Monday, June 28, 2010

Dear Blog Friends...I know I've been gone awhile, but the past week has been a whirl-wind. A wonderful friend-visiting, community-serving, fellowship-having, worship-experiencing, fun, silly, and long whirl-wind, though! I can't wait to share more about it all with you soon. I keep thinking of lots of things to write about and running out of time...Be back soon!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rewind a Few Weeks...

Well - I've been hoping to put some pictures from my Branson trip up for a few weeks now, and finally just got some of them uploaded. I'm not too experienced with arranging photos on here yet, but I'll do my best...and there are a lot! :) I sort of made myself the "trip photographer" to make sure we didn't miss any memories! The trip was over Memorial Day Weekend, and I went with my "adopted" family who I've known since jr. high. Brandy is one of my best friends, and also another one I can just pick up with where we left off, though I've been blessed to live close enough to her to hang out on a regular basis over the past two years! Anyway - here come the pictures!

Jared, our faithful navigator is expressing hsi frustration that the directions to our condo were...wrong...but he's excited that we made it there anyway! Show us how you really feel, Jared!

 Brandy is always nice enough to share her little brother with me, since I am the youngest in my family...over the years, he has become my "adopted little brother." And as any good brother would do, he gave me my first lesson dunking people on the pool...what a good volunteer he was...


We went putt-putt golfing, and decided that we would start the "Members Only Pirates Cove Country Club..." or something like that!

 It happened to be my birthday weekend...and this was just the first time I celebrated. Mmmmmm....chocolate cheese cake at Olive Garden! (That was totally on my Weight Watchers plan, I promise! haha)

Saturday was Silver Dollar City day! We rode lots of rides...we were brave...don't let our s-s-sc-scccaarrred faces fool you! :) 

  Good thing we had an "adult" to ride with us! Jared made the cut, but I just wasn't sure if I was tall enough!

 We got wet, and don't tell Mom and Dad...but we went to Jail too! Yikes!

  We had dinner at Shorty Smalls on the Branson Landing...and birthday celebration number two...the best one ever! They brought an ENORMOUS dessert, and had me stand on a chair while they sang to me...gotta love having an excuse to stand on a chair in a restaurant! :) By the way, those were the most GINORMOUS mozarella sticks  logs ever too! ha...Good thing we had five people to eat them all!




We spent Sunday relaxing at Table Rock Lake! It was a beautiful day, and the weather was perfect! The lake wasn't too busy, and David's friend had a private dock where we could swim, and a boat to take tubing...It was my very first tubing experience ever! I'm proud to say I was brave! Brandy and I went together, but maybe next time I'll try it on my own! :) And you have to know - the talk of the trip were David's steaks he bought just to grill for us...I'm not usually a steak person, but they WERE delicious! 

Branson Landing was beautiful at night! (The last two pictures are some of my favorites from the trip!)

We had a Spades party, and I left to take a phone call during the last hand, so David filled in. I think I'll let him play in my spot more often...get a load of that hand! lol

Another adventure full of memories with one of my best friends! 
Happy Summer to all of you - thanks for letting me share my vacation with you!
 (Well, one of them! Tomorrow I'm off to see three wonderful friends from college...we haven't all three been together in at least three years! Two of them are married now and live in D.C. and Alabama, and one just returned from serving 2 years overseas in the Journeyman program I am applying being together is rare these days! Fun times will be had, and more pictures are sure to come!)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I know God is always at work. Sometimes it is just easier for us to see Him or feel His presence than other times. Or, sometimes we choose to draw away instead of drawing near. A relationship is something that takes work, no matter who it is with - a friend, a family member, a spouse, or our Creator. I often catch myself on "cruise control," coasting through my Christian life, looking to God when I have a big need, or when I am feeling super joyful, or when I have a big decision to make. But it is that everyday time, when He is still longing to work through your life, even when things don't seem "eventful" or exciting, that still requires effort to keep the relationship going.

God has been putting contentment on my heart. I think we often confuse contentment with "happiness." I believe that to be "happy" is a momentary emotion, while to be "content" means that, even if you are in the worst of circumstances, you have faith and hope in knowing that God is in control, thus leading to contentment and peace. "Always be full of joy IN the Lord. I say it again - rejoice!" -Philippians 4:4-

There are many areas in which I am challenged to be "content" with my Savior...and many things that cause me to fall into "discontentment." I think I'll just share about one today...

God has put me where I am for a reason. - Over the past two years, I have struggled with the fact that where I am is a mission field. I am called to teach and minister to children and co-workers every day, HERE. My heart has longed to be overseas serving, teaching, and sharing, but for now, God has put me here. He may provide the opportunity for me to "go" in His timing, and I am in the process of seeking and following His direction with this desire...but in the meantime, I need to keep my eyes focused on the task He has set before me here and now. 

Sometimes I see friends who are in grad school, finishing grad school, or doing "great" things in their lives, and I want to be there too. - What I am doing now is "great" because it is the task God has given me. One day I may have the opportunity to go to graduate school and pursue other desires, but God knows His timing there too. I need to rejoice in the different ways He is using each person He has created, and the way He wants to use me too. 

Singleness is an issue that could be an entire post in itself, and I may write about this later. But I know that for now, God has allowed me the opportunity to grow and mature independently. He has called me to seek Him with ALL my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and knows my heart even better than I do. He knows my desire for a husband and a family, and my desire to serve His kingdom with that family...He gave me that desire. But I have to give it back to Him, trusting that He will provide in His perfect timing. I trust that HE is enough.

In the Fall, my Sunday School class did a study called, "Lord Change My Attitude." When I can find the book again, I plan to go back to the two sections dealing with contentment and really seek what the Lord has to teach me about this wide topic, and what His word has to say about it. One of the things I do remember about the study is that sometimes we want the right things for the wrong reason or the right things at the wrong time. It also described how sometimes God does allow us to have those things we've been wanting, if we are persistent and stubborn enough to keep pressing for them in OUR timing...but sometimes that means we experience consequences, or are unable to enjoy them, because we are allowed to have them at the wrong time or for the wrong reason. Wow...something to think about.

God has also challenged me in that I have begun praying and will continue to pray for Him to reveal little or big things in my life that are making me feel discontent. But I realized today, I can't just pray for Him to show me those things, then say, "Ok, there's something causing me a problem..." and move on. I need to honestly be willing to approach those things and figure out how to either limit them in ways that God shows me, or remove them as distractions from my life. And I can't just expect God to keep "working" and to "grow closer to Him" if I'm not willing to put any effort into the relationship.

Our church also recently did a six-week series focused on drawing nearer to God by drawing out other things from our lives. Each week we were challenged to fast from a certain area - t.v., computers/cell phones (other than business), using debit/credit cards, eating out, etc...ending with a three day fast from eating. I wish I could say that I read every study and participated in all the fasting, but I didn't. However, God did reveal something to me when I was studying one week - "Facebook is making you discontent." This was a tough one for me. Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE to spend time on this website updating friends, catching up, seeing how others are doing, and sharing pictures. But God showed me that it is when I spend so much time there that I put it first - before Him -that I lose my focus on what He is doing in my life...and begin "wishing" for what is going on in others' lives. Sounds simple, I guess, but it's the truth. So...I think I'm going back to putting some thought into that and starting there - I will be praying about the things that I am putting before God in my life, or am allowing to take the focus off of being content where I am....and acting on them. I'll be starting with more limited time spent in looking at everything on facebook/internet...and working to spend more time in His word.

"Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all He has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Then the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:6-9

Choosing to be thankful for this challenge and for how God is working...

Summer Days...

Lately I've been enjoying summer a lot...

On this day, it was pouring rain, and Granny decided to make a "hat" out of a plastic bag to go over her head! :)

I've also had time to enjoy God's workmanship in the sunsets...

And the rain...

I spent four days with my sister Carrie and her family in Kansas...and I got to meet Parker, my step-nephew. He is an adorable four year old that will steal your heart if you meet him too!

Lately I've been "thinking in pictures..." Well - not really thinking in pictures, I guess, but seeing things that stand out to me as potential pictures. I love spending time with my camera, exploring new and old places and finding things to take pictures of! 

Like Salina, Kansas and its scenery...

And I've enjoyed sweet times of fellowship with new friends from church...and yes, a milkshake or two!


God has been making Himself SO apparent to me over the past couple of months. 

I've written some about my job situation, but here's a short recap...
*April - the board voted to close my school at the end of the year but promised us all jobs (such a blessing!)
*April-May - Still waiting to hear where I would be placed (no music openings, but a guaranteed job) Lots of prayer, trust, faith, and patience...praying I would be an example of joy and peace to those who saw me waiting
*May - Job offer that I was NOT expecting! 1/2 day 3rd grade music at an off-post elementary school (so excited about this!) and 1/2 day high school guitar (Uh, Lord....really?...Are you SURE you got the right person?...) I had never really played guitar (other than a one-quarter elective class in jr. high) and have never really worked with high schoolers as a teacher. So...
*Last week - the HR coordinator called me and visited about my real opinion of the high school position. I figured since he was asking, it was my opportunity to be honest - a little stressed. Ok, maybe a lot stressed. 
*Wednesday of last week - another phone call...a new offer. K-6 music full-time at an elementary school on-post. That teacher would like to go to the high school and has guitar experience. Wow. Thank you, Lord. I love my kids so much. 

If I had been offered or assigned this job in the Spring, I don't think I would have felt very excited. I was a little burnt out and ready for a change. I wasn't feeling like an effective teacher, and felt frustrated that I wasn't enjoying what I was doing. I loved my kids SO much, but hated that I wasn't a "good" teacher. But, as time went on, and I thought about not having my own room next year, learning guitar over the summer well enough to teach it (No, thank you! ha), teaching high schoolers, losing my Smart Board (that I wrote a grant to receive), and missing my kids from Pick....I realized that maybe I was an okay teacher. And that if I had the chance...I'd like to try again. So now, God has given me that chance. And even though adding sixth grade makes me nervous, it is nothing compared to high school. And He is good. He will give me the strength...if I ask! I will have all the things I talked about missing, plus another  chance at a new year. And if I should happen to go overseas after next year, I think I'll feel more like I had the chance to "finish" or leave on a good note...(no pun intended! lol). I'm excited that I'll have more opportunities to take pictures like this one....

And maybe I'll even get more notes like this one...

God knows best. I have to keep telling myself that, even though I know it. And I have to choose to trust Him....with everything! 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Movin' On Up...

Well...movin' on home, that is. We finally got all of my "stuff" moved home today. How one single person could accumulate so much is beside me. I need to have a big sorting party and then a yard sale, that's for sure. But for now...I'll settle with cleaning and checking out of my apartment, and sifting through the boxes to find things I need day to day as the summer goes by! I'm so thankful for my family all the time, but today I'm especially thankful for my brother and sister-in-law who gave up their Saturday to come and help me pack and move (plus some bonus niece and nephew quality time!!), my mom who is the queen of "pack-it-fast and get-it-there Aggie style..." moving, haha! and my dad.

Check out those muscles....and that packing job! And that cool guy next to me...yes - we're related! What would the world be like without brothers? :)

Who needs a moving van and professional movers?!

And after all that hard work...who could resist spending time with these two faces?!

Did I mention how thankful I am for my family? (And this is just one of many parts of my family!)
So glad to be finished packing and in one place now. (Just have to finish the cleaning part and check out on Wednesday with the land lord...then it's off to Kansas for fun with another family sister Carrie!) All that movin' will make it easy to sleep tonight!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Still packing...and so ready to be finished and in one place. (For at least a few days.)

I like that it is summer vacation time. And that there is so much to look forward to in these two full months!

*Finishing my move home and settling in there - it will be a transition, but nice to be with my parents for a little while and still have my own space in the basement apartment

*Visiting my sister and her family in Kansas - she moved there in October, and I have never gotten to see where she lives and experience her family and friends there...of course we will have lots of laughs! (She claims she is looking for a single, handsome, cowboy for me who will then convince me to move to the said state...hmmmm...I hope her cowboy likes Africa!)

*Arkansas - lots of Arkansas! - I really miss my summers there. Even the hot, humid days and nights. Watching the church softball games, VBS, lakeside church services, swimming at the Eubanks' pond, college fellowships, babysitting one of my favorite little (ok not so little anymore) guys, Arms Around Arkadelphia, and much, much more! - This summer my first visit will be a reunion with three of my favorite girls ever - Alyse, Amanda, and Myra!! We are finally coming together from all over the U.S. (and outside of the U.S.!) and spending a few days together! Then I will stay the week after and be a part of AAA with FBC Arkadelphia! In July, I will spend two weeks at UCA in Conway, taking Level Two of Orff-Schulwerk music training with many of the great friends I made last year! The president of AOSA is teaching the course...I'm super excited!

*Friday nights at the Muny! - My friend Brandy and I are once again "season ticket subscribers" which makes it feel oh-so-important to dress up, drive to the city, have dinner, and watch a show each week! :)

*Gilmore Girls - I bought all seven seasons last year and started watching them in the summer (see this post!) and finally finished watching them all tonight....which means it's time to start again! I think it might be a summer tradition! Don't quite know how I got hooked on it, but I am!

*Sleeping in! - Enough said!

*More Weight Watchers success - I am soooooo close to my 10% goal and ready to set my long-term goal. This has been such a great program, and while weight no longer drives my self-esteem and success, it feels so good to be on a healthy path to a manageable weight that is within the range my body should be, and to know once I am there, I will work to maintain that weight rather than losing more or gaining it back.

*Community Band - it's so fun to play percussion again!

*Learning Guitar - trying not to be stressed about this one, and teaching myself b/c I don't really have time to take lessons since I will be out of town so much. (Also - the HR director called me yesterday to ask how I felt about the high school position with guitar b/c we hadn't visited since the fine arts coordinator told me that was where I would be, and I thought since he actually called to get my opinion I should be honest. I told him it was pretty stressful to think about, and that if something else opened up in ESL, Speech, or another simliar area, I would really rather do that, so we'll see. Sometimes it's tough for me to be honest, because I just want to help out and make everyone happy. But since I was given the chance, I thought I'd better say something. Oh well - that's in God's hands too!)

*Playing outside - looking at clouds, going for walks, swinging at the park, catching lightning bugs, laying under the stars, taking pictures, smelling flowers...

*Seeing family - Hoping to visit my grandparents, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews in the free time!

*Driving - sometimes I just love that time in the car to think, sing, or just see things as I drive...

*Working on my Journeyman application and submitting it (by August! Yikes!)

There are lots of other things - I'm sure I'll think of them as the summer goes by! I hope you all have a wonderful summer, whether vacationing, working, serving, or whatever else you may be doing. May God bless you and lead you in all you do! :)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Just keep packing, just keep packing, just keep packing....

Those are the words on my mind right now. And I desparately DON'T want to think about them. Which is why I'm here, typing this instead.

I'd like to share with you all about my fun weekend in Branson with the "adopted fam" and how I celebrated my birthday the whole time and made great memories. And I'd love to show you some pictures from the trip. I will. But probably tomorrow and not tonight.

Tonight I'm going back and forth from the little closet bathroom under my stairs while the tornado sirens go off to the couch in the living room where I feel semi-safe until the storms start again. There is lots of lightning right now, but the wind, thunder, and rain seem to have passed over. Oh, and I'm totally using my neighbor's wireless internet and my computer battery to be online for a few minutes. That's how things roll sometimes when avoiding lightning strikes + modem and power chord + new computer. Thank you to my neighbor, whoever you are!

I had to make an unexpected doctor's visit today. Pink eye. Yuck. I only remember having this one other time in my life, as a child. It's only in one eye, but it's not so fun. Hopefully it will clear up fast! Washing the hands lots, avoiding touching the eye area, and not "sharing" it with anyone else!!

One week from today I'll be finished packing the apartment, and I'll be packing for my second trip of the summer....a visit to my sister and her in-laws in Kansas! Woo-hooooo! Fun (and hopefully inexpensive) times are definitely in-store! Happy Wednesday, everyone!