Friday, December 31, 2010

But really...

Since this is post 110, and it is my final post for the year 2010, I feel like I should have something important to say. Or wise. Hmmm, well I can't guarantee "wise" or "important" but here's something...

I guess if I could sum up my 2010 in one word, it would be "waiting." God has continuously taught me about His presence, the importance and joy of trusting Him fully, and His faithful provision and timing...while I've waited. Waiting is something we do every day, for mail, a t.v. show, at a stoplight, in a grocery line, on hold on the telephone...well, you get the picture. But I have learned about waiting on the Lord...about truly resting in His arms as He takes the lead and guides me in His will. I've waited on small things I mentioned before, and I've waited on big and obvious things like my new job assignment, the various parts of the JM application process, responses from friends, and other things. Each time God has shown Himself strong and faithful, even when I have drawn away. And each time, He has gently pulled me closer to Him, reminding me He is always there. So...though I don't know what 2011 will bring, I do have confidence in the fact that God is already there - He knew and planned each of my days, even before I was here.

I pray you will trust Him and seek Him fully as 2010 fades and 2011 begins. Happy New Year, and may God bless you!

"You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed." -Psalm 139

"But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." -Isaiah 40:31

Hey look!

Another blog post! Ok, not really...but now I have 109 for the year! That's 99 more than I had at this time last year! :)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

No Reason, Really...

For having two blog posts in one day, except...I'm a little picky sometimes...and I want my year to end with 110 posts and not gives me one more for each of the days left after today!

I entered a photo contest yesterday! Just for fun! I don't expect to win or anything, and don't claim to be a great photographer - I don't even have a fancy camera, just a small digital...but I do love taking pictures! Anyway, it is a Christmas contest, and I just googled "Christmas photo contests" and found one that was free and seemed pretty small and low key. There are ten categories, and you can enter three pictures, so I entered one in the "decorations" category, and two in the "artistry" category for random pictures that just capture the season. We'll see what happens...Judging starts Jan. 7th, and they'll post the pics in a slideshow on their website during the judging. The three I entered are from the collection a few posts below this one! :) I entered the bells below the tree, the sprinkled pretzels, and a the third picture of the vanilla my sister made with the red towel and green bow.

I don't have many shows on t.v. I love, but for some reason...I'm a Gilmore Girls fan. I own all seven seasons, and have watched them all I started again over the break, and I'm enjoying the middle of Season One right now. There's just something about curling up in fuzzy pajama pants, drinking coffee, watching your favorite show, and being lazy on a vacation day!

I actually mailed all my Christmas cards before the New Year this time! That's really good for me! haha...I still have two or three addresses to get, but at least those cards are written, sealed, stamped, and ready to go!

Speaking of photos...I have SO many digital ones saved on CD and my computer...I need to print them one day and work on my scrapbooks. Unfortunately it's always one of those, "when I have time one day..." projects that just keeps getting put off!

Tomorrow I'm going with one of my best friends to try on wedding dresses! Well, she'll be trying them on, not me! haha I'm going to be her maid of honor this summer, and I'm really excited! It will be fun to watch! Other than looking for dresses for my sister (who was still in China at the time...but that's another long story for another day!), and watching t.v. shows like "Say Yes to the Dress," I've never gotten to watch anyone try them on before. I hope I'm a good helper!

I'm not ready to go back to school yet. There are so many things I was going "to do" that I haven't even started yet. It's just so hard to be motivated when you know with all your heart it is supposed to be vacation time. I don't completely regret this though, because I have really and truly enjoyed the time relaxing, seeing family and friends, and doing nothing. Hopefully I'll be ready by Tuesday! I really want to look forward to going to work this semester, but I'm still not sure...please pray for me if you think about it!

Oh, speaking of work - here are a few funny pictures from our "Tacky Sweater Day" we had the last Monday before vacation! I didn't have time to find a sweater, so I wound up borrowing some things from our tree and attaching them to a sweater from my mom's closet. Oh was fun anyway!! haha

Gotta love the earrings...they were actually a beautiful gift from a friend's trip to Rwanda earlier this year, but they added just the right touch to this sweater too! :) Unfortunately I forgot to put them on for school! 

The sweater on its own special hanger! A little lopsided there, think that bow was a little heavy? 

So I wanted my Christmas socks to show too...and I definitely rolled up my pants was a, uh, special style for sure!

One of my favorite co-workers....Christy! She had on a Twelve Days of Christmas sweater!

Some more fun sweaters...the three teachers in the middle made a reindeer together - love working with those girls! Too much fun! haha Our principal is on the far left in the lovely green snowman sweater! :)

That's quite a collection of uh....tacky apparel! haha

They had us all line up for the "voting," and when it was our turn we could step out and try to get people to make the most noise for our sweater...I decided to dance around and show off my socks too! 

Ready for the judging! 

The reindeer!

The best looking young teachers in our building, of course! 

Yes, my third grade Christmas program was that evening, and in case you were wondering - I did wear the sweater to the program too! haha

And of course, I had to have a picture in my classroom was a fun day! 

Well, I guess that's about all for this two-post day! Happy Wednesday, and rest of the week to you!

Looking Forward...

Most days it feels like so much is up in the air. And it really is. If I am accepted into the JM program, that will mean leaving my family, friends, and home for two years. Packing. Getting rid of things. Selling my car. Leaving my job. If I'm not accepted into the program, or I don't go, I used to think I would just stay where I'm at. After all, I have what would be considered by most as a "great" job! And I do love being with all my kids every day. I have great support from my mentor, colleagues, and fine arts coordinator. I have supplies this year, just wrote and received a grant for drums, and have levels one and two of Orff-Schulwerk training finished. It makes the most sense, and since this is the job and place God has provided for me, it must be that He wants me to stay here, right? But...I'm not happy. And happiness vs. contentment could be a whole separate post, but for now, I need to work through the feelings I've had for awhile. Blessed, yes. Provided for, with a stable (well for now, I think!) job, an excellent income, and the ability to make all the payments I need to. I recognize all these things and thank God for them. I know it would be "impractical" to leave something out of unhappiness. (And explaining how leaving for the JM program is not an excuse to escape unhappiness could also be another post...I am fully confident that my decision to apply was prompted by God and He will lead me in His will through this time.)

So where am I going with all this? Well, I used to think because I had a wonderful job, close to home, with an excellent salary, must be where God wanted me to be. I would say, "When God leads me, I'll go somewhere else..." or "In God's timing, He'll show me what to do..." And He will. But - recently I was reminded that we also have a free will to make choices. Sometimes God calls us to step out in faith and give ourself options. If it is my heart's desire to go overseas, I should apply for that opportunity and pray wholeheartedly, seeking God's direction. I will know I've made the effort to apply and sought God's will and timing, and if it does not work out, I will know it was not where I was mean to be at this time in my life. And if I am unhappy in my job (and I just can't pinpoint why, but I continuously struggle with and fight the battle of going through those feelings each day), maybe I should apply for another job. Or pursue the masters degree in Speech Pathology I have wanted to work toward since college. I guess my point is, it is ok to give myself choices. It is ok to pray to God and ask Him to open and close doors, leading me as I seek out where I am supposed to be. And while He has called me to be here now, and I should continue to work each day as if for Him and not for man, and be an example of Christ to my students and co-workers, it doesn't mean this is the "only plan" He can have for my life. It is starting to make more sense to me now.

I am so thankful for where I am at now - for the chance to start off my teaching career in a familiar place with wonderful supports and the chance to be close to home, and now living at home for a bit. And I feel confident that God has called me to teach or work with children and has given me a passion for loving and caring for them. But I am seeing now He has given me many desires. As long as I give those desires to Him fully and trust that He is the very one who created me to be the person I am, He will be with me, no matter what choices I pursue...because I will have my heart and mind set on Him. He will open and close doors, and He will give my heart the strength and peace to face those doors.

I can hardly wait to see what He has in store for me as time goes on...I'm so glad He is a God who is living and is constantly at work!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I thought it might be a little early to write this post...I wanted to wait until New Year's Eve. But as I sat down with my big cup of coffee, my Bible, and a journal this morning, it was so amazing to me the many ways God has been at work this year. And I'm so glad He isn't finished yet.

It's not that I think God has been more present this year than in any others. I do think, though, that He works in different ways all the time, constantly challenging us to keep our faith strong, seek Him, and trust His will every day. And I think that at different times in our lives, we are more ready and willing to seek Him 100% and reflect on how He has been present, while other times, we choose to "coast" along. I so wish I were a 100% of the time person...but I don't believe any of us are. Only Jesus and His example is 100%, and that is where His amazing love, grace, and mercy fall into place...replacing the pieces we are missing. Isn't it amazing, that our God is a living God, and He goes with us and before us in all we do?! I will never fully understand that while I'm here on Earth, but then, I'm not supposed to. Having faith means trusting in God with our whole heart, even when we don't see or understand. 

So - as I look back over this year, month by month, it is almost impossible for me to count all the times I have experienced God's presence. I look at how last year I had just started my blog and only had 10 posts at this time, and this year...I have 105, now 106! I am truly thankful for the ways I have grown and been challenged this year, and am still being challenged as I look forward to 2011. I don't want it to be that I simply look back then move on. My heart's desire is to start where God has brought me to now, and keep building. To stand on that firm foundation and allow Him to stretch me even more. To leave the zone that has now become "comfortable," and step into the unknown. 

Just reading and looking back at all my posts from 2010, it is exciting to me to see all that has happened this year. I made a list, thinking about each month...but trying to keep it just that - a list, to help me see as many things as possible . In my mind, I can expand on each one, and by reading over my posts from the year, you can definitely see the more detailed version of many of these things!

January - Returning from a mission trip to Mexico, a fresh start to school in the middle of my second year, MMEA conference, enjoying the snow (sometimes! ha), Wrote and submitted grant to AOSA for world drums to use in classroom next year - (submitted by express mail due to waiting 'til the last minute deadline - this is frequently how I work, and seem to do best this

February - The. longest. month. ever., discouragement at work and just in general, Signed up for Weight Watchers at Work group (a great decision!)

March - Spring Break, Visit with my Aunt JaNelle in St. Louis area, Conversation with the parents of a good friend in college (led my heart to begin thinking about the JM application again!), Weekend in Springfield with my sister, Decision to submit part one (basic interest/info form) of JM application - unsure of what the timeline was (would I have to leave my job before the next year?), Received and submitted part two of the application (a little more in-depth than part one)

April - School was still a little hard (feeling burnt out for some reason), Notification that I received the AOSA grant - (new world drums for next year's classroom! Wonderful news!!), Waiting for part three of the application to come, Phone call from IMB (conversation about some basic concerns with part two of the application, but they could all be taken care of and they would soon be sending part three! - now had a timeline - would not leave my teaching job until after the next year), Visit to Arkadelphia, Informed by principal and superintendent that our school would be closed after May, Waiting for an answer about where I would be next year - (no music jobs open at the time), Courage from the Lord to share something on my heart and have peace about it, Invited to join the praise team at church and began singing in the contemporary services

May - Still waiting for my job assignment, 25th birthday coming - (decided to celebrate every day in some way!), Somewhat started the third part of the app - still feeling a little intimidated by it and hoping to finish over the summer), Packing up my classroom at school, Decided to move home for the next year, Last programs of the year (and possibly for a long time! - it was getting a little harder to think about leaving music, each day), New job assignment! - (Guitar?! and...High School?! Ummm....ok....), School ended, Summer vacation!, Reunion with Swiharts (passing through town - what a blessing!), Memorial Day Weekend with friends in Branson, 25th Birthday!!

June - First summer completely off...ever! (Since I've been old enough to work!), Phone call from HR - new job! (K-6 music at Wood - the other teacher wanted to go to the high school!) Traveled to Salina, KS to visit my sister, First visit to my new classroom/chance to meet new principal, Traveled to Arkansas for a reunion with college friends, Worked at Arms Around Arkadelphia with my college church there, Whole Brain Teaching Conference - (and camping adventure!), Moved home

July - Orff-Schulwerk training with awesome friends and music teachers at  UCA, More weekend visits to Arkadelphia, Weekend visit to HS Village to attend church with the Swiharts, VBS - (taught missions to the K-1 kiddos and LOVED it!), completed the "Beliefs" section of part three of the application, completed the rest of the application at the very end of the month! - (Testimony/calling to missions, auto-biography (8-10 pages long...mine was 10 of course!), Health questionnaire (soooo many questions! ha)) all through God's help, words, and presence!, Began the long waiting process after finishing the application...December was far away!, First week of "cleaning/organizing" the new classroom!, My parents decided to retire in HS Village in the next couple of years and bought a small town home there - (super exciting because of all the connections with people there and chances to visit Arkansas more often/kind of weird to one day have no more St.J connections...)

August - Presented at the Springfield Orff workshop!, Started teaching Bible Study/Missions to grades 3-4 on Wednesday nights at Team Kid, New school year/new job/more kids/classes than ever/overwhelming peace about where I was at/now commuting/relying on God EVERY day for strength/counting the days 'til Labor Day/did you get all that? ha

September - Labor Day Break! (fun at HSVillage), Lots of challenges/tears about work, Starting a budget, Fun with a friend from college stomping grapes at the Fall Festival!, A friend interviewed me for the local newspaper, I'm sure there was more this month than I can remember to list here...

October - Survived one quarter at the new job/many challenges, Completed health requirements for application - (now waiting on official clearance so my app could be fully considered), Visit from my sister in Kansas/lots of good family weekend time!, Homecoming at OBU and another visit to Arkadelphia, -27lbs at WW (unfortunately I gained a little back and am working to get back to that point again, but I'm close! ha)

November - Lots of time off from school - Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving, and conferences/meetings, First program of the year - (fourth grade and so much fun!), Getting the sound system at school all hooked up for the program (And actually having sound! Plus doing it on my own! - rejoicing in the small things!), New Semi-Criminal Record (See post about the boot on my car! haha), Family time for the holiday

December - Another music program (so proud of third grade!), First day I looked forward to school for most of the year, Tacky sweater fun (oh wait - I still have to post pictures from that!), Paid off my credit card - (without using it at all over the past few months...hooray!), Official Health Clearance - (now just waiting for a letter about the interview conference...), Christmas decorating, Snow, More waiting for JM news - (it's getting harder to go to the mailbox every day!), Lazy days off, Family time, Christmas, Giving something fully to the Lord and thanking Him for the continued peace about it - (I think I've finally let my heart hand it over to Him!), Visiting Mom Chu from OBU, Blogging, Too much candy - (Umm, ok, so the candy was not God's work...haha)

Whew - it feels like a whirlwind just listing all that...and I know I left some things out/forgot some things. Some of those things weren't necessarily all ways that "God worked," but He was present through joy, peace, contentment, and provision. All of the things in my life should be to glorify Him.

I pray that in 2011, I will continue to seek Him, especially in those "everyday" God alone be the glory!

Thanks for following me this year through my blog! I pray God will open your eyes to the many ways He has been present through 2010 and will continue to challenge you to grow in His presence in 2011!

Monday, December 27, 2010

"You Come Here and Be My Girl..."

"You come here and be my girl!"

Those are the first words I remember Mom Chu saying when we knocked on her apartment door on my first tour at Ouachita. I had gone for a percussion audition and my first visit on a Saturday at the beginning of February, and Mr. Salyers, the percussion teacher who was also semi-new to OBU, was showing my parents and me around as best as he could, without an "official" campus tour guide.

We visited in her apartment for a little while, and she told me all about how much OBU meant to her, and why it had become her "home." Mom Chu invited me that day to make it my home too, and something told me, after I would be!

I did decide to go to Ouachita Baptist University, and God blessed me by placing me on the "West Side" of the freshman dorm! Each dorm had a "mom" or a "mom and dad" to supervise the RAs and assist students living there, and Mom Chu was in Francis Crawford West. She always knew what was going on with all "her girls," and she took the best care of us!

Her amazing story is too long for me to share here, but she and her husband came over from China in the 1950s and began their life at OBU in Arkadelphia. They had a daughter named Jane, who also grew up there, attended college there, and majored in music. Mom Chu so loved sharing about her Chinese heritage and the wonderful story of how God blessed her family's life as they moved to America and chose to fully trust Him through the years.

I remember many Sunday lunches in the Caf after church, sitting with Mom Chu and visiting about things going on around campus, the students in our dorm, church events, her heart for China, and my passion for sharing Jesus with students and people from around the world. She was a "mother" to all the girls in her dorm, and to many other students around campus, as well as a "grandmother" to many of the children at church. We shared visits in her little apartment in the dorm, with Mom Chu teaching me a few Chinese words here and there, and always encouraging me to keep serving with all my heart and working hard in my studies. In fact, if I wind up in China with the JM program, I will know it is her fault, because of her so desires for people to visit her hometown and country,  sharing the joy of Christ with the many people there who don't know. When I told her I had applied, she of course said she hoped I would go there! :)

Mom Chu moved to my home state of Missouri after retiring from OBU a little over a year ago, and I have been longing to visit her for quite some time, but it has been hard because we live four hours apart, and I don't go that way very often at all. So...when I knew I would pass through her community today, it was the perfect opportunity for a visit!

We spent time walking around her new retirement community, and she showed me where she lives now, introducing me to many of her new friends around the buildings. I bet there are few people who don't know Mom Chu! I felt so proud when she introduced me as "her little girl" from Ouachita! She shared about her new volunteer calling at the care center for residents who need special medical attention and services. Every morning she wakes up at 5 a.m., has a bowl of cereal, and walks to the care center across the highway, where she talks with, listens to, walks with, laughs with, and encourages the residents there. Many of them count on her visit each day, and she never misses one - people are depending on her, she says! It touched my heart so much, the way she shared about how God has given her so much, and the people she talks with have given so much in their is important for us to serve and give back as much as we can now. Even though her days are mostly the same now, she looks forward to getting up each morning, knowing she will share the big heart God has given her, using the abilities and blessing of health she has, to touch others.

Visiting Mom Chu was the best gift I could ask for today, but before I left, she didn't want to send me away without giving me something. She asked if I was hungry, and when I told her I'd had a snack but would eat dinner a little later, she insisted on sending some fruit with me, from a basket someone had given her. I know this was a sacrifice because she isn't able to go to the store often to buy fruit and groceries. While I didn't want her to give her fruit away, I knew she wanted to with all her heart. Then, as I was about to leave, she continued saying she wished she could give me something more. I told her visiting was the best gift I could ask for, but she gave me two small beautiful decorations from her living room too. I was so humbled by her desire to give and share, and I pray for the same giving heart, both now, and as I grow! To some, fruit and decorations may not seem like much, but for me, they were a perfect example of how God fills our hearts through the unselfish sacrifice of others.

Oh how thankful I am that God sent me to OBU for my first visit eight years ago (already that long?!), and He blessed me with the opportunity to live on the "Westside" when I moved there almost eight years ago, in August of 2003 and be one of Mom Chu's girls. My heart will always have a home there, and the people I met and grew to love will always be my family. Mom Chu is and always will be the first family member I had there!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Few Favorites...

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the past few weeks! Ok, maybe a few more than a do love taking pictures (maybe a little too much sometimes!)

First snow of the season - December 12! :) 

Decorating our Christmas tree...

My first ornament! (The rocking horse)  Christmas 1985

Sunshine, our sweet kitty, enjoying her new spot under the tree! 

Special Christmas treats...Mom has been busy in the kitchen this year! :) Mmmmm!!
The pretzel picture is one of my favorite this year...I just like the angle and all the sprinkles! 

Carrie, my sister, made her own special Christmas treat to share with friends and family! I had fun taking the pictures...maybe she'll have a website and sell things one day, with my pictures to help market! haha

This is what Sunshine and I do on lazy days off from school! Staying warm and cozy on the couch! :)

Christmas Day with my dad's family in Oklahoma City...
Lots of beautiful decorations!

Gift time! Yes - I come from a family of OU Sooner fans! (I try to stay neutral, because I was born half-Texan - my mom's side are Aggie fans, and half-Oklahoman - my dad's side are Sooner fans! lol)

Aunt Cathie's beautiful tree!

Mom's Christmas socks! :) 

Family time!

The best parents in the world! 

Silly pictures with Mom - what was THAT look all about? lol

Mother/Daughter picture!

Father/Daughter Time! :)

And...a sister picture to add in the mix too! 

I feel blessed to have a wonderful family, and especially one who makes a point to remember and emphasize the meaning of the Christmas season - the birth of Jesus, our Savior! I'm thankful to God for the many blessings He has given me, and the joy He fills my heart with each day! Merry Christmas!