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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Love Month Recap...

Below is a recap of my 28 day LOVE FEST from facebook. I adore Valentine's Day and decided to post about something I LOVE every single day. It has been such a great thing for me (in a month that was a pretty tough month) because it has forced me to really evaluate every day and decide on something to focus on. If you read it on fb, just skip this post. If not, here is a copy/pasted version. :)
Happy Day 1 of LOVE MONTH!!! I have always been a huge fan of Valentine's Day, not so much for the mushy stuff, but for the chance to love on your people. So..... Day 1: I LOVE my man. I was first attracted to his sense of humor, somehow knowing even at 21 years old that having someone to laugh with probably ranks close to the top on the list of desires for my life. His love for God, the church, and family/friends is apparent in his every action. He is a dedicated employee and a hard worker. He is the most giving person I know, other than maybe my dad. ;) Just tonight I asked him to go to the grocery store for something specifically for ME. I didn't want to go because I was bone-cold. When he willingly agreed and the girls and I headed home to our warm house, I told them, "You will be so lucky if you can find a man who will always put you above himself." {There were two names mentioned by them at this point... I pointed out that seven and nine are really too young to decipher husband potential...) Kraig, you're the only one for me... SO thankful I made the choice I made all those years ago. :)
Love Month Day 2: (These aren't really in order, by the way...) I am in LOVE with my Savior. I can only think of one other period in my life (my youth group years) when I felt His presence as strongly in my life as I do right now. I am grateful that He has engraved me on the palm of His hand and that those same Hands were nail-pierced for my opportunity for salvation. He is apparent in every single aspect of my life, from the people in my daily path to my job calling to the ways He is gently calling/cattle prodding me to work for Him. He's been so good to me and I hope I make His heart smile.
Love Month Day 3-- Had to do this one today... I love my sister, Natalie Buckner Killian, who turns 30 today. (30??? How is this possible???) She is one of those people who make every activity more fun, from organizing a classroom to having a yard sale to floating in a pool. As special as she is as a sister, she means that much more to me as my girls' aunt. They adore her to her very core and it is so much fun to watch them dote on her (and her on them). She is kind and generous and loves God and man. Speaking of men, she also brought a most special brother-in-law into our family. We love Josh as much as we could anyone and are so thankful for him. We wasted a lot of years not getting along (she pinched and pulled hair harder as a child than anyone I have ever seen), but I am so grateful not only to have her as my sister, but to have her as my sister LIVING IN THIS TOWN!!! :)
Love Month, Day 4: I love my Emma. She never ceases to make me so proud of her. I know I mostly tell the funny and silly stuff about Emma and Kelsey, but there's a lot of serious/kind/smart stuff too. I think my favorite thing about Emma is also the thing that worries me most about her... she is friendly with everyone instead of limiting herself to one or two "best friends". I have never had a teacher tell me one negative thing about her. Instead, I hear "if only I had a classroom full of Emma's..." She is wicked smart but doesn't rub it in. She is very humble, but also somehow completely self-confident. Her artistic, creative, and musical abilities astound me. I have said it before, but I often think that I want to be Emma when I grow up. :) Most of all, she understands the concept of radiating Jesus wherever you go. We are lucky parents!!
Love Month, Day 5: I love my sweet, funny Kelsey SO much! Kelsey is one of those kids who, even at the age of seven, you KNOW how much fun she is going to be when she's an adult. I love hanging out with her even now. She is one people are drawn to, and I think it's because she's so stinkin' funny. Kelsey has this way of nestling into her way into your heart much the same way she nestles her way into the crook of your arm. She's affectionate and loving and I hear all the time about her from teachers and others, "Kelsey is just such a funny, smart, and perceptive kid!" Kelsey is a planner like her mommy and matter of fact like her daddy. She is smart, creative, and just incredibly comfortable with herself. At the same time, she is so empathetic. She's my kid who worries about other people's feelings and senses moods and emotions in others. Kelsey loves hard, she plays hard, and she PRAYS hard. I love that she loves His heart.
Love Month, Day 6: I don't think I held myself to just people for this, but also things... So today, I am overcome with love for SUNSHINE!!! I am a summer girl at heart (who loves a great snowfall!) and days like today absolutely refresh my soul. I honestly feel like I can breathe easier when it's sunny and warm outside. God's creation, especially his blue skies and wispy clouds and sunshine, is truly a majestic thing.
Love Month, Day SEVEN!!! I LOOOOOVE my mom! She is such a loving, giving person. I can't count the number of times she has given or done things for people and no one ever even knew she did it. She's smart and organized and so much fun to be around! She suspended her teaching career to stay home with us because that's what she felt called to do, then learned a whole different (new and changing!) field-- technology-- in order to work again. I attribute the person, parent, and teacher I am today almost solely to her (and dad, but that's another post). She is so incredibly good to my grandparents and to my children. She loves my sister and me and our husbands with all that is in her. She and my dad have always had a marriage that I knew was solid as a rock. Just this afternoon, knowing I was going to be rushed and hurried to try and get things ready for an unexpected book club at my house, she gave me a dessert she had in her freezer and went to the grocery store for me. I am so, so, so, so lucky to have had her model womanhood and Christian living for me in my life
Love Month, Day 8: I love words... I love books. And I love that a person who loves words can write and publish an awesome book that inspires and encourages others. I love that there are those out there who have a story to share and who are willing to go through the difficult and exhausting process of sharing it. I just feel so incredibly lucky to live in a world where the next great story is just around the corner and you never know who amongst you might become a writer next. And that I get to spend my DAYS with words and books and in conversation about those??? Wow. The only way it could get better will be if ever I get to join the ranks of published author. :)
Love Month, Day 9: I love, love, love my Dad. He is and always has been the solid rock in my life... always mellow, always loving, always dependable. I can't think of a time I have heard him say a negative thing about another person. He always sees the best in everyone, even when it means it will cause him a loss in the end. By the same token, I have never heard anyone else say an unkind word about my dad. Truthfully, if ever there was an example of Christlike living on this earth, it's him. He is a giver, plain and simple. He always gave of himself to his parents and cared so fully for my grandparents as they aged. He gives completely of himself to his family, his church, his friends, ministry, and his animals. My greatest hope is that my girls will find a man who will treat them the way my dad treats others. His laugh is one of my favorite sounds on this earth. We are so blessed to have him.
Love Month, Day TEN: I LOOOOVE Claire Roberson Wood. Claire was my very first "adult friend". I knew OF her through her cousins, then we chatted the summer before I started my teaching career at CHS. The development of my friendship with Claire is a testament to the kind of person she is... she took me under her wing from my first day of teaching and has continued to inspire and astound and challenge and amuse me for the past thirteen years. She is probably the most gifted teacher I have ever known. The Canterbury Tales phrase "and gladly would he learn, and gladly teach" truly applies to her because she always seeks to learn more and better herself and her students (students who are currently her most precious, her own three children). She's the gal you need when you want to laugh till you hurt with the kind of wit that is truly unmatched. She has challenged and inspired me as often as she has made me laugh. Even though I became a parent first, I feel like I have learned so much from her parenting. Today Claire is across the United States in El Paso, TX... and her reason for being there is further proof of the Lord's presence in her life. She and Ryan have followed Him into the chaplaincy program and Ryan is currently deployed to Afghanistan. Claire is, at this very moment, reminding me again of what the Christian walk is truly about: obedience and faith-walking. As much as I miss having her close, I love her for showing the rest of us how to live. Happy 36th bday, friend! I love you and I am a better person for having known you.
Love Month, Day 11: I LOVE my coworkers!!! I know some work with people they can take or leave but I can't imagine being in that situation. From my first day at CHS, I have been privileged to work with people who became my best friends. I work with a faculty who knows how to LOVE. We LOVE people, LOVE our students, LOVE our coworkers, and LOVE being RAIDERS! I have seen time and time again that CHS teachers will give anything and do anything to help other people. We have provided for students' physical needs, taken care of each other through meals and money, helped pay for the funeral of a parent of a needy student, and reached out to various charities and humanitarian groups. There is NO HEART like the HEART OF A RAIDER. I am so blessed by these people.
Love Month, Day 12: I love, love, love my grandparents. We are so blessed to have had them as long as we have, and in such great health. They have been a most precious presence in my life for as long as I can remember, from family vacations to Friday night sleepovers to afternoons making stuff with Grandmother to hunting Easter eggs that Grandaddy hid. I remember, on nights when I spent the night with them, hearing the low murmur of their prayers every night on their knees by their bed as they remembered each and every family member and many of our church family. As much as they have always meant to me as my grandparents, there is nothing sweeter than watching them be GREAT grandparents to my two littles. It meant more than I can ever say for them to have been the daily caregivers of both of my children from birth to kindergarten while I fulfilled my calling to teach. I try not to think much about life once they're gone, but I think the hardest part will just be the loss of always knowing that there is someone in this world in your corner... someone who thinks that you can accomplish anything... someone who loves unconditionally and prays continually... someone who is as proud of you as if you were the best person on earth. We are so very lucky to call them ours.
Let me first say that I don't FEEL LIKE doing a Love Month post today... I'm tired, I've had a bad week, my stomach hurts, and I have too much to do tonight.
So my Love Month, Day 13 post is going to be that I LOVE how blessed I am....
I have a cozy house and comfy bed to sleep in and actually GET a good night's rest, which is more than a lot of people on this earth.
Although my week has been a rough one, I HAVE a job I love, people in my life who care, and a Savior I can talk to any time.
I'm blessed to be in SUCH good health that a silly stomach ailment SEEMS like a big deal because any pain is a stark contrast to the health I have been blessed with.
And my "stuff" I have to do? I don't actually HAVE to do any of it, but WANT to in order to tangibly show some people in my world just what they mean to me. How lucky am I that I am stressed over baking cookies and sewing gifts and writing Valentines rather than about carrying my life's possession on my bag as I desperately try to get my family to safety in a refugee camp halfway around the world???
So tonight, I'm thankful.... for the weariness, the bad mood, the achy stomach, and the life clutter.
Love Month, Day 14: I LOOOOOVE my brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law! Growing up, I always wanted to be part of a big family with lots of brothers and sisters. In fact, whereas some kids have imaginary friends, I had imaginary brothers and sisters-- twelve of them. Obviously that didn't happen, but I did get lucky enough to gain 3 sisters-in-law and 3 brothers-in-law with my marriage and another brother in law with my sister's marriage! I have said it before, but the coolest part bout these people is that they are people I would CHOOSE for my friends. They are so much fun to hang out with, they make me laugh like no one else, and they are fabulously amazing aunts and uncles to my girls. Kraig's family welcomed me with open arms from the very start. My sisters-in-law always make time for me when we come in and make every effort to keep us involved in things even though we are the only ones who don't live there. Natalie's husband, Josh, fits in with our family perfectly. He would do anything for a person. It's heartbreaking to imagine the day when our parents are gone and sad to think about when our kids are all grown. However, knowing that I have this precious group of eight to grow old with is very reassuring.
LOVE Month, Day 15: I LOVE that we always have a chance to go to bed and start over. And have weekends, then start over. And I am headed to do that right now.
Love month, day 16: I love books! I already semi-loved books in this series, but then I was loving more the writing process. Tonight I love the power books have over us... What else can make you so happy your heart feels lighter, make your whole insides feel shattered, make you miss people who never even drew a real breath, make you bone-weary and feel like you are surfacing from under the depths of the ocean? What can inspire you to be better, challenge you to change your thinking, draw you to a new way of living, affirm you in your beliefs? I can truly say that great literature (fiction and nonfiction) has molded me into the person I am and words wield a power over me that I never want to relinquish.
Love Month, Day 17: I LOVE holidays!!! The fact that we have been able to enjoy this entire weekend with Kraig's mom and dad here and just relax, knowing that we have tomorrow off before it's back to the grind of lunches and clothes and homework on Tuesday... Well it's just WONDERFUL!!! As much as I love my job (later post coming!), ;) I still love days to decompress.
LOVE Month, Day 18: I LOVE my parents-in-law! I know I have said this before on here, but they are just the most wonderful human beings. They raised a wonderful man, they welcomed me with open arms, and they love on my girls. They are wonderful role models in their marriage and their faith. In addition to all of these things, they are just really great to spend time with. They have always made us so welcome in their home and vacations with them are absolutely a pleasure. I hear so often of people who have such issues with their (typically MIL's) in-laws and I just can't imagine if I was in that situation. I am blessed by them. My only wish is that they were closer!
Love Month, Day 19: I L.O.V.E. my job/students. I have loved every single year for at least the past 10. (Not gonna lie, the first two were kind of tough in ways, but I still loved the kids.) Even still, every spring, I get really nervous and worry that everything's going to change for the upcoming school year (classes won't make, etc) and I won't enjoy teaching any more. But EVERY YEAR I get to teach the best kids on earth the best subject on earth in the best school on earth. And even though I have already survived what I thought would be the worst change that could happen in my career, I STILL freak out every spring. I am right smack in the middle of that freak-out time right now. But tonight, fifteen kids came over (voluntarily) to hang out and watch a Macbeth movie. Thursday, I will meet before school with seven kids from last semester's Holocaust Lit class who are organizing a 5K. And EVERY day I get to talk (all day) about great literature, communication, and critical thinking with kids who impress me to death. Nothing beats teaching. Nothing on earth.
LOVE Month, Day 20: I LOVE my BFFTWDACHS, Julie Phillips. We are truly the most unlikely pair on earth... Where she is boisterous, I am boring. Where she is carefree, I am anxious. Where she is liberal, I am conservative (although...). ;) Where she is hilarious, I am somewhat serious. Where she is centered, I am busy. BUT... I could not do school without her. She makes everything more fun, she helps me maintain my sanity, and when I need a person to talk me down and affirm me, 402 is the first place I visit. I love the hysterical laughter during our conversations, the phone calls, the funny texts, the way she just "gets" me, our GNO+1, the events we coordinate and the trips we chaperone. I feel so sorry for people who DON'T work with their best friend. :)
LOVE Month, Day 21: I SERIOUSLY LOVE my children's school, Mayfield Elementary. And by "school", I mostly mean "people". :) We are county-zoned but because I teach in the city, I was able to pick a city school. I picked Mayfield the year before Emma started Kindergarten. I had attended Ross and probably knew more teachers at other schools, but I love the diversity at Mayfield, from socio-economic class to culture. Mayfield has delivered in every way, from activities to diversity to facilities. The most awesome blessing, though, has been the people at Mayfield. I went from knowing very few people there to getting to know people who I honestly now consider friends. The teachers are incredibly gifted and caring, the guidance counselor is the absolute BEST ;) , the administration rocks, and the support staff is just so helpful and loving. We adore this faculty and staff and the thought of our time at Mayfield starting to wind down (as Emma is only ONE YEAR AWAY FROM MIDDLE SCHOOL) makes me want to cry. Well, as soon as I get this yearbook done, THEN I can cry. ;) We love all of them, but especially the incredible classroom teachers we have had: Nikki Burton, Zelda Dotson, Amanda Mason,Lauren Steward, Ethel Cooper, and Rachel Sampson!
LOVE Month, Day 22: I LOVE my extended family. I was so lucky to grow up with first cousins who lived less than two miles from my house, who attended church with me, and who were somewhat close to my age. We have always had a close-knit family who spent holidays together and frequently ate Sunday lunches at Grandmother's house.MelissaMichelle, and Jamie are a significant part of most of my childhood memories. Perhaps even more special than that is the fact that our family has, for the past 36 years, vacationed together every single summer. It is so incredibly awesome watching OUR kids (who are probably even closer than WE were!) create the same childhood memories we made together. I have been especially blessed to get to teach with Melissa... in fact to TEAM TEACH with her for five years! In addition to these first cousins, I have wonderful other cousins and relatives on my dad's side and more distantly on my mom's. I remember how much fun it always was to get to hang with Greta and Lynne at my Mamaw's house (and the times we would spend the night while they were there)... The joy of attending middle and high school and college with Holly... The ski trips and visits from Whitney.... And these people all have parents who were (and are!) special cousins, aunts, and uncles to me! I feel so much for people who don't have family or don't have family in town. I don't know what I would do without mine.
LOVE Month, Day 23: I LOVE to make stuff. I have spent the past week making things for two birthday parties and I am not sure there is anything on earth that makes me happier to do at night than to sit on the couch and craft while Kraig watches tv. I LOVE that there is no limit to imagination and that every time you make something, you can always make it better the next time. I love looking at ideas and buying supplies while envisioning how it's going to turn out. The only part I DON'T love is the mess... drives me nuts to have it all spread out all over the place. :)
LOVE Month, Day 24: I LOVE my book club. (ATTENTION,Anissa, here it is!!!) I can hardly believe it has been 12 years since the day Claire and I brainstormed this plan and sent out those initial invitations! Over these twelve years, people have come and gone (and some have come and gone and come again-- Stacey), but it has been so special to have a core group of females united in a love of reading who have become united in many other things as well. We have been together through childbirths and scary health situations, job changes, child rearing, personal issues, and faith challenges. We have partied and laughed and told stories that people probably should not ever share with another human being (and some stories our SPOUSES probably wish we had never shared with another human being!). We have loved and read and journeyed together and I am so lucky to have them beside me on this walk of life. (And Rachael and other previous members-- you are always with us in our hearts...) :)
LOVE Month, Day 25: I LOVE some Riddles. :) This couple has become an integral part of our lives. People come and go in life, and there have been phases of my life when more were going than were coming. I think there is something about living in the same town in which you grew up that means that, at least 80% of the time, you are the one getting left behind. And honestly? It stinks. But the Lord giveth just as He taketh away, and about three years ago, my friendship with John (who I think is one of the funniest guys I have ever met) turned into a "couple friendship" when I got to know Tina better at book club. She and I ended up emailing often about things (only for me to find that she is every bit as hilarious as he is!), then we had them over one night, then before we knew it, they became our people (and I hope we became theirs). I can't say how much I value their friendship. There is something beautifully ordained in finding another couple who share your life views, your Lord, your sense of humor, and your fondness for cheese dip and movies. :) Just as we weren't made to go through life alone, I also believe we weren't made for our families to go through life alone. I am so incredibly grateful to have them beside us on the journey. {And equally special is Samuel, not only an incredibly cool 13 year old but also perhaps the person who gives my crafting the most affirmation.) :)
LOVE Month, Day 26: I LOVE organizing. I don't know if the chicken or the egg comes first, but either organizing makes me happy or feeling happy makes me want to organize. I am happiest in life when I have everything put where it belongs and things feel put together and straight. That being said, I am NOT in that place right now. AT ALL. I feel scattered and crazy and disorganized and it is MAKING ME NUTS. :) But one day... one day soon... maybe May 23. ;)
Since it's officially Wed but I'm still up, so it's unofficially still Tues, I am going to do my LOVE Month status now. I plan to stay off of social media tomorrow for the End It Movement's day to disappear from social media in honor of the 27 million who have disappeared into human slavery. That being said... LOVE Month, Day 27: I LOVE my girl, Jennifer. She was one of the first friends of my adult life and I will never forget the moment I met her. She was funny, she was awkward, she was a Yankee... and she was a kindred spirit. :) We worked together, basically lived together (two houses apart), and became mommies together (9 months apart). When I think of those carefree days of being young married, hanging out every weekend at one house or the other, getting snacks every afternoon after school somewhere, going to New Orleans for Spring Break, and becoming everything I am today, I think of her. When I think of sleeping on her couch during movies while I was pregnant, talking her through a rough second pregnancy, and learning to be a mommy, I think of her. When I think of my first years at CHS, I think of her, across the hall from me. I don't know that I have ever lived with my life so intertwined with another person who was not a member of my family as I did with her. Time has messed up that awesome apple cart we had going by moving Jennifer and her family to Atlanta, but we have remained best friends and I love the weekends we get to spend together even still, though I wish they were more frequent and that they were still right here in town. I am the luckiest gal to have a friend like Jennifer (and I'll even claim Chris, too)! And it's been the coolest watching our four daughters develop the same sort of friendship we have. Love you, friend!
LOVE Month, Day 28: I LOVE Royal Family Ministries, SCCOG! I am amazed sometimes at the way God places burdens on our hearts to prepare us for an exact ministry path. While I have felt since I was a small child that I was called to adopt, it hasn't yet (and sadly, might not ever) become a reality for our family. It was this fall at the dotMom conference that I realized it's possible that this passion was given to me, not for my family to adopt, but to call me into this specific ministry to foster children. I will never forget our first Royal Family Kids' Camp in 1999 (I was only 21 at the time) and the indescribable passion that consumed me for those kids. It has been a ridiculous blessing (and often complete miracle) to watch this ministry grow from a camp of 20 kids in 1999 to a yearly camp of 55+, a yearly weekend middle school retreat for 50+, and a mentoring/club program in its first year with 10 kids. We operate with a $30,000 budget that is raised entirely through charitable contributions and fundraisers. A Holocaust survivor who came to speak to my class encouraged my kids to pick one cause to commit themselves to for life. I care about a lot of causes and organizations, but Royal Family has my heart... For life. They'll have to kick me out with my cane if they want me to quit before I die. :) (And, just... if I've won YOU over and you want to do something... you COULD go to this link and register for our main yearly fundraiser, the RF5KC on April 20!) http://www.active.com/running/cleveland-tn/royal-family-kids-rf5kc-2013?cmp=39-28&ltcmp=194590&ltclickid=02_133608260_a8ac6b14-bf09-45df-b896-d9d18fa4151e

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Working like the devil... (yeah, that one)

I am so tired. Like, bone and soul weary. The kind of tired when you realize this earth can't provide the sort of rest you crave, because it's a SOUL rest. The kind of tired you get when you try to do it on your own and fight the devil with your human hands and heart. And he won't just take a break. Because he knows that, while the spirit is willing, the flesh is truly so weak.

See, if you scroll back, it's pretty obvious that January was awfully good to me. And I don't know if January came first to boost me up for the February that was to come or if February has unfolded the way it has because I needed to be brought down a notch or two. If that was the situation, somebody can put it in the "completed" column, because it worked.

I think two things happened. I think that when we get high on life (and people), we are easy prey. And when we start to put our confidence in life (and people), we are reminded that our hope has to be built only on Him. Last night during my Beth Moore study, one giant point leapt off the page and slapped me: "God's gifts to us are the very things that cause us to forget the Giver." Yes. And therein lies my problem, I am afraid. 

Christians are the biggest fans ever of the devil. We love to hate him, love to credit him with all kinds of things. Regular life challenges? Must be the devil. Human failure? It's the devil. Temptation? Devil's out to get you. I tend to stay away from devil-talk. (Yes, all kinds.) I think the devil sometimes gets more credit and more billing than God, and that bothers me. But sometimes... some months, apparently... It IS the devil. It has to be. Because there is no way that Murphy's law or coincidence or bad things come in threes or karma or anything else can be the answer. I have reached a point this month where, if it didn't hurt so much, it would be laughable. 

{Disclaimer: This hurt of which I speak is purely emotional. And I feel a little silly even talking about these things when there are people facing serious issues, from cancer to suicide to abandonment to losses of jobs to heartbreak of children gone astray. But at the same time, just because my circumstances could certainly always be worse and don't compare to those of others, my issues are still very real to me. And have a serious impact on my emotions. And my mind is an extremely powerful thing. Because for some people, the devil doesn't need a life-threatening illness to bring us down. He can do it with anxiety and depression and jealousy and insecurity. Oh yes. ESPECIALLY insecurity.}

He has attacked my mind and heart in so many ways. I used the words "wounded" and "restless" the other day on fb to describe my heart. It honestly has seemed that he has taken a different approach EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. this month. I will realign my priorities or readjust my attitude or refocus my heart EVERY.NIGHT. The next day, those things will be better, only for the attack to come from another direction. It's a little shocking, to tell the truth. I don't feel like I am often a giant "devil target" (which probably should tell me something about my Christian walk, and it's not something nice). But this month... man. 

I tweeted earlier today that we as Christians really need the persistence of the devil, because his sticktoitiveness is impressive. Think about that for a second. How long do we keep at something, whether it be Bible study or prayer life or mission work or evangelism... do we keep changing our strategy every time it doesn't work and hit it hard again the next day? or do we just go, "Well, you know, this probably isn't meant for me to do. I give up." I guarantee you, if I had HALF the dedication for the work of the Lord that the devil has had for me this month, I'd be changing some things for the Kingdom. Guaranteed.

I wish I was wrapping this up with a perfect conclusion that contained the answer. For you, for me... for all of us. But I am afraid that this soul weariness is here to stay until this season of testing, or beating, or pricking, or whatever the heck it is, ends. I'll keep readjusting myself every night and I fear he will keep picking a different angle every day. But you know what? It will pass. I know that it will because it has before. And when it does, maybe I'll take something away from it. Maybe I'll purposefully persevere like the devil has with me. 

Maybe I'll have learned to work like the devil for the Lord...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Letting Him do His Thing

Below is my support letter I will be sending out this week for my trip to Cambodia. Since it is possible that the three of you who read this blog might not even be on the list to receive the letter, I thought I would go ahead and post it. ;) I truly do hate to ask for money and feel awkward receiving it, even if I DIDN'T ask (which actually has so far been the case with donations I have already gotten). However, I'm starting to see that the Lord is as present in the process as He is in the outcome. So I am going to let Him do His thing. :) 

Dear Loved Ones,

I feel a little old to be writing a letter like this, but the fact of the matter is that God isn’t quite finished using me yet! I am writing from the middle of a blessed life, a life with my two sweet girls and husband, a life as a high school English teacher and occasional photographer, a life of book clubs and friends and Mexican food and blogging... but lately, this life has felt like something was missing. Over the course of the past year, the Lord has been tugging at my heart in regard to many things. In the ways only He can, He has used the passion of my students, my Holocaust literature lectures, blogs, sermons, His word, and even that itchy feeling you get in your soul when you just know-- there is more. The words of Galations 6:10, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men,” continue to be defined in my life. I shudder to think how much “opportunity” I have that has been squandered because I am so busy in my comfortable American church life.

Through what can only be called an ordained chain of events, I became aware of a mission trip to Cambodia in July of 2013. I will be traveling with a group from my church, South Cleveland Church of God, lead by our church’s missions pastor (who was actually my children’s pastor). We will be ministering by conducting childrens’ camps in Siem Reap and Andong. We will minister to approximately 200 children in each location, then will get an opportunity to see the work of a local humanitarian group from Cleveland (People for Care and Learning) while we are there. 

As you might expect, a trip halfway around the world is very costly. I feel that it is very plain that God is calling me to go on this trip. Along with that, I know that he will provide the funds necessary. I am not a giant fan of asking people for money (let’s be honest-- I am not a giant fan of asking people for anything and that pride might just be something God’s working on in me through this process). However, since we don’t have $3000 of discretionary cash hanging around our house and it seems wrong to put Emma to work crocheting toboggans to sell to raise funds, I am sending these letters asking for support. 

If you are able to support me financially on this trip, any amount would be helpful. I will make certain that you receive acknowledgement of your contribution for tax purposes. You can make checks payable to People for Care and Learning with my name in the memo line. You can either mail checks to PCL at People for Care and Learning, 4235 TL Rogers St NE, Cleveland, TN, 37312-4991, or you can give them directly to me. 

I want to thank you in advance for the most important way you can support me on this trip, and that is through your prayers. Please pray for the members of the team, for safety and favor before and during our trip. Please pray for the children who will attend the camps, that their hearts and minds would be touched and drawn to Him. We have been told to assume that they have zero knowledge of Christ and that at least in one area, children will stand outside the facility and watch through the windows once the maximum number have been allowed in. (Can you even imagine that sort of thirst in America?) Please pray for the men and women we will encounter while we are there, that we might in some way ease a burden and lighten a load. This last prayer may be one of those I regret later, but please pray for me to have His heart for these people... to see them as He does and for Him to use this trip as a stepping stone to live in ministry the way He has called us to do. 

In turn, I want you to hold to the promise of Hebrews 6:10.

For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and 
labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, 
in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

Grateful for your Friendship,

Athena Davis

Sunday, February 10, 2013

You are the Difference

I have always been a sucker for a natural disaster movie. That being said, some are well done and some not so much. This weekend we saw "The Impossible" and I just plain loved it.

First of all, I realized I am not a fan of the dramatic irony. The movie started on December 24 (the tsunami happened on December 26), so for two days of "movie time", I was a nervous wreck. I am the kind of person that the waiting apparently bothers more than the actual event.

And that wave sequence-- WHEW. I don't know that I have ever watched a more dramatic or intense scene in a movie. It was rough. I was exhausted when it was over. They did a really incredible job of projecting the terror of that moment and the moments to come onto the viewer.

I won't give away the plotline (although it is a real life incident, so you kind of know the general facts already), but it was extremely moving to see the dramatization of that horrific event. I think the most astounding part is that in a country with little to no infrastructure, that they did as well as they did with recovery. I kept tearing up at the scenes where the tourists were aided by the local people, scenes that showed that culture and language are not barriers when it comes to man helping his fellow man.

I heard a quote once that the truest test of human rights is "Is it good for children?" If the answer is no, then it is likely not in line with human rights. Although obviously a tsunami has nothing to do with human rights and cannot be prevented in any way, this movie reminded me that, though all ages of people were traumatized and killed by this event, children are always the victims. From natural disasters like this tsunami and the earthquake in Haiti to man-inflicted horrors like the Holocaust and the refugee situation from Syria to domestic destruction like child abuse and neglect.... children are always the victims.

It is just yet another reminder that the innocents are always among us and it is always our responsibility to do whatever we can to help them. We are so quick to dismiss people around us as having "brought it on themselves"... the guy holding the sign on the side of the road, the drug addict, the family living among us in terror of being deported. What if rather than constantly evaluating their circumstances and the paths that led them to those spots, instead we reached out a hand or a hug or a meal or a blanket?

It is only when we are willing to try that humanity's condition and its improvement becomes possible.

You are the difference between impossible and possible.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Spewing Forth

I think that supernatural gift the Lord was giving me in January by making the time go by SLOOOOWWWLLYYY has ended in February. I can't believe it's already the ninth! The month so far has brought some pretty big flops in regard to my 2013 goals, a fb status plan that has brought about great reflection, an exciting surprise 30th birthday brunch for my sister, a coffee hot chocolate fellowship time with a sweet old long-term friend, a Superbowl party, a morning of proctoring a standardized test (my least favorite part of my job), some time spent with three witches/a cauldron/killing a king/paying consequences for your actions (Macbeth, for the uninitiated), a few other awesome things at school, book club, a movie date with our couple friends, and the arrival and subsequent reading of a book written by my all-time favorite blogger/person I don't actually know.

Seriously? All in 9 days??? No wonder I wake up in a dizzy stupor every morning.

I have to get back on the 2013 Better Me train. Like, NOW. Starting today. I am in danger of getting crushed beneath the rails.

I am in love with the month of February and Valentine's Day. Always have been, because to me, this day is not just about that ooey gooey love between woman and man (or girl and boy, for my sixteen year old self)... I think it's a month to reflect on love for God, for family and friends, for a job, for things  that make life so much better, like sunshine and good books. I decided to pick one person or thing every day that I LOVE and write about it in my fb statuses. I might copy them all on here at the end, but they have really caused me to self-reflect and it's been good.

In regard to reflection and nostalgia, last Saturday we actually pulled off a surprise 30th bday brunch for my sister. (Yes, I am in shock that this little person who disrupted my entire world when I was five years old, then quickly became one of the best parts of it, is thirty years old.) It was so much fun and I loved getting to do it. She is truly my best friend, and I hate that it took me 24 years to realize it.

 Later that afternoon, I celebrated another 30th by having hot chocolate (he had coffee) with a guy who has been a great friend of mine for thirty years. I met Paul in first grade and I sometimes (in my head) still think of him as that kid who picked his nose and ate his boogers. JK. Although he likely still thinks of me (in his head) as that awkward gangly glasses-wearing chili bowl-headed middle schooler who was in love with him, so... all's fair, I guess. Anyway, it was so nice to spend an afternoon at a cozy coffee shop (GO TO BONLIFE!!! IT IS AWESOME!!! CHS Class of '96 REPRESENTS!) while the snow fell outside, chatting about life and the Lord. I am so lucky to have always been blessed with the best friends a person could have.

Classes this month have flown by, other than the interminable hours spent administering a standardized writing assessment. Testing exhausts me. Plain and simple. But Macbeth??? It invigorates me. And while I finish it with AP on Monday, I GET TO START IT WITH ENGLISH IV ON WEDNESDAY!!! :)

We had a Superbowl party at our house Sun night with church friends and book club (at least, the four of us who attended) was at my house Thursday night and, though I didn't get time to read the book (for shame!), it was a nice time spent with good friends as well. Again... my life is the people in it. That's all there is to it.

Speaking of my people, last night we went to a movie (more on the movie later) with a couple who have become an integral part of our lives. People come and go in life, and there have been phases of my life when more were going than were coming. I think there is something about living in the same town in which you grew up that means that, at least 80% of the time, you are the one getting left behind. And honestly? It stinks. But the Lord giveth just as He taketh away, and about three years ago, my friendship with a guy at church who I think is one of the funniest guys I have ever met turned into a "couple friendship" when I got to know his wife better at book club. She and I ended up emailing often about things (only for me to find that she is every bit as hilarious as he is!), then we had them over one night, then before we knew it, they became our people (and I hope we became theirs). I can't say how much I value their friendship. There is something beautifully ordained in finding another couple who share your life views, your Lord, your sense of humor, and your fondness for cheese dip and movies. :) Just as we weren't made to go through life alone, I also believe we weren't made for our families to go through life alone. I am so incredibly grateful to have the Riddles beside us on the journey.

{emotional part over}

Last of all, and y'all this is absolutely a plug, I had a much anticipated package in my mailbox yesterday and I have already devoured it. Big Mama's (Melanie Shankle) new book, Sparkly Green Earrings, released yesterday and I had pre-ordered from amazon (which I don't recommend because the bookstores got it before the release date). It is just so good. If you have never read her blog, The Big Mama blog, do that, too. You will laugh till you hurt. :) This book is about motherhood and it was an absolute delight. I read parts aloud to Kraig (to which he said, "I am so glad I get to share this with you", which I am choosing not to hear as sarcasm) and just belly laughed. I finished it this morning and my final take on it is this:

Giant laughs and little tears... just like motherhood.

Get it. Read it. You won't be disappointed.

And that's the end of apparently what 9 days of unblogginess looks like when it spews forth. You're welcome.