Sunday, May 26, 2013

This picture is an intersection of my Kandern home and my Chicago home.

Reflections on Home….

Last week we held our annual Senior Transition Seminar where we prepare our seniors for the coming life changing transition they will go through. Besides graduating from high school and going to college, these kids will, in all likelihood, be saying goodbye to countries and cultures they have lived in most of their life, to take up life in their passport country. One of the practical things we had the students think about was to figure out how to answer the question: “Where are you from?”

It is not new information for them to think about how difficult this question is to answer. For years they have hated and dreaded this question. And knowing that most people they meet during their first few days on a foreign college campus are NOT going to want to hear: “Well, I was born in Russia, then I lived in Uzbekistan for 10 years, then Kyrgystan for 6 years. But I went to high school at a boarding school in Germany before coming here.” Yet that is the way most of our students could answer that question.

I, too, hate that question. A few years ago, I came up with my standard answer for people who I know don’t really want to know about my life. When asked: “Where are you from?” I say: “Chicago is home.” That’s what most people really are asking anyway.

Even “home” is a mixed bag. We’ve all heard the cliché “Home is where the heart is.” I believe it and my life has called (and still does) 7 different places “home”. They are places that I am/have been comfortable in, that have played a part in shaping me, places that I miss, where people are near and dear to my heart. Home for me is: Mexico; Jamaica; Ithaca, NY; Rochester, NY; Camp Troutburg; Chicago and Kandern, Germany.

I’d love to tell you memories of all these homes, to tell you about the people who were a part of that time in my life. I’d love to show you pictures of each place and show you how my heart leaps when I’m reminded of moments there. But this letter isn’t the time and place for that. It is, on the other hand, the time and place for me to reflect on how my current home became home for me.

Fifteen years ago this coming summer marks the first moment I came into this community. It began an adventure I never imagined. It was the first time I’d lived in “the country” and the first time I’d lived in a place where I didn’t speak the language. It was here that I came alive, loving teenagers and feeling so useful in ministry to missionary kids like me. Here is where I grew to love the simple, peaceful life of a small town with a creek running through it. Kandern is where I encountered the best chocolate the world has to offer, also great yogurt, cheap gouda cheese and raclette meals. This is where I got to marvel at students who speak 3-4 languages before they even enter my classroom to learn one more! Here is where I’ve been able to see history older than our entire country around almost every corner. BFA is where I have been able to invest in lives in a way I didn’t think was possible.

And this is the home that I am now leaving. After these years of joyful service to God and to missionary families, I am faced with a need to say goodbye. With the seniors I am a class sponsor for, I am approaching the same transition time they are. I am going through all the “lasts” of life here and all the goodbyes that will be necessary to face in a few weeks. It’s not an easy stage of life to go through, but a necessary one.

This life changing move comes from many months of praying, counsel seeking and facing the truth. The decision to leave BFA does not come from a desire to end this chapter of ministry. I continue to be passionate about loving and serving missionary families and empowering God’s work around the world. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get the necessary financial support in order to stay. It’s disappointing, but I also feel that God is using this struggle to bring me into a new phase of life.

I do not know where God is leading me. “Chicago is home” yet I do not feel like God has promised to let me settle there once I leave BFA. My future is wide open. I would ask you to pray for my future. Please pray that I would see where God is leading and I would be obedient to what He is asking of me. I am confident that God is trustworthy. Although I am sad about leaving this home, and scared about the unknown future, I know I can rely on my Heavenly Father to be all that I need. Please pray that I will cling to Jesus as I face the challenges of this time of “Transition”.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

3rd Quarter Recap

So, what has this 3rd quarter looked like for me? Here's a quick review:

I love my ducks! I've been trying to name them, but I don't want to use something cheesy like Hewey, Dewey and Lewey just because there are three of them. Plus they're not actually mine. They already have names their owner gave them... But just about every day this year, I have enjoyed my walks to and from school because of these darling ducks that live about a half block away from me. Their owner has a fenced in area and pen for them at night, but during the day they hang out in the creek by my apartment. Aren't they precious? (I also had a wonderful time watching and talking to a multitude of ducks while on the following weekend trip to France.

Bible Study Group Retreat

My group decided to take a weekend retreat to a Bed & Breakfast that caters to missionaries in central France, a short road trip away. What a wonderful weekend of comfortable, cozy housing, amazing cooking, historical touring, quiet time with God and bonding with girlfriends. This weekend was honestly a gift from God (and a friend) at a time I needed it most. God has used this group of ladies to encourage me and draw me closer to Him. They are a constant source of joy, friendship and support. I thank God for them.

Pep Band!

I watched Pep Band a couple years ago, watched some friends who were not percussionist handling a triangle and I thought: "I could probably do that!" So this year, when my friend who directs Pep Band started talking about it coming up, I asked if maybe she could coach me through playing the triangle in Pep Band. Next thing I knew I had sheet music for four songs. I arrived at the first rehearsal absolutely clueless and proceeded to play Triangle, Crashing Cymbals, and the Guiro. I asked Katie for private lessons after that and she patiently helped me work out how to read the music (kind of), taught me how to play the Cymbals (the most nerve-racking of all my instruments)and best of all encouraged and trusted me. YIKES! But I had so much fun! By the end of the basketball season, we had added two more songs, and therefore I added even more instruments to my repetoire (the tamborine, maracas and the Cabasa) just for fun. Now I feel like I can really call myself a Salvationist since I can say I played in a band! And I have an awesome t-shirt to prove it!

Spanish 3 Field Trip to Madrid:

I must admit that all year I worried about this trip. The two times I planned and took this trip before, I had a grand total of four students. This year I had 20 students! Big, huge difference! Finding appropriate, affordable housing was the greatest challenge. I also had to decide on a variety of churches to go to, since our full group would have overwhelmed any one church. Finding seating in restaurants was also a challenge. The final strain was the fact that one of the adult sponsors and I were both sick the week we left. A lot of people were sick, actually, and we had to leave one student behind due to illness. But Rob and I powered through our fevers. My cough had been bad enough leading up to the trip that the first two days I barely had a voice at all. There were even more challenges I won't include, but suffice to say, this trip was a bit of a heavy weight. But as always, God is faithful! The students had an excellent time! They saw and experienced a lot of Spanish culture. They practiced their language skills and gained confidence in their abilities. When we debriefed post-trip, I was amazed at how positive they were about the trip. Glowing reports! God is good.

As just mentioned, I went through about three weeks of sickness. If I could self-diagnose, according to symptoms on google :-) I'd guess I had bronchitis. But there were flus, pneumonias and mono going around, so who really knows. I only missed one day of school, but I definitely got behind in grading since I was dealing with Madrid and needing to rest all at the same time. I also got to experience some of the nastiest prescription strength cough syrup in Spain. My second night in Madrid, I knew I wouldn't make it without something. A pharmacist agreed to give me the prescription stuff (I would've been better off with plain old Robatussin). I'm still amazed I made it through 5-6 helpings of the stuff. Thinking about it now a month later triggers my gag reflex. Never again! Anyway, I was grateful when spring break came along and allowed for much needed rest (and time to catch up on my grading!)

I continue loving my students and my time in the classroom! The other day I was reviewing some grammar points with my Sp. 3 class and by the end of the period the whiteboard was covered in notes and I just had to smile! I love sharing with my students that little bit of expertise that I know. When my Spanish 1 students put together sentences that haven't been formed for them, when they see that they can combine what they learned two chapters ago with what they learned today, it makes my heart leap. When I get to watch my students act out the Don Quijote comic book we've been reading, I realize how blessed I am to be able to do a job that I love to do.

This is long, I know! I wish I wrote on here more often so I wouldn't be stuck trying to fill everything into one post. Thanks for caring enough to read this far!


Monday, December 31, 2012

Meet Yolanda II

I’d like to introduce you to Yolanda II (a friend of hers was a former student of mine. She wanted to use the same Spanish name as her friend and be called “the second” II) Yolanda, both the I and the II, were in my small group two years ago. Now that they are no longer in my small group, I was so happy to see Yolanda II on my class list so I would still have a connection with her. Although her parents are currently living here in Kandern, they normally serve in Siberia. Yes, I’m for real, Yolanda II really did grow up in Siberia. It’s not just a metaphor for a punishing far away place! Yolanda II is one of my “bright spots” - the kind of teenager who not only works hard and tries hard to achieve excellence in the classroom, but who has an intense strength of character. She truly desires to grow and to honor God in all that she does.
In her words: "When I first heard about BFA, I hated the very thought of living in a boarding school, away from my family and friends. I was accustomed to a TCK life in Siberia and I understood the Russian culture like no other. Every time my family returned to America for home service, I would feel like the freak show from the frozen lands. So when God clearly led my parents to enroll me at BFA, I protested with all my might. Despite my arguments, I moved to Germany and have spent the last two and a half years here at BFA. Those years can barely be put into one paragraph, but I will do my best.  As my parents moved back to Siberia, I was forced to make my faith my own. As I mentioned before, I had no clue what western culture was like. Even simple things like looking people in the eyes; Russians would never do that. My first semester at BFA was very hard. I excluded myself from the community at school, not understanding the culture of Europe, much less the combined cultures of 52 countries represented at BFA. I no longer was the foreign child that followed her Christian parents around; I longed to develop my walk with Christ. (I had said the prayer when I was seven and hadn’t done very much at all since then.) He was the only One who was always there for me, not depending on my actions or expressions. As I’ve walked with Him through this time at BFA, learning some painful/joyful lessons and knowing more of who God is, a certain image always remained in my mind. I picture a raging swirling tornado of grey and black, where there is no way out. In the center, unmoving, is a beam of light. This light is God and He’s asking me to hold on to Him. I think most TCK’s struggle with all the change that goes on around them. They all say: “Oh yeah, well this move wasn’t a biggie. I’m used to change. Done it all my life.” In reality, I think this change has hurt us and brings painful memories every time we move. But with God as our focus and guide, we won’t be shaken, no matter where and when we leave our homes. BFA seemed the worst thing that could ever happen to me, yet it has turned out to be the most rewarding experience I have ever had. The Lord has helped me through so much because of that initial adjustment from Russia to the west."

Friday, August 31, 2012

Here are a few on my first thoughts from Germany (incl. the trip across the ocean.) It's been a full week of God's blessings. I'm beyond grateful to God and everyone who has joined my team in prayer and support. -British Airways was a dream! They were so good to me, even thanked me for all the good work I do as a missionary, gave me an empty row so I could sleep, on the short flight from London to Basel, but still appreciated! Everything regarding British Airways from O’hare to Basel was wonderful. - Got a 24 hr. cold during the first flight. Miserable night trying to sleep, instead sneezing, blowing my nose, wanting to rub my face off cuz my nose was always itching, feverish chills while sitting in London airport… Not fun! - German yogurt was one of the things I missed most while I was away. My two favorite kinds of yogurt are on sale this week at my grocery store. Lots of yogurt being had these days! - Walking around town seems completely normal and natural, don’t feel the least bit out of place! - I thought I was away for 14 months, but it seems from the construction around town that I haven’t been gone at all. -Walking around school property… very strange. The amount of new faces is crazy! There are soo many new people to get to know. I feel very out of it around school. - Suitcases unpacked, but all the storage in the basement… haven’t gotten that yet. Haven’t set up the internet and phone either. Weekend to-do list. -The view from my classroom is amazing! I love where I work! -I got the most amazing welcome from one of the girls in my former small group. I was still in the school courtyard and she saw me from inside, came running out and nearly knocked me down to the ground with her hug. -I somehow got roped into being the Dept. Head for Foreign Languages. What!? Stop laughing! -My praise: “Oh Lord, You have been good, You have been faithful to all generations!”

Sunday, August 29, 2010

You probably know me enough to know that I am NOT a morning person. Never have been. Just before I came to BFA, my friend Rachel gave me a great mug that says: "I don't do mornings"! It has been my constant companion these two years. I have my daily breakfast tea in it while I trudge through the first couple classes of each school day. During those two years, I have had to teach during 2nd period, and during the spring semesters I have proctored Study Hall during 1st period...a painful undertaking.

But Study Hall 1st period was nothing! This semester, I have to actually TEACH during 1st period, every day! AGH! This does not bode well for me or my students. I am trying to do my best at going to bed a little earlier so I can wake up earlier. All this in order to get the crabby out of my system before I'm forced to deal with students, who deep down insided I really do love.

Besides my morning tea in my trusty mug (still emblazoned with my message "I don't do mornings" should any student need reminding!), I need something else to cheer me into a good mood. Lucky for me, someone in our quaint little German town decided to paint their house like this:

Now, doesn't that just make you smile...or actually just laugh right out loud! I see this on my walk to work every morning. And I think I have smiled or laughed out loud every morning. That bright red apartment building just makes me happy every time I see it. I have to thank God for that. It's the first smile of my day and I wanted to share it with you.

Look for those moments, those people, those circumstances or things that God brings into your life to give you a little joy when you least expect it. Really look for them, they are all around us. Then take a minute to thank God for them. They really are gifts from Him. He deserves our thanks for bringing us the joy in our lives.

I'm praying God opens your eyes to a little gift He's given you. Next time you smile or laugh, remember who made it happen!

PS, I'm actually laughing right now. I just did a preview of this message and when I caught a look at the picture, it just made me laugh all over again. Also, I found a typo when I read the preview, but now I can't find it. Extra points to anyone who can point out where that typo went!