Saturday, May 24, 2014

Third Grade: An Adventure

She opened the door and I entered into a ransacked room. Books were spilling out of desks. Papers lay strewn across the floor. Chairs were half heartedly pushed towards desks. And maybe, as I've taught several students before, I should have inferred something from the situation before me. But sometimes ignorance is bliss, and sooner or later that ignorance will be corrected and the full situation will be seen.

However, on that rainy Monday morning, when the principal offered me a long term substitute position to finish off the end of the school year, I was so full of joy that I blindly accepted.

Fast forward a week later. Students were coming back from Spring Break and I was there – bright eyed and bushy tailed – ready to meet the thirteen students whom the principal had told me were all wonderful! I could hardly wait. A class so small, and so well behaved, meant fun activities would certainly be planned. I was beginning to think that five weeks would be too short and wished it could be longer.

And then, to start enlightening me to the situation around me, in walked the two third grade teachers in my team. They were very warm and welcoming and forewarned me that I had a rough group of kids. I laughed it off, still caught up in the joy of having a chance to teach. And then the bell rang. My students piled in. And my ignorance was quickly swept away.

The past five weeks have been a whirlwind. A whirlwind of sadness, tiredness, stress, and overwhelming helplessness. I laughed at myself for ever thinking kindergarten was hard. This was an entirely new level of difficulty.

Within the first week I heard cuss words thrown out in every day conversation, I had chairs and desks thrown across the room (not to mention plenty of smaller objects), I witnessed and tried to prevent two fist fights, and left every day worn down and feeling helpless. I could hardly teach with all the commotion every day and I felt like I rarely smiled. If you have ever thought that teaching was easy, please think again! Coming into a classroom at the end of the year to a group of rowdy kids who do not want to listen to a substitute makes for trying times.

I wish I could say it got better. I wish I could write that by the end of the five weeks every student was sitting quietly and following directions all the way and there was no bad language or fighting. But I can't write that. By the end of the five weeks, three of my students were expelled. And though I was left with a handful of students, it still took immense effort to maintain the structure of the classroom.

I wanted to quit after that first week, but I'm glad I didn't. Though the experience was rough, and though I felt as if I accomplished nothing, I did learn a lot.

First, I learned that every child has a story. Though these kids were in third grade, many of them had experienced great tragedy or loss in their lives. Many of them lived in situations that I couldn't even imagine. And the way they lived effected their behaviour in very apparent ways. It helps to listen to everyone's story so that you know where they are coming from and why they do the things they do.

Secondly, God's love was more vivid to me than ever before. Every morning on my way to work I sat in my car and prayed for love, wisdom, and patience in teaching these children. And every day God gave me what I asked for.

During my fourth week in third grade I started a new read aloud with my class – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I am a huge fan of C.S. Lewis and I loved getting to share that book with my third graders. Something that I had never noticed before was after Lucy and Susan watch Aslan die and then come back to life, Lucy asks Susan if they should tell Edmund what Aslan did for him. And Susan says no, because it would be so overwhelming for Edmund to realize that Aslan gave up Himself for Edmund.

Reading that struck me. I know what Christ did for me. And sometimes it isn't overwhelming, sometimes it bounces off of me like water on oil. When it shouldn't. Every day should be filled with overwhelming rejoicing and humbling at the price that Jesus paid for me! He loved me even when I was a sinner. Even when I was undeserving of any love, God so loved He gave His Son! And that– that is overwhelming grace!

As I was driving to school on the last day, I was thinking about God's love. I have seen it painted clearer these past few weeks because I have struggled to love. There were days when I felt so hardened and felt as if not an ounce of love were in me. When kids told me "no" to my face and my patience was wearing thin, I wondered how I could ever love them. When they started fights with each other, threw things, or yelled insulting words, it took every fiber of my being to hold in the tears of hurt and not walk out the door. And then I realized I do the same with God all the time. I turn away, I complain, I question why, I yell, I wonder if He's actually good, and all the while His love never fails. He doesn't turn His face away. And that realization opened my eyes to the joy of the Gospel all over again. We love because He first loved us. And His love goes so much deeper, fuller, and wider than any human love ever could – and thank God it does!

Third Grade taught me quite a lot. I feel more rounded as a teacher. I have been exposed to a spectrum of children and living situations. And I've learned that sometimes children aren't all that meets the eye. Sometimes you have to ask and listen, and no matter what, you have to love. Whether that love is in the form of a structured classroom, a listening ear, or even just sitting with a student – everybody needs love and because of the great love that Christ has given us He enables us to love others.

Am I glad Summer break is here? Absolutely.
Would I have ever walked into that Third Grade classroom knowing what the future would hold? Absolutely not! I would have run the other direction.
Am I thankful that God gave me the strength to hold on for five weeks and not quit? Yes! Yes, yes, yes! I would not do it again, but I'm thankful for all I learned. And I'm thankful that God's love never gives up! 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Protecting and Serving

The other night I sat in a room full of police cadets. I listened as they told their favourite and least favourite parts of the academy. They laughed with each other and moaned unanimously as one after another described the pain of all the physical activity they had done. The room was filled with the contagious excitement of the cadets who were so ready to graduate and finally be out on the streets protecting and serving their city. It was exhilarating.

Throughout the past few months my respect for police officers has multiplied immensely. Their job is one that I could never do and would never have a desire to do. They go out every day not knowing what the day will hold and literally risk their lives to protect people they don't even know.

I've also realized that police officers are just as human as I am. Yes, they have extreme training to make it through the rigors and struggles of their job, but they are also friendly, funny, have families, and love to do every day activities.

I'd also had a little idea in my mind that police officers were almost super-human. They could walk into a dangerous situation and come out unscathed because they are police. But that is not the case. They are human. They walk into dangerous situations because that is their job and sometimes they make it out unscathed, but other times they have wounds that tell the tale, or images replaying in their minds of the tragedies they saw that day.

It is not an easy job and it is a job that comes with very little appreciation. Many times what a police officer does on a daily basis goes unnoticed, but as soon as they mess up the news is eager to run the story. It's sad, but it happens. So, I just want to say how thankful I am for the men and women who serve as police officers.

Thank you for ticketing people who speed because you probably helped prevent an accident. Thank you for staying up through the night to make sure we sleep safely. Thank you for responding to a fender bender and helping where needed even though it mean you have to write a long report. Thank you for running into a dangerous situation when everyone else runs out because you are trying to help limit crime. Thank you for caring, for listening, for being out there every day because you want to serve and protect. Thank you for doing your job well even if it means you are not praised every day for your work or paid well. Thank you for making me feel safe when I am out shopping or driving to work. Thank you for responding to every call you get no matter how small the matter may seem. Thank you for serving.

As I've become more aware of all the duties of an officer, I've become more aware of the dangers of this job. I am thankful that there are men and women out there who want to do this job. And I am even more thankful that God is the one who is watching over them. I can get anxious very easily and it is nerve racking to know that my sister will soon be out there helping and serving. I'm thankful that she is living out Micah 6:8, and I'm thankful that she is trusting in God to help her through every day.

I also want to encourage you all to, firstly, pray for the men and women in your police department. It's not an easy job and they need prayer for safety and discernment. But also, thank the officers in your community. They deserve a lot more recognition for their job. I'm sure a thank you would go a long way.

And to all the officers, or soon to be officers, thank you!

Friday, March 28, 2014

About that Three Month Hiatus...

As January 1st, 2014 came suddenly upon us, I sat down and wrote out some goals for the year. There were several that I have already accomplished, and then there's the one where I told myself to "blog more: at least three times a week". As you may realize, that goal turned into an impromptu three month hiatus from this blog. Oops. 

I don't know what happened. But I'm back. Hopefully for more frequent updates and ponderings about life. I'm not going to make any promises though, because that's never turned out well for writing. 

It's always a struggle to get back into blogging. Not because I don't have anything to say, but because I don't know where to begin. Should I jump into what's been on my heart lately or fill you in on the happenings of my life while I've been a blogging slacker? I tell you what, I'll just do a quick update of sorts on the happenings of my life, and within the week (hopefully!) I'll blog again about some of the things I've been thinking about recently. And (hopefully!) from there I'll break the ice and get back into blogging. Lots of hopeful maybes, but that's better that a 3 month break again, right? Phew. Alright, without further adieu- an overview of the past few months (with pictures!).

Subbing jobs have been trickling in every week. Whenever I have a busy week I get at least three more calls for available jobs that I have to decline because I have jobs on those days. I wish that would happen on my slow weeks, but I am grateful either way. I've been subbing more in middle school than elementary and I cannot get enough of it. Middle schoolers bring such joy and life into the classroom. They are independent enough to do work on their own, but their humor is starting to develop which makes for very fun times subbing. My favourite is a group of 8th graders that I started subbing for at the beginning of the school year. I've gotten the opportunity to sub for most of the teachers in the grade level and have fallen in love with the kids there. They are respectful and provide me with lots of laughter throughout the day. 

I subbed for them on March 14th, which for math lovers or teachers is Pi Day (3/14). The kids' math teacher had numerous fun learning activities for the students as well as all the cookies and pies you could imagine. While this was thoughtful for the students, I was handed extremely sugared up kids for my period. Some were bouncing off the walls, while others had hit their sugar high and were crashing. It made for an amusing day and I loved it. 

I'm currently looking for and applying for teaching jobs for next year. It is a process. And I would appreciate prayer. 

The SchoolBox has been a wonderful job as well. I've gotten to work more hours, which has been great. I work with the most amazing group of girls there and I have loved getting to know them better and becoming friends with them. They are a blast to work with. 

One of many girls nights at Jesse's house. 
ELF Day at the SchoolBox.
I've gotten back into running which has been exciting. Janessa convinced me to join the YMCA and I have thanked her multiple times since then. Not only is it great to work out frequently, but the locker rooms are heated and the shower never runs out of hot water. That may seem silly, but it is something I am very thankful for and take full advantage of! 

Damarise convinced me to sign up for my first official 5k! Tomorrow we will run in the Color Run which isn't a timed race, but more of a fun one. I'm excited to do it. We went running together last week and Damarise can still out run me any day, but we had fun. We also got a picture with the cop cars that she was learning how to drive. 

I started taking a "Citizen's Police Academy" class which has been very eyeopening into what the Chattanooga Police do. I'll write more on that in another post, but it's been a neat experience. 

And the last exciting news is that Damarise and I became doggy parents to the sweetest two year old dog. We got her Wednesday, named her Zulu, and have fallen in love with her. She is precious. 

Alright. That is enough of an update. Hopefully now I'll get back into blogging more regularly…. hopefully!

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Sunrise of Grace

The sun rose crimson red. The perfect half circle of a sun, nestled in between the nook of two mountains, was crimson, scarlet. It shown up into the sky like a beacon making the clouds appear as various hues of yellow to purple. It painted the trees opposite it in amber light, and the moving clouds made the mountains look as though they were waltzing underneath that glorious light.

Every morning of the past six weeks I had been gifted with beautiful sunrises. One morning everything from each blade of grass to the branches on even the smallest tree were coated in frost. This beauty was magnified by the sunrise – a palette of pale oranges, pinks, and yellows that danced off the frost, sending colour everywhere. However, the beauty of the last sunrise outdid all the others. It was as if its Maker knew that this was the finale and therefore created the most beautiful sunrise I'd ever seen.

Because Christmas time is right around the corner, I had shuffled a mix of Sufjan Steven's older Christmas music to play on my drive to school. The melodies danced through the speakers. As I crested the top of the hill where the sunrise was displayed like a painting in the Louvre, Amazing Grace was quietly being sung. "His grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home."

If I'd had the time, I would have pulled off the shoulder and just stared in awe at God's handiwork. However, part of working is being on time, and so I snuck peeks at the sunrise while I drove.

I got to school on time. I photocopied papers for the day, placed the chairs neatly around the table, sharpened pencils, and moved our little Elf on the Shelf. All normal things, yet, all things that I knew I was doing for the last time.

We had our Christmas party. A party that was chaotic, full of sugar, and carefully watched by my amazing room mom. And then as suddenly as this job was thrust upon me, it ended. I watched the last of my kids leave the building. Wishing them a Merry Christmas, and also a good school year.

Six weeks wasn't long enough. It's hard to fall in love with something only to have it ripped away from you. It's hard to realize that what was once painful, actually taught so much and brought much joy.

As the end of my six weeks teaching kindergarten stared me in the face, I tried as hard as I could to be excited for whatever would come next. However, faking excitement is hard. All I really wanted was for the principal to offer me a position. I wanted to continue to teach these 19 kids that I have fallen in love with.

Teaching is hard. When week number one of this placement ended I complained to Damarise and asked her what I was thinking to take this job. The first three weeks were torturous. I was simply trying to stay afloat. I pulled out old text books on classroom management. I scoured the internet for ways to have smooth transitions, good incentives, and quiet hallway behaviour. And I cried every day on the way home from school. I cried because I didn't know what else to do. I was stressed, tired, and seemed to be constantly sick with a cold, fever, or cough.

However, something happened. I began to feel a part of the school community. I could laugh and joke with my teammates. I was observed by the principal and given good insight into what I can improve. Though there were hard days, God's grace became all the more real, and you know what? You learn a lot more when every day you deal with something new or are put into a hard situation that you never planned on.

I turned twenty-two during this teaching placement. And for once in my life I actually felt older. I felt like a grown-up. I had a "full-time" job with real co-workers who were becoming friends. I had a schedule which I loved. I had work to take home and lessons to plan over the weekend. I learned 19 students names, but not only their names, I learned their likes and dislikes. I learned who needs extra persistence in order to get work done. I learned that humor is a gift from God that can dispel fights, or lighten any situation. I learned that I can sing in public and that the more you get into it the more fun it will be. And I learned that when I open up my heart to absorb everything around me and fully dive in, it hurts all the more when it's time to leave.

Those who know me well will know that Kindergarten is not my cup of tea. However, maybe my cup of tea has changed. And maybe it took 19 precious little kindergarteners to do it. Because when I said goodbye to them and drove home with a lump in my throat and no words to describe the heartache I felt, all I wanted to do was teach Kindergarten again.

God provides. I've learned that. I've seen Him provide in marvelous ways. But when He gave me this job in my lap, at a school I didn't even know existed, I questioned His providence. I questioned His goodness. I wondered why He'd give me a job in a grade that I'd never wanted to teach. I wondered why He gave me a job with such a long drive. And I wondered if I could quit.

It took me a while to realize how this job was full of unexpected blessings. How the long drive every morning wasn't a waste of gas, but was decorated in beautiful sunrises reminding me that God's faithfulness is new every morning. How the kids weren't terrible, but showed me how everyone is in need of God's mercy and forgiveness. How I wasn't as good and kind as I thought, but was reminded every day that I need God's help to love each child and to treat everyone fairly. How I can never ever do anything on my own, but God provides resources in wonderful mentor teachers who guide me in how to teach well.

And so that sunrise on my last morning into work. The one that rose crimson red and showered the trees in a fiery light, the one that rose while Sufjan quietly sang, "His grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home." That sunrise reminded me of how wonderful God is. That sunrise reminded me of how God's grace provided for this job. It reminded me of the joy and hardship that this teaching position has brought and how it has molded me more into His image. It reminded me of the kids whose lives I got to be a part of who I only hope learned what I tried to teach. It reminded me that even when I think something is terrible, God has a plan, and I need only trust Him, because in the end, when I look back and see what the six weeks were like from hindsight, I feel blessed. I feel honoured that God have me this job. And I feel sad, because when it was all said and done, I loved it and I will miss it!

Schools are now in Christmas break and I am headed to Missouri to spend a week with family. I've applied for another long term sub position at another school, and will continue to sub when I get back home. However, if you (whoever still reads this) think of it, I'd appreciated prayer for another teaching opportunity. I know God will work everything out and as sure as the sun rises every morning, so His faithfulness is firm and steady. And in that I give thanks. 

Friday, November 01, 2013

Even the Leaves Sing of His Goodness

It's a chilly Autumn morning. The leaves have transformed into wondrous hues of orange, gold, and deep red. The sun is shining, birds are chirping, and I am contently sitting on my couch under a cozy blanket with a piping hot cup of coffee beside me. These are the moments when I have to pause and thank God. It's easy to run to Him when life isn't going well, but sometimes it takes effort to stop in the midst of wonderful moments and truly praise Him for His goodness to us.

And that is a good segue into a story that I'd like to share about God's goodness seen this week.

It all began Sunday night. I was lying in bed and could not fall asleep due to an overly stuffy nose that was just waiting to blossom into a full on cold. As my head felt more and more stuffed up, I decided that it was hopeless to try to fall asleep right then. When I am sick I tend to think more. Maybe it's because I'm too tired to do anything else, but somehow my brain can run amuck with thoughts. It slowly began to churn and I started thinking about my life.

I've graduated from college. I live with my sister. I'm single. And I don't have a full time job. I felt apathetic.

I am very content, don't get me wrong! I enjoy subbing at different schools and I love working at the SchoolBox. I'm thankful for the jobs that I have and I really do love them. But then my mind started the comparing game. Damarise is starting into the Police academy soon. No longer will we both be working part time jobs at random hours throughout the day. Rather she will have a full job, and I will be the one who seems too incompetent to handle a "real" job.

The thoughts went from a thankfulness of where God has me in life, to a sudden fear of "what if this isn't what I should be doing?" "what if I'm too lazy to go out and find a real job?". These what-ifs plagued my sleep that night.

I woke up the next morning to an email from a professor at Covenant who sends me multiple emails from different schools that are hiring and always asking me if I'm interested. That morning's email was from a school in Morocco. I thought maybe it was a sign. Maybe the feeling that I should stay in Chattanooga was all wrong and in reality I should be in Morocco, though I felt no desire to go.

That night I went shopping with Janessa. She is a fount of wisdom and I am so thankful to God for her friendship throughout all of college and beyond. I relayed to her my thoughts throughout the day and told her that I don't want to be apathetic! I want to go out and live life for Christ. I told her I tried to find a teaching job during the Summer months, but no one was hiring. Maybe I hadn't been forceful enough, maybe I am lazy. She stopped me and asked me if I was content. Of course I am! I absolutely love doing what I'm doing now. But I wondered if it was enough. If I was good enough. She told me that God's given me the desire and love for subbing and working at the SchoolBox and that is great. God has gifted people with different abilities and given them different avenues to pursue their talents in and right now I'm where God has me and in the job He's given me and He is using me in those venues. I needed that reminder.

That night ended with me thanking God for where He has me. Yet, some desire had opened up for the first time in a long while – a desire to be back in the classroom and teach kids. Not just subbing, but for a while. I know I majored in Elementary Education, but I'd be lying if I said that as soon as I graduated I just wanted to jump right into a classroom. Oh no, in fact I questioned my choice of major. Then I began subbing and found that I really enjoyed it. I also started co-teaching a sunday school class and loved every minute of it. And Monday night I realized that I had a strong desire to be in the classroom again.

If a principal had called me a week before and offered me a position to teach, I probably would have fumbled around with my words and slowly figured out an excuse, so that I wouldn't have to commit but could continue to sub. Yet, something happened Monday night and suddenly I found myself wishing that something would open up. I scoured the web in search of a position in Chattanooga. I looked at daycares, schools, even after school care. But nothing was open.

Tuesday came and I was struck with a fever as that nasty cold slowly overtook my whole being. As I was lying in bed slowly wasting my life away watching Netflix, my phone rang. It was a Tennessee number, so I answered it. My voice was hoarse and my ears were so stuffed I could barely hear. But I heard enough. A principal was calling me to ask if I would come in for an interview for a long term sub position in Kindergarten. I said yes!

Fast forward to Friday where I had the interview and got the position. In four days I went from feeling apathetic, to wanting to teach, to now having a position offered me where I can teach for a month! I am feeling overwhelmed with joy. To the One who knows all things, who gives good gifts to His children, who gives beyond all we can ever ask or imagine, to Him belongs all praise! I'm going to be a Kindergarten teacher for a month and I am ecstatic. I cannot wait! God is so good!

It was a long drive back from the interview yesterday with endless stretches of road in front of me, mountains rising up victoriously on all sides, and the Autumn leaves burning bright against the stormy sky. The scenery made me turn the music down and thank God for His intricate colouring of all creation. The same leaves colour today's view and remind me to pause and thank God. His blessings surround us every day, and just as God colours the leaves to sing of His goodness, God colours our lives with His goodness, it is a vibrant painting declaring the faithfulness of our Saviour. 

Monday, October 07, 2013

Oh no. I've slacked off again.

It's official. I'm a slacker when it comes to blogging. Some months I'm on a roll and write faithfully throughout the month. Other months I don't write at all. Like the past three months.


I've been trying to figure out how to update my blog without boring you all with a rundown of my life for the past three months. And instead of writing, I've been avoiding writing at all cost, which has led to more time passing and a longer update on the horizon.

But, no need to worry. Though I haven't written in three months, I will not attempt to write down a play by play of my life throughout that time. In all honesty, nothing much has happened. Instead I'll write down a brief (hopefully) update and then get back into the rhythm of blogging more frequently.

I think the most significant event to take place is that Damarise and I moved into our 17th home. Being a missionary kid has led to having many homes. And each home has been filled to the brim with wonderful memories. This home has already begun to have its fair share of good memories.

It's a little one bedroom apartment in the heart of our city and we absolutely love it. It's the perfect size for us and placed in a cute and cozy neighbourhood. God blessed us with it in the nick of time too. We are thankful! We got to house Janessa for a few months in it too while she was job and house searching. It was fun to have her stay with us, though I'm sure she is thankful to not sleep on a couch anymore.

Us on the day we signed the lease (sorry for the poor quality... it's an Instagram picture).

I have begun subbing, though not as often as I'd like. However, it has been so fun and such a blessing of a job. I have gotten to sub in Middle School math and English as well as at one of my Student Teaching placements. It has been a joy to put my education to use and realize that I did actually learn something throughout my four years at school (I knew I had, but it's nice to put it to use).

Sarah has started at Covenant College and it has been so fun having her in town. She's loving being at Covenant and I'm so thankful she gets to have the same wonderful education Damarise and I had.

Damarise got officially accepted into the Police Academy and I couldn't be more proud. She has put in so much work into applying and has persevered like no one else I know. I can't wait to see all that God has in store for her through that.

Well, I think that's the main points. Hopefully this will get me back on track for updating more... hopefully being the key word.

Until next time.

Monday, July 22, 2013

God is faithful

I don't know how it came up, but last night as Damarise and I were playing Dutch Blitz with a friend, we ended up recounting the story of God's faithfulness to our family during Ian's bout with malaria. Our friend had never heard the tale, and we gave him the short and condensed version. As I was in the process of telling it and trying to capture the sadness yet, incomparable peace we felt I was struck (again) with God's absolute power and faithfulness. Later that night I went back and read the story (full of detail that I'd forgotten). 

Sometimes, though I feel embarrassed to admit it, I forget about God's faithfulness. Reading the account of Ian and feeling those emotions again of grave sadness and the chilling realization that we thought we would never see Ian again, I was reminded of how faithful God has been to me – to my family. 

I remember being in Mom and Dad's bedroom the night that Ian was in the clinic in Nampula and crying like I'd never cried before. I sat and sobbed with Damarise. Every so often one of us would pray out loud. Praying for God's hand to heal Ian. As we sobbed, and as the realization slowly hit us that we were losing our little brother, there was a peace that cannot be explained. God was there. He was listening to our prayers and providing comfort even in the midst of our tears. 

The days of angst, waiting, praying, and crying, lasted only a week before God miraculously healed Ian. Our friend last night asked us if Ian was completely back to normal now. And sitting here on the couch thinking about it right now, well, not gunna lie. I am in tears. 

I remember the Monday morning that Ian was Medivaced to South Africa. I remember watching as he was pulled out of the ambulance covered in tubes and wires and looking a sickly colour. I remember Andrew starting to cry and the rest of us following suit. I remember Mom telling us to kiss Ian goodbye because we may never see him again. And I remember the gut wrenching realization that Ian was dying. 

And as I think back to that day, I am floored. I am floored by God's grace. 

We answered our friend's question last night with a resounding yes. Yes, Ian is completely back to normal. He's hit his growth spurt (and now towers over me). His voice has changed. He's in the process of getting his driver's permit. He's started a Christian rap group with his Zambian friends. He has a sense of humor. He can walk, talk, laugh, sing, and play some pretty great basketball. 

Why is it so easy for me to forget how faithful God has been? He has proven Himself time and time again. Getting to recount the story of Ian and tell of God's faithfulness is always great. It's a good reminder to me to of how good God is. Even in the worst of times, His peace passes all understanding. 

It was a good reminder for me too, as Damarise and I are starting into new lives. In a few weeks we will be moving into a new house. God faithfully provided it and it seems great. We will also be starting into new jobs as well as staying in the jobs we currently have. We won't be going back to college, which is a weird realization. And as the wonder of what the future will hold often terrifies me, I can say with confidence that God is faithful. He has continued to surround my worried, anxious heart with His peace that truly does pass all understanding. He has proven Himself faithful and if I needed a reminder of that, recounting the story of Ian last night was the perfect reminder. 

If the God who comforted our grieving hearts and healed Ian, if He could do that, what have I to fear about the future. No matter what happens, no matter what dreams of mine may come tumbling down, no matter if our income is slow, no matter what, there is one thing that is for sure – the faithfulness of the Lord never fails, His mercies are new every morning. 

And so I will say, with full assurance God is faithful!

Monday, June 03, 2013

God's Goodness

Thursday I was in the writing mood. I was also realizing how utterly behind my blog was. I sat on the couch for a while thinking about what to write about – not so much what, but how. I knew what I wanted to write. I wanted to write about God's goodness and about how it has been poured out on me throughout the past month. I wrote out a short little post about how God provided two job interviews in the last week of May. He knew that I couldn't handle jumping right into a job after graduating. That may make me sound lazy, but I was extremely warn out from student teaching – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Educators have a draining job, and I wasn't even a "real" one yet! All I did during the past semester was sleep, eat, teach, eat, sleep. My social life felt shattered and I was missing my friends. The past month has been a blessing in many ways. I have gotten to rest – both mentally and physically. I reinvested in friendships that I had slacked off on during the last semester. And I delved into hobbies that I had become interested in, but lacked time for. God knew exactly what I needed. I ended my short post by saying that God's timing is perfect.

 I didn't have internet at the time, so I didn't hit publish. I was planning on heading up to campus the following day to publish the post all about God's goodness in my life. That Friday morning, I was in the bathroom getting ready for my job interview at 11am. I was brushing my hair when I got a text asking me if I had heard about a family whose daughter I tutored in math. I had heard that their youngest son was in the hospital and I had texted their daughter, Hannah, to let her know I was praying. I asked if there were any new developments and my friend replied that the son had died the night before. I was in shock. The tears poured out unrelentingly and I sat on the bathroom floor and sobbed.

My mind couldn't wrap itself around the fact that a precious little twelve year old boy had just died. Unexpectedly. His sister, Hannah, had talked to me countless times about him and her love for him showed in all she said about him. She once called him her little miracle brother and talked about the grace she has learned from him. And now, he was gone.

I couldn't stop the tears. Every time I thought I was done they came back. I wanted to text Hannah, but I had nothing to say. What do you say to someone who has just lost their sibling? What can you say other than, "I'm praying for you"? Even that sounded almost empty. What did it mean to pray for her and her family? Wasn't there something more encouraging to say, like God is good... except at that moment I didn't feel it. I had just written the night before about God's goodness and about how He proved it over and over again in the past month, and here I was, not even 24 hours later, doubting that very fact. I texted some people to ask for advice and everyone said the same thing, "Say that you are praying.".

I drove down for my job interview and sat outside of the store for 15 minutes drying my eyes. God's goodness was proved once again in that I got the job within minutes. The manager said I had a good recommendation and that she basically called me in to tell me I was hired. I left with what should have been an outpouring of thanksgiving. Instead I got into the car and questioned God. How can He be good and give me a Summer job when He takes away someone's precious son and brother? Is God good? Does praying to God and telling someone that you are praying for them... does that offer any solace?

Coming home I grabbed my journal and went out into the woods to think and write. I wondered how people could be celebrating God's goodness in giving me a job when I felt as if God's goodness was flaky. I sat down and ended up praying more than writing. I was reminded that praying to God does offer solace. God – the Creator of the universe is listening to my pleas and comforting my heart of confusion. I ended up concluding my journal post with a little passage from Job, "'You give and take away' Why? I don't know. But, 'blessed be Your name!'"

Sunday night I went to church for his funeral. I hugged the family and watched as they closed the casket and said goodbye to the body of their son and brother. I wondered if God was seeing what I was. It was heartbreaking.

As the funeral service began Pastor Cal read a verse and then we sang My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness. I paused when I saw the title of the song. As if anybody's heart at that moment was filled with thankfulness. Isn't this the song to sing after, I don't know, getting a job or something? Not at a funeral! Before we sang Pastor Cal stopped us and said, "You may be wondering why this song? Maybe your heart doesn't feel very thankful. Well, Daniel is experiencing true thanksgiving right now in the presence of God. And we are experiencing thankfulness in seeing God's goodness – just look at the Cross. The cross where Jesus bore our sin to give us life again and fellowship with God. God saved Daniel and Daniel gets to experience the fullness of God's love right now. What a reason for thanksgiving." We sang, and slowly God began to show me His goodness in what could seem the worst situation.

It wasn't until the last verse of In Christ Alone with the church singing in unison, "No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me; from life's first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny. No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand; 'Til He returns or calls me home, here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand!" It was then that I realized again, God is good all the time. God had saved Daniel and called him His. And now Daniel was in Heaven worshipping before the throne of God. So there was no reason to mourn as those who have no hope! Yes, there is time for grieving and that is necessary. But, we do have hope. We can look at the cross and the empty tomb and see hope. The hope of the world took away our sins so that when we breathe our last on earth we can live eternally in God's presence. What a reason for rejoicing!

I had come into the funeral with my heart filled with sorrow. I cried throughout the funeral. But by the end I could not help but praise God for His goodness – for His care and comfort and love poured out on the family. As we left, Megan said, "I feel so full of joy because of Christ's love right now!" And it was true. The funeral didn't leave us despairing the dead and mourning those left behind, it left us rejoicing in God's perfect timing and His care and love for all His creation.

God showed His goodness to me in drastic ways this week. I doubted His goodness, but now I know again that God is a good God. He never breaks His promises and He is faithful. Even to the end. Even when the wrong "seems oft' so strong" God is the Ruler and He works all things together for good to those who love Him.

**If you wouldn't mind remembering the Eame's family in your prayers. It is still hard for them adjusting to life without Daniel, and I know they would appreciate people praying to the Comforter for them.**

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Jehovah Jirah - God Provides

I can say the words, but when it comes to believing them fully, with all my heart, I realize that saying and believing can be different. Drastically. "God will provide." It's simple. It's easy to say. Yet, it is utterly overwhelming.

In two days I will be walking across a stage, shaking Dr. Halvorson's hand, and receiving my diploma from Covenant College. Four years of my life will climax on that day. Except I don't know the rest of the story. I'll be honest, in my dreams of going to college I imagined that I'd graduate knowing exactly who I'd be marrying and where I would work and live. The truth is, I know none of those things. I am as single as single can be, I have applied to several jobs, but have had no leads, and I don't know if I'll have an income this summer, thus I don't have a house and don't know where I'll be living when June rolls around.

Older, wiser people who have a family, a job, and a home, have told me not to worry, that God will provide. And I know God will provide, but it sounded like such a cliché phrase. They could say that because God had provided for them, but I was feeling helpless. I'd gotten more rejection letters than acceptance letters. Discouragement was looming and praying seemed hopeless.

And then I had my last day of student teaching. I walked around the classroom on that last day, helping my kids as usual. They were working on reading journals when one girl called me over. The question for them to answer for their reading was, "What spiritual emphasis is in the passage you read?" I asked her what the passage was and she proceeded to tell me about Morris (a blind man) who trusted his eye-seeing dog to walk him across the busiest street in New York. The dog did it and Morris walked safely across the street without even a scratch. The student asked me what spiritual emphasis I saw in the passage. Faith. Faith is something hoped for, something not seen. Faith is putting your trust in someone, trusting them because they have promised to never leave you nor forsake you. Morris had faith in his eye-seeing dog, just as we should have faith in God. Though we may be blind to the future, God sees it clearly and will lead us through it, strengthening our faith all the while. I was convicted. And I prayed for renewed faith. And God, being ever faithful, has been answering.

Being that this is the last week of college life, many friends are wanting to get together one last time over a meal. I don't have a job, thus no income (except for food funds thanks to loving parents!). I decided I'd be frugal with my money and not spend it on meals. I was fine with it and decided I would go and order water. Last night I went out with a group and just ordered water. The waitress came and had an extra apple juice. She apologized and said we could keep it. I thought it was pretty neat and was thankful for it. This morning, I went to breakfast with the elementary majors for one last hurrah. I ordered a cheap coffee and sat down with them to enjoy it. They were eating muffins and bagels and I'll admit, they looked so good. The waitress brought by a bagel and set it down on the table. Someone finally asked me why I wasn't eating the bagel in front of me. I told them that I hadn't ordered it and we found out that nobody had and it was an accident. But they let us have it for free, so I got breakfast too.

The way God works is astounding. I had prayed for more faith, but my faith in God's provision was wavering. And then God showed me that He provides for something as small as an apple juice or a bagel so that I can join in on the meals with my friends. If this God can provide for something I didn't even ask for, how much more will He provide for my future? For a job, a house, maybe even a family?

Today I was overwhelmed by God's grace and provision. It is only because of Him that I even made it through four years of college. And I know that He who has been faithful will continue to be faithful. I may not know the future, but I do know that in two days when I cross the stage to get my diploma, that I can fully trust that God will provide! He knows what I need and He will bring it to pass. And I pray that I can believe that and that my faith in Him will continue to grow as I walk into the unknown with an all-knowing God. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013


I sat and watched as over three dozen third graders each grabbed the hand of a toddler and began to help them find Easter eggs. The toddlers looked a little overwhelmed at first, but as their third grade helper kept talking to them all nerves melted away. In minutes there was laughter filling the high ceilings of the old gym. These third graders, who minutes before were tickling each other on the floor, were now showing tremendous love and care to their toddler. I walked around and listened as each child was engrossed in a light conversation with their toddler. Yet, no matter how light the subject matter was, each third grader looked as if it was the most important conversation in the world.

Time slipped by and before we knew it it was time to pack up and leave. There were hugs all around. A few of my third grade boys said they felt like they were going to cry. And all of them could not stop talking about how much they loved the toddler they had only known for a short hour.


It's been on my mind a lot the past few weeks. Not the mushy, gushy love, but the sincere sacrificial love. It started a few weeks ago after I had begun my second student teaching placement in third grade. I had said goodbye to my wonderful kindergarteners and started over again in a classroom of third graders. The transition was smooth. Third grade is a night and day difference from kindergarten. There is an air of calmness and sometimes it is almost too quiet. But this was my new placement and I could not wait to get my hands into it and start teaching.

Two weeks passed, and though I enjoyed my classroom immensely something just didn't feel right. During that second week I got to go visit my kindergarteners for a special show their school was putting on that night. As I walked back into the school where I had just learned so much I realized that part of me missed it. I kept walking and found four of my kindergarteners. I called them each by name and said hi. At first they stared at me with blank stares and then one stopped, stared, and said, "Oh. Hi, Ms. Hannah. ... Wait. Ms. Hannah?! MS. HANNAH!" I was immediately pushed back a few steps as I was engulfed in a group hug. It was wonderful. These were kids who I had spent seven weeks with, and though it was rough at points, I was in love with them. I would do anything to help them learn and care for them. And I had missed them.

We left that night and I came home to tell Damarise that I realized what was wrong with me at my new placement. I was out of love. I felt like I had no room left in my heart for any more people. It felt like if I tried to love one more person my heart would burst and I wouldn't have any love left for anyone. Of course this sounded absurd. But that is how I felt.

As I continued to get more involved in my new classroom I began to think more about love. I prayed for love. I prayed for Christ's love. As I prayed for Christ's love I began to think more about His love. The more I thought, the more I was completely blown away.

"For God so loved the world..." I got stopped right there. Here I was feeling like I couldn't love thirteen more kids, and God loves the world! The world with its seven billion inhabitants. He loves them in a real way, not a passing 'love ya' sort of way. He knows the number of hairs on their heads. He knows their thoughts, their longings, their struggles. He knows my hairs, my thoughts, my longings, and my struggles. He knows us better than we know ourselves and yet, "He sent in only begotten Son". And this is where Christ's love renders me speechless.

Why would God, who knows everything about us, who knows how depraved and unworthy our thoughts can be, who knows how manipulating our actions can be, why would He send His Son to this earth, why would He put Him in human flesh?


But God's love went deeper than simply sending His Son to earth. It went deeper when His Son, knowing fully well the wickedness of our hearts, went willingly to the cross to be crucified – not for sins He had committed, but for sins we had committed. He was beaten, mocked, and bruised so that He could give us a gift we did not deserve.

In class on Thursday my teacher was talking about what Easter means to her. As she was talking about Jesus being crucified, one third grader raised her hand. "Why", she asked, "Didn't Jesus just punch them and fight back?" He could have called down legions of angels, and he didn't. He didn't because He loved us. He loved us while we were yet sinners.

He died, crushing death, and taking with Him the sins of the world. Three days later God raised Him from the dead – death was defeated. But the story didn't end there. Now, Jesus sits at the right hand of God and intercedes for us daily. He is our great high priest who knows our every need and forgives our every sin. This is love.

It blows me away. There I was feeling like I could not love and invest in one more person, and yet God has invested and loved me and countless others. God's love truly is amazing. I prayed that His love would fill me and that it would overflow into my classroom. I knew I could not love others on my own, I just wanted my kids to see Christ's love through me.

A few days later, something happened at school. I don't even know what it was. But I left feeling in love with my students and the placement God has me at. I was excited to come back the next day and learn with and from my kids. And I was grateful that God gave me His love, and not just enough to satisfy my needs, but an overflowing amount of love that I can't help but spread to those around me.

Getting to see my kids show love to toddlers yesterday in such tangible ways was exciting. Even eight year olds can share the love of Christ. For God so loved He gave, and He continues to give. He continues to fill our lives with His love so that we can go love others. It's incredible.

The love of God is incredible.

"Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
 And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky."
-The Love of God

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Four Weeks

To sum up the first four weeks of Student Teaching would be impossible. Too much has happened that to write it all down would take time I do not have. These past four weeks have been eye-opening, funny, comfort zone pushing, humbling, exhausting, tough, encouraging, overwhelming, and exhilarating, to name a few.

Stepping into a kindergarten classroom was a major jump for me. Having been in 5th grade for most of last semester, kindergarten was like culture shock. I went from having independent ten year olds to having five year olds needing their coats zipped and shoes tied. I also found myself repeating the same thing over, and over, and over, and over again. I learned (and fortunately not the hard way) that when a kindergartener asks to go to the bathroom, no matter what they get to go to the bathroom! There is no need to chance it.

I am in a classroom with twenty-one kindergarteners. Some have showered me in love and kind compliments others have tried my patience like never before. But all have been a blessing from God and I have learned so much from each one of them.

I have gotten to dabble in my artistic side (which for those who are wondering, it is very shallow!). The students are making desert animals and I am their assistant to help make their animals look like animals. The first two students I assisted were making snakes out of clay. Clay snakes are probably the easiest animal to make. Just roll it 'til it is the size and width you want and viola a snake! After helping with two of those, I'll admit it, I felt like an animal making pro. But alas, pride comes before the fall. And the fall came fast. The next student I helped was making a scorpion out of clay. Oh, that scorpion. I soon realized that my animal making abilities were indeed not much and the scorpion could use the help of the imagination when looking at it. However, regardless of how I think they look, the students always love them and show them off to each other, and that is worth it!

I have also had my share of trying times. My worry of student teaching quickly dissipated within the first week. My co-operating teacher made me feel right at home and is one of the friendliest people ever. I felt like I learned more from watching her teach for a full week than I ever thought possible. I was blown away by it all! However, after the first week I was more tired than I'd ever been in my life. Who knew that spending eight hours a day with twenty-one kindergarteners could be so energy draining? The next week I could not keep my eyes open past 8:15. I tried, but every night I found myself fast asleep long before 9pm.

Tiredness has not been the only struggle. There have been struggles with how to help and encourage certain students. There have been struggles with how to respond to students who won't listen. And these are the struggles that I did not expect. It has been wearying. And I have realized that all I can really do is pray. I remember one of my professors telling us once that the most important thing we can do for our students and also for our sanity is to pray for our students every day. I had forgotten that going in to student teaching, but a few weeks into it when I was at my wits end with a student I realized I had not been praying at all for that student. Oh, I'd been praying for me, but never for them. So, I began to bring them all before God every morning before I went to school. It has been so helpful for me. And God has given me patience like I never thought possible.

Student teaching has made me burst with joy at the thought of becoming a teacher, and cower in a flood of tears over the thought of becoming a teacher. Whoever thinks teaching is easy, let me just say it, it's not that easy. There are so many factors that I never thought of before being in student teaching and my respect for teachers has grown immensely.

Today I am almost to the half way point of this first student teaching placement. If you had asked me how student teaching was going about a week ago, I would have said, "Well.... it's okay. Kindergarten is cool, but I don't think I'd want to end up teaching in it..." Ask me that question today, and I'd tell you that kindergarten has grown on me. Sure, I still want to teach upper elementary grades, but I love my kids I have now and God has blessed me tremendously through each one of them. I am thankful that He placed me where He has. It has been an exciting journey! 

Friday, January 04, 2013

He is Able

My stomach has permanent knots.
I cry because I feel so anxious.
How is that I can trust when things are all right?
But fail to call on Him when my world is crumbling.
I feel as if by now I can do it!
I have learned.
I have practiced.
I have gone.
And yet, I cannot do anything.
I lie here and tremble.
I quake at the future.
I shutter at the thought of unknowns.
The One who knows, He is the one I need.
I need Him.
On my own I am frail, weak, and scared.
Confidence I lack.
Fear I carry in abundance.
I have studied three and a half years,
Sat in classrooms,
Read books,
Watched and learned,
All in preparation for this –
This upcoming unknown,
This future leap out of my comfort zone,
This that causes me to worry.
But the hours of study,
The numerous pages read,
The perfect examples before me,
These mean nothing if I don't have Him.
He is the One I need.
He is the One who can calm my troubled heart.
He is the One who knows my future.
He is the One who gives me the strength I need.
He is the One who gives me the ability to do what I thought impossible.
He is the One who I want others to see.
Not me,
Never me.
If I go in wanting to be known,
Wanting to be seen,
Wanting to be remembered,
Where will that leave me?
I call to the Lord,
To the One who helps the weary.
I call to the Lord,
To the One who will carry me through.
I call to the Lord,
Because without Him I am nothing!
Without Him I am frail, weak, and scared.
To Him I call as I look to the future.
Peace, strength, and humility I ask for.
Peace in the midst of unknowns.
Strength in stepping out of all comfort.
Humility in knowing it is not me but Him.
This is my prayer.
This is my plea.
This is what I ask regarding student teaching. 

Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking Back on 2012

2012 has come to an end.

Looking back throughout the year, I could easily claim this year as being one in which I have grown up the most. It has been a year of struggles, joys, and ultimately trusting God through it all.

Picking a few things to highlight is tough, but here is a quick overview of my 2012 and God's faithfulness in it all.

1. The classes I have had this year. These classes were fabulous. In the Spring I got to write my own children's book for a class (Which was a blast, and if you ever want me to read you my story I definitely will!). I was also in Developmental Psychology. In this class I got to write my autobiography. It was fun to write. It was also neat to see all that God has done in my life. The Fall semester classes were good too. It was named fall block due to the classes being in blocks and being switched up mid semester. It involved 9 education classes. I loved them! It was wonderful having in depth classes on each subject that I will be teaching one day. 

2. Health. There are some things that I don't realize I take for granted until I don't have them – health being one of them. Coming back from Zambia at the beginning of the year I was feverish and weak for about two weeks. I got malaria medication which helped for a bit, but then I got sick again. Another round of malaria medication did the trick and I was semi back to normal. Except for the headaches. I have had headaches for a while, but suddenly I was having intense headaches and a few migraines. I'm thankful for the friends who have prayed with me and for me about my headaches. They come and go still, but for a few months at the beginning of the year it was rough. I am thankful for the days that I feel healthy and normal! 

3. Watching Damarise run her first 5K! It was exciting to watch Damarise complete her first 5K! She had been practicing for a loooong time and finally ran it! She got second in her age group, and I couldn't have been more proud! She also inspired me to get into running. I am no where near as good or as fast or as graceful as her, but I do enjoy doing it.

4. Spring Break 2012. By far the best school break (outside of the long breaks) that I have had. Damarise, Davey, Micah, Janessa, and I spent Spring Break in Missouri. We've all been friends since freshman year and it was great to take a week break and spend time together. We had a blast talking, singing, and hanging out with each other without having classes or work to go to. 

5. Graduation. Usually watching my friends graduate is a little bittersweet, but always exciting knowing that they're off into the real world. This graduation was more intimidating than anything else. This year's graduation bid farewell to the seniors... leaving me as a senior! It was a bit nerve racking to realize that next year it'd be me and my friends walking across the stage and being handed our diplomas.

6. Tomato plants. Those tomato plants were one of the neatest things to grow and showed me how, in the end, I cannot bring life to anything. I can nurture and help, but ultimately God is in control of even the tiniest thing as a tomato plant. Having Him make the dying plant produce tomatoes (that were scrumptious too!) was such an encouragement to me especially at the exact time when He did it. I realized that if He cares enough for a plant, how much more does He care for me and have my life under control! It was (and still is) a great reminder for the year.

7. B.E.S.T. This summer Damarise and I worked on B.E.S.T once again. We were placed in a house with 6 other girls and loved it. We made wonderful friendships with many people and have continued to be blessed by having them in our lives. It was a tedious summer, but also a good summer of being thankful for those who do labour for others through cleaning. 

8. Licensed. It was a long time coming, but it happened! I finally got my license. I was ecstatic when I was told I had passed my driver's test and could not have been more thankful. Without a wonderful sister (Damarise) and two amazing friends (Davey and Micah), who risked their lives every time they took me out on the real road to practice driving, I would never have gotten my license. I am immensely blessed to have friends who encouraged me, challenged me (I was freaked out about driving around other cars...) and helped me get it and I definitely thank God for them and for His protection while I've been driving. 

9. Home. Damarise and I settled down in our first home this year. God graciously blessed us with the perfect sized house. It is a one bedroom, one bathroom house with the perfect sized living room and kitchen. It was everything we could have hoped for in a house. We also have wonderful landlords. And  living on our own... it's spectacular. We love having people over, getting to cook and bake, and having a place to call our own. 

10. Practicum. This was a major part of my Fall semester. Two days a week I was in a classroom getting hands-on experience for teaching. It was a growing experience. I experienced more nervousness throughout those practicums than I ever thought possible. I taught two lessons. And I fell in love with being in a school environment and getting to know my cooperating teachers and students. It took me so far outside of my comfort zone, but in a very good and needed way. I am thankful for the way God orchestrated my placements and the classes I was put in. It was an experience I will never forget. 

11. Friendships. I have already mentioned friends in several of these highlights already, but I think it's necessary to mention them in a category of their own. I am blessed. And that has been made overwhelmingly clear to me throughout the year. The friendships God has given me have been so good. Over the summer I went out to dinner with my friend who I have known the longest, Victoria. Talking with her was one of the most encouraging parts of my summer. We have known each other basically our whole lives. We haven't seen each other for a lot of those years, but our friendship has stayed strong. Whenever we get together we start right back from where we left off. Getting to share with each other what God had and was doing in our lives was so exciting. It made me so thankful for her friendship.
I am also thankful for the friends that God has given me at Covenant. I truly am blessed. My friends have encouraged me, prayed for me, laughed with me, cried with me, talked about Christ with me, taught me, and blessed me in more ways than they could ever know. Sometimes I wonder how we even ended up being friends, and I don't know. But what I do know, is that I am thankful to God that He placed them all in my life because I am thankful for each and every one of them. 

12. Travel. This year involved some big trips to Zambia, California, Atlanta, London, and Missouri. I traveled to all of the places with Damarise, who I think is one of the most fun travel partners. We got to go out to California for Thanksgiving (thanks to Grandma). It was fun to see a bit of L.A. and see extended family who I haven't seen in three years. It has also been great to be back in Zambia again and hang out with the family. I have missed them and it is nice to relax and spend time with them. 

All in all, 2012 has been a good year. Looking back I can see how God's hand has been involved in every aspect of it. It has been a year of struggles and joys, but through it all God has sustained me and shown me that He is my strength and ultimate joy. This year has been a year of learning more of Christ, seeing more of His hand at work, and trusting in His will. I can't wait to see what He will do in 2013!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Traveling Adventures

Traveling to Africa is an adventure.

Damarise and I learned that last year when we realized it really is a small world after all. We met two new friends because we both had a mutual friend. These new friends helped keep Damarise and me sane during the last 6 hours of our flight to Lusaka. It was great!

This year we weren't sure what adventure we would have. We got to the airport 4 hours before our flight took off. We wandered around, people watched, and read. As we were watching people around us we noticed one girl stuffing her bag with American candy. Not many people travel with candy crammed into every available space in their bag unless they are bringing it to someone who is missing the US. So, I asked her if she was going on a missions trip or visiting someone overseas. 

Turns out she was a missionary kid going to visit her family overseas. She was a freshman at a Christian college close to Covenant. We found out we had the same length layover in London and she asked if we would want to see a bit of the city with her instead of waiting in the London airport. How could we say no?

We flew to London and it was a lovely flight. British Airways treats their passengers very well. I don't think I'd ever been called "madam" before this flight. It was great. 

When we got to London it was rainy and chilly. But we decided to try to see a little bit of England anyways. We took a bus to London and got to see some of the city through the bus windows. It was nice to kill time doing that. 

When we got back to the airport we said goodbye to our newfound friend and waited for the next leg of our flight. While waiting to board the plane, Damarise and I were talking about what we would want to see in London. Damarise mentioned that it would be cool to see a famous person, and we both laughed.  Seeing a famous person would be great, but so unlikely. 

And then we went to board our plane. We were waiting in the line when Damarise stopped me and semi-whispered, "Hey! Isn't that Emma Watson?!" I looked and definitely thought it looked like her, but it couldn't be. Why would Emma Watson be flying to Zambia? I told Damarise it was just someone who looked like her, until the boarding agent read her passport and wished a "Ms. Emma Watson" a happy journey. Damarise and I freaked out. We've never seen a famous person! We wanted to get her autograph, or at least a picture with her. But, she sat in first class and got off the plane so fast when we landed. 

We got off the plane too and got ready for the next adventure. I like to call this adventure the "did-all-our-luggage-make-it adventure. It really is quite the adventure. We wait, and wait, and wait, and pray that our luggage made it. 

Last time we lost one piece, but got it back in a few days. This time all of our luggage made it! We were very thankful. 

When we came out of the airport we were greeted with huge hugs from Mom and Dad. We got home to see the rest of our siblings (who are now all taller than we are). It was and is wonderful to be back with them. I love my family!

This traveling adventure was wonderful! Thank you to everyone who prayed for our travels. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012


This week I turned twenty-one.

Since being in college, my birthday has always landed on either a reading day or, as was the case this year, a finals day. People are always scurrying around trying to clean, pack, and cram in last minute studying all at the same time. It's hectic and no one has time to celebrate a birthday.

But, this year Damarise wanted me to have a good birthday celebration before I graduated from college. She invited some of my closest friends to come and celebrate my birthday. The Saturday of reading days several of my friends piled into our living room where we played games, ate cake, and laughed. It was wonderful!

I felt so loved. And I realized (again) just how overly blessed I am in the friends God has given me. They are all encouraging, fun, and so godly. I truly am blessed.

I am also blessed with one incredible sister, Damarise! She is just great. She organized and invited everyone to the party and had them all bring a gift that reminded them of me. I got some of the best things!

It was one of the best birthdays ever! And I am so thankful for everyone who made it so special.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


I'll just say it point blank – goodbyes hurts.

I love people, I really do. I love talking with people and learning about their lives. I love the uniqueness that each person has. I love the laughter that comes from conversation. I love the little things about people that make them who they are – whether that be mannerisms, interests, or attitudes – everyone has something that makes them different. And figuring that out is wonderful.

Nine weeks ago, I was welcomed into a 5th grade classroom. There were 23 (soon to be 25) fifth grade faces staring at me as I tried to act confident. I was shaking like a leaf as I wondered how I would ever fit in or learn all their names!

As the weeks wore on, I fell in love. I fell in love with waking up at 5:45am every Tuesday and Thursday and going into that 5th grade classroom to see my wonderful kids. I loved that as the weeks wore on I no longer felt like a newcomer, but I felt like part of their community. I loved learning their names. I loved sitting with them at lunch and learning more about who they were.

When Thursday came last week, I knew that I would only have one more day left with my 5th graders. I tried not to think about it, but as I was stopped coming out of the lunchroom by several of my kids telling me funny stories or chatting about what was happening in their family, I knew it would be hard to leave them.

This morning I got up and cherished every moment I was in school with them. Around 9:30, my teacher told the class that we were having a goodbye party for me - Ms. Turnbull. I gave them all gifts, and I got so many hugs. I held back the tears, but just barely.

I don't know if these 5th graders will ever know how much they meant to me. I hope they know that I will treasure them and the gifts they gave me. One boy gave me a drawing that he had made. He is an amazing artist and I told him I would treasure it. I also told him that when he becomes a world-renown artist to let me know because I want to buy some of his artwork. Another boy has, since the first day I met him, carried around a self-made origami star. I've watched him play with it while listening to lessons. I've seen him pull it out to look at and touch no matter how dirty his hands are. And I've watched him, on more than one occasion, gnaw on it while concentrating. And today when he took it out and wrote "bye-bye" on it and handed it to me, I just about cried. That was something so close to him and he gave it to me. No matter how nasty that star may look to others, I will treasure that little star forever.

I had one boy tell me at lunch that when he grows up he will be a spaghetti chef. I told him I loved spaghetti and he told me that when he has his restaurant he will let me eat there for free whenever I want. (I told him that I would take him up on that offer!) I had several girls hugging me at the end of the day. They wouldn't let go and told me that they would hold on to me so that I would come back. One girl kept asking why I had to leave and why I couldn't stay. And I couldn't answer because I knew that if I started to, I would probably just cry.

I said goodbye to my fifth graders. I hugged my teacher, who has been an incredible role model for me, and I left. I walked away from my 25 fifth graders and wonderful cooperating teacher, and yes, I teared up.

It's hard to say goodbye. It's hard to say goodbye to people who I know and love. I know the students who need extra help reading. I know the one girl who thinks it's hilarious to call me Ms. Her. I know that one student loves Alabama like nothing else. (I watched the Alabama vs. Georgia game on Saturday just so that I would know what he would tell me on Tuesday.) I know the students who will tell me all about their weekend. I know the student who wants to talk about his family. I know the student who understands sarcasm and will make me laugh. I know the students who love to be called on, but are too shy to raise their hands. I know these students and I love them all.

Leaving today was hard. Goodbyes are hard.

I'm thankful for the blessing this school and this class has been to me. I have learned so much from each student and especially from my cooperating teacher. I'm thankful that God let me be with this class. And even though goodbyes are hard, I'm thankful that God brings new people into my life that I can meet and love.

This experience has been wonderful and the sadness of goodbyes will never match the joy that I have had while being with the fifth grade. I can only thank God for all that He has blessed me with through this placement in fifth grade. 

Saturday, December 01, 2012

A Month of Thanksgiving: Ooops, it's December!

I don't think I have known the meaning of busy until this week. This week and the coming week are busy to the fullest meaning of the word – papers due, projects to complete, lessons given, tutoring, unit planning, meetings, and wrapping everything up for Christmas break. The busyness has also been filled with good things – catching up with friends, going to a concert with a friend, being back with my fifth graders at school, and have good conversations with different people.

But, all that to say, I am sorry for not completing the month of Thanksgiving posts. I had high hopes for doing it everyday this year, but I didn't realize that the Month of Thanksgiving was also Month of Busy!

However, I wanted to wrap up with one last post for the Month of Thanksgiving. And post some pictures of what I am thankful for.

I'm thankful for extended family! It was wonderful to see them over Thanksgiving. 

I'm thankful for Faith and Sonya and their friendship. I eat lunch with them every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and I am so blessed by them. They are encouraging, funny, and thoughtful. I am so thankful that God placed us in the same house this summer and that we are still good friends! 

Last night was the senior social. I am thankful that I am a senior. I am thankful for this wonderful college that God has provided for both me and Damarise to go to. I am thankful for getting to socialize last night. I haven't gotten to hang out with so many friends in a long time and it was wonderful! And I am so thankful for Janessa and Bethany! The four of us have been close friends since freshmen year and we have stayed friends throughout. I love them!

I am thankful for my Elementary Education family! They really have become family to me. I feel comfortable around them. We laugh together, share stories, tell our hopes and fears for student teaching. These are girls who I trust and love and I am so thankful for them in my life! I could not have imagined this semester without any of them. They each add something to the class and I just love them all!
(We were missing four in the picture... but I love the ones who are missing too!!) 

It's December, but that doesn't mean that thankfulness needs to stop. It's been good to reflect on each day and realize all that God has blessed me with. ... Hopefully I'll post again soon, but we'll see how bust life gets. Until then...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Month of Thanksgiving: Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day! And what a day – a day full of food, family, and thinking about what I am thankful for. Today I am thankful for the amazing Thanksgiving feast that my cousins, Grandma, and Aunts prepared. I am thankful for Skyping the family. I am thankful for rest, laughter, and a fun time together.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Month of Thanksgiving: Days 19, 20, & 21

Again, I'm falling behind, so without further ado – days 19, 20, and 21.

I am thankful for rest. It has been a busy few days, but sometimes being busy with things other than school feels relieving.

I'm thankful for the break and the chance to get away from home. I'm thankful that for the first time in my life, I actually miss home. Usually, I'd miss certain things or people from places I'd lived, but never specifically the place. For some reason, I feel a little homesick for Chattanooga, and I like it. It makes Chattanooga feel more like home than any place ever has before. I miss the people, things, and place, and it makes me so much more thankful for Chattanooga.

I'm thankful for seeing most of Dad's side of the family today! I love family and reunions. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving day and I cannot wait! Food and family! So much to be thankful for! 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 18

Today I'm thankful for my Aunt Janice who is wonderful! Also I'm thankful for seeing some of Pasadena tonight – the city where I spent the first two years of my life. Today was a great beginning to Thanksgiving break.


Last Friday the sun was shining, the weekend had come, and I was catching up with friends (Micah, Jimmy, and Megan) on the lawn.

While we were chatting a news reporter came up and asked if she could take a picture of us and have us say something about our college's new president. Jimmy was our spokesperson, and we all got our picture in the news. It's an online newspaper, but still it's the news! I've never been in a newspaper before so it was exciting. As soon as the reporter left some of us freaked out that we were going to be "famous". ...Well, we're not famous, but we are in a news article!

You can click here to read the article

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Month of Thanksgiving: Days 14,15,16, & 17

I was hoping that I'd post every day in November, but alas I forgot just how busy life is. That being said, here's a catch up post for days 14-17 of things I am thankful for.

I'm thankful for my kids in fifth grade. They brighten up my week!
I'm thankful for my cooperating teacher and the parapro in the classroom who high-fived me when I told them I was skipping a day of my classes. They told me I deserved a break. ( :) )
I'm thankful for feedback on my lesson from Dr. Pennington. All of the comments and suggestions were so helpful and needed.
I'm thankful for Bethany and Anna. Working out with them after class is usually full of laughter and good talks.
I'm thankful for Janessa and her testimony of God's never failing faithfulness... and her wisdom!
I'm thankful for submitting my SIP (Senior Integration Paper) and having that done and out of the way!
I'm thankful for good conversations with friends!
I'm thankful for chess and Micah's willingness to play it with me... even when one game took almost 3 hours.
I'm thankful for Davey's Happy Monday texts... every day this week. Haha, it had me laughing!
I'm thankful for Faith, Sonya, and Damarise and the coffee date we had on Friday afternoon. Laughter and great conversation and then dinner at home with them filled with more laughter.
I'm thankful for Thanksgiving break and Grandma's generosity in flying Damarise and me to California to spend it with family.
I'm thankful for extended family and the chance to be here with them.

This week was busy... so busy! But also filled with many things to be thankful for!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 13

Today I'm thankful for warmth and coziness.

Warmth from the heat in our house this morning, the piping hot coffee I drank on my way to school, and Ginny's seat warmers that kept me warm on the drive down.

Coziness from snuggling under a blanket and Skyping with Mom and Dad, studying at Starbucks while drinking a hot chocolate Christmas drink, eating Janessa's amazing soup, and coming home to listen to Sufjan's new Christmas album while snuggling under a blanket to do homework.

I'm thankful!

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 12

Today I am thankful for Mondays.

I love Mondays – I really do. I love that we are given Saturday to work and rest. Then we have Sunday to be spiritually nourished and rest more, so that by the time Monday rolls around we are rested and ready to go. I just love it! I look forward to Mondays.

Today was a rainy, windy, and cold Monday, but it was grand. I saw many friends, had phenomenal classes, worked out with friends, and now am snuggled up in a blanket at home writing papers. Today was a great Monday and I am thankful!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Month of Thanksgiving: Days 9,10, & 11

(sorry for the delay... I wasn't around my laptop this weekend. So here is a catch up from the days I missed).

Day 9:

I was thankful for friends. The Emis' from Arkansas came out of there way to visit Damarise and me. They took us out to dinner and it was wonderful to catch up with them and see some familiar faces from our first home!

Day 10:

I was thankful for weekends and God's perfect timing. I had a fever and headache for most of the day, but was so thankful that it hit me on the weekend! Definitely would not want to have missed school! I got a lot of work done while resting too which was a blessing.

Day 11:

I was thankful for church, small group after church, dinner with friends, and coffee date with Janessa. I could not have asked for a better way to spend my Sunday. 

Thursday, November 08, 2012

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 8

Today I'm thankful that I can drive.

Thursdays I tutor off the mountain and today was a gorgeous day for that drive. The sun was shining, lighting up the trees making them look as if they were bursting into colourful flame. Music was playing and the heat was warming my numb toes. It was perfect.

I'm thankful that I can drive. I'm thankful for the friends who taught me how to drive. I'm thankful for God's beautiful scenery that He has placed everywhere. And I'm thankful for Thursday afternoon drives down the mountain. 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 7

Today I am thankful for my classmates.

I'll be honest, when I began this semester it was rough to be in the same classroom with the same 15 classmates every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for eight hours straight. I missed having different classes in different classrooms with different classmates. I missed having males in my class (yes, my class is all girls). I grew a bit discontent.

But, as the months wore on, I began to love every aspect of it. I loved having 15 classmates to confide in. We all knew the stress that was happening in our lives. We felt comfortable around each other. We could laugh, joke, and cry with each other and it was alright.

Today I was reminded of how much I love these girls. After class today I went to the gym with two of them to work out and we talked the entire time about life and about how thankful we are for everyone in our class. They have become family and I love sitting in class with them three days a week and hearing what is happening in their lives. God has blessed me to be in class with these girls and I am so thankful!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 6

Oh boy! Today was quite an exciting day and a day chocked full of thanksgiving.

It began by waking up to the rain pattering down on the roof. Waking up to rain is soothing. But despite the soothing rain, my stomach was in a mess of knots. Today was my day to teach a lesson in my fifth grade classroom and be observed by my professor. My professor is so nice, my cooperating teacher is very sweet, and my students are very respectful – but even with this knowledge I was a nervous wreck.

I got to school and watched as the clock ticked closer and closer to 9:00am. Before I knew it, Dr. Pennington was in my classroom and I was up front. Things got underway and, all in all, I think it went well. I still have so much to learn! But it was not as nerve racking as I thought it would be. I was very relieved and encouraged after talking with Dr. Pennington. She gave me good advice and great insight.

Today I am thankful that I have the privilege to be in the school where I am and to be able to teach a lesson and get wonderful feedback.

When I got back home I went out and voted! Because I was too young to vote in the last presidential election, this is my first time voting. I am a registered Georgia voter now, so I went to the nearest poll and placed my vote. I felt grown-up and responsible. I expected there to be gobs of people lined up waiting to vote. Instead it was a near empty shack that was dead silent. I placed my vote and semi-expected a crowd to come out and cheer me on. Instead, I was handed a sticker and wished a happy day. Regardless of the lack of enthusiasm within the voting arena, it was still an exciting time.

Today I'm thankful for the freedom that we have in our country. I know a lot of countries don't have the freedom to vote. I'm thankful that we can have a voice in our country. And I'm thankful that God is sovereign and that no matter who becomes our next president, God is still in control. 

Monday, November 05, 2012

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 5

Today I am thankful that we can praise God.

It hit me in chapel today as we were singing and praising God, how wonderful it is to do that with fellow students. As we broke into small groups to pray about missions we began to talk about the ways God has provided in our lives. Hearing testimonies of how God is working in someone's life is a tremendous encouragement. Hearing the ways God uses His body of believers to provide and encourage others is incredible! Today I am thankful for my friends that God has blessed me with and that we can sit and chat about all that God is doing in our lives. He truly is amazing, and I am so thankful that we can praise Him!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 4

Today I am thankful for daylights saving time. Sleeping in an extra hour was so very needed and so very appreciated.

I am also thankful for church. I love our church. Every Sunday, Pastor Cal delivers such a powerful message from the Word and I always leave feeling encouraged, convicted, and so in awe of who God is! Today was also communion and it was wonderful. We also had a fellowship dinner after church. I love meeting new people and the church has made us feel right at home.

I am thankful for Skype and the technology that let's us talk to the family in Zambia! It was great Skyping with them and catching up on their lives.

Lastly, today I buried my tomato plants. They were beyond dead (and very sad looking). So I put them to rest, but not before collecting at least a dozen beautiful tomatoes that are currently ripening. I am SO thankful for this plant! I'm thankful for Micah for getting it for me! And for his Grandma's knowledge on how to take care of it. It has definitely been my favourite plant that I've had. And God used it to teach me quite a bit about His power over creation. I'm thankful for it and for the tomatoes it produced!