Sunday, November 2, 2014

why I decided to teach.

For the past ten weeks, I've been a fourth grade teacher at Pleasant Prairie Elementary School. That sentence is something I never imagined myself saying. For those of you that are just joining me in this journey, let me catch you up.

I attended Carthage College for three and a half years and graduated with a degree in Elementary Education. Long about the end of my fall semester junior year, I knew that I didn't want to teach. I planned to finish my degree in education with no intention to use the degree for it's intended purpose. Here's why... I fell in love with Young Life Camping. I spent two summers volunteering and working at Young Life camps and it become one of the strongest passions I ever encountered in life. So I decided to shift my career goal from teaching to ministry, thus eliminating student teaching from my college experience and going straight for a diploma in hand. And it worked. I graduated a semester early, was a nanny for a short time, and then moved to Colorado to work full time at a Young Life camp.

But while I was there I felt a little nudge to get back into education, and then I felt a push, and then a shove. I did something I never thought I would do. I e-mailed my academic advisor at Carthage, and told him, "You were right. I am gifted to teach and I want to teach. Will you help me?" It's not that I didn't like working at a Young Life camp anymore or that my passion for it faded. What happened was my eyes were opened to where my gifts are.

I believe we're all given these gifts, born-with-it gifts. They're not something we learned to be good at gifts, or gifts you practice to make perfect. They are our God-given gifts. And mine is to teach.

In the midst of doing ministry. In the midst of shoveling snow for another retreat. In the midst of feeling freedom on a mountain top... It became clearer to me that I was trying to ignore my gift. I was telling God, I know you've equipped me to do that, but I'm going to do this instead. The Lord gave me a car and I was choosing to walk up hill both ways instead. It wasn't that I was disobeying the Lord; I was still going where he wanted. And it wasn't that he didn't join me on the journey; he did in so many ways. But it was that I was ignoring my God-given ability to teach.


Fast forward to today. I now have ten teaching weeks under my belt. And although the biggest reason I decided to teach is because I have a gift for it, there are a few more reasons why I love my job more than I ever imagined.

1: Breaks. I'll just tell you this one first because I know you're all thinking it anyway. Summer vacation. Two weeks at Christmas. Spring Break. Yes, these are fantastic, but not just because I don't have to go to work. They're fantastic because we need this in our lives. When you teach you go hard. From the minute I wake up to the minute I go to bed, I'm thinking school. I'm thinking the kids and how to love on them. I'm thinking best teaching strategies. I'm thinking what to do in the computer lab. I'm thinking how we're going to fit in another assessment. And so I'm learning that breaks are heaven sent. They are little snippets in our teaching lives to set aside school and focus on refreshing ourselves. We all need this, not just teachers.

2: Hands raised. There are a few different kinds of raised hands. It happens in every classroom, even yours 15+ years ago. There's the subtle elbow on desk hand raise. It's the I'm not really sure about this but I'm going to raise my hand anyways. Then we have the arm straight up hand raise. This is the I know the answer, I've known it for months, confident hand raise. And then we have the hand shooting up and arm waving like crazy hand raise. This is the one I love. It's the I just figured this out hand raise. The one that includes an aha moment. And I love it because it means this child just made a new connection. Learning happened. That's what we strive for every day and it gives me such joy when I see it in a child's face and the extreme hand raise.

3: Community. Although we teach standards upon standards, there is also so much more to teach. One of them is community... loving your neighbor, giving a helping hand, picking someone up, encouraging each other, supporting your classmates, respect, trust, character. The list goes on. These are hard things to teach sometimes, but when the kids get it and put it into practice it makes my heart jump. Just the other day, I sent a student after another boy who lingers in the bathroom. He has some hard stuff going on at home and sitting in the bathroom proves to be an escape from reality for him. As they came around the corner from the bathroom, his friend had his arm around his shoulder and was telling him it was time to come back to the classroom. I almost started tearing up. He got it! He got what it meant to love a friend in need. He got what it meant to support his classmate. That is what it takes to change the world and that's what I want my students to do. When they are surrounded by a community that loves and supports them, they have the freedom and power to make the world a better place.

These are just a few of the reasons I decided to teach. There are so many more and I imagine the list will keep getting longer as the years go by. But for now, I'm enjoying living in my gift. I'm feeling freedom in doing what I love, not because I practiced it to perfection but because the Lord has given me the ability and grace to teach. 

knowing your students think the world of you,
will also get you up at 5:15am every day. 

The Lord has given you a gift too. I pray that you are finding that gift, living in the freedom of it, and praising God for it. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Come and Gone.

The days have come and they have gone. They have brought sunshine and they have brought rain. They have brought square dances and they have brought pool parties. They have brought birthdays and they have brought quiet times with a cup of coffee and my journal. These days we call summer.





Summer is a busy time, especially when you live on a Young Life camp. May brought us 15 new friends that have become family. June brought us 400+ campers per week to hear of the greatest story ever told. July brought us birthdays and summer celebrations. And here we have August.

family of interns.

Seeing as I've been away from the blog for a while, you're probably wondering where the journey has taken me. Not far, physically speaking. I've been nestled behind the little corner windows we like to call the summer office. I've been the voice behind the phone you may have called. And I've been the one typing all those e-mails. I've been right here.


 
But just because my spaces are small, that doesn't mean God's work is small. In fact, he's been doing tremendous things in this tiny office. In the days we call summer he's taught me a few things I'd like to share with you.

1: Look around. It's easy to be so focused on the work to be done and forget to take my eyes off the computer screen for a minute. I have one of the most beautiful views from this office. Not only because the mountains roll across the sky so perfectly, but because I can see the pool where kids splash in the water like never before... because I can see the ropes course where kids conquer their biggest fears... because I can see kids playing checkers and having a conversation with their leader... because I can see the power of Christ right in front of me. Look up! He is always right there working.

2:  I need these people. Life is never meant to be done alone. Our work is never meant to be done alone. The Lord has blessed me with an amazing admin team and wonderful summer staff. He's taught me that I need them every day. I need them to tell me I'm not crazy when I want to scream at the computer. I need them to teach me new things about my job. I need them to help me remember that the kitchen needs 50 gallons of milk today. I need them to remember it's not all about the work. I need them to open my eyes to new qualities of Jesus.

3: Invest. Summer is short. Some kids I see for only 7 days and some I have the privilege to spend a month with. Some people are here for the summer and some I've shared the year with. Whatever the case is, I have one of the greatest opportunities at my finger tips, and that is to invest in these people. I love the quiet mornings where I can sit on the floor with a cup of coffee and my summer staff and talk about Jesus. I love the crazy moments when it feels like every camper is looking for their water bottle before the hike and I can ask them how their week is going. And I love the moments in between when conversations just seem to flow. We all have something to give and I'm learning to lean into that this summer.

4: My time with the Lord cannot be replaced. As days grow longer and my eyes are more tired, I crave peaceful time with the Lord. I crave prayer and dwelling in his word. But in that, I'm also learning that I shouldn't wait until I'm tired to crave this. I want to be a person that wakes up every day looking forward to the time I get to spend with the Lord. I want to dwell in his word and rest in his peace all of my days.

So there we have it. Summer has come and summer has gone. I've said my goodbyes to the friends that stayed for just a month, and the ones I've conquered summer with. I've packed almost all my belongings yet again with eager anticipation of where the journey leads me next. I'll spend one final week in the colorful state of Colorado celebrating all that the Lord has done here and then the new chapter will begin.

Monday, April 28, 2014

what I know to be true.

This world does it's best to feed us a lot of information. From the cereal box to our neighbors to the TV, words are constantly being thrown at us. But what I'm learning recently is that we need to be able to discern what is true. If I believed what the cereal box said, I'd be eating Special K three times a day. But I know what Special K claims as truth isn't true for me.

And the cereal box isn't the only one. People are constantly telling us what they believe to be true through verbal and non-verbal communication. Sometimes what they are saying is more true than what we believe, but other times, it simply is not. Therefore we need to be people who know the absolute truth, the unchanging truth that comes from the word of God.

So here's a glimpse of what I know to be true today...

Nobody can love us more than God already does. Nothing we do or don't do will take away God's love for us. 
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. {Psalm 86:15}

The grace of God is not withheld from us. It is undeniable that we need his grace, and he promises to lavish us in it. His grace does not run dry.
For from his fullness we have received grace upon grace. {John1:17}

We were delicately created by God. We are his children.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, 
I know that full well. {Psalm 139:14}

The Holy Spirit is working in us. Sometimes we can look at our lives and think we're at a standstill, not growing or becoming. But that is not true. God is doing a great work in us.
And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives are gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become more like him. {2 Corinthians 3:18 MSG}

God choses us, broken and sinful people, to be his instruments. We are far from perfect people, God knows that. Yet he sets us apart to do his work. That is a gift we do not deserve.
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he prepared 
in advance for us to do. {Ephesians 2:10}

Our labor is not in vain. It is for the Lord. Days can be really hard and sometimes it feels like nobody sees the work we do, but our work is for the Lord and him alone.
Whatever you do, work at is with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. {Colossians 3:23}

Where the Lord is, there is freedom. We are not held captive by the way of this world. We are not held captive by the expectations of this world. We are free in Christ.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. {2 Corinthians 3:17}

The Lord is in the smallest details of life. The Lord is in sweet friends having a layover in Denver. The Lord is in laughter at a baseball game. The Lord is in roasting hot dogs over the fire. The Lord is present and active. He loves us too much to not be there.
The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. {Psalm 46:7}

This isn't just true for me. It's true for you and for your neighbor and for that guy who just cut you off in traffic. It is absolute truth that no one can take away from us. It is the truth that we need to build our lives around, and the truth that can tear down lies. It is the truth that triumphs over all.


Lord Jesus, would you show us truth today. Would you throw away the lies we so often believe and replace them with absolute truth, the unchanging, undeniable truth that comes from you. And may we be a people that shouts your truth from the rooftops. Amen. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

these days.

These days I've been a little absent from the blog for a few different reasons, mostly because life has been busy. Very busy. But today I'd love to let you in on where I've been and what I'm learning through these crazy days... 

These days I've been playing mom. Jordan and I had the privilege to spend a weekend with the four delightful Archembault children in Colorado Springs. We played games, walked to the park, made homemade brownies, and even drove around in the minivan. 

In these days I learned that being a mom is hard work. It takes a lot of patience and an extreme ability to multi-task. Thank goodness I've got some time to work on that. 

I learned that quiet time alone is only possible if you wake up two hours before the kids do. It's quite possible that's 4am, but it's necessary for drinking coffee slowly and time with Jesus. 

I learned that it's okay to laugh at your kids. When they accidentally blow the cocoa powder all over their face, they won't like it. In fact, they will storm off yelling, "It's not funny!" But it is. It's worth a good laugh before pulling yourself together to comfort them. 


These days I've been drinking a lot of coffee. At least twice a day. When sleep is rare and the thoughts are never-ending, a little coffee (and sometimes a cookie) can do wonders. 


These days I've been adventuring to Texas for approximately 38 hours. When you find a round-trip flight to somewhere you've never been for only $100, you must book it. It's on the list of goals for the year. So we did. We pulled on the cowboy boots, packed one bag for four people and jumped on that plane. 

In my 38 hours of Texas living I learned that not everything is bigger in Texas. It's common to find a ginormous Texas flag to represent the amount of pride in the state, but other than that, not much else is bigger. Don't be fooled. 

I learned that sunshine and 70's does a lot for the soul. Walking outside and breathing in the warm, fresh air is exactly what you need after five months of winter. It's good to pull out the shorts and maxi dress, to soak in the sunshine and take a long walk at 10pm just because you can. 

And although I'm slightly embarrassed to say, I learned that it's easier and safer to raise your arm when riding a mechanical bull. The man in the booth controlling the bull says so. It won't prevent you from falling off, but it will delay the process. 


These days we've been eating a lot of mac-and-cheese. It's far from my dinner of choice, but these days aren't providing time or energy for fancy meals. Paper plates and all, it's in the child-like dinners that we have opportunity to put apple slices in our mouths just like we did 20 years ago and create an outlet of laughter. This too is good for the soul. 


These days I've been saying good-bye to housekeeping and hello to the kitchen (aka... da kitch). It's a refreshing change-up with new responsibilities, new people, and a new schedule. Thanks to dad, I have a great passion for cooking and making new things so the kitchen is a good place for me. 

These days I've been blessed with some of my favorite people visiting Colorful Colorado. We reminisced over college days while eating at a fancy restaurant and then going to McDonald's after because 3 meatballs does not fill up anyone's stomach. We visited the ghost town of Grand Lake to see God's beautiful creation of the lake and the mountains. 

In these days I learned that it is such a gift to have loved ones visit your new home and meet your new family. There is truly nothing sweeter than gathering around a table with a blend of old and new friends, laughing until we cry together. I believe it's a tiny glimpse of what heaven will be like one day. 


I hope that these days have been good for you too. Not in the "everything is just right in life" good, but the good that encourages you to look beyond the matter of fact. The good that forces you to dig deeper in an effort to discover it. May you see the beauty in needing far too much coffee and making mac-and-cheese for dinner again. May you revisit that list of goals and pursue one with all you have. May you find a glimpse of heaven in your every day and look forward to the one when the glimpses become reality. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

his grace.

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."                                                                                                                               {2 Corinthians 12:9}

It snows a lot here. A lot as in 254 inches thus far. And it doesn't matter what the groundhog says. In the mountains winter lasts until May. No questions asked.

a lot as in "this looks dangerous" a lot. 

a lot as in "it won't be long until that road sign is buried" a lot.

When it snows that much, one really starts thinking... especially thinking about the beauty of it. It amazes me that because it's just the right temperature, the rain droplets turn to snow. How does that happen? Why not ice pellets? That seems more fitting according to what I know about water. But no, God gave us the miracle of snow. Snow that is so intricately designed with no two flakes alike. Snow that falls softly and slowly. Snow that creates a beautiful white blanket to cover everything... nothing is void of the snow. Recently, the snow falls every single day, recovering anything that surfaced. There is pure beauty in that!


"Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean, wash me and I will be whiter than snow."     {Psalm 51:7}
"Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow."          {Isaiah 1:18}


You see, God doesn't just give us the snow to marvel at its beauty. He gives us the snow as a representation of how we are wiped clean... how his power can make us whiter than the whitest of snow. Our sins are a deep scarlet red. Nothing we do can cover that blood-stain. But the Lord's grace falls softly purifying us to be whiter than snow. Every day there is more, turning the ugly into beauty. And nothing turns up void of his grace. Nothing in our lives is untouched by God's grace, even the parts that we think we can keep covered. 



These days, I need that grace more than ever. I need the grace that covers all of me, makes me clean and beautiful in His sight. Because without that, I am nothing. And so I say...


                                                                       Eternal One, 
  Silence
             from whom my words come;
       Questioner
             in whom my questions arise;
Lover
             of whom alone I find my rest;
  Mystery
                                     in whose depths I find healing and myself;
enfold me now in your presence;
restore to me your peace;
renew me through your power;
and ground me in your grace. 

                                                          Guerrillas of Grace, Ted Loder





 
 
 

Monday, January 20, 2014

gifts.

The thought "what a gift" has been running through my mind a lot lately.

What a gift it is...
...to see your best friend round the corner at the Denver International Airport...
...to wait...
...to let the laughter seep out of your soul as you fly down the mountain on skis...
...to eat warm chocolate chip cookies and drink Mexican hot chocolate...
...to feel the warmth of the sun hit your face...
...to be vulnerable together...
...to listen to the radio just a tad too loud because you can't get enough of that song...
...to get a little taste of home when it seems so far away...
...to feel the warm embrace of a hug...
...to hold your hands wide open to the Lord...
...to witness a miracle...
...to gather around the table together...
...to let the tears fall from your eyes knowing one day they will be no more...
...to say yes, I will stand by your side on your wedding day and every day after that...

Every single moment is a gift. The moments that we never want to let go of... gifts. The moments we wish didn't happen... gifts.

So often we think of gifts as material things we wrap in pretty paper for birthdays and Christmas. But gifts are far greater than that.
gift (noun): something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation 
Read that slowly and let it settle in your soul. Voluntarily transferred without compensation. Gift. You see, the thing about these gifts is that I don't deserve them. We don't deserve them. But the God of the universe loves us so much that he voluntarily gives them to us. And expects nothing in return. 
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows."                                                   {James 1:17}
As we begin a new week, let the thought "what a gift" rest on your mind. Let it sink into your soul as you become more aware of the moments that fill our days.








Sunday, January 12, 2014

14 goals for 2014.

Beginning a new year is sort of a funny thing. It's the flip of a calendar page that brings a clean slate. It allows for everything to be new or nothing to change. It can bring a sense of hope and expectation for what is to come.

And this new year, 2014, I was encouraged to write a few goals.

Be more aware of little, simplistic blessings.
Have more honest conversations.
Be a woman of prayer.
Work out more.
Pursue a teaching career.
Move.
Do things outside of my comfort zone.
Do not take time for granted.
Travel to a new place.
Invest in people.
Take more photos.
Run a 5k for something I'm passionate about.
Read at least 10 books.
Know the Lord more.


But these goals are nothing if I just jot them down in my journal and forget about them. Goals have to guide us. They have to point us in the direction we want to go.

"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."                                                                                                                                                   {Philippians 3:13-14}

 I realize that I may not reach all of my goals this year. I will fail at times. And I'm okay with that. These goals will still push me towards the end goal. They will keep my eyes on the one thing that I desire most: to bring God glory in all that I do.