THE FIRST OF MANY
December 17, 2022
First and foremost, this post (and frankly, the public release of this whole website) is long overdue. I have been promising some of you updates and have failed terribly - I hope you will forgive me. Much has happened these past few months, so get ready for a long list of events (with a little TLDR and reflection at the end if you feel like skipping ahead - I promise my feelings won't be hurt <3):
September
Hit the ground running with SFC USA West Conference. This was the first conference I spent serving in my mission area and I arrived without knowing many people - I heard there were about 200 people in attendance at the venue! But I most definitely began many of my current friendships here in SoCal because of it.
Almost lived at the CFC Center for a month. Since half of SCON and the entire HOLD conference were virtual, I spent most of September running and attending production meetings and tech runs on my computer. There were a few late nights there alone...and let's just say that I now perpetually keep a headlamp in my car for comfort. Still feels cool to have the office to myself, though (sometimes).
Went to Vancouver for SFC Canada's National Leaders' Summit. My time here made me realize that I can actually enjoy cities (that aren't NYC, lolz). The highlight for this trip was making friends with Canadians, especially my fellow CFC FM lay missionaries! (It's also worth mentioning that a secondary highlight was taking my first hip-hop dance class in several years hehe)
October
Started to learn how to take care of myself in this new environment. I developed a regular morning schedule that I was able to stick to on most days. Wake up at 7:30, daily Mass at 8:30, Rosary at 9:00, workout at 10, back home to shower and eat around noon.
Made more time for catch-ups and 1:1s. With conference season coming to a close, my schedule freed up so that I could catch up with friends back home and get to know the SoCal community a bit more. I started attending SFC households and hanging out with people casually.
Southwest-B Regional Youth Conference. This one excited me the most because I love the youth - But it also made me the most anxious because I am old (to them)! Even so, it was nice to serve alongside some SFCs while encountering the CFCYs and reminiscing on my old youth days.
November
LIVELOUD GUAM! Hands down, these were two of the best weeks of my life. I love music, and I love Jesus, so all the better to play an entire worship concert for/about Jesus!! Even though the weather was super humid and warm, the people were warmer. Shout out to all my new friends on the other side of the world, and shout out to Pat for being my mission partner / counterpart through it all. The best part for me was having Adoration available basically whenever I needed to go (aka every day). If you didn't know, Jesus is exactly the same even halfway around the world.
SFC Intimacy Weekend in the Northeast. It was interesting visiting home after experiencing so much life outside of my comfort zone - And to make it even more interesting, how wonderful it was to see my loved ones along with some of my newer Canadian friends (shout out to them for driving/flying down to serve the retreat). Even MORE interesting was being able to mostly just receive as a participant during the weekend after months of serving events...and that this would set the tone for pretty much the rest of my year up to now.
Unexpected Thanksgiving weekend spent at home. Since I was already away for three weeks in Guam and the Northeast, the original plan was for me to return to SoCal on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. On the way to the airport, I found out that my mom had tested positive for covid, and knowing that my hosts here in SoCal are a bit older, plus the risk of potentially spreading it on the plane, I opted to stay home for another week. For better or for worse, I'm grateful for the extra time spent at home.
December
Returned to SoCal safely but got sick shortly after. The extreme change in climate from very hot/humid to very cold/dry triggered my asthma pretty badly...and I'm here 2 weeks later hopped up on a number of prescription medications and loads of cough drops, still trying to get better. I am reminded to not take my health for granted and to be more proactive about prepping my body for travel and nipping these illnesses in the bud before they get worse. Lesson learned, Lord. ;-;
Shared my original songs publicly and in person for the first time ever. I was asked to perform for the ANCOP fundraising concert here in SoCal and discerned that my songs would be fitting for the theme. It was honestly like fulfilling an old dream I had forgotten about, and I feel affirmed that this gift was given for a reason way beyond me. So, if you didn't notice already, I've decided to publicly share my demos and original voice memos in case someone needs it - for your convenience, it's tiny-linked at tiny.cc/vanessassongs. I'll record them for real one day, but they'll do for now.
Advent Reflection
During a recent meeting, we were told to look back at our calendars, reflect on how we spent the year, and share about what we are looking forward to in the coming year. My word of the year was "fearless," and I am in awe of how the Lord allowed it to unfold from January up to now. My biggest takeaway was in the unlearning then redefinition of the word, "anticipation." I faced all of life's biggest decisions, anticipating the possibilities through the lens of fear - fear of failure, fear of disappointing others, fear of being wrong, fear of losing my sense of security, and the list goes on. By the grace of God, I said yes to full-time mission work as my biggest leap of faith, and He, in turn, showed me how to keep trusting that this is His calling for me. I can trust that I am where I need to be because of one simple truth - that God is with me.
With one week left in Advent, I am reflecting now on how He has taught me to be still and present, with hands wide open, in gratitude for what already is and joyful anticipation for what is to come. There are only a couple of weeks left in the year and I can already see that 2023 is going to be a crazy ride. One year ago, I would have been overwhelmed with the idea of going to the Philippines for FTPW training in February and the workload of all the in-person conferences from May to September. But sitting here now, typing all of this up in a small bedroom in West Covina, California, I can recognize that God has already allowed me to receive so much, and I can trust that I will only continue to receive more. For me, that is Advent. In the Christmas season, Jesus, Emmanuel wants to make a home in our hearts - not because He wasn't already with us, but precisely because He remains even in the midst of all our fears. 
TLDR: Whom shall I fear? God is with me.
AMDG