Little blessings.

This past year has been a struggle — to say the least. So much of my life has turned out completely differently than I expected:
I moved to Phoenix, AZ, last June and expected to be there a few years teaching at a charter school; instead I taught there for a year and then moved back home. That was not the place for me.
I was in a pretty serious, long-term relationship and, by all accounts, was headed towards marriage, but that was not the guy for me.
I had a summer job at a camp I grew up going to and loving, and ended up having a really hard time this summer in a place I thought I would always feel at home — that is no longer home for me.

Last year I had a plan for my life, and it was the total opposite from what it became. What’s that saying about men making plans and God laughing? Right. That’s my life right now.

I’ve been having a really hard time coming to terms with my life. Transition, and things changing so swiftly and drastically, are difficult for me to process. My relationship with the Lord has taken a hit, too. On top of my list of “things that didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to,” I’ve had to deal with some really stinky friend things. It’s an interesting thing when people who share your faith, who claim to follow Jesus Christ, hurt you in more disappointing ways than people who don’t follow Him. I’m starting to understand more and more when people say, “Why would I want to follow a God whose followers suck so much?” Of course, the answer is that you shouldn’t judge God by his followers. But why are we giving people a reason to even say that? We are called to be the image of Christ in a broken and depraved world, and when Christians are such bad examples of Christ, and when we are even mean to our Christian brothers and sisters, why would anyone want to be part of that?
I’m not exempt from this, obviously. I’ve hurt people in more ways than I can count. But I’ve also been hurt in some ways I never thought I would be, by people I trusted and called my friends.

As you can see, I’ve got some junk to work through. Thank God for my Christian mentors.

Despite a difficult year, God has blessed me with a great opportunity to work at a Christian academy in New York this year. I teach elementary school music to about 50 sweet, lovely, and just the most caring students, every Monday and Tuesday. These children are taught in the most loving and welcoming environment I’ve ever seen, and their behavior reflects that. They are just loving. And their teachers are willing and able to teach them about the love of Jesus Christ! It’s such a drastic change from everything I’ve ever known about school; here, we teach our children about prayer and how much Jesus loves them. We teach them what the words of worship songs actually mean for their lives. We teach them about heaven and about Jesus dying on the cross. We are laying a foundation for the Holy Spirit to work in their lives, and we are allowed and encouraged to do that! I love this place.
These were overheard just today:
Second grader: “Thank you Jesus for my house.”
Third grade teacher: “If we had to work our way to heaven, there would be no one there except God and the angels!”

Even though my year’s been different and difficult, I can see that the Lord is showing me His sweetness through the pure love these children have for who He is and for their teachers and for each other. — I almost cried during the first chapel of the year when every student sang “Lord, I Need You” with such genuine hearts.

– If they are crying out saying they need the Lord and their young lives are so simple compared to mine, how much more do I need Him when my life is so complicated and messy?

Sneaky secrets.

In April, I’m traveling to Europe to visit the wonderful Brianna (a friend from college). She’s studying in York, UK this semester, and so I’ve decided to visit her.

This has been in the works for a little while: At first it was kind of an impossible dream because I didn’t have the money or a job, but with college graduation came graduation money and, to my great pleasure, enough to buy myself a ticket overseas. So I bought it and kept it a secret from my parents. I was still visiting them in NJ and I didn’t want to have to hear some lecture on being so irresponsible with my money and how I don’t even have a job and it was such a bad idea to spend this much money! So I didn’t tell them. I would eventually tell them, but not until I was back in my apartment six states away. One day I posted on facebook that I needed to borrow a large backpack from someone for a trip I’d be taking in April, and could anyone lend one to me? I got a text from my mother.

This is the conversation:
Mom: What do you need a backpacking bag for?
Me: I’m going on a trip.
Mom: To see your friend overseas?
Me: Yep. I booked the ticket in January.
(3 minutes pass)
Me: Sorry I didn’t tell you. I was waiting to get back to my apartment so you couldn’t yell at me.
(3 hours later)
Mom: I knew it the day you did it. We heard you on the phone with your friend.

So much for being sneaky.

You know how when you’re younger, parents always say that they know everything? Well, I think I believe it now. I really thought I was being super sneaky. Guess not.

Anyway, you can keep up with my European travels here. I won’t be posting til April though.

I am Jairus’ daughter.

While I was at home in New Jersey this winter, I started going to a new church. For Lent this year, this church is reading the whole New Testament together in forty days, but with a specially organized NIV bible. This video explains it pretty well. Essentially it’s the NIV New Testament reorganized with the chapter numbers and verse numbers taken out so it reads more like a novel than a textbook.
So the readings are broken up into 11-page sections, and to be honest, I’m a little behind. Yesterday I was reading the second section (Luke 3-9) and since I’m behind in the readings, I just wanted to get it done and my mind kept wandering and my brain kept rambling. But then I got to page 21, which in a normal Bible, is Luke 8:40-56. I’ve read this story before: it’s about Jairus’ daughter, and a woman who’s been sick for 12 years.

Simply put: Jairus is a religious leader. His only daughter is dying, so he runs to Jesus, who happens to be nearby, and begs Jesus to come to his house to save his daughter. As they’re on their way, a woman who has had a bleeding disorder for 12 years is in the crowds surrounding Jesus. She has such great faith that she believes that merely touching Jesus’ robe will heal her so, seeing her chance, she touches the edge of His cloak. Jesus immediately feels some of His power leave Him, so he stops and asks who touched Him. Peter makes the argument that there are crowds of people around Jesus, so one of them must have touched Him. Jesus knows, however, that this was a significant touch to His cloak, so He presses further. The woman comes forward and admits to touching Jesus’ cloak. Jesus says to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” Meanwhile, one of Jairus’ servants comes from where the daughter is dying, and tells them that it’s too late; she’s dead. Jesus says not to worry, but to believe and she will be healed. When they get to Jairus’ house, Jesus tells the mourners to stop wailing because the daughter is not dead, but sleeping. They laugh at Jesus because they know she’s dead. But Jesus takes the girl by the hand and says, “My child, get up!” And she does.

Whew! What a story! Can you believe it? This really happened once. It’s completely true. Jesus performed these two miracles. I’d read and heard this passage a million times before, but yesterday it struck me differently. And upon thinking about it more today, I began to see so many new things in this awesome story.

Let’s dissect this a little. First, Jairus was a religious leader whose only daughter was dying. So he runs to Jesus for help. This guy Jairus had some major faith that Jesus was the real deal. Jairus had one chance to get someone to help his daughter and instead of going to a doctor-type, he chose Jesus. Ok, so now that we live 2000 years after Jesus and we know the whole story, that seems like a simple decision  When Jairus was alive though, that wasn’t such an easy choice. Jesus wasn’t liked very much by most religious leaders, basically since He told them that they were living a lie. Most religious leaders were hypocrites and lawless men, so when Jesus brought those things to light, they were pretty peeved. Anyway, Jairus choosing Jesus shows us where his faith lies.

Jesus agreed to go with Jairus and while walking there, Jesus (and probably Jairus, too) was surrounded by a huge crowd of people. There was a sick woman in the crowd who also had some pretty substantial faith. She knew that if she only touched the fringe of Jesus’ robe, she’d be healed. The Bible tells us that not one doctor she talked to could heal her, so Jesus was her last-ditch effort, too. She and Jairus are in kind of the same boat here. Immediately after the woman touched Jesus’ robe, she’s healed. Feeling the power leave him, Jesus asked who touched Him. The disciples, mainly Peter, seem confused and frustrated: they’re in a crowd of people. Everybody’s touching everybody. Almost like, “Come on, Jesus.” However, Jesus says again that someone touched Him, and that power has gone out of Him. That’s such a weird thing… power going out of someone. I have never felt that before. It seems like such an out-of-place thing for Jesus to say.

At this point Jairus, still with Jesus, is seeing this whole thing happen. He’s obviously still distressed since his daughter is taking her final breaths, and Jesus must know this, but He stops to find out what happened anyway. Finally, the woman comes forward and throws herself at Jesus’ feet; she tells Him that she was the one who touched his robe. He tells her that she is healed, and to go in peace. Jesus knew all along that she was the one who touched Him, didn’t He? I think so. But, like in Genesis 3:8-9 when God asks Adam and Eve where they are, He knows already. God wants us to be accountable, so He asks us what He already knows. Jesus did that here with the sick woman, asking what He already knew. Sometimes He does that to prove a point, sometimes to teach us something. In this passage, I think it’s to teach us patience, and that God is sovereign over time, and that He does everything in His perfect timing and for a perfect purpose.

While Jesus was still speaking to the woman, someone from Jairus’ house came and told them that Jairus’ daughter was dead, and not to bother Jesus anymore. Jesus said not to worry, and went with Jairus to the house anyway. “Just believe, and she will be healed,” He says. When they get to Jairus’ house, Jesus only lets Peter, John, James, Jairus, and Jairus’ wife go in to where the daughter is. Jesus tells the mourners to stop mourning because the girl is not dead, but asleep. And then they laugh at Him.
Side note: What? Sure, if someone I loved had just died, I’d be so ready to laugh. Not really. Although, this isn’t exactly what happened here. In that time, when someone was on his or her deathbed, the family would sometimes hire mourners to mourn the death of that person. More mourners meant a better social status. So in this instance, these mourners might not be related to the family at all, and might not even care. But since I’m not a theologian, I could be wrong. So maybe that’s why they could go from wailing to laughter in such a short amount of time.

Anyway, Jesus went into the room, took the girl by the hand, and said to her, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned to her and she immediately stood up. They got her some food, and Jesus told them not to tell anyone what He’d done.
This small section hits pretty hard. Jesus took the girl by the hand and told her to wake up. Against all known odds, the girl came back to life. People were so sure of the futility of this mission that they laughed in Jesus’ face. There have been so many times when I have laughed in Jesus’ face; I think I know better, that it’s obvious that something isn’t going to change. Then it does, by the grace of God. There are so many stories of people in the depths of despair, so far from knowing Christ that anyone would call them a lost cause. But Jesus reaches into the darkness and pulls them to Himself.
The other night I was babysitting a little girl and at bedtime, I read her the story of Jairus’ daughter from her storybook Bible. At the part in the story when Jesus wakes the girl up, the storybook Bible says:

‘Honey,’ he said, ‘it’s time to get up.’ And he reached down into death and gently brought the little girl back to life.

Oh. My. Gosh. Tears. Jesus is so tender and loving with this little girl. Wow. Can you imagine this? Jesus talking to you tenderly and lovingly telling you to come back? But what a smack in the face for me, because how many times has Jesus spoken to me like this, but instead of listening and doing what He asks, I turn and run the other way? Too many times.

My soul feels tired and dry. I don’t know how to fix it. All I can do is read the Bible and pray that God will revive my spirit, which I know He will. It’s a great encouragement to know that He who can bring a dead girl back to life can also give renewed life to my soul.  Jesus went where people gave up, and at our lowest points, He rescues us.

You don’t really have to read this.

It has been almost a year since I last posted, and I don’t know if I should apologize or just leave it.
Anyway, so much has changed in my life.

Last time I wrote, I was all gung-ho to go on staff full-time with Campus Crusade for Christ, now known simply as Cru. However, this summer, while on staff at a Cru Summer Project in Daytona Beach, I learned a lot about myself and I did a lot of soul-searching, if you will, to see what was really drawing me toward going on staff. Turns out, I wanted to join staff for all the wrong reasons.

In the fall, I started student teaching at an elementary school, and I fell in love. I love teaching elementary school music, absolutely, and I happen to be good at it. I love the kids, I love the stuff I get to teach them, and I love being an elementary school teacher. This changed my world, and I really believe that God gave me this passion. AND He totally orchestrated the whole thing! I had a WONDERFUL, amazing, fantastic cooperating teacher, and had I graduated on time, I wouldn’t have been placed with her.
Also, if I’d graduated on time, I wouldn’t have been able to live with Sydney, one of my best friends, and have the time of my life in a grown-up apartment. If I’d graduated on time, I wouldn’t have been able to hang out as much with another very good friend, Brianna, and we wouldn’t have made plans to travel Europe together in April. I wouldn’t have done or experienced so many different things that I would have missed so much, had I graduated in May. There’s always a reason that God makes us wait, or says no to something; I know this, but sometimes I hate remembering it. I love being mad and frustrated when I have to wait, but of course I know I can’t change what I have no control over.

Looking back on last year, yikes!!! My life was totally different than it is now. Ties with whom I thought were “forever friends” have been severed (only because people graduate and move on, no hard feelings), I was dead set on something that God changed in me, and I just feel so much more mature than I was last year. I think maybe my friends can attest to that. Maybe? Or not.

A whim of great fortune.

This weekend I finally learned how to do a cascade braid on myself. How awesome. Now my hair always looks boho-chic. Here’s a nice little how-to video.

This is my hair with the awesome Cascade Braid.

So that was one highlight of my weekend. Another was that I got to go to Mad Platter, a pottery painting place, with some wonderful girlfriends. I painted a plate.

My owl plate.

Then I went to visit my dear friend Sarah in Charleston. Another couple I know got engaged this weekend and it kinda freaked me out, so I had to get outta Dodge… if you know what I mean. So I skipped town for a couple of days to clear my head. It turned out to be the best thing for me because God had a lot planned for my unplanned trip.
Sarah’s the kind of friend who likes to get right to the point of things, especially the hard things like spiritual struggles and stuff like that. So that’s what she did, pretty much right after I got to her place. We talked about difficult stuff, and the Lord taught me a lot this weekend. Then I went to church with her on Sunday, and the sermon complimented what Sarah and I had been talking about the day before. It was a divine appointment. God is so awesome in His timing and planning, and I’m so glad that I went to Charleston on a whim. It was such a spiritual refresher and I praise God for giving me a friend like Sarah.

I’m going home tomorrow night, in about 24 hours. I’m more than psyched. I can’t wait to see my family, and I can’t wait to have nothing to do but spend time with them. School gets so overwhelming this time of year.

Braid frenzy.

Today I tried to do a cascade braid on myself, but that failed miserably. Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow. Anyway, I decided to practice on my friend Jayde. She was more than willing to have me play with her hair (what girl doesn’t like having her hair played with?), and here’s the result.

Did I mention that she has gorgeous hair?

On a different note, my daisies are growing wonderfully! I’m so proud of them and how they’re such over-achievers, growing so fast. They take after their caretaker (that’d be me) in that they are so ahead of the curve. :]

Fishtail braid.

Today I tried out a wonderful new way to do my hair: a fishtail braid. (Click here for a how-to guide). I think it turned out pretty great. I couldn’t get a back view by myself, but here’s the front view.

My first fishtail!

Since I only just learned how to do this, it was a little messy. But I’m pretty sure I’ll get better as I practice. It’s a really easy braid, and it works surprisingly well with my hair texture and length. My hair doesn’t hold braids well, so this might be my new go-to.
I had to wet my hair beforehand so I could get a better grip, and then I emptied about half a bottle of hairspray to make sure it stayed (don’t tell the ozone layer). Next time I’ll try doing a tighter braid and possibly a braid that’s more to the side.

Thanks to pinterest and stumbleupon for being instrumental in my newfound interest in braiding.

Five Days Old. Can you see the little green specks?

A few days ago, my friend Brianna and I went to Target so she could buy some things, and I saw a pot of “grow-your-own-flowers” in the sale section (I got it for $2.50 or something). Today is day five of my daisies’ growth, and look how healthy they are!
Since I know you’re so excited to see their progress, I’ll update you with pictures once in a while.

And so what we have learned applies to our lives today.

(The title of this post brought to you by VeggieTales.)

So what have I learned today? There has to be something, right? I mean, if I think about everything that I do each day, everything I’ve ever learned how to do, I had to actually learn it at some point. So what have I learned today that will help me out down the road?
Well, for one thing, I can force myself to go to sleep. Last night I went to bed around 8pm. Yeah, I was tired. But I could have easily stayed up to watch New Girl (that awesomely funny show with Zooey Deschanel), or read Harry Potter (since I’ve seen all the movies, I figured I might as well read the books now). Instead I decided to go to sleep. And it was totally worth it. I woke up at 7:10am fully rested. Then I started getting ready for the day, but halfway through I decided to continue reading Harry Potter, and dozed off again. So I learned: 1: I can make myself go to sleep. And 2: If I want to actually get up once I’m awake, I have to physically do something. Otherwise I’ll be tempted (and probably give in) to take a nap.

3: I’m not the only one of my friends graduating this December. Most of them are graduating this May, but I learned today that my friend Will is going to be here until December, too! So now I know three people, including myself, who will be graduating with me.

4: I learned that I love The Hunger Games way too much. I said earlier that I got sucked into the vortex. Well, I just got my Panem ID card in the mail today. Not joking. Go to the Hunger Games movie website to get yours. It’s totally free.

I'm from District 8.

I would like to think I learn something new every day, I just have to work to remember what it is I’ve learned.

Fish are friends, not food. (Lie.)

Day 2 of my adventures into pescetarianism.
Today I realized that I’ll miss chicken the most. For sure. I went with Morgan, the other student-staff girl, to dinner at fellow staffers Christi and Lindsay’s house. We were having grilled kabobs with tons of veggies, marinated chicken, and yellow rice, accompanied by Greek salad, seasoned asparagus, some dinner rolls, and strawberries. At first I was disappointed that I couldn’t partake in the delicious-looking chicken, but then I remembered that I brought some Boca chicken nuggets with me (here on out called “fake chicken”). I made a veggie kabob for myself and ate fake chicken instead of real chicken which worked just as well in my book.

I wanted to buy some shrimp because I thought it might taste great with the veggies on the grill, but a pound of peeled shrimp was about $13, and a pound of shrimp with the shells still on wasn’t very much cheaper… maybe $9. That’s not happening. Way too expensive for my budget. I’ll have to wait until it goes on sale. Not that I’d buy the shrimp with shells on, anyway. I did that once (by accident) and almost had a panic attack stripping off their shells. It was like peeling bugs. How disgusting. In a situation like that, the only thing I could think to do was call my mom. That didn’t go well– she’s never de-shelled shrimp before. So that will never happen again. I don’t do bugs, and I definitely don’t do shelled shrimp that look like big, frozen, gray-ish bugs. The sad part was that once I’d gotten the shrimp de-shelled and cooked, I didn’t even want to eat them because they reminded me of how grossed out I was trying to cook them in the first place. What a waste.

The game’s afoot.

I’ve become a pescetarian. This means I’m a vegetarian, plus I eat fish and shellfish. And animal byproducts. Just not beef, pork, or poultry. I’m just kind of sick of meat, and I figured that this is an easy way to be a little healthier. We’ll see if I can hold out for very long against my family’s insistence on being omnivorous. I mean, I already like tofu and Boca burgers and veggies, so what could really be so different/difficult?
(PS– If you have any good and easy recipes for vegetarian meals or anything that uses tofu, please leave me a comment about it! I’d love to try some new/easy/cheap food.)

Besides that, I’m pretty excited to be able to go home New Jersey on April 3rd. My family and I have been apart for far too long (since December 26th), and it’s time to see them. My sister and I will be spending at least one day in the city (NYC) while I’m home, and that promises to be a blast. We’re adventurous, so we’ll go to some off-the-beaten-path places. (Speaking of, did you know that there’s a castle in Central Park?)

You'd never know that this is in New York City.

A few weeks ago I got sucked into the Hunger Games vortex. It was with metaphorical feet-dragging that I delved into the first book, aptly titled The Hunger Games. Two chapters in, I lost a sense of reality and was completely captured by the story. After each book (there are three), I had to catch my breath and remember that these characters are not real people, and that these scenarios are fake. I tend to get too emotionally attached and involved in the lives of fictional characters, and it’s necessary for my health to take a breather between books so I don’t fall victim to the drama and adrenaline-inducing suspense that Suzanne Collins artfully captures in her series.
Then I went to see the movie at the midnight premiere.
It wasn’t as good as the book, but what movie ever is? This article adequately sums up my feelings: Hunger Games Article.
Before the movie, my friends at The Wolf and the Bee created this snazzy little number in homage to the Games. I bought it and wore it proudly to the premiere. Feel free to copy me and buy yourself a shirt.

Well, I’ve exhausted my procrastination time, and now a sociology exam is calling my name: “Bethanieeeeeee! Study your socioooooologyyyy boooooooks!” So here I must depart.