CLICK HERE FOR BLOGGER TEMPLATES AND MYSPACE LAYOUTS »

Monday, August 31, 2009

All good things musst come to an end...

One week ago today, I moved from Chicago back to Arkansas. I have been debating on whether to end this blog or not, and decided since I created it with the sole purpose of blogging on my adventures working and living in Chicago that it is time for me to end it.


Leaving Chicago, my kids and friends up there was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I have already started missing my beautiful kids, its hard not to when you have spent most of your time the past two years with them. I wish I had the words to let people know just how I'm feeling right now, but I don't think I could explain them and if they would actually do it justice.

I have started the new job search, very ready to start a routine again, I hate the sitting around doing nothing. I am praying that not only does God open doors at another urban ministry for me to work in, that it is also a permanent place, one where I can stay for a long time and really build relationships with the kids. I also pray that its alot closer than Chicago! :)

I hope you have enjoyed my blogs for the past two years. Iwant to start a new blog and continue writing once I start a new job or whatever...we'll see.

One last picture from Chicago...here is most of the 6th grade group I worked with this past school year...I love these crazy kids...thanks for two great...and challenging :)....years!


God bless you all!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

So I'm actually typing this as I'm riding in the car headed to Arkansas. I know, the beauty of technology! Or maybe the sadness of it all...being so connected to the world at all times!

Sitting here or as I like to say it, setting here...driving back to the place I grew up, its just all very surreal. Almost like it shouldn't be happening. Of course I shed some tears today, especially when I saw tears falling from my kids eyes but also saying goodbye to my good friend and coworker Robin.

The drive is always the worst. You begin to think of all the shoulda coulda wouldas and it just depresses you more. I wonder if I could have done things differently, I mean I know the impact I've had has been huge, I know that I am leaving a good "wake" and not a bad one but yet I still can't help but sit and wonder if I could have done more. Have I lived these last two years to the fullest? I hope so. I would like to believe so.

I know I'm leaving changed and I hope that in some ways, the kids have changed as well. I hope that I have done what God has called me to do these last two years.

I know that these next few days will be very hard for me...trying to find my way again, figuring out how to navigate the job search process and living in a place that will probably seem a little foreign to me at first.

I hope that it doesn't hit me all at once...I hope I can ease into it. I am nervous and worried and scared. Yet as I was talking to a friend of mine, she reminded me ever so gently that God is in control and to haved Faith that he will provide and be with me in this transition.

I am so thankful for these amazing women who are blessing me with an almost free ride to Arkansas. The laughter and good times we are already having could beat a u haul any day!

So as I am headed home, I am fully aware of my sadness but also the love I have felt these last few days. Surround me with love Jesus, it is exactly what I need!

Friday, August 28, 2009

My last night

Tonight is my very last night in Chicago. This week has been super crazy, trying to hang out with as many people as I can as well as start classes, pack, and finish up work. Like I said...CRAZY!


Last night I went to dinner with one of my favorite high schoolers. It was super cute cuz she was like, lets go to dinner, my treat! How can I say no to free food? lol I can't wait to see her in five, 10 years, I know God is going to do some great things in her life!
I went downtown today with my very good friend, Maria and had coffee at Intelligentsia. Such good coffee! Man, am I going to miss all the coffeeshops around here! I also sold my car today and even got to see a lot of my kids at the center and then of course, a couple had to come over and hang out at the house. :)
Anyways, what better way to spend the evening then take four of my favorite kids out to dinner? :) Yes, thats right I spent my last night hanging with the kids. Ha. Anyways, we all loaded up in the car and went to TGIFridays. The kids absolutely loved it. They are so great. One of them, definitely one of my top 3 or 4 favorite kids in this world said as the other girls told her to quiet down (she is super loud all the time!), she laughed and said, "i'm just happy...i'm out with Shasta!" That moment...right there. It just melted my heart. Tonight I am reminded that all I want to do in my life is exactly what I was doing right then. Building relationships. These kids, not just those four but all of them...they are the most amazing kids I've ever met.



The food was great, a couple of the girls were contemplating unbuttoning their pants they were so full lol. I advised them not to! Ha! But yeah, it was so wonderful just to spend one last night sharing my life with them.

Anyways, this week has been very hard. I wish I could describe how hard it is to know how sad some of the kids are that I am leaving. I can see it in their faces, hear it in the voices, and feel it by the way they act. Youth ministry is the most rewarding thing in the world but it is also the hardest thing in the world as well. There have been many times I have just wanted to scream from frustration (and sometimes I did!) but all the wonderful, life giving times I have had with them overshadow any frustration. I am so grateful and thankful that two years ago God opened the doors for me to come up here. I do not know where I would be today if not. I just know that God and Breakthrough has changed me so much through this experience.

Chicago will always be in my heart. These kids, my coworkers and friends...they will always be in my heart. As I move forward, I can promise you there will be many tears, I'm sure I will be a little depressed at first, but I will also treasure the moments and times I've had and move on, knowing that God is NOT done with me yet!

Chicago, Breakthrough, everyone I've come into contact with these past two years...I love you and will never forget you.

God bless you all!

Monday, August 24, 2009

I feel as though life is moving at this really fast pace and I can't really keep up. People keep asking me, what are you going to do when you move? Where will you live? Job? ect ect. All valid questions, yet all questions I really have no answer to. I know that in just five short days, I will be moving. I know that there is a sadness around me that I can't completely put my finger on and I know that my heart will ache for the kids and people here that have become like second family to me. I have started to pack although I have less than what the normal person has. I guess that comes from being a serial mover. I feel like I'm always moving. I just want to settle. One of the biggest desires in my life is to find a place that is permanent. I'm sick of all this moving around.

Denver was great. I barely thought about the future, mainly just relaxed and ate lots and lots of food. :) Yet, I came back to an empty desk and questions that I have no answers for. Am I ready to leave? I am in a way because I am sick of being in this transitional space. I also long to wrap my arms around my two beautiful nieces and knock my twin bro in the head a couple times. But, I am not ready to leave my kids here. Not ready to say goodbye knowing that they do not understand any of this; knowing that the relationships I've built with them were all too short.

So I sit in the dark, wondering why I feel so...uneasy. So...confused and restless. I know that God has called me back to Arkansas for a reason. I know this. I know that I am so excited to be close to my family and Jeremy. Yet, there is so much unknowns.

And I will wait. I will try and make it through these next 4 days. Making the most of every opportunity, yet pulling away so that the tears don't fall as readily as I know my heart wants them to. Tommorrow night I have a small going away party so I can say goodbye to the children who have stolen my heart. Oh how I pray that it isn't a big emotional rollercoaster but instead it will be a moment of closure.

I hold onto to the fact that God calls me to a bigger purpose. That instead of sacrifces and "works" he calls me to "Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly." I hold onto the fact that He is at work in my life and He will open doors and lead me to another, wonderful place.

God. You are my rock and my only sanity during this time. May I lean on you when I feel so helpless.


God bless you all.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Favorites

One of my favorite things about living in the city is the many, many restaurants and things to do. Chicago has thousands and thousands of restaurants, cafes, bars...etc. After living here for two years, I have found many different places that I love. Many of which aren't necessarily the "touristy" places to go.

So, if any of you ever go to Chicago and want some great places to go...here are my favorites:


Best place to get dessert: Letizia's Natural Bakery

Best coffee shop: (tie) Mercury Cafe' and Buzz Cafe' (River Forest)

Best breakfast place: Sweet Maple Cafe'

Best pizza: Crust Resturant

Best beach: 12th Street Beach

Best book shop: Myopic Books

Best bar: Small Bar

Best Theater: Lake Theater (Oak Park)

Best Mexican Restaurant: Fuego Loco

Best Mall: Woodfield Mall

Best thing to do on a summer night: Chicago Outdoor Movie Festival in Grant Park

Best ice cream: Oberweiss Dairy

Best clothing store: H&M

Hope you enjoy these suggestions...God bless you all!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Camp 2009


Today I got back from Camp Timber-lee 2009. I can sum it up in one word...EXAUSTING. :)

It was tiring but also wonderful. I got to spend some quality time with some of my favorite people on earth. There were moments of frustration and fleeting thoughts of "get me out of here" but even more moments of laughter and smiles. From day one to the last day, I was forever thanking God for the opportunity for my kids to get a chance to spend a week away from their neighborhood and the distractions of the city. They are different out there... happier and free to be kids again and all of them love it! From being chased by llamas, and playing thousands of games of carpet ball, to saving drowning kittens and having "michael jackson" dancing parties in the cabin...this was definitely a year to remember.



Here are just a few of my favorite pictures and a video of one of the girls freaking out when we were in the paddle boats :)




Haha. I call her granny...this is my failed attempt at a "G"



Hmmm...what can I say that isn't already been said in this picture? These two girls are hiliarous.




Them after we saved the kitten...its hard to see it but we named her "River" (although it was a lake we were in...hmmm...)



Giving me the "eye"....her attempt at being evil...she doesn't have an evil bone in her body, truly one of the sweetest, most amazing kids I've ever had the pleasure of knowing!




Ahh...and this picture is for you mom...this snake kept wrapping around my arm...it made me a little nervous but I loved it! :)

video




Although I'm exhausted, I know that camp is a real blessing and that so many kids never get the opportunity to go. I hope, though, that the real message of camp, that God loves them and is always with them is the most important thing they take with them!


God bless you all!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Reality of it all...

Here's what kids have to deal with in our neighborhood. We had a couple teenagers and a 5 yr old and 8 yr old at our house tonight (they are practically over here very night though!). Around 7 pm , the 5 yr old looks up at her big cousin, Ashley, and says...take me to the store, I wanna buy some candy. Ashley says no but the 5 yr old continues to beg. Finally Ashley looks at me and says "Shasta tell 'em we don't go to the store over there, people be shootin."

Yep. Thats the life of a 5yr old in my neighborhood. It's 7 pm, sorry you can't go to the candy store cuz you might get shot. Of course, I looked at Ashley said, I WILL NOT. And smiled at the young girl and told her, we don't go to the store once its almost dark, its too late for little kids to be out. She seemed satisfied with that and ran off playing; almost oblivious to the injustice of it all.


Next time you take your kid to the store, remember, there are plenty of kids out there that can't go because its not safe. Count your blessings and praise God that you live in a place that you don't have to worry about your children. And pray for safety and God-willed restoration for communities living in fear and despair.


God bless you all!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A sad goodbye

Today, my very good friend and coworker, Mariko, said goodbye to Breakthrough. This wonderful friend of mine will be sorely missed. For the past four years, she has poured her heart and soul into our kids. And, it showed in their faces as she told them last week that she was leaving. Mariko is someone that has made an impact that will last a lifetime. Just ask Atiya. Today, when the kids were talking about the most "influential" person in their lives, she said "Mariko."

I know that Mariko is moving onto great things. Actually, she is going to grad school in Philly to continue her learning so someday, beyond working with kids, she can work with the parents and communities. Yet, I still mourn for the kids. I mourn because I know that positive role models are not the norm in their neighborhood. I also mourn because I know that next week I will be letting them know my bad news as well. Which means they aren't just losing one role model, but two. Two people that have poured their hearts into them. My heart aches just thinking about it.

Mariko is a great friend. She has taught me so much about ministry, about God, and about how to serve. I praise God for friends/co-workers like her.

Good bye Mariko!
Keep praying for me, these last few days have been very up and down. One last week of program and then camp.
God bless you all.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I was wanting to write a post about the 7 people whom were shot a block away from my house last night, but after reading Arloa's blog, I decided that it would be best coming from her. Please read her post:

http://arloasutter.blogspot.com/2009/07/living-in-war-zone.html


God bless you all.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Its Over!

Softball is officially over! Today we had the all-star game. 3 of our girls were picked to play on the team and we were super excited to see them get their "all-star" debut. Well, after 10 long innings, we finally ended with a tie, 7-7.


It was great...here are the girls after the game:


Way to go ladies!

Although its been a forever long season (3months) i'm very sad for it to be ending. I love each and ever player on this team!




God bless you all!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mixture of Feelings

This past week has been extremely hard for me and I can only imagine that the next few will be equally as hard. The reason it has been so hard is realizing that before I know it, it will be my last day. Before I know it, I will be moving away from the people I have spent the last two years pouring into, loving, and sharing my life with. I have had many fitful nights of sleep, weird, upsetting dreams, and just realizing the big impact Breakthrough and the people of Chicago have really made on my life.

Of course, I cannot wait to spend some quality time with my nieces. To actually be able to go see them whenever brings joy to my heart. I also can't wait to spend day in and out with Jeremy, learning more about him and our relationship. And of course, spending real time with my family is also very exciting.

Yet, as I sit here, planning for tomorrow's activities, I cannot wait to see my kids' smiling faces again. It literally breaks my heart to know that before long, I will not see them for a really extended period of time. I wonder, how will I tell them? I feel as though I am letting them down. I feel as though I am almost forsaking them. Is that weird? I know that it is time, I know that Chicago is not "home" for me, yet it is so difficult to think about leaving the children whom I have invested so much of my time in.

Just yesterday, we had our final softball game of the season (WE WON YAY) and as the game ended and we were packing up to leave, I looked into the eyes of one of my children and broke down. She was like why are you so upset? I just said its the end of the season, I just can't believe its already here. She was satisfied with that but I thought to myself, its more than just the end of the season for me.

Of course, change is always difficult. Leaving a place is always super hard and I know that God will lead me in a new direction and eventually I will find a new organization to pour my heart into. Yet, again, it is extremely difficult for me to think about that right now. I am trying so hard to stay "present" and really value every moment I have with the kids for I know before long it'll come to an end.

Please pray for me as this time is coming to an end. Please pray that I will spend the next 5 weeks truly enjoying my time with my kids and friends here. Please pray that this transition will go smoothly, God will give me complete peace about leaving, and that I will be able to find a job as soon as possible. With making as little as I have, my savings is practically drained so I'm not sure how long I can live without a job.

God is good. I know this. I know this as I say hi to my neighbors and we talk about the weather. I know this as I walk down the street and watch the kids playing in the fire hydrants. I know this as I splash in the water, laughing as the kids try to show me how they can "swim." I know this as I laugh and tease Kanika for being a granny. I know this as Andrea and I go to the beach on Sundays and get some real rest from a long week. I know this as I watch the determination on the faces of our girls as they get up to bat. I know this because every single day I wake up and realize that my life is NOT my own, that I have been crucified with Christ and I know longer live but He in me. I know this because He called me to a purpose greater than my own. I know this because I am fully aware that He is in complete control of my future and that wherever I go next, I will go with the desire to share His love and teach His word.

Sadness. Joy. Fear. Love. Excitement. Worried...A mixture of feelings as I go throughout my days.

Be present. This is all I desire the next few weeks. Please pray for me!

God bless you all.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Defeated...

So tonight I was feeling super defeated. My kids' softball team has lost the last two games by 1 run each. I have felt so defeated because I know that they have improved, yet they continue to lose practically every single game. I was super upset when two games ago, up by 5 in the last inning, they ended up getting beat. It was a moment where I felt totally helpless and just really sad for the girls as the game slipped away right in front of their eyes.

Tuesday night they worked hard, super hard to be honest and came away with a tie. Because there were no lights at the field we had to reschedule the final inning for tonight (Friday night). I seriously was super excited and thinking that we would definitely pull out the win. And yet, tonight, they scored one run and then we didn't score any. Game over. Lost by one again. So yeah, I was just feeling so disappointed and upset for the girls. I know that they work hard and have great attitudes (for the most part) and so I just don't understand how they keep getting beat in the end. I felt like a failure as a coach. Anyways, as I was talking to my roommate tonight, I was just telling her how sad and defeated I was feeling. How I was just hoping that tomorrow (our final game) we could finally pull out a victory. I told her how defeated I felt knowing that we had lost much more than we had won this season.

Crazy how God works though. A little while later that night, as I walked out of the room where my roommate was, I noticed that my blackberry was flashing. I had a new email....

The email was from Bob. Bob is the coach of the team we played tonight. I was suprised to see that he had emailed me, so I decided to read it right then and there. And what he wrote brought tears to my eyes, here's what the email said:


"Shasta and Andrea,

I appreciate that you had to wait as our team showed up late for the game, and you were magnanimous in giving us just the 1 out for the lack of players.

But what I really wanted to thank you for is the work you are doing with those young girls. They are by far the most polite team we have faced all season and my suspicion is that is because of their coaches.

My guess is you are disappointed in the outcome of the game and possibly the season, but you are clearly having a much bigger impact on these girls than just their hitting and fielding skills.

Thanks for the work that you do. Bob."

Wow. I seriously just teared up as I read these words of encouragement. Often, I forget that more important than wins and losses is the impact we are making on this team. Although, of course, I am super competititve and would love to see our girls be the best, more importantly is their character. More importantly is how they are learning to become young women of God and young women whom respect themselves and others.

I am forever grateful for Bob for this little reminder. And tomorrow, as our final game comes upon us, I am hopeful that maybe, just maybe our hard work and positive attitudes will pull off a win...but if not, I will be reminded that as long as the girls had fun, played their best, and treated each other, the coaches, their opponents, and the ump with respect...then that to me is so much more important than a win.

Much more....


Wow. What a great reminder and teachable moment.

God bless you all!

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Breakthrough Kid


Wanted to share a story about something one of our junior high girls said to my co-worker a few days ago. There have been a few teenage girls in our neighborhood who have recently gotten pregnant. Although this breaks our hearts every time, we realize that unfortunately, this "phenomena" is often more the norm than not.

Anyways, my co-worker and this 13 year old girl were having a conversation about something and it turned to having babies. The 13 year old girl made some off-hand comment about the girls in the neighborhood being pregnant and how she thought it was crazy and totally not a good idea. My co-worker told her yeah, you need to wait till you're at least 30, no teenage pregnancies for you. The girl looked at her, surprised and said...okay. You know I wouldn't do that, i'm a Breakthrough Kid.




Wow. Breakthrough is setting a standard of behavior. If you are a part of Breakthrough, you stay away from that mess. Praise God for places like Breakthrough. Praise God that Breakthrough is so much more than just an afterschool program. Praise God that He is using this place to CHANGE.




A Breakthrough Kid. I really like that. These "breakthrough kids" are the best in the world, no doubt about it. Praise God for them. Praise God that I have the opportunity everyday to teach them the "other way." The way that leads to Christ.




I'm a Breakthrough Kid. :) LOVE IT!




God bless you all!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Whew! Done for a month!

Well, I am finally done with my class, Multicultural Issues in Human Services! Yay! Last post I mentioned that my final paper was to be on Gentrification. Well, I wasn't expecting it to be as difficult as it was but I am glad that I learned a lot more about it.

Anyways, a couple of you mentioned that you would like to know more about it. I can't paste my complete paper on here...15 typed pages would be a little too much, but I would like to share some of the major thoughts of the paper.

The biggest thing I learned is that gentrification and displacement are almost always synonymous. Unfortunately although good that it is rebuilding impoverished neighborhoods, those that have lived in the neighborhoods all their lives can't afford to stay and reap the benefits of these improvements. Here is a quote by Dywer:

“Transformation does not simply entail renovating and rebuilding, the issues at play are much more complicated than the simple progression from destruction to construction. New and refurbished buildings in urban areas do not arise in a vacuum. They are built on parcels of land where older buildings once stood, or they are remodeled for new and richer tenants. Most of the time the people who lived, worked, played and worshipped in those buildings are displaced.”

I believe that change is inevitable. Obviously, there definitely needs to be some changes made in poor communities. As with the case of my community, there are many old abandoned builidings and poor infrastructure. Yet, I believe that restoration of the community must not push out those that live here. Instead, it must be done in a way that dignifies and perserves the culture and history of this community. And any urban community for that matter.

Finally, most importantly I believe that God calls us to take care of and serve the poor. In fact, I think he mentions the poor over 300 times in the bible. John M. Perkins, the founder of Christian community development (if you haven't heard of him...look him up) had this to say about restoring at-risk communities:

The biblical vision for Christian community development is for people to be in loving fellowship with God and with one another as they toil in fruitful labor, which benefits their community of need. The family as a unit must be reinforced. Leadership for their needed common efforts comes from within their own community.


Here's the bottom line, do I think that gentrification needs to happen? Yes. But do I believe that it is happening in the right way? No. Yet, I do believe that it could be done in a way that dignifies and a way that does not displace people. And, I believe that it takes the church stepping up and realizing their part in community development and doing it together with their community.

Doing it together and doing it right.


What do you think?



God bless you all!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Gentrification

As I am ALMOST done with my summer courses, I have only one paper left for my classes. This paper has to be a 15 page research paper.

I have decided to do my paper on Gentrification. I am super excited to learn and write about this issue that is becoming more prevalent in many urban neighborhoods around the world.

I have a question for those of you reading this blog:

In your opinion, is Gentrification a purely "class" issue or is it also a "race" issue?


Hopefully i'll be writing soon to tell you my opinions, but I'd rather they be "informed" opinions, so I'll wait until I research and write my paper!


God bless you all.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!



The older I get, the more I realize the importance of fathers in children's (and adults!) lives. I live in a neighborhood where most kids may know who their dad is but they really don't know them. Many of their fathers have struggled with not knowing their own fathers and in turn do not know how to be fathers so they become the same absent fathers that their own fathers were. I have seen children whom are growing into young men in desperate need of strong, Godly dads. I have seen young ladies who are growing up in desperate need of dads who will tell them their value does not come from how they look or act but from the inside. I truly believe that my neighborhood and most poor or desolate neighborhoods would be completely changed if only their families were restored and fathers would take responsibility and become the dads that God created them to be.
I say all that to say that I have become fully aware of how amazing my father is and how blessed I am to have someone like him in my life. See I know my dad loves me. He loves me not just because he says it, but his actions have always shown it as well. He loves me because he has always provided for me. He is the hardest working man I have ever met. And, because of that hard-work ethic, I in turn have learned that I must be a hard-worker. He loves me because he always spent time with me. Even now, every time I come home, he wants to spend time with me. I cannot tell you what it means to me to know that he wants to go hiking or floating. I know often I am super busy and I don't get to do all the things that he wants to do, but I do hope he knows that it means everything to me to know that he wants to do something in the first place. He love me because he disciplined me. Yes, I know crazy huh? Instead of sleeping in late, he wanted us to get up and pick up chickens. I am the person I am today because he and my mom took the time to discipline me. He loves me because he taught me about Jesus. We were Sunday morning, night and Wednesday night church goers when I was younger. But that wasn't all. He showed us who God was by his actions, by loving, caring, guiding, and teaching us.


I have always been kind of a daddy's girl. I think of my dad as my hero. For no matter what happens, I know that he will ALWAYS have my back. I know that no matter what I do, he'll always love me. He is the best man I know. I pray that someday I marry a man like him. A man that loves God, his wife, and his children more than anything else and puts them above his job or hobbies or anything else. My daddy is the best!


My prayer is that more children in this world will be able to experience the love of their earthly fathers. For those in my neighborhood who aren't able to experience that love, I pray daily that they would be able to realize and accept the love of our heavenly Father. Often kids think of "father" in a negative connotation, but I hope that they understand that there is a father that will NEVER forsake them and will love them unconditionally. Psalm 68:5 says, "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling." Although not everyone is blessed to have such an amazing earthly dad as I have, they are blessed because each and everyone one of us have a Heavenly dad, and that dad is God and He desires a relationship and a fellowship with each of us! Praise you God!


And Dad, I love you! Thanks for everything you do for me! You are definitely the BEST!





God bless you all!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Franklin D. Roosevelt was the 32nd president of the U.S. He served from 1933-1945 during the Great Depression.


When elected for his second term, he stated this during his Inaugural Address:

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."


My question to all you is this, How have we progressed? If we were to give this "test" a grade, what grade would you give our nation?



God bless you all!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Imagine


IMAGINE a country where health care aides can't afford health insurance. Where food industry workers may depend on food banks to help feed their children. Where childcare teachers don't make enough to save for their own children's education.

IMAGINE a country where the economy is increasingly not working for working people.

IMAGINE a country where the minimum wage has become a poverty wage instead of an antipoverty wage. The minimum wage has lagged so far behind necessities that keeping a roof over head is a constant struggle and family health coverage costs more than the entire annual income of a full-time worker at minimum wage.

IMAGINE a country where childcare workers, mostly women, typically make about as much parking lot attendants and much less than animal trainers. Out of 801 occupations surveyed by the labor department, only 18 have lower median wages than childcare workers.

IMAGINE a country whose school system is rigged in favor of the already privileged, with lower caste children tracked by race and income into the most deficient and demoralizing schools and classrooms. Public schools budgets are heavily determined by private property taxes, allowing higher income districts to spend more than poorer ones. In the state with the largest gap, state and local spending per pupil in districts with the lowest child poverty rates was $2,280 greater in 2003 than districts with the highest child poverty rates. The difference amounts to about $912,000 for a typical elementary school of 400 students-money that could be used for needed teachers, books, computers, and other resources.

IMAGINE a country where the typical white household has about six times the net worth-including home equity-as the typical household of color.

IMAGINE a country that doesn't count you as unemployed just because you're unemployed. To be counted in the official unemployment rate you must be actively searching for work. The government doesn't count people as "unemployed" if they are so discouraged from long and fruitless job searches they have given up looking. It doesn't count as "unemployed" those who couldn't look for work in the past month because they have no childcare, for example. If you need a full-time job, but you're working part-time-whether 1 hour or 34 hours weekly- because that's all you can find, you're counted as employed.

IMAGINE a country where prison is a growth industry. The government spends more than $25,000 per year to keep someone in prison, while cutting cost-effective programs of education, employment, community development, and mental illness and addiction treatment to keep them out. (Insane huh?)

IMAGINE a country that imprisons black people at a rate much higher than South Africa did under the apartheid. One out of eight black men ages 25-29 are incarcerated in prisons or jails compared to one out of 59 white men in the same age group. The nation's bureau of justice statistics reports that incarceration rates for black men of all ages were five to seven times greater than those for white men in the same age groups. Incarceration rates for black women are generally four times higher than for white men.

IMAGINE a country where health care is managed for healthy profit. In many countries, health care is a right. But this nation has health care for some instead of health care for all. Nearly one out of five people under the age of 65 has no health insurance, public or private. Health care is literally a matter of life or death.

What country is this?
It's the United States.

Martin Luther King Jr states: "A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside; but...one day the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be beaten and robbed as they make their journey through life...

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth...There is nothing but a lack of social vision to prevent us from paying an adequate wage to every American citizen whether he be a hospital worker, laundry worker, maid or day laborer."


(adapted from "Imagine a Country-2006" by Holly Sklar)

God bless you ALL!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Softball

Softball season is now in full force! I am coachhing a team in the 11-14 yr old league and it has been interesting to say the least. Our record right now is 2-3-1. 2 of our losses was by only 1 run. Our team consists of two fourth graders all the way up to three eighth graders...very much a variety of skill, attitudes and maturity levels. We have two wonderful captains, Kanika and Alesha. Kanika is our emotional captain. She has stepped up so much over the past two years. Its amazing to see how much sports can teach someone about life. She has become a leader in every sense of the word and I am daily amazed at how great of a captain she is. Our other captain, Alesha, is our skills leader. She is, in my opinoin, our most skilled athlete. Without her on the field, we have to fill a huge void. Not only that, she is slowly becoming our "spiritual" leader as well. She, like us coaches, hold the girls to a high standard and always wants to go to God in prayer before and during the game.

As I have begun coaching for my second year, I have found that just important as coaching is learning. I feel the best leaders are also not afraid to learn alongside those that he or she is teaching. And oh how I have learned! One of our girls, as I was griping at her for her very slow response time, looked at me and said, "Shasta its just a game!" Yikes! How right she was. Its during those times I shut my mouth and I become more of an encourager and realize that really is my job here. Of course, I want them to get better and become really good softball players, but the truth is, most of them are just out there to have fun and be with their friends. My goal is to teach them life through this sport. My goal is to provide them with a fun, safe enviornment where they can learn but at the same time enjoy learning. My goal is to teach them about Jesus through the use of something as simple as a ball and glove or as difficult as losing a heartbreaker in extra innings.

As I continue my journey here at breakthrough, I find myself more and more becoming a spectator as much as a teacher. I have found myself more willing to learn and be taught even if it is by an eleven year-old girl. I also find myself falling more in love with Jesus as I fall more in love with his children. These girls, these girls are nothing short of amazing.

I leave you with a story, one of the many wonderful stories I can tell about my beautiful kids. I know that many people think I'm working with these heathen urban city kids or something. They ask me, how hard is it? Are they extremely disrespectful or mean? All these immediate stereotypes that people have when they see a black kid living in the hood. But, its the total opposite for my kids. Of course, they can be disrespectful at times. Of course, its not always easy. But the hard times are the best times, for its in those moments we both come out better people. So here is my story:

We decided to start one our seventh graders at pitcher. She is a good pitcher, has a long way to go, but pretty consistent and starting to get some speed as well. The only problem is, she has little emotional capacity. After walking her first batter and having 3 balls on the next, she told me, I QUIT! I want to go back to second base. I was extremely frustrated that she was quitting so easily but knew that trying to push her to continue pitching would be pointless. So, we called one of our other pitchers to pitch. The seventh grader was frustrated, as she moved to second base, I could tell she was gonna be distracted the rest of the inning. After telling her repeatedly to pay attention, the inning came to a close and I told her I was pulling her out because of her attitude. She got very upset, told me she wasn't a part of the team anymore and was very mad at me. She proclaimed she had no attitude and that she just didn't want to pitch. I calmly (for once ha!) told her that I was frustrated with her and that she needed to go sit on the bench. Well, for two innings, she grumbled and griped. I finally pulled her over to the side. It was time for some life lessons! I explained to her that her m.o. was to quit anytime things got hard. Our other pitcher had already walked about 4 girls in those two innings, yet she wasnt giving up. I told her she couldn't pitch strikes if she didn't pitch. I also explained to her how she is letting the team down by not cheering and encouraging them. I told her if I seen improvement in her, I would give her a second chance. That second chance would not be mitigated by messing up though! If she messed up, had an error or two, that was fine! She actually listened, said she would try better and went and sat down. For the rest of that inning and the next, she cheered, encouraged and actually told a couple of girls what they were doing wrong and how they could improve. It was interesting to see the complete change. I finally let her play the last inning and half. She did great! She didn't pitch of course but she hustled, cheered and tried her best. After the game, I had two last girls to take home, her and another girl who lived far away. I decided to take the far away girl home first since the 7th grader lived really close to me and the center. As we dropped off the far away girl, I asked her if she wanted some dinner (it was 9 pm and she hadn't eaten since school), McDonalds was right across the street. We stopped through the drive thru. As we drove home (the 15 minutes it took) she explained exactly why she acted the way she did. She didn't have to, I asked for no explanations and wasn't even going to bring it up. But, she told me all about how she was already upset before the game and other stuff that I didn't even realize was bothering her. Although I told her no one has an excuse for their poor attitudes, at the same time, I really appreciated how she realized her behavior was bad and chose to change it. It was a great 15 minutes to sit and just listen and talk to her. I feel like both of us learned a lot that night. I dropped her off at her house, McDonald's bag in hand, she ran up the stairs. I, waiting for the door to open as usual, was surprised when she ran back to the car. I rolled down the window, and said, "What's up?" She smiled and said, "thanks for the McDonalds!" And then ran back up the stairs and into the house!

In that moment...I was grateful for long, tiring nights. In that moment, I was thankful that God had put me in such an amazing place as breakthrough with such amazing kids as mine.

Softball is wonderful and I hope that I continue to remember my purpose as a coach and continue to enjoy and help my kids enjoy it!

God bless you all!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Neighbors

I'm sitting here with a restless heart tonight. Not only restless, but pained as well. I would go into details, but lets just say there is a lot of fighting going on between some of our neighbors. People have gotten hurt, including a kid in our program. And my heart is broken. I am in prayer for my neighbors and I wonder, what else can we do? I pour my heart into these kids, I pray over them, I encourage, discipline and love them daily. Yet, when violence and fighting between families happen, it reminds me of how much more needs to be done.

I really have little to say beyond the fact that this is the lives my children live in every day. They deal with things that would break most people, yet God gives them the strength to get through it everyday. Its interesting to me when people tell me they are "proud of me" or whatever. Although I thank anyone who is "proud" of me at the same time, it breaks my heart to know that so many people in this world are oblivious to the pain that so many children live through everyday. So many people don't care, they are too worried about their own lives to realize that God has truly called us to serve the poor, love the poor and take care of the poor. See, I know that I was born into a loving family, privileged to live in a community that believed in me and had many opportunities that most do not get...all that for one reason, one reason at all...to give back what I have been given.

So as the fighting rages on, I grab one of our girls, pull her close and tell her how much she means to me and how much God loves her. I remind her that no matter what, she has got to walk away, for I truly believe that God has a bright future for her and her little brothers. I made her promise me she'd walk away...no matter what. And then I pray, for protection for her and her family, for my child with the stab wound, for the other family members who have been jumped and I pray that this problem will be resolved and that someday, they would recognize that God loves and cherishes them and that He desires a different life for all of them...a life full of hope and joy.

It makes me laugh when people ask me what I do. I wonder, how do I explain it? How can I explain something that no one who doesn't live here or work in this sort of job can understand? How can I say that sometimes I come home and feel so broken and in despair that I wonder how I can go to work the next day? How can I say that there are times when I see the real potential of a child and just want to grab a hold of it and bottle it, knowing that more likely than not, they aren't able to live up to that potential? How can I explain the joy I have when I see children actually be children, laughing and playing without having the weight of the world on their shoulders? And I don't, I just say something lame like I work in a non profit with urban youth. Thats a lot easier to say and it makes people a lot more comfortable.

So, I sit here. Praying. Believing that God is in control. And knowing that my work is never in void and that as long as I live, I will continue to pour my heart and life into these children, knowing that is exactly what God created me to do. Praise God!


God bless you all!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Current Events

I'm thinking about teaching a current events class to 6th-8th graders this summer... any great, creative, fun ideas for me? The kids get bored easily so it has to be more than "read the newspaper" or something like that...

Thanks!



God bless you all!

Monday, May 11, 2009

My Decision

In September, I am moving back to the south, not sure exactly where, just closer to the fam.


That is all...


God bless you all!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Creation and Grace

We get so preoccupied with ourselves, the words we speak, the plans and projects we conceive, that we become immune to the glory of creation. We barely notice the cloud passing over the moon or the dewdrops clinging to the rose petals. The ice on the pond comes and goes. The wild blackberries ripen and wither. The blackbird nests outside our window, but we don't see her. We avoid the cold and the heat. We refrigerate ourselves in the summer and entomb ourselves in plastic in winter. We rake up ever leaf as fast as it falls.

OUR WORLD IS SATURATED WITH GRACE, and the lurky presence of God is revealed not only in spirit but in matter-in a deer leaping across a meadow, in the flight of an eagle, in fire and water, in a rainbow after a summer storm, in a gentle doe streaking through a forest, in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, in a child licking a chocolate ice cream cone, in a woman with windblown hair. God intended for us to discover His loving presence in the world around us.

For the eyes of faith, every created thing manifests the grace and providence of Abba.
(Written in "The Ragamuffin Gospel" by Brennan Manning)


How often do we just stop and look around us at the amazement and beauty of creation?

"So mighty is his power, so great is his strength that no one fails to answer" (Isaiah 40:26).

The older I get, the more amazed I am at how fast time seems to fly by. Yet, there are nights when I go to bed realizing that I never stopped once, all day. I never really took in all the beauty around me. I never grasped God's grace and love that were all around me that day.

So, I pray this prayer...and I not only pray it for myself, but I pray it for all of you:

"Dear Lord, grant me the grace of wonder. Surprise me, amaze me, awe me in every crevice of your universe. Delight me to see how your Christ plays in ten thousand places, lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his, to the father through the features of men's faces. Each day enrapture me with your marvelous things without number. I do not ask to see the reason for it all; I ask only to share the wonder of it all." (Rabbi Joshua Abraham Heschel)

God bless you all!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Preschool



For most of you who do not know, Breakthrough has a "beginner's program" for kids 3-5 yrs old. Our Beginner's coordinator, Lisa, does a wonderful job leading the program and students really enjoy it. This year is no exception. The class is doing a series called "student of the week" where each week, a child is picked to be the student of the week and they get their "biography" posted on a poster on the wall for everyone to see. My favorite part of it, though, is that their mom (0r dad) comes in at the end of the week to share with the students. They may read a book, tell a story, or just answer questions while they are there.

My heart was really warmed today as I saw the students gather around the mom of one of our students. This mom is very poor and young, most people just pass her by on the street. Yet, in that moment, as all the children looked up at her, she was in the spotlight. She smiled as she answered questions, and you could see the joy it brought her that these students really cared what she had to say. I truly believe she felt valued and loved in that moment.

See, this is way more than a preschool. Breakthrough is way more than just an afterschool program. This is an organization that seeks to EMPOWER individuals. That sees past the faults and problems and sees the humanity in each of us. This is a place where we desire to show love to the unlovable and grace to all who walk through our doors. And thats the kind of organization that I love and am proud to be a part of!



God bless you all!

Friday, April 24, 2009

God's Love for us!

For one of my classes, we had to buy/check out a couple of books for "references" for our research paper. I decided to buy cuz I love to read and so I figured, why not? I like to have as many books as I can. My dream is to someday have a "library" in my house! (wait a tangent...back to the reason for writing this) So, I bought the book "3:16, the Numbers of Hope" by Max Lucado. Little did I know it was a book "for teens." Actually, though, I figured, good deal, I can give it to one of my high school students after I write my research paper. Although it's for teens, I decided to read it anyways, just to make sure it was a book they would even want to read. And, man...it is a great book!

So, the book breaks down each part of John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." What a great verse, I mean, can you think of any other verse that people, young and old, christian or non-christian, who can say a verse from memorization better than this one? It was the first verse I ever memorized and I know that a lot of the kids I work with whom don't even really go to church can recite this verse.

Lucado is a great writer, in my opinion. I have read some of his other books and I usually enjoy them. As I am reading this book, there has been one chapter that really stuck out to me, even brought me to tears as I was reading it. Its always wonderful to be reminded of just how much God loves us, and Lucado does a great job of putting into words this great love.

This love...this love that isn't earned but instead given freely, with no strings attached. Lucado says, "Your goodness can't win God's love. Nor can your badness lose it." Deuteronomy 7:7-8 (MSG) says "God wasn't attracted to you and didn't choose you because you were big and important-the fact is, there was almost nothing to you. He did it out of sheer love, keeping the promise he made to your ancestors." WOW! Now that is powerful! How often do we love someone, only because they treat us well or are "lovable"? Yet, God loves us even though we are pretty much unloveable. I know that I mess up all the time, more than I care to admit, yet He still loves me. Lucado says, "God will not let you go. He has handcuffed himself to you. And he owns the only key. You need not win his love. You already have it. And since you can't win it, you can't lose it either."

God's love for us is amazing. Beyond anything we can even understand. I do such injustice when I do not tell my children this daily. I do such injustice by not living in the freedom and fullness of His love.

I will leave you with this final thought...Ephesians 3:18-19 (MSG): "Take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God." Others undervalue you. God claims you. Let the ultimate voice of the universe say, "You're still a part of my plan." Your life has meaning! No matter how simple it seems, God put you on this earth for a reason! And no matter what, He doesn't give up on you. He's holding on to you, and His love is the best!

His love gives us hope...REACH OUT AND EXPERIENCE IT!

God bless you all!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Now I'm sure some of you know it is Earth Day but for a lot of you out there, I'm doubting you know or really care that it is. Wait a minute!!!!! This IS an important day. Today is a day not only to celebrate God's creation (and what beautiful creation it is!) but also to be reminded of how wasteful and harmful to the environment we really are. How often do you recycle? How often do you reuse? How often do you take paper over plastic or better yet, bring your own bag? How often do you buy organic foods and products? Do you even know what fair-trade is?

I hope as you go out through your day today, you take some time to go outside, enjoy the fresh air...maybe plant a garden or walk/bike to work and remember, God calls us all to take care of the world around us, even the smallest things can make a difference!


Oh and check out this "green tips" if you need help getting started:
Green Tips

God bless you all!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Read this article!

I was reading this article today and was intrigued by his argument. This guy, Victor Harbison, is a teacher at Gage High School, a low performing school that serves mainly students living in poverty.
He makes a case against magnet schools, a very good case in my opinion. Hey government, listen up!: http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/10/magnet-schools-more-harm-than-good/

I'd love to hear any comments!

God bless you all!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wayyy too long

Hello everyone! I know it's been forever since I've written, I think the longest i've went without writing on my blog.


The truth is, i've been way busy. I am now taking two grad school classes, working 40+ hours 6 days a week, and in my spare time praying/thinking about the future.


Anyways, I, from the prompting of my brother, have been listening and studying Chip Ingram's r12 Christian series. I would highly recommend any and everyone checking it out at : http://www.livingontheedge.org/r12/


Hope you enjoy it! Oh and also, if you get a chance, listen to my kids' dreams on Arloa's blog: http://arloasutter.blogspot.com/2009/03/big-dreams.html#links


Finally, I'm headed to Arkansas today! YAY!!!! Last month, I got to go home for a couple of days, here's a picture of Jeremy and I at the marina:




God bless you all!

Friday, March 20, 2009

The big game

Well, last week we played the number one team (orange) in the league. They beat us by 24 points. Tonight, the tournament started. We found out that we had to play the orange team again. The kids were beyond disappointed but I told them our game plan: to have fun. I told them to get out there, play hard and just have fun.

As the game got started, I realized quickly that are kids meant business. They were playin hard defense, goin for every loose ball, and just playin their hearts out. End of the first quarter, the circled around me and I said, look up at the scoreboard guys...4-4. I said, we can do this. I didn't believe it for a second but they sure did. I said, lets keep stickin our man, keep playin hard. At half time, the score was 6-6. It was CRAZY how well we were playin. I looked at my assistant coach and said, is this REALLY happening? The other team's coach didn't even know what hit 'em.

Second half got under way, end of the third quarter, 8-8. I know it wasn't a huge scorin game but they were just playin such good defense, that neither team could score. The last quarter, I pulled 'em around me, I told them lets go. This is it guys, we can win this, we can WIN this. This is our time...step it up. Orange started out with the ball, our bench and fans started cheering, DEFENSE, DEFENSE. That pumped 'em up. We scored. We were up for the first time ever. Ever. You should have seen them, they started jumping up and down....they were so pumped up. They scored, 10-10. Then they scored again a few minutes later, 12-10. Then we scored, 12-12. 8 seconds to go, tied up. They drove down, the ref calls a BOGUS call. He called a foul that I swear on my life that wasn't a foul. 5 seconds to go, the guy made 1 out of 2. 13-12. 5 seconds to go, I call a time out. Set up a play. Eric was to catch it at half court, take it in for the shot. He catches it, takes two dribbles, Devin was open, made the pass...Devin goes up, 3-2-1...and he misses it! We lose 13-12.

I tell you what, though. I've never been so proud of my kids. They played so hard, they deserve every second of that game. Oh how I wish they would have won, but I told 'em, they did more than I could have ever asked for. I wanted it so bad but they wanted it more. It was a crazy game but I seen so much improvement.

We play in the consolation game tomorrow. We lost to the team we play by 2 last time, so I'm hopin we pull it out tomorrow. Pray for us, I hope we end with a win.

Here is our team photo:

Front (R-L): Joshua, Jermaine, Jesse, Devin, Me. Back: Dave, Davevontay, Taquan, Eric, Cameron, and Mariah.

God bless you all!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Spring is near

Yesterday and today, I woke up to a sound I haven't heard in almost 6 months...birds chirping! It's 65 degrees outside and absolutely lovely.

Oh how I love warm weather!

God bless you all!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Redecorating

So, Andrea and I decided that we would redecorate our kitchen. Now it isn't completely done, but here are some pictures of what we've done so far (by the way, we aren't pros lol).













So yeah, our colors are bright blue, lime green and red. We wanted to do something different. In other news, this week has been great. Our kids are taking the ISAT test this week (national standards test) and are pretty wore out when they actually get to BT. Pray for them as they have it all next week as well.




Here is a picture of a typical day this week:







LOL....God bless you all.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

After 2 years...

Today was a big day for my basketball team. After two years, we finally won a game! We played hard, and came out 12-9 victors! Yes, 12-9. :)


Congrats to Taquan, Devin, Eric, Cameron, Jesse, Davevontay, Mariah, Joshua, and Germaine!



Devin- the playmaker

Eric-the big man/beast :)




Davevontay-the hustler



Germaine-the all-around guy



Joshua-the heart


I wish I had pics of Cameron (rebound king), Taquan (the super star), Jesse (the defender), and Mariah (our secret weapon), but I will take a team picture soon!


Oh yeah, and Jesse says we won because of our new lucky charm...the blue dolphin (why? i have no idea!):






God bless you all!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

What I've learned since Moving to Chicago

So, since it has been almost 18 months since I moved to Chicago, I decided to write a post about what I've learned since moving to Chicago....It's a lot, so don't be surprised if this is part one of a mini-series :)

1. Snow is probably the worst thing on earth. I hate it.

2. Poverty is neither a black nor a white thing.

3. Saying hi to strangers is not weird, actually its expected!

4. 13 hours away from my family is too far!

5. God is PROVIDER

6. I've learned what direction east, north, west, and south really is! :) I can get around in a big city, now that is something I NEVER thought I'd be able to do!

7. Christ can be found in the angry, crying, fist-balled, snot-nosed child more readily at times than the angelic, smiling child

8. I can get by on very little income and think the greatest blessings are in the smallest acts of kindness

9. It is in the trials that I find myself closest to God

10. I know now that I want to settle down somewhere WARM!

11. Ministry is the hardest job in the world yet the most fulfilling

12. The true meaning of sabbath

13. Living in community is really hard

14. Racism is still very real today

15. I will never forgive myself for not being there when my dog died

16. My brother is still the coolest guy I know, even when he is a big dork!

17.You can learn so much from a child: innocence, joy, forgiveness...true examples of how we must enter the kingdom of Christ

18. Chips should be added as their own separate food group. Hot flammins should be the number one chip in America by now.

19. Coaching basketball is my favorite thing on earth to do.

20. I can get around without a car if needed! Public transportation is a GREAT thing

21. When you commit to full-time ministry, the Devil hates it and tries everything he can to destroy you and your passion.

22. Nieces really are one of the most wonderful gifts of all!

23. There are a few things that you must have to survive a chicago winter some of these include, a shovel, a pair of waterproof, warm boots, big fluffy warm gloves (none of those mittens u wear in Arkansas will do), and salt. Lots and lots of salt. :)

24. I am more addicted to coffee than I ever realized before!

25. I've learned how to stop a fight without getting hit myself...lol

26. Diversity is wonderful and should be celebrated at all costs

27. I am desperately in need of Christ's strength at all times, I am so weak without him!

28. Laughter is vital to a person's health! I need laughter!!!!

29. I know what it's like now to walk into a place and be the minority & how daunting it can be.

30. I will never regret coming here, living in this community, learning and growing with Christ, but I really doubt that Chicago is the place I will settle down in! Yet, I have learned that God will call us to where we are needed most, not where we necessarily dream to be. And, I hope I always put his will over mine, for where his will is, I want mine to be there too!


God bless you all!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Trusting

Anyone ever have a hard time with this whole "trusting God" thing? I am. Its funny, though, because I have ABSOLUTELY no reason not to trust Him. He shows Himself faithful every time I need it. Yet I fall back into the same pattern so often. Sometimes when everything around you looks so bleak, its hard to trust. Sometimes when I feel so defeated, I have to remind myself why I am here and that the devil is a liar!

What does it really mean to just "give it to God?" How do you do it? People say that cliche thing all the time...just give it to God and everything will be okay. And yeah, I pray I surrender to you Jesus, I pray and say ok God i'm giving you this situation...yet what does that really mean? Any ideas?

Pray for me! School brings even more stress and with basketball on Saturdays, I have little time to rest anymore. Even when I do rest, my mind is still racing...so pray for me. That I will find more outlets to relieve my frustration and for more ways in which I can rest. Pray that I will seek rest in God and be poured into.

God bless you all!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Leadership

"Leadership is action, not position."

What a wonderful, true quote. A quote that reminds me that no matter your title, we can all be leaders. Leaders in our job place, leaders in our community, leaders in our family, leaders everywhere and anywhere.


God bless you all.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Relentless Faith

A few weeks ago Jeremy told me about a podcast by Pastor Creflo Dollar. I was listening to his podcast this morning, a message called Relentless Faith.

Here is the gist of the message:

Can God trust you to be faithful?

We all know that God is faithful, the same today, tomorrow, and forever. But, can God really trust us to be faithful?

All the devil wants to do is get you to quit. I know this all too well. Lately, I've wanted to quit. I just want to leave this ministry and go find a really good paying job. Sometimes, I want to quit and say these kids aren't ever going to change.

Yet God calls us to faithfulness. A life of faith requires faithfulness. Scripture says a faithful man who can find? Faithful means dependable, trustworthy, true, steadfast, solid, loyal, reliable, sturdy, trusting, the same, tried and true.

Can God trust you to do what you were last told you to do? Especially in times of trouble...faithful even in the midst of struggles?

A faithful man shall abound in blessings. Its hard not to be blessed when you're faithful.

Don't quit. When times get hard, when everything seems to be going wrong, when those that you are pouring into fall down, don't quit.

I want to be not just a person of faith, but a faithful person.

Can God trust you to be faithful? One of the things Pastor Dollar said was, "everyone seems to be out of the closet except Christians." Meaning so many Christians hide their faith. So many quit when times get rough.

God calls us to faithfulness. Honestly, thats the only thing we can really give God...faithfulness.


"It is by the test of your faith that develops perseverance. Perseverance's must finish it's work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything....blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." James 1:2-4, 12.

Don't quit. Be faithful.


God bless you all!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Basketball-Playing and Coaching

Last night my team, the Big Ticket, played in their 5th game. We are 4-1 after last night. Every game we've won has been by a margin of at least 30 points. I told my friend, Robin, (who comes to my games to watch) last night that I think my blood runs orange. :) I just love playin and coachin and watchin basketball that much. I did, though, jam my finger last night so it's pretty swollen and blue this morning...lets hope it goes down before the next game!

In other news, my kids had their first basketball game last weekend. We lost by 2 points in OVERTIME! I didn't go (I was skiing with Josh) but man do I wish I could have seen it! We play this weekend and I'm hoping that we get our first victory. The team we play this weekend scored 22 of his team's 24 points last weekend in their game. Lets hope I can get my kids to play defense! I soooo hope we win!

In other news...it's Valentine's Day tomorrow. I hope that all of you do something wonderful for your significant others. I know it's just a silly hallmark created day, but I think the message behind it is pretty great-celebrate the one you love. Yes, of course, we should do it more often, but the least you can do is one day a year!

God bless you all!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Family Time

On Wednesday my cousin, Josh, flew up to Chicago from Florida. It was the first time I have seen him in 6 years. Thats right, 6 years.
He stayed for four days. It was great to see him. It was great to catch up, learn all about his life now and just feel like family again.

Thursday and Friday we went downtown. Saw the Navy Pier, Grant Park, and the Sears Tower. Walked the Magnificent Mile, ate lots and lots of food, and saw a Bogota, which I believe was his favorite thing of the whole time!

Saturday was by far my favorite day though. We went skiing in Lake Geneva, WI and had a blast! I skied the BLACK SLOPES and didn't fall. Yes, I definitely fell a lot, but Josh kept teaching me and encouraging me to try, try and try again. And, I went on the black slope twice and didn't fall either time! By the end, I felt like a pro. :)

He left tonight. I was sad to see him go and I hope that it isn't another 6 years before I see him again.

Here is a few pictures from our ski trip:


on the ski lift!


half the black slope half the blue slope


Josh wore out after a long day of skiing
God bless you all!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Courage

Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow." -Mary Anne Radmacher


I love this quote.

As I have been studying for my first class, I have already learned a lot. One thing we did last week was talk about our strengths and weaknesses.

I think one of my biggest weaknesses can be that I do not always have the courage to believe in a person or system's ability to change. So often, I see kids fall into the same destructive patterns that their family members have done or that everyone around them is doing. It breaks my heart to see children with so much potential throw it all away. I often think courage has to be this huge step of faith or this "roar" that all can be solved.

Yet, I this quote reminds me that courage can be a quiet, persistent and consistent voice. A gentle reminder to never give up. A gentle reminder that God is a big God and that He can do anything.

And I am learning to look and celebrate the small victories instead of focusing only on the "big picture." There are small victories and small changes that my kids are doing daily, and yet I so often overlook them. I must celebrate these small changes. I must, when I feel as though I have failed, be courageous enough to say at the end of the day, I will try again tomorrow.

Like I have said before, sometimes faith is putting one foot in front of the other, walking intent on not tripping. I am seeking to have faith in people's ability to change and grow, and know that even if they do trip, God can pick them up, dust them off, and I will try again the next day.

Courage.

Celebrate the small victories and changes you see in those around you. Have the courage to look back at the end of a hard day and say I will try again tomorrow.

God bless you all.


Monday, January 26, 2009

its late....

I can't sleep. I've got so many thoughts running through my head so I decided to write.


Pain.

Pain to me is looking into a 13 year old's eyes and seeing hopelessness. Pain to me is hearing a 3rd grader say they have no dream.

Pain.

Pain to me is hearing a 6th grader struggle to read 4 letter words. Pain to me is watching someone who has so much potential throw it all away to be "cool".

Pain.

Pain to me is wondering if a child ate this evening. Pain to me is seeing defeat in a five year old boy.

This is the pain I experience.

Hope.

Hope is seeing the good in this neighborhood.

Hope is going to work each day with a smile on my face.

Hope is telling a child for the 16th time they can and will do better.

Hope.

Jesus is the only hope I cling to. This world has nothing to offer me. I believe in Christ's power to restore. I believe in Christ's power to heal.

I believe.

I believe that someday, Deangelo will be a famous writer.

I believe that someday, Lela will be a doctor.

I believe that someday, Jarell will make a difference in his community.

I believe that someday, Naima will be the 1st female president of the United States.

I believe.


We all must have pain, so we can experience true hope. We all must have hope in something we passionately believe in.

Pain. Hope. Believe.




God bless you all.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Strengths and Weaknesses

Hey everyone.

I finished my first paper for grad school. I wrote it on homelessness and the barriers homeless people must face in attempting to overcome this problem.

I was reading up on my next assignment. It is a lot different than my first paper. This paper must be about my strengths and weaknesses. I am to write about three different categories: attitudes/values, skills, and knowledge and my strengths and weaknesses of each.

So here's my question...can you give me some ideas? I know there are some areas i'm stronger in and definitely some areas I need to work on...but in your honest opinion...what are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? How can I improve as an employee, as a believer, and as a friend?


Thanks for your honesty!

Oh. and happy Sunday. Hope you all spend it resting!

God bless you all!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Martin Luther King Jr

Today I celebrated MLK day by volunteering at a aids/hiv recovery home. It was amazing to hear the residents talk about their story and life. One of the people who work at the home asked us a question...what does celebrating MLK mean to you?

What did MLK's life mean to me...a white woman from the south? Wow. Martin Luther King Jr's was a pioneer in the civil rights movement. Yet, his life, his ideas, weren't just for blacks. They were for everyone of us. His life taught me many things. He taught me that if you truly believe in something, you'll do anything, even to the point of giving your life to the cause. He taught me there is something in nonviolence. So many people experience violence, hatred, and shame because they are "different" than others. Yet, he talked about equality and love. MLK taught me that racial reconciliation is something that everyone, especially believers, should strive for everyday. He taught me the importance of believing in something, of having a dream, and standing up for what you believe in.

Martin Luther King Jr should be celebrated. Yet, we shouldn't ever forget that although we've come a long way, we should continue on this journey and not forget his dream...

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true."

I pray that all of us move towards seeking to understand those that are different than us. I pray that we all find something we can believe in and stand up for it no matter the opposition. Most imporantly, though, I pray that we strive to love, for love is the thing that binds us all together. It is the greatest commandment, and without love we are nothing.

God bless you all!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sun

The sun is shining today. I think that means the temperature is above zero. Yay.

Oh the small things that make us smile.

God bless you all!

Friday, January 16, 2009

The glory days? NOT

A friend of mine convinced me to join a city league basketball team. Last night was our first game. It was the first time I have played a real game since college and the first time I've tried to play with my bum knee. Not exactly the kind of start I would like to have had. Yet, I got out there and tried to play the best I could. Lets just say the emphasis is put on tried.

I realized I am not the young, fit basketball player I once was. Reliving the glory days I was not.

3 months of this? Hmm...maybe I should start practicing!


God bless you all!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Grad School and PRAYERS!

Yesterday was my first official day of grad school. I am in the MA in Human Services program at Liberty University. Although I am very nervous about returning to school, I am also very excited to learn more about the Human Services field, especially in exploring more about specific special populations like the poor and homeless.

I have to read A LOT and write A LOT of papers. So, yeah, I'm hoping I don't get too stressed out. I really believe this is where God wants me at this time in my life, so I am going to try to take it all in stride.

I do have a couple of prayer requests. Prayer request one is that I am able to still find time to relax and enjoy some downtime. Now that basketball has started and I've started grad school, I'll be a lot busier with a lot less time to find some "life-giving" activities. The very last thing I want is to be moody and irritable at work because I'm not balancing my time well.

Prayer request two is that the weather clears up soon. We have a TON of snow on the ground and are expecting more tonight and tomorrow. Also, the temperature is in the single digits with it feeling wayyyy below zero. Not only does that mean hazardous driving, but most importantly, there are a lot of people here in Chicago who have no homes or homes with little or no heat. Please pray that everyone will find a warm place to sleep and warm food in their bodies. Also pray that all of us at BT are safe was we drive kids home after program each night and as some of us travel to and from work everyday.

My last prayer request is about safety. Now as most of you may know, I live in what some people call the 'hood. Although there have been very few times when I've felt a little uneasy while walking around my neighborhood, I still am aware that bad things can and do happen around here. Don't get me wrong, I love where I live and my neighbors are wonderful, they always help my shovel my car out or say hi when I am walking to work. Also, I love it that I live where the kids I serve live. I say all that to say that there have been a few people I know from or related to BT who have been beat up or mugged these past few months. They all have been males and all have happened in the same area (which is an area we have all been warned to steer clear of). One has been mugged 3 times...he has become a target for a few guys and they continue to wait for him to steal from him. Please pray for these 3 men. They are all here because they love Jesus and want to serve this community. Please pray that God will give them strength and that they will not be discouraged, but they will know that the testing of their faith produces perseverance. Also pray for safety for all of us. I have learned that there is no safer place than in doing God's will, and I know that no matter what, God is always with me. Yet, I also know the power of prayer and hope that everyone who reads this blog will be on their knees praying everyday!

Anyways, life is great. I find that I love my children more and more every single day. They remind me all the time of just why I have chosen this as my profession. And although I hate this weather with a passion, I am grateful to be here in Chicago at just a time as this.

God bless you all!