Things I’ve Learned: Post Missions Trip

On Sunday, it will be two weeks since we returned to the States. The past two weeks have been spent getting back into the groove and routine of balancing work, babysitting, and student teaching. I envy my peers that have been able to stay at their original student teaching placements, and have found it really difficult to find the motivation to lesson plan and fulfill the remaining requirements needed for my degree. I like my class at my new placement, but I really miss all of my students at Renaissance. ūüė¶

Since I’ve been back, I’ve wanted to write something that will help me debrief. In ten short days, I, and the rest of my team experienced a wide range of emotions, and then had to¬†jump right back¬†into “normal life.” It’s been difficult at times to come to terms with the fact that I can’t hop on a plane and go right back to South America. I still can’t do that, right?

In the past few days, I’ve had time to reflect, and want to share with you a few things that I’ve learned – post missions trip.

1. American bathrooms are¬†beautiful and should never be taken for granted:¬†I don’t know if I can describe to you the pain I felt when my body was consumed with the need to pee, and had to wait in a long line in the airport in Bogota because there were only four stalls, and that was the only bathroom remotely near our gate. Words cannot describe the feeling of entering a stall and realizing you forgot toilet paper … and it isn’t provided for you. Or how about the smell that builds as the mountain of used toilet paper grows higher and higher because you can’t flush it. Let’s not even talk about how much more accessible soap is here in the United States. I love my little blue apartment bathroom more than ever before.

2. Traffic in America is tame compared to traffic overseas:¬†My life almost ended at least 5 times when we were in Iquitos. The moto taxis whiz through the streets, beeping at other drivers to get out of the way, and barely miss the countless number of open man holes that appear on every street. There are no¬†doors on the taxis, and if you have a backpack, you better hold onto it, or someone might reach over and take it when you’re casually sitting at a red light.

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3. Everything sounds better in Spanish:¬†Does this even need to be said? My newest goal in life is to become fluent in Spanish. I’m actually quite close to achieving it, but just need more practice. Songs sound more beautiful in Spanish. Jokes are funnier in Spanish. Insults are more intense in Spanish. Fights are more passionate in Spanish. Ordering food is more exciting in Spanish. But I think you get my point.

4. American money is really quite ugly: moneyCan we just use soles from now on?

5. Owning a car is overrated: Even though my life almost ended at least 5 times, I miss driving in the moto taxis, and how inexpensive it was to get around. In the past week, we’ve paid over $40 for gas. That would take care of transportation in Iquitos for about a month, maybe more. Not only is transportation cheap, but it’s reliable. We would walk out of our hotel, and four taxis would swarm around us. Caleb and I are looking forward to the day when we can sell our car, and move to South Korea where we don’t have to pay for insurance or gas. I’m ready for that day. ūüôā

6. I’m spoiled. You’re spoiled. We’re all spoiled:¬†Life in America is cushioned, and we don’t even realize it. Men and women who are on welfare and rely on food stamps are more blessed and well off than some of the people we met in Iquitos. We take for granted our freedoms, and the way that the government takes care of the American people. I don’t care what you have to say about our President, or the way our government is being run – we are blessed, and should spend less time complaining, and more time praying for our leaders.¬†We have access to so many things (like reliable healthcare, running & clean¬†water, electricity, and the ability to flush toilet paper),¬†and although our country is not perfect by any standards, it’s important to try and find a new perspective every once in a while.

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Because of how blessed we are as Americans, it is vital that each person discover how they can bless others in return. Whether it is volunteering your time, or simply giving a check to your local non-profit organization (like Alzamora International), we all have a purpose, and we all have something to offer the world. Discover what that is, and run with it.

Everyone wants to make a difference and feel important. However, change won’t be accomplished if we remain selfish and complacent. Loving others and making a change takes risk and a commitment to offer precious time and resources. It’s not easy, but it’s more than worth it.

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Let’s teach the next generation about the value of generosity. We are consumed by our possessions, but in the end, that’s not what will bring us into Eternity, or provide us with true happiness.

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So, what can you offer the world today?

If you have been on a missions trip recently or in the past, what are some things you learned after returning to the States?

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little feet

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six little feet, thirty little toes.

my night was spent pretending to be a horse, and making sure dinner was eaten and teeth were brushed.

we ate strawberries for dessert, put together a Hello Kitty puzzle, and watched The Little Mermaid.

i read a million books, tucked them into bed, and then was reminded that i forgot to fill up their water cups.

i was told that the littlest one would scream when i put him down, but i sang him a few of my favorite hymns, and stroked his hair, and all was well.

“it is well,¬†it is well with my soul.”

i put him in his crib, and his little hand reached out & grabbed my pinky. my heart turned into mush.

i don’t know if they’ve ever heard about Jesus, so why not now?

i always forget that this is my mission field, even more so than Peru will be in only six days.

i have a habit of complaining about babysitting jobs; it’s not what i want to do forever. it’s not easy putting other people’s children to bed, and telling them to stop standing on chairs, and to be kind to their siblings.

one day i hope to have my own littles to put to bed. i dream about them sometimes, and as much as i say i don’t want children, my heart is excited to one day be a momma to a little Phoebe, and a little Judah, and maybe a little Graham.

but for now, i’ve been given this opportunity to sing other babies to sleep with songs about Jesus, and show them love by giving them strawberries.

and i am grateful that i am the one to do so.

don’t leave the bridge

‚ÄúSomeone can be madly in love with you and still not be ready. They can love you in a way you have never been loved and still not join you on the bridge. And whatever their reasons you must leave. Because you never ever have to inspire anyone to meet you on the bridge. You never ever have to convince someone to do the work to be ready. There is more extraordinary love, more love that you have never seen, out here in this wide and wild universe. And there is the love that will be ready.‚ÄĚ {Nayyirah Waheed}

I’ve lived this truth, and looking back, sometimes it’s still not easy to think about.

It’s not easy being the one that hurt another person – to cut ties with someone you cared about so deeply¬†without any closure.

The boy that wooed me with a song, and in the end, made me cry every time I listened to¬†“In My Arms” and “Married Life.”

Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I had left my bridge. What if I had settled, and said, “it’s okay. My love for you is greater than my deepest desires. Greater than my purpose.” That would have been sacrificial, right?

But you see, it’s not.

Sometimes it’s important to fight for your destiny. And sometimes that means saying goodbye.

Sometimes that means starting over from scratch, and discovering what it’s like to be alone again.

Within that loneliness you discover strength, and a determination you really didn’t know you had.

A determination that pushes through even though every fiber of your being wants to take back those words that said “I don’t think we’re going in the same direction, and I think we need to break up.” The words that insinuated that when I said “I love you,” I didn’t really mean it. I immediately wanted to say, “Take me back. I’ll leave my bridge for you. I’ll wait forever.”

But self denial is not always love.

However, I discovered that within this new found loneliness, you often stumble upon someone that is ready and willing to meet you right where you are.

Someone who silently stays by your side as your separate journeys somehow collide.

And that is the beauty of staying on the bridge.

Student Teaching Reflections; part I

I didn’t really know what to expect when I registered for student teaching.

I didn’t expect a student to¬†ask me if I was pregnant because I’m married. I wasn’t prepared for this poop sculpture, or the amount of drama that fourth grade girls are able to cause. I wasn’t prepared for how many of these students have iPhone 6’s, or the fact that they all know how to group text, when I just learned how a few months ago.

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I hoped that I would enjoy it, and prayed that the students would take it easy on me. During my field experience, I fumbled through a lesson on something obviously important, and afterwards heard a student say, with more attitude than a fourth grader should ever have, “why is she so¬†nervous?”

That’s right, kid. I’m nervous. This is my future, and if I don’t like teaching at the end of this whole experience, an ungodly amount of¬†dollars will have been put to waste. If you don’t pass my Exit Slip with flying colors, that’s a direct reflection on me, even though you didn’t pay a sliver of attention to my lesson, and decided that you would try and see if I’d notice you eating a whole pack of gum while staring directly into my eyes.

But you know what? So far, I’ve loved it.

I’ve loved it even though most days are a power struggle between me & my math class.

One time, a student decided it would be a good idea to draw on his test instead of take it, and when I asked him to start working, he punched his desk, and accused me of picking on him because he’s black.¬†When I told him to put his name on his test, he showed me this:

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Just for clarification, his name is not “BraH.”

During that same test, a student decided that she didn’t want to take it because she’s “not going to be a math teacher, so she doesn’t need to know this stuff.” And she then proceeded to stare at the wall even though I told her that I believed in her, and that I didn’t want her to get a zero. She got upset when I took her test away…at the end of class….after everyone else had left.

I’ve realized that sometimes the negative forces of home are just too strong for a student teacher to break through in only a few short months. And to be honest, that’s the most discouraging part of this whole thing.

But I’ve¬†come to the conclusion that I can’t afford to¬†stop trying.

I think about my educational heroes: Mrs. Crow, my mom, Professor Aspito, and Dr. Modica.

I wonder if they felt like this when they were¬†beginners: some days you feel like you should be handed your teacher certification on a silver¬†platter, and other days you feel like you’re drowning.

There is obviously so much I need to learn, and the process¬†isn’t easy. Wait. I only have 2 more months of this, and then I’m expected to teach on my own, without supervision?! Will I even be ready?! Do I have to grade more papers? Why are there always so many papers to grade? Is it time for bed yet? No? Oh…

If I have to say “I’ll wait,” one. more. time…

But then I think about how wonderful these women are, and the impact they have had on my life, and I’m sure, the lives of countless others.

The good days somehow have outweighed the bad.

I have been able to transform my ELA class into a group of inspirational poets.

I’ve formed relationships with students that give me random words of encouragement almost every day.

Most of all, I still look forward to going back to school – even after the most glorious snow days.

I’m not sure what I’ll find at¬†my next placement. I don’t know if I’ll have the same support that I’ve been given from my current cooperating teacher, or if I’ll enjoy teaching the same 13 students for seven hours, rather than 60 different students throughout the course of one day (I teach three different groups for ELA, Math, and Science).

But I’m ready and willing to face whatever comes next.

(and I’m also obviously counting down the days until graduation. 70 DAYS.)

Just another testimony

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again.

God is faithful.

If you know anything about clearances, they are a pain in the butt. Because I’m an education major, I have to renew my clearances every year, and they cost a lot of money, and take a really long time to get in.

My beautiful friend Valerie is on the Peru team. She adds so much to our group – not only does she speak Spanish fluently, but her spirit is so gentle. Rays of grace and love beam off of her like the sun. If you met her in person, you would understand.

So how do you think I felt when she told me that she hadn’t received her clearances, and hadn’t been able to get through to the office? I panicked. And then I said, “Lord, this can’t happen. You want her on our trip.” And that was that.

Recently, Pennsylvania decided that instead of only accepting Child Abuse Clearance forms through the mail, they would also provide the public with the option of submitting applications online. Instead of the normal 6 – 8 weeks, it should only take 2-3 weeks to get your clearance forms approved.

But guess what?

We don’t have 2 – 3 weeks.

We leave on March 6th. Only 17 days away.

Tonight at our team meeting, I sat next to Valerie, and we filled out a completely new clearance application. She paid another $10, and as she clicked the “submit” button, I told her I would call the office tomorrow and see if they would push her application through.

Then I refreshed the page, and right there in front of us it said: Your application has been processed and can now be viewed. 

That’s right, folks. She has all her clearances in. The only thing left is for her to secure her travel visa.

This was such a minute detail in the grand scheme of Peru plans. Yet¬†God knew, and He still knows.¬†He knows what we need, when we need it. He knew that she needed that clearance, and even though I feel like I have to remind Him sometimes, He knows that we’re set to leave in 17 days. He knows we still have $2,000 left to raise, and He knows that all our funds need to be in by February 20th. That’s Friday, if you were wondering.¬†

I love when Paul writes, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” {Philippians 4:19}

This same God who took care of our clearance forms can take care of your mortgage. He can take care of your bills. He can provide people to support you in your ministry. He can provide the healing you’ve been praying for, the strength you need to get out of bed each morning, and the salvation for your wayward child.

He is able and He is faithful.

And the most beautiful part of it all? He won’t fail you. He never has, and He won’t start now.

We’re really going to Peru!

Today is the day we’ve been anxiously awaiting for months!

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This week, our team finally raised enough funds to purchase six plane tickets to Lima, Peru, and tonight we bought them! 

As the leader of this team, I’ve gone through a myriad of emotions; frustration as we changed missionaries multiple times & plans didn’t seem to come together, anxiety as I realized the huge feat of leading and planning a trip while also Student Teaching, and fear as I continued to look at our financial situation, and that big, fat,¬†zero¬†just stared back at me.

Then there was the feeling of excitement and admiration as our team bonded during missions bootcamp, and realized that we all hate team building activities. I feel like we finally became a unified group of friends, rather than six people that kind of liked one another.

Cue the F-R-I-E-N-D-S theme song:

However, nothing can compare to the feeling I had last night when I was able to tell everyone, WE CAN BUY OUR TICKETS!!!!!”¬†

$4,000 later, we have the biggest part of our trip settled. However, we are still in great need of prayers, and the remaining $4500 in funds to do everything we have planned.

We will arrive in Peru on March 6th, and will spend 1 1/2 days in Lima, where we will meet Bill Shrader & his family, and have our trip orientation.

That Sunday, we plan to fly to Iquitos, and minister in 2 different churches. On Monday we start our VBS program (we are having the VBS program in 2 different schools – 2 days in each school), as well as a bathroom remodeling project, and will return to the States on March 15th.

As you continue to pray for our upcoming trip, rejoice with us as we have already seen the Lord work in such amazing ways! Pray that our team continues to bond, that we will become fluent in Spanish really quickly ūüėČ , and for protection & health before and during the trip. Overall, pray that we will be a blessing to the Shraders and to everyone we meet in Iquitos.

If you gain anything from this little post, be encouraged that the Lord sees your need, and will meet you right where you are. We are so blessed to be loved by such a wonderful God.

p.s. If you are interested in partnering with us financially, please let me know! You can give online here: https://apps.valleyforge.edu/OnlineGiving/GiftForm.aspx

Content

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This month I decided that I would participate in The Peony Project’s monthly link-up. If you’re not sure what The Peony Project is, it’s¬†a community for women who love Jesus, love blogging, and are looking for a common space to share ideas, encourage one another, and make real, honest friendships with one another. It’s been such a blessing to be a part of an online group that is so uplifting and encouraging – it’s too easy to find groups that are about self-promotion rather than group growth and support.¬†February’s prompt is “Content,” and because it is the proverbial “month of love,” this link-up challenged us to write about how we find contentment in our current season of life and love.

In June, Caleb and I will be celebrating two years of marriage. When I was in high school, I wrote a list of things I wanted in a future husband. I remember including qualities such as: adventurous, caring, funny, and may have included “rich doctor/musician” at the very end just to be safe. Looking back on that somewhat shallow list, Caleb has exceeded all of the expectations that my 16 year old self had. I could go on and on about my husband, but that’s not really where I want to go with this post.

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When I think about whether or not I’m content in this season, there is no question that I am. I’m ready to graduate and move on to bigger & better things, but¬†in the end, this season of learning to live¬†with Caleb, traveling & having exciting adventures, and supporting one another, has been so sweet. I’m grateful¬†to have had such a great first year and a half of marriage, and hope & pray the next 100 years are just as wonderful.

Then I think about my relationship with Jesus. When our marriage is going well, when we don’t have petty arguments, when I build my husband up, when we respect one another & listen to each other’s words without assumptions – these are the times when my relationship with Jesus is easiest. There is no struggle to be grateful or content with my choice of a mate. Joy comes without effort, and the words “I love you & I like you” slip off my tongue with ease.

But what about the other days? The days we act childish, and throw dagger-like words at one another. The days where we (and by we I mean I) go to bed angry, and offer the silent treatment instead of a peace offering. By the grace of God these days are few and far between, but they still come. What about those days? Do I still find contentment and comfort in the arms of my Savior, when my best friend, lover, and companion has hurt me beyond immediate repair? Am I still able to muster up gratefulness, or extend grace that in my eyes is wholly undeserved?

It’s easy to place my relationship with Christ to the side when I am able to find temporary contentment in other things. But that is the extent of the comfort those things provide; it is painfully fleeting. However, nothing is more lasting and fulfilling than being able to bring myself completely (baggage and all) to the feet of my Savior, and all at once being accepted and repaired. I am constantly finding new cracks in my being, yet how sweet it is for the One who created me to know exactly how to make me His perfect vessel, and find new ways to use me despite my deepest flaws.

I must rely on Him for contentment not only through times of trial, but through times of joy, celebration, and blessing.

For me, contentment is more than just a feeling of happiness. There are so many things that offer me joy that eventually lose my interest, and fade away into nothingness.

Instead, contentment is knowing that regardless of what my circumstances or the world tells me, I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.

It is peace that passes all understanding.

It is Jesus.

In order for me to always find contentment in my living situation, my state of employment, and even my marriage, my ultimate pursuit must be Christ, and within that pursuit, He provides the strength to be content in both the extraordinary and the ordinary seasons that we all face.

How have you found contentment in your current season?

If you’d like to link up with The Peony Project this month & share your thoughts on contentment, click here.