Friday, August 31, 2012

Teachers Who Love Teaching…

teacher
 
Although I’m majoring in elementary education, I have an special love for early childhood  education (PreK-3). So, I’m taking a few extra classes in order to receive additional licensure in early childhood when I graduate. This semester I’m taking Foundations of Early Childhood Education and it is by far my favorite class. Even though I’ve only had three classes so far, I’ve left each one with such an assurance that I’m meant to be a teacher.

I have a huge passion for education and I love being able to meet with other girls with similar hearts. I soak up every minute with eagerness. Since my mom was an early childhood teacher for 26 years before she moved up to middle school, I have a foundation for much of what I’m learning. I’m thankful for that! I’ve even called my mom a few times after class to excitedly tell her about what we discussed and how I was able connect to it.

The main reason why I love this class so much is because of my professor. She is phenomenal! I’ve told my mom more than once that I want to be just like her when I grow up. She is the epitome of a kindergarten teacher. She’s been teaching at my university for 24 years, but she taught kindergarten for 11 years before that. Her energy and passion for early childhood education fuels every aspect of class and I eat it up. Her knowledge of young children is astounding and she has a heart to invest in us as future teachers. It is evident that she loves teaching and that makes me want to learn all the more!

I want to have the same effect on my future students.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

“I am a product of…”

My real life friend, Joy, wrote a post recently about what she was a product of that inspired me to think about my own roots.

Joy snagged the idea from her friend who had her middle school students write what they were a product of. The idea came from a quote from C.S. Lewis…

““I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles. Also, of endless books.”

Here is mine:

“I am a product of canopy roads, elementary classrooms, goodnight hugs and kisses, summer days at home, walks at dusk with my dad, vacations in the Smokey Mountains, coffee dates, and intimacy with Jesus. “

Now, for a few old photos I had saved on my computer. I hope these create a better visual to show you more of roots…

11months

four{One of our Smokey Mountain vacations}

christmas-four

five

What are you a product of?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Miscellany Monday

Today, I’m linking up with Carissa at lowercase letters

{one}

I’m so glad the first week of classes is over. Although, I enjoyed my classes the week d-r-a-g-g-e-d by so slowly. My favorites so far are Theology and Foundations of Early Childhood Education.

{two}

I listened to Brooke Fraser and The Civil Wars a lot this weekend.Also, if you haven’t listened to Of Monsters and Men yet, you need to! They’ve been on repeat all summer.

{three}

Since my mom retired this year, I didn’t get to help set up her classroom. I really miss it! But, in three years she will spend lots of time in my classroom helping me. It’s the little things that make my (future) teacher heart happy!

{four}

I had the best laid back Saturday. I slept in and woke up slowly as I drank coffee and read in Galatians. Then, I spent the entire afternoon with my sweet friends at their apartment. We did a little homework and just enjoyed being together. We ended the day by making dinner together…spinach quesadillas, sweet plantains, and fresh squeezed limeade.

{five}

Kettle corn popcorn and Pride & Prejudice go perfectly together.

{six}

I’m loving this print…

dreamer

Happy Monday, friends!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Carry Me.

When I recently pulled up iTunes, I noticed that “Carry Me” by Audrey Assad was my most played song in my library. I wasn’t shocked…it’s my “go to” song when I’m overwhelmed or discouraged. When I become disheartened I turn this on to help turn my gaze back to Abba. I can even pinpoint certain moments when this song echoed my prayers. I’ve danced to this song and I’ve also dropped to my knees while this song filled the room.

I know this is the time that many of us are settling into a new school year and that can be overwhelming. We have all sorts of information and expectations being thrown at us from every which way. Some have been out of school for a while now and life is proving to be more than you can handle. We can become fearful. Stressed. Discouraged. Overwhelmed. Disheartened. Disappointed. We wonder if we will ever reach our goal. We wonder if we’ll make it to the other side. Instead of letting these emotions cloud my vision I choose to focus on Abba.

He will carry me. He will carry you.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

United Arab Emirates {It’s an Interview!}

uae

Friends, I’m so excited about today’s post! I’ve corresponded with Ameera from The Wandering Theologian all summer long and was even able to Skype with her last week. Although we haven’t met in person, I truly consider her to be a friend. She recently graduated from Moody Bible Institute and has committed to being an ESL teacher in the United Arab Emirates this school year. She leaves TODAY, but before she left she answered a few questions I had. Now, I get to share this “interview” with all of you! Her answers blew me away with the amount of clarity and detail they provided. I hope they give you a small glimpse into her mission this year…

1) What led you to pursue teaching overseas?

I think the first time I realized I wanted to teach overseas was in the summer of 2005 when I went to teach ESL in Germany with a team from my church. I was born with a desire to travel and learn about other cultures (I'm a military brat) but when I realized the potential for teaching overseas my heart changed. Two years later I went to Venezuela, to work with the first missionary I had ever met, and I left with a desire to return forever. Both of these trips opened my eyes to the need for ESL teachers overseas and so I applied to Moody with the intention to enter the TESOL department. During my four years at Moody my passion for teaching grew and grew and I knew that God was calling me to teach overseas. My internship in Oman (just east of the UAE) confirmed this calling. 2 months with those students changed my life forever.

2) Did you have a certain country or region of the world that grabbed your heart before the UAE?

Ever since the summer of 2010 my heart has been for Arab Muslim women and children. I spent a week in Dearborn, MI (the highest concentration of Muslims in the US live there). This is what led me to seek out an internship in the Arabian Peninsula. Originally, I wanted to go to Yemen because of my experience in Dearborn. However, the political situation in 2011 made this impossible. This lead me to Oman where I was confronted with the reality of the situation in the Arabian Peninsula. My hope is to one day return to Oman but currently God is opening the door to the UAE (I'll be living a short 5 hour drive from where I was last summer) and the need is just as great.

3) Tell me about the church and worship in the UAE.

The churches that exist in the UAE are international or foreign churches. There are approximately 31 churches in the whole country. The UAE is tolerant of other religions so followers of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions are free to worship. Statistics put the Christian population between 8-9%, only 1.4% of these being evangelical Christians. These Christians include, American, Filipino, British, Armenian and Swedish people. Worship will depend on what type of church you attend but the evangelical churches look similar to the churches here in the US. However, due to the inability to evangelize openly the focus of many churches is simply to gather together. There are many Christians living in the country who have no desire to reach out to the people around them for fear of the government. Therefore, any team there with a desire to do outreach must do so without publicizing it.

4) How is Christianity and the Gospel accepted in the country?

As I mentioned in the previous answer, evangelization, proselytizing and conversion is illegal in the UAE. Muslims are not allowed to become Christians and the UAE censors websites with evangelistic purposes and those which have any negative portrayal of Islam. Islam is not just a religion but a way of life. Therefore, acceptance of the Gospel would mean exile from their families, communities and culture. As a result, many of the people are resistant to the Gospel. A couple other stumbling blocks are the negative propaganda they've heard from the leaders of Islam in their communities and the assumption that every Westerner is a Christian. They also accept Western television as reality and thus think Christians act the way they see people act on TV. I think my supervisor encapsulated the struggle to evangelize well in this statement, "The Arabian Peninsula isn't ready for the seeds of the Gospel to be sown just yet. We must first remove all the stones from the soil."

5) How can teaching be used as an outreach in the UAE and countries similar to it?

Teachers are highly respected in the Arab culture. The more education you have the better. In addition, the Arab people are the most hospitable people I've ever met. They open their homes, families and lives to you just because you're their teacher. In a short two months, I was able to visit many students' homes and became very close with their families. They took me out  to see sights around their community, they went shopping with me and I even had one family take me and my friend out to their farm for the whole day. Relationships form in the classroom in a way I've never seen before. They want to know all about what America is like and hope to learn English to better their chances of going to the best universities. In return, they're willing to teach you all about their culture and their language. It is through these relationships that conversations about life and faith (as the two are inextricable) begin.  It is through these relationships that stones are removed from the soil. It is through these relationships God is opening doors for the Gospel to be preached.

6) Can you tell me a little more about sharing the gospel in the UAE?

As far as sharing the Gospel, it definitely happens. Discussions about what you believe are commonplace because of how profoundly the Muslim faith affects their lifestyle. It comes down to a lot of discernment of knowing when to share and when not to. For example I noticed the girls were more willing to talk when their mothers/aunts/grandmothers were out of the room. It takes a lot of time to understand what kind of claims I can make and what parts of the Gospel they're ready to hear. Working with Muslims has taught me, more than anything, that evangelization is a process. It takes time and it's ultimately the Holy Spirit's role to convince them of the truths you're presenting.

7) What are some specific prayer requests you have for your country and mission of service?

-Please pray for unity among the team of teachers. We're coming from all over the world and we barely know each other. Pray that God would form friendships  and bonds that will further the work being done in the UAE.
-Pray for the hearts of our students. We know that God is already preparing them for this new school year. Since it is an international school there will not only be Emirati students but students from all nationalities. This is a huge opportunity for the Gospel.
-Pray for safety for everyone, both physically and spiritually. Driving in the Arabian Peninsula can be quite dangerous and there is always a concern for single women, even in such a westernized country. Spiritually, it is a very dark place. The devil has a real foothold in this country and I had never experienced spiritual warfare the way I experienced it in Oman.
-Ultimately, pray that God would be glorified through our work there, that the students would see Christ's love through us and He would draw people to Himself, (just fyi, one of the most common ways for Muslims to become Christians is through dreams and visions).

commissioning{Ameera being commissioned at her church in Chicago}

Follow Ameera’s journey here!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Little Update

Good morning, girls! I wanted to give you a little update before I head out to my 8 am Theology class. I moved in on Saturday and my apartment is huge! Well, at least compared to my dorm room last year. It isn’t anything extravagant, but it feels cozy to me. I have a gorgeous tree right outside the window by my desk and I’m excited to see it when the fall colors are in all their splendor.

I’ve spent the last few days running errands around town and campus. As I drove through campus for the first time since last year, I was reminded how much I like being here. I thanked God right there in my car for planting me here at this time. It just gets me so excited to know that I get to be here while I pursue my dream of being a teacher.

Now, to my favorite update of all! I GOT A JOB. I’m going to be working at the Early Learning Center on campus. Since I applied late in the summer, the positions available were extremely limited. For right now, I’m going to be wearing an assortment of hats. My main job will be cleaning the place in the afternoon and I’ll also sub for others when need be. Next semester I should be able to have a set amount of hours in a classroom each week. I’m excited to have my foot in the door and work toward a goal. I keep reminding myself that “he who is faithful in the little things…”

I’ll be back tomorrow with a post about the United Arab Emirates and an interview with a precious friend! Are you intrigued? Come back tomorrow and find out what I’m talking about…

campuswalk{Walked around campus at dusk}

coffee{Morning coffee…yum!}

thankful{Giving thanks in my new apartment. :) }

Monday, August 20, 2012

I come from…

Today, I’m linking up with Harley & Jane to participate in their journal prompt series.

journal

…a family of strong women.

My paternal great grandmother lived a very modest life. No matter how little money she had, she would give it away if someone needed it. Always.

I never met my paternal grandmother. She raised three children and was diagnosed with Leukemia in her early 40s. She battled the wretched disease as it slowly stole her strength. Even though my dad was 21 when she died, he still tells stories about her. He cries when he talks about his mama or when one of her favorite songs comes on the radio. She was a strong woman.

IMG_0314{My dad’s mother during the late 1950s.}

My maternal great great grandmother was tough. She raised six children and lived in the heart of the country. I’ve only ever heard her referred to as “Indian Grandma.”

My maternal great grandmother was a nurse and served during World War II. Her name was Alice, but she always went by “Grey.” My mom called her “Granny Grey” and I know they had a special bond. I hate that I never met the woman who meant so much to my mom.

IMG_0315{Granny Grey during WW II.}

Then there’s my mom. My mom taught public school for 30 years. That automatically gives her my respect. But, there’s so much more to her than being a strong teacher. She has always taught me that I’m strong too. When I had a problem she taught me to think it through to come up with a solution. She has taught me to take responsibility for my actions (and to accept the consequences). She has taught me that it’s okay to make mistakes and that I’d have plenty of them. But, I’d learn from them. She has taught me the importance of speaking scripture out loud. She has taught me to think for myself. She has taught me bucket loads of practical wisdom. She has loved me fiercely and has has always been there for me.

kindergarten{She taught kindergarten the year this was taken.}

momma

I’m proud to come from a family of strong women.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Today.

DSCN0445

I move back to start my sophomore year today. Well, technically classes don’t start until Wednesday, but as far as I’m concerned the semester kicks off today. Although I was excited last year, I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t know anybody where I was going to school and I looked more like the photo above. There was an abundance of unknowns.

Now, I’m going back to a place where I have a foundation. A place that I grew to love. There are still a few unknowns about this year, but I see it more as an adventure. I’m on my way and this time around I look a little more like the photo below…

DSCN0453

I’m excited to share this year with all of you. Here we go!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Skype Date & Letter Day

Skype Date

I had the best afternoon yesterday. Why you ask? It’s because I had a Skype date with Ameera from The Wandering Theologian. We’ve corresponded all summer and have developed such a sweet friendship. So, it was wonderful to talk to her “in person” for over two hours. Our conversation covered a wide range of topics from silly stories to more serious moments where we shared our hearts. There was a lot of laughter thrown in too! I came away so encouraged and thankful for our friendship.

Now, for a few letters…

Dear Lee University,

I’m coming back tomorrow! I have excitement and expectancy spilling out of me for this new semester. I thrive off of new beginnings.

Dear Keurig,

I’m so excited that my mom doesn’t need you anymore because now you get a cozy home in my apartment. You will get lots of love this semester as I make coffee every morning before my 8 am classes.

Dear "Aftermath",

The truth of your lyrics wreck me.

Dear readers,

It means so much that you would take the time to read about the pieces and parts of my heart and life. I genuinely enjoy sharing with you and hope that my blog is a place of encouragement.

Happy Friday, sweet friends.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I Found Love.

I discovered this video posted on Amanda's Facebook page and I wanted to share it with all of you…

Did you get goose bumps too?

One word stands out to me…JOY.  After I finished watching, I couldn’t help but think about what joy means to me. Many things flooded my mind…

laughing with my parents

freedom to worship my Father

thunderstorms at night

being silly with my friends

conversations over coffee (or tea!)

kids

being able to bless someone else

dancing in the kitchen

writing and receiving handwritten letters

vibrant and life-giving classrooms

Christ centered marriages

being able to relate and connect with someone

set apart femininity

cozy friday nights at home

All of the above bring a special sweetness to my life, but they aren’t my ultimate joy. No, that deep and satisfying joy is found somewhere else. My ultimate joy comes from knowing the God who breathed life into all creation. The God who sent His Son to earth to rescue me before I even knew I needed rescuing. The Lord who spilled His blood so that I may be redeemed. Now, I can have an intimate relationship with the God who holds the stars in His hands. I have joy because I found Love. This God is the source of my ultimate JOY.

And you know what is even more amazing…my joy in Him multiplies the sweetness of all the other little joys.

“You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.” Psalm 4:7

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Called to Peru {Guest Post}

Hello from Peru! My name is Amanda from La Blondie Peruana...I'm so happy to be a guest blogger today! {Thanks Samantha!}

clip_image002[4]

A little about me: I'm 27, I've been married to the most incredible man, Shaun, for the past 7 years and in October we are expecting our first {long awaited} little blessing, Judah. We are from Texas but are currently living full time in Lima, Peru but more about that to come!

Samantha and I haven't been blog friends for long, but she has been an incredible encouragement to me so far and I am excited about our new friendship. The first day I visited her blog, she had written a post about Missions and Prayer, where she explained her desire to teach overseas one day, and how she had challenged herself to start lifting up missionaries who are currently overseas. One of the pictures in the photo she took featured Peru, so we started a conversation mostly because I was curious if she knew anyone in Peru.

The answer is...NOW SHE DOES! Funny how God connects people :)

So, it is my pleasure to not only share with her, but also with you, more about my daily life and our ministry in Peru! I could really be all over the place with this...but fortunately, Samantha has provided me with a Q&A to help keep me on track! I'll try to be as thorough and as brief as possible! So without further ado...

1) What led you and your husband to become missionaries in Peru?

In August 2008 Shaun was approached by a friend and invited to go to Peru. His friend had lived in Peru several years ago, and it was always his dream to return  for a Basketball tour/missions trip. He had several connections that would allow his team from the states to play professional teams in Peru. Shaun had played basketball in high school, but not really since then, but as we prayed about it, we felt like it was right for him to go. 

While he was away, I really felt God was prompting me to pray and prepare my heart for something big that would come out of his trip. I had no idea what it was, but I prayed anyway. When Shaun returned one of the first things he said to me was, "How would you feel about moving to Peru?" I was...shocked to say the least, but at the same time I wasn't. I only laughed and thought, "OK God, thanks for preparing me!" 

So in March 2009, we boarded a plane and came back to Peru together. During that time God made it 100% clear that this is where He wanted us. When we returned to the states we sold everything we had, quit our jobs and moved in with my parents. By December 2009 we were both settled in Peru.

clip_image002[6]{Our excited faces, the day we got our missionary visas}

2) Tell me about your specific ministry in Peru.

I will break this one down into two parts: As a team and personally...

As a team:

The community we live in currently is not where we started out. We lived in another area for the first 2 years we were here, and God really used that season to prepare us for what He had next. It allowed us to get accustomed to the culture, and the language (neither of us spoke any Spanish before we moved here!). Then God moved us on to a community in Chorrillos, where we are now, last September.

We are now part of a team called OIKOS, which is Greek for "Extended Family". Our team is made up of members from America, England, Canada, and of course, Peru. We know God has called us together to be an "extended family" so that as a team, we can reach out to individuals, families and and communities around us.  Currently as a team we focus on three areas: Pacifico (a Shanty town about 5 min away), The Jungle, and Los Cedros (the community where we live).

clip_image002[8]{Pacifico}

clip_image002[10]{Calleria: One of our Jungle Communities}

Each community is very different, and like looks different each day. But we are dedicated daily to the following foundations: Personally abiding in Christ, Sharing the Gospel, Life on Life daily discipleship, Disciples making disciples, Worship, Prayer and Living as a community. This is what we live by and what we hope to communicate to the people we live and work with. It's been incredible to see lives transformed as we build relationships!

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Personally:

I am currently the worship leader of our communities. It will forever be a mystery to me why God chose ME, but I am growing daily in this process and learning more about the Character of God through worship. I have no previous experience in leading OR worship, but God has given me a talent that I would be silly not to use for his glory. There is only one place I am truly comfortable being, and that is in HIS presence. At the time there are 3 other members on my team and they are amazing. God is growing us each individually and as a team. We have recently started a new discipleship program, in which we are all learning more about becoming leaders and worship. I feel God is leading us to teach the people what we are learning about DAILY worship..that it's not just about singing songs during the specified "worship time" on a Sunday morning..but about truly LIVING a life of worship to God for the things he has done for us. It's been an exciting process and I look forward to seeing how God will use this team here in Peru!

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3) Tell me about your church and worship in Peru.

Oops! I kind of jumped ahead on this one...but that's ok I will expand a little more on the "schedule". On Sunday mornings we go out to Pacifico. Our "service" (for lack of better words) is held in the house of Ines. It is a small and humble home, but she willingly opens her doors to us and to her neighbors every week. Twice a month we hold a "formal" service, with worship, a message and fellowship and the other 2 weeks of the month we have an "informal" service...basically we go with drinks and cookies and the people come and we just fellowship. Sometimes we break up into groups and go out into the community, sometimes we just stay in the house and the people come and we just have a great morning talking. It looks different every week.

Sunday evenings, we have a service in our teammates, Mark and Anna's house in Los Cedros, the community we live in, where there is worship, a message and fellowship.

The rest of the week, we just live life together...building relationships, meeting each others needs, visiting...etc.

clip_image002[16]{During an “informal” service in Pacifico}

4) What do you appreciate most about the culture?

Hmmm...LOTS to appreciate! Culturally, the Peruvians are a very loving people. It would be so easy for them to reject us as foreigners, but they have accepted us as part of the family and allowed us to make our lives here. They are very helpful and patient when it comes to the language...which I have heard from some missionary friends in other countries, can be extremely difficult. Like I said earlier, neither of us knew any Spanish when we came, and we are far from being fluent, but everyone around us is so willing to help!

clip_image002[18]

5) What is a typical day like for you and your family?

We often get this question...and the answer is, there really is no such thing as a "typical" day. Yes, there are things that we have scheduled and that are routine, but every single day and week looks completely different. Our team really moves in and out of seasons, which means the way we do things, as well as the people we work and live with.

However, some of the things we have scheduled would be: Leadership Meetings, accountability, visits, discipleship, etc...Really focusing on building relationships within our team as well as out in our community.

One of our EVERY day activities includes our team lunch! Every day (but Saturday), we come together and share a meal together, which is SO fun, encouraging AND a little crazy. There are anywhere from 8-20 people around the table every single day! To us it is normal now, but every time we have a visitor I remember just how overwhelming and different it was the first few weeks.

clip_image002[20]{A normal lunch setting}

6) What has been the most encouraging part of your ministry in Peru? The most challenging?

Another toughie...This has been such a humbling experience because most of the time we are learning SO MUCH from the people we work with daily. We are constantly blessed by the things that they teach us! We love to see lives changed because of what God is doing here...and it's such an honor to be used by Him, when he could have called ANYONE else.

On the flip side: It is such a challenge to pour constantly into someone, only to see them resist change, or turn back to their previous lifestyle. We have each experienced some sort of rejection or disappointment because of this. Of course, it has nothing to do with us personally, but when you give so much of your time and energy and see SO much positive change, it can be the most discouraging thing when that all changes for some reason or another. We have to start back a "square one" a lot. But there is a positive to that as well, because it teaches us daily that our identity MUST be in Christ, and NOT the work we are doing, or even the people we are investing in.

7) What are some specific prayer requests you have for your country and mission of service?

For Peru: Our constant prayer is that everyone would experience and truly know the Love of Christ. We want them to know the freedom of a relationship with Jesus, instead of the daily burdens they struggle with.

For our team: Constant protection physically, spiritually and emotionally. It can be a daily struggle to be in a foreign country, away from families and the "comforts" of our respective countries. Also, there will be lots of traveling within the team soon. Prayer for those traveling, as well as those staying!

For my family: Please pray for my husband and I as we prepare for our first baby! Everything is about to change and we are so excited, but there are a lot of unknowns!

Also, our roles on the team will be changing drastically here in the next few months as I become more pregnant, and into the first few months with a newborn. Please pray for us as well as our team as we all adjust to the changes!

Thank you so much for reading! I know it was a little wordy, but it's a challenge to express EVERYTHING in a short post! I could go on and on and one!!!

BUT, If you would like more information or have any questions you can find me at La Blondie Peruana, or feel free to email me: amandalaura626@gmail.com You can also find out even more about our ministry at www.calledtoperu.org

Blessings!

Amanda

Thank you so much for sharing, Amanda! It has been such a pleasure to correspond with you so far and I’m excited about our growing friendship. Your willingness to follow God’s call to Peru is a huge encouragement to me and I love hearing about the community that you’re apart of.

So, will you join me in not only praying for Amanda and her family, but for Peru as well?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Micsellany Monday

Today, I’m linking up with Carissa from lowercase letters
 
{one}
 
I’m writing this post early (it’s Sunday night). As I write, I’m watching a tribute to the best songs of 1960s on television. So far, The Supremes, Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Mamas & The Papas and The Beatles have made appearances. We danced in the kitchen to a few of the hits…
 

{two}
 
I move back to school this Saturday. I’ve had a wonderful summer, but I’m ready to start a new semester. I have so much excitement and expectancy in my heart! Plus, it means I’m one year closer to being a teacher.
 
{three}
 
I’ve been in a reading funk since I finished reading Little Bee. I usually always have a book on my nightstand, but I haven’t for the past week. Any book suggestions?
 
{four}
 
Have you listened to Anthem Lights yet?  It sounds cheesy to say, but their voices make me melt. They did an acoustic cover of Demi Lovato’s “Give Your Heart a Break” and it’s just so so good.
 
 
{five}

This time next Monday I'll be sitting in my 8 am Theology class.

{six}
 
The weather was GORGEOUS this weekend. It rained Friday night which ushered in cooler temperatures. I spent lots of time in the rocking chairs on the front porch. On Saturday night, my mom and I grabbed throw blankets and just sat and talked and looked at the stars.
 
summer
{Sunday afternoon.}
Who would have thought I'd have The Beatles and Anthem lights in the same post? Ha!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Truth.

truth
Good morning, sweet girls! I wanted to share with you a little wisdom from Amy Carmichael that I’m resting in today. I have so many dreams and desires tumbling around in my heart that I can sometimes become discouraged when they don’t come to pass in the way I planned or in my timing. BUT, I’m learning to surrender them to the One who created and placed them in my heart in the first place. He knows me intimately. He knows the desires that are deeply embedded upon my heart. He also knows what’s best for me even when I don’t see it that way.

I want to encourage you today to trust in the Lord who knows you SO intimately. He knows your heart. One of my favorite songs is “Waiting Here For You.” There is a line where Christy Nockels sings, “You’re the Lord of all creation and still you know my heart…” I’m so overwhelmed when I soak in the grandness of that statement.

Rest in the truth that the Lord of ALL creation knows your heart. Joy comes from knowing that!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Missions and Prayer

DSCN0412
{photos I've collected for my missions prayer board so far...}
Missions and prayer have been heavy on my heart lately. This summer I’ve made it a priority to spend time in prayer consistently. I’ve been challenged to truly commit to praying for those I’ve told I’ll pray for and for those whom God places on my heart. I want for people to know that when I say I will pray for them they can count on me to intercede on their behalf.

I've been thinking a lot about my personal friends living overseas. These thoughts spiraled into thoughts of my own desire to teach overseas one day…a dream that is wedged deep in my heart. Those thoughts led me to think about missionaries around the world. The believers who are sharing the Gospel in nations around the globe in a multitude of ways. I’m so thankful I come from a church that is heavily missions minded and I’ve had the privilege to hear stories upon stories from missionaries over the last few years. They always stir my heart!

Since I can’t physically go overseas at this time, I want to actively be lifting up missionaries around the world and the nations that they are laboring in. In order to be intentional about this, I’ve gone through my planner and assigned every week until the end of the year a specific country. Each week, I’m going to commit to praying for that country. The nation. The people. The missionaries living in that country. Etc.

This week I’m praying for Japan…a few facts about the nation:

-Population is around 126 million

-Nearly 80% live in cities; around one-fourth of the population lives in or around Tokyo

-Religions: 84% are Buddhist/Shinto/New Religions; 15% are Non-religious; 1% are Christian

-About 70% of churches have an average attendance of less than 30 people

-Much of the nation remains unresponsive to the Gospel…many want to worship the way that their ancestors have for ages

There is so much more to this country than just cherry blossoms and Mt. Fuji. I’m lifting up this nation to the Lord this week. There are not any restrictions to witnessing or preaching the Gospel in Japan! The doors are wide open for ministry and I’m praying for a vibrant and biblical church to rise up.

Are you interested in hearing about the countries that I’m praying for each week or even joining me? If so, I would love to share from now on!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Encouragement

I’ve only been blogging for two months, but I’ve grown to love this creative outlet. I love having a space to write and share pieces of my heart. I love sharing snapshots of my life. I love knowing that I’ll be able to look back to see how I’ve grown and changed. But, what I’ve come to love most is the community of women I’ve been able to connect with. I’ve been so encouraged by other young women who share parts of their heart and life as they follow hard after Jesus. Although we haven’t met in person, their stories have spurred me on. Whether it has been through sweet messages or exchanged emails, friendships have developed. I know we would talk for hours if I were able to meet one of these ladies for coffee one day…

I want to share the blogs of a few ladies who have been such an encouragement to me this summer with the hope that you’ll be uplifted as well.

I want to start with Katie from Hope Engaged

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This girl is incredible! I’ve been SO encouraged and challenged by Katie. She radiates joy and the love of Christ through her blog! Her love for the Lord and people is genuine and I always look forward to her posts to see what she will share. I hope that you’ll head over to Katie’s blog and spend time reading through her posts! I promise you won’t be disappointed. Also, be sure to read her love story…I can see God’s hand on every detail and it reminds me that the beauty of God scripted love stories is unsurpassed. Just another reminder to wait on God!

Next is Tiffany from The Wandering Theologian

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Tiffany and I have exchanged emails consistently over the course of the summer and I’ve loved developing a sweet friendship with her. She recently graduated from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and is days away from moving overseas for a year to teach English. Such an exciting journey! If you want to know more about her journey, you’ll have to hop on over to her blog and say hello.

Then there is Jenna from Dearest Love

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Jenna is a young second grade teacher living in Atlanta. Her blog is full of inspiration and all things lovely. She has encouraged me in many ways through uplifting blog comments and messages we’ve exchanged here and there. Jenna has a tender heart for the Lord and that shows through her posts in an honest and vulnerable way. One of my favorite posts was her reflection of her first year teaching. I encourage you to not only read that post, but to explore her other posts! I guarantee that her blog will become a daily read of yours as well.

Next is Natalie from Heart Stirrings

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Natalie is a girl after my own heart and I know we must be kindred spirits. Not only is she an education major, coffee addict, Gilmore girls and book lover, but she is after the Father’s heart. Her posts are always founded on Biblical truth and point to the Gospel while covering modern issues. She’s also really funny and her posts have caused me to laugh out loud. Natalie was one of my first blog friends and I couldn’t recommend her blog more!

Finally, Allie from Sequins & Faith

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Allie currently lives in Canada, but is getting ready to move to Australia to attend Hillsong College. What an adventure that will be! Allie is an incredibly photographer and has a gift for writing. I soak up the wisdom she shares in her posts and she radiates Jesus. She has a way of communicating her heart through her writing in such a unique way. Her perspective on issues is really neat. I would recommend that you take time to discover her blog! It won’t be time wasted as her words always point back to the Father.

There are other ladies who have blessed me that I did not highlight above. I simply wanted to point you in the direction of a few godly women whose stories and passions have resonated with me.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Let's Get To Know Each Other

I discovered a new blog, Create Like Crazy, this morning and snagged the idea for this post from her. She created a list of random facts about herself to use as an atypical "about me." I loved what she shared and was inspired to create my own list...

1. I have a habit of reading the last page of a book early on.

2. I'd rather go to the mountains than the beach.

3. I can never settle on what my "dream" grade level to teach is. Just when I fall in love with the little ones (K-2nd), I develop a love for the older kids (4th/5th).

4. Only two books have made me cry; Redeeming Love and A Thousand Splendid Suns.

5. I've kept a journal consistently for the past three years.

6. I write letters to my future husband that I'll give to him once we're married.

7. A large majority of my clothes are from thrift stores.

8. Peanut butter M&M's are my downfall.

9. Driving with the windows down while singing along to my favorite songs is a stress reliever for me.

10. Tulips are my favorite flower, but gardenias are a close second because of their smell.

11. I could listen to (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding over and over.

12. I truly don't know what I would major in if I weren't pursuing elementary education. I'm a huge (future) teacher nerd.

13. I lived in Tallahassee until I moved away for college. I don't ever plan to move back.

14. I blog stalked for two years before I started my own. I've grown to love this creative outlet and community of women I've "met."

15. I love my middle name, Grey. I wish I had never stopped being called Samantha Grey when I was seven or eight.

So, there you have it...a hodge podge of random facts about me. If you decide to make your own list please share it with me!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Candid Moments

I was looking through the photos I have saved on my computed and I realized that I have lots of candid photos. These moments make me smile and flood my mind with memories of the moment they were captured. Some are as recent as this summer while others date back to my sophomore year of high school. I hope you enjoy these!

Surprise (16th)
This was taken on my 16th birthday! My birthday was during the same week as youth camp and I was thrown a surprise party after service that night. It was completely unexpected and I promise you that I was much happier than I look!

candid
I know this looks posed, but I assure you that it's not. I don't have the slightest idea how we all managed to have these faces...I'm in the middle on the bottom (if you couldn't tell).
girls
This one is posed...it's the picture that we were aiming to get above. I only included it to show that the picture before was indeed a candid. 
Boune
I can't help but laugh at how crazy I look in this one! I was having a little too much fun in a bounce house when this photo was captured.

lunch
This one was taken during a lunch period...it was either 11th or 12th grade. I love all the different facial expressions.
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During a field trip to Skate World, I let one of my second graders hold my camera for a while. She captured this one of me and three of my sweet girls skating around the rink.
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I ADORE this picture. One of the best parts about my externship was the friendship I developed with the student teacher, Joy. We forged a friendship during the time we spent together with our class of second graders and we still talk today! This photo was snapped during her goodbye party and it's completely candid. It looks staged, but it's not. (Side note: Joy teaches middle school in La Paz, Bolivia now and you can check out her blog here.)
picnic
This was taken during a picnic last fall at the start of my freshman year in college. It was a gorgeous day spent with new friends...I'm the one in the red dress.
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Earlier this summer, I went thrift shopping with my parents. At one store, I found my dad dozing off in a recliner...I guess we went to one too many stores for him! As soon as I was about to snap the photo, one of his eyes opened. Stinker!

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Oh, my mom makes me laugh! We went to Dollywood earlier this summer and she attempted to entertain me as we waited in line. In result, I captured this.
Snapshot_20120617_60
I already shared these photos here, but I just wanted to share this one again. It's purely candid and makes me smile at how silly we look!
candid
These were taken the same night as these. My mom had control of my camera and many candids were taken. These two make me laugh because of how goofy I look and I can't remember at all what I was trying to explain to her. I was very intent though!


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Practicalities and Promises

Last night a thunderstorm swept through my area. As evening closed in the rain steadily started to pour. The lightening lit up the sky and the thunder seemed to shake the earth. I grabbed a throw blanket and went out to sit in one of the rocking chairs on the front porch to listen to the rain. It was dark (well, in between lightening strikes) and chilly.

As I sat there, my mind started to race with anxiousness. I go back to school in two weeks and I need a job. I've started to fill out applications and I’ve let my worries trample my faith. It’s difficult enough finding a job in this economy, let alone in a college town. I’ve spent too much time this week worrying about if I’ll be able to land a job. I realize how trivial this is compared to what other people are facing and I’m so thankful that I don’t have a husband or children dependent on me. I have very supportive parents, but the fact is I need a job and this waiting period is hard.

I decided to spend time in the Word and I opened up to the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:38-44).

“Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

Jesus commanded that the stone covering the tomb entrance be removed…Jesus had no doubt that He would raise Lazarus from the dead. What stuck out to me was Martha’s response to the Lord. Instead of doing what He said, she rambled on about how rotten the tomb must smell. After all, Lazarus had been dead for four days already! Her response seemed logical, but she had forgotten what the Lord had promised. I was struck with this thought:

I diminish God’s promises when I become consumed with practicalities…believe in faith.

I’ve been doubting His promises by focusing on logistics! Some of my thoughts this week have been similar to these…”I won’t get hired anywhere.” “Why would they hire a young college girl without any experience?” “I won’t find a job that I enjoy.” “There are so many others seeking a job and I won’t stand out.”

Instead of trusting that God will provide, I’ve allowed practicalities to fill my mind with doubts. I don’t want to diminish His promises, so I’m changing my attitude from here on out. I refuse to let these toxic thoughts consume me!

I'm not sure what you're facing today, but I want to encourage you to have faith in His promises. Don't let the practicalities of how it will work out cloud your mind.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Where It All Started…

My love of teaching, that is. I’m not the girl who grew up playing school or pretending that my stuffed animals were my students. I didn’t know from the first day of kindergarten that I wanted to be a teacher. I’m the daughter of a teacher, so I spent more than enough time in my mom’s classroom. When the school bell rang at the end of the day I wandered down to my mom’s room and spent time there long after the other students had gone home. There were lots of summer days that I accompanied her to school to help her prepare for the next year. I quickly became a pro at die-cuts, laminations, bulletin boards, etc. I saw how hard teachers worked first hand, and I didn’t want to go into that. So I thought. 

Now, fast forward to my senior year of high school. I had the opportunity to complete an externship. A certain number of seniors were allowed to leave school early each day to spend time in a job field that interested them. I liked the idea of leaving earlier each day so I applied and was accepted. I thought I wanted to extern at a non-profit organization, but I had trouble finding one. My mom had lots of connections with other teachers in the district, so I decided I would extern in a second grade class.

When August rolled around I contacted my mentor teacher to see if I could help out during the teacher work week. I spent a few afternoons getting to know her while we put the finishing touches on her classroom. I was even able to stay during orientation to meet “our” new second graders. The moment I met my first student, I was smitten. Their nervous and excited smiles warmed my heart, and I had no idea at the time how much these kids would become a part of my life.

When the school year started, I left half-way through the day and drove to the elementary school. Each day that I arrived I was welcomed by a chorus of “Miss Samanthas!” These lasted all year long and I loved it. I helped in any way that was needed whether that was stapling, grading, working with individuals or small groups, and so on. I also went on all the field trips throughout the year. I really treasured those days we were able to get out of the normal school environment.

Each afternoon that I spent with these second graders I learned more and more about them. I learned about their academic strengths and weaknesses. I learned what their favorite subjects were. I learned about who played soccer and who took dance classes. I learned about their family dynamics. It’s cliché to say, but the relationships I developed with these kids were priceless. I felt so privileged to watch them grown and change over the course of an entire school year. 

Slowly, education wedged a way into my heart that couldn’t be ignored. I NEVER thought that I would want to be a teacher, and I started to ask God whether He wanted me to pursue elementary education. I distinctly remember writing in my journal my hesitancy as to whether this was His plan or mine. Over the year, He confirmed multiple times that He was calling me to be a teacher. I just knew that this passion was from Him. I talked about my kids all. the. time. My friends heard more than enough stories and I came home every day to tell my parents about the world of second grade. One afternoon, my mom told me that my face lit up every time I talked about my kids and teaching. Her observation meant the world to me.

Throughout my first year in college, I was able to spend time in first, fourth, and sixth grade classrooms. My passion for education has continued to grow stronger and I genuinely love being the classroom. Everything within me knows that teaching will be one of the hardest things I ever do, but I’m meant to fulfill this calling. I’m so thankful that God chose me.

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My sweet second graders...the first class to ever steal my heart.
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