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Thursday, December 18, 2008

BT Christmas 08

Another Christmas party already? I couldn't believe the time had come for another Christmas season. Although Christmas brings long hours, lots of planning, and not much sleep, it also brings out the best in most of our kids. This year was no exception!

For our party this year, we decided to do 4 stations. A food station (KFC..yuck), a craft station, the presents station (their favorite of course), and finally the Christmas store station. The Christmas store is a time when the students, using BT bucks, can buy presents for their family members. (We also have a Christmas store for the community, which is an amazing opportunity for people to get great brand new gifts for a 1/4 of the price they'd pay in the store!)

I was assigned to the 5-6th graders, of course, but I was excited about it cuz I'm growing closer to my 6th graders every day. The kids spent the whole afternoon with smiles plastered on their faces. From the food they thought was "fie" to buying Christmas presents for everyone from their mommas to their baby brothers, to opening up their presents and screaming with glee, I really think they had a great day! They even remembered to thank us as they were leaving.

Anyways, thought i'd share a few pictures with you from the events of the day...enjoy!







Oh, and I go home very soon! I can't wait to see all my family and friends!



God bless you all!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Joy

The past couple of months, I have been searching for a new church. This weekend, I chose to visit one I hadn't ever been to called Community Christian Church. Thankfully, I have a good friend, Maria, whom has been more than happy to go with me. It's kind of hard going to church by yourself, especially if you don't know anyone. The church has different locations, so we chose to go to the Pilsen campus.

So yeah, I really enjoyed it. Of the churches I have visited lately, I defintely liked this one the best. Since it's so close to Christmas, the pastor has been doing a series called Advent. Advent is defined as either "the season including the four Sundays preceding Christmas" or "the second coming." As part of the advent season, he talked about Joy today.

Joy. The angel came to the shepherds saying, "behold I bring you good news of great joy which will be brought to all people." JOY. We have great joy because Christ came to earth.

So, this question I must ask you all. Are you living a joyful life? Joy is different than happiness. Happiness is brought on by circumstances. Joy is brought on by our emotional well-being. One person said this, the opposite of happiness is unhappiness, while the opposite of joy is fear. What does the bible say about fear? "There is no fear in love. For perfect love cast out all fear." And God is love.

When you think about a joyful person, who comes to mind? How would you describe that person's life? Would you say that they got it all together? I wouldn't. I would say, though, that no matter what happens, they have a trust and faith in God that brings them true joy.

"The joy of the Lord is our strength." In his presence is the fullness of joy. Have you ever really thought about that verse? Joy is strength? What does this mean to me, as a woman of God who is constantly seeking to grow in Christ? Where does my strength lie?

I have come to realize I wouldn't exactly describe myself as "joyful." My emotions seem to be determined by my circumstances. When things go wrong at work, do I thank God that I have a job, one that I absolutely love, or do I complain that things aren't perfect? When I'm all alone on a weekend, do I feel lonely or do I rejoice that I have a God who will never leave nor forsake me? I could go on and on about the promises of God and how so often I either choose not to trust in them or I just don't fully understand them. Either way, I believe that so often, I live in a state of "fear" which is the opposite of Joy. And so often, I am a person affected completely by my circumstances.

My challenge for myself as well as you is that you will choose to live a life of Joy. Choose to believe in his promises that his joy is our strength. To be reminded that only Christ can give us real joy. So often people feel the voids in their lives by seeking "happiness" in things, like relationships, addictions, busywork, ect...always seeking to find that ultimate source of happiness. Yet, this is not the life God calls us to live. Jesus came so that we may have an abudant life, a full life. The only way to have that life is through Him. The only way to have that ulitmate joy is through him. Even as a Christian, I sometimes seek that happiness in other things. What about you? Do you seek Christ above all or do u find yourself trying to become happy by other means?

I seek Christ. In all I do, in all that I am. I choose to believe the joy of the Lord is my strength. I choose to believe that Christ is all I need or have. And as I live each day, seeking his face instead of my own needs, I hope that I will choose to not complain but to realize that my circumstances can not determine who I am.

I hope as we go through this busy Christmas season, we will stop to remember why we really celebrate Christmas. We will remember that the angel's news was of "great joy" which was Christ Jesus our Lord being born. As we become overwhelemed by the traffic and busyness in the parking lots of stores, money spending and worrying over what gift to buy whom, or even how we will spend our holidays...stop and remind yourself of this great joy Christ came to give us. Stop and remember that the best gift we could ever have received was the price paid on the cross.

I am praying that I will. I have a full week, long work hours, over-sugared and over-excited kids, and the anticipation of going home...all of these things are "cirucmstances" that could, if I let it, determine how I will act or feel. Choose this day. How will I act today? Will I live a life of joy this Christmas season? I hope so.

And I hope you do too.


rawrrrrrr

God bless you all!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Peanutt

I love you buddy. Forever and always...









10 years was just not long enough.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving to all


Happy late Thanksgiving! As I lay here on my couch, wore out and still full...I'd say it was anything but a traditional holiday for me. I was blessed to have my family come see me and Chicago this holiday! We spent the first day in my neighborhood (they were...ummm...a little nervous the whole time lol) and then spent the next day and a half in downtown Chicago.

It was a first time for almost all of them, so we had fun sight-seeing (except for the small fact that they froze the entire time) and eating lots and lots of food. We ate everything from cheesecake to chicago style pizza! And it was all very yummy!!! We also went shopping this morning...and although we didn't find too many sales, at least we can say we went shopping at 6 am on the magnificent mile ;)

I was so blessed, because during this hard economic times, I know it wasn't easy for my parents to come all the way out here. I know they sacrificed so much to come out and I'm so very thankful for that. Not only them but my sister left her two precious baby girls at home with Josh and I know B&B aren't the biggest fans of spending lots of money on food and hotels. So, they all sacrificed a lot to come see me!

And, although I know they are tired and ready to be home (they are still on the road), I hope that they enjoyed their first chicago-experience and I pray that they know how much I enjoyed them being here, most importantly so they could see where I live and work!!



From riding the train, a scary experience for some, meeting crazy kids like Jermaine and Jameisha, to cheering mom on as she got us a free night, to eating cheesecake after we were completely stuffed, to trying to find the "Buckingham palace"and to staring at the spitting man trying to make him pop up only to realize we could see him from the hotel room ...I think they all enjoyed it!


I hope everyone had an amazing holiday. I missed my nieces and extended family but having my family here for Thanksgiving makes it one of the most memorable holidays ever! I love my family!


God bless you all!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Philippians 3-Part 2

You know, there are somedays when I feel like just giving up. Somedays when I feel like i'm not making a difference, the kids aren't learning, they aren't growing, nothing. And sometimes I feel like these days are more normal than the days where I feel like i've seen such great improvement and am just encouraged by how well my kids are doing. Somedays, I come home and I am just completely and totally, ridiculously wore out. There are somedays when I just feel I can do nothing right and every kid hates me. Somedays where I just want to stop...stop caring, stop trying...just stop. Somedays....

Then, I think about a few days ago. There is a student that I have just completely poured myself out to. Whom I love dearly and whom I have done everything within my power to help her, to protect her, to teach her, to disciple her...everything I can to make sure that she grows into the amazing young lady that God has created her to be. And I truly love her with every ounce of my being. Well, one particular day, she just came in and said some stuff to me that broke my heart. Just completely tore my insides out. And everything in me just wanted to scream and cry out: "why? what have I done to you? can't you see how much I've done for you? how i've poured out everything I have for you? how much I love you? i don't deserve this!" Yet, I calmly walked away, and she was oblivious to the hurt and pain I felt from words that stung so deeply inside me.

As I was running errands after work that night...I decided to vent my anger to God...in tears I asked God, "why did she say those things? Why is it that I can pour so much into these children and they just don't seem to respond at all? God I don't understand!" And in that moment...a scripture came into my head...Philippians chapter 3 verse 10: "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings..." This same scripture that I had been struggling with all week. And in that moment of total dispair, God spoke to me and said, "I know exactly how you feel." And I realized that this feeling, this feeling of loving someone so much and completely pouring yourself out to them, only to have it thrown back in your face time and time again is how God feels every single day with his children...only about 10 million times worse. And I realized that so often I do the exact same thing to Him...yet He never stops loving me, never gives up on me, and I began to rejoice in that beautiful and miraculous fact.

And, I rejoiced in the fact that in that moment, I was sharing in his sufferings. I was feeling the pain that comes with seeking to love even when it hurts. The pain that comes with giving everything I can give through Christ, only to have it rejected competely. And yet, I(because of Christ in me) press on. Because I want to know Christ...not just through the happy times...but in the pain...in the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings. "But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things."

And so tomorrow, as the kids walk through those doors at the Joshua Center, I will greet each kid with a smile and a hug...and I will be reminded on a daily basis that I am doing this all for Jesus Christ, that I may find him in the smallest of things, whether it be through helping a child do their homework, laughing at them as they attempt their ridiculous jokes or even discipling them for their outright disrespect. And I will be reminded in those moments of pain of the pain I have so often caused Jesus myself, and the forgiveness, grace, mercy and love he shows to me even in my darkest moments.

God, may you teach me through these young children. And, everytime I think about giving up...everytime when I feel like nothing I do matters, may I be reminded that you are my strength and it is you and only you whom I am serving and glorifying through my words and actions. May you shine through me when those moments come crashing in, that these children will know you as the forgiving and loving God that you are.

God bless you all!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Philippians 3-Part 1

These past couple of months, I've been mediating on specific passages in the bible, usually a couple of weeks at a time. The passage that has been on my heart the past few months is Philippians chapter 3:1-11; especially verses 7-11.

It says:
"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."

These verses have resonated deep within my soul as I think about when Paul was writing this to the Philippians. He was telling them how if anyone had reason to be confident in themselves (they can save themselves), he would be because he was of a pure bloodline, a Pharisee, circumcised, and as far as rules and commandments go...faultless. Yet, he says all this to say that everything the world sees as profit...is a loss for him now because of Jesus. After his conversion to Christ, he realized none of that really mattered. Knowing Christ is the only thing he can be confident in. I think about this because I know people will someday stand before God and say, yeah I should get into heaven...I mean I gave 10% of every check to the church or I was a social worker or I never stole anything...ect...but Paul says, nope...all of that is works, and you can never be "good enough" for God. No, Paul says, my "resume" seemed perfect and faultless at one point, but when Jesus came into my heart, he showed me the only thing I need (and that saves my soul) on my resume is Jesus Christ. Two letters...Jesus Christ. He is ALL we need.

Oh what freedom! To know that nothing I can do or not do will make God love me more or less. Yes, Romans 8:1 says "therefore there is NO condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus. "
These words. They make some people a little...uh, nervous. This world tells us we are a "good" person if we don't steal or kill, if we give to charity and ya know, help out our friends in need. Yet Jesus says, no one is good but God himself. There are going to be a lot of "good" people in hell someday. Yet, the grace of God shows us that we are saved not by our "goodness" or the things we do but by the amazing grace and mercy of Jesus Christ our Lord. Only with Jesus in our heart can we stand before God someday. Unfortunately, the freedom to know that their is no condemnation for those in Christ is a freedom that many people, including Christians themselves, don't really seem to live in. It's a freedom that sometimes I struggle myself to live in.

Yet, I think when we offer ourselves to people who don't know Christ, and we are truly living in Christ's freedom, people see us as ones who aren't perfect but they see a Lord who loves us despite our faults...it becomes more about Him and his grace and less about us and how "good" we are. Oh how I desire for my kids at work to see and feel this freedom! This is my desire everyday, that they don't think you have to "have your life together" or whatever, but they can see that Christ loves them regardless and desires a real relationship with them!

The second part of this passage..."that I may know Christ...and the fellowship of his sufferings." Well, this will have to be another blog...cuz that part is a lot harder to swallow! Check back soon...part 2 of Philippians 3 is soon to follow.


God bless u all!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Benefit

Last night Breakthrough held it's annual benefit to raise money to support our organization. It was a great night with over 1700 people coming to check out what BT is all aboutErwin McManus was the speaker this year, and although I was with the kids the whole time, I heard he did a great job.

As always our kids sung in choir. We take the kids at 4:00 to the hotel and stay there until usually around 9 or 9:30. So, it's a real long night for them and for us! It was stressful, but as always it ended up being a great time for them and once we got past the stress of it all, it was a great night for me as well. Because we have such a long time in the "green room" waiting for our moment to shine, I always bring my camera so they can take pictures. And boy did they take pictures. I think over 70 were taken! So, in remembrance of the night...here are some of the best pics:
"What would happen if all of us began to discover our God given dreams? What would happen if all of us began to live wide awake and began to live our lives in such a way that everything we did, every choice, every act, all of it was used to fulfill those dreams and make the world a different place?"

-Erwin McManus (the keynote speaker) at the Breakthrough Benefit

God bless you all!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Where would Jesus go?

Tonight I went to a very good friend of mine's church. I have decided to start looking for a new church and I figured the first place to look would be at her church. As we started getting close to the church, we realized that we would have to turn around to park, so about half a block from the church we turned down a side street to turn around. We saw on the side of the road, about 15-20 people sitting or standing on the sidewalk. They seemed to be homeless and some were disabled. I wondered out loud to my friend, what are they all doing there? We then pulled around and found a parking spot.

As we walked to the church, I realized that on one side of the church was a food mart and on the other side was a liquor store. As we walked into the church I noticed how big and nice it was. It was a very nice church, and there was probably 200 or so people in the congregation. Mostly young, very nice looking people. Yet, I was absolutely overwhelemed with a question that was in my spirit...Where would Jesus go? The so obvious distinction between the poor outside to the "rich" (in most terms) inside was very overwhelming to me. It seemed a little odd that the church would be placed there.

We found a spot to sit and as I sat there, trying to breathe in and not go running out...the thought continued to resonate within me...where would Jesus go? If he was riding in the car with us and got out...would he walk into the church...an awesome church with a lot of really nice people...or would he have got out and said...i'll see you guys afterwards, i'm going to go hang out with those people over there? I think he would have chosen the latter.

Now, I'm not saying that I should have gone over there and hung out with them...I may have gotten hurt, or maybe I would have been warmly welcomed...all I'm saying is that sometimes we try so hard to be "about Jesus" that we miss Jesus all together.

The service was good. I don't really think it's the church I want to go to (I want a more diverse-economically, racially, etc), but I understand why some would really enjoy it. I know, though, that throughout the whole service, I continued to think about the men, women, and children sitting outside and I wondered if we were missing the whole boat. I don't know...all I know is that Jesus is messing my life up. He keeps giving me eyes to see some things that are totally and completley messed up in our society, and yes sometimes in our own church. Although he is messing my life up...I love it and I pray he continues to challenge me and push me to become more like him every single day of my life.

And taking the words of the Pastor tonight...may my deepest satisfaction always be in Jesus Christ!
God bless you all!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Fun

So for Halloween this year, I had absolutely no idea what to do. After browsing the Halloween store aisles for close to an hour, I decided that grabbing random items would have to do. I grab purple hair spray, a choke collar, fake piercings, and neon green and black tights. Yeah.


After lots of thinking, I decided on being a punk rocker...namely Avril Lavigne. So I got a couple of tattoos, dyed my hair, had a couple of piercings, and cut up a "rock" shirt of mine...here are the results:

At BT, we had a halloween party. Lots of candy, food, games, and fun! The kids seemed to really enjoy it and most even dressed up:



What did you dress up as?

God bless you all!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Growth

I constantly feel like God is challenging me in many different areas. I also feel like He never likes me to get too comfortable. For example, although I figured that I would be doing the exact same thing as last year (as far as work), He decided to move me to a new group, the 6th graders...a very difficult and challenging group. I love them, don't get me wrong, but I was definitely not excited about the change. Yet, I know God is challenging me in areas I need to grow in, hence the movement to a more difficult group of kids.

As this new year has begun, one of the things AmeriCorps requires of all it's members is to do an IDP at the beginning of the new year. IDP stands for Individual Development Plan. Basically, they want to know what skills you desire to achieve and the goals you want to meet during the our year of service. They also ask what steps you will take to achieve these goals. This is very good for me on a personal and professional level, unfortunately though, AmeriCorps is not a faith-based organization, therefore I can't state any spiritual goals/areas I want to "accomplish" or grow in.

Therefore, since I am not able to actually state these in my IDP for AmeriCorps, I decide to share with the whole world (or the 4 or 5 people who actually read this blog) what my spiritual goals and areas I want to grow in are.

One of the areas I most want to grow in is in the area of complete and total dependence on God. Sometimes, I try so hard to do the "small things" on my own...and then I wonder why I failed so miserably. Over the past year, I have been separated from my family and friends and at times I have felt very much alone...yet through these moments, God has and is continually showing me that he is very much there with me and that I can totally rely on Him.

Another area God is wanting me to grow in is in the area of servanthood. I look back at the life of Jesus and how it was completely devoted to serving others. He says, my kingdom is an upside-down kingdom; the first shall be last and the last shall be first. No master is greater than his servant. I am daily seeking ways in which I may serve my co-workers and my kids. At times, it is very hard for me because this means I must be humble enough to do things that I most likely wouldn't want to do normally. Isn't this the whole, dying to myself daily thing, though? This also reminds me that so often we as humans, we really enjoy being recognized when we do something good...yet Paul writes that if he must boast, let him only boast in the cross of Christ Jesus, our Lord.

God has also been challenging me to respond in a way that is glorifying to him, no matter the situation. So often, I respond in anger, in sarcasm (a favorite of mine) or I respond in anxiousness. But, Paul, in chapter 4 of Philippians says 2 things. He says, "let your gentleness be evident to all." In this passage, he was talking about when we are worried, anxious, upset, or nervous about something...we should respond gently. If anyone knows me, they know if I am put in a nerve racking situation or I become upset about something, the LAST thing I do is respond in a gentle or kindly manner. Yet, God says, no matter what, don't be anxious but give it to me, and through me, your gentleness will be recognized by all. The other thing he says is that "whatever is pure, whatever is noble, what ever is true, whatever is lovely, etc...think on these things." So often, I do not glorify him by my thoughts and words. I complain or gripe, I gossip, I become upset with my kids...and these things aren't pure or true. These things aren't lovely in God's sight and they do not in anyway glorify him. And God is giving me a multitude of chances everyday, through working with a very challenging group of 6th graders daily, to grow and respond in ways that glorify him, no matter how they are acting or what the situation.

I can go on and on about the many areas I'm being stretched in. I could go on and on about the many areas where I fall short, but I know Jesus loves me beyond my faults and failures. Yet, I will stop at 3 for now. I hope that all of you will hold me accountable in these areas. And I hope that you all are seeking ways in which God wants you to grow as well!

Oh, and here is a picture of some of my girls...6th grade and up! These beautiful girls are entering a time when they are beginning to get hit by a lot of pressures and they need prayer now more than ever! I know some say "i don't know them, why should i pray for them?" Well, if you know me, then I ask because you know me, pray for them because I love them so very much and each of them are very near and dear to my heart.

God bless you all!

Monday, October 20, 2008

they look a lot sweeter than they are...



God bless you all!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Teachable Moments

Teachable moments are moments during the day that someone (You and me) can use as a learning opportunity for someone else (kids, friends, etc).

My job is all about seeking out and capitalizing on these moments. That should be my official title: seeker of teachable moments. I'm sure no one has ever actually held that title. But then, I think I may be fired from my job for all the times that I've missed those moments because of my stubbornness or my temper!

These moments, though, seem to pop up at the most random times. And, although I like to always think of them as moments where through the holy spirit I can encourage or teach one of my kids, it is also moments where I am taught something as well.

Considering the violence and gravity of the situation that our students live in on a daily basis, these moments are also critical. And I pray that God gives me the wisdom and courage to find every opportunity with my children as a teachable moment.

This (along with a million other reasons) is why, for the past few days, I have written on my arm the reference John 3:30. Do you know what that says? It says: "He must become greater, I must become less." This life I live is not about me. I forget this so easily. I forget this when I let my feelings get hurt or I forget this when I get praised for something good that happened...I tend to make life about me. I tend to think that what happened had something to do with me. Yet, I am not, but I know the I am.

He must become greater, I must become less. There is nothing good that lives in me but Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. Without being fully focused on him and living my life to glorify him, those teachable moments become faint and unseen. Without having Jesus as my center and my all...I will be so busy with everything going on that I will completely miss those moments that are so pivotal in these kids' lives.

I praise God for being the best teacher! I hope all of you are learning daily from him and I hope that you begin to find those teachable moments in everything you do!

God bless you all!!

Friday, October 3, 2008

I'm a published author :)

So recently, TechMission published a story I had written about my first year as an AmeriCorps member. You can read it here.



God bless you all!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Childhood Memories

What do you think of when you think about your childhood? There are so many memories I have, most good, a few bad. I can remember the many many times I went to Lori Beth's house for sleepovers. I remember playing softball in the mud and I remember playing "duck, duck, goose" with my preschool classmates. I also remember sad things, like my cousin dying of brain cancer or the many many arguments I got into with my friends. But there are so many more good memories than bad. I remember having parents who loved me (and still do of course) but I also remember having other people around me that loved me as well and set good examples for me to follow.

So yeah, what memories do you have from your childhood?

The reason I ask you this is because of what kind of childhood my kids are living. Yesterday, I was at the park helping with our soccer team. Standing there out of the corner of my eye, I see two men sitting in a white car (right across the street from the park). The reason I noticed them was cuz I had seen these two young girls walk by our field and then as they were walking by the white car, they stopped and were talking to the men in the white car. Not even a minute or two later, a police car pulls up and proceeds to get the men out of the car and search it. A few minutes later, they were arrested and taken away. The kids, of course, saw it happen. Not all of it but they definitely saw the men getting taken out of their car. And ya know, I have no clue why the cops even stopped. I do know that at the parks around where we live, people are always dealing drugs. So maybe they assumed they were and decided to stop and check it out. The point is, the kids saw it. So often, I hear one of my kids talking about how this park got closed cuz people were selling drugs or they know this drug dealer that stands on this corner or that drug dealer that stands on that corner. Yeah, thats their memories.

As we were driving home, a 4th grader and I were talking. We were talking about how someone has been trying to kidnap kids by their school. Pretty weird, but yeah, apparently the kids are on alert to not walk anywhere by themselves. Well, the boy started talking about how this kids momma got shot and how this other kid's bro got shot and all this stuff. And then he said, and i'm not kidding this is his own words: "i'm not walking anywhere by myself, i don't know why but i just have this feeling that someone is about to get shot by our school. i just know that their is going to be a drive-by anyday now and i dont want to die yet." A fourth grader! It brings tears to my eyes as I sit here and just think back about it. This is their childhood memories. I don't know about you, but it wasn't really a thought of mine that I may get shot when I get out of school. It wasn't really a thought of mine that if I went to the park, that someone might approach me and ask if I want to buy some drugs.

Their childhood is also filled with bad things at home. Some of my kids have lost family members to violence, others have parents in jail or on drugs. Some don't go in till way after dark because their parents work late and they have nothing to go home to. Yes, some have wonderful parents, but some, some have parents that just don't care. And some, some have no parents at all so they live with grandmas or aunties. This, this is their memories.

So yeah, thats their childhood. The stories that i've heard from my kids, the stuff that they have seen, it just breaks my heart. I remember my boss telling a story, he said he was driving the bus one day and they were at a stop sign and seen this one man getting beat by a mob of guys with bats and sticks. One of the kids looks up at him and said...I have never seen that before. My boss said, I hadn't either...but then again, I was 32 and he was only 8.

Wow. I wonder, I wonder if I'm really making a difference. I think back to camp, I think back to when I would see these beautiful children come to our camp and they would be so hard and so angry. And I just didn't get it. I didn't get it because I saw them in "my element" not theirs. Now, I live in their element and I get it. I understand why so many kids become so hard and so angry. I understand it because they live in a place of hopelessness. They live in a place filled with so much sin that they can't get away from it all. Drugs, violence, these are the NORMS around here.

I have been sent here for a reason. Sometimes, I forget this and wonder why in the heck am I here? Then I realize that there is hope. There is hope because of Jesus Christ. I think back to a verse in 2 Corinthians chapter 6, Paul writes ...known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything." We have hope. In this dry and desert land, we have hope. We have hope because we have nothing, yet posses everything. We are poor yet are making many rich. This world has nothing to offer us, but Jesus Christ has everything. He came that we may have life, and have it to the full. I came to the westside of Chicago to show these kids that there is a life that is full and really living. This life is dead. I came to show them that there is hope and that they can have a life, a full life.

I can't do this without Jesus. I can't live in this place and deal with the stuff I see on a daily basis without my Lord giving me strength and showing me that there is hope.

Childhood memories. Think about it. Think back to your life when you were just a kid. Think about what you were faced with. Is it the kind of crap kids in the inner-city deal with? I hope not. I'm not asking for much, yeah, I'd love for all of you to go and start tutoring or mentoring an under-privledged youth, but I know thats not everyone's heart. But I am asking for you to pray, to pray for me and Breakthrough. To pray for my beautiful and talented children. I am asking you to when you go to vote, think about education policies and gun control. I am asking you to try to get involved in helping others to see that there are a lot of people out there that are less fortunate than you just because of where they were born. I am asking you to be a person of action. A person who has a heart for justice. Jesus was. And I hope you are too...

God bless you all!

Monday, September 22, 2008

STL

Went to St. Louis this weekend and had a blast! Here's a pic of us at a coffee shop:



God bless you all!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My 3rd...and last...apartment!

video

So here is my 3rd apartment and hopefully my last in Chicago...I live with Andrea and Valeri and so far, so good! It's 4 bdrms, 1 bath and has a huge back yard. Oh, and it's right down the street from my work! So, what do you think?

Friday, September 12, 2008

thoughts...

Soccer! It has started up again. Today was our first official practice. Oh and what a way to start! We had one child pee on herself, two others bloodied, and many more get in "fights." To top it all off, it drizzled/rained the entire time!

Program. Our first week has officially ended. And what a "HISTORIC" first week it was. It is our 8th year of the Nettie Bailey Student Achievement Program. And, this first week has been great. Of course, things are different...but i'm learning slowly that change can be a good thing.

Letting Go. Sometimes, we just can't. This is in particular to some of our 9th graders. One of whom has shown up everyday just to hang out and get help with her homework. She was in our program for 6 or 7 years, so I really just think she doesn't even know what to do without coming here anymore. I see her face as she walks in, she comes over to me...laughing and telling me something that happened at school...or walks over and says that high school is just too hard and she needs help with her algebra homework...and it always makes me look over at my co-workers and wink. Cuz, of course, I want her to grow up and become this woman that I know she is capable of becoming, but a part of me loves that she just can't let go yet...

Jesus. He's a pretty cool dude. I love that verse in Romans 8, for there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Sometimes I need that. When I mess up and I wonder, how could Jesus ever love someone like me, I'm reminded it's not by what I do but by his mercy and his grace that I am forgiven and loved. I look at my children and I want to reflect this to them by my actions, yet sometimes I just get irritated or annoyed and I just want to yell. Then two things come into my mind...proverbs 15:1: a gentle answer turns away wrath. and the other is...they were made in God's image, so when I look at them...I should see God's image in them...I should desire to see what God sees in them, not what I see. Jesus, gosh, his love for us incredible and unbelievable and I so desire to know him more and to "clothe myself" with Jesus so that all these children will see how awesome this Jesus is.

Moving. I never want to move again! We have officially moved in and the place looks great! I will get a video soon to show everyone. We are still trying to put our stove in, apparently we have the wrong "connector" for it, so we'll see what happens. I have loved it so far, my roommates are great, and I'm so blessed to be so close to work!

Hurricanes! YUCK! I have been trying to watch the news as much as possible, hoping that hurricane ike doesn't do near as much damage as all are predicting, but it looks like it's already getting pretty bad. I pray for the safety of those who decided to stay and for the homes of all that live in the main path of ike. Oh, and the gas hike kinda sucks, I mean we already have the highest gas prices in America...now it's going up even higher! Not cool...not cool at all

Finally. I'm done all. It's past my bedtime, and well, i'm running out of things to say. I will say that I love you all. Yes, I do. Oh, and Jesus loves you too...continue to pray! I'm so thankful for prayer warriors like you all who are always praying for me and for my kids!

God bless you all!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Legacy

Last night I went to the funeral of the father of one of my 14 year old girls at our program. Her dad had been fighting brain cancer for awhile so his passing away was a little bit expected. Although it was expected, this didn't make things any easier. My heart broke as I saw her mother break down a number of times and as I saw the young lady try to seem strong but you could tell it was tearing her up inside. She is very dear to me, we've been through a lot over the past year, and well, although I had never met her dad, I still cried as I seen the pain in her face and the sadness all around her.

It's funny how you start to think hard about things at the most random times. Like last night. As I sat there and listened to countless people talk about this man...it amazed me at the legacy he was leaving. They talked about how good a father and husband he was. About the godly man he had become and how when he was dying, he did not want anyone feeling sorry for him. And I found myself wishing that I had known him, I found myself questioning why when alot of my kids don't have "present" fathers or even fathers at all, how he could be taken away when he was such a good father to this young lady. I know God is just and he is merciful so it just makes me wonder, why things happen the way they do. I guess thats where faith and trust comes in. Trusting that God knows much better than me and having the faith to believe that all will work for his good. But it doesn't mean I don't hate it for her and hate death and sin. Cuz I sure do.

Anyways, back to my lesson I learned. I was thinking a lot about legacy. How these people talked about this man and how 3 things stuck out to me...he was a good father, a good husband, and a godly man. His wife, his daughters, his son, and his friends, this is what they will remember about him. And it made me think...what will my legacy be? Now, I don't think (or hope not) that I'll be dying anytime soon, but it does raise the question, if I were to die or when I die, how will people remember me? Will they remember me as a Godly person? A woman who lived for the Lord and not for the world? What will my legacy be?

Isn't this an interesting question? You look at your life, how you treat your friends, your parents, your co-workers, ect, and you think how am I treating them? How is my life being an impact on their lives? Isn't that what God calls us to do? Impact others for the glory of his kingdom?

I always ask the kids, how are you influencing others? Are you being a leader or a follower? Are you being a positive or negative influence? I ask them that but I never ask myself that? Am I influencing people in a positive or negative way? Not just my kids, but my co-workers...my friends...my family.

Anyways, just something to think about. I would love it if you could pray for this young lady and her family as she is going through a rough time. But yeah...what is your legacy? If you were to die right now (not trying to be morbid or anything) what would people remember about you? How would they describe you? Think about it...

God bless you all!!!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Action

I sometimes forget that no action is action. I feel as though God calls us to be people of action...my favorite verse says this very simple thing: "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with ACTION and in truth."

What does it mean to love with action? To love in truth? (Comment this and tell me what you think it means)

Lately I've had to deal with the cold hard fact that you can make a completely right decision and someone is still going to be upset about it. Now, don't get me wrong, I've dealt with that one many many times in my life, but these last few days...these decisions (right as they may be) will effect people's lives, forever. Its hard because the consequences you may be able to see but the other person or persons' can't.

Which leads back to the question of action. Jesus, before he was taken up in the sky made the comment to his disciples: 'you shall do even greater things than these.' (these meaning miracles and the like)

I sit here and I wonder, how could Jesus say I shall do even greater things than miracles? I look at my beautiful, talented, and creative children. I look at some of their lives that are increasingly getting worse and I wonder...how do I take action? Act justly, Love mercy, and Walk humbly. How do I act justly? How do I love mercy? How do I walk humbly when I see this child changing because of the enviornment around her?

Action. Taking action. Loving with action and truth. Can I just sit here? How am I, a 24 year old girl, supposed to take action in this big great city and world?

I am just one....yet I am one.

I call on my Jesus for action. I call on him and admit that I am weak, I am small and I know nothing. But in that nothingness comes something that Jesus is waiting for...submission.

I submit to the God of the universe. To the creator of the world and to the abba of all of us. I submit and I ask that he would move me to action, that he would guard me with a plan, and that his strength would be my strength and his will be my will. I submit to acting justly, to loving mercy, and to walking humbly...regardless of how this person or that person may react. I ask that God would teach me how to love with ACTIONS and in TRUTH.


ACT justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.



God bless you all and may God move all of us to act on the behalf of those who can't.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Craziness

Craziness is the title of my newest blog post. The reason I chose this title is because for the past 4 weeks, I have been to a different state every week. Aka, i've been ridiculously busy.

The first week, I went on a much needed "mini-vacation" to the Warren Dunes in Michigan with a couple of my friends. We were there from Fri-Sun and just had a blast hanging out on the beach and sleeping in tents.

The next week I went to Camp Timberlee in Wisconsin. (see previous post for more information).

Last week, I was blessed to get to go to Arkansas to see my family. It was so great to see all of my family. My nieces have both grown so much, so I spent as much time as I could with them. I also got to see my "group" from high school during a baby shower for an old friend. Sometimes you forget how much you need to stay in touch with people you grew up with. Those old friends helped me through my formititve high school years and I love all of them. I also got to go hiking and fourwheeling, two things I never get to do in the city. I was only home for a week, but I really wish it could have been longer. (Although i felt like i gained 10 pounds from all the wonderful food my mom cooked me)!

Finally, this week I went back to Wisconsin for another camp. This camp was Camp Dawan, a camp for High School students. We had 20 kids and had an absolute blast. I really enjoy being with high schoolers because you can have deep conversations with them. For example, one night I had an almost 2 hour conversation with one student and an hour conversation with another student.

I think the best thing about Camp Dawan was seeing 16, 17 year old young women and men who LOVE the Lord and really were seeking to learn and grow in him. I was sitting there one night listening to the speaker and just started looking around the room. It was so wonderful to see the students really engaged and listening to her.


It's so encouraging to see teenagers living in this place who are really living for the Lord. It reminds me that what i'm doing here is not in vain. I sat up with one student till 2 in the morning listening to her story. I have grown close to her and her sisters over the past year, but I still was broken to hear some of the stories of her past. She talked of how hard it is to grow up without a father or a mother. She talked of how hard it is to hear from people how she was nothing and she would never be anything and how alone she feels at times. And we sat there and we talked about how she wasn't alone. How God not only lives inside of her but also how He has given her people in her life that love her and that love the Lord. We talked about how her identity is in Christ, not in what others say she is. That she is a somebody because she is of the Lord.

And as i sat there, talking and listening to her...I couldn't help but think of two things. Why? Why does God allow some kids to grow up in amazing homes with 2 loving parents and allow other kids, like her, to grow up with almost no one. I look at this beautiful, mature, loving young lady and it breaks my heart and makes me wonder why. The second thing I think is, after all she's been through...the days she spent as a 8 year old girl standing out in the rain cuz she was locked out of her house, listening to people tell her she's just gonna end up a druggie like her parents...ect, the thing I think is, after all of that, she isn't bitter...she is SAVED and God has given her the strength to overcome it all. I think, where would I be if I had lived a life like hers? Would I be living for the Lord like her? She, along with so many of my kids are young people whom I admire and am blessed to know and to get the opportunity to pour into and love everyday.

As I sit here tonight and think back over the week at Camp Dawan. I think back over the conversations I had, over the talks our wonderful speaker talked about and there is one thing that keeps coming back to me. Our speaker said these words and it really just resonated with me...she said, "understanding can wait; obedience can't."

I don't understand why things happen the way they do. Sometimes I don't understand why God asks me to do certain things...but I must obey. I must choose to be obedient to my father, no matter if I understand it or not. Because, obedience cannot wait, but understanding can. This young lady may not understand why God has placed her in a situation where she feels like running away everyday, but she must choose to be obedient to God and stay and continue to be a light to all those around her. I may not understand why God has called me to do certain things, but my obedience to God cannot wait.

Anyways, yeah. Craziness definitely explains my last month. I am moving again...this Saturday. So for the 5th time in 4 weeks, I will be packing once again. Please pray for me that God continues to double my rest and to strengthen me as I am feeling very drained and tired. School starts soon for my students so please pray for them to start off the school year with a bang and pray for their teachers to enjoy teaching these students and realize how amazing and talented they really are. Pray for our high school students as they enter back into the hallways of their high schools that they would share the light of Christ and that they would find Godly friends who would encourage them throughout the year.

Oh, and please pray for a young lady in our program. Her father passed away last night from a long battle against cancer. This young lady holds a very special place in my heart and she loved her daddy very much. She is entering high school this year (9th grade) so I know she has already been stressed and nervous, now I know she must be a wreck. She is a very tough young lady who holds things in so please pray that she would find someone, anyone who she could confide in and that she would go to Jesus with her pain and find the strength to go on from Him.

God bless you all....

Friday, August 15, 2008

CAMP

This week I went to a camp with my kids in Wisconsin. THANKFULLY I was in a cabin with our oldest girls (the youngest was 13), so it was a pretty stress free week. Although it was practically stress free, it was still beyond tiring!



We did everything from horseback riding (my favorite) to wall climbing and lots of volleyball (which i HATED cuz i SUCK at it!)...it was great getting to know my girls better and seeing a different side of them. As much fun as I had with them...I was so very very excited to get home and sleep in my own bed away from the hard mattress, kids screaming and mosquitos biting!

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from Camp Timber-Lee 08:

Sunday I go HOME for a week!!!! YAY!

God bless you all!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

TIME FLIES!

Time really has flown by. I feel like yesterday was our first day of summer studies and here it is, the day before the last day of the program.

We went on our last field trip today. We went to Deep River Water Park. It was a ton of fun and every single kid loved it! I really enjoyed it because, well, they kids were in great moods. :)


Next week we go to camp for a week. I can not wait because I miss KAA so much. We are going to a camp called Camp Timber-lee in Wisconsin. I've heard its fun but not anything like KAA, so we'll see.

The week after that, I go to Arkansas to see my family for the first time in 6 months! WAHOO!!!! I can't wait!

Anyways, this summer has really worn me down. I keep getting cold sores because my immune system is a little weak right now, but it's been well worth it. This summer has been awesome! It's been a definite learning experience and I'm falling more more in love with this ministry.

Pray for me and the kids as we gear up to go to camp! Have a great weekend...God bless you all!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Art

The kids have spent their last 4 weeks in art coming up with some murals to hang on the wall...groups of three or four got together and came up with a thing or idea they wanted to put across and then drew and painted murals...here are pics i took of them:



Not sure what this one is called...but it's basically what they see breakthrough is doing for the community...helping others...we help along the process of healing...
This one is called "The Sky's the limit" and my favorite part of this one is that the hands are all different colors...meaning the people are all different, yet everyone has can reach their dreams!

I wish I could have captured this one better...it's "Chicago's Skyline" yet they are also going up the stairs to heaven...I mainly liked it because they put so much detail into the city...it really looks like buildings with all the lights on!

I really liked this one too...it's called "Our Ideal Neighborhood" and it's basically a neighborhood that the kids would want...this group did the best job at painting too...they really took their time!


This one...well...the group had a tough time with. They had to repaint over it a couple of times...it's basically just a brick wall with a kid playing basketball...one of our co-workers said it symbolizes that the grass is always greener on the other side...i'm not sure what in the heck it symbolizes! lol



Last one...and personally, I think it's the most creative one. It's called "feelings" and basically, what this group's idea was to make a man with his mouth open...it's a storm and the rain drops are different colors...all symbolizing a different emotion, ex yellow meant happy, red mad...ect. And this man really has the righ to choose whatever emotion he wants...but yeah, I really liked the creativity of their idea!

That's it...just wanted to share with you their art!

God bless you all!