Wednesday, August 8, 2012


  Summer is a busy time around these parts. Moving, traveling, summer classes, work, a tattoo, more traveling, Atlanta adventures, a mission trip, more work, crafts,  a SWAT weekend, trips home, and a family vacation make up the past three months.
  Usually when I write a blog post, there is something in my heart and soul that is burning to be put down on the page. This go-around, it just feels like the right thing to do. It's been awhile and quite a few things have happened since my last blog post. So we'll just see where the Lord takes it. 

 I moved into my first official off campus apartment in May. I arranged furniture, painted baseboards, dusted windowsills, hung pictures, wiped down walls, killed spiders, planted flowers, hung blinds, and changed lightbulbs until the cows came home. Finally, after three months of living here, I think my little home is ready for the year! And the two new roommates I have for the school year. 
 This summer I lived with two really fantastic girls who allowed me to "nest," try new Pinterest recipes, and ramble about my fantastic boyfriend all summer long. We talked about Jesus and boys and Ikea. We laughed and cried together. It's always amazing how quickly you become family with those who share the same roof that you do. 
 These girls taught me how relational we are as humans. Created in God's image, we all have gifts, talents, and natural likes and dislikes. We complimented each other incredibly well, and we saw first hand how God places us together with people around us to really grow and stretch us in seasons. 
 Oh, the summer with elementary schoolers. At the beginning of this season, I was incredibly daunted by this thought. I wasn't looking forward to spending my summer getting up early and going to school to countdown from five, hand out sentences and holler at children all day. But now that this season is over, I miss it. 
 I met new friends and became closer to old ones. I actually got pretty good at dodgeball. I read a number of different books while the kiddos were sleeping. I spent more money than I care to admit on fast food. I got a legit Chaco tan. I spent most every Friday at the swimming pool. I hugged, put bandaids on, and cheered on precious little ones all summer long. And I grew to absolutely adore my job even more. There is something truly, truly, truly magical about hearing your name chorused by 30 kids each morning as you walk through the door. There's nothing more special than watching a student with autism hit a grand slam and run around the bases during a baseball game in the gym. (I cried like a proud mama after my student crossed home. And I'm not ashamed of it!) 
  I've always known that I am created to be a teacher. So the hugs, giggles, hand-drawn pictures and handwritten notes made getting up early, shouting, disciplining, and riding the school bus on field trips so worth it. Somewhere, while I was tying shoes, wiping away tears, pushing kids on swings, playing hide and go seek, coloring, and teaching children to about life, they taught me about life. Every day, my munchkins demonstrated how to forgive, be resilient, trust, love without restraint, and find joy in the small things. I am so blessed to be able to giggle and celebrate life with them!

  Chicago, Trinidad, Florida. My three big trips this summer. Chicago to see the most wonderful man (other than my dad and little brother). Trinidad with Faith Baptist Church to do ministry with teenage students. Florida for family vacation.
 Trinidad was incredible. Trinidad was new and exciting and frustrating. The people were incredible. The airport was not. I lost my luggage for 5 days. But through it all, God was good.
 Our first full day, we went to two Hindu temples on the island of Trinidad. Our first stop was The Temple on the Sea. It was absolutely beautiful. The water, the mountains in the distance, and the sunshine made for a really great scene. But I knew, in my soul that this was not a place where Jesus was celebrated. Our team walked around and took pictures. We asked questions and looked around. As we left to go back to the bus, I heard birds singing in the trees that hung over the walkway I was on. And I knew.
  It was easy to see that this temple wasn't constructed to glorify Jesus. It is a Hindu temple. Built by Hindu people, funded by their money, and attended by the Trinidadian Hindu population. But I knew that the Holy Spirit was still nearby. The birds singing in the trees told me that. Romans says that nothing, not even angels or rulers, can ever separate us from God's love. Although I was in a place constructed to worship false gods, my King still had His presence near and around me. The birds in the trees reminded me of that. God is so sweet and so faithful to speak to my soul!
  Our team led Bible studies for three days with teenage students. We laughed, danced, ate really great food, swam, played basketball, and had heart to hearts for three wonderful days. The last three days of our trip, the students from the beginning of the week helped put on a rally for Trini students that were from outside of the church family that we were working with.
 The first night of our rally, we had around 50 students. All of our team members were pleasantly surprised and so excited to see what Jesus was up to. That night, we had a number of new friends dedicate and re-dedicate their lives to Christ. Glory be! Such a great way to start out. And such a humbling evening. 
  The second night of our rally, we had at least 200 students show up. It was ridiculously overwhelming in the absolute best way. Jesus was ROCKING our faces off. Lives were changed, dedicated and re-commited that night as well. The last night of our rally, we had around 30 kids come. Which was perfect and small and intimate. (I DID have to put my teacher voice on at one point during this rally, which cracked all my teammates up!)
 We went to a homeless shelter. We loved on orphans. We truly came into contact with "the least of these" as Scripture says.
 Trinidad taught me to get the heck out of the way. Sometimes I get so caught up in my own agenda, the schedule of events, or not feeling prepared. Sometimes I forget that I do not run the show. Actually, a lot of times I forget I don't run the show. Thank goodness that I don't. Thank goodness that I serve a God who is so big and so much greater than I am. Trinidad taught me to be patient. Dealing with airline workers in a foreign country where there is no real concept of "on time" and "hurry" will do that. Trinidad taught me that no matter the need, God will meet it. Wearing someone else's clothes for 5 days will teach you that.

The Man In My Life
  Trinidad taught me that I am dating the man that I am going to marry. As the girls from my SWAT weekend in Wisconsin say, Dale is my GAMFY, or God's Appointed Man For You. Franklin girls say SMOG, Sexy Man of God. Whatever the acronym, Dale is it! :)
 Chicago happened in May. My first trip to the windy city brought laughter, hugs, snuggling, lasagna dinners, lake-side picnics, ferris wheel rides, funnel cakes, skylines, swimming, pictures, more laughter, and the realization that I had met the man I was going to marry.
 60 days, hours upon hours of Skype conversations, 6 bags of Starburst jelly beans, and a plane ride later, we were reunited in the Miami airport. I will never, ever, ever forget this day. I think all I said for  three solid minutes was "Finally!" We boarded the plane headed for Trinidad, and landed about 3 hours later. And discovered that my bag didn't make it on the plane we had just gotten off of. My checked bag was still sitting in Miami, which was not where I was. Frustration, tears, and more frustration followed. I dealt with baggage desk employees who could have cared less about my situation and I had to go through customs twice. After finally making it out of the airport, I had no idea where the rest of my team was, and I had no idea where I was supposed to go if I got out the door and no one was there waiting on me. But as the sliding doors opened to the lobby where the arriving passengers met their loved ones, I saw Dale. It was then I knew I would be okay. 
 The next few days were tough. I couldn't shower or brush my teeth (Except with my finger. Which is fine and dandy for about a day. After that, you really just need a good ole toothbrush). I couldn't shave my legs. But Dale was fantastic all the way through. He witnessed my teacher voice as I talked back to an airline employee. He put up with frustrations and tears. He even endured a trip to the mall with me to buy new clothes. I am so blessed to call him mine. 
 But it was the ministry that we did on the trip that excites me so. Watching Dale encourage, love, pour into, and challenge the young men on the trip with us and the Trinidadian men was incredible. I am so proud of all that God is doing in his heart, and I can't wait to partner with him for the rest of my life! 

Family Vacation
 Laughter, sunshine, love, hugs, long walks on the beach with Dale, even more love, swimming, kayaks, SUP boards, baking, tickling, and snuggling. Vacation is such a glorious time, and this past trip was no exception. My family went, plus Dale and my extended family. We ate tons of food, played Quelf, shopped, and laughed until we were worn out. There's nothing better than loved ones, sunshine, sea air, and good food. 

Jesus is so good. Summer is such a fantastic time of recharging and recovering. A new adventure awaits. Senior year. Peer Leading, off campus living, methods/student teaching, more trips to Chicago, meeting new family members, planning a very special day ( :) !! ), work, and more SWAT weekends.  

Come what may, Jesus is the Name that carries me. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Life is Stuffed with Blessings

It's been almost a year.

It's crazy how four little letters can contain so much. Change, growth, tears, laughter, plane tickets, moving boxes, textbooks, love, Jesus, multiple jars of Nutella, new friends, old friends, and family.

The beginning of May became very important in my life two years ago. My house flooded, my dad had a heart attack, and one of my best friends was involved in a life-threatening car accident within days of each other. One year ago, I took a leap of faith that caused a lot of heartbreak. Then took a journey to the Middle East for three weeks, where my life was changed forever.

So now that this semester (and my junior year of college) is quickly drawing to a close, I find that the beginning of May is fast approaching. And with the beginning of May comes time to remember and be thankful for the growth and for the love that has consumed my life.

A portion of this past year was spent with my heart, mind, and soul in fragmented pieces. Searching for truth, searching for worth, and searching for healing took on many different forms, some of them healthier than others. I traveled, made new friends, spent lots of time with old ones, and invested in some really fantastic girls in Franklin. I "unplugged" my self-worth line from Jesus and began to plug it into other things- work, boys, friendships...

But I learned that being "unplugged" from the life source of Jesus Christ was damaging my heart, mind, and soul. Satan had convinced me that what was in the world was greater than what I had with Jesus. I didn't walk away from the Lord completely, but I began to invest my heart into other things. The summer ended and I came back to school. I had put all my fragmented pieces back together in the resemblance of a heart, but it was held together with tape and glue. The slightest gust of wind or gentle shake could have brought my heart tumbling down again.

Fall semester, I joined this incredible ministry called Students With A Testimony. I met really freaking amazing college students who loved Jesus and loved students. We travel and lead DiscipleNow weekends with middle and high school students for churches in the area. I've traveled all over Georgia, Alabama, and I even did a weekend in Wisconsin for SWAT.
I joined SWAT thinking that I would be able to minister to young ladies and encourage them in their walks. Little did I know that the blessings I would receive in return were more than I could ever have imagined.
I met people - from students to host home families to other SWAT leaders to youth pastors. But the quality of the people I met, and the truth that they were speaking into me was so much more than I ever was expecting. And I am incredibly thankful for it. There were challenging moments (like getting 8 middle school girls off the topic of Justin Beiber and on to the topic of honoring Christ in our relationships with our families) but there were also fantastic moments where Jesus totally showed up. Being able to pour into younger girls and encourage them to fall head over heels in love with Jesus blessed my soul. And reminded me of how absolutely amazing Jesus is.

My life is stuffed with blessings.

This semester, I began to work for Cleveland City Schools. I help teach an after school program to elementary schoolers, kindergarten to fifth grade. Many of my little monsters (and I say that with the most love in my heart) come from really rough backgrounds. You can almost see the hunger for love in their eyes.
I have yelled, swept up Goldfish crumbs, played race, swung, given more hugs, been given more weed flower bouquets (those are my favorite), taken more temperatures, laughed, danced, and met more invisible friends in the past two months than I have in a long time. And it has provided more healing than anything else in the past year.
I am always amazed that even after the hardest day with my kiddos, I find myself missing them. The way they think I'm a hero, the way they say my name and want me to chase them around the playground, the way their sweet little arms wrap around my legs for hugs, and the way their eyes light up when they understand what we're learning...these are a few of my favorite things. And the way that I miss them the minute they leave only encourages me that I am made to teach elementary schoolers. Some days are chaos, and some days make me want to pull my hair out. But it's amazing how giving and giving and giving to others gives you so much in return. It's like my little friends have reached into the farthest places of my heart, blown off the cobwebs, and restored me to whole. It's only Jesus' grace and provision that I have the job I do and that I work with incredible co-workers who I have grown to love. And that I teach, laugh, play, chase, tickle, and adventure with some of the greatest elementary schoolers around.

My life is stuffed with blessings.

Through this year, I have continually asked myself how people live without Jesus. I saw this pin on Pinterest the other day (yes, I'm making a point out of something I saw on Pinterest.) that read,

"I love God. No, I don't want to force it down your throat. But man, you're missing out."

There is nothing truer. This past year has taught me that. The abundant life that Jesus offers...there's nothing sweeter, truer, purer, or more fulfilling. His grace is addicting and His love is extravagant. Trip Lee's new album is currently rocking my world (along with Christy Nockles, Flame, and the Hillsong Live album that came out in February) and he says it best in his song "One Sixteen":

When it comes to God everybody’s got a version
Some are wearing turbans
Others getting virgins
With all of these options, we know he’s for certain
‘Cause ain’t no other God like mine
You gots to admit it
Yeah, I’m fallin’ ‘cuz I’m sinning
Yet his grace is sufficient
Beat the grave
Said it’s finished
Got them unsearchable riches and they deep
That’s why I’m like
Can you dig it?

-Trip Lee, One Sixteen

His grace is sufficient. He beat the grave. His unsearchable riches go on and on and on.

I'mma brag on my King.

At the beginning of May of 2012, I'm moving into my first apartment (for my senior year at Lee). I'm also spending 5 days in Chicago with a blessing of a man. :) I am unbelievably excited for good memories and answers to prayer. This summer brings new relationships, a new apartment, classes, rock climbing, coffee drinking, laying in the sunshine, dancing, and I'm sure lots and lots more Jesus.

My life is stuffed with blessings.