Welcome to SLO; Chapter I
My welcome to San Luis Obispo included two lovely slender framed girls from London, one holding a beautiful blue-eyed baby, jumping up and down and waving from behind a ten-foot tall chain link fence at the single runway airport just twelve miles inland from the California coast. The baggage claim carousel was about the size of a vending machine conveyor belt displaying sandwiches and Chef Boyardee ravioli in an office break room and the whole airport itself was in fact about the size of an office break room. It was quaint. And it was the perfect welcome complete with a three day heat wave that pushed record breaking temps of 113 degrees. I said I wanted warm weather and a fresh start and that’s exactly what I got.
I left behind a teary eyed mother at the Spokane airport about seven hours earlier that day and for once in my life I managed to keep the reservoir of hot emotion behind my eyes from spilling out all over the place. My mom hugged me and kissed me on the side of the mouth before her eyes spoke the lyrics of a thousand different songs about goodbyes and I began walking up the ramp through airport security. I turned and watched her walk away through the sliding glass doors and instead of sadness I found myself smiling, both on the outside and on the inside because new beginnings and new hope are certainly worth smiling about. It was one of those deep internal smiles; the kind where you can feel all the corners of your insides turn slightly upward and your mouth simply follows suit. In the book I’m reading the Indonesian spiritual healer calls it “smiling even in your liver” and it’s something I’ve been trying to do more of lately. Although I’m not even really sure where my liver is located in my body, but nonetheless, I’ve been trying to smile more, even there.
Church. Is different here; different and refreshing like sea breeze and I’m content to be the sea glass. And although I notice the differences quite vibrantly and sense them completely I am still having a hard time describing the differences to others. Maybe because I feel like I can’t accurately sum up what I’m experiencing here without making it sound like I’m shedding my past experiences in a negative light or somehow calling them insignificant. But the truth is that before I came here and stepped into the collage of people that comprise Mercy Church; before God changed my plans and direction completely, I was perfectly content with where I was at and I fully believed it was in fact God’s promised land and future for me; which is why I never intended on leaving it. But since the reality is that I have left that place, for now at least, and since the direction of my life has been radically changed by God himself, I am happy to report that once again, like many times before, he has brought me to a place that is absolutely, magnificently, detailed-specifically perfect for me right now. Right now Mercy Church is God’s next level for me and I’m experiencing my relationship with Jesus like a brand new 30×36 white stretch canvas. And the new, the clean, the white…white…the white start has never felt so good or undeserved. During my first week here I finally let the rest of the world pass me by for 171 minutes and I let nothing distract me from the cinematic wonder of Mel Gibson in Braveheart. And as life has continued to progress and my film experience is weeks behind me now I can still say, in all cliche glory, that Mercy Church is a community harboring young Wallaces and I’m anticipating the freedom that the Lord is bringing me into through these lives. Because God has recently brought me through quite the exodus and I can already hear the raven’s sweet song of freedom coming from just over the garden wall.
Roommates. I have four of them. Jenna, Shawna, Danielle, and Yvonne. We live in the Lighthouse, named appropriately after the sunroom on the front end of our house that other than the floor and two small side panels is formed completely of glass. We could have very well called it “the fishbowl”, but the Lighthouse sounded more elegant and in my own words had “Yay symbolism!” But as for my roommates: They’re beautiful, both in the sense that they are people to sit back and take in with a cup of tea and in the sense that they bring rivers of kindness and compassion and joy into the world. However, the fact that I am living in California with four girls slightly my elder, who I had previously never met before I actually got off the tiny plane at the tiny airport on the south end of town, and the fact that I actually like it, still boggles my mind. Probably because I made it a goal a long time ago to never need women in my life again, probably for the same reasons that most women make similar vows to themselves. (I blame daytime television and Cosmo.) And because I brilliantly managed to execute that plan up until a Spring Break mission trip to Las Vegas during my freshman year of college where the Holy Spirit decided to stick me with a sharp right hook and side jab to the head that shattered my way of thinking and caused me to do the same to that nasty covenant. Since then it’s been an interesting trek back through the forest towards the wide open fields and the Lord continues to make me do all sorts of things along the way that I find uncomfortable and ridiculously freeing all at the same time. Like letting other people into my madness and not just lingering outside the front door of theirs. And the more I seem to let my roommates and other women into my life, the more I genuinely like myself and feel at peace with, well…everything. I admit I still fight to embrace the whole “I love cooking and gentleness and candle parties” side of having close-knit relationships with women at times, mostly just because I’m insecure, but I bought a spatula and some house plants last week so I figure at least I’m on my way. And in the meantime I’m experiencing the growing enjoyment of having four women in my life to laugh and cry with, who really know me, and who can teach me how to do all sorts of wild and adrenaline-pumping things like hang curtain rods and refinish furniture with the leftover paint found in the garage. One of my most victorious moments since being here involved a power drill and the phrase, “You bet I did that!” So I’m looking forward to the open fields and spending a year at 2684 Johnson Street in The Lighthouse with the four blessings and cupboards stocked full of treats from Trader Joe’s.
Work. About a month before I left Spokane for California my mom took me out shopping for business clothes. We spent an entire day buying enough slacks and blazers and stiff-necked button downs to fill up the entire left side of my Miranda closet. Then I spent the next few weeks filling out online applications for jobs that would allow me to display my new wardrobe from behind a gray-freckled plastic desk from Office Depot, hopefully with minimal amounts of gum stuck underneath. My destiny would be to sit at that desk, sip my Bucks, and do adult things….amazingly boring adult things while constantly itching beneath the layers of adulthood and polyester that cramped my hamstrings and my style. So I am pleased to report that every single overpriced, librarian-like turtleneck and matching sweater vest are still hanging in my closet with the tags attached and instead I am sporting colorful strappy tank tops, jeans, and flip flops to the sleek brick building on the corner of Higeura and Osos that sits in the heart of downtown SLO, surrounded by streets lined with trendy boutiques and places to eat. I still get to sip my Bucks and I sip it to loud music and from within a cloud of sweet smelling cologne and familiar teen angst. I can’t really describe my job as being prestigious and I actually think that’s maybe why I like it so much. Thus far, Abercrombie & Fitch, store #496 Court Street has been good to me. It’s been challenging and fun and best of all its right down the street from Yogurt Creations ( a place I love to visit so frequently that I am currently on yogurt probation until I can learn to have some self control with the frozen treats and delicious candy toppings). My job has also allowed me to abstain from correcting my unprofessional habit of saying the word “like” too often in sentences for at least another year of my life, maybe two if I’m lucky; something my mother is extremely disappointed to hear (Sorry mom!). But right now I’m too caught up in all things new and exciting and still trying to embrace the role of manager: something I find challenging and growth-causing both in the realms of practicality and spirituality. And although I’ve only been stationed at A&F just upwards of a month, I am already feeling quite at home within those walls, trashy pictures and all. In fact I think the pictures keep me grounded; keep reminding me of why I’m really there. I’m not sure how long my time at A&F will last and I have no clue as to what kind of job may follow. A big part of me still hopes and plans on filling out that CRU staff application sometime in the next few years, but I suppose that in all reality I have no clue as to what my life will be like then. (Seems to be a growing trend). But for now, I am content standing in the gap for the people there. Content in experiencing the Spirit of God regaining his ground within that place; regaining his ground within me too. Content in letting those I’m managing love and correct me. Because God is raising up a generation of passionate Christ followers…well-dressed Christ followers, at Abercrombie & Fitch in San Luis Obispo, California and it’s really an incredible thing. Word.