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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas

Merry Christmas bloggers! It's a beautiful, sunny day here in Arkansas. I am sitting here, wanting to write this post but I have a million thoughts running through my mind right now. A million that all circulate around the real meaning for Christmas. This whole commercialized idea of Santa Claus is fun and bring many people around the world happiness-but for what? For one day, then we all head back to the real world-the work force, school, or whatever else humans do. The real meaning of Christmas is not for just one day. The real meaning of Christmas is joyous and a daily living experience. For the real meaning of Christmas is love. God's love for us in sending his only son and Jesus' love for us in becoming sin so that we will no longer be slaves to this world. It's awesome to see how nice people become around Christmas, all of sudden people are buying gifts for the less fortunate, parents are actually spending time with their kids, and men and women around the world actually seem...happy. Smiling, laughing, giving...all these are great and wonderful. Can you imagine, though, if people were this way all the time? If we could have Christmas every day of the year? These ideas of helping people who dont have anything? These ideas of spending time outside of work with your family? The idea of smiling at people walking down the street? God is love, Jesus is love, Christmas is love. Oh, how I wish that people could realize that this love is available to EVERYONE, EVERYDAY regardless of how "naughty or nice" you've been, regardless of how much money you spend on presents, or how many presents you buy for the poor. This love, this feeling of JOY is ours, ours to treasure and ours to give. If everyone could spread a little "Jesus Cheer" all the time...would the world be different? Would people be changed? I love Christmas. I love spending time with my family. I love singing Jesus happy birthday. I love seeing my neice's beautiful face light up when she opens presents. I love seeing my mamaw smiling as we all gather around her kitchen for dinner. I love getting a new pair of pjs every Christmas eve. Everything about Christmas brings joy. Everything reminds me of what the true meaning of Christmas really is...love. Love that can only come from my Lord and Savior, for without Him, we would have no Christmas. Sure, maybe we'd have a Santa Claus and jingle bells playing on all the radios, but that isn't Christmas.

May you enjoy Christmas to the fullest. And, although it's easy to get all caught up in the presents and good food-may you take time to thank our Lord for coming to earth all those years ago so that someday we could experience true joy, a joy that only comes from knowing Him and the one true gift-salvation.

Tribute to a great dog


Pistol Cole was laid to rest at his grandparent's home on December 24th, 2007. He was 2 years old and the faithful and loving companion of Brandon and Bethany Cole. He is survived by his parents, B&B, and his sister, Lucy. Most described Pistol as a loving dog who was the 1st to greet his dad from a long, hard day at work. Pistol was also known as playful and rambunctious. The only words described by his parents was, "he was like a son to us." Pistol will always be remembered and live in our hearts. A small tragedy that reminds us to treasure every moment with those close to us! Pisser, we will never forget you!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Home

I go home on Friday. I am so excited and ready. Honestly, I love my kids and its not necessarily that I need a break from them, I just need a break in general. I'm so tired...I've been so busy with work and moving out, I haven't had a moment to relax in a few weeks. I know I can't complain because I'm so blessed to be at this stage in my life, but boy oh boy, am I looking forward to my queen size bed with large fluffy pillows!




Today was the last day of the program until January 7th. The kids got to shop in the Christmas store today, and it was so funny watching them trying to pick out gifts for their moms and dads. It was cute as they picked up hideous purses or candles or just random stuff and be like, oooohhhh my mom would like this! Then of course, you'd get the little boy who'd be carrying around a basketball or other toy and be like, my dad will love this...i promise! yeah, yeah right! It was awesome, though, to see some of them who were totally wanting to only get gifts for the family members and it didn't even really occur to them that they should get something for themselves. One girl got a whole 16 piece dish set for 5 dollars! I am thinking her momma is going to love it!


Our Christmas staff party was today. It was HILARIOUS. I haven't laughed so much in a long time. My co-workers are absolutely amazing and they make me laugh so much. I am so blessed because everyday I get to go to work with people I really love and enjoy being around. They have really made me feel like a part of team, from day one!


Goodnight all...hopefully I'll be seeing a lot of you guys soon!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas


Oh my goodness...I know I just published another post a little while ago, but I just wanted to let everyone know that I can not believe that I am so blessed to be apart of Breakthrough Ministries. They do so much for the community. Granted, these past 8-10 days have been crazily busy because of prep for Christmas, but oh my gosh the things Breakthrough does for the East Garfield Park Community. For example, I worked around 12 hours today sorting, counting, and pricing items for the "Christmas Store." As I walked around today and just looked at all the stuff that people had donated (new of course) or we had bought (with donated money) it brought me to tears. I can't believe how much Breakthrough does to help our community out. See what we do is we buy or get donated items and resale them marked down like 80%...and all the procedes go to our youth's "earn while you learn" program. The Christmas store sales everything from towels, to cd players, to drills, to even microwaves. And everyone from the women/men in our shelter to anyone in the community can come shop in it. The amount of items we have for the store just absolutely blows me away. Tomorrow is the store and then tomorrow night, we are having a "Christmas Celebration" for our youth and their families. We are having food and some of our kids perform (essay reading, choir, praise dance...). Its a great time for the parents to come and see what we've been up to lately.

Oh, and the Christmas party for the kids was a big success. We only had a few who were upset about their gifts. Most of them were so excited they squealed and smiled and ran around showing off their presents! I took lots of pictures so hopefully i'll be uploading them soon to here!

Anyways, if you ever want to donate to a ministry or non-profit organization that is really doing some awesome and amazing things in their communities...check us out at Breakthrough. It is unbelieveable and humbling to me of all that we do! I love it and love seeing how much Jesus is working through us to change our community!

Another Day...Another Moment

This is an excerpt from our executive director at Breakthrough, Arloa Stutter's, blog:

"Saturday night I went to bed at about 10:30. I awoke at 1:30 AM to lots of voices shouting and screaming using the most explicit words imaginable.
Charlie (my dog) and I sleep in a bedroom in the back of the apartment. We hear lots of yelling, sirens, cars screeching and trains going by. Both Charlie and I have grown accustomed to it so that even with this extreme shouting that sounded almost like a riot, neither of us got up. Charlie didn't even bark. But when I heard about five gun shots, I decided to go to the living room window at the front of the apartment and see if I needed to do anything. There were about fifty young people embroiled in a huge fight in front of my apartment. Several of the young men were wielding baseball bats and two by fours and they were beating each other up. Evidently someone had shot a gun into the air and some of them were beginning to scatter.I wandered what it must be like to be the mother or grandmother of one of those kids, knowing they are out there and not knowing how to stop them from being there. Anything could happen.A 21-year old boy from the neighborhood recently was released from prison and has been hanging out at our offices. Today Bill and I were trying to find out what dreams he has for his life. He couldn't think of anything. I finally asked him when in the last week he had felt the most positive about himself and hopeful for the future. He said it is when he is with us at the Breakthrough Joshua Center. You can almost sense the fear in him that if he goes back out there it is only a matter of time, statistics indicate less than 90 days, and he will be back in prison. I told him that he should keep coming by and helping out around the center. It's a safe place for him, a place where he is beginning to feel hopeful. Please pray for him and for the young people who were out there Saturday night. I really believe many, if not most, of them would not be hanging out on the street if there were alternatives for them. They just need safe places where they can begin to dream for their future and experience positive life change."

I drive down the streets in the East Garfield Park neighborhood daily. I see things daily that sadden me to almost the point of tears. Yesterday I was saddened by the fact that cops had to be called after a "domestic violence situation" (shots were fired) in a house across the street from the center. I know for a fact at least 4 kids that are involved in one way or another with breakthrough live there. The thing is, it's so common now for things like this to happen, everyone around was like, oh its just so and so again. The thing is, do we have to be so "used to it?" So used to that it doesn't move us to do something? Is there the danger that working here for awhile will harden my heart to the point that shots being fired or any kind of violence is just a typical day? I hope not. I hear stories everyday about my kids and the lives they live. Some break my heart, others are stories of small hope...most though are stories of hopelessness and the idea that if they make it "it'll be a miracle." Oh I how I hope for a thousand miracles. That's what gets me through the day here. It's tough...tougher than sometimes I let on. But, knowing that I may be the only Jesus these kids see everyday...that's enough to tell me that I am where I am supposed to be. And someday, I can look at a woman or man and say...you are a miracle...and I'm blessed because I was a part of that!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Christmas is Coming!

So yesterday, we (Breakthrough Staff) went shopping for the kids' Christmas presents. We each got a pile of the kids' wishlists and then were sent to different sections of the stores (Wal-Mart, Target, and Toys R Us). It was so fun. I got the 3-5th grade boys lists so pretty much all of them were all the WWE wrestling toys. Almost every boy wanted a John Cena figurine or the Great Khali figurine. It was crazy sorting through tons of different fighters that all looked the same trying to find specific guys. I had good luck, though, and was able to get most of all of their 1,2, or 3rd choices. We could spend up to $30 on them, so some of them got all 3 choices while others only got 1 of their choices. So, yeah, at Walmart the total for all the toys ended up being over 1,000 dollars. Then at Target, it was around 300 dollars and then they dropped another almost 400 dollars at Toys R Us. It was insane! But it was also awesome because it's so great knowing that for some of our kids, it maybe the only present they get. The Christmas party is on Wednesday, so i'm excited to see their faces when they get their presents.


On a whole different note, unfortuantely 2 of our kids got kicked out of the program on Thursday. They (one of them was 15 the other 13) got in a fist fight and it was really bad. On of our staff guys ended up having to pretty much take the 13 year old down to the floor and just hold him down while one of our other staff guys and I took the 15 year old out...it was bad enough that their mom (yes, they are brothers) ended up bringing the police with her, just in case. Unfortunately for them, they are gone. The sad part is, the 15 year old is one of our mayors (leaders in the program) and I can't imagine him not being there anymore. He is one of my favorite older kids and I am sad that He has to go. I do know, though, that it has to happen because the incident was so bad. We've had fights before, but nothing like this. Let's just say, i'm the first to usually jump in and stop the fight and this time...I let the men handle it. I knew I wasn't going to be strong enough by myself to break it up. Anyways, of course, all the kids saw it and it sucks because all of them really look up to the 15 year old because he is such a good kid and he is a growing Christian young man. But, everyone makes mistakes, and I guess he just has to learn to control his temper more. I hate the thought of not seeing him anymore. It just makes me want to cry cuz honestly, I know he probably sounds like a horrible person but he isn't at all. He is so strong in his faith to be in the enviornment that he lives in. He comes and brings his brothers to church every Sunday and I just can't imagine what he'll do now since he can't be in the program anymore. It hurts to make decisions like this. Please pray for him and his brother (the 13 yr old). The 13 year old has had a lot of behavior issues and is probably being sent to a group home for troubled youth after Christmas. He (the 13 yr old) is a good kid he just has a lot of issues right now that he has to work out. He has even had a problem going home, half the time, he at 13 years old is out and no one knows where he is and doesn't come home at night. I know there was a time a few weeks ago where he didn't stay the night at his house for like 5 days and no one knew where he was. Anyways, please pray for these two boys. One who is really trying and just messed up and the other who really needs Christ in his life and messes up regularly. Neither are bad kids, both are just kids in need of love and someone to believe in them.


God bless you all. Have a great weekend!!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Loving Jesus

Dear Lord,
help me to spread your fragrance where ever I go. Flood my soul with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may be only a radiance of yours.

This was written by Cardinal Newman. This is my prayer today.

I've realized today that I haven't been putting on the full armor of God. These last few days, heck the last two weeks have been rough for me at work. The kids have constantly gotten the better of me, in particular one kid. And this morning, sitting here just thinking, praying and reading the word, i've realized that I've failed. And I will boast in this because I know that in so many ways, these past couple of weeks, I haven't been surrendering to God. I haven't been putting on any armor and how can expect to go to battle everyday without God's armor on? I can't. And, i've been trying. And I've failed miserably. I hate admiting that because, ya know, i'm Shasta. Everyone talks about how great I am with kids. But let me for a minute step away from that and say, I've failed and I'm not. I'm human. And, without God, I am nothing. So, I am going to boast in the fact that I am nothing without him. And boast in the fact these last two weeks have been...Hell in many ways for me. Why, because I've went away from the only thing that has brought me here. I had forgotten in not so many words to put on the full armor of God, walk out that door and remember that without Christ, I am nothing. I have nothing to offer any of these kids but Christ and his love. I will boast only in my weaknesses so through that, God's power will be perfect and his presence will be known.

Today Lord, I put on your full armor. I pray you posses my whole being so that my life will only be a radiance of yours. How beautiful are those words? And how desperately do I want to live them fully. Forgive me all for forgetting whose I am. Forgive me for stepping out these past few days without the Lord's armor on and forgetting that I have nothing to offer. I mean come on, I'm a farm girl from Arkansas. What do I have to offer inner-city kids from the ghetto? Nothing but Christ and his amazing glorious love. And, I pray my life, like Moses' face, will be a radiance so brightly seen that others will know I have been in the presence of Christ....and He shines through me.

God bless you all.

Monday, December 3, 2007

New Week

It's a New Week. Hope everyone enjoyed their weekend. Today is Monday, bible study day. I am leading today and we are talking about, "Who is Watching You, Being a Role Model". I hope it goes well, definitely one thing these kids need to learn...how to be a LEADER not a follower. God Bless! Below: 2 of my girls in our bible study:


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Winter!

It is officially December. And, starting today, we are in a "winter storm warning." I'm thinking their winter storms are a little different than our winter storms! ;) These last few days it has been in the teens in the mornings and going up to the 30s in the afternoons. I was told I need a new warmer jacket and warmer shoes (something about my converse are not going to cut it!); my thought is, this city is turning out to be more expensive than I thought.

An update on the housing situation. In 2 1/2 weeks, the day before I go home for Christmas, I am moving into a new condo. I will be living with 2 girls, one of which I've met and the other of which I don't even know her name. It's a nice place and I'll have my own bedroom (YAY), so i'm excited about it! I do wish, though, that I knew the girls better before I moved in...if only I could afford my own place!

My boss's husband (I guess hes my boss as well) was stopped the other night after dropping off a friend from work. He was in another neighborhood similar to ours (i.e. a impovrished area) and after dropping him off was almost immediately stopped by the police. The policeman proceded to pull him out of his car and put a gun to his head. He (the officer) was cussing him out and asking him if he was high and buying drugs. Mind you, my boss had nothing wrong, and was completely confused by it all. The officer held a gun to his head and just kept asking him where his drugs were and stuff. Finally, after a few minutes of my boss trying to explain to him he lived in the area and was dropping off a co-worker, the officer finally let him go.Interesting, isn't it? I feel as though the police in general think either we are in the neighborhood to buy/sale drugs or we must be really stupid. I and my boss's family are neither. Other co-workers and friends that live in this neighborhood are neither as well. People just do not understand why we would chose to live a life of simplicity and choose to live in this area if we don't have to. I read this amazing book a year or so ago called Sub-Merge: living deep in a shallow world. And, I feel as though that is what we at breakthrough are doing. There are a few passages in it that I found are remarkably poignant to what i'm talking about:

"Poverty we know about. Its poor people we do not know; but it’s knowing poor people that enable substantive chance and authentic empowerment to take place. " How many of us really do know the poor? Living in this community hasn't just allowed me to meet and communicate with them but has also allowed me to understand the trials they are going through and show them more than just sympathy but more importantly empathy. If I drove in from the 'burbs everyday, do you really think that I could have an effective ministry? Maybe, but not near as effective as living right down the street from them. You should see my kids' faces when I first told them where I lived, I got the "you live down the street from me jo" or "imma come to your house now cuz we livin so close"...it's awesome to see them running around outside when I drive down the street, honking my horn at them and them wavin and smilin real big.

"In order to live the gospel among the poor, we must expect to go outside the gate and break away from the system. And we should expect to discover Christ there and follow his lead, especially when we are acting against injustice. Most people applaud and admire works of mercy. When it comes to speaking against systemic injustice in a way that might entail changing life-styles or sharing power and influence, however, there comes an awkward silence. Those who choose to live and work among the poor should expect to serve Christ as a remnant. You can hope for more to join in, certainly. Celebrate those who come. But do not wait for a critical mass from the mainstream to act. Be content to work far from the limelight. And don’t expect the mainstream to validate or embrace your efforts among the poor with your same intensity or passion." This is another passage in the book that seems so real to me. Sure, sure everyone loves it when you help the poor but when you go one step further and decide to live among them, its a different story. All of a sudden its not about the poor to them any more but about you and your safety and your provisions and stuff. And all of a sudden, if you aren't careful, you begin to second guess yourself and think about your needs and wants. Christ says, whoever wants to follow me must die to himself, take the cross and follow me. Dying to myself means not looking at how different I must live or how different the culture may be or how safety issues might be in question...but to put others before me and see that Christ has called me to work and minister among the poor. Yeah, maybe it is crazy to the police or to the mainstream that I choose to live here. But, "If I was still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." Gal 1:10






Above: Quite possibly the funniest kid I have ever met in my life

Another week has come and gone in the program. It's been a tough week. I definitely at one point really just wanted to go to the bathroom and either scream or cry! LOL I love my kids so very much and I guess thats why it really affects me when they act the way they do at times. It's frustrating because I look at them and I think, WOW, the potential that they have. Most of our kids are so creative, intelligent, and just imaginative, I can just imagine the possiblities if they just kept their heads on straight and realized their potential.

Anyways, I am dogsitting this week (got up at 5 am to take her out this morning) so i've got to go back and check on her. Have a great weekend! God bless!!!!

"I have found the paradox that if you love until it hurts there can be no more hurt, only more love." Mother Teresa

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving Break


Thanksgiving has come and gone! Soon, Christmas will be upon us...the music has already started (ugh)! So, my Thanksgiving break was great. I had a 2 1/2 hour delay in Chicago but I finally made it home around 2 am on Wednesday morning. My wonderful sister-in-law was kind enough to pick me up. The next day my wonderful sister-in-law again was kind enough to drive me to conway to meet my mom. My cousin was there to surprise me which was one of the best surprises i've had in a long time. We (my cuz and I) spent practically the rest of the night hanging out...I killed her in "speed" and "rummy"...i'm pretty good at card games, i'll take anyone on! ;)


Thursday was a great day. We went to my mamaw's for lunch and just hung out. My neice is so funny. She sings and talks all the time! Its amazing how much a child grows in only 3 months. She even counted to 10 one day! I was like...ummm....she's a genious! And then Friday came...the dreaded AR vs. LSU game was on...and I, of course, was being very negative...especially since McFadden fumbled on the 1st two plays! But, alas....after 4 tourturous hours...the Hogs beat the Tigers 60-58 in 3 overtimes! It was amazing and I about lost my voice screaming at the tv! Saturday was also good, I went shopping with my mom and then we went out to dinner with my family. It was great...sweet tea, yum yum! Finally, I went and hung out with my bff Lori. It was good to see her because I hadn't in so long!! Sunday I flew back to Chicago...had another delay-only 45 minutes that time, so it wasn't too bad!


So, all in all, it was a great Thanksgiving. I enjoyed it a lot and I loved seeing my family. I know it's only been 3 months, but it seems like a lot longer when you live so far away. I was kinda ready to come back, tho, cuz it gets old fast living out of a suitcase. Also, seeing my kids almost 6 days a week for like 10 weeks, and then not seeing them for 5 days kinda made me miss them! I was very ready for work today!


Speaking of work, its going great. It amazes me how bad behaved our kids are! LOL Nah, I'm just kidding but yeah, they can be a handful. I just love 'em to death though. Please pray for them. Gosh, they need it...and keep praying for me, they wear me out every single day. I like it that way, cuz I wanna come home everyday knowing that I gave it all I could that day...cuz, they deserve it!


Love u all!

"I am only one, but I am one; I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I ought to do; And what I ought to do, by the grace of God, I will do." Unknown

Monday, November 19, 2007

What Makes God, God?





Sometimes I grab my "Grace for the Moment" book by Max Lucado and read the daily verse and thoughts that he has written. I read today's and knew he had written it just for me! So, I thought i'd share it with my "many" readers today:

"If we are not faithful, he will still be faithful, because he cannot be false to himself." 2 Tim 2:13
"God's blessings are dispensed according to the riches of his grace, not according to the depth of our faith...
Why is that important to know? So you (I) won't get cynical. Look around you. Aren't there more mouths than bread? Aren't there more wounds than physicians? Aren't there more who need the truth than those who tell it?
So what do we do? Throw up our hands and walk away? Tell the world we can't help them?
No, we don't give up!!!! WE LOOK UP. We trust. We believe. And our OPTIMISM IS NOT HOLLOW. Christ has proven worthy. He has shown that HE NEVER FAILS. That's what makes God, God."

The situation may look hopeless. The world around us gets worse and worse each passing day. Its way bigger than me. But, Christ has overcome the world. And, I will NOT give up. I will BELIEVE. I will TRUST. And, I will KNOW that He never fails. And, everyday, I will look up to him and I will know that the battle has already been won. I will put on my armor, I will walk out that door and I will choose to believe that a situation is never hopeless and choose to believe that today, I will make a difference. Today, Christ will move in impossible ways. And today, I will NOT GIVE UP, I WILL LOOK UP.

Tomorrow I go home...yippppppieeee!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Education

So, I hope that most agree with me when I say that the Chicago Public School Systems as well as pretty much all Public Schools systems have "much to be desired." Most are failing enormously to give our underprivileged kids the help and education that they desperately need. One man, (whom I particularly love!), has written several books on social injustice as well as the need for better school systems in the inner-cities of America. His name is Jonathon Kozol. I've read a couple of his books, one called Shame of the Nation, which was very good. He recently did an interview in which I really agree with him that we need a systemic change in our education system.

One thing in particular Kozol says in the interview is that No Child Left Behind has driven away "superbly educated, high-spirited teachers" who leave, not because of the kids, but because of the "absolute decapitation of potential in children that is the unintended consequence of an agenda that strips down the curriculum in order to teach only isolated skills that will appear on an exam."About charter schools he says, "Despite their claims that their schools are not selective in the students they enroll, the kids whose parents even hear about these schools and whose parents know how to navigate the application process are inherently self-selective."I know of parents in Chicago who start when their kids are two and three to research the system and to position their children to be accepted into the best schools. The children of uneducated parents or those who have recently immigrated to this country are left behind in increasingly disfuntional schools.Kozol's suggestions...
-Give standardized exams less often and rely instead on diagnostic tests.
-Require that states certify that class size in an urban district is at the same level as the size in an affluent suburban district and that every child receive the same years of preschool education before a standardized exam is used.
-Amend the transfer provision to require that states facilitate the right to transfer across district lines to enable the parents of inner-city children who are in chronically failing schools to place ther children in high-performing and better-funded public schools.
-Get rid of the property tax almost entirely as the basis of school funding or pool the property taxes into a common pool and distribute those funds equitably to every single child in the state. Kozol doesn't lose heart about education because "there are far more marvelous teachers in these urban schools than you would ever guess if you listen to the politicians who condemn them... The high morale of our teachers is our most precious asset. If they lose their delight in being with the children, they won't stay, and we'll lose everything."

Weird thing? When I decided that I didn't want to do Teach For America they asked me to explain to them why I had opted out of the process. I told them, "I feel as though we have put way too much emphasis on testing and it leaves our kids only learning the stuff needed to get the schools to look better and improve their standards. And, I want to be a part of a system that lets us develop relationships with the kids as well as help them excel in education." I am so glad that I didn't decide to do TFA, I'm pretty sure Breakthrough is EXACTLY where God wants me right now.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

WHY?


Soo...this is not the first time nor the last time I will ask WHY? Why God, oh WHY? So, today was amazing. We had a group from a church up north come up and bring about 25 volunteers in to help build these carpet ball tables. And, some of our 6-8th graders came to help out. It was soooo fun. From 10 am till 3:00 we just had fun. One of the ladies from the other church made the comment to Bill, "You know, I thought it would be our kids working really hard and your kids sitting around or goofing off; and it ended up being the exact opposite. Your kids worked really hard." It was really awesome to see that others seen how AMAZING our kids really are. I mean, I had so much fun just working side-by-side with them. But, yeah, the reason I ask why is because you know, I look at these beautiful children. And, I see the personalities and the creativity and the wonderfulness of them and know that soon, their lives will take it out of them. Their lives will continue to progress just like now, but the hardness and reality of the poverty they live in and the destitution they live in will come up and bite them in the butt. Today, I witness something that brought me to tears. One of our kids, who is such a JOYFUL person. Which is surprising to say because most of our kids are anything but joyful. Just not an emotion you see much with them. Anyways, like always, she was being her silly self just hanging out. We were done with the tables and were playing them (Its actually a really fun game); when her mom buzzes on the door. Now, I must admit, I had never met her mom. And, I was surprised because apparently she has had a stroke and one side of her kinda droops. She is a small woman but intimadated me from the moment she walked in. She immediately started in on the girl. Yelling at her because she didn't call home, which she had but her little sister didn't tell her mom. So then she proceeded to yell at her little sister for a minute. Then just like that, she asked if I would bring her home and then she walked out and left. I looked at this beautiful girl. I have never noticed before this moment how poor she was. More importantly though, I had never noticed in that moment how STRONG she was. You could tell it affected her but after a moment or two...she was okay. After I dropped her off, I just cried because, WHY? Why does she have to live in that? Why does any of my kids have to live in that enviornment. And i'm not just talking about the poverty but i'm talking about the other kind of poverty-the poverty of no love. The poverty of no care and kindness. It broke my heart today. And, everytime I see these parents or see their homes or see the incredible pain these kids go through, it makes me want to love on them even more. I don't want to feel sorry for them, because thats not what they need, because feeling sorry for them doesn't really help but I do want to love them. Love them because I know God's heart is for the poor. He mentions the poor over 2,000 times in the bible. Must be a pretty important topic, then, huh? I want to push them and teach them about who they are in Christ. That it doesn't matter even what your own FAMILY SAYS....because, Christ's opinion of them is the only one that matters. But, I still think, after the fact, about the kids that came today from that other church. Most, if not all, of them will go back to their comfy homes, probably tell their parents all about the "crazy black kids" they met today and ya know, that'll be it. Why do they get to go home to parents? Why do they get to go home to warm, cozy homes? Why do they get to go home and eat dinner and relax? Why do they get to not fear that when they walk down the street this afternoon that they won't get shot? Why? Why do my kids just because they were born in this enviornment or into these families have to deal with all the pain and sorrow and evil? Why, WHY? I praise God for Breakthrough. And that they at least have a safe enviornment to come and laugh and run around, even if it is just for a few hours a day. I praise God that they have Breakthrough Staff that TRULY care about them, care about 'em enough not to feel sorry for them but to PUSH them and BELIEVE in them. That to me, makes these kids in some ways, as rich as the kids in the 'burbs. And that I praise God for! PS here's a video of one of my girls doing the "robot" sorry it's not very clear!

video

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Not cool

So, yesterday two of our freshman boys were walking to the corner store, like a normal day. But, it wasn't a normal day. As they were walking some boys pulled up in a car, basically asked them what gang they were in and proceeded to shoot at them. Thank God they had the sense to high tail it out of there and neither one of them were hurt. You know what they said when they got to the center? "It was kind of exciting!" Yeah, they were "a little scared" but yeah, it was more exciting than scary, apparently. The thing is, they were just WALKING TO THE STORE. They are both Christian boys and don't cause trouble, but because they were black kids in this neighborhood, they were immediately targeted by other gangs as having to be in a rival gang. Ridiculous and very scary to me. I'm just so thankful that they weren't hurt. This comes after 3 boys were shot last week a few blocks away from our center, probably gang-related activity as well. Ugh, what is wrong with this world.

In other news, today the kids don't have school. They pick up their report cards today and are going to bring them into the center tomorrow. Tomorrow my Health and Nutrition Class starts up again and i'll have the K-2nd grades for 5 weeks. In some ways I feel like it'll be easier cause basically, as long as there is something they can color, I figure they'll be fine. But, I have 18 kids, and most of those 18 kids are HYPERACTIVE lol, so it'll be interesting if I can keep them under control!!!!!

Oh, so me and my friend Laura go eat dinner or breakfast on Wednesdays every week. We try to find these wonderful new restaurants we've never heard of and just try them. A few weeks ago it was a Mediterranean restaurant called Grape Leaves, AMAZING, another week it was Pompei and another was a Asian restaurant called Penny's. All these places have been amazing but this week, we decided to go to breakfast. We found this little cafe called "Cafe De Luca". We both had lattes and scones. I looooooove coffee shops and cafes. I will definitely say that i'm addicted to coffee. If I don't go get some from a coffee shop, I make my own...my boss tells me i'm too young for coffee! LOL

Aight, I've got to head back to work, came home for lunch today and now gotta go back and get back to planning my class tomorrow. God bless!

"Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words." St Francis Assisi

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Fruit of the Spirit

I choose LOVE...
no occasion justifies hatred; no injustices warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves.

I choose JOY...
I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical...the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less that human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opprotunity to see God.

I choose PEACE...
I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live.

I choose PATIENCE...
I will overlook the incoveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I'll invite him to do so. Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God fora moment to pray. Instead of clinching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage.

I choose KINDNESS...
I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.

I choose GOODNESS...
I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast. I will confess before I will accuse. I choose goodness.

I choose FAITHFULNESS...
Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not question my word. My family will not question my love.

I choose GENTLENESS...
Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice, may it only be in praise. If i clench my fist, may it only be in prayer. If I make a demand, may it only be of myself.

I choose SELF-CONTROL...
I am a spiritual being...After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek his grace. And then, when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest.
Max Lucado

This is something Chantel has read to us at camp every summer since I can remember. Yet everytime I read it I am amazed at how powerful the words are. Today, and everyday, may I choose love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, regardless of my situations. These past 2 weeks haven't been the best. The kids have chewed me up and spit me out a number of times. Yet, everyday, I pray that I would choose Christ in every situation. In my thoughts, my words, and my actions may I choose Christ. When that girl looks at me with scorn and totally disrespects me, may I choose Christ. When I have to physically restrain that boy because he wants to hurt another boy, may I choose Christ. When I am tired and worn out from kids yelling my name every two seconds, may I choose Christ. When I get home and the dishes are piled up and the house is a mess, may I choose Christ. When I sit at home, by myself and no one is around, may I choose Christ...

Have a wonderful morning. Pictures are coming soon, we had a "pizza party" at Gynger's (a coworker) house yesterday with the 4, 5, and 6th grade girls so I took a few. I was so mad at myself because I had every intention of taking pics from our halloween party, but I forgot my camera! Hopefully someone else will have some from it.

BTW, be praying for our kids...it was an especially hard week for some of them and right now we have 3 kids suspended and about 4 or 5 that are on the verge.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

My birthday


Yesterday was my birthday. Thanks so much for all the calls and the emails! It was definitely a little hard being so far away from family and friends. Especially when Brandon (dumbo) calls and starts telling me all the reasons why I should be home and that he was going to steal my resume and start sending it in to places. haha

So, it was a little bit of a boring birthday but I still enjoyed it. Wednesday my co-workers took me and Mariko, another coworker whose birthday was this week, out to lunch for our birthdays. Saturday I woke up late (mamaw almost got me hehe) and then eventually treated myself to lunch at Panera. After this I went to work from 1-3 (very boring) but was bombarded with phone calls and texts and emails from fam and friends. Even a couple of songs hehe. Anyways, I then went to Starbucks and spent some time on the phone with a WONDERFUL old friend Kimmiej. After that, I decided I was going to treat myself to a time out on the town in Oak Park, a more ritzy (aka white) neighborhood then my own. So I went down there and spent a good 2 hours browsing Borders bookstore (ended up buying 2 books haha), walked around the streets, and then ended up at Carbou Coffee for another cup of coffee. All in all although I didn't really "do" anything, it ended up being a very realxing day to a very stressful and rough past few days.

Saying that, I must say thanks for the continuing prayers. It was a horrible week! A week that has definitely took me to my knees a number of times! At the beginning of the week, a child at my work revealed to me some stuff she has been dealing with for quite awhile and it broke my heart, so I was reeling from that when on Thursday afternoon found out that a friend from KAA, a former counselor with me, was shot and killed Wednesday night. Needless to say, it was a shock. And, it definitely has been puting things in perspective for me.

So, to say all that I am very thankful for having prayer warriors in my life. I have no doubt that God has his hand in all these situations because of the countless people praying for me and the countless people praying for my ministry. I keep prayin His will be done in both of these situations. I can see His fingerprints on the situation with my child and I know that God will use J.O.'s death for His glory.

I will leave you with a great quote I just heard...maybe I should do a "quote" everytime a post...maybe I will:

"Lord, grant that I might not so much seek to be loved as to love." St. Francis Assisi

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Banquet last night


A couple of my kids at the banquet last night! You should have seen them on stage...I was like a proud mom!!! They looked so cute and actually did a really good job on the song!!!! Didn't get home till 11:30 but it was all worth it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

ughhhh...i was soooo mad today when i found out one of our boys was moved up yesterday to 8th grade....why? because he is "too" old for his grade...HOW STUPID IS THAT? academically he should probably be in 6th grade...what's wrong with the chicago public system? ha, no child left behind is a joke...


other story of the week: so one of our 4th grade girls walked up with her arm around one of our 10th grade boys. He is such a great kid and is really growing in his faith and learning how to be a godly man. so she walks up and says, "skasta (thats what she calls me), he is just way too nice, he's just too nice to all the little girls (they all have crushes on him!!)." i smiled and told her maybe it's because he is such a gentleman. i kid you not, she looked straight at me, laughed and said, "what? a gentleman? he's from the HOOD he can't be a gentleman." and the sad thing was, she was so serious. i just looked at her and said, it doesn't matter where he's from, he is a nice guy and a gentleman and you can live in the hood and be a gentleman. and she should expect that out of all guys. she just looked at me, smirked/laughed, and walked off. it made me sad. these girls don't expect or even believe there are good guys out there anymore. wow.

Monday, October 22, 2007

"The Importance of Being Foolish"


So, I'm reading this book by Brennan Manning called "The Importance of Being Foolish" how to think like Jesus did. It's amazing and this quote really "puts into words" my heart for these kids:



"To live and think as Jesus did is to discover the sincerity, goodness, and truth often hidden behind the gross, coarse exteriors of our fellow human beings. It is to see the good in others that they don’t see in themselves and to affirm this good in the face of powerful evidence to the contrary. It is not a blind optimism that ignores the reality of evil but a perspective that acknowledges the good so repeatedly and so insistently that the wayward must eventually respond in agreement."


Amazing huh? To discover the goodness often hidden behind the coarse exterior of my kids and to affirm it in the face of powerful evidence that says they aren't. I pray that I can see these kids everyday through Christ's eyes so even when they are at their worst and nothing of goodness shows in them...that I will see past it and affirm it so repeatedly and so insistently that eventually, they will being to agree!

Friday, October 19, 2007

My apartment!!!






Pictures of my apartment finally uploaded on my computer! the first is of our "living room", next of our plain bathroom, next is a pic of our messy bunk beds! hahaha...yes i'm almost 24 years old and i sleep on a bunk bed...wow! the last one is of our kitchen...
yeah, it's small...but it's home...at least for now!!!!!!

not sure...


ugh...no one ever comments on my blog...

is anyone out there reading this thing? :)
p.s. a picture of the amazing city i live in!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

2 Things....

Hello! It's been a great last few days for the kids. Last week, the kids did probably the best they've done so far and this week they have already been doing great.
So, after working with these wonderful kids for awhile, I see how blessed I was to grow up in a 2 parent, Christian home. I didn't realize that some of the things my parents taught me over the years wasn't a "given" and that a lot of parents don't teach their kids some very important but very basic things these children need to survive. Although I could probably think of a lot more than these 2, I just really wanted to write about 2 things I've noticed the most with our kids that I thought was something that all kids growing up learn, yet, after seeing them day in and day out-obviously they don't. Here they are:

1. No respect for women:
These boys do not respect our girls at all. They hit them, they talk mean to them, they disrespect them continually. Then when you tell them they are a girl so you need to respect them, they look at you like they are crazy. These boys are being taught by the men in their lives that women are to be used and that’s it. There’s no respect there. There’s no love and devotion there. Now I’m not saying that girls are totally innocent in all this but it just amazes me the total disregard to the fact that these girls aren’t supposed to be treated that way. I always see some boy walk by and just smack a girl on the head or just say something so totally rude to them in passing. And, it makes no matter to them what-so-ever that they are girls and they deserve the respect any man should give a woman. This is what our boys are learning from the men that come in and out of their lives. Our girls, they deserve so much more. For example, today, we had an 8th grade boy tell this 8th grade girl after she laughed at him for saying something, he told her he was going to knock that smile off her face, knock her out because he wasn’t talking to her and she shouldn’t be laughing. You know what her response was? She just laughed and shook her head…I really wanted to look at her and say, girl, no…don’t let him talk to you like that. You are so much better than that. You shouldn’t have to take that from any guy because you deserve more than that and you should demand and expect more from him. That’s the thing though, our girls, they don’t expect stuff like that from a man. They want a boyfriend to “love them” and “care for them” but seriously, most don’t even know what real love is. They sure don’t know what it looks like for a man to respect a woman, just for the plain and simple fact that she is a female and deserves it. I know, I know, there are cases where a girl doesn’t deserve it…but I’m talking about our beautiful girls just being in the program and guys just being so disrespectful to them because they can and because that’s all they know. So, we can’t necessarily fault them but we can educate them. But, how do you tell a boy who doesn’t have a father in his life, who sees every older man in his life treat women like dirt…how do I expect him to understand that he should respect this girl just because she is a female? And how do we teach our girls that they should expect more out of their men? When they don’t see their moms expecting more? When they see every man in their lives being disrespectful? How can we teach these girls that they are worth so much more and deserve so much more? Will teaching our young girls this help the ever increasing number of young, unmarried moms? Will this help with the very popular fad of lesbianism going around in our school systems these days? Yes, some will be surprised to hear that but it’s definitely a fad in our schools now. Why? One might have a case that these girls are looking for something more and they can’t find it in any boy because all these boys want is sex and power…our girls want to be loved and cared for. They see all the men in their lives as untrustworthy and unfaithful, so they turn to other things-like other girls. So sad and yet, it has become a norm. Why? Why can’t we look at these boys and say, be the men you are supposed to be. A real man respects women. A real man doesn’t see how many women he can “conquer” but a real man finds a women he can care for and love. Why can’t we look at these girls and tell them they are “pearls” and that they are so worthy of love, respect, and faithfulness. They should expect this and never settle for anything less. This is my desire, to teach our girls about how precious they are, how they are worth a lot more than what these boys say they are worth. And, that their real worth can only come from God. My desire is also to tell our boys how to be men, tell them they are worth more too. That God wants so much greater things for their lives than just to be some baby's daddy...

Sorry, got on my soapbox...haha....okay, here's the other thing i've heard...
2. No lead by example/older leader mentality:
This is the other thing that I notice is lacking with our kids. I always look at the older kids when they hit a younger kid or they mouth a younger kid back and say, you are how old? Why don’t you set an example and just ignore it. This is so foreign to them. They don’t understand the concept of setting an example. They don’t understand the concept that for the simple reason that they are older, they should be able to walk away without hitting back or without saying something back. They should be the more “mature” one. They don’t do this. So often, I see the older kids messing with the younger kids and their response is always, he hit me first or she said something first so I had to say something back. This concept of being a leader, leading by example, and “just because you are older” is so foreign to them because they don’t see it at home. They have no older sibling leading by example. They have no cousins or friends leading by example. All they see is if you get me, I get you or I’m older so I’ll do what I want. I tell them that these kids are looking up to them and modeling their every move. We do have the mayor program that the high schoolers (9th-12th) graders come in and are tutors for the kids and in some ways over the kids. And, they see them leading and we are trying to get them to lead by example. Most do, and of course occasionally they mess up and do something stupid, but they are doing it. They are leading these kids and hopefully showing them what it means to lead by example and be the more mature one just because they are older.

Anyways, despite these last two paragraphs, my kids are absolutely wonderful. I look at them and sometimes think, there is no way that in a year, I'll be able to leave this place. I'm sooo blessed to have a job I love. I think most of the world would look at these kids and say they won't be anything, they won't make it...but every single day, I see little improvements and I hope that everyday, through me and my co-workers, that these kids can see the love God has for them and that they can EXCEL, they can become the men and women God wants them to be!
I will continue to push them because I love them and I believe in them. And, hopefully, they will see this and begin to believe in themselves...because, isn't that what makes someone excel in life more than anything? To believe in yourself? May these kids everyday begin to believe in themselves and believe that with God, they can do anything with their lives and be whoever they want to be.

God bless you all. I miss everyone of you!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Small Victories

So, me and my friend Laura, techmission member also, were having dinner the other night and we were talking about the fact that americorps wants us to send in any "great stories" we have with working for the kids. Our question is, though, what constitutes a "great" story? The success stories we have are small, yet victories nonetheless. For example, the other day, M walks in...now I wish you knew this girl. She's tough. The first 2 weeks I was there, she didn't know nor care what my name was. Yet, a small victory comes to mind. She walks in on Tuesday, with her confident attitude as always and walks over to sign in...looks up says, Hey Andrea, Hey Shasta. I was shocked! I mean, we definitely weren't the only two workers standing around, yet she selected us two out of the group. Not only that, but she said hi to me before I said hi to her. Small thing...yet a victory nonetheless. Go on to B. Another 8th grader who I get the *pleasure* of working with. Seriously, she is a cool kid but has the personality that she'll go off in a second. So, she is sitting in homework time this whole week....anytime she has trouble, she asks me for help. a.She asks for help, b.she's asking me. Small thing, yet a victory nonetheless. Or K, who's worst progress report grade this nine weeks-a C! Another victory? Noel (another worker) and I talked to a young 4th grade girl, Y, about how when she is with certain people, she acts different. They have a negative influence on her. So, I didn't know if it went in one ear and out the other until yesterday when her two friends were asking me where she was....I said I don't know and they were like, well she always with y'all now. I said, she's not with me now. And they were like, lately she's been going off hanging out with other people, not just us. I smiled, told them that's because she doesn't follow the crowd and silently prayed a thank you that maybe, just maybe, Y was listening and has began to understand that, "bad company corrupts good character." I could go on and on about the little victories I have seen since I started working here but I won't because I'm sure most are thinking, these are really small things. In these kids lives, though, we've got to celebrate the small things or they'll never realize how special and awesome they are. I am so blessed to get to work with these amazing kids. I'm sure most wouldn't agree they are amazing, but they are-if you just give 'em a chance, sit down with them and listen to 'em. They just want someone to care about 'em and push 'em. They hate to be pushed beyond their immediate capacity, yet when they finish a worksheet without using a calculator or finish that hard brain teaser, they have the biggest smile and a great sense of accomplishment. Then you can look at 'em and say, see I thought you couldnt do it? You did it! And slowly, but surely, they begin to believe in themselves and realize they can do more....they can be more.

It's Friday. The last class with my 3-5th grade group. Praise God! No, actually i'll miss them...a little....but I hope we can go out today with a bang! Have a great weekend all and I miss everyone!

Monday, October 8, 2007

love

you can't just say i love you. you have to live i love you.- ben harper

what is love? it's such a complicated word. it's such a simple word.

god is love. the greatest commandment? to love god and the second is like it, love your neighbor.

we are all called to love. yet love can look so different to all people. for some love is a fleeting act of kindness for others love is patience in their everyday life. although it looks so different and comes in many shapes, sizes, colors and smells...love is love is love.

nothing can separate you from the love of god made visible in christ our Lord. everything else will pass away but the love of christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. faith will become vision, hope will become possession, but the love of jesus christ endures forever. in the end, it is the one thing that i can hang onto.

love conquers all. i truly believe this statement. poverty, racism, discrimination-all of this could be conquered by one simple raw thing-love.

the nature of god’s love for me is outrageous. why doesn’t my god display some taste and discretion in dealing with me? why doesn’t he show more restraint? to be blunt about it, couldn’t god arrange to have a little more dignity? no, the love of my god isn’t dignified at all, and apparently that’s the way he expects my love to be for others.

one of my heros is the late mother teresa. now here is a woman who knew what true love meant. my favorite quote is by her; she says "the success of love is in the loving, not in the result of loving. of course, it's natural in love to want the best for the person, but rather it turns out that way or not does not determine the value of what we have done."

i am learning that what i do with my life is not nearly as important as who i am. i can "do" youth ministry but what kind of youth minister am i? we can be doctors or lawyers or teachers but what kind of doctors or lawyers or teachers are we?

shane claiborne writes in my favorite book, irresistible revolution, "It’s a beautiful thing when folks in poverty are no longer just a missions project but become genuine friends and family with whom we laugh, cry, dream, and struggle with. Servant hood is a fine place to begin but gradually we move toward mutual love, genuine relationships.”

love does not have to be some great thing. some extraordinary or splendid activity. love just has to be genuine.

i am beginning to see god's image in everyone i meet. i am choosing people, not issues. i am choosing love, not charity. i am choosing to look through christ eyes not my plank filled judging eyes. i am choosing to believe the impossible and to do the unreasonable. to speak truth where there is nothing but lies. to speak love where hate fills hearts. to speak hope where there is dispair. to speak faithfulness not success. to speak servanthood not power. to speak love in actions not words.

may i spend my life living the jesus way of life. may i spend my life loving others because he first loved us. may i live a life of love.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Creativity isn't flowing...

This week has been relatively uneventful at work because of tutor training. The kids left after homework time Tues, Wed, and Thurs but I still managed to log 9 hours all three days because of "tutor training." To tell you the truth, though, I enjoyed it to an extent because it gave me more time to get to know the "mayors" (who are the 9-12th graders who help out the younger kids in the program) and so that was cool.
Personally, though, this week has kinda been a roller coaster of emotions. It's amazing how the things that used to seem so important to me seem so trivial now. Another crazy thing is this: I got up like every normal day, put on some coffee and sat down to briefly watch the news...and I came to the realization that I am an adult. It kinda snuck up on me...not that it happened over night but that I didn't even notice that I was "grown up" now.
Another thing that has been on my mind lately is the racism and discrimination that stares me in the face everyday. Things I've always heard about but really never knew existed. *I am deleted this part because it seemed to irritate and bother some people...i guess a lot of people don't want to know what the world is really like.*

If these kids didn't have enough things pulling them down, lets just add on the fact that no one actually believes in them. You can see that by the buisnesses around our community and the interest the city actually takes in up-keeping our neighborhoods. These kids have so many factors that say they won't make it...a lot more factors than us pushing them and telling them they can and will. Somedays I look at this heavy burden and think it's impossible. Holistically speaking, these kids need so much yet what can we really give them? They need Jesus first and foremost but they also need so much more. The number one thing that brings people out of poverty is not money...I know most think that, or they wouldn't just dump some money into the "charity bank" and go on with their merry lives never thinking about the poor again...but no, the most important thing that brings people out of poverty is relationships. Yes, relationships. Role models, people who are stable in their lives and who BELIEVE in them and push them beyond what they thought was possible. Everyday, I do this. Everyday, I go home and wonder, am I making a difference? Most days it doesn't feel like it. Then I think about the fact that God has called me to love, and that is it. To love these kids...there is so much involved in loving these kids yet, he doesn't call me to change them...He does that. Love does that. I can't change one kid here. I can't do it...no matter the time you spend with them or amount of money or whatever it is you give them...you can't change one kid's life...only Jesus Christ our lord and Savior can. And He will...I may never see the fruit of my labor, but I've got to believe that He is and will do some amazing things in these kids lives. That is the only thing that keeps me sane at the end of the day.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Mykayla!


hey...here is a picture I took of Mykayla and Naima at soccer practice. Mykayla is on the right....aren't they cute!

LA...how sweet it is!


So, I was totally blessed this week. What I was assuming would be a boring conference in beautiful L.A. turned out to be a mini vacation and an answered prayer. First off, the mini vacation part. Although we were stuck in a conference room till 5 almost everyday, we actually got to go out and experience the city every night. We went to Hollywood, Bel Air, and the Santa Monica Beach. I haven't been on a vacation in so long because of Kamp (not complaining though) so it was so great to get to go to the beach. I was like a kid, running around into the water, soaking my pants but loving every second of it. I even called a few people, asking, do you hear the waves (oh yeah, sorry about that if you were one of the unfortunate ones hehe). We also, as part of our training went to "Skid Row" to see the vast homeless people and the poverty and then immediately drove the 2 miles north to Rodeo drive to see the riches of one of the richest streets in America. It was so ironic to see the lavishness of Rodeo drive and the utter destitution of Skid Row. It definitely opened my eyes to the materialism of the United States and the price people have to pay for other's selfishness. Anyways, I don't want to lull on that but it's the reality of our world. Okay, so yeah, it was great seeing all the touristy sights of LA though.

On to the answered prayer...so, i've definitely been praying that God would help me find some friends here because, let's face it, it's an even bigger city when you don't really know anyone. When everyone got to LA we were all talking about our "sites" (where we are stationed at for AmeriCorps) and lo-and-behold, Laura and Jon were from Chicago! Although Jon lives on the southside, Laura lives on the westside, about 5-10 minutes away from me! YAY! I'm very excited because she has lived here since the summer so she knows the city and want to show me around more! Hopefully, we will become good friends! :) It's crazy how God can answer prayers even when I'm in LA! :)


Work is going great. I learn more and more about ministry everyday. I got back from LA at 9 pm on Thursday and was off to work on Friday! I missed some of those rugrats and so I was excited to get back. Fridays are my least favorite day (the Health class ugh) but it wasn't too bad yesterday. The kids were a little out of control like always but I taught a unit on fruit, so we got to eat fruit, which the kids absolutely loved and ate till they were stuffed! haha...I will say there is one kid, a young lady in the 4th grade, who is definitely a piece of work and my goal is to get past her mask and her attitude and see what's underneath. She is just very rude, angry, and harsh and I have yet to understand why. She is just not nice to any adults and so I would appreciate all the prayers I could get as I try to love her unconditonally and really get to a deeper relationship with her. Urban ministry is so hard yet so rewarding.


Cute story of the week, Mykayla, a beautiful and spunky kindergartener looked at me today (we had soccer games this morning) and said, will you go to church with me? I smiled and asked her why she wanted me to go with her...she said, my pastor told everyone to bring a friend this week...and well, you're my friend so I want you to go! Hhaha...how can you pass that up? So cute, so so cute!


BTW, hopefully very soon I will upload some pictures I took of my apartment (i know, i know i've been here for a month) but here are a couple of the latest of Chicago and LA!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Another Week

Well...another week is almost over. I can't believe I've only been here for 3 weeks. I feel like i've been here for months. I have learned so so much already! Not only from Breakthrough but just from living in Chicago.

One thing I love about my neighborhood is no matter what, it's never quiet. I know some people might not like that but I do. I wake up every morning to rap/r&b music coming from a neighboor's apartment or across the street...and I go to bed with either kids laughing and playing outside or some mom yelling at her kid. There is always t.v. to listen to or music to dance to! :) Another thing I love about this neighborhood is the people. Yes, the people. They are really friendly. I walk to work everyday and there is always someone on their steps or in their yard and they almost always say hi or talk about the weather or something. Now, of course, I could talk about the things I don't like about the neighborhood too but i'll keep that to myself :) haha...I would rather talk about the positive things.

Work is going great. Unfortuantely tomorrow is Friday which means my class again. I'm not going to lie...I really don't know what to do with them! haha...Hopefully i'll have this great wonderful epipheny (sp?) and everything will go great tomorrow.

Yesterday was interesting. We had 6th-8th graders in the computer lab working on "blogging" like I do. They even use blogger.com like me. Anyways, their assignment was "using correct grammer/sentence structure" write about your favorite sport or t.v. show. basically they had to write one or two paragraphs about it. They had an hour....guess what? Half of them didn't even finish one paragraph. I was sitting with one girl who literally spent the entire time staring at the computer and wrote 3 sentences. In one hour. Another girl...she had 2 sentences I told her if she wrote 2 more than she could be finished, 30 minutes later...she had written 1 more...I was like...why aren't you writing? "I don't feel like it." I was like, come on, it's not like we are asking you to write on Shakesphere's plays or something...ugh! I just didn't understand it at all. But that is the attitudes these kids have. Education is just not high on their priority lists. I have kids in 6th grade who can barely read. Oh, and we had a reading test on the computers for around 35 kids (1st-5th) to see where they were "grade level" wise. We had 3 kids who got above a 50%. 3 wow...3! It's crazy. Breakthrough, though, is doing an amazing job though and I know that a lot of them are doing even better than they did last year. I just pray we can continue to help them because honestly, reading is the most important skill they can learn.

Alright...that's it for today. continue to pray for me. Pray I continue to love these kids through God's eyes not my own because some days it's not that easy :)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Friday...not my favorite day!

Well...this week was interesting, to say the least. First let me give a run down of what a typical day for me looks like: Monday's 1-6:30; the kids come in at 3 and on Mondays we basically just have bible study (i have 5th and 6th grade girls); tuesdays 10-6; tu, wed, and thurs i have computer lab for the kids (different ages everyday) from around 4-6; and then there's Fridays...the best day for most...and i'm thinking it may soon become my most dreaded day! haha...well, basically what happens is i teach a health and nutrition class from 3:45ish to 5:15 ish to the 3rd-5th graders...and yesterday was our first day...let's just say they ummm....ate me alive! haha...They were CRAZY; i don't think i barely got a word out before they started climbing on things, screaming at each other, dancing around finally, with 30 minutes to go we just went outside and played games...i was about ready to pull my hair out. So, i've gotta find a new approach. I am not sure what i'm going to do yet, though...any suggestions very much appreciated. Anyways, so after the class was over (finally!). I take some kids over to soccer practice...i'm helping coach the littlest kids, k-3rd, and it was fun but it was soooo cold! Chicago is so stinking cold already, like, sweatshirt weather already; it's SEPTEMBER for goodness sakes! i hope i make it through the winter!
Oh yeah, and most saturday's i'll be working from 9-3 (games in the morning, community lab in the afternoons)...

Well, I have offically made my first enemy in Chicago. My landlord. Yep, she does not like me at all. Why? Because I went over her head to get our mailbox key. She had put me off and put me off and not answered her phone long enough. But, guess what? We now have our key! Yay! But, sad news is that I had to reorder my debit card again because it got lost in the mail...Alicia (my roommate) and I have decided that if anything could go wrong with us than it has....our internet is still not working, i worked on it for about an hour last night and now they are going to have to come out and fix it...which means they'll probably come when we are at work which means they'll have to come again because we won't be there...which means it maybe like a month before we offically get internet...UGH....oh well, i guess things could be a lot a lot a lot worse.

Overall....the first offical week with the kids went great. I'm learning already that "camp ministry" is a whole lot easier than real ministry. In camp ministry kids are so out of the element, away from all the evil of the world...everyday now, when i get them, they've been it for the last 6 hours and then we get them for 4....it's tough and i know it'll get even tougher but i'm excited because my heart is dicipleship, not necessarily evangelism. Did i say that right?

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! God bless and God speed!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Kids, Kids, Kids

Well, yesterday was our first day with the kids. And, can I just say, we got some CHARACTERS! haha...Everyone from Kaela to Desean to Boosie to Shaquanda to Brejona to Aleisha to Genesis to Devin to even little Naima...they are all beautiful in their own way and i know i'm going to learn a lot more from them than they will ever learn from me. Isn't it cool how much you can learn about God just from looking and talking to children? You learn how creative God is by their personalities? Today I have the older kids (7th and 8th grade) and it should be "challenging". There are a few that I can tell are already going to push me to see how much I will tolerate. I'm gonna love it! haha...I love the challenges.
Oh yeah, we do have gas....i can cook and take hot showers now, yay! Also, today my landlord finally should be meeting me to get our mailbox key (yay) and laundry tokens. And then we can maybe have internet in our apartment (i'm at panera bread right now)....so, after 2 weeks, i'm almost settled in...almost! haha

have a great day!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

we've got gas

hello everybody....WE'VE GOT GAS! yay! more to follow...

Friday, September 7, 2007

real quick....

Hello! I am writing a very quick email because i'm in a location that I actually have internet! yay! I went downtown last night and it was INCREDIBLE! We went all down Michigan Ave and then over to the Navy Pier...the view from Navy Pier was breathtaking. I was just walking down the street and I was like, this is my life now...these huge skyscrapers, the sites and the scenes, this is where I live...although I don't see it everyday because i'm living in the "projects" :) i still love that all i have to do is jump on the train and i'll be there in ten minutes. I almost got a little teary eyed though because it was just so incredible that God has brought me here. I know i'm a little sentimental at times but i'm just in awe of how good God is and how when you answer his call, and step out on faith, He will reward you. I know tough times are to come and i know some days i'll be missing home so much but I also know that I'll never be completely alone and I know that as long as I am in God's will, no matter what happens, i'll be okay. I hope I continue to meditate on what I know and believe and not how I feel...I don't think we do that often enough.

Anyways, one great thing about my roommie is that she is an urban ministry major, i.e. has a lot of wonderful urban ministry books. I just finished "Their's is the Kingdom" and am now reading "Street Code". Their's is the Kingdom is amazing and it has really made me think about stuff. I'm actually going to let you read two of the sections that really spoke to me and hopefully, you'll let me know what you think about them! Here they are:

I’m beginning to see that fixing people is a dangerous business. Fixing assumes I know what the final form should be, as if I were a spiritual orthodontist who knew just what wires need tightening to produce the perfect smile. When I presume to fix someone, I shape that person with my values, doctrine, hygiene, parenting, vocabulary, housekeeping, nutrition, and a host of other things. Fixing is a license to fashion after my image one who may be uniquely created to flower in quite a different form. It is a dangerous business because it may block or skew the growth of another. And it may unwittingly intrude on the work that God reserves for himself alone.

Wow...how great is that? I don't know about you but I know I sometimes try to mold someone into my idea of what a "good" Christian should look and act like...I do get into the "fix" mode wit my kids sometimes and who am I to fix anyone? I'm a mess myself! haha...seriously though, God is the only one who can change someone or "fix" them. But the cool part is, no matter what or how big a mess we are, God loves us...No he doesn't want us to stay the same, but YES, he loves us, messes and all!

Here's the other one...
But one of the things that troubles me as I take up causes for the kingdom is this: our Lord has told us the essential I.D. for all “card-carrying” Christians is “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). There is nothing distinguishing about holding certain political positions, engaging in debates, staging protests. Whether we pledge allegiance to the moral majority or the radical minority, whether we vote Republican or democrat, there is no visible statement to the world about our commitment to the lordship of Christ. We may join pro or anti-nuke, life, draft, ERA, Contra, or defense bandwagons and do so for all the right reasons, but this will not cause us to shine like lights in darkness. Such affiliations may express our convictions, but they do not set us apart as “Christ-ones.” There is only activity so unique to this world that Christ distinguished it as proof of his deity and of our authenticity as his followers. It is more disarming than SALT talks. It is more reconciling than Camp David peace accords, more convincing than arguments for and against abortion or gay rights, or the authority of scripture. It illuminates the minds of men and women more than Christian television or political debates, and it is not an option for a Christian. It is a command. It is love. Love of a special sort. Unfortunately, we seldom see this love. We talk about it, but quickly abandon it in the pursuit of “rightness.” Perhaps building cases for issues is much more exciting than loving each other; issues allow us to win, or at least compete. Love, on the other hand, lays down its ego, its case, its defenses for the sake of another-and that isn’t fun. And yet our Lord saw love as so vital that he spent his last night emphasizing and reemphasizing it to his disciples. He assured them and us that he would reveal himself to them, give his Holy Spirit to teach them, grant all that they ask, give them peach and joy, and call them his friends if they would but obey him by living out his love (John 13-15). Would it be easy? Is laying down your life easy? Yet, said Christ, this is how love is measured. But what about the issues? Shouldn’t we take stands on important issues like human rights, war, and even life itself? Of course, we must. This isn’t to say that all Christians will take the same stand. As long as we are fallen and our perceptions are colored by our experience, a long as we have blind spots and different personalities, we will continue coming up with different answers. We will disagree over disarmament and genetic planning, over movie going and laetrile. Yet somehow in the tension between the poles, God continues to work. Love leads us to an appreciative understanding of the unique contribution each member makes to the body of Christ, and thus the tension is creative. But without the willingness to lay aside, at least for a time, our own position in order to affirm a dissenting brother or sister, the tension will undoubtedly be destructive. I suspect that Christ is working overtime these days healing the ears (and egos) of those we have slashed in his defense. Perhaps it is time we put away our swords and began displaying the mark of “Christ-ones”: Love.

Again, WOW. Seriously, I say this all the time..."Christians" have went so far from what God says being a follower of Christ is....love. Loving him and loving others. God is love, yet, if you walked down the street and asked random people, describe Christians in 3 words, how often would they say, love or loving? probably not very often. Yet, thats the greatest commandments, Love God and Love others. It hurts my heart sometimes to see how far we've fallen from the most important thing God calls us to do...one of the greatest sentences i've ever read was, God's love is undiginfied. This guy writes, "The nature of God’s love for us in outrageous. Why doesn’t this God of ours display some taste and discretion in dealing with us? Why doesn’t he show more restraint? To be blunt about it, couldn’t God arrange to have a little more dignity? Wow! No, the love of our God isn’t dignified at all, and apparently that’s the way he expects our love to be for others." We are to love even when it isn't returned...you know, a smart man once said that if you love just your friends, then what does that say? doesn't even evil people love their friends, no it's when we choose to love those who are unlovable, it's when we choose to love whether it's returned or not....that's what God talks about. Loving unconditionally...loving even when it's hard....letting God love them through you....seeing other's through God's eyes....have you ever tried that? Looking at a child who is sooo obstinate or a homeless drunk man walking down the street...and say, God loves them just as much as he loves me. Look at them through God's eyes...and see who God sees them as...

Sorry, sometimes I like to get off on my tangents...I will say this, I pray that when I die someday, people don't look back at my life and say, well, she was a sweet kid and she loved kids...no that's not what I want them to say....i want them to say she loved....she loved Passionately.....she loved Jesus...she loved others!

have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Sorry it's taken awhile!

Well, I know I moved in on the 1st and it's the 6th and I'm finally getting around to writing my first offical "i'm in Chicago" blog, but I have no internet in our apartment yet (for you guys who know me well, you know what a strain this puts on my social life haha) so i've been just checking my email at work and that's it.
My first week in Chicago is almost offically over! Whew, what an adventure these past few days have been! First off, it took us 13 hours to get to Chicago. We didn't meet too much traffic, so that was a relief annnnd, we found my apartment without too many problems. My apartment is very small but I like it. You have to actually get through 3 different doors just to get inside of it, so it makes me feel pretty safe. My roommate's name is Alicia and she is very quiet but very very sweet.
Our apartment is located across the street from Garfield Park and the huge Conservatory they have. I can't wait to go check it out because i've heard it is amazing in there. My first adventure out on my own was on Monday. I just jumped on the "green line" train and got off on a random stop. Alas...I had found my first Chicago Starbucks, which of course warranted a cup of coffee because of my success! It tasted like pure joy...(for all you coffee drinkers, you know exactly what i'm talking about for the rest, I feel for you!). I walked around the city and got a first taste of big sky scrapers, people walking their dogs, and of course-the river. It was all breathtaking for a farm girl. Hahaha...i'm being overly dramatic here, huh? Anyways, it wasn't exactly downtown (we're going downtown tonight! yay!!!!) but it was cool to actually get out of our specific neighborhood. After exploring for a little while (and drinking a nice frapp) I said goodbye to the nice skyscrapers and jumped back on the green line. And, went the wrong way. It took me the exact opposite direction I needed to be, but I found a silver lining to riding a train for an hour the wrong direction-I got a chance to see the whole city! I finally made it back to the original stop and headed back in the right direction.
My next adventure wasn't so successful though. I decided to try and find my bank. Well, what was supposed to be only 3 miles away ended up being an hour and half driving time. I was about to quit when wait...there it was sitting on the corner of North and Harlem. I was perturbed but happy I had finally after over an hour of searching found one (yes, one there are about 4 around my area-only one of which i could find!). I also drove by a wal-mart (which for all you southern folk know that I felt at home when I saw it), many many wal-greens, a PANERA BREAD!, and about 3 or 4 Starbucks. These were all places that made me squeal with glee because you never know when you have a potato soup craving that can only be fixed by panera or gotta run and get some tampons and don't want to pay an arm and a leg for it at "Dominicks" (rip off city with their prices!!)...so again, a silver lining with all the frustration it caused me looking for a needle in a haystack, which is how i feel half the time driving around this huge city.
Anyways, on to work. I love it! Well, I will love it even more once the kids start coming but I do love the people I work with. My co-workers are great and my supervisor is awesome. I think I will fit in just great with all of them. I am running the computer lab and excitedly the age group I'll be working most with is 6th-8th!!!!! YAY! My favorite age! I was very happy to hear that. I am also helping out with the soccer team (ha) and teaching bible study on Monday. Next Tuesday it starts, so please pray I won't freak out because as of right now, i'm still not sure what to do or how to do it with the computer lab! Tommorrow we leave for a retreat-which will be fun. Meet new people and get to go kayaking, canoeing and hiking. I can't wait!
Anyways, some sad things are that I still don't have internet in my apartment, we don't have cable (no football games, sad sad sad), and our gas isn't turned on yet-so very very cold showers, NOT FUN. But all in all, i'm trying to be very positive about everything. God has blessed me with this incredible opprotunity and I'm not going to start complaing about it because I didn't have to get this great internship and have this experience.
I miss everyone at home. I think it is going to be a little hard meeting new people but I know it will just take time. My phone bill is going to be huge because of all the time I spend on it, but I think this first month, I'll be okay with it. I think I've typed myself out but I will leave this blog with one scripture i've been meditating on lately:
"Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone to win as many as possible." 1 Cor. 9:19
God bless and I love you all!

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Night Before...

Well, it's 6 hours before I leave to move to Chicago. All sorts of emotions are flowing through me right now. Everything from excitement to sadness...nervousness to peace! I know God has called me to Breakthrough, yet I am still nervous about moving 12 hours away from my family and friends. 12 hours away to a place i've never been and a place that isn't promised to be safe. God doesn't promise us safety though, actually he promises us the exact opposite...hard times and pain. Yet, in 2 Timothy he says, "For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and a sound mind." And in Psalm 27 it says "God is my light and my salvation, whom sall I fear, the Lord is the strength of my life...of whom shall I be afraid?" Thank you Jesus for being greater than anything this world throws at me!
Anyways, I'm packed and ready to go...Chicago won't ever know what hit it! Watch out world, here I come!