Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Lift My Hands

This song has also been on my heart and mind this week...

Peace Beyond Understanding

In the Bible, God promises that if we bring our needs to God, He will not only meet them - he will provide peace beyond all understanding. And this week has been one of experiencing that peace. Peace that I can't explain - I can only give glory to God for providing.

Last week we found out that my dad had some blockage in his heart. The doctors had been doing a series of tests since he had some chest pains/a possible minor heart attack in December, and finally the results showed a need for surgery. Thankfully they determined there was no heart attack earlier because his muscle was not damaged at all. They initially thought he would only need some stints put in, which is  a little scary, but very common. However, another appointment yesterday showed that serious surgery would be required, and needed to be done immediately. My parents are living in Germany right now and would not be able to make it to the U.S. for this. We all continued to pray.

Yesterday, my dad was admitted to the hospital there to have full open-heart surgery, with a possibility of 5 bypasses needed. And we prayed again.

It was so hard, having them on the other side of the world. But God said - "I've got this..." It was very hard knowing everything was out of my control. And again, God said, "It's in my hands." I began praying even more. And when I wanted to cry and feel worried, I turned to my Bible. These are the words that came to mind...words that I read over and over again and continue to hold in my heart right now.

"Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all that 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." -Philippians 4:6-7

Some people think that being a Christian means nothing "hard" or "sad" or "bad" should ever happen in your life. Some people give up when it does. I know, even though it is easier to say sometimes than to believe - that God is the reason I have hope in these situations. Without His presence, I couldn't have made it through teaching my kids at school all day today. I couldn't have waited to hear from my mom who didn't have the ability to communicate from the hospital. I couldn't have felt ok knowing she was waiting alone. But I was able to do all those things...because I had faith that I have a God so big and so omnipresent - He was there and He was here. My mom wasn't alone.

I praise God that my dad did make it through the surgery well. It took almost nine hours, and he had four by-passes. I praise God that He provided the doctors and quality medical care for my dad in Germany with swift timing. And I praise God that the doctors were capable of performing the surgery - because He guided their hands.

I am so humbled by the many people praying for our family from near and far - family, friends...and strangers! Again, God had his hand in the support, encouragement, and comfort of prayer and intercession, and I can't thank everyone enough.

Please continue to pray for my dad as he heals - he will be in the hospital at least 10 days, but will also have a long road ahead after that time. He and my mom will need to decide if they are able to stay in Germany for the full three years also.

Here is one more way God provided comfort to me this week - Yesterday when I opened my desk calendar to the new date, it said this:

"What should we do when anxiety strikes? First and foremost, we must ask God to give us His peace and His truth. Very specifically, we must ask God to deal with the problems that are filling both our conscious and subconscious minds. This is not something we do just once. It is something we may have to do many times throughout the day. We must ask the Lord to help us focus all of our thoughts and energy on the immediate situation at hand." 

"The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him." 2 Chronicles 16:9

I am thankful for a God who is faithful and provides refuge, strength, and hope...in all circumstances.

My dad is off the ventilator and breathing on his own! He said a few sentences to my mom on the phone while she was at home! :) (Tuesday late night our time, early morning their time - 7 hour difference)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

"Forever" Friends...

I love it that God provides friends through the many times and places of my life. Many I stay in touch with and some are the kind I may only contact once a year, but it's always good to talk with them/catch up where we left off. However, some are the kind that you just know in your heart will be "forever" friends.

When I met this friend in Jr. High, I was a shy, introverted, scared to approach the world, awkward, quiet seventh grader. (Weren't we all a little awkward at that age though? haha) I knew her from church and a little from school, but we'd never actually "hung out" before. Then her mom invited me over the summer before eighth grade. She still tells me now that when they came to pick me up that day I would not say a word to them...it was like pulling teeth to make conversation! lol Little did she know I would end up being the super hyper, loud, silly, sleeping over, sugar-packet-eating-on-vacation, funny, and oh, did I say loud?, "adopted" daughter.

And if her hunch about us being friends despite my initial silent, awkward, shy, quiet, period wasn't enough to convince everyone, the fact that this friend and I were called into the hallway by our eighth grade social studies teacher to discuss our "squirrelly" behavior and a reminder to "watch our p's and q's" should have been. We were not the trouble making type, yet that day was definitely the beginning of a fun friendship!

So it continued. Through high school...with speech/debate team, various clubs, homework, dances, double dates, school plays, boy and friend drama, plus everything else that comes with high school...all the way through college in two separate states and even one semester on separate continents.

Imagine our surprise when God brought this friend back to our hometown the semester before I graduated college, then opened a teaching job for me in a town 30 minutes away...and even after she met another best friend - and they were married last year - I had the privilege of being maid of honor!

Now here we are - still talking, laughing, crying, confiding in, praying for, and being blessed together...by a lifelong "forever" friendship God has provided. And I wouldn't trade it for the world. We had the best two-hour conversation at dinner tonight, talking, laughing, and talking some more...and it seemed like no time had passed at all. We might have even giggled a little like Jr. High girls! :)

I think...no, I know - that is what a "forever" friendship feels like! I know that one day we may not live so close. And one day, like my friend, I may have another best friend to spend my life with, but we will always be friends. And I am thankful God has provided that in our lives!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012



Was one of those days when everything just felt crazy and out of sorts. And I guess I just want to remember some days are like this, so I'm going to post today.

It was Wednesday at school - and this is the day we have a short schedule, so everything goes super fast. I just felt like there wasn't time to do anything between classes. I had some good lessons, and I had some very less than par lessons where I felt like I was just making it through.

My iPod stopped working yesterday. I know it is just a "thing," but I feel really bummed because this is the first one I've ever had, and I didn't even buy it new. I bought it from my cousin last year when she got a new one, and I have used it a lot since then, especially for the Couch to 5K running program I just started...which kind of puts a damper on the ability to listen to the podcasts and run...I'm determined to keep going, though. It is not a necessity, nor something I can afford to replace for right now, so I will just go back to life without it.

It was weigh and measure day for me at Curves, and the scale showed 3lbs more than my scale at home did yesterday.

I missed my mom and dad who are in Germany...a lot.

I felt worried and anxious about my classes coming up and whether or not I'll be able to meet all the requirements, especially while I"m teaching at the same time.

I had those negative self-thoughts that I have to work so hard to replace with truth and love from Scripture and the amazing God who created me to be who I am.

It was one of those days where I wonder if I'll ever find someone who "likes" me (I know that's so Jr. High sounding...lol) and someone who has the desire to date, be married, and have a family one day too.  And though I know "God is all I need" and I "should love Him most, now and always..." I realized I am still human, and sometimes those views are just annoying. (Yes, I'm being honest, and I think it's ok to feel a little bitter sometimes, as long as I know I'm being honest with God and as long as I give those bitter feelings over to Him.) It's ok to long for the future while being thankful for what I have now.


It was also a day where I knew with all my heart that God is walking by my side, and His plans for me are great.

I knew He has provided this time in my life to go back to school, and to worry and have anxiety is to doubt His plan for me and His faithfulness.

It was a day when I knew my mom and dad will be home eventually, and I felt glad they are able to have an adventure overseas at this time in their life.

Today was a day when I got to laugh...multiple times. I was thankful for so many co-workers and friends who care about me, and about the kids we work with. I enjoyed conversation and laughs with a good friend throughout the day.

I knew I would continue to exercise and take care of myself, and was thankful God gave me a body that works and allows me to do this. I am so thankful to have a healthy heart, arms, legs, and lungs. I knew that if I hadn't been exercising at all, I would be at the starting point I came from two years ago, weight and health-wise.

Tonight was a night when I had some extra time, and a free drink to redeem at Panera, so I took a few hours to come here and sit, read, blog, and enjoy "me" time. I love those kind of spontaneous evenings.

I thought about how much I care for my kids at school and enjoyed their hugs and compliments they gave me today. "Miss W, you look pretty in the color brown," and "Miss W, I like your singing voice." :)

So - I'm human. (Surprise? haha) And we all have those days. And even though I honestly didn't want to spend time thinking about the positive things I just said, because it was much easier to dwell on the first things, I am asking God for the help to focus on His presence and provision. And I'm so thankful I have His hope and promises to fall back on every day, especially on days like today!

"I will praise you Lord, with all my heart. I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High. The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord do not abandon those who search for you." 
-Psalm 9:1-2, 9-10

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

God's Work...

This is about 11 minutes long, but it is so worth watching. I saw it on a friend's facebook today and had to repost. God truly does love us...and He wants us to be His masterpiece...if we are willing to be.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Confessions of a Not so Normal Musician/Music Teacher...

Ok - I'm gonna go out on a limb here and "stereotype" for a minute...but it's about my "own kind," so I guess it's semi-legal.

A lot of musicians have "complexes."

There. I said it. Maybe it has something to do with always striving to be better at their instrument or vocal skills. Maybe it is because the world of professional music can be so highly competitive, and obviously everyone can't be "the best." And then, sometimes maybe it is just the personality of the musician. I'm not sure.

I just know that...I must be different. I have enjoyed singing for all of my life and began playing percussion in fifth grade, continuing all the way through college. I love, love, love that too. Of course I have the desire to practice and be better...but not obsessively so. I think for me it was always just another one of the many interests I had, and the one I chose as a career choice to go with teaching. I'm not obsessed with sounding the best, being better than others around me, or knowing the most. I just....enjoy music.

So - when I hear other music teachers talking about "how they do things," or "how they can do it better than a presenter..." etc...I honestly just take it in stride and know I'm not an expert. That's not my goal, really. I mean, yes - it is always my goal to learn more and do my best - to be the best music teacher my kids can have. But I don't let "being the expert who knows more than all the other experts" stress me out. I also feel a little odd when other teachers/colleagues listen to a piece of music or a performance and analyze/criticize it. When I listen to a piece of music, I don't analyze every second, listen for mistakes, and talk about how I could have done a better job or what I could do to fix it for that person/group. I just...listen. And I enjoy it. I can hear simple mistakes, and that's ok. I might prefer one group/performer over another based on quality, etc. But - it's not the drive/passion behind what I do. It's like watching a movie...you can question every moment and talk about what is going to happen next and think hard to figure it out...or you can just watch and find out at the end. I'm more of a "find out at the end" and "enjoy the movie" kind of person.

I guess my passion/drive is in how I teach my kids. I want them to enjoy music. I want them to know how to sing/play in the best way they can, but I don't expect perfection. When we give a performance, I want them to do their best, and I hope for it to be as organized and well-presented as possible, but I also want it to be fun and memorable. I'm not into the "high stress/demand" part of my career.

So...there's my confession for the day. I am not your "typical" musician. And I'm ok with that. :)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Quiet Encouragement...

For as long as I can remember I have loved writing notes to people. I'm sure I loved it as a child, but I remember the passion for it kind of starting in high school and then really growing in college. Well, actually, even when there's not time to write a card, I love to surprise people with e-mails too. It just makes my day! I also love getting notes. I have a BIG box of cards/encouragement notes people have written to me over the years, and I love to go back and read them. There's just something about even the shortest hand-written note that is so special to me.

I've missed writing over the past couple of years. I just haven't made it a priority. But - I have a new goal for the rest of the school year! I'm going to "quietly encourage" as many teachers/staff as I can with short, unexpected notes. And I found the perfect thing at Hobby Lobby to help me get started over the Christmas vacation. This year our school theme is "Safari." When I saw these cards, I knew I had to have them!

Plus, they were 1/2 off that week! What better bargain and motivation to get started?! The inside is blank and perfect for writing whatever words God puts on my heart. I sent three last week, and I can't wait to write some more this week and stick them in the teacher/staff mailboxes. I love, love, love encouraging others as much as I can, and I hope this will be just a small blessing and a way to spread the joy that God has put in my heart to others in my school building!

To Be Honest...

Today I am so thankful for a Saturday with no obligations. Nowhere to be. Lots to do...but lots of time to accomplish it.

This morning I slept in a little while...then I got up and made coffee - and spent some quality time with God. Oh how my heart has missed this time. How I've failed to make it a daily priority and often think it has to come only when I have a couple of hours to sit and enjoy it. It was so wonderful - just reading, praying, and thinking about all God has for me right now. A little before Christmas, my church had a book sale to help clean out the resource closet, and I happened to pick up a study called, "Get a Life." I want to write a whole post about this book soon, but it has been just what my Spirit needed - a study about contentment in the life God has given me. He spoke to me through Scripture and truths from that study today, and I'm so thankful for that too.

I'm thankful for time to exercise outside and spend time with my roommate. To have my window open for fresh air, and to accomplish some cleaning and planning.

But honestly, today...

I'm also missing my parents. They moved to Germany this summer with my dad's job - and they will be there for three years. It's already been six months, and that's encouraging. But that doesn't make it any easier to know I can't just drive 45 minutes to my hometown and sit down to visit with them, or lay next to my mom on the couch and know with her hugs that everything will be ok. I am so thankful they have this opportunity to go overseas and experience an adventure during this time in their lives. And I'm actually really proud of them for doing it, even though I know it is hard for them too. I would be selfish to try and keep them here. But again...it's not easy when I miss them so much. I love you Mom and Dad.

I'm asking God to help me as I plan for the next week in school. I honestly have such a hard time planning my lessons. I think my second year was the very best I've ever had. I felt prepared a majority of the time, had a lot of fun activities, was excited about what I was teaching, and felt like the kids were always learning. This year and last year, I have spent time trying to prepare, but it's like I sit down for hours, only to get nowhere, then go in Monday morning and come up with what I will teach when I get there. Most people would say - "Wow, I couldn't do that!" but it's not a good kind of feeling. It's a kind of feeling like I'm not being the best teacher I can be, because if I had clear plans, I could fit so many more activities and approaches into my teaching time. It's just...a struggle for me. I have finally realized I am a great teacher in that I care SO much about my students, and I am a successful teacher in that I love to apply for grants and opportunities to receive resources for my kids...but I wonder if I will always struggle with feeling like I'm not so good at the ways I plan and teach. So - I know God cares about every area of our lives. And I'm honestly asking Him to help me as I take a few hours to prepare. I pray He will make that time fruitful and successful. I pray I will feel prepared for the new week so I can be the best teacher possible for all my K-6 graders. I love what I am doing right now...but I want to do it right.

I am also thanking God for who He created me to be. For the unique qualities and characteristics I have - some that I share with others and some He has given only to me. I am thanking Him for this time in my life of singleness where I can grow closer to Him without as many distractions in life (although goodness knows there are always distractions, no matter what time of life you are in!) But - I struggle sometimes with not trying to change who I am to be closer to others than Him, if that makes sense. I feel like I've been learning over the past few months, but especially the past few weeks, that it's ok to gently say, "Nope. This is what I think," and know if the other person cares enough about you to continue being friends, they will accept and be ok with that. I am learning it is not putting the other person down to disagree with what they like, or do, and that sometimes, maybe God will use my gentle honesty, to show other people why I feel the way I do in my standards and values. In other words, I am learning I should not lower my standards to meet someone where they are just for their approval, but I should maintain the standards I have through Him and model those for others around me. It's not that I have anyone criticizing me right now for how I live/believe, though in the world, I know there are many who do criticize, but I am just learning to recognize times I am too willing to lower my standards and seeing how easy that can be - how little steps at a time can lead to finally accepting and allowing bigger, un-necessary "junk" into my life. It's not always easy to deal with this. It takes boldness, and putting selfish desires aside. But...God is faithful, and I know letting Him work through me is not supposed to be easy! So, for all of that I am thankful too!

So, all that said - thank you Lord for Saturdays and for the ways you teach and lead me, even when it is not always easy. I pray I will always do my best to glorify you through as I learn.

So Good For My Heart...

This happened Thursday, but I wanted to record it on my blog and remember!
First Grade moment today - 
A boy waves his hand back and forth trying to get my attention, then tells me the girl next to him needs my attention. She then raises her hand, and when I call on her she just says, "Miss W...I like you." :) 
Oh how those kids are good for my heart sometimes!