Saturday, September 07, 2013

Perfect Love

Life is scary.  It's a fact.  From one day to the next, we are surrounded by the unknown.  We are made aware of our insufficiency.  We face challenges.  Not all fears are rational.  I have a few that make no sense at all.  Statues, octopus, and falling from heights are the top three.  I cannot explain them.  There are others too - fears that go deeper, that have taken root, that make sense.  Fears - we all have them.

Over the summer, I was looking at photos with my mom and she pointed out that for someone who has a fear of statues, I sure do take a lot of pictures of them.  In response, I found myself sharing what I think the past few years have taught me more than anything else.  I told her that just because something scares me, I'm not going to let it run my life.  I take photos of statues and go where they are.  When diving, my instructor pointed to my right and just an arm's length from my face was an octopus.  This summer I had to climb the most rickety sets of metal stairs with an arm rail the size of a baton to get to the top of a bell tower.  It was terrifying but the view was amazing!

While these are fears that have tended to hang around, sometimes it just hits.  This summer as I repacked my bag to go to Croatia, I was blindsided by fear.  I called Erin in tears just hours before my ride to the airport arrived.  Peace did not come until well after I arrived.  To this day I don't know where it came from or why I was afraid.  Yet, there it was - real and almost crippling.  Because of it, I very nearly missed a much needed vacation.

Any time I have done something that scares me, I have been thankful.  I have wondered at artistic talent I don't possess.  I have been awed at the beauty of creation.  Asking myself why I was afraid to live overseas landed me in Egypt two months later.  I've learned that stepping out to face the thing I fear most has often been the most rewarding.  It's where God has shown up in small joys and in great peace.   Whether it be in phobias, life changes, or relationships, every experience we have is a gift from God.  This I have found to be true:

Perfect love drives out fear.

John knew it was true.  He was speaking of God's love and what that looks like when he loves other through us.  I think its true of fear itself too.  What are we afraid of doing?  What are we afraid of saying?  How are we afraid of putting ourselves out there?  Why fear?  When we are filled with the love of God, facing those things we fear the most becomes small.  His perfect love makes us confident and whole.  It helps us face what we fear the most and see beyond it to the beauty.  It's not easy but it's worth it - every single time.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Egypt, Year Two

In a couple of days, I jump on a plane and officially say farewell to my second year in Egypt.  As much as I enjoyed year one, year two held many things that I learned and people I am going to be forever thankful for.

This year I learned that even though we live in a third world country, so many of our problems are first world problems – can’t load my TV show, I only have large bills to pay with, etc.  Such little problems – until they aren’t.  I have learned there are things that I will never again take for granted.  Things like consistent electricity, access to internet, drinking water you don’t have to question, being able to get money out of the bank, and availability of gasoline for your car.  It’s amazing how just these five things make such a huge difference.  It’s also amazing how you learn to live within the craziness of not having them.

I’ve learned the importance of having a comfortable, relaxing home.  I’ve been blessed to live in some nice places here in Egypt but we found an amazing one in March.  The moment we walked it, I knew it was the place.  It’s been a place of rest and laughter.  I’m so thankful for these walls.

Most importantly, I’m so thankful for the people that I shared life with.  I’m thankful for Jeff and Cathy who adopted us and made us feel like family. 

I’m thankful for #twitclub.  I’m thankful for Kris who can make me laugh like very few can and has seen the good, the bad, and the crazy in me yet still tolerates me.  I’m thankful for Maia who is my entertainment soul mate and one of the most real people I know.  I’m thankful for Tim whose sense of humor makes every moment enjoyable.  I’m thankful for GJ who carries laughter with him and opened my eyes to the neon around me.  I’m thankful for Abby who is so loyal and kind but most importantly, taught me the correct way to eat M&Ms. Each of these friends was a source of joy and a breath of fresh air as needed.  I could write an entire blog post on each of them individually.  Thankful is not a big enough word for the way I feel about them.

Most of all, in year two of Egypt, I am thankful for Sarah.  After saying goodbye to some very dear friends last year, I was unsure of what this year would hold.  Sarah has been the friend who I’ve laughed and cried with, done couch time with, and talked to every day.  She’s been able to sympathize with me and tell me when I need to settle down (in the loving way like only she can).  God knew what this year would hold and knew Sarah would be the friend that I needed through it.  

Thank you, year two, for reminding me that its the little things that make life good - silly games, inside jokes, dinners on Friday nights, and people you can do nothing with and plan adventures with.  You've been great!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Year 10 in the Books!

This week I put my 10th group of students on the buses for the last time.  10 years.  

300-ish students. 
4 schools.
5 grade levels.
2 countries.

Extreme thanks.

In some ways, year 10 was like the previous 9.  Sweet children that could make me laugh one minute and crazy the next.  Such great personalities that make their frustrating moments just melt away with a simple look or hug.  Personalities that even when they were making you mad, you had to turn away so they wouldn't see you smile or laugh at the cuteness of them.  Children you could scoop up and hug, cuddle on your lap, or just dance/flip/spin around.  Just as the years before, there were the one or two that were so unique, its easy to impersonate them.  I wish I could show them to you but I still have too much public school teacher in me to put their photos online.  Take my word for it, they're cute.  And sweet.  I'll miss them.

As much as every year is about the kids, for me, this year was extremely different in one regard.  This year was more defined by the adults.  Despite being team leader in the past and working with teachers in various positions, this year was a whole new experience.  It stretched me farther than I've been stretched before in every way possible.  There were days I wanted to walk into the office and quit this part of my job.  There were days that I really could not have been more proud.  I think my favorite aspect of team leader was working with one particular teacher.  She came in last year as a first year teacher with no training.  This year, I got a front row seat to watch her become one of our strongest teachers.  She outshined me on so many days and I'm so honored I got to witness it.  She is the reason why I'm pursuing the master's program I have chosen.

And can I take a moment to brag on these two women?

These are the faces of my sanity this year - Tessa and Marian. They laughed with me, advised me, dried tears, and listened.  They watched every moment of the year and stood by me every step of the way.  Whether it was a funny moment with our kids, getting stuff done, laughing, or just helping me remember what I was supposed to do next, they were my rock and my friends.  I don't have a work picture with Angie and Randee but these girls joined us for lunch each day and were a much needed break.  They were a breath of fresh air every single day.  These four women made my work days possible.

A few years ago I went through a phase in which I prayed that teaching would be a ten year career for me.  In August I start year eleven.  It will be in a new grade level with a new team and new administration.  I am so excited!  There are things I will miss about Early Childhood and kindergarten but I can't wait for the year ahead.  Well, I can wait about two months......

Friday, February 08, 2013

Sticking up for the Guys

I am a 33 year old single woman. Just to clarify - when I say single, I mean s..i.n.g.l.e.  I won't tell you how long it's been since I've been asked on a date because I would like to save just a hair of dignity.  As this is the case, I've been privy to a subculture that is unlike any I've ever experienced before: the singles Christian group.  This is a unique group on which I fully believe studies should be done.  I've been in groups of five and in groups of 5,000.  I'm not exaggerating either extreme.  Even more unique is one subset of this group - single Christian women.  Ladies, with all of the love I can muster, this one is for you.  Actually, this one is for us.

I know it's hard to be single.  I know it's frustrating to look around and see our single friends have her heart broken or to see a guy not follow through.  I know what it is to have both of those happen.  I know it feels good to vent.  I know it feels easier to talk about the men around us not stepping up.  I've heard it all - Single Christian men are not fulfilling their calling as leaders.  They lead us on.  They are afraid or weak.  I've heard this in frustration, heartache, anger, and bitterness.  This is only the tip of what I've heard.  I've heard this come from the quietest girl to the most bold.  I've even been known to partake in this conversation.

However over the past year, I find myself asking - What are we saying about the men in our lives?  More importantly, what are they hearing from us?

The more I hear this conversation take place, I can't help but think about how we are sounding to men.  I don't know one man that has heard this conversation and been inspired towards change.  I don't know one man that has been drawn to a woman because of these words.  I haven't spoken to one man who has felt encouraged or respected by this discourse.

I understand, ladies.  I truly do.  However, I think we need to stop and examine ourselves.  We need to  be women that speak highly of the men around us - when they are present and when they are not.  We need to show them respect with our words.  They are our friends and brothers.  We need to be women that these men would be proud to have in their lives - as friends and sisters.  Let's be for our men, not against them.  I'm not saying that we don't feel those frustrations or that we bury our feelings but that we show honor to the men around us with our words.  I think that the words we speak about the men around us says more about us than it does about them.

At the end of the day, let's be women that inspire, encourage, and build up.  Let's be women that speak words seasoned with salt.  Let's be loving women.  We can do it, ladies - for them and for us.

Friday, January 11, 2013


Last night at church, this was read and it hit pretty close to home for me.  It is by Rainer Maria Rilke and goes:

"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart, try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue.  Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."

Right now I have a lot of questions - mostly about the future (both immediate and further down the road).  It makes me anxious and comforted at the same time.  Life's unpredictability has taught me that planning beyond tomorrow is pointless because things more often than not do not go the way you thought they would.  I've also learned that in the twists and turns of life, things turn out fine.  Actually, they turn out better than you thought they would.  It makes me afraid to throw out the playbook and itching to do it all at the same time.

So I am with my questions.  We sit together, work together, play together, hope together, and do life together.  I'm more okay with them tonight than I was last night.  I look forward to liking them, loving them, and then looking back to see that they have grown into answers without my ever knowing it.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

One Word

Just over a year ago, I heard about a group of people who choose a theme word of the year.  Some chose a word as a challenge and others for inspiration.  It is a word that describes the year to come.  I thought it sounded like a good idea and jumped on the bandwagon.  For 2012, I chose the word hope.  It was a not quite the year that I anticipated when the word was chosen.  For me, 2012 held a ton of promise and in many ways, it held up to that expectation.  I experienced places I had never dreamed I would see.  I tried things that I never thought I would try.  I was accepted into graduate school - a 10 year goal beginning to come true.  I met a new niece who was easy to fall in love with.  These were dreams I never expected to come true and there they were.  Yet, just as with every coin, there was another side to hope.  I learned what it means when hope changes form.  I learned what it means when your hope is not for something joyful but for relief and release from pain.  I learned what to do when hope is deferred.  I learned what it means to differentiate between genuine hope and wishful thinking.  At the end of 2012, hope has more meaning to me than it did before and it has proven to be just as challenging as anticipatory.

A few weeks ago, I started thinking and praying about what 2013 would hold.  I was hoping (see, there it is) for something bright, optimistic, or along those lines.  Not so much.  I started noticing and trying to ignore the same theme popping up again and again.  No matter how much I tried to change it or look for something else, my one word could not be shaken.  I'll be honest, I'm not excited.  In fact, I'm nervous - so much so that I wanted to pitch this idea.  Yet, here I am, scared of what the next 12 months will hold and still gearing up to face it head on.

One Word for 2013 - Surrender.

Prayers appreciated.......

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Paris Je T'aime

I'll admit it, Paris was not high on my list of places to visit.  Sure, there is a lot to be said about it but it wasn't one of those places that I had been on the edge of my seat to go.  Truth be told, I think that I wasn't allowing myself to want to go.  It wasn't going to happen any time in the foreseeable future.  Then three months ago, Paris was placed before me as an option.  Turns out, I wanted to go more that I thought.  It was booked and became a beacon of hope.  It shined into stressful moments as the light at the end of the tunnel.  It did not disappoint.  So to correct any misconceptions, here is where I admit to many things I was wrong about:

Misconception #1 - Tourist traps (Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, various museums, etc) are just that - traps. Walk by, take a look, and then walk on.

Why I was wrong - Oh. My. Goodness.  Notre Dame was beautiful!  The first night there I may have slightly over reacted seeing Notre Dame when we drove past.  Turns out that I needed to see it (along with a few other above mentioned sites).  Just go - and love every moment of it!

Misconception #2 - Overcast skies combined with buildings of the same color make Paris a very drab city.

Why I was wrong - The buildings were beautiful on the outside but they were incredible on the inside.  Even if the landscape did not change much, the insides of each place was overwhelming.  Again and again I was surprised but what I found through various sets of doors.

Misconception #3 - French people are rude.

Why I was wrong - Everyone was lovely!  They were helpful and friendly.  In fact, the rudest people I ran in to were tourists.  I mean, who declares in the middle of an internationally known museum that they hate it or that a piece is awful?

Misconception #4 - Once you've seen one palace, you've seen them all.

Why I was wrong - Versailles.  I understand why it helped trigger a revolution.  Elaborate and over indulgent doesn't even begin to describe it.

Paris, you were lovely!  From the places to the food to the faces, I loved it all!  Hope to see you again one day!