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!