Saturday, April 30, 2011

i love my parents

Oh the joys of Skype dates...

royal wedding

For the past two weeks, I have been home alone because my roommate has been out of town. I haven't been super scared or freaked out, but I have been a little more paranoid aware than usual. So at 3:30 AM Friday morning, I woke up because I thought a weird noise. I was in between sleep and being awake, and it turned out to be nothing. The dogs were lying in the driveway passed out, so obviously nothing had happened. But since I was shaken up awake and alert, I figured, hey, why not watch the Royal Wedding?! So I headed on over to cnn.com, watched the wedding coverage from 3:30-5:30, went back to bed at 5:30 until 6:30, and then got up for school. I may or may not have gotten to school after the bell rang...

Anyways, I loved watched the wedding because I felt as though I were watching history transpire before my eyes. The ceremony was beautiful and the bride was radiant. What I loved most about the ceremony was the Scripture from Romans 12 and the Bishop of London's predication. My favorite part of the ceremony (other than the vows) was this quote, which is so full of truth:  

"The spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this: the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed." - Bishop of London


Y'all know how quote-happy I can get. But seriously, this might just be my new favorite. I don't even know how to begin to unpack it all. I won't even try. Just let that marinate for a while, folks.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Isaiah 43:19

 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
   now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
 I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.

He's doing something new in and around me, and I want to be ready for whatever comes next. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

When life is rosy, we may slide by with knowing about Jesus, with imitating him and quoting him and speaking of him. But only in suffering will we know Jesus.
-Joni Eareckson Tada  

Thursday, April 21, 2011

For the record...

This is not what most women picture when they think of the perfect man:
This is what women want from men:

Dear men, for the sake of women...
I charge you to be men…
To be more than carbon copies of society’s counterfeits
To see beauty as more than skin deep for the sake of true beauty’s integrity
To seek to serve and not be served
To feel anger, joy, passion, and pain not fearing their weight, but embracing their purpose like true men who experience, express, and control emotions like the God-man Jesus
To love a woman not for what you can take from her but for who she is pursuing her, honoring her, and leading her to embark on a greater journey for the glory of a King
Be men for the sake of the women. We have long battled with the scars boys give. 

My BFFL Kristen posted this today on her blog, and I just loved it.  Such truth in every word. 
Love you Kris.

Proverbs 4:23

Lord, thank You for taking measures to orchestrate circumstances in which You protect and guard my heart when I do not have the strength nor maturity to do so for myself.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Souvenirs of Solitude

One of my dearest friends, the most beautiful Teresa Pieklik, recommended a new book to me, and I asked for it and received it for Easter. So far it is wonderful and I am greatly enjoying the writer's style and point of view. Not to mention that his words are also speaking to my heart. Here are some nuggets of truth I have found from Brennan Manning's Souvenirs of Solitude so far:

"There is one crucial sin against love that deserves special attention because it is so crucial to the second call of Jesus Christ: procrastination. That is, putting things off, wasting the energies of life and love that are within us." (ouch)
-I think that procrastination--not doing the things I know I should do-- is one of my biggest personal struggles. One day I would like to walk in victory over it. 

"If we are going to keep growing, we must keep on risking failure throughout our lives...The Christian with depth is the person who has lived and learned to live with his failure."
-I remember when I started school at UGA, my dad would always tell me that I should not be afraid of failure. I would get so wrapped up in trying to make the best grades and forget that grades are not the end of the world. And the thing was, my parents never asked me to be perfect. They just asked me to work hard. It is the same with Jesus. Yes, He tells us to be perfect as the Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48) But He also knows that we are human, and we fall. And that is okay, because He is always there with open arms to take us back. 

"What the world longs for from the Christian faith is the witness of men and women daring enough to be different, humble enough to make mistakes, wild enough to be burnt in the fire of love, real enough to make others see how unreal they are."
-I think the world's biggest problem with Christians is that they see us as hypocrites. Was it not Gandhi who said, "I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." (ouch) We walk around telling others to be like us, when God never said that we should all be legalistic robots. He wants us to walk in His love and be like Him, and oftentimes we just do not do His name justice. He is so wonderful, and yet our lives just do not mirror that to the world. I hope and pray that my life reflects a God that people want to get to know better instead of instilling some kind of repulsion or indifference to Him who is worthy to be praised.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Psalm 118

I am so tired as I write this, because today was a crazy busy day.  However, I want to tell y'all how amazing the Lord is while everything is still fresh in my mind.

So as you read in one of my recent posts, I have a few things I want and need for my little home. Yesterday I spent the day with one of my favorite couples here, the Wolfs. Dave is a missionary pilot and Olivia does ministry in all sorts of places here in the city with the International Women's Group, with her neighbors, and at school. She is full of energy and has been a wonderful mentor to me since I arrived here in August (8 months ago, can you believe it?). 


Anyways, yesterday Olivia and I were about to leave for Amanda's bridal shower, but we prayed together beforehand. She asked me to write down three things that I wanted her to pray for, and the third thing was that I would trust the Lord's provision for enough money to come home in the summer and get what I need for the house. So we prayed.


Not even an hour later, we were at Amanda's shower chatting and enjoying the fellowship, when a fellow missionary friend, Diane, says to Olivia, "We need to start praying about where I can store my stuff." You see, Diane is taking a mini-furlough to the States soon and will be gone for at least six months. And Olivia was like, "Uh, I think Jess could use some of your stuff!" So Diane was like, "I'm leaving and you can take care of my things and use them! Make me a list!" So I sent her a list this morning and she has lots of things I can use...which will save me hundreds of dollars

Psalm 118:1-14
 1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
      His faithful love endures forever.
 2 Let all Israel repeat:
      “His faithful love endures forever.”
 3 Let Aaron’s descendants, the priests, repeat:
      “His faithful love endures forever.”
 4 Let all who fear the Lord repeat:
      “His faithful love endures forever.”

As if that isn't enough, Olivia also asked me to pray about leading the high school girls' Bible study next year. To which I emphatically said "YES!" 

And then today Olivia's neighbor Jessica, who is the sweetest fifteen year old, accepted Christ! One of the girls from school was with her and asked if she would like to come to the girls' Bible study, and she said yes. 

Our God is so good! 


I am just so overwhelmed by the greatness of our God. Who could fathom His amazing ways? He is too good to me...He is so gracious with us and worthy of all our praise at all times.






Sunday, April 17, 2011

my friend McCall says it all

One of my friends McCall wrote so beautifully the other day and summed up some of the very things that I was thinking about and going through...here's her words and the words of our friend Paul:

There is no reason for me to say anything when Paul can say exactly how I feel these days: (this is from a new translation, The Voice)

        "I know that in me, that is, in my fallen human nature, there is nothing good. I can will myself to do something good, but that doesn't help me carry it out. I can determine that I am going to do good, but I don't do it; instead, I end up living out the evil that I decided not to do...in my mind I am in happy agreement with God's law; but the rest of my body does not concur." [Romans 7:18-19, 22]

I am finding myself frequently exhausted because I cannot will myself to live a sinless life. Praise the Lord it is not up to us.

        "Therefore, now no condemnation awaits those who are living in Jesus, the Liberating King, because when you live in him a new law takes effect. The law of the Spirit of life breathes into you and rescues you from the law of sin and death."
[Romans 8:1-2]

going to the chapel and they're gonna get married

Congrats to one of my nearest and dearest friends, the one and only most beautiful Ali Neese. She and her beau are engaged! I am so happy that she gets to start a new journey and enter into a new chapter in her life. Ali is one of the sweetest and most sincere young women I am privileged to know, and I am so glad that the Lord has decided to bless her in a mighty way with such a wonderfully godly young man like Kyle. I cannot wait to see what the Lord has in store for the two of them as they begin their lives together!

 
 This picture was taken on New Year's Eve '08 when they had just started dating...poor Kyle endured a lot that night since the Neese home was full of screaming and giddy girls. I'll always respect him for that.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

so powerful

needs and wants

So as I begin this new adventure in my own little home, I am looking into things at Wal-mart and Target that could make the house a home. And the thing is, I'm going to need some help from you guys. If you can help in any way, I will gladly receive it. Thanks for loving me and encouraging me as I am living the dream!

Here's the list: (needs in bold)

Kitchen
Pots and pans
Dishes
Silverware
Bakeware
Mixing bowls
Toaster oven
Electric water kettle
Hand mixer
Oven 
Measuring cups 
Knives


Bathroom 
Bath mat
Hand towels
Mirror
Shower curtain 


Miscellaneous
Curtain rods
Curtains
Nightstand
Broom 
Mop/mop bucket
Trash can
Clock
Picture frames 

Friday, April 15, 2011

to whom it may concern: the civil wars

I missed you
I haven't met you
Oh but I want to
Oh how I want to
Dear whoever you might be
I'm still waiting patiently

Thursday, April 14, 2011

day of birth

So, my birthday is coming up in a few weeks...and I have to admit that I'm excited. First of all, I am going to be 23 (WHAT THE FRENCH TOAST?!?!). Second of all, it will be my first birthday in Mexico. Third of all, my birthday is on a Friday, which means that I get to see my lovely angels all day long and then partaaaaaaaaaaaay all night long with my friends. There are many things to look forward to in this next year of my life. In a couple months I will move into my first little house on my own. I will no longer be a first-year teacher. Come August, I will have lived in Mexico for a year...good things are on the horizon, friends, and I for one am excited.

 This vision is for a future time.
      It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled.
   If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently,
      for it will surely take place.
      It will not be delayed.
-Habakkuk 2:3

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

blessed

Yesterday, I got an email from my dad that read:

I am Athens at Chick Fil A talking with Katie Underwood.
Dad

Can I just tell you that it made my day to know that two of my favorite people in the entire world were talking with one another at one of my favorite places in the world, Beechwood Chick-fil-A? I could go into a lot of reasons why Beechwood Chick-fil-A is the best Chick-fil-A in the entire world, but it pretty much deserves its own post. So I'll leave you with this beautiful image captured by my father's iPhone (oh, technology...).

 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

friendship

This past week, I had the privilege and honor of hosting my very first out of town guest here in Chiwas. One of my dearest friends, the one and only Lyndsey Copeland, came to visit me for a few days on our spring break. She had been planning this trip for quite some time, and to be honest, the time got away from me and her trip just snuck up on me! We had not talked for a while, and then we skyped a couple weeks ago. The next thing I knew, she wrote on my facebook wall that she would be seeing me in TEN DAYS, and I nearly peed my pants. 

Lyndsey is quite adventurous. You see, most people come to El Paso and drive down, but there weren't any people coming or going during her travel dates, so she bravely took a bus from El Paso to Juarez to Chihuahua. More power to her. Tanya and I were about to leave when I got a a call from a man at the bus station who later passed the phone to her to let me know she had officially arrived in Chiwas. Later as Tanya and I drove to the bus station, I saw a text that read as follows, "Aky esta tu amiga linsey ella quiere que bengas por ella" (Written with correct Spanish grammar and spelling: "Aqui esta tu amiga Lyndsey ella quiere que vengas por ella"). Translation: Your friend Lyndsey is here and wants you to come get her. 

Since Lyndsey had traveled literally all day on Saturday, she was somewhat exhausted, so we retired early on Saturday night. On Sunday, though, we hit the ground running. We went to church, which was wonderful as usual. After church we ate lunch at Italianisimo, had some delicious ice cream at Coldy's, went for a walk and hung out for a bit with my landlady, and then went to the Expogan, which is a big rodeo fair type thing-a-ma-jigger. We enjoyed walking around, eating, and generally goofing off together. 

With the adorable vaqueros (cowboys) at the Expogan.
Monday Lyndsey came to class with me (after she slept in...I had to get up with only 5 hours of sleep) and introduced herself to my kiddos, who were delighted to meet her. Monday night we went to the Deportiva and ran (I use the term quite loosely for myself) and later had friends over for dinner and a game of Dutch Blitz. Tuesday Lynds got to see some of Chihuahua with Tanya and was the invited guest to Tanya's junior high English conversation class and we went to Bible study. And on Wednesday, she joined my class again and then left! The time flew by. 


All my kids marveling at Lyndsey's Southern accent.
What a blessing to have friends like Lyndsey. What a blessing to be built up in the body of Christ and to have friends who care enough to use their resources and sacrifice their time in order to come here and encourage me. The time flew, but we took advantage of each moment. I praise the Lord for giving me friends like Lyndsey.




On Wednesday night at Bible study, we spoke about Mary Magdalene, and the wonderful way in which she pursued her Lord and loved Him to the very end. Lisa shared a quote about friendship that I just loved and feel like so adequately describes the friendships which the Lord has given me.


He says, "You haven't chosen one another, God has chosen you for one another."

I couldn't agree more. 




stream of consciousness

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
- Corrie Ten Boom

Recently, thoughts of the future have bombarded my mind. First of all, my mind cannot fathom and understand that it is April. Do y'all know what that means? I have two months left of my first year of teaching. In one month I will be 23 (SCHWAT?) years old. I have one year left of this two-year commitment to live life here in Chiwas. 

Wow. The passage of time is somewhat scary when you stop to think about it. The thought of leaving my life here in another year breaks my heart and scares me beyond belief. What will God have for me next? Could I stay here longer? Do I need to know where I'll be in two years right now? (No.)

Francis Chan says that "How we live our lives...is how we live our days." How do I live my life each day? Do I take the time to smile at my students and to be patient with them even when they are literally driving me crazy? Do I get off of my email long enough to get to the root of their problems? Do I ask them how they are doing and genuinely want to know? Do I spend time with the Lord that is uninterrupted and worth setting apart? Do I love my roommate? Do I make allowances for the faults of my friends and family because I see that we are all in process and growing in the beauty of Christ's love? Do I take the time to do the things I should do instead of thinking about doing the things I know I should do?

These next few months are going to bring forth winds of change. And because I am always worrying about the future thinking ahead, I want to share some truths with you that the Lord has laid on my heart in order to calm me down give me peace. I know that next year is going to be different for the following reasons:
  • My current roommate and closest friend here in Chiwas, Tanya, will be moving out, which means I will be living on my own without a roommate/family for the first time in my "adult" (HA!) life.
  • I will have a brand new class at school; my class will probably still have 10 students, but some faces will be new to me. 
  • I will no longer be a first-year teacher, so I might actually know what I'm doing and be more comfortable. Hopefully.
  • Our principal and his family will be on furlough, so the leadership at the school will be different. 
With all of these changes on the horizon, my little head starts to worry and wonder at things, and my heart gets a little heavy. But then I remember what my colleague Jeff always says- "God's track record is 100%." He has never, ever failed me. Have I been disappointed because I didn't get what I wanted or thought I needed? Yes. Have I been lonely at times? Yes. Has He ever left me? No. Has He ever given me something that I did not need or that wasn't what He wanted for me? No.

He is good. All the time. 

At Bible study on Tuesday night, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a precious time back when I was still in Athens. I remember sitting in the new Tate center with over 1,000 college students, soaking up the word of God as Bob taught at the first Wesley gathering of the school year. He spoke about how the city of Athens was going to experience a revival like never before because the Lord was about to break through in a new way. I remember being so encouraged by the Scripture He shared from Isaiah 43:

 18 “But forget all that—
      it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
 19 For I am about to do something new.
      See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
   I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
      I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
 20 The wild animals in the fields will thank me,
      the jackals and owls, too,
      for giving them water in the desert.
   Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland
      so my chosen people can be refreshed.
 21 I have made Israel for myself,
      and they will someday honor me before the whole world. (emphasis mine)

He is going to do a new thing. He is always up to something good; I have to choose to see it and believe that He is in control and knows what is best for me. My God is good, and He is worthy of my praise and adoration.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

And I will make an everlasting covenant with them. I will never stop doing good for them. I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me. I will find joy doing good for them and will faithfully and wholeheartedly replant them in this land.- Jeremiah 32:40-41

Saturday, April 2, 2011

on race




My class and I have been delving deeper into the Civil Rights Movement throughout the past two weeks, and they are loving it. What a joy it has been to see them get excited about something and have so many questions. I am the only black teacher they have had, and the only black teacher at this school. Pretty much I am the only black person anywhere I go haha. But I don't mind. Honestly, this is not something that bothers me or eats me alive. 

With all of this discussion about race and color, we somehow got on quite an interesting tangent. One of my girls was asking how old my sister was, and when I said nineteen, they were all surprised and started talking about how old they thought I was going to be and how they thought I would look. This little tangent lasted for about twenty minutes, but it was time well "wasted." The kids all said that when they heard my name was "Jessica," they assumed I would have "blond hair and really white skin." One of my kids, who is from Colombia, said, (not so tactfully, but with a good deal of humor) "It had been a long time since I had seen a dark person, so when I walked in the room and saw you, I thought 'What's that?!?'" I just about died with laughter. Another girl said that she was with another friend (who had already met me in Sanford, FL when I was there for training) and was so confused when her friend tried to show me to her at church. She was looking for someone completely different! When the kids heard that I was young, they thought that I was like, nineteen years old. HA! 

I love that there are cultural boundaries to be broken down here. One of my friends and I were talking the other day and he was asking me all about my life back in the States and whether I had friends from different countries, etc. Here there is not much diversity. In the States there is a variety of colors, languages, dialects, cultures, ethnicity, and races. I love that. 

The truth is, I love my life here. It is fun being the odd one out sometimes because I can share about what life is like in the United States, but I also have so much to learn of this beautifully vast and culturally rich country. After being here for nearly eight months, there are still some things I miss about the States, and yet there are other things that I have come to know and love of this new place I call home. 

Last night, a bunch of friends and I met up at the Deportiva to go running/walking. There was some miscommunication, and one of my friends, Sergio arrived at 5:00 PM, when we were all planning on meeting at 6:30 (oops). Anyways, almost as soon as we arrived-- I'm talking like the minute I after I get out of the car-- this woman says to me "Sergio was looking for you!" And I just look at her and say, "Oooohhhh...thank you!?" 
I had never seen this woman in my life. I'm not kidding. I looked at my friends Alex and Jaci and said, "I've never met that woman. How did she know Sergio was searching for me?" And then I said, "You know what, I bet you that Sergio asked that woman if she had seen a black girl anywhere, and I bet you I'm the only black girl here at the Deportiva." To which we just died laughing. And what do you know, when Sergio finally came ambling up to us, he admitted that he had asked the lady if she had seen a black girl, and when the lady passed us and saw us together, he said "Thanks!" HA! And then, to make the situation even funnier, he says to me "Wait, what about the guy? Did the guy come talk to you?" To which I replied, "You asked a man, too?!" Oh, what a night. Sergio politely asked me if I was offended, which of course, I was not. 


Fast forward to Wednesday morning in history class. I take a look at my lesson plans that I am using from PBS, and I see that this morning, I am to conduct an experiment on segregation. I have always wanted to do this particular activity with my own classroom. I remember watching the documentary A Class Divided in my elementary psychology class in college and being so fascinated with the bravery of Jane Elliot. She conducted an activity in her class in which she divided the children based on whether they had brown eyes or blue eyes, and she favored one group in order to teach them what segregation felt like first-hand. 

So on Wednesday, after morning recess, I gave the kids each either a small yellow or red piece of construction paper to tape on their shirt. I told them that they could not talk to anyone who was a different color than them; they couldn't play with them at recess; they basically had to ignore them. Pretty quickly they all caught on that it was probably something for history, but I just told them that it was a new rule and that they had to follow it; if they broke it there would be a consequence and I would be talking to their parents. 


In my opinion, the activity was successful. The yellow kids were white, and the red kids were black. When it was time to watch a BrainPOP!, I called the yellow kids over to sit down and made the red kids stand up. After the video, we always take a quiz, and I called on the yellow ones and was nice and patient with them, but acted annoyed whenever a red child wanted to speak. I did not allow them to talk to their neighbor and told them (firmly) to be quiet. You could see within a matter of minutes how their dispositions changed. 


At lunch recess, I told my colleague Jeff that they were not allowed to play together outside so that he could monitor things. Two of the students slipped up and talked to one another and consequently had to stay inside and write 100 sentences that said "I will not talk to a red/yellow person." Jeff partnered with me outside by allowing the yellow kids to play on the court and making the red kids play on the other part of the playground, which is not nearly as popular and is not shaded. And when the kids lined up, the red kids had to go collect trash. The other kids laughed and kind of pointed fun at them, and they were pretty discouraged. I have to say that seeing them so sad and dejected was hard, even for me. They have never been exposed to the realities of segregation and racism and do not realize that sadly, it still exists today. 


In the afternoon, the kids go to English/Spanish class, and when they return, we have about forty minutes left of the day. I let them write down their homework and clean up, and then I finally confessed that I was doing a little experiment with them. They were so relieved when I told them that I was not going to talk to their parents and that this new rule would only last for that day. We discussed the ramifications of segregation and how it must have felt to truly be discriminated against in the 1950's and 1960's. The red kids said that they felt horrible and were just frustrated throughout the day, and the yellow kids said that it felt nice to be favored but that they also felt bad for their friends. 


This afternoon, we skyped my parents and talked with them about what it was like to live during that time. Because my parents were born in the mid-1950's, they did not experience a ton of discrimination as they would if they were older, but they certainly had stories to tell. What a blessing to hear them pass on their stories to my kids who were so hungry for knowledge and understanding. Since Wednesday, parents and other teachers have approached me with gratitude and talked about how good it was for the kids to go through the "simulation" and to gain a deeper understanding of that dark period in United States history. Look how far we have come now!


Psalm 139:13-16
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
      and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
      Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
  You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
      as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
  You saw me before I was born.
      Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
   Every moment was laid out
      before a single day had passed.



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