Saturday, February 25, 2012

Purpose AND Hope

How do I even begin to share what God has been teaching me lately? And by lately, I mean slowly, gently, throughout my whole life, but especially in the last two years. I think reading my last few posts helps illustrate it at least partially, but I just can't get over the fact that, while it is often hard to be content where I am at, I am beginning to understand what it is to be fulfilled and to strive for contentment.

As I was talking to a friend today online, I shared how God has taken me on such a journey over the past four years. After graduating college, I felt so blessed to have received a job close to where I grew up, surrounded by family, and reuniting with two super teachers from my past and their family. Though my heart had been so torn over the summer because I desired to go overseas after graduating or even pursue graduate school as many of my peers were, I realized God had provided the opportunity for me to be where I was (and still am) and knew I would be ok with it for the time. I guess I never really expected to be here four years later. I didn't really know where I thought I would be, although part of me through I would be overseas after a couple years of "being practical" and "working to pay a little on my student loans..." Yet here I am now. And God has allowed me to stay here. It was so clear last year as I finally fully pursued the opportunity to be a Journeyman and go overseas that He was opening the door and everything was falling into place. And then, as I shared a few days ago - He closed that door. And it was His to close...whether long-term, or just for the time being. I searched, applied, and interviewed for other jobs, yet none of them worked out. When I finished the school year knowing that I would stay just where I am now, my stomach and my heart felt so sick.

But God changed my heart. And, as I said in so many words within a recent post, there are many things He has allowed me to be a part of this year that have blessed me and challenged me more abundantly than I could have ever planned on my own. I have often asked God this year to show me that I am in the place I am supposed to be right now and that I am truly seeking and following His will for my life. And He has. Over the past two weeks I've been struggling with a decision about whether or not to take another teaching opportunity in my school district teaching music to younger (K-2) children only. Everything about it seemed ideal, yet I had such a peace about staying where I am now. I think the fact that I felt secure in my decision made me feel a little insecure, if that makes sense. But again, God was faithful to confirm I am where He has put me for a reason. And even just as I had been praying for clarity this morning about the situation, within minutes He provided that clarity. I know it does not always seem that He chooses to work so quickly in providing wisdom, but I am so grateful He was faithful in doing so for me today.

So, all of that to say, as I talked to that friend - I realized that, while I still look forward to all God has in store for me in the future, while I still dream about what might one day come - a family of my own, a chance to go overseas whether long-term or even through short-term opportunities, and many, many other things, I can identify that as hope. I have hope through my relationship with Christ, that He has a plan for my life, and He has exciting things in store for my future that I can't even imagine. And I also began to see that, though this hope is important, I can't live every day thinking about what I'm "waiting" for. Instead, I should be living each day for what it is - for the purpose God has for me to fulfill in each moment He has given me at this time. What a wonderful feeling to know that God has purpose for me now! What joy in realizing that I can be a part of His great plans where I am at every day while still looking toward the future.

I have truly found purpose and hope - and I can't help but feeling like I want to share that with the whole world!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Stay Who You Are... #3 in one evening. Can we say, "procrastination?" (Yes, I am kind of having trouble focusing on the most boring textbook I've ever read and posting about it on our class forum. I love the book for one of my classes - it is so practical, and I'm really learning how to apply the information. This book for the other class is more reading about theorists and what they say, and just so hard to focus on, but oh well - I'll keep going!)

I was just thinking about how being an adult has changed my perspective on some things. Growing up I always had pretty low self-esteem. I had a healthy, supportive family, and plenty of friends...but for some reason I just always had that feeling in my mind that there was something wrong with me, or I wasn't worthwhile. Not to sound depressing, and I know that is something most children/teens struggle with at some point, but - it was kind of a big deal for me. So...tonight I started thinking about it. While I still have insecurities, I think I am better able to manage those. I have the ability to stop, consider why I am feeling that way, and make a choice. I can believe the thoughts in my mind, or replace them with truth. Often that truth comes from Scripture and the overwhelming knowledge that God has created me to be who I am, and He is not finished yet...He is continuously leading me to be the woman He wants me to be.'s not always easy, but it is definitely manageable.

I also think that learning about who I am, what I enjoy, what my passions are, and using the heart God has given me to love and serve has played a big part in feeling more confident in myself. I thought of the words "quiet adventure" to describe my life today. While I am a really quiet person, I love to try new things, travel, meet new people, and surprise people who get to know me with fun things "opposite" of my quiet personality that make me who I am. I may not be the most outwardly bold person, but I think that God helps me to be bold in different ways - not just through words. And I'm ok with that. Sometimes my quiet and gentle spirit are what show His love to others around me the most. Yes, God calls us to speak up and to share outwardly at times, but He also has each of us do that in unique ways.

So - all that to say, earlier in life, if I had faced the situation I am facing now, or someone had said the words that have been ringing in my mind for a few weeks, I would have looked at them in a negative light toward myself. But now, I am thankful to say that God has begun to show me that who I am is just who He has created me to be. There are a lot of really great things that make me, me! (Is it really ok to say something like that about myself, because it feels weird! ha)

Here are the lyrics in part of a song from some music a friend recently introduced me too. I just like what this part says:

"The hardest part isn't finding what we need to be. It's being content with who we are. Stay who you are."

Here is the link to a passage that really speaks to my heart about this...(Psalm 139) I pray you are also finding out who you are and learning to trust and thank God for who He has created you uniquely to be. You are a wonderful and worthwhile person!

From Last Night's Post...

Oh yeah - I guess it's officially a "go"now, fourth graders are going to sing at the Springfield Cardinal's baseball game in May! :) When the counselor first asked me, I thought it was St. Louis Cardinals, so I was really excited then, but this is still fun and will be a great experience for the kids! And hey, baseball players have to start minor league before they go major, right? We'll just do that too and work our way up! lol

That Good Memory Feeling...

Sometimes I just stop in a moment and realize how much it reminds me of my past.

This evening is one of those times. I'm sitting in my bedroom with the window open (it's 60 degrees in February!) I'm listening to the news on TV in the background (this isn't something I do every day, but I was actually home in time tonight and thought I'd turn it on and catch up a bit...) And I'm thinking about the evenings at home in the Spring when I was growing up. The days would just be getting longer, so I spent the afternoons playing outside at the babysitter's house, playing outside when I got home, or later, as I grew up, with teammates outside at track practice, then coming home and enjoying that last little bit of light and the warmer temperatures. I would come inside and hear my dad watching the news, and talk to my parents about my day. The only thing missing now is the smell of something creative my mom had come up with for dinner and the conversation that I would enjoy if they were here and not on the other side of the world. As a kid, dinner was often something simple, yet special, because my mom had a unique name for it or "secret" ingredients. Or sometimes it was just a good box of mac 'n cheese, or a frozen pizza...mmmmm...those nights were good too! Tonight I wish I had her chicken and rice to go with the perfect Winter-Spring evening.

Oh how I'm thankful for simple memories...and the family I grew up in!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Random Update Tuesday...

Today I got an exciting request at school. I'll post about it soon when I know it's for sure, but our kids were asked to sing somewhere in May! :)

I lost 1.4 lbs at WW this week. I hope I can continue working toward the slow, healthy loss!

Operation "Quiet Encouragement" (<----see the link for my post about this...) has begun! I was so excited to put eight cards into teachers' mailboxes today and tell them positive things I've noticed about them in our building, as well as how they make a difference to me and to others each day! I love, love, love writing notes to people, and I pray God will use this to brighten someone's day or give them just some words to affirm them.

My first year of teaching for some reason I started buying Strawberry Twizzlers and keeping them in my desk at school. I also loved Diet Dr. Pepper. I frequently found myself sitting at my desk, gnawing on a twizzler and drinking my DDP, thinking, I'm gonna be ok. I can do it. I'll make it through. It's all going to be ok. By March I realized it had been several weeks since I bought any Twizzlers, and I wasn't drinking quite as much DDP. I think it is funny and random that those were my two "comfort food/drink items" for the whole first year. Random fact - a couple of weeks ago I bought a 28 pack of Diet Dr. Pepper cans, and I have a new bag of Twizzlers in my drawer at school. This is year number four. I hope this isn't a bad sign? haha

I'll be honest. I'm struggling to keep up with all the reading in my graduate classes. I am doing my best to read what is needed and post for each week, and am caught up (except for one chapter) in the reading for one course, but way behind in the other. Praying for some time to read and get more caught up soon. Posting in the forum and replying to other people's posts is a big part of my grade in both courses for the semester...I'm encouraged though, because I got all the points possible plus one or two extra for my posts in the first four weeks! I'm in the middle of week six right now - so crazy!

I've been having fun with different classes playing instruments lately at school. This is one of my biggest passions in music class, but wow does it take a lot of time and energy getting the kids to instruments, working on various parts, and sometimes trading so everyone has a "fair" chance to play different kinds of instruments. I've been using Artie Almeida's Mallet Madness resources which are great for incorporating children's stories into instrument activities. So fun!

I think I'm going to start making some time to enjoy music for "me" when I can. Yesterday when I was in my classroom for a little while (yes, on our day I played my djembe for about 20 minutes and even practiced piano for a little while too. (I say practiced piano lightly in the fact that I still play out of a Level 1/Level 2 group piano book from college, and the fact that I have "passed piano proficiency" stamped on my college transcript means a lot to me, but very little in the actual world of piano playing! haha) Anyway, I realized how much I have missed just playing on my own and enjoyed that time so much!

I am really looking forward to Friday because it is pay-day! I am so thankful to have a job, an income, and the ability to live in the circumstances I do which are far richer than many people in my community, nation, and the world. I have too much. But - it is really hard to make it from check to check once a month, sometimes, especially with my big graduate school payments each month. I keep telling myself how wonderful it will feel to finish and owe nothing for that part of my education, whereas I will be paying on my undergraduate loans for SO long once I finish and they are out of deferment. Again, I am blessed to have an education higher than many can ever dream of. I say these things not to brag or boast, but to acknowledge God's great provision in my life and the fact that I often take it for granted. I am also thankful that I will own my car in one year. I feel like I have been paying on it forever too (a four year plan...), but I know what a blessing it will be to feel free from that burden and able to save/designate that money in another way next year at this time! Enough about money for now...

I'm still trying to figure out where I best fit in at my church. I'll be honest here is one of the loneliest places I go. But I know it's not about me. I feel so blessed that I grew up in a Christian home and my parents and family instilled in me the desire to go to church and worship each week. I have always had a church "family" no matter where I've gone, and have experienced an overwhelming amount of prayer support and encouragement there. So - I keep going each week. Sometimes to the contemporary service which I love, and sometimes to the traditional service for that feeling of going back to how I grew up. I enjoy the adult Sunday School class I attend most weeks, but it is made of a majority of adults my parents age and older. I am thankful for their love and acceptance, and for the solid Bible lessons we have each week as we go through the Bible one book at a time, one chapter a week. People at church know who I am, even more than I really know who they are, and I am always thankful when they tell me how glad they are to see me or that they missed me, or ask how things are going.'s just hard to go and sit alone in the service each week. I pray maybe God will use that time for me to encourage someone else who feels alone...I know He knows my feelings, and He will honor my desire to be a part of worship every week. It is also hard to find a good young adult/singles' ministry in this area. Living in a small community is sometimes a little limiting.

I've been listening to The City Harmonic over and over again lately. I loved one of their songs I heard on the radio earlier in the Fall, and only just looked up their other songs recently. But - their lyrics are awesome! So solid, and real. And I love their musical sound too.

Here are lyrics to a song I want to make my prayer.

May my life speak louder than words
and what I'm saying
is, "Jesus, I'm sure You're what I want"
Yeah, that's what I want

These words ain't cheap, no they bleed on the page.
I see what I've been and that needs to change
and that's what I want
yeah, You're what I want.
Hallelujah, yeah
Hallelujah, oh yeah
What I want is You.

I want to sing - sing and mean every word
Cause what I'm singing is "Joy to the world"
And that's what I want, yeah,
That's what I want.

So go on, sing, sing, all of Heaven and Earth
But don't just sing - be - and be every word
That's what I want, yeah,
That's what I want.

Hallelujah, yeah
Hallelujah, oh yeah
What I want is You.

Happy Tuesday, everyone...tomorrow is Hump Day! :) 

Sunday, February 19, 2012


I think it sounds fun to find a new hobby soon. Something new and exciting. I've done card making. I've attempted scrap booking. I've read books. I want to do something outside, I think. Something challenging. I think I would like to find a group so I can meet new people...which can kind of be hard around here, living in a small community...but I'm sure I can find something if I look hard enough!  Hiking and/or rock climbing sound fun to me after spending last summer in the mountains. I would also love to kayak...I've only done this before on a lake (I'm not the best swimmer, and the thought of rolling over in one kind of terrifies me...but hey, I can dream!) I would also love to start running again. I started Couch to 5K a few weeks ago, but my iPod broke. That is a sad excuse to stop, and I think I might just have to start up again without the podcasts and time myself. I can think of a lot more ideas, but for now, I guess I'll just keep brainstorming and dreaming. Who knows what I might be up to in a few months! :)

What's your favorite hobby if you have one? Or - what would you do if you could choose anything?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

I'm Not the Author...

Sometimes God says, "No." And sometimes He says, "Not yet." Sometimes, we have plans, and even when we feel sure they are in His will, He shows us that His plans....and His timing....are far more perfect than we can imagine.

This post might be a little long...

Almost two years ago I began the long process of applying for the Journeyman program through the International Mission Board. This is a two-year overseas program for single college grads in their 20s. Though my heart strongly desired to go at the end of college and I completed a portion of the application then, I knew somehow that I was supposed to stay here for awhile and work first. So I waited. And when I felt God allowing me the opportunity to start the process again, I was so excited. I have to admit, I never actually thought I would finish. (There are three parts and after completing each, the IMB sends you the next portion if they feel you are prepared to go on to completion...part one - basic information, part two - more details about your calling to missions/short testimony, etc., and part three - which can take several months - health screening/survey/detailed info, summary of beliefs, auto-biography, etc.)

I finished the application process in July of 2010, and so the waiting began. It was definitely only with God's hand that I finished the entire process! I knew it would be at least December before I heard anything for sure, but didn't have an exact date. Oh how hard it was to wait. During that waiting time, God placed other challenges in my life. My teaching job had moved to a new building, I was feeling very discouraged and inadequate at what I was doing each day, and I was very lonely for friends my age. It was hard to keep focusing on living with purpose where I was each day.

Then, on a snow-day off of school in January, the news finally came! I had been expecting it to come by mail, but it was actually an e-mail. I was accepted into the program!! Again the waiting process continued as I hoped and dreamed over the next six weeks about what the three-day job interview conference would bring, who I would meet, where I would God would use me! (I also faced feelings of anxiety and discouragement in wondering if I was really "qualified" to go.) My plane ticket came in the mail, I had a list of names of all the other people coming, and everything began to seem real!

And then, God slowly began to show me He was closing a door. In January, after being a little sick several times during the school year, I finally went to the doctor to see what might be causing the low fevers and fatigue I had been experiencing. There were several days since Fall that I was so tired, all I could do was lay on the couch, and I had no appetite, plus a low fever, which of course also meant staying home from work. I was convinced much of it was just due to the very stressful year I was having and a lack of rest due to that, and I still believe those were factors, but anyway - the doctor I saw decided to test for something called Lupus. I had heard of it before, but it was honestly just something I had seen on a billboard driving down the interstate once or twice, heard a commercial for on t.v., and knew one of my friends had been diagnosed with early in her life. And so, on January 24, I was diagnosed with Lupus. You can read a little more about it here, if you're curious. The names sounds awful, and the symptoms certainly can be, especially for people who have multiple symptoms. It can change a life forever. It is an auto-immune disease that is still being researched because there is not a simple known-cause, and the symptoms can come and go or "mix and match." I am so thankful to say that I have had no more fevers and fatigue since being diagnosed and being prescribed medication for it, and I have also had no reactions to the medication, which many people do have. For now, I'm living with something I "have" but honestly don't feel like anything is different for me health-wise. Praise God for this - He is so good!

But - I share all of that to show that God closed a door. It was (and is) so hard for me to understand why God would so clearly open a door, allowing me to be accepted into a program I had dreamed about...then say, "No." I still believe in my heart somehow that it was not a, "No..." but a, "Not now..." because I also know He has given me the desire and passion to serve and to care for others around the world. He does not give us desires and just leave them there to look at. God uses His will and His timing.

It was actually one year ago yesterday that I found out I would not be going to the conference after all. After finding out about the lupus, I had e-mailed the health office that handles all the clearance process for the JM program. I never heard back from them, so I assumed everything was still ok and they would talk to me about it all at the interview conference. Then I got a phone message from my interview consultant. He told me he was sorry for the health concern that had come up, and once I regained health clearance we would be in touch again to restart the process. I remember standing in my office at work, devastated, angry, frustrated, confused, sad, and crying out to God, asking, "Why?!..." A wonderful friend from work came and prayed with me, and I began the process of making phone calls to figure out what had happened and why it had taken so long for me to figure it all out. It turned out, they had replied to my earlier e-mail, but had left the underscore out in my e-mail address, and I never received the information saying I could not go. Here is a blog I wrote after finding out.

And so - I began to slowly let go. I realized this had been my dream and passion, but yet it really wasn't mine. God gave it to me. And it was (and is) His to use in His perfect timing and manner. I still often wonder and question how He is using and will use my heart to serve others and share His truth and joy. I have prayed often throughout this year to be an example of who He is, to my children and co-workers as well as any others I meet each day. I have continued the process of healing from the disappointment of a dream set aside for the time, and have begun seeking out what God has for me now. What He has in store for me here. Without this change in plans, I would not have been encouraged by a dear professor and friend from my university to pursue a degree in TESOL. I would not have spent a second year in the building where I teach now, meeting new co-workers and getting to know others I hadn't had the chance to visit with. I would not have grown in confidence as a teacher or had the privilege of being a friend and mentor to another new teacher. I would not have spent the year living with a wonderful friend from college who has encouraged me to walk strong in my faith and uphold my standards and desires to serve God wholeheartedly. And there are so many other things I could list.

But one thing remains true. God is faithful. He says yes to His promises. His Word is truth, and He places desires in our hearts that align with the will He has for our lives. My job is to listen. I am to be still and seek Him each day, one step at a time. I am to thank Him for the challenges and growth He has provided this year. I am to pray for the future He has in store for me while living the plan He has for me right now, where I am at. I have purpose in Him. He loves me more than I can ever put into words or understand with my human mind.

If God had closed the door in another way - if I had not been accepted to the JM program, I might have doubted the heart He has given me for missions or wondered what I could have done better to be accepted. If He hadn't allowed me to be diagnosed with Lupus, I would not understand the challenges that can come with an auto-immune disease or relate to others who experience similar health concerns in their lives. I wouldn't have another piece added to my testimony to share with and use to encourage others who are facing disappointment and uncertainty in their lives. And again, I could go on and on.

It's not always easy to be thankful. I'm usually not certain why God has me here, or what He has in store for my future. I often ask why, and feel inadequate. But God is bigger than my questions, and though I wish He would just drop me a note saying what His plans are for me, so I can give it the stamp of my approval, I think it is exciting to know only He has the answer to the mystery! I choose to trust Him with that today, tomorrow, and the next day. And I think now, I am finally beginning to see what it meant when I decided 20 years ago to give my life to Jesus and ask Him to lead me. It means I am not the author. He is the author. And it means my story will be far better than anything I could ever have written myself! :)

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord. "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take." - Proverbs 3:5-6

"Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you through Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians  5:16-18 (I always have to remember that it says in all circumstances, not necessarily for all. That can be the toughest part...)

Thanks for letting me share another (long) piece of my testimony...and the story God continues to write each day!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Best Job in the World...

I have the best job in the world. Just sayin'...

"Would'ja Be My Valentine?" Who could say no to that?!  :) 

How Do You Know?

I went back and forth between trying to decide if what I want to know is how you ever really know you are "doing a good job" at something...or trying to decide if maybe I just don't take my job as "seriously" as some people.

Both are hard for me. I think one of the things I will always struggle with is knowing for sure if I'm "doing a good job." I think about this often in everything I do - being a good friend, being a good Christian (I know that sounds wrong - I don't mean it in a weird way...hopefully it makes sense without having to explain), being good at my school work (all my life even up to now in my graduate studies), and so many more, but most frequently...being good at my job. I don't know if I'm managing my classroom the right way. I don't know if I'm planning the right lessons. I don't know if I am doing my best to help all learners, because I do know a lot of them are "bored" and dread coming to music class. I don't know if I'm good at talking to other teachers...I often think they feel like I'm weird, awkward, or stuck up for not talking to them a lot, when really, I'm just very shy (I know, I know...and I just posted about this...and I'm trying to work on it...*sigh*) I'm a mentor this year, and I don't know if I'm doing a good job helping someone else. So....I have to stop and think about it like this. Am I doing my best? I guess so. I mean, most of the time. I know no one is perfect, but I just want to feel confident that what I am doing is ok.

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as if working for God and not man." -Colossians 3:23

I guess I found my answer to that one. But that doesn't mean it's easy to believe. Oftentimes Believing it is a choice.

So - another connection to this question is the opinion that I don't take my job as seriously as others. When I say that, though, I don't mean it to say that I don't do my work, or I push it off to the side. I mean it like, a lot of music teachers work and work and work to have the best performances, the best lessons, the most knowledge their kids can have. And I think to some extent I do. But...I go over and over in my head every day about how much I care for my kids. I care about their smiles. I care about their day. I care about their favorites. I care about what they enjoy in music. I care about their hurts. I care about their hearts. I could go on and on and on...I love talking to my kids every day. And I think I have one of the best jobs in the world - getting to spend all day with children, every day of the work week. I do want them to have the best performances they can, and I do want to plan the best lessons I can, and I do think a lot about how to teach things in a "different" way so they aren't just listening to me talk all day...but at the end of the day, I guess I care more about them as people than I do about "perfection." I hope that made sense.

"Kids have to know how much you care, before they care how much you know..." Quote our principal shared last year, and I have really hung onto ever since.

Today was my Kindergarten program, and I couldn't have felt more pride in my kiddos! They are fun, caring, potential-filled, little learners with minds that are ready to grow and learn...and I love them so much! They brighten my day!

So, how does someone know they're doing a good job? I hope I am...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Oh What a Beautiful (Snow) Day!

There's something about the beauty of a white snowfall, brushing across the ground outside that just causes me to revel in God's glory!

We woke up this morning to a fresh dusting of snow, and as the day went on, I watched it continue to fall softly hour after hour. I think we had about four inches when it was finished.

This year we have had no snow days yet, in contrast to last year when we had already had over eight! So...of course we all welcomed the break today. And we will also have one more tomorrow! God is good - sometimes a little extra rest and time to catch up on life is just what is needed - for teachers and students alike!

So how did I spend my snow day? I turned off my alarm and slept until 8:30. (Sad I know - I used to sleep until 10 or 11!) I stayed in my pajamas until 2 p.m. I made coffee then curled back up under my extra blankets in bed to read my Bible and a book. I spent way too much time on facebook. I actually cooked lunch - chili! Mmmmm! And to make the day even more perfect, my roommate and I went outside to play in the snow! Oh how fun to have someone to play and enjoy the snow with this year! Here are some way too many pictures from the day! :) Tonight I'm even accomplishing some important reading I'm behind on in my graduate classes. (With a short blogging break, of course!)

Yay for curling back up under the extra covers! Just a disclaimer - I really do make my bed every morning, but this morning I climbed back INTO bed! :) 

First step after getting out of bed - COFFEE! :) 

Chili for lunch! Mmmm....the picture doesn't make it look as good as it was!

Lots of snow outside!

Snow angel time! :) 

That's one long/tall snow angel! haha 

Yay, roomies! :)

Throwing snow!

I had the fun idea that we should roll down the hill behind our I had to go first while Emily took the picture! haha

Rolling, rolling, rolling...

And finally at the bottom! 

Emily's super cute boots!

We measured a lot of different places, but 4" seemed to be the total!

Heading up another big hill near our apartments to try and "sled" down. We didn't have a sled, so we made one out of a cardboard box...

It didn't work too well, so Emily just came down on her own!

My turn!!

I gave up too...and just turned upside down and kicked my legs up in the air for a picture! lol

We decided it might be fun to put some snow in our faces...

But we decided it would be even better to make snow ice cream!!

It was Emily's first time, and my first time since childhood!

All the ingredients!

Ready to mix...

And the finished some cocoa! Who doesn't love snow ice cream plus a little chocolate added in?!

Emily decided it was yummy!

And I did too! Shhh...don't tell our moms we ate the ice cream before dinner! lol

Hope you all had a blessed and joyful day wherever you were, and that if you had snow you were able to enjoy its beauty and see God's presence as it fell! Happy (almost) Tuesday!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Heart is Full...

This weekend God provided two opportunities for my heart to be blessed beyond is so full!

Yesterday, my roommate and I went with a Women on Mission group from my church to visit a local women and children's shelter. These families are experiencing difficulties requiring them to seek safe/protective shelter for a certain time. I have heard of this shelter and seen it, but have never visited before. The WOM had asked Emily and I to share some songs and testimonies about God's love in our lives. We were there to serve breakfast to the ladies and children and to show them how special they are to God and to us on this weekend before celebrating Valentine's Day. I was so amazed when we went in at the number of children staying there with their mothers. We helped prepare for breakfast and sat at tables visiting with many of the women and children.

The part that really got my heart was when we were about to start the "program" part, and Em got out her guitar. The children gathered around to sit and hear the music. One little boy told us all about the guitar he had at his grandpa's house and how he wanted to learn to play it one day. He sang some songs to about walking through the wilderness with God knowing the way. Emily let him put on her guitar and taught him a couple of chords, which of course made him feel like the most special little guy in the world. The guitar was almost as big as he was too. So precious. But, what I started to say before this is that - all the children had come to listen, so we just changed what we were going to sing/play to a couple of children's songs. My eyes filled with tears that I held back as we taught them the motions to "Every Move I Make" and sang "Jesus Loves Me." Our little friend from earlier came to the front and showed the sign language during Jesus Loves Me. It was so humbling to me how God had taken what we "planned" for the adults and turned it into even just a few minutes of ministering to and loving the hearts of those precious little children. It made me think of all the children who came to Jesus in the Bible story in Matthew 19. He did not turn them away - instead He welcomed them and told everyone those who live as these children will enter the Kingdom of God. Wow. It amazes me every day that God considers ME one of HIS children. His love is more overwhelming than any other I will ever know. We were still able to sing our two planned songs and share a short word with the mothers and WOM ladies, but oh how my heart was full of joy from the precious children.

After the singing/speaking we played a little with the kids, and I held a sweet baby. I also happened to wear some bracelets that morning that are sparkly. They are the "bangle" kind that come in a set of too many to fit on anyone's arm. For some reason when I put them on that morning (only like 6 of the 20 or so I have) I thought...I hope I can share these with someone today. And - sure enough one of the little girls who came to sit on my lap started playing with them and looking at them, and before I knew it she asked if she could have some of them. I was a little worried it wouldn't be ok with her mom, but I shared them with her, and she was so delighted to have something "pretty" for herself. We are praying about the possibility of working with a children's evangelism missionary to start a children's Bible program there for an hour once a week. Oh my heart...

The second blessing God provided this weekend was another shoe making party for Sole Hope. This is a wonderful organization providing the chance for widowed women in Africa to have a living by making shoes for a job. Then, children who do not have shoes are provided with a pair to wear and protect their little feet. It was so fun to fellowship with several other women (And men! The husbands joined us today too...way to go, boys!) and work together on such a fulfilling project. Many of you know how part of my heart will always be in Africa since going there on a mission trip in college. Knowing that I can help from home right now and that I made even a small difference in the lives of women and children living there was such a blessing to me. I am thankful God provided me with such a connection last year through new friends (and re-united me with others I knew from years past!) Again, oh my heart...

I can't tell you what a heart God has given me for children. I love that I get to spend so much of my day, every day, with precious kiddos. Even though it is challenging, and I don't always know if I'm doing the best job I can, or being the best example possible, I love that I get to talk to, hug, teach, and share joy with 550 kids every day for my job! I also love it that God continues to affirm that passion each time I am able to minister to kids in different situations. I hope that one day I will have a family of my own, and that I will continue to impact children for my whole life. I love them so much, and I thank God for providing me with the passion and desire to love and serve children!

"But Jesus said, 'Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.'" -Matthew 19:14

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Shy...Who Me?

If I had a dollar for every time I was labeled "shy," "bashful," or some other similar word...I might be a slightly rich woman.

Oh yes. I, myself admit that I probably am "shy." I guess, like most people, it varies by setting. Obviously with family and friends I can talk until the sun goes down...and comes back up again! haha And I can certainly be pretty goofy. (Just ask my fabulous older sis about the "laugh-cry") In a group of people, once I get to know one or two, I am comfortable.

I used to not (and still sometimes don't...) approach people because I think, naturally they won't want to talk to me. I'm quiet and awkward. Years of experience have led me a little more to the far-side of this opinion, but happens. Or I think people are busy, or they don't need to hear what I say.

So - I feel like a lot of people don't get to know the real me. Being shy isn't always about "not talking" to others. Sometimes it is about not being able to show who you really are, although showing that often comes through conversation. I bet there are a lot of people in the world who would be surprised to know that I once went alligator hunting on the Amazon River (nor do they know when I have an exciting opportunity, I'm not gonna pass it up!) I know most people never guess that I was (and will always be!) a drum girl. I could carry and play those drums as loud and proud as almost anyone. (I always said that's how I yelled.) Most people don't know that I've traveled around the world to seven countries. No one would ever guess that I enjoy singing in public places (especially church) and that I actually like speaking in groups (like sharing at faculty meetings/trainings.) And....well, there are lots of other things.

Though I've come a long way since my pre-adult years, I still feel like people think I'm "weird" or when they see me at work, because I'm a little afraid to talk to them. Maybe I just need to get over that and start talking to people. Sounds pretty simple, huh?

I think I am bold in different ways than other people. I take risks. I try to show my faith in what I do and say everyday, and love and serve others. I write...a lot. I sing. I drum. I teach in front of some of the toughest, sometimes very honest (like yesterday!)!

Oh, I don't know. Shy. Who me?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


1 - I am at Panera right now...because it is easier for me to read and study in an atmosphere that is not home.

2- This is sometimes problematic because I take my computer to work on school assignments...and wind up blogging or facebooking. (However, I have begun to practice more self control and limit myself to 5-10 minute breaks in between reading/posting, so that I can continue to study...)

3- I came here intending to buy a small drink and a bagel so I wouldn't feel guilty about studying here and not being a customer...but I waited so long to come (after school, a long meeting, and then my Weight Watchers meeting) that I was hungry and had no dinner, thus giving in and buying dinner and spending way too much money. *sigh*

4- I have jumped back on the Weight Watchers bandwagon, and after not weighing in for a little over two months (our at-work group I was part of was cancelled, and I've been waiting until I could afford to pay the monthly fee and join our community one...) I started tracking again this week. Which dinner was probably more points than I meant for it to be. (By the way - I am actually -0.6 lbs lighter than I was when I did weigh in at the end of November, which means I maintained all that time, which is a really good thing!)

5- I'm ok with that because it was delicious! And warm...and really only half a sandwich and a small cup of soup - plus I actually left a tiny bit of lettuce on the sandwich which made it healthier, right? ha

6- I am learning some hard God-lessons lately. And always. Which is also a good thing, because when should we not be challenged and growing in our faith? But good does not mean easy. Or fun. Or that everything feels "ok" all the time.

7- It's ok to say everything is "not ok." In fact, as my wise sister told me, sometimes that is what being strong means....admitting that everything is not ok. It has been hard lately - finding out about my dad's surgery, waiting to hear how things are going, not having my parents close by, feeling inadequate at teaching, not "fitting in" with other people my age (and not being able to find many people my age to fit in with...), and...well I'm sorry to say I've been making quite a list lately. (I will say that I am so blessed, and I am thankful for all I do have, but I'm being honest here too...)

8- I have been struggling with loneliness. Last year was the worst - I drove every day from home to work and did not really have friends there. This year God blessed me with an amazing roommate (a friend from college), an apartment in the community where I teach, and a few new co-worker friends at school. I am grateful for this. Don't get me wrong. But - being lonely still happens. I often wonder if I will ever find a relationship and companionship with a husband. Not that I'm hoping to settle down right now or anything, but I wouldn't be opposed to finding someone to date or spend more time with...ha... I get tired of hearing, "in God's timing..." which I know is the truth. I am SO thankful for the perfect plan God already has for my life and for the man it will one day include. But again, I'm being honest today. That's why it's called "confessions..." and not "cover-ups" or something like that...ha

9- I will probably drink way too much diet soda while I'm here and not finish posting for my class.

10- I'm learning sometimes having different standards than others in the world means being a little lonely. Sometimes I feel thankful for that if it means I'm able to show my faith in a bold and confident, yet not "pushy" or "flashy" way. But it's not always fun.

11- I don't know what I was thinking signing up for two graduate classes this semester while I teach. Actually I do. I was thinking my college loans are being deferred because I'm "half-time" status, and I can pay for graduate school as I go. I was thinking about how good it will feel in May when I have three courses complete and don't owe any money for them! And I am still thinking - I can do this - I just have to have discipline! It is all really interesting and applicable information, and the most exciting thing is waiting to see how God will use this certification/degree someday! I have no idea...but He does! So - I'm throwing off that "I can't" attitude and pushing forward.

12- I'm a list maker. So - I could keep typing here forever. Because I really hate to end on a number like 12. But...that's all the confessions for today!

I read this verse this morning. It's one I've known forever and I'm sure many of you do too, but - I needed to hear it again.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take." -Proverbs 3:5-6

Also, if my life had a theme song right now, this would hit it on the head. I've been listening to it since Fall, and it is one of my favorites! Especially the "I will wait on are my refuge..." part. Waiting is hard. HARD. I know everyone is always waiting on something, but honestly - I feel like that has been the theme of my life especially in the last two years. God must be trying to teach me something, or a lot of somethings!...(and I'm not the most patient person when it comes to that!) The most exciting thing to me is that, even after posting my "confession(s)" and being honest God is here. He is faithful. He is strong. He is bigger than anything I can imagine, and He is taking care of me! God desires for us, His children to be honest with Him. He knows our hearts, and He understands our pain, weaknesses, and challenges. He also has a perfect plan. And it's in THAT hope, that I rest...even on the tough days...(or maybe weeks...)

I hope this encourages you...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Caught in the Whirlwind...

I haven't gotten lost. I'm still here, and as usual when I disappear for awhile, I'm still enjoying reading everyone else's blogs...but somehow can't find the time/motivation to catch up on my own. I have so many ideas floating in my mind and things to write about and remember, but I'll get caught up one day!

For now - I'm in the middle of a whirlwind of the new semester of teaching music, taking two graduate classes at the same time (with lots more reading, posting, and homework required than my first course last semester), and dealing with the challenge of being far away from family in a hard time. My dad had his open-heart surgery, by the way, and it went as well as possible. He is still in the hospital, but he is doing well...just a long road of recovery ahead. I was so humbled and thankful for all the prayers going out for our family, all around the world! God is good all the time!

And, I would like to share about an awesome thing God did recently (that He has been working through this entire year), but I can't really post about it publicly right now. All I can say is that I always seem to doubt God's bigness...and say that I "believe" he can do something...but still not quite all the way believe it. And now - He is showing me just how big He is. (DUH, right? You'd think I'd learn by now...*sigh*) I am thankful for the way He is using me in this situation and pray I will stand strong as an encouragement and example in my faith.

Have a blessed and joyful week!