Thursday, July 11, 2013

We're Married + A New Blog

Just a quick note to let you know...we're moving! In more ways than one. 
First of all, Bennett and I are married! Secondly, we're moving to a new blog - And thirdly, we're moving to Seoul, South just 9 days! Come check out our new blog to follow our adventures there. :)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

For Freedom - Thoughts on el Dia del Peaton

Last Sunday was one of those Bolivian holidays that just makes me smile. There is a holiday for just about everything and everyone here...Oh sure, there are the big ones - Christmas, Easter, New Years, Mother's Day - but the Bolivian calendar is also marked with holidays like "Student's Day" (a federal holiday that we actually get off of school!), "Children's Day" (where parents give their children gifts - like a second birthday if you ask me!), Carnaval (celebrated with city-wide water balloon and water gun fights + families wandering the streets wearing ponchos over their wild costumes = Fun!), days for specific professions,  and some creepier holidays like "The Day of Skulls" (Yikes! We don't get that one off of school.). The Bolivian government has also been known to plan spur of the moment federal holidays to appease its working class (e.g. Last year in response to the doctors and transportation sector protests, the government declared a national holiday and mandated that schools close for the day...THAT was a day of celebration! Teacher's love days off as much as our students do. Maybe more!).

Anyway, like I said, last Sunday was one of those Bolivian holidays that make me smile - Day of the Pedestrian. I love this holiday! On Pedestrian's Day, transportation stops completely between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., and instead of taxis and minis, the streets are filled with children playing soccer, bicyclists (more than I've EVER seen in La Paz!), dog-walkers, and believe it or not, horses! It's a day when you are far more likely to get hit by a speeding scooter than a trufi. The only cars I saw on the road were remote controlled. :) (Ok, and one taxi that was just breaking ALL the rules!). It is such a fun day, and although there is noisy celebration and crowds of people fill the busy streets, the city feels tranquil without cars racing here and there. There is a sense It's as though the whole city has paused to breathe for the day.

As I walked through my neighborhood on my way to meet Kelli for lunch, I was enjoying watching a group of kids playing in the street, when it suddenly struck me - I was walking on the sidewalk! On this one day, I had the freedom to prance through the city streets if I felt like it, but there I was. Habit drove me to stick to the paths I knew. I had practically forgotten that today was a day to take to the streets - literally! I decisively made my way to the center of the calle to take fully advantage of el Dia del Peaton.

And then it struck me. Galatians 5:1 - "It is for freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

The slavery that is referred to here isn't the burden of sin. It is true that we have been set free from the power of sin and from the condemnation that sin brings. But the freedom here is a freedom from the law and from human-imposed dos and don'ts. This is the freedom of knowing Christ has done it all. I have never been able to do anything to earn merit or to deserve something from God. And in Christ, I don't have to strive to be accepted by God. Because I already am.

At one point, the law was a burden. It informs us of our sin and reminds us of just how imperfect we are in the presence of a God whose standard is perfection. Christ's saving work on the cross has set us free from guilt, from needing to be "good enough", and from the impossible task of trying to earn favor with God.

In Christ, we have the freedom to choose to do what pleases the Lord as a response of love, not because of the law. It is a far more beautiful obedience. To "find out what pleases the Lord." To walk in his ways because we see that they are good, that we are free, and that he is worthy. To choose the life he offers because we desire to know HIM, not because we are afraid of punishment or because we have something to earn or to prove. After all, perfect love drives out fear. We don't have to worry about the debt we would have owed, because someone has paid it all for us. We don't have to worry that someday soon, the judge is going to crack down on us and say, "Hey you! Pay up!" The anticipation of judgment isn't there anymore. Instead, we have the hope that we'll get to go home. We'll get to see the One we love. The One who loves us. The One who we have longed to be with for our whole lives, before we even knew we did.

In this life,  we have the freedom to choose to serve him in love.
And this is the kind of not-just-have-to-but-GET-to obedience that brings joy.

Has there ever been someone in your life that you actually liked to obey?
When we love someone, when we want to make them happy, when we desire to have a close relationship with that person, obedience is natural, joyful, and unifying. It draws us closer to the one we obey. There is tenderness and humility in obedience. And there is closeness when we obey out of love, not just "have-to" duty. Obedience because of "have-to" may make us do what we "should," but there is little joy in it. We're just living out our duty then. Obedience because of love is because I can. It goes above and beyond the letter of the law to reach the very spirit of it.

Do we walk in the freedom of "Can Obey"? Do we celebrate our ability to walk in those streets? Or do we just keep working and striving and doing the things we have done for so long out of habit? Just doing the right thing because we "should"? Not because we love the One who told us what is important to him. Not because we trust that he knows the best ways to live. But because its the "right" thing to do.

We have the freedom to walk in his streets. Why are we sticking to the sidewalks?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Product Of

My very cool roommate, Lindsay, used this quote as a prompt for her English classes:
“I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles. Also, of endless books.”    ―    C.S. Lewis
She had her kids write what they are a product of. I asked Bennett what he was a product of, and it inspired me to write my own.
"I am a product of crashing ocean waves, seashell sprinkled beaches, sunset runs, fields of colorful flowers, noisy family get-togethers, the sounds of laughter and friendship, and quiet conversations of restoration and grace. Also, of some books. ;) (I don't think I can claim endless these days)."
What would you say you are a product of?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

We're Back!

We're baaack! To school that is. :)
First off, a thank you to all of you teachers who encouraged me that the first year is just plain tough. You were right. Even though my workload hasn't decreased (in some ways, I have more responsibilities this year) and my resources have increased only slightly, I am a faster planning, more prepared teacher all around. I am thankful we are only first-year teachers one go around.

"So, how's school?" you ask.
"It's great," I say. And I mean it. "I mean, can you believe we're already 3 weeks in?"
School has been great this year. In addition to feeling like my stress levels have gone down, I feel excited about what I'm teaching, I love spending time with my amazing middle schoolers, and I see God at work all around Highlands.

Some of my favorite back to school moments are as follows...
1) Subject: Science
Grade: 7th (who I keep accidently calling 6th...oops! Old habits and all.)
Topic: Lab Safety
Activity: Lab Safety Public Service Announcements
The Situation: My students have been assigned to create a simple PSA to illustrate one of our "lab" (ok, science classroom) safety rules. The groups are demonstrating crazy mishaps in the lab - hair on fire, electrocution, playing with breakable/dangerous materials...Guillermo is sitting with a beaker of water on his desk, waiting to present his PSA with Nicolas, when SUDDENLY, he takes a huge swig out of his beaker. Did I mention, "Don't eat or drink in the lab" is one of the rules? As Natalia put it, "Don't drink the chemicals!" Did I mention Guillermo sits front and center? The class dies laughing when I exclaim, "Guillermo! What are you doing?" My faithful students chime in, "He's drinking chemicals!" And we all laugh some more.

2) Subject: Algebra
Grade: 8th
Topic: Distributive Property
Activity: Illustration to make the whole class jealous (not really...)
The Situation: I am reviewing the Distributive Property of Multiplication with my students. "You see," I say. "Anything in parentheses is a group." I draw a set of chalk parentheses on my concrete floor (the perks of Bolivia!) around Andreia and Matias' desk. This produces some, "Oooh"ing from a few boys. "Would you like to be in a group, too?" I ask. They assure me that they don't. "So," I continue. "Whatever we give or do to one part of the group, we have to do to the whole group. It wouldn't be fair otherwise." I pull out a box of chocolate. "What if I just gave a chocolate bar to Andreia?" I ask, holding up the bar and placing it on her desk. Matias SNATCHES the chocolate bar. "Matias is going to be jealous, right?" I take the chocolate bar and put it back on Andreia's desk. "Yes, you're a group, but only Andreia gets this." Matias snatches the chocolate bar again. I put it back, and him his own. "To be fair, we have to give the whole group the same thing." Matias snatches both chocolate bars. "Welcome to the real-world, Miss!" Luis Mateo pipes up.
And then I hear from around the room..."Do we all get chocolate?" "Not today," I say. "Just this group." "But Miiiisss...we're ALLL a group..."

3) Subject: Science
Grade: 6th-7th
Topic: Background Building for Upcoming Lab - Surface Tension
Activity: The Paper Clip Drop
The Situation: I challenge my students to guess how many paper clips will fit into a full glass of water before it overflows. The guesses range from about 2-70. We talk about suface tension and cohesion, and I add some water to the cup so it is just starting to brim over the lip. I challenge my students to guess again. "2!" "5?" "10!" "None!" The guesses are in. One by one, I place paperclips into the cup, with the class counting along. At first, a few students are hanging back. Eh...what's so cool about this anyway? But as the numbers rise, "25...50...75..." every student is gathered around counting along. "I knew she was going to trick us!" Marianno declares. "I knew it! Like when she added more water to that cup...I knew she was going to trick us!" :) Final count: 158 paper clips! My kids were stunned, amazed, shocked. I love teaching science.

Today, I'm home sick from school - Blah...I'm pretty sure it was something I ate. I'd rather be healthy and there, but God knows what we need, and I've been praising him this morning for little sick blessings. Today is a half day, and it works out well that I'm not missing all of my classes. Plus, it gives me a little time to write updates and rest. God is good. I will praise him when I am sick and when I am well. Oh, how he loves us so.

Prayer Requests of the Week:
1) Health around the world - While I'm fighting food poisoning in South America, Bennett is fighting a cold in South Korea. Please pray that God will provide energy and health to both us and the other teachers at our schools.
2) Bennett is going on the Senior Retreat with his kiddos this weekend. Pray that he will have wisdom, discernment, and the Lord's words to speak into his students' lives. Pray that they will see the Lord alive in him and be drawn to the beauty of our God.
3) Pray for Highlands to be able to receive approval from government officials as they seek to make some changes.
4) Pray for our students to see the Lord. That they will know him and choose to follow hard after him.

What's new with you? :)

Love from La Paz,

Sunday, July 29, 2012

New Year, New Resolution

Greetings from La Paz!

Summer has flown by quickly, and the start of a new school year is just around the corner! Although my time in the States was short, it was packed with the fun of seeing family and friends, relaxing, road-tripping with Bennett, and getting engaged! :) I honestly didn't feel ready for the summer to end when I packed my suitcase and headed to the airport last Friday evening...After all, summer is relaxing, and goodbyes are hard. Nevertheless, it was time.

Summer Recap:

This map pretty much sums it up…Bennett flew into Fort Lauderdale where we spent the week enjoying the summer sunshine, kayaking on Biscayne Bay, celebrating Grandma Teddy’s birthday, and eating Chinese with friends (And yes, the boys dominated in Pictionary). From there, we headed north through Tallahassee, North Carolina, and Ohio, all on our way to the lovely Lake Michigan. We had the privilege of visiting with several incredible friends on the journey and celebrating at Tom and Becca’s wedding. Finally in Michigan, we were ready for a few days off of the road. Time to relax. Our week in Michigan was filled with many games, sand and shore Frisbee, family, stargazing, and a sunset proposal. I am excited to marry the man of my dreams. :)

The next stop on our adventure was Yorkville, Illinois. We spent several days at the Parkhurst farm, playing more games, watching movies, exploring Starved Rock, and enjoying being together. And then, it was home-again-home-again for me. I stopped to see Sidney, the Swartzes, and Madison (+ Emily!) along the drive home, and entertained myself with audio books, phone calls, and a little car dancing during the 24 or so hours of road time. I also had some spontaneous and exciting mini visits with Arisha, Celeste, Andrei, and Grammy, and Alex and Caleb.
I got home with 5 days to spare and procrastinated packing as I visited/celebrated with family and friends, checked out some wedding reception venues with the parents, and did some wedding dress hunting.
Before long, it was Friday, and I packed my suitcases, headed to the airport, said a few tearful goodbyes, and tried to sleep on the overnight flight to La Paz.

Back in Bolivia:
All was quiet when my taxi pulled up in front of 198 Sebastian Figaroa early Saturday morning. I spent the morning reading 1 Timothy, praying, and missing my family and Ben. Although the goodbyes are difficult, I have been reminded of God's call to La Paz and refreshed by that knowledge. I have been thanking God for the opportunities he gives us to give back to him - as Elisabeth Elliot has said, God gives us material for sacrifice. I have recently been reading about Paul's suffering for the gospel and his encouragement to Timothy to "join in his suffering." While I recognize that my "suffering" is small compared to many, I also acknowledge that there are often costs in following God. And yet, they are all, always worth it. What else could I chase after in this life that would be better? There is nothing else that can satisfy. There are many wonderful things in this world that God has given us to enjoy, but none of them can be the goal, the ultimate aim of my life. If they are, they will soon crumble away. Even good things that are made "ultimate things" leave us empty in the end.
I like this definition of sacrifice - "the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim." Whatever it is that I prize, it is always better to offer it to Him.
I am thankful for God's call and for another chance to grow as a teacher here in Bolivia. My week has been filled with joy as I was welcomed back into my church community here and spent several days getting ready for the new teachers to arrive. It has been fun getting to know our new staff and showing them around La Paz. Last night, we had a game night with old and new staff, and it was great to catch up with friends who we haven't seen all summer. As it turned out, we talked for so long, we only ended up playing 3 rounds of Catchphrase!
So that's that. Tomorrow starts "real" school work. We have a week of teacher prep days and then...the kids are back!
Please pray for...
1) Our new teachers - Laura, Kelly, Sara, and Samantha - We will all be busy getting started with a new school year, and they are all making the adjustment to life in La Paz.
2) Health and energy for all of our teachers starting a new year
3) Passion for our students to know the gospel + wisdom and intentionality in building relationships and sharing the love of Christ with them
4) Whole-hearted service and commitment - That my heart will be fully here and that my investment in my students will be joyful and willing
5) That our students will learn to make following the Lord the goal of their lives. That they will recognize that he is worthy and that they will develop his perspectives.

6) My roommate, Lindsay, who is having some medical tests done before coming back to La Paz.

7) Wisdom and discernment as Bennett and I make plans for the future together. Where shall we go?

And last but not resolution. This year, I resolve to write at least 2 blog updates per month. I know I've been terrible at staying up to date with this blog. :-p I thank you all for your faithful prayers, in spite of my unfaithful updates.

With love from La Paz,

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Home Sweet Home

After reading a friend's blog today, I was inspired to create a list to celebrate a few of the many things I love about being home for the summer...Here goes nothing!

  1. Florida sunshine and the colors of South Florida
  2. Humidity - Yes, really! Even if I do sometimes feel like I'm running through a cloud...
  3. Beach breezes and summer sunsets
  4. Going to church with my family
  5. Spending time with my very cool, very talented brothers
  6. Catching up with friends - In person, on the phone, over lunch, through Skype - You name it. I love it!
  7. Sleepovers with friends
  8. Being greeted by my happy dog, Betsy, when I walk through the front door
  9. Being greeted by my sneaky little brother (who is usually trying to scare me when I walk through the front door)
  10. Home-cooked meals
  11. Silly American foods - Oh, how I love Wheat Thins. And turkey sandwiches.
  12. Playing ping pong with the family
  13. Crafting
  14. Evening runs
  15. Rediscovering things I love that stay home while I'm away - I feel like I have a new wardrobe every time I come home!
  16. Cleaning house and organizing rediscovered treasures
  17. Wearing shorts
  18. Target and the Dollar Tree - Need I say more? :)
  19. Spending extra time with the Lord in the mornings
  20. Spending extra Skype time with Ben now that we're in the same country
  21. Getting ready to spend time with Ben in person! (2 more days!)
  22. Unstructured, unhurried time
  23. Thunderstorms
  24. Conversations with my mom and dad
  25. Driving around town - windows rolled down, music turned up
  26. Visiting with grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles
  27. The feeling of being home
Happy Wednesday! What are you celebrating today?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Year One Done - Reflections

                Sitting here, listening to the hum of jet engines and the crackle of plastic wrappers, it is hard for me to believe I’m on my way home after finishing my first year of teaching in La Paz.

                A year ago, I was somewhere in between – I had graduated from Florida State, and my mind was filled with a million and one questions as I prepared for the move to Bolivia. I was getting ready for a trip to Atlanta for Alex and Caleb’s  wedding, and I had already booked a flight to Memphis for my Pre-Field Orientation (PFO). I was confident of God’s call to Bolivia; I was afraid of the unknowns. What will it be like? Will I be able to do it? What classes am I even teaching?! Was I excited? Maybe excitement had its place among the myriad emotions I was experiencing. But excitement did not find itself center stage.

                Today, I am on my way home, and in some ways, it feels as though nothing has changed. Yet, this year has brought many joys and many challenges, and in many ways, nothing is the same. God’s faithfulness, though, and my absolute assurance of his call to Bolivia remain the same.

                So what is different?

                Well, for starters, I will never be a first year teacher again. And I survived! Middle school is an exciting, emotional, and energetic place to be, and I love everything about it. Sure, there are attitudes. Yes, middle schoolers do some silly and occasionally annoying things (Remember, their frontal cortexes aren’t fully developed yet…). But the wonderful outweighs the weird, and I can’t imagine my life without 50 sixth, seventh, and eighth graders in it.

My days are filled with laughter, and teaching brings out the actress in me. Somehow, all stage fright flees when I’m singing “The Food Chain Song” to my 6th grade class, though that doesn’t stop my heart from racing when I stand to speak in front of any size group of adults. Which brings me to a lesson learned: kids feed off of your energy. Kids will be enthusiastic about what you are enthusiastic about. This year, there were many days when my classes came in…dragging. Energy was low. Maybe they were tired; maybe they were bored. It was on those days that I found a little theatric flare really made a big difference. You may know the traditional PEMDAS rules to help you remember the standard Order of Operations, but I doubt you have met the royal Order. On days when my class was “dead,” King Parentheses, Queen Exponents, Prince Multiplication, Princess Division, and the lowly servants Addition and Subtraction brought new life to the classroom. On the flip side of Lesson #1, I learned that if my class came in fired up and bouncing off of the walls, that was a day to set a mellow tone. Too much unharnessed energy in a middle school classroom can make for a stressful and unproductive class.

Being a first year teacher is certainly challenging, and I am thankful I will never have to do it again. Many times this year, I asked myself, “What am I even doing? Are my kids learning anything?” Nevertheless, the many lessons learned leave me hopeful that each year I’ll learn new things that will make me a better teacher for the years to come. For starters, I can now look at what a school year looks like from start to finish, and I’ve already developed systems that work well for me which I can, and will, improve on in the future. Oh ya, and I actually know what I’m teaching! Those things may seem small, but they’re a step up from where I was at the start of the 2011-2012 school year.

Some of the most encouraging statements this year in light of my lingering “Are they learning?” question came directly from my students. I had several students tell me how for the first time in their lives (short though they may be) they liked math and science and that they understood the subjects. One student even told me I should work at his old school and that he would write my recommendation letter. These compliments meant the world to me. When I was in middle school, math and science were at the bottom of my favorites totem pole, and because I didn’t enjoy them, I didn’t work as hard in those classes. How would I have described science? “Boooring…” Now I have to ask myself, “What was I thinking?!” Today I think science and math are fascinating, fun, and so applicable to everyday life I often wonder, “How did I think this was so pointless?” So one of the biggest rewards for me is the knowledge that, though my students may never be rocket scientists, they at least are developing an appreciation for the excitement of science and the puzzle, mystery, and fun of math!

What else is different?

I could have predicted that I would survive my first year as a teacher, and I could have predicted I would learn some big lessons. But item #2 on my list of things that are different came as a complete surprise, and a completely wonderful one at that! God has a funny sense of timing, and his plans often look very different from our own. This was one of those cases.

Prior to leaving for Bolivia, I committed the year to the Lord. “God this is your year. I want my life to be focused on you.” As a part of that, I determined that I wouldn’t date anyone this year.  Realistically, I didn’t think that would be much of an issue. I wasn’t dating anyone when I finished college and had never dated anyone before that time. So, that was that. I headed to PFO with no expectations, and although I knew there would be some men there who loved the Lord and were following his call for their lives, I knew that I was free to just get to know those guys as friends (in addition to the girls). While I was there, I met a man named Bennett Parkhurst who liked to play games, had a good sense of humor, was athletic, and tried to convince me to stay up past my self-proclaimed “bedtime” to keep hanging out with the group. We spent a lot of time together in our group of newbies playing everything from ping pong to Bananagrams, and Ben and I had many occasions to talk and laugh together over the course of the two weeks. We swapped testimonies and shared some things about our families and how we learned about NICS. We also laughed over shared jokes and ridiculous riddles, and when our group went to see Super 8 on one of the last nights of orientation, we sat next to each other and kept a running commentary going throughout the whole film.

When we left PFO, I wondered who I would stay in touch with. “Maybe I’ll keep up with some of the girls in Lima,” I thought. “They’re just across the border after all…sort of…” Little did I guess that Ben and I would continue talking every day. First it was Facebook messages, sprinkled with a blend of silly games, the day to day happenings, and serious conversations about theology and where God has brought us from. Then, when Facebook wasn’t sufficient, it was emails. Then, early in August, after Ben had moved to Korea and I had moved to Bolivia, Ben asked me to Skype one Saturday. Up to that point, I had been under the assumption that we were just friends, nada más. That request was one of the first times I started to think maybe there was something more to this (although there were a few times leading up to that point where Ben had made comments that left me wondering). I had already been praying for Ben as a friend, but around that time, I started praying about whether I should be talking to a guy who was just a friend so regularly. My journal is also filled with prayers about my simultaneously growing feelings for Ben as more than a friend. As I prayed, Ben and I continued getting to know each other, emailing and Skyping our way through our first month teaching abroad.

Then, at the end of August, Ben brought up the conversation of “us.” Broken by slow internet connection, our conversation is a memory we both look back on and laugh about. In that conversation, we established that we were both interested in getting to know each other more intentionally, even though dating didn’t change much about the day-to-day interactions in our relationship. After that conversation, I prayed and wrestled with my own questions, “God is this wrong? I didn’t plan to date anyone this year. Is this out of line with your plan for this year? Am I going back on my word to you?” I prayed and wrestled and sought godly counsel, and ultimately, after it all, I found myself coming to a place of peace with God. There was no “No.” He had continually opened the doors wide before us and had left me with a sense of assurance that this was from him. And so I walked forward, trusting that God would close the door or make it clear to us if this was not from him.

Through my relationship with Ben, I started to learn about God and myself in new ways. I started learning to trust God as he led Ben, and when certain questions would come up, I would pray that God would lead Ben’s heart. God is faithful. I have seen evidence of God answering prayers in our relationship even before Day 1, and on days when I wondered, “Is this right?” God used reminders of those answered prayers to lead me forward in peace. I have learned many lessons through what God is teaching Ben, and seeing his commitment to following our Father in obedience has spurred me on at many points throughout this year. Ben has encouraged me and challenged me to grow, and it has been an exciting journey of prayer, trust, patience, and, of course, fun. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It brings me to a place of humble praise and joy every time I consider God’s ironic sense of time and place, his faithfulness, his guidance, and the way he refines us through the oddest of circumstances.

So, where I am today, flying home with the excitement of knowing, “I get to see Ben!” is a far different place than I ever imagined I would be a year ago – and it is far better.

More differences, you say?

Just another of the many ways God has shown his continued faithfulness and provision this year is in the area of friendships. God has blessed me with a wonderful community of women from high school and college who have filled my life with love, joy, and encouragement for many years, and one of the hardest aspects of moving to Bolivia for me was knowing the time I would miss out on with those girls. I first thank God for these women, and I thank you, amigas, for being faithful, supportive friends during this year when I am so far away. I miss you all!

God has also blessed me with some incredible new friends this year. My roommate, Jess, my co-middle-school-teachers Bekah and Becky (who both have the middle name Joy! Weird, right?), my beautiful friend, Becca, my soon-to-be roommate, Lindsay, along with Maegan, Ali, Julie, and Amanda...I can’t imagine my life without these women. I thank God for continuing to provide the community I need. I thank God for the opportunity to walk with these women, learning from them and leaning on them in the midst of a lot of “new.”

Yes, there are more differences, not the least of which is my attitude about living abroad. Where there was fear, where there were questions, there is now “normalcy.” No, life is not always “normal” as I would define it (Bus driver uses passenger flashlights in place of headlights=normal?) but there is now a normalcy to what sometimes still feels far from the norm(No school because of strikes = “normal” in Bolivia).

Although I don’t have time to address the many more differences this year has brought, I can say that some things do remain the same. I am again amazed at God’s gracious provision, protection, and daily faithfulness in my life. I can think of many days this year when I did not have the strength (mentally, physically, whatever) to get through on my own. But, I’ll say it again, he is faithful. Again and again. He is so incredibly, shockingly, wonderfully faithful.

This year has been filled with growth, with laughter, with frustration, with joy, with new. And I can only thank God for it all. I am ready and excited for summer break in the States (Florida heat, here I come! I can’t wait to put on some shorts!), and I thank God for the very way he gives us rest just when we need it (because I do). I am excited to see my family. I am excited to go to my church. I am excited to catch up with old friends. I am excited to see my incredible boyfriend. J I am excited to see what this in-between season holds. And I am excited for rest.

So, there you have it. A few pages and a few hours later, I am still listening to the hum of the jet engines, a few hundred miles closer to home, and reminded again of the faithful God I serve. He who promised is faithful.