Friday, October 31, 2014

End of 31 Days

     I'm really proud of myself for finishing out the 31 days series and posting every day. I have learned a few things:
1) I always have things to be joyful for, even when I'm not happy.
2) I have a difficult time writing about 1 topic for a long time- especially if it's not something I'm really passionate about.
3) I really enjoy connecting with other bloggers and learning their stories.
4) I'm not interested in becoming a well known blogger, but I wish that my blog reached more people or that more people commented.
5) I will try to write a bit more in depth on some topics and I would like to work on saying what I need to say in a more concise way.
     Thanks to The Nester for the challenge. I really enjoyed stretching myself!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

5 senses

     Earlier in this series I wrote about noticing the little things. Today on my way home from work, I was thinking about the senses.  I love that God created us with the capacity to experience beauty. Here are some highlights of my day:

Taste: I tried Dunkin' Donuts Snickerdoodle Iced Coffee (with Almond Milk). It was a sweet, cinnamon-y start to my day. Matt made empanadas. Matt added something sweet to the meat- raisins? I usually don't like meat combined with sweet but tonight it was good. Yummy chicken for lunch.

Touch: Had a cleaning at the dentist- fresh, clean teeth. David's little hand in mine. Timmy's snuggle on the couch. The cool air on my face while walking to my car this morning.  Warm sunshine on a cool day. A hug from a friend.

Smell: Matt's cooking! Clean laundry. Fresh air. Bath & Body Works Eucalyptus Spearmint Body Wash or Winter Candy Apple Lotion. Yankee Candles.

Sight: Children engaged while they are learning. Autumn colors. A full mailbox. (not today) Smiles. The sky- clouds, sunrise/sunset, stars.

Sound: Birds. My students singing. Laughter. Music. Peaceful quiet.

    There are many more I could add but these are the first things I thought of. What are some of the simple things you experienced today?

PS. Missy Terry. You won the giveaway. I responded to your comment. I need your address to send you the book!!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Matt

   My husband, Matt, is another source of joy for me and my family. Honestly, we have not always had the easiest time, but I know that I am a really lucky woman to be married to such a great guy. One of the things that first attracted me to Matt was his willingness to share his faith with me. Over time, the biggest thing I'm most attracted to now is what a fantastic father he is. Being "the mean parent," I appreciate watching him goof around or have fun with the boys. (most times..lol) I love seeing them on the tire swing in the back yard, going off for a little bike ride, chasing each other around the yard- I even chuckled the other day when they were shooting each other with NERF guns around the house when I had a friend over for dinner. (Not a usual thing for me) In addition to this, Matt and I work opposite schedules so when I am at work, he is dealing with getting the kids to and from school, homework, dinner, etc. We have committed to eating dinner together every night so he makes dinner most times so he can get to work in time. He's a great cook. I also love that he is willing to grow with me. When I first met him, he was antisocial rather shy. Now, he seems much more comfortable with other people and dealing with my extroverted personality. I love how he makes people feel welcome in our home and that our boys have a great role model.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Take a risk

     According to a few personality tests, I am a fairly extroverted person- but I'm an extrovert who likes routine. I do not panic when I have to improvise something instead of follow through with my plan but sometimes I find it hard to do something new. Here's a really lame example that will demonstrate my point. I am a music teacher. I currently teach 308 students in my classes right now. Some of these students I see for 22 days each year, my chorus kids see me a lot more. (There are 700 kids in our whole school. I will have all of them eventually during the year but 210 sing for me all year.) This year I attended a game that one of my singers was playing in. I have known this student for 4 years- seriously, one of the nicest kids I know. It struck me at their game that I had never met their parents. I've seen them play before and as I was watching, I recognized who I thought would be their parents. I wondered why I have never met them after 4 years of concerts and thought "I should say hello after the game." When the game ended, they walked by, looked at me and gave a bit of a nod and then continued. I almost said hello and introduced myself but then I got nervous. If they wanted to meet me, why didn't they stop? Did I have the right parents? Maybe they don't know who I am. Maybe they do know who I am and aren't interested in talking to me.  The next day I was thinking about why I didn't make a move to say hello. I think I just got self-conscious.
   Let me contrast this with another story. There is a new woman working at our school. She is considerably younger than me but seems to have a similar personality. I think she is really funny and really nice. I have wanted to get to know her better but 1) her classroom is not really close to mine and 2) we don't have any of the same time off. She took the position of a good friend of mine who has just retired this year so I really wanted to be a friendly face in the building. One day about 2 weeks ago, I was walking by her classroom and saw her working really hard after school. I decided to step in, say hello and ask how things were going. (Not difficult.) As I left, I thought of how much I enjoyed talking to her and how it was too bad that I didn't know her better. So, I did something out of the ordinary for me- I invited her to come have dinner with my family. We live in a small, cluttered apartment and I tend to be paranoid that people are judging me so sometimes I avoid inviting new people over unless there is a big event. She came over tonight and I had such a great time. She is really interesting, my kids loved her and I think she had fun too. This made me think:
     How much do we rob ourselves of unexpected joy? Routine is nice and predictability is convenient; but what would happen if we opened ourselves up to different experiences, people and choices? Sometimes the most exciting type of joy is the joy that happens when we're not expecting it to come. How can you stretch yourself today that might open up an opportunity to grow, develop a new friendship or turn your life in a completely different direction?

Monday, October 27, 2014

One Thousand Gifts

   I can't believe we're coming to an end of the 31 days challenge. I'm quite content that I have actually posted every day- though there are definitely some changes I'd make if I was to do this again. My topic over the past month has been joy. One of the things that keep me joyful is being able to appreciate what I have and be content with what I don't have. So, I thought I'd celebrate, joy, gratefulness, reaching 150 posts and Thanksgiving by giving away the One Thousand Gifts devotional.

    If you are interested, leave a message below and I will choose a winner (using a randomizer) tomorrow night at about 8.  Good luck!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Worship

     Have you ever just gotten into the routine of church?  I wish I could say that I'm always 100% present in our worship service but, realistically, many times I am coming into the service with a head full of cluttered thoughts or emotions. There have been a few worship experiences I have in the past few months that have really reminded me of the joy of worship.
     Today my niece got baptized. I attended her church with Matt and the kids. The grandparents on both sides of my niece were there as well as a few of my brother-in-laws' families. In all, there were at least 20 people here to see my niece dedicated to God. The church is a different denomination than my church but it was still similar enough to other churches that I have been to to enable me to know what was going on.
     The service began with a prelude played on a guitar and violin. It was a really different setting of a hymn and I felt really drawn into the music. (Maybe as a precursor, I should say that music in a worship service is something that I really notice. Being a musician myself, I love taking part in singing and being involved with the worship but recently I have felt distracted by the music at my own church, almost like it is a concert rather than worship. This has really upset me.) Next came the call to worship followed by more worship songs. Their worship band was made up of a pianist, a guitarist, a bass guitarist, a violinist and 3 vocalists. They sang Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, but in a contemporary setting; same text, same melody and harmony, just different in a really cool way.   The second song they sang was Jesus, Lover of My Soul, played a  little faster. It almost had a bluegrassy feel to it.  (I loved it!) At this point, Timmy (who is used to being at church) started to turn around and look at all the people in the congregation. He said it "sounded like a choir of angels." (I think the acoustics of the church also added to that but I didn't tell him that.)   I loved the lyrics of this song.
     Next came a call to confession. I grew up Catholic- sort of (Christmas and Easter Catholic would be more accurate). I got my first communion in the Catholic Church and my parents didn't really think church was very important. I started going to church on my own in 8th grade. I ended up at a Congregational Church, which I liked a lot while I was there up until college. So, I was used to responsorial reading and switching  a lot between sitting, kneeling and standing. This church does confession on their knees. I don't know if I have been to any church which only goes to its knees during confession. It was profoundly moving to me. I also noticed that this church has many, many people in their 20s-40s while I was getting down to kneel. Usually the traditional churches around my town either have a mix from 30-80s or are usually the older crowd. It was cool to see so many people in my generation committed to the church.
     After that we sang Arise, My Soul, Arise. We took the offering and sang the Doxology. Next came the baptism. Sometimes when someone I know is dedicating their child to God, it makes me really emotional. I am proud that they choose to raise their child in a Christian household. I am honored to be there celebrating with them. I often am sad that many of my own family members still have not been saved. I also think a lot about the responsibility of being a fellow Christ follower and having a responsibility to that child to help show them Jesus. Today was no different.
     To be brutally honest, I was thinking about all of these things during the sermon and was distracted by a few things so I didn't really hear all the pastor was trying to tell us. After the sermon came another piece, Behold The Lamb before communion. Beautiful piece. As I watched strangers, friends and family walk up to take communion, I got a real feeling of joy. What an honor it is to worship corporately. I am reading Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand and I haven't even gotten to the meat of the story, but I know it deals a lot with the Underground Church. I was thinking about that today as I freely worshiped in a new place, felt welcomed and professed my faith publicly with all of them. I also noticed that this church was also much more multicultural than the church I attend. It made me think of Psalm 86:9- All the nations you have made will come before you in worship, Lord; they will bring glory to your name.
     I have been taking part in the 31 Days series and writing for 31 days about joy. In this time, I have also read the blogs of many other participants. Part of the joy I have in my faith is knowing that there are other believers that I can worship with, learn from, be encouraged by and develop genuine friendships with. I have been thrilled (and slightly surprised) to read the blogs of so many other Christians. Your struggles, joys, and daily life have been both challenging and inspiring to me.
 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Friendship

    Tonight I would like to write a bit about my oldest son. He is a sweet boy who attempts to get along with everybody. Because he does drastic things for a 9 year old boy- namely talking to girls, being polite to adults, etc- he doesn't feel that he fits in. Since he doesn't fit in, he tries too hard and acts like a goober, which is super uncool. A few years ago, he had a really bad year in school. He was acting up and really started having some problems. This year has also shown hints of that beginning to happen so I took the first step and decided to talk to the guidance counselor. He gave me a few suggestions, one which included seeing if I can get him together with friends more outside of school.
     Today we invited 2 boys over for pizza and a movie. The boys were super nice kids and they had a blast watching the movie and playing together. The best part of the day was watching Tim know that he had the freedom to be himself completely around these 2 boys. Isn't it great to have friends who love us unconditionally?
   

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pure Joy

    My son won his first Space Derby. He was so proud of himself and he was so excited that all of his friends were cheering for him. Pure, uninhibited joy on this face :) Sorry for the picture quality- I took this on my phone.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Doing the right thing

    Sometimes what brings me the most joy is feeling like I'm doing the right thing. It's nice to be able to lay down to go to sleep and be able to live with your actions and your decisions for the day. Sometimes doing the right thing, for me at least, means that I hold myself to a standard that is higher than what others expect of me. Sometime doing the right thing is not the popular decision or the easy decision but being true to myself (and my faith, in most cases). James says "So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." James 4:17  Sometimes doing the right thing is just making good decisions on a minute by minute basis.

     Tonight I surprised myself by making the decision to head to the gym after a long hiatus. I had golfer's elbow at the end of the school year last year so it has been a while that I have been healing. I decided to go walk on the treadmill for a while. I set the speed and incline to a nice, challenging walk and planned to be there for a while. As I was exercising I had a crazy, Crossfit lady in front of me doing something that was probably a warmup for her but an insane workout for me. I thought "Surely, you could push yourself a little harder Jen." So, after the treadmill I did a few of the weight machines.
    On my way out of the gym, I noticed that one of my favorite instructors was about to start a class in the group X room.  I checked the schedule and saw that it was Zumba toning. My mind flashed back to my 8th graders and how much I've picked on them the past few days and I considered going in to dance for a while. However, I just exercised for an hour and I haven't really been a person to hang out at the gym for 2 hours before. (It shows.) Then I looked at the instructor- who is a crazy, energetic, hilarious lady, walked to the locker room, put my stuff away and joined the class. I am sore now but it's a great feeling. The whole class I was proud that I was pushing myself a little more than usual and I had a lot of fun while doing it.
     As I have been doing the 31 Days challenge, I have been thinking about things I can work on when this is over. Getting in shape and cleaning/organizing my house are always at the top of my intentions. I'm glad tonight started off a chain of small decisions that will propel me in the right direction.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Letting Go

    I couldn't figure out what to post today. You'd think with a subject like joy that my mind would be overflowing with ideas. After a few minutes of feeling ashamed, I thought about what has made my past few days so much fun-  letting go.
     Letting go in what way? All, really. I mentioned the other day that my weekend was pretty crappy. Nothing really went wrong but I am a "stewer." If something is bothering me, I sometimes obsess about it in my head- even the stupid things. I know that this irrational and I try not to be that way but it's a habit that I've held for over 30 years. Lately I've tried to be more aware of when I'm doing this and have then attempted to "let it go."  In the past week I've discovered that I get really annoyed with people over some pretty shallow things. (I've also realized that there are some lucky people who don't have to try very hard to annoy me.)  These things are easy to let go- mostly because the real issue is me being sinful and not a relevant problem.  What is harder is when I have to stop worrying or need to forgive someone. Oh yeah, still a sin. Whenever I have found myself in this situation this week, I have just stopped to pray. God tells us that he's willing to bear our burdens- so why do I feel like I need to "control the situation?" This will be be an ongoing struggle for me but there is a marked difference when I'm attempting to "let it go."
     The second type of letting go is a little less serious. In my role as a mom, teacher, Christian, friend and more, I often feel a need to look like I have "all my crap together."  Let's be real; being functional is not always the same as being happy about how I am doing in all these roles. I read a post yesterday (from another 31 Days blogger) that talked about embracing imperfection.  There is nowhere in my life that I can just let everything go, but I can definitely take myself less seriously in many areas.              Yesterday I found myself feeling really joyful and satisfied at the end of the day.   I think this had to do with the fact that I let myself just be myself in all areas of my day. In school I chatted with a new a colleague and told her that I would really like to have her over for dinner some night. I don't have a huge connection with many people from work outside of school so this took a little bravery for me. Then I had a prep period where I worked really hard on organizing the rest of the day. I wrote about my choreography lesson with the 8th graders in yesterday's post. I allowed myself to laugh with them and to permit them to be themselves- even if it looked less structured than what some people might like to see. I was proud when I saw students who normally are not engaged let go of whatever is holding them back on other days. They were appreciative that I showed my joy in being with them. I invested some extra time in a few students who needed a little one on one attention. I took the unpopular route and enforced the rules of class for my younger students. I took the instruments they were using away after repeated reminders of playing them correctly and listening when expected. I danced with my 7th grade class while teaching them a piece. (This class has some "mean girls" and some kids who frequently express their opinions- regardless of whether their opinion is appropriate.)  When I got home, I put my family first and spent some time hanging out with them. (I should have been cleaning or correcting.)  David asked me if he could "take me out dancing" in my dining room so we let it go all over the place there. It was so much fun. I even used some of my newly acquired moves from my 8th grade boys. At one point my husband even jumped in. (Those of you who know Matt know that this would be a RARE occasion.) Some of the blogs I read yesterday reminded me to appreciate what I have while I have them, so I took a little extra snuggle time with the kids and let the schedule go a little. All of these were good decisions for me and contributed not only to my joy but the lives of others around me too.
     What has brought you the most joy this week?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kids

    One of the things that bring me the most joy is just watching children playing or being imaginative. Right now my kids are playing outside in the leaves. I went out and got these shots of them:

 Notice David's Michael Jackson-esque glove. His "style" crack me up. Whenever given the chance, he prefers to wear a button down, collared shirt and sweatpants.

   They're now figuring out how to jump from the tire swing into the leaf pile.
    In school today I did a choreography lesson with my 8th graders. It was a lot of fun to watch them experiment around with movement and have a good time being creative. It was fun to watch them have that "Am I an adult or a kid?" struggle. They try so hard to be grown up but when it comes to doing something fun and creative, the kid in them usually wins out. (Unless they are in a group of other students who will make them feel self-conscious.) I got really excited watching 2 kids in 8th grade and 3 boys in 7th grade who are not usually invested go "all in" today. I also had a lot of laughs and a ton of fun. I'm honored that my students trust me enough to be themselves with me.
    I also got this picture of the little corn field across the street from me. (With that being said, there are not a lot of corn fields in my area at all. A local dairy farm uses the land to grow feeder corn for their cows. I like them!)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Provision

     I tend to to be a worrier. Although I hold it together quite well, in my head I'm constantly worrying about what comes next, what I have to do. or thinking about things that might not even have anything to do with me. I know that this anxiety has caused some problems for me. (You don't even want to be around me if I'm running late... or anticipate being late for something)
      Matthew 6:25-34 says:    “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your lifee ?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

I was thinking about these verses last night as I couldn't sleep. Over the weekend my mind was stuck on a few things I couldn't seem to stop thinking about. As I lay awake last night, I kept thinking to myself "What are you actually worried about?"  I read a post this morning about the lies we often tell ourselves or listen to.  As I was pondering things in the morning I realized that, even though I worry about things, I still know that I am provided for.
    It gives me joy that I can provide food for my children, that I have shelter and all basic needs. I have more than what I need- as a matter of fact, I have too much. I am grateful for my job and for the colleagues I work with. I'm joyful that I get to help students grow and learn. I'm blessed to have a mind that loves to learn and the opportunity to develop myself every day. I'm glad that I am never cold or worried that my children won't have heat. I'm happy that I have a somewhat healthy body. I have a husband and children who love me and let me love them back. Most importantly, I have a God who will not desert me; a Father who cares deeply about my well-being and is willing to hear me when I talk to Him. Even when circumstances are bad, I have faith that things will be okay. 
I am richly blessed. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Love

     Today I read a blog post from Kara Tippetts. If you have not read her story, read this post then spend a lot of time on her other posts. She is a woman of amazing faith and inspiration. Today her post was about her husband and about his love in times where she has needed comfort as well as every other day. She is so much more eloquent than I will ever be.
     Her post made me think about people who have loved me unconditionally, shown me grace or mercy at times when it has been greatly needed, friends who are always there even if it has been a really long time since you last spoke to them, and people who see who you aspire to be especially in the times when we are less than perfect.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

purpose

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.- Jeremiah 29:11

Now may the God of peace—
    who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great Shepherd of the sheep,
    and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—
21 may he equip you with all you need
    for doing his will.
May he produce in you,[e]
    through the power of Jesus Christ,
every good thing that is pleasing to him.
    All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.- Hebrews 13:20-21


     I am grateful and joyful that God has created me to fulfill a purpose with my life. I do not always know God's will for my life but I think He has put me in a position where I am in contact with hundreds of people a year, many whom I develop personal relationships with. I enjoy my work and love knowing that my talents are serving a purpose. I know that my successes are not my own doing, but that God has given me the tools I need to change the lives of others. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Manners

     Today I was walking into school with 1 31 Gifts bag full of school papers (The utility tote with the insert for the hanging file folders), a bag of flashcards I had graded, my lunch, 2 dozen donuts and a box of munchkins with a ripped handle. As I was getting out of my car, I noticed one of my chorus guys approaching the door. I yelled across the parking lot and asked if he would mind holding the door for me. Not only did he say "Sure," but he also walked over to my car to see if I needed any help carrying things. 
     I have rediscovered this week that I love good manners (and parents that expect their kids to follow them). This has not been prompted by some bad event where I wish people had done something differently, but from deep appreciation of seeing kindness. I was even thinking today that many Christians talk about showing Christ's love- but don't necessarily follow basic manners that would help do that. 
     Here are some examples of manners I've seen this week:
     -normal "please" and "thank you"
     - door holding
     - Our 6th grade went on a trip and a little girl was struggling with her sleeping bag and pillow. Her 8th grade brother walked by, saw her struggling, smirked a little and then walked over, took her stuff and walked it to where they were going.
     - Today a few kids stayed after class to straighten up piles of music
     - I bought my 8th graders breakfast today. Every one of them thanked me.
     - Older kids at church working with the younger kids
     - People listening without interrupting 
     - A retired teacher coming back to help her replacement with a field trip and mentoring her

     I have a group of 8th graders who have created a culture of respect and kindness in their class. Can you imagine how much different the world would be if people just acted with manners and respect toward everybody else? Can you imagine what joy you would feel if you knew that when you entered a room, new place or situation that you could just be yourself without people being rude or demeaning?  Here's hoping...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Quotes about joy

I'm feeling a little exhausted today so I decided I would keep this post simple. Here are a few quotes I have found about joy tonight.















Teaching

Paige Faure as Cinderella, Andy Jones as the Prince in "Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella"(
(Picture from the Providence Journal's theater review of the National Tour of Cinderella)

     See that handsome prince? Well, he's one of my former students. I got a chance to see him perform in Providence, RI tonight. (which is why I'm posting at 12:30 am!) Honestly, I saw him in this musical twice while he was on Broadway (once in the ensemble and once as Prince Topher.)  I couldn't be prouder. One of my colleagues organized a trip for our current theater students to go watch him. I'm so happy for him. If you get a chance to see the national tour, go do it! It was wonderful.
   
     I'm so blessed to be a part of the lives of so many students. Last night, I took my sons to go to see the middle school hockey team play. During afternoon announcements, the hockey game was announced and one of my chorus boys (who is on the hockey team) raised his hand to ask me if I was going. When I told him I was, he got this big grin across his face and told me that he was really excited because he was starting. While we were at the game, many kids on the team came and said hello. Two girls from chorus also came to chat with me after the game. There was even an 8th grade boy who took some time to hang out with my sons.
     This weekend 2 of my former students got married. About 50 of them wished me happy birthday. A current 8th grade student found out it was my birthday and made me cupcakes.

    It makes me extremely happy to see the success of the kids I work with. Watching them grow is greatly rewarding to me. The lessons I have learned from my mentors are passed down to my students and occasionally I will see a glimpse of those things peeking out. What joy, and great responsibility, is it to be able to have a teaching role in the life of a young student.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Relationships

     I'm going to confess something, although I am what many people think of as "a people person" I often get lonely. So, relationships are something that cause me great joy on one side but can also be painful or sad on other days.  Yesterday was my birthday and with that came the many, many "happy birthday" messages on Facebook. Realistically, some of these people are friends or family, some are acquaintances and some are people I have just met a connection with somewhere in life. I spent some time yesterday thinking about all of these people. Let me tell you about some of them. Some of you might find yourself in more than 1 category. 
     My friends- I have some pretty amazing friends. Some are practically superheroes. I get joy from watching how incredible some of you are. I rejoice with you as I watch you teach your children or just navigate through life. I learn from you as you go through life's lessons- some easy, some not so much. I am blessed by your compassion, grace and mercy. Sometimes I'm surprised at how different you are from me, but I love the fact that I am part of your life. I hope over this year we can deepen our friendship.I also appreciate that you are a part of the life of my family. 
     My colleagues- I'm really lucky that I work with a group of incredibly talented people who really care about the kids that they work with. I love that the students have so many different personalities to learn from. There is at least 1 person at our school that any kid will be able to develop a great relationship with. 
     My family-  I have a small family on my side and a large family on my husband's side. We have a ton of kids in my family and it is really exciting to watch them grow up and develop into their own little people. I have a few great spiritual role models in my family and I thank you for being living examples of Christ in my life. My husband and children bring me great joy every day. There isn't a day that I'm not laughing at home.
     My penpals- As I said the other day, some of you actually know me better than some of my other friends. I appreciate you sharing your lives with me and taking the time to sit and write me deep, personal letters. I think about you often and hope that someday I will meet many of you in person. Seeing a letter from any of you is a perfect way to brighten any day. I look forward to continuing to write and seeing what this year has in store for us!
    Former students- I feel really blessed that I'm still in touch with many of you. I am excited to follow your careers, family life- babies and weddings! and life in general. You all have so much potential and I'm excited to see what God has in store for all of you. It made me smile yesterday to read my birthday wishes and to see that I had students from almost every year of teaching (except for the ones who are still in high school/middle school because I won't friend them.)  I am also excited that many of the relationships that started in my middle school choruses are still going strong in your personal lives. You guys are also a great blessing to me, just like (most of you.. lol) you were in my classes. 
     Former teachers- Some of you have no idea what an impact you had on my life- whether it was making me feel at home in your class, challenging me to grow,  teaching me that I didn't actually know everything, letting me into your personal life, encouraging me to be a better musician/student/Christian/person in general. I can name a handful of teachers who made me into the person I am today. 
     Church friends- Again, not only am I lucky to have you in my life, but so isn't my family. I'm blessed to be a part of a great group of believers that challenge me personally and spiritually. 
     Musicians- I love being able to share my heart and talents with some amazing people from across the world. There are so many things that can be said through music when no other words can communicate them. Many of your messages brought me back to specific times when I have performed in groups with you or worked with you to bring the best out of our students. 
     Art friends- I am amazed at your talent and creativity.  Some of you have taught me some fun things and have really opened me up to try to new things. If you asked me about art a year ago, I would have told you that I'm horribly bad at it and then I would've not even tried. You inspire me!
     Bloggers- Thanks for all the challenges you give me and for reading my blog. I appreciate the accessibility I have to so many different people with expertise in so many different subjects. I can't wait to get to know some of you better. 
     Acquaintances- So why are we only acquaintances? ;) Thanks for the birthday wishes. I'm sure we have connected for a reason. Here's hoping we figure that out this upcoming year!

   Now that I have said all this, I will admit that  I have a lot of people I am friends  or family with/to, but not too many that I have super close relationships with. Sometimes I think that I keep friendships on a surface level on purpose, but other times I really want to challenge myself to develop deeper relationships.  I read a quote today that said: "In our hurry-up culture, relationships often end up on the back burner, and it’s one reason we’re starving spiritually." I would love to develop more in depth relationships with more people this year and get to know some new people too. Later in the article I just references, the author quotes C.S. Lewis as saying  “Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life. If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I should say, ‘Sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near your friends.’

    Thanks again for all the birthday love!

   
     

Monday, October 13, 2014

Quiet time

   Today is my birthday and I had a wonderful time with my husband and my boys. This weekend was a bit of hard weekend though. I was feeling a little overworked at the end of last week so I took some time Saturday to just be quiet. Sunday was a disaster and today was nice but I definitely would like to take some time tonight to sit and thing.
     When I can spend time reflecting, I am able to hand things over to God rather than stew over them. "Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light." Matthew 11:29-30
     A few years ago at the Global Leadership Summit, I heard a wonderful woman names Mama Maggie Gobran speak.  She had the following quote about silence and it has stuck with me ever since:
  • To be in silence is to be fully inside your own self.
  • The silence is the secret – the first step – to finding treasure.
  • Silence your body to listen to your words.
  • Silence your tongue to listen to your thoughts.
  • Silence your thoughts to listen to your heart beating.
  • Silence your heart to listen to your spirit.
  • Silence your spirit to listen to His Spirit.
  • In silence you leave many and be with the One.

    I'm grateful to have a God who gives me His time- even if I'm babbling.

    

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Noticing the little things

Have you ever found yourself so busy that you miss the beauty in everyday things? Here are a few things I have seen this week:

Pictures of a farmer's market my husband's Aunt Janet went to. These are her pictures, aren't they beautiful?




 This is my son's eye. The intricacy of many of God's creations amaze me. 

Some sky pictures. Weather in New England is definitely switching to fall! (All of these pictures were taken on my phone, sorry for the picture quality.)




I read a post yesterday that challenged readers to take 5 minutes out to notice something of beauty so I pulled my car over and took this picture. 



   The view from where I type my posts. The color is more vivid in real life but it was shady in the backyard today.
 Up close with some of the leaves.
 I love the different colors we see here. I used to have a hammock hanging in the backyard. This is very similar to what we would've seen.
 Cute habaneros my husband grew.


On my way into school
This is a tree outside my window at work. I'm sad that the top of it is dying :(

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Happy Mail

    This is the post that the people who know me probably expected me to write first and the post that people who don't know me will think "Wow, this lady is kinda weird." Mail brings me great joy. Hear me out.
    One of my hobbies is to penpal with various people across the world. I have penpals from the United States as well as  in Australia, Europe, Asia and Africa.  I cannot tell you how happy I am to receive a letter, note, gift, anything from these friends. My husband doesn't understand the appeal of "writing to total strangers."  The truth is that many of these strangers end up becoming lifelong friends. Just like friends I see all the time, I look forward to hearing news about their day, their families, what is going on in life, etc. I enjoy hearing the perspectives of people who live a life that is sometimes very different from (and sometimes similar to) my own. I also enjoy taking the time to sit down and write a letter. Can't you do the same in an e-mail or on Facebook? Yes and no. Recently I ran into an old student of mine at a bookstore cafe. We chatted for a few and then he continued to work on a college entrance essay and I sat to write a letter to my penpal Marianne in The Netherlands. I could see him looking over every few minutes and finally he said "So, what are you working on?" [This is more humorous because I was using kind of odd stationary I had received from a pal in Malaysia so I think that made him more curious.] I told him I was writing a letter to a friend in The Netherlands. "Cool." Back to work. 5 minutes later: "So, do you write a lot?" "Yeah, I have many penpals all over the place. I love writing to them." "I actually remember that from when you taught me. I was thinking of you a while ago. I met this girl who wanted me to write her letters over the summer rather than e-mail. It took longer, but it was pretty cool. It was actually really different than writing an e-mail. I actually had to sit and think about what I wanted to take the time to say to her." Amen. Exactly.  (Passing my mail obsession to the younger generation! Yeah!)
     I do use Facebook to catch up with my penpals or to keep current with their daily life but I think I use the letters to strengthen our relationships or to get into the deeper conversations.  In addition to learning about their culture (in some cases), I have also had deep discussions about faith, personal struggles, parenting,  literature, and many, many other topics. In fact, I would say I have deeper relationships with some of these friends than I do with some of my friends I see in person on a regular basis.   Sometimes the time it takes mail to get to certain places (Russia! India!) can take a little longer than I'd like (or not arrive at all) but overall I'm happy.
     Another reason mail brings me a lot of joy is because of my involvement with Postcrossing. I'm frequently getting postcards from other Postcrossers worldwide. The amount you send is equal to the amount you receive. The 2 cards that I will show later in the post are all from Postcrossing. (The 2 I'm sending out are for a Reddit exchange). I have "traveled around the world" through all of these cards. If you look further back in my blog, I have shown tons of my cards.  In addition to the general postcrossing site, I'm on the forum there too. So, I just did an exchange for a "mystery envelope." Another site I've gotten involved with lately is a mail art blog called Mail Me Some Art. I have connected with a myriad of creative people there and sometimes I even follow the swaps I'm not even involved in. (I wish I had done the black and metallics swap!)
    It's not always just about what I can get from my mailbox either. I love to spread an encouraging word through the mail. Some of my favorite ways to do that is Chemo Angels (while I'm mentioning cancer- the USPS is selling a stamp to raise money for breast cancer research. They have raised $78 million. Go buy some!), Adopt a US Soldier and The World Needs More Love Letters.  I will admit- I'm horrible with birthday cards so if you're wondering why I haven't ever sent you a card but I love to send them to everybody else, I usually fail with cards. (If you really want mail, complain here and I will be glad to send you something. If you don't know me, but would like to, feel free to reach out and I can send you mail too.) I love knowing that simple words of encouragement or friendly words can be used to brighten someone's day.

     Here is some happy mail I have received in October:

A Flat Stanley project from a 14 year old girl in Turkey. She also send the UNESCO postcard and some Turkish coffee. It was my first Turkish coffee.
 Mail from my awesome penpal Ashley in Wisconsin. She is always so creative with her envelopes and her letters. I love them. I didn't even notice the back until I went to open it. Whenever I add that many things to an envelope it looks horrible instead of cute. (Ash, I'm planning on writing back tonight.)

 Postcrossing  card from a Taiwanese girl living in Japan
Postcrossing love from Great Britain. Check out the great stamps too!

 A postcard from my dentist. This is what fall in New England looks like :)
 My 2 outgoing postcards from my Reddit swap. It's the Bunker Hill Monument on the left (which is actually on Breed's Hill- go figure) and a tiger shark.
 These things came in my mystery envelope from Ireland. I kept the sticky notes and cut outs and replaced them with stickers from Korea and Lip Smackers lip balm. (Notice the ladybird pins. I have always called them ladybugs. I had never heard ladybird before.)









 Birthday love! My birthday is Monday. My mother and father in-law sent me a package with some great goodies and a really sweet note. I aniticipate some fun art projects being made with these.



 Birthday love from Nana. Yes, 2 cards. She REALLY loves me :)


       What is the last happy mail that you have sent or received? If you can't remember, I challenge you to sit and send someone you care about a quick note, card, package (use your imagination!) through the mail.