Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankful

This month is the Thanksgiving holiday, and while I'm thankful all year, I'd like to post a daily thing I am thankful for this month. I'm starting a few days late, and I may miss a day, but that's ok. I'll just make it up when I can! :) Actually, most people are doing this on their facebook statuses, but for some reason I'm kind of stubborn and when I see everyone else doing something, I don't want to do it that way...lol

Day 1 - Salvation. I am thankful I have Christ in my life and I am a child of God. I am thankful for the family and teachers who instilled this Truth in my life at a young age and continued to pour into me throughout my life.

Day 2 - Family. I am thankful God placed me in a big family with four siblings, loving and caring parents, a solid Christian foundation, and has now blessed me with eleven nieces and nephews and awesome brothers and sisters in law.

Day 3 - Learning. I am thankful for a lifetime of learning. For getting to grow up in school, the ability to attend and graduate college, and for continued chances to learn through colleagues and professional development at school, and for working on my masters degree right now.

Day 4 - Washer/Dryer - I'm thankful for having both of these in my apartment. Many people around the world don't have machines for this, and many people here don't have them at home and have to take their laundry somewhere and pay to wash and dry it all. I am thankful for the convenience of having it available here.

Day 5 - My passport - I'm thankful I've had the opportunity to travel many places around the world and look forward to many more trips throughout my life.

Day 6 - Pictures - I'm thankful for pictures to look at that help save and bring back memories.

Day 7 - My boyfriend. He is caring and fun, silly and serious, smart, and passionate about his faith and desire to share Christ with others. He loves to study and share theology in a way that is understandable to others. I am thankful that God knew just what I desired and so much more when he brought us together this summer.

Day 8 - My body and my health. I've had the worst year so far in my five years of teaching for being sick. I haven't had anything too serious, thankfully - just a fever, allergies, laryngitis, an inner ear infection, and some fatigue. But...I could have something so much worse. And I could be unable to feel or understand what it is like to be well when I am. So...I'm thankful for the way God has made my body and for the medical care I have available when I am sick.

Day 9 - Laughter. I am thankful for friends and family who make me laugh, even when I least want to. I'm thankful for funny pictures, t.v. shows, movies, books, etc. Life wouldn't be as fun without it.

Day 10 - My church family - I am thankful for the family I have now at Westside Baptist, for the people who know my name and seek to learn more about me, even when I don't always know who they are. For the chance to serve and grow, and to be encouraged by others there. I'm also thankful for church families of my past - for FBC Arkadelphia, my family away from home during college, for FBC Rolla where I grew up through my teenage and college years, and for other churches I've been a part of since birth. I am thankful I was raised in a home that taught me about the importance of having and serving a church family.

Day 11 - My job - I'm thankful I have the opportunity to teach and serve almost 500 children every day. I am thankful for the fun of teaching music and the variety of teaching so many ages and grade levels, with different groups every day. I'm thankful that my job is a mission field, and for the care and encouragement I get to share with my kids. I'm thankful God has called me to work with children full-time, and for the many great co-workers I have as well.

Day 12 - My car - I'm thankful to have a vehicle to get me where I need to go and gas for its tank. I'm thankful I will be finished paying for it in just four months, and for the first time in my life I will own a dependable vehicle that I have paid for myself. I am thankful for the many road trips I've been able to take with it as well!

Day 13 - Books/Reading - Though I don't get much time at all to read what I want to for fun anymore, I am thankful I know how to read, and that I can choose what I want to read when I have time! I am thankful for teachers, parents, and siblings who instilled a love for reading in me from a young age through summer reading club at the library, bedtime stories, classroom reading, and programs like Book-it and 600 Minutes when I was in elementary school.

Day 14 - Fun - I'm so thankful for the many times I've had "fun" in my life. Sometimes it's a game night with friends or a simple date night "in," sometimes a vacation, laughing with family, a great lesson at school, or some "me" time. But - lately I've almost forgotten what it is like. Sometimes being stressed out with so many things going on at one time can cause me to forget what fun is like or feel like nothing will be fun again...but I'm thankful to know these times are temporary, and fun will come again.

Day 15 - Music - It really does make up my life. I love playing music (percussion!), singing, listening to recordings, going to concerts, teaching it to my kids at school, and making it a part of my life every day. The sounds of music as well as lyrics of many songs touch my heart, and I love the way it is so universal around the world.

Day 16 - Writing - I am thankful for the desire to write. I love to blog, write cards and letters, and write grants for school. Though I wish I made more time for it, I still love the freedom and joy that it brings, and the ways I'm able to encourage and help others through it!

Day 17 - A sister and brother-in-law visit - At the risk of getting in trouble for singling out one sibling, I first want to say I'm thankful for all four of my brothers and sisters and my brothers and sisters in-law. God has blessed me so much with siblings who care about me and who I looked up to so much when I was little and still do now as an adult. I love the way that each of them means something to me in a different and unique way. But today I want to share how thankful I am for my sister Carrie and getting to visit with her this weekend. She is like a best friend to me and someone I can talk to, laugh with, be laughed at by (only she's allowed to do that too! haha), and ask for advice. She has made a lot of time to spend with me over the years as I've grown up and continues to support me and encourage me in many different ways. I'm thankful she came to visit this weekend with her husband Michael and that I've gotten to spend some time with them.

Day 18 - Siblings - (I could cheat and get away with putting a sibling each day, but I'll put them together! Which means, hang in there...day 18 is going to be a little long!) I am thankful for my sister Kim and the woman she is. She is an awesome mother, a loving sister, and an example of someone who seeks to serve her family with all her heart. I am thankful for her gentle spirit and the way she has quietly ministered to my heart through my life. I am thankful God gave her a husband and my brother-in-law Ken Michael and for the family He has blessed them with. Even though I don't see them often, I still treasure them in my heart and cherish our phone calls. I am thankful for my brother Mark. He is a strong man and seeks to love and provide for his family. I love the memories of him playing with me and even sometimes picking on me as I grew up :) I love the time he spent with me when I was little, the games he made up to make me laugh, the pranks he played on our family, and the strength he showed during his years in the Marines. He made choices that were not always easy to stand firm in his beliefs and morals and waited patiently for God to provide a wife and a family for him. He is strong in his faith, and I love to spend time with him and laugh now that we are adults. I am also thankful for Kristin, his wife, who loves and cares for their family, works hard to help provide, and enjoys fun and closeness with all her family. She strives to follow God with all her heart, serves others, and listens so well. She can have fun and laugh, be serious, and knows what quality time means. I am thankful for my brother Bryan who loves and cares for his family too. I love the memories of looking up to him when I was little - wanting to play drums because he did, watching him play in his local band, having him pick me up from the babysitter when he came home for visits, and spending time with him and his wife Melissa in the summers when I was little. I love the desire he has to follow God, the passion he has for serving God and others, the love he shows as he invests in each of his five daughters and his wife, and the corny jokes he still tells even now! I am thankful for his wife Melissa who invests time and energy daily into being there for her family, yet also works outside the home serving babies and families as a nurse. She is a good listener and fun to hang out with when the sisters and sisters-in-law get together for some girl time! :) While I mentioned Carrie and Michael in the last post - I was thankful for their visit last weekend. But I am also thankful for the people they are. For the way God brought them together, uniting in marriage, and for the chances I've had so far to get to know Michael. I love the heart Carrie has to serve others, meet needs, and listen. She can be fun or serious, a listener, an advice giver, and reminds me so much every day about trusting God in His faithfulness, forgiveness, timing, and provision. Michael is caring, funny, and giving. He is fun to be around and is one of those "quiet ones" like me that you have to look out for! Haha :) I can't wait for more opportunities to know him and to see them grow as a family. I am so thankful for each of the siblings God has given me and for the times I've had with them both growing up (they were pretty good to let a baby brat come into the family and to love me and put up with me for so many years!) and now for the years God is giving us together as adults. They are examples to me of marriage, family, faith, service, love, and fun. I love you guys!

Day 19 - Little bits of extra time - I'm thankful for extra time to get homework done. The schedule was a little different at school today, and we combined our groups of kids in grade levels to watch a movie together. While we were watching, I got to do a little homework too. God is good!

Day 20 - Extra Family - I'm thankful for extra family. For my #1 adopted family I've had since Jr. high and the many fun memories we have together and the quality time we still get to spend together. And that God has allowed me to live close to them again for so many years! I'm also thankful for adopted families in college when I was far away from home and needed love and support. The Thompsons and the McAllisters are so dear to my heart and always will be! I hope I will have the opportunity to reach out to students, church family, and community in the way they have one day! I'm thankful for my boyfriend's family. When God brought us together this summer, he not only gave me a wonderful match (see #7!) but parents who live here too and desire to know me and spend time with me as well. They have been so caring and encouraging from the start, and have helped take care of me while my family is far away too. I love having meals with them, spending time just being lazy and watching football (yes, football...lol...that doesn't mean I know what's going on), for adventures (where I learned how to hold a gun for the first time in my life, AND shoot it!), and for worshiping together at church. I am so very blessed and loved.

Day 21 - A lazy day and sleeping in - I'm thankful for a day off work with no plans, time to sleep in without setting an alarm clock, coffee, reading, writing letters, blogging, and homework. I might also be thankful for time to stay in my pjs 'til 1p.m. Just sayin'! :)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

First an Update...

I've been a little MIA again from blogging, and I've missed it so much. Ever feel like your plate is so full it's about to break? Or maybe you accidentally got one of those cheap styrofoam ones that you fill up and it starts buckling in the middle (you know - not the fancy rectangle ones, but the round kind that don't have separate spots for all the things you put on, so as a result you just keep piling and piling around the sides and in the middle...) and all too quickly you realize the many good foods you put there have overloaded it, and maybe, just maybe, you should've chosen more wisely? Sometimes you just need an extra set of hands to help you hold it up before it breaks or someone who jumps in just in time and makes an "awesome catch" as it starts to fall, saving it. Maybe if you're lucky, though, in the process of falling, you accidentally lost that helping of your great aunt Sally's mashed potatoes or your cousin Susie's triple cream pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top, and well - even though those were both good things, maybe even favorites, it really took a load (and a few million calories) off when you lost them.

Ok, let's put aside all the food analogies. (Can you tell Thanksgiving is coming soon?...)

Let's look at things in a real life perspective but in a non-complaining, very thankful for where God has me and how He continuously blesses me kind of way. This is how I put it this week in a facebook status - Sometimes you just have to take things one at a time, remember you're not alone in balancing it all, remember to be thankful, and remember you can only give your best (which is not the same as someone else's best). I'm thankful for where God has put me right now. 
"For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him." -Philippians 2:13

At this time in my life I am balancing teaching music full-time to 500 K-5 students in my school, taking two graduate courses, one of which is kicking my tail (Grammar...uggh), being a part of church and serving there, trying to spend as much time with friends and family as possible, exercise (which has been pretty non-existent lately), having a boyfriend (yes - I said boyfriend! :) But I think I'll save that for another post), keeping my apartment clean and organized, keeping really tight finances in line, and keeping up with committees and extra things at school (including the coolest club ever that I started this year!). I know we all have lists. I'm sure mine could go on if I really tried hard...my point is - all these things are "good." But I can't handle them all. God has put me in a wonderful place and given me the opportunity to be a part of these things, and 1- I have added more than He has given me, 2 - I haven't trusted Him fully with the load He has allowed me to have, and I'm running out of strength to do it on my own. 

But I don't have to. He is here...all the time. I am the child of a God who has taken me into His arms and desperately wants me to call on His name and trust Him to show me what I should keep on my plate and what should go. He will help me to give my best at all I am doing, (which I very often have to remind myself doesn't always look like someone else's best!), and He is here to give me rest. 

I hope you'll look at where God has you right now and remember He is with you. Sometimes I think God has brought me somewhere, and while He has allowed me to be there, I've kicked, pushed, pulled, and struggled to get there, thinking "I" was right, but when I let go and truly seek His will and direction, He shows me the path He has set out before me, and the struggle stops as I remember to rest in His arms and give up my "self." He loves you. He has a plan, and you are His child. Rest in Him. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

My heart is heavy right now. God is really showing me my need to put myself aside and run toward Him. He is showing me the need to drop my selfish desires and find fulfillment through my hope and joy from salvation in Christ. These words were on my heart from a song tonight.

We dare not trust in our own hand, or all would be in vein. Our confidence is in the One, who holds the worlds in place. He fights for us, the Sovereign Lord of Hosts. From age to age, the triumph's His alone. Hope in God, oh my soul. He is strong, and is strong to save. Hope in God, He's a rock and a hiding place - He's a mighty fortress. -Sovereign Grace Music

Monday, August 20, 2012

He Touched Me...

"Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. Suddenly a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. 'Lord,' the man said, 'if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.' Jesus reached out and touched him. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be healed!' And instantly the leprosy disappeared. -Matthew 8:1-3 NLT

I don't know that I've ever really considered just what it meant for Jesus to reach out and touch the leper before. I've heard this story many times. And I think I've always focused on the miracle that Jesus performed - that the man was healed. But not until yesterday as we were studying these verses in Sunday School did I ever stop to think about that short sentence before Jesus spoke the healing words.

"Jesus reached out and touched him."

Wow. Have you ever researched leprosy? I hadn't really...until yesterday. I had heard stories and even have a sister who visited some leper colonies when she was doing mission work in China. But I haven't, and don't know that I ever will fully understand the extent of it. It's not pretty. It's not comfortable. It's painful. And it's certainly not something I really want to encounter. But Jesus did. He could have simply spoken the words, "Be healed." He could have prayed over the man and sent him on his way. But Jesus reached out and touched the man with leprosy. This was unheard of in that time, and probably even today with those who still suffer from this horrible condition. It was/is highly contagious, and to go near someone who has it is risky business. But to touch them...now that's really putting yourself at risk. Not to mention the sight and smell that may have been present because of the skin condition. (Think rotting flesh...as unbearable as that sounds...) So, needless to say, this man had probably not been touched by anyone in his years as a leper. I wonder what gave him the courage to approach Jesus? I wonder what allowed him to come so close? And I wonder what his heart was feeling as he simply said with complete faith, "If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean!" There is so much to see here. He didn't ask Jesus if He was willing. He made a statement. He believed. He had faith. And He knew. I can only imagine the freedom he felt as he walked away knowing He had been healed, both physically and spiritually. The powerful, overwhelming freedom he must have experienced.

And now I think about myself. About the "spots" I carry around every day. Jesus died on the cross to cleanse those spots. Because of Him, I can come, every day, every moment, humbled and amazed at His willingness to heal...if I simply confess and ask. What a powerful thought our Sunday School teacher brought when she challenged us to think about our own "spots." To think about the way Christ takes those away as He touches us, and to consider others around us who are hurting and desperately trying to cover up their spots. We need the touch of Christ, and others who don't know Him need us to reach out and touch them as we share His love and truth.

What freedom. What peace. What overwhelming hope and joy I have. To know that Jesus was willing to reach out...and touch me. A sinner. A human. An imperfect person He chose to call His child when I asked Him to be a part of my life twenty one years ago. And now I am called to be His touch to others. I know I can't be the one to heal or save someone. But I can lead them to the One who will.

Kind words. An encouragement note. A ride for someone who doesn't have a car. Doing the dishes. Listening ears. A prayer. Childcare. Teaching. And so many other things...What will your "touch" look like today?


Friday, August 10, 2012

Another late post from the drafts folder - it's catch up time! :)

Yikes! I have been seriously lacking in the blog posts this summer, and that is one thing I was looking forward to most with school being out! I have so many things I want to post about but either don't make time, can't figure out how to put them into words yet, or just don't get motivated. But I decided tonight I need to just write something and get going! So...here's something I've been up to the past few months that has really been awesome to me - running!! :)

When I started again in March, I really just wanted to do it for fun, and to get some more exercise in. I go to Curves and really enjoy that, but wanted to mix things up a little bit too. Then I decided to try my first race (in ten years!) in April. I wrote about that race here. It was awesome to be able to support something I love - missions - AND run! :) I kept running and finally in May, with a little bonus paycheck I earned from being a new teacher mentor this school year, I decided to buy just the thing I'd been wanting - my first for real pair of running shoes, ever! And - that's kind of where my journey continued! Here are some pictures to share from my new hobby of a few months -

Brooks Pureflow Minimalist Shoes - expensive but an exciting investment!

Miles 4 Missions - My first 5K race since starting to run again! :) April 21, 2012. 

Staff Wellness 5K Run - May 5, 2012

Soles 4 Souls - 5K Race to support Harmony Baptist Belize Mission Team - June 2, 2012

And - this was one of the biggest deals ever for me - the Marine Volkslauf 10K team run!!
June 16, 2012
This race is a team effort involving running a 10K - going through woods, up and down rugged terrain, crossing a river twice, and going through a mud pit. I wasn't originally brave enough to sign up, though I regretted it later. Then, the night before the race, a co-worker from school called and told me she wouldn't be able to run and asked me to fill in. I was so excited! The week before that I'd run 5 miles without walking for the first time in my life, so I finally felt confident knowing I could finish this race! A lot of people sign up for this one, knowing they will only run part and walk the rest, and knowing it's a team effort, so they just want to have fun and say they finished. I was so proud to finish, walking only twice - once on the huge hill near the beginning and once on a big, gradual hill in the middle. I'd say I ran about 5 miles of the race total and walked around 1 mile. I had an awesome time with the ladies and a couple of co-workers' sons on my team, and we finished in 1 hour and 36ish minutes! :) 

Here are the two awesome ladies from work I ran with in our girls' picture! The two boys did an awesome job too!

Crossing the river for the second time at the finish - you can see our bright orange shirts coming across! :)

And, finally - after running the 10K team race, I thought it was time for me to try an individual one! I'd still never run more than 5 miles or a little over that on my own, but really felt like I could do it. So - I signed up for my first individual 10K ever on July 4, 2012. My goals were to finish without walking, hopefully not be last, and to finish in 1 hr and 15 minutes or less. And....I did it!
I didn't walk at all, I wasn't last, and I finished in 1:08!! :) It was the hardest thing I've ever done, but it was so awesome to cross that finish line!

Here I am coming in to the finish. A co-worker was awesome enough to stay and cheer me on and take the picture. In the back, you can see her son, a high schooler who loves to run and is fantastic at speed and distance! She sent him back to cheer me on for the last 0.3 miles, and it was so encouraging to have him running next to me saying, "You can do it. Not too far now. Almost there!" What a great young man...she is a wonderful mother, and it shows through his attitude and actions!

So friends - it's been an awesome few months of running too. I'm sad to say I've kind of neglected it for the month of July, but I'm ready to get going again! In fact, I'm signed up to run a 5K next Saturday and am so excited because, again, it is to support a ministry! There is a group called Team 413 with a local chapter here, and they are sponsoring the event. The national organization has decided to host its first ever 1/2 marathon and short family run event in April of 2013, and...........I've decided to sign up! I'm SO excited, but a little nervous too! I had the kind of (not so) secret goal of running a half in the Spring sometime, and had hoped not to train on my own, but was willing to if I had to. And then this event came up! I was excited that 1)The event will benefit an awesome ministry, 2)There is a group training locally to go, and 3)It is in the time frame I'd wanted to try for. God is good! I'm praying I'll be able to make the time, effort, and perseverance to train over the next few months! The other thing I'm nervous about is cost. Longer races usually cost a lot, starting at $75 and going up. I hope I will be able to afford this because it is the opportunity of a lifetime! We'll see! :) Their motto is "Get there and share!" and I think it is awesome to combine the two things I am passionate about - running, and sharing the Gospel! 

And - I guess that's it for my running news right now. It's been so much fun to pursue this new hobby and to remember how much I loved it in high school. It's really helped me to develop a new confidence in myself, and I've missed it over the past month. Can't wait to get started again in the upcoming week! 

I know not everyone is a runner, and not everyone wants to be - but I guess my biggest encouragement to you is to find something YOU are passionate about - a talent YOU have been blessed with...and use it to enjoy yourself and glorify the One who created you! He works through all things for His purpose! :) 

The Queen State

I totally wrote this post almost a month ago...and I definitely intended to post it from the airport, but alas, time got the best of me, and somehow it went into the drafts folder. I've been horrible about posting this summer...and now it's time to catch up! :) So - here's a post about an awesome opportunity I had in July -

I don't think I've ever blogged from an airport before! I just wanted to give a big hello from the Charlotte, NC Airport (and thank them for the free wifi access that a lot of places don't have these days!)

So - you might be wondering just what I'm doing in the Queen State...

Let me tell you - my drum girl heart is FULL and overflowing right now! I'll share a few pictures that might explain.










For the past week, I've been in Charlotte, North Carolina participating in training for the World Music Drumming curriculum. It has been a dream of mine for so long, yet something I never thought would happen. I couldn't do it financially on my own, so the flyer just went in the trash year after year. Then this year, another teacher who will be moving to the new sixth grade center in the new school year found a way to make it happen. Through some special grant funding, the district supported us and sent us all the way to North Carolina for a week together! I've had some of the drums (I wrote a grant to get them!) and the curriculum book for two years now. And I got to see Will Schmid, the amazing music educator who first created and implemented the curriculum at our MMEA conference two years ago...so it was a dream come true to spend a whole week learning how to use and implement the resources I have...and to be ready to take that back to my kids! 

So - as you can see from the pictures, my drum girl heart is full...and my teacher heart is ready to engage my students in some fun and awesome learning experiences in the new year! What a blessing to go and spend time learning with other amazing colleagues and educators! I'll never forget it! :)


Friday, July 6, 2012

Freedom

Sometimes it is hard to let go of something you want to be in charge of. Or a lot of things you want to be in charge of. I have trouble believing....I mean really believing with my whole heart that God knows what is best for me and will provide that. I think that I need to hold onto my "list" or my "plan" I've made and let Him take care of only part of it.

Tonight I was watching a beautiful and awesome video on another friend's blog of a baptismal service their church had at a river, and the song in the background was bout freedom. As each person came up out of the water, they were symbolizing the new life that comes in Christ....and the freedom He provides when we let go and allow Him to reign first in our lives. And I realized - sometimes I forget about that freedom. I sense God's presence and seek to deepen my relationship with Him, yet I'm secretly afraid to truly surrender and let go of everything.

And then God gently reminds me that He knows. He has a plan that is far better and far more exciting than anything I could ever imagine. And as He reveals different plans little by little, I realize how easy it feels. I find myself wondering why I know something is right or how I have the assurance that God is leading my heart in a certain direction...and I realize it's the freedom found in my Jesus that has allowed me this...ease in trusting God as He works and shapes my life. No, that doesn't mean that following Him is going to be easy. There are costs to that. But none as great as the cost He paid to give me freedom. For that I will always be grateful.

Today I am thankful, though, for the ease I feel in letting God show me another piece of a picture in my life. Thankful that only He knows how it is going to piece together, but that already God has shown me different aspects only He knows about my heart's desires and how He can and will meet those needs and desires of my heart.

Sometimes all you need to say is in a smile. And my heart is smiling right now.


Monday, June 25, 2012

My Full Heart...

Today I had the opportunity to go and share music with a group of kids and families in a community nearby. Here is a link to their awesome organization! The mother of a friend I grew up with works there, and recently when they were considering doing a music activity for the families and looking for a presenter, she thought of me! I was kind of humbled and honored that they would invite me to come and share! (And I was SO excited too!)

I had no idea what to expect, going into the afternoon...no idea how many kids there would be, what ages I would be working with, or what kinds of special needs the children might have. I just did my best to come up with a plan that would work for multiple ages, and I prayed that God would use me to encourage and bless the families who would attend. It was kind of the "great unknown..." :)

There were almost ten children who attended, and each of them was so precious. Some helped younger siblings, and some were so curious about the instruments I brought it was hard to contain their excitement and wait for the chance to touch and play. We sang some silly songs...and danced along too, of course! We used scarves to show the different patterns in instrumental pieces and read a story with instruments to help with some of the words. We explored glockenspiels and the sounds they can make. And we had FUN!

I always wonder if I'm doing ok when I teach or lead things, especially like this. And it always amazes me when I finish and people tell me how much my gentle spirit and personality impacts the kids I work with, or what a wonderful program it was and that they would love to see me in action in my classroom. It's kind of easy for me to push those remarks aside and doubt myself. But I'm learning to realize, especially like today, if I'm truly giving God the glory, I shouldn't doubt those things. It is Him who has given me a passion and a desire to work with kids. It is Him who gave me musical ability and the opportunity to share that with others on a regular basis. It is Him who has given me my "gentle" personality and created me to be the person I am. So, I say all that not to compliment myself or say I am a good teacher, but to thank the very One who made me who I am. I love working with children SO much, and every time I get to sing, dance, laugh, and play with them, my heart is full!

"Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him." -Psalm 127:3


Saturday, June 16, 2012

So Many Things...

Now that it's been so long since I've really written, it's hard to decide where to start!

-I turned 27...and it feels great! (Although not too much different than 26, to be honest...lol)

-I drove to Birmingham and had an awesome girls' reunion weekend with three of my amazing friends from college. (More pictures and a post to come soon!)

-I started work at summer school. I'm working as a para, which means I help one of our students with special needs one-one-one. I love it, but wow do I have an even more amazing respect for special ed teachers and paras now! They work hard and have to have so much patience! :)

-I've been running a lot! I'm so glad I thought to keep a running log on my computer when I started in March, and now I found a website that is really cool - mydailymile.com, where I can track my work-outs and see bar graphs of how far I've run and when my best times were...so far in June I'm up to 24 miles! (More to come about all this too!)

-I decided to keep my summer tradition of watching all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls through the summer (I own them...the only t.v. series I've ever bought and owned, and this is my third time to go through all the seasons...haha - oh guilty pleasures)

-My sister is getting married on August 4th, and I'm her maid of honor! We picked out and bought her dress on my birthday, and I have my maid of honor dress now too! :) Now to plan a shower and girls' night! :)

-I finished both of my masters classes from the semester and made As! I'm taking the summer off and looking forward to my two new courses in the fall! It is exciting to wonder about how God is going to use this certification/degree in the future!

-I am making the choice to try hard and incorporate more fruits and veggies in my day, make better choices when I eat away from home, and not eat out as much for financial savings and healthier choices...so far it's going ok! :)

-I got my first "for real" pair of running shoes a few weeks ago! (Pictures soon!) :)

-My "Africa heart" has been homesick again...but it was filled up last night when I got to meet an awesome couple from Colorado who also have hearts for Africa and an amazing story - More about that soon too, but here's a link to see more about them and their story. Also, they are in a contest right now for the rest of the month to win $50,000 toward help for their organization. If you have a facebook account, please take a minute and vote for them - it doesn't take long at all!

-God is providing a lot of unique and different opportunities for me in work, life, and church. It is so humbling to think about all He is allowing me to do and exciting to trust Him in how he is going to piece all these things together one day.

-I'm learning day by day to be content with where I'm at, and continue looking forward to the future God has for me. I'm not sure I can say I am where I always thought I would be at 27...but then I'm also not sure I had a "set" idea of where I would be.

More to come soon! Thanks for keeping up with me!


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Today I am 27...

And I have so many things to say and write about! But for now I am much too tired, and I need to sleep. I wanted to post on my birthday, though, so I cheated and did a teeny tiny post. It was a great birthday, and I am so very blessed with friends and family who made me feel special today with fun, phone calls, and messages on Facebook. Be back soon! :)

Monday, May 21, 2012

You are Beautiful...

This letter is one I am writing from my heart today. It is hard for me to believe four years of teaching have almost passed. Sometimes I don't know if I've made an impact on my students at all. I think they know I care deeply about them, but since they move so frequently with the military it is hard to know if they will remember me or not. I pray if they do remember me, above all what will stick out in their mind is how much I cared, how full of joy my heart is (even when it's hard to show sometimes!), and how much I respect each and every one of them.

Today one of my sixth graders I've had the privilege of teaching since she was in third grade shared a poem in class. For the last day of music for the year I let the kids share a talent or something else they wanted to with everyone. This precious girl wrote a poem that I wish I could copy and write here. She didn't want to share it herself, but wanted another student to read it, which I allowed. You have to know, this young lady is very plain, not "popular," has no fancy clothing, and struggles with ADD, but works so hard to overcome many of the challenges and hard things in her life. The poem talked about these things - about how she is plain but she means something too. She talked about how she may not be the same with nice clothes and lots of friends, but one day she would have that many too. She talked about what makes her unique and how she wanted others to know that she exists. I think she reminds me a lot of myself when I was that age. She is also the girl I wrote about here

I don't usually write notes to individual students because I don't want to make others seem less important, but I had teachers in elementary school who took time to write me a note, and I still have them and read them once in awhile. I plan to write a short letter to this wonderful girl before she moves on to middle school at the end of this week. The letter here is more to reflect my heart, but I want her to know some of these things as I write to her too...

Dear Child of God,

I wish you could see how beautiful you are. I wish you could know how much you have touched my heart in the four years I have been blessed to be your teacher. Your smile lights up my day, and your quiet heart is so deep with care and compassion for those around you.

I knew from the moment I became your teacher there was something special about you and your constant desire to succeed and try hard at all you do. I still remember the day we were celebrating the third grade Christmas program by making stars with student names on them and you brought me a beautiful picture of the manger scene, asking me to hang your star above it instead of putting your name on the wall, because after all, that is where the star belonged. Your simple heart for Jesus was a humble reminder to me that day about the One who loves us more than anyone in the world, and continues to remind me each time I see it. I kept your artwork, and I want you to know, I hang it proudly every year at Christmas time and it makes me think of you.

The poem you shared today was brave, bold, and true. Your ability to share your thoughts and heart through writing will help you to express yourself both now and in the future. I admire your ability to write about your feelings and share them so openly. God knows that heart of yours and He will use that ability if you continue to write. Your thoughts are so important.

Middle school is going to be a new adventure, and some days will be a challenge. I pray you will hang in there and see yourself as the beautiful person you are. You are so intelligent, kind, and unique, and God created you to be just the young lady you are. Sometimes it's hard to see the best things about ourselves when we look in the mirror. Sometimes the most beautiful things about us are deep inside, and few people are fortunate enough to see them unless we open up and share with others. I pray many others will see the amazing person you are both inside and out. You will always be loved, and especially by the very One who created you.

I am so thankful God allowed me to be your teacher, but more than that I will always be grateful He made YOU a teacher to me. Thank you for being a part of my music class for the past four years.

With Love and Joy, Miss W.



Saturday, May 19, 2012

Six Years Ago

Six years ago, just about this time, I was lying in bed at the home of a college friend, trying hard to find sleep, knowing I would be up in just a few short hours getting ready to head to the airport. We spent several hours packing (and laughing a lot!), praying, and talking about what was ahead of us in the next three weeks. We had spent months preparing as a team and seeking God's will for us and for those we would meet. We made our packing list. We put everything in suitcases. We got shots. We read about the culture. We learned some simple words in the language. We did everything we could do to be ready - and the rest was in God's hands! So, as I tried hard to find sleep, instead my eyes stayed open in the darkness imagining...imagining what it would be like to fly across the world for my first time ever out of the United States. Imagining who I would meet and how I would share the Good News of Jesus with them. Wondering why God allowed someone like me to go on a trip like this. Excited to finally see, hear, taste, smell, and fully experience the culture I had been dreaming and praying about for a year since God put Africa on my heart.

I am still amazed at how God worked through that three week trip. The next morning I boarded a flight to Senegal West Africa where I would spend three weeks of my life that I will never forget. Where God would call me and confirm in me the passion and desire He has given me to serve in international missions. A calling I am still trusting Him with and praying for His perfect will and timing for.

There are so many words to describe the amazing ways God worked there - both in the lives of the people we met, and in my heart. The way he pieced so many things together for me and showed me the purpose of earlier experiences in my life leading to this one. Yet it is also hard to describe it in words. I love reading my journal again and again to see just what happened every day.

A piece of my heart is still in Africa. Since I left there, God has blessed me with the opportunity to travel on two other international mission trips and also to see Japan and Europe through other opportunities. He has deepened my desire to serve internationals and placed a special spot in my heart for one day going back to Africa and/or somewhere else in the world. I don't know if it will be a long-term or many short-term opportunities, but I do know I trust Him to show me what He sees fit.

I am so thankful that six years ago God took someone like me and worked through me in Senegal. It was only through His presence and prompting that I was able to serve in the ways I did. To Him be the glory! Here is a post I made two years ago (already?) with some pictures from the trip after four years had passed. I still can't believe it's been six now...


Friday, May 18, 2012

Honest...

I have been finding little ways to celebrate each day and haven't kept up with listing them via blog this week, but I'll try to catch up on those this weekend. I've decided that if I don't have a "celebration" (and even if I do) I should also think of something I'm thankful for each day. Looking forward to making that list too.

I'm going to be honest. I'm feeling really frustrated, tired, and annoyed with a lot of things right now. I am tired of the negativity of others around me. (I'm not perfect and not always positive, and that statement wasn't meant to make me sound like I am...like I said, I'm just being honest about where I'm at right now.) I'm ready for some change. And I'm at one of those points where I just want to go away somewhere for a day or two, be alone, and recharge my introverted side. It's hard staying positive when you're also trying to recharge negativity around you. I feel restless, and I feel like I've poured 110% of myself into others and neglected the most important thing to refuel myself...

Which leads me to the fact that I can pinpoint the exact reason for these feelings of overwhelmingness. I need to pray. To stop. To talk and most of all to listen. I need to dig deep into the Word and see what it is God has for me right now. Yes, I've been trying to pour "positive" into all the situations in my life, but I've been doing it on my own, and where my absolute human amount of "positive" stops, I've failed to ask the Lord for His joy and strength. I've held tightly onto the reigns and taken control where I need to let go. No, everything is not perfect when you are a Christian, and things are definitely not always easy, but oh how I seem to forget how much lighter the yoke is when I give things over to God and let Him pull me through. I feel so tired, frustrated, and mostly annoyed, and you know what - God knows that. But He also knows how it is when I yield to His presence and provision obediently and tell Him that, asking how He wants to help me through.

I'm praying I will not just write these words here but I will actually take time to stop, pray, and believe them. I need God to give me His yoke right now and give me rest. I don't think I can take anymore "negative."

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” - Matthew 11:28-30

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sweet Saturday...

I'm actually keeping up with the days this year! I know these haven't been the longest, deepest posts lately, but sometimes it's just good to look back and see how thankful I am for the little things! :)

Birthday Month Celebration #12 - Saturday morning with NO alarm clock and nowhere to be at any certain time. Ah, the joy of sleeping in! Then an afternoon in Rolla for a haircut, dinner and ice cream with a super friend, and...bright new socks, to wear when I'm running, and just for fun! (Sometimes having fun socks secretly motivates me more when I exercise! lol) It's been a blessed day! I also drove to Rolla and back the long way, windows rolled down, breeze blowing in, music turned up, and the sweet smell of honeysuckle and spring...it was so good!


Already enjoying the new socks! :) Also the quilt behind them makes me smile because it was my birthday gift from my mom and dad last year! 

Hope your Saturday was blessed and joyful too! I'm so looking forward to summer after the beautiful day today and the preview of sweet freedom from schedules, obligations, and other things. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Little Celebrations...

Even with the busy week, the birthday celebrations have continued. Trying to have fun and enjoy something about every day!


Tuesday - Day #8 - Drove the long way home with the windows down, spring breeze blowing in and music turned up...ah, summer is just around the corner!


Wednesday - Day #9 - Took pictures of the clouds....they were so, so, so pretty, and the sky was so blue! (Wanted to include a pic here, but for some reason my camera is having trouble uploading the pics!) ***Got them to work today!***


Thursday - Day #10 - Frozen yogurt with my roomie to celebrate our end of the year programs and me finishing my graduate courses for the semester....Yes, I'm FINISHED!! Hooray!


Today - Day #11- Double Bonus! :) Friday pizza night in Rolla with my roomie and adopted fam, AND I bought some pretty nail polish today - just because! (Plus it was on sale buy one/get one 1/2 off, AND I finished my graduate courses, so I counted it as a birthday celebration and a little treat for making it through all the hard work this semester!)


Happy Weekend! I'm excited to finally have time to write for real again soon!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Day #7! :)

Fun "me" celebration #7 - Fresh polish on the fingers and toes! I love this spring/summer sandal weather! :)
(This picture was actually taken on Spring Break in March...I was super excited to get out my Chacos I bought last summer for a new year!) 


Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Day We Were Famous...

God Bless America


video

So I've never tried uploading a video on here before, and I don't really upload anything onto youtube, but here is my group of famous kiddos who sang God Bless America at the Springfield Cardinals baseball game last week! We didn't know 'til we got there it would be a capella, and they couldn't really hear me for a starting note, so....I just said a little prayer, counted to four, and off we went! I think they did a great job, and they were so excited! I love it at the end when one of the kids says, "We were on the BIG screen!" 

I survived my first real field trip and major public performance in my four years of teaching! :) 



Fun Things

Well, I said it would be a little hard to keep up with the birthday month celebrations, and I might miss a day or two...and I said sometimes I have to be "creative" in finding what will be the fun part of my day...but here's my update for the last few days!

Thursday - Day #3 -  Coffee and "me" time

Friday - Day #4 - (I was finishing a paper, staying up late, working all day, and slightly stressed out, but....) I stayed home, made a pizza, and finished my paper - turning in that paper - my biggest project of the semester worth 110 pts was a celebration in itself! ha

Saturday - Day #5 - I ran another 5K!! This time it was our school district's annual wellness event with a 2 mile walk/5K run. There were even hills, which I didn't know to expect...and I didn't walk! My time was 35:49, 15 seconds longer than my first 5K a few weeks ago, but for having so many hills this time, I felt good that I was so close to that time and still within my goal of no walking and staying under 36 minutes. Hooray! Here's a picture of our awesome Wood Elementary group - who happened to win the trophy for most participation (aka most awesomeness! lol)



Today, Sunday - Day #6 - Going to have dinner with one of my best friends in Rolla. We try to get together once a week. I love our talks and laughs, and am so glad God has put us close together again for the past few years!

Still so much on my mind to write about - I should probably start a list of ideas so I don't forget! Fourteen more days of teaching school for the year, and three more days of graduate coursework for the semester! (Taking the summer off, and I think I will enjoy the break!)

Happy Sunday to you!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Five Minutes of Fame!

Today I had my very first "for real" field trip of my teaching career...and my very first big deal public performance! My fourth graders got to sing God Bless America at the Springfield Cardinals baseball game. It was a fun (and long and hot!) day, and they did a great job. (We found out when we got there we would be singing a capella, and why it had not dawned on me at any point in the last month to practice this way "just in case" I have no idea! But - I just said a quick prayer, counted to four, and....we sang! lol) Here's a picture - not my best side, but then, that's one of the joys you get when you're a music teacher - you always have to think about how the back of you looks instead of the front! haha


Birthday Month Day #2 - Today's birthday celebration was sharing "five minutes of fame" with my wonderful kiddos! They really are super stars in my eyes! :)



Tuesday, May 1, 2012

It's May!

Happy Birthday Month to me!

Yep, I said month! A couple years ago I decided, having a birthday at the end of the month, it would be fun to celebrate something small every day until the 30th. So - I set out to find 30 fun things to do once May came. Nothing big or fancy - just little things to enjoy in each day. I did the same last year, and though I missed a day or two and sometimes had to get creative to think of something I had done during the day and "make" it into my fun celebration, I still enjoyed it!

So - May is here! And my birthday is in 29 more days (May 30.) And I will be 27 years old this year. (Which a friend and co-worker who happens to be on the way to 26 this year told me is finally when you become and "adult." Thanks, friend...whatever you say! haha Just remember, you'll be there next year!)

Anyway - I decided it would be ok to take a break from homework to tell what I did today that I consider celebration/special.

Birthday Month Day #1 - I enjoyed a low-fat strawberry smoothie at Panera! (And it happened to be a FABULOUS treat after my other accomplishment for the day....running FOUR miles!!)

Yep - I am so excited! I tried a new route today recommended by a runner friend, who told me it was 2 miles long...and I pushed hard and ran the whole thing twice! I was certainly not fast by any means, but I was pretty consistent...and I finished without walking...and there were a few small hills which makes it an even bigger accomplishment to me!

Here's to 29 more days of celebrating me! (I think it's ok to celebrate yourself sometimes...I think we don't do it enough!) Happy May! :)