Saturday, September 29, 2007

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