were all exhausted from walking all afternoon and on a schedule to get back for the next session. However, we caught rush hour traffic. I had put my purse into my friend Serge's backpack since I was wearing my Mom's snow jacket. It's hard to carry a purse when you have a few extra inches (a foot!) of padding where your arm used to be... So there I was, waiting to get in when suddenly I knew- there was NO more room on the subway and all of my group was on board. Glancing down to my left I saw Serge and a few more from our group just stepping into the next car. Suddenly I had the speed and agility of Spiderman himself as I raced down to the next car. I could see there was going to be no room for me. The subway was about to leave and Serge was just putting his first leg into the car when I grabbed the handle of his backpack in terror.

We interrupt this moment to point out a few things you may not have noticed

a) I don't know where I am or where I'm going
b) My money and phone are in Serge's backpack
c) I have a very big fear of crowds and New York has LOTS of people
d) I am panicking
Ok, now that you have the facts, let's continue.

With my newfound strength I hauled Serge backwards off that subway. Thankfully, Serge is goodnatured. I didn't knock him down so he was fine, just a little disoriented. He too now realized that we were both not going to fit on the subway and then the doors closed. We waved at the friends in that car and then at the friends in the next car as they sped past us saying something and making motions I couldn't hear or understand. Serge had the good sense to remember where we came from and also had a map so he knew which subway we needed to catch. We took the very next one. It was almost empty. We both sat down and stared at the subway tiles flashing by and the occasional OLD wooden walls...I can definitely understand why so many people use New York as a setting for their books and movies...the subway felt like a roller coaster without the giant hills or loops.

Unfortunately, we were taking forever to get back and our subway kept stopping at EVERY station. See, we had not fit on the Express for a reason...everyone who's anyone knows that that is the one you want if you're going all the way across the city, which we were. A sketchy looking man was sitting across from us and watching us. I stared at my gloves, the floor, out the window...he was pretty intent. Then at the next stop, he moved over and sat next to me. I swallowed my panic and peeked at him. The man smiled a grin with a couple teeth missing and some gold ones flashing. Serge was busy looking at the map.

"Where are you going?" the man addressed us both. Serge told him and the man told us all about how we needed to catch the Express and there was another one that would be behind our subway. We just needed to get off at the next stop and wait a few minutes. So we did. We thanked the man with the interesting smile and caught the next Express.

As I sat indian-style on the hotel bed that night eating Chinese takeout with several of the girls I sincerely thanked God for His faithfulness and protection. It would have been very bad if I had not caught Serge, because I would have had no phone, no money, and no idea where my friends were going. Also, I enjoyed the adventure afterwards. :) My advice if you visit New York? Take the free map from the hotel.

*I still didn't have a souvenior and was considering one of the purses. I checked the price tag and decided that I really didn't want it. I walked out of the store only to hear someone behind me say: "You buy! For you ten dolla! Good deal!" There behind me was the lady from that store with the purse I had just looked at. "Oh, no thank you." I said with a smile assuming we were done. Half a block later she was still following me and trying to haggle the price. Mortified and not really good at confrontation, I gave in and bought the stupid purse. I never used the purse. My sisters didn't want the purse. It went to Goodwill. Moral of the story: avoid Chinatown unless you have a will of IRON.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

This Little Light of Mine

I am so excited about sharing the beginning of my testimony today that I don't know how to actually begin! To be honest, I've started typing this at least a dozen times in the last month or so.

To understand my testimony you need to know about my experiences with one of my favorite things on earth: the ocean (example of my love for the ocean :)). I could listen to, smell, look at, and swim in the ocean all day. Of course, I'm a little spoiled- I prefer the clear waters of the Pacific or the gulf around Florida where I can see what's around me. Swimming in the muddy brown water of Galveston these past 10 years has been a poor substitute.

On the day my parents brought me home from the hospital as a little baby girl, they made a detour. (My Dad wanted to show me off to his coworkers...:) So the first place I ever went in my life was on board a ship. Of course I don't remember it, but I like to think that that is one of the many reasons I LOVE the ocean. My Dad was in the Navy, so I've always lived within an hour of the beach (minus 3 years in Nebraska). I have probably spent a year of my life swimming, snorkeling, building sand castles, chasing crabs, catching fish, and hunting for sea shells.

When I was about 4, my grandparents were visiting us while we lived in Monterey, CA. We took them to the beach. :) I remember the brown sand and remember wading out to my waist. On my way back to the beach, I somehow tripped in the water. I could swim, so this wasn't a problem. However there was a brutal undertow. I was close enough to the shore and the water was shallow enough that I could dig my fingers into the sand and hold my head above water. Usually the undertow would stop after a few seconds and I knew I'd be able to stand up and go about my business. This time it wasn't letting up. When the sand started to get pulled away from my hands I knew something was wrong. But I didn't cry out for help- it all happened so fast. I still remember the feel of the sand disappearing from my hands and the pull of the ocean. My Grandad happened to be close and he leaned down and grabbed me moments before I was drawn out to sea. He saved my life.

After such a traumatic moment you'd think I'd be scarred for life and refuse to touch the ocean without some form of therapy, but no. I loved the ocean too much! I was right back in it that same day. This is how God opened the door of my heart and one of the main things He used to draw me to Him.

We moved to Guam a year after my near-drowning experience- a tiny bean-shaped island near Japan. The waters and coral reefs around Guam are gorgeous! I still remember the vibrant colors. (It's also a honeymoon spot for many Asians...I remember my sisters' and my blond hair getting a lot of attention and we were in a LOT of pictures with strangers. :) Our church in Guam was on a cliff overlooking the sea. I remember climbing the porch poles for a better view and humidity so thick you felt like you were wading through it. (Trust me, Houston is NOT as bad.) One day, a little girl about my age got baptized. The church tromped down to the ocean to celebrate her baptism, but we stayed in our church clothes. Being on the beach my natural instinct was to run to the water, but my parents stopped me. "But she's swimming!" I said, completely confused. My parents had to explain this to me. We went home and I had questions. What was 'baptism'? I'd heard of Jesus, I knew about His stories, I'd listened to my parents pray- we always prayed before every meal and before going to bed.

My parents explained that baptism was a symbol. It was that little girl's way of publicly showing that she had asked Jesus to save her from her sins and that she was a Christian. There was further discussion- I don't remember much of it, only that it happened. I decided then and there that I didn't want to go to Hell. I knew that I was 'cause I'd definitely sinned- Mom didn't know about my pet baby gecko in the empty peanut butter jar that I was keeping under the living room chair...(the things you could hide when chairs and couches had cloth flaps or fringe that went down to the floor)...

I don't know if it was that same day or week, but I DO know that seeing a girl in the ocean was what God used to trigger my conversations with my parents that eventually led to me praying one night with them and asking God to forgive me of my sins (playing with fire, hiding creatures in the house, being selfish with my toys, hiding food in my napkin so I wouldn't have to eat it, etc.) and come into my life. I asked Him to take charge and make me the little girl that He wanted me to be. And I told Him that I knew because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross that I could be saved and live in Heaven someday.

I wasn't baptized in Guam. I don't know why. I would wait two years before being baptized at a small church in California.

And THAT is the beginning of my testimony. :)