My guest today is the lovely and talented fellow Booktrope author Elise Stephens. Every time I see the cover of her novel, Moonlight and Oranges, I get a case of cover-envy. At the moment, Amazon Prime members can read her novel for free. Take the time to check out her post below about how she uses her particular talent for bossiness to make the world a better place. ~Heather
by Elise Stephens
Any of my siblings will tell you I’m bossy. I’ll defend myself with “I can’t help it! I’m a firstborn!” but that doesn’t work well as an excuse when it comes to talking to my husband. I tend to get very terse when there’s a lot to be done on a short timeline.
When I told my father I wanted to come with him on a Club Rust mission trip to Tecate, Mexico (yes, where the beer is from), I didn’t know that I’d end up doing more than building homes. I’ve been going down there every summer since that initial trip when I was fourteen, addicted to the fun teamwork and the thrill of giving a struggling family a home.
In a nutshell, the families we build for have moved up to the border towns of Mexico (Tijuana area) to work in the U.S. factories. The parents bring back less than $100 a week and trying to support a family of several children, while living in the slums. We give them a new house with sturdy walls that won’t fall down in strong winds (a real fear for many of them, who use garage doors as walls) and a way to get ahead financially.
The families we build for each year are picked by a pastor from within the local community as those who most need a home—something not always readily apparent to the foreigner’s eye. After we leave, the pastor and the church community partner with us to continue checking in and helping the families get connected with their neighbors so that the aid is an ongoing process, not just a onetime event.
I used to swing a hammer on the jobsite. Now I wield a radio. Why? Because I like to boss people around. Thus, my intro. Ha, no really, I’m blessed to have a mother who taught me excellent communication skills. It’s part of why I turned to writing novels in a professional capacity almost two years ago. It’s also why I now work as a Rudder (a special term our group has invented) on the Club Rust summer house building trips.
A rudder steers the ship. My job is to manage communications, moods, and the overall health of the home I work on. I’ll help direct tasks, find jobs for those who look like they need work, make sure everyone is drinking water in the 90+ heat, check in with the other organizers when I need advice on larger issues, help the workers reapply sunblock, make sure that tempers aren’t getting overheated, connect the team with the family receiving the house, and pray over everyone at the beginning of each day.
It’s the perfect job for someone who likes to talk and wants to use her bossiness for good. Sometimes, it just takes a while to find the time and place for it to fit.
As much as I sometimes miss swinging a hammer, I feel I’ve finally found a place to use the gifts God’s given me in a unique way for the setting, and I think that the houses we build are stronger now because if it, just not solely in the structural sense.
Elise Stephens blogs about relationships, life, and inspiration at www.elisestephens.com. Elise received the Eugene Van Buren Prize for Fiction from the University of Washington in 2007. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys live theater, swing dancing, eating tiramisu, singing, and painting. She lives in Seattle with her husband James. Her novel Moonlight and Oranges was a quarter-finalist for the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Follow her on Twitter @elisestephens and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorEliseStephens.
About Club Rust: