18 May 2014

Wrappin' it Up...Round 3?! Part 1

How is it even possible that I have now lived here in Kenya for almost three years?!  It's pretty hard to believe, and the time has flown.  When I first interviewed for my position here at Rosslyn, I was a bit caught off-guard when I was told that the initial commitment was for three years.  I was thinking two, and for whatever reason, three years sounded SO much longer than two!  But here I am, finished with my first contract, and I'm so thankful they asked us to commit to three years, because it's just long enough to make this place begin to feel like home.  I'm also happy to say that I've signed on for another contract--two years this time--so after a summer away, I'll be back in August for my tenth year of teaching! (Another stat that's hard to believe!)

I realized a few weeks ago that it has been a YEAR since I've written in this blog! I figured that as this school year winds down I'd take a chance to recap some highlights from my third year in Kenya and what God's been teaching me lately.  This post, Part 1, will be the highlight reel.  So here we go...

I began my third year of teaching 5th grade here at Rosslyn back in August with twenty-four students.  I forget the exact number now, but I think that collectively they've lived in eighteen countries, or something like that.  I love the diversity of our student body!  For those of you still wondering just what it looks like to teach at an international school in Kenya, check out this new promo video that was just released in the last few days!  It beautifully captures what it's really like to work here (if you watch carefully, you'll see a familiar face)!  One of the highlights of my time with this class this year has been seeing them develop a passion for social justice issues around the world--modern-day slavery and human trafficking, imprisonment due to false accusations, child abuse, etc.--as we've talked about God's heart for the poor and oppressed.

My kids are In It to End It!

We've been blessed to have representatives from International Justice Mission (IJM) speak to our class.  For nearly six months the students prayed for two men in prison here in Nairobi, falsely accused of robbery with violence and facing a life sentence.  Their trials and judgment days kept getting delayed, and even the IJM attorneys and staff members were nervous about the outcome.  However, during our spring break week, we received word that both men had been acquitted and were released!  I wish you could have seen my class's reaction!  They literally started singing and dancing in celebration for Anthony and Silas.  (You can read their full story here--my class even got a shout-out in it!) Our involvement with IJM (for this year) culminated with my kids taking on a service project to help plan a celebration event for nearly thirty children from here in Kenya who have been victims of (often violent) sexual abuse. The children have completed a counseling program, and to reward them for their commitment to the program, IJM had a "graduation" ceremony for them.  My kids planned the crafts, prepared the materials, wrote instructions for games, made personal cards, and then earned the money to donate to purchase supplies.  We were happy to hear that the children had a wonderful time, and I'm so proud of my kids for caring about people they will most likely never meet, and from whom they will receive nothing in return.  I'm excited to see how God uses them in the future!

My class of crazies.  :)

As many of you know, September brought the Westgate Mall tragedy to Nairobi.  While we heard countless stories of the ways in which God protected so many members of our school community and friends, we were not left without some scars.  Several students and staff members were in the mall at the time of the attack.  One student was pretty seriously injured, and he and another student each lost a parent.  Many students knew others who were inside or injured or killed, and so that was a very heavy thing to help young children process (while we were still processing it ourselves).  I remember one of my students expressed his fear that the same thing would happen to his parents and being afraid to be separated from them.

Westgate Mall Attack

One of the beautiful things that came of this was our campus' See You at the Pole event--a time when students around the world gather at their school's flagpole(s) to pray.  This year's event came just after Westgate, and it was incredible to see how students and parents from many beliefs, denominations, and religions united at our flagpoles to pray for healing and protection for this country.  Today the Westgate Mall sits empty, broken windows still open, bullet holes showing on the outside.  It just looms on its street as a reminder of what happened there.  It's pretty surreal, even now, to think of what happened to somewhere I visited several times a month.  Recently there have been some smaller attacks around Nairobi, the last happening just Friday.  Sometimes it's hard to find the line between being cautious and living in fear, but we know that the battle is not between flesh and blood, that it's something much deeper, much greater than our eyes and minds can perceive.  So we pray for God's protection, for His peace to come come to Kenya, and that ultimately people will come to know Him because of it all.

Rosslyn "See You at the Pole," September 25

This school year also provided some new and sometimes-challenging opportunities for me.  Each year each of our schools (elementary, middle, and high) host a Spiritual Emphasis Week (SEW) when class schedules are different and there are daily chapel and small group times.  In previous years the school has brought in a guest speaker for the week, but this year the event leaders decided to use "in-house" speakers for the middle and high school SEWs.  I was asked to speak for one of the five high school chapels about friendship with God, and that definitely took me outside of my comfort zone!  I've spoken to large groups a handful of times, but only for a couple of minutes at most.  They wanted me to speak for 20-30 minutes to this group of "scary" high-schoolers AND their teachers (my friends and colleagues)!  I can talk to 10- and 11-year-olds all day, but these high school kids are a whole new ballgame for me!  (Let me just say, if you'd meet some of our high-schoolers, you'd be scared too, because they're pretty amazing, intelligent, and talented people!)  Two nights before I was to speak, I was panicking a little bit (ok, a lot) because it just wasn't coming together.  Thankfully God used a couple people at that time to calm me down and remind me why I was saying anything in the first place--that He and His work in my life was the focus, not me.  Anyway, with their encouragement and God's help, I did it, I survived, and I'm glad I accepted the chance to grow through that process.  I pray that God spoke through me to draw these kids closer to Him.

Another new, big thing for me this year was chairing our school's Christmas Project Committee for the first time.  Each year from Thanksgiving week until we let out for Christmas break, our Rosslyn community engages in a school-wide fundraiser to give money to selected local organizations.  This year our committee selected three amazing organizations to support: Initiative for Learning Disabilities Kenya, Jacaranda Kids, and Future Hope and Baby Centre.  Over the course of four weeks, our school raised approximately $17,000 for ILDK and Future Hope and donated $3,500 worth of brand-new shoes for Jacaranda Kids!  It's an incredible experience to see everyone come together and be so generous for something where all the money is given away.  With the funds we raised, ILDK was able to complete construction on and outfit a special needs unit at a local school--something that is desperately needed here in Kenya.  Future Hope was able to pay moving expenses for moving their orphanage to its new property, fence the property, build a kitchen, and build a boys' dormitory.  Chairing this project was a LOT of work over a 3-month time period, but I had an incredible team, and God was clearly in the whole thing.  Having many of the children from the organizations here for our Christmas Project chapel when we presented the organizations with their funds was such a special experience!

 (Did I mention how many times I had to speak to audiences of hundreds of people during this project?!  Eeek!)

Children from Future Hope and Baby Centre singing for us at
our Christmas Project Celebration Chapel.  Precious!

There are a few other highlights from this year.  One of those was getting to lead music at my church here once a month with some of my closest friends.  That was one of the last pieces of my "old life" that I was missing here in Kenya, so I've been so thankful to have that opportunity.  Thanks to Audrey for including me!  Another fun thing was getting to be a small group leader for a Discipleship Now weekend hosted by BlueSky Youth.  This was the first event like it here, and 80 students from 6th-12th grade were involved in activities at BlueSky, Rosslyn, and host homes from Friday night through Sunday morning.  I got to lead the sophomore girls' group, and I enjoyed getting to know them (more scary high-schoolers!).  I hadn't been directly involved in student ministry since I'd been here, so it was fun to be able to participate in that weekend.

BlueSky D-Now Weekend at Rosslyn


While sadly I haven't done much (ok, any) travelling outside of Kenya this year (yet!), I've had the chance to visit a couple of beautiful places within Kenya, and I've been able to make two visits to Makutano, the village that inspired me to move to Kenya in the first place.

 I've had two long-weekend stays at L'ol Dacha, a beautiful getaway in the Ngong Hills.

View from the main building at L'ol Dacha in December


Sunset over L'ol Dacha in February

I made another trip to Crescent Island in December.

Crescent Island animals

Visited Makutano in January and March.

Audrey drew quite the crowd when she joined in their game!

Love these smiling faces!

And spent Easter weekend camping at Tiwi Beach along the south coast.

"Home" for Easter weekend

My three amigos, Easter Monday morning

Well, that wasn't in a nutshell, but I think that covers some of the most memorable parts of my third year hear.  I'll add Part 2 soon and share a little bit about what God's been teaching me this year.  Stay tuned...

01 June 2013

Wrappin' It Up...Round 2

Here at Rosslyn we've just finished another school year.  I can scarcely believe I've already been here for two years and that I'm completing my eighth year in the classroom!  I'll be heading back to the States for a visit before too long, but before I leave, I wanted to take time to reflect on this year.  This is the post I sat down to write two weeks ago, before I got distracted by my thoughts on identity, when I ended up posting about that instead!  We'll see if I can get a little further this time...

As I think about how things have been different this year, I can't help but focus on God's faithfulness.  When I got here at the end of July last year, there were four things I was praying would be different for my second year.  I have to tell you that God answered every one of my prayers beyond what I could have hoped.  While these things have been obvious to me all year, I've felt that it's important to put these things into words here at the close of the school year as evidence of His faithfulness so I won't forget!

1.  I prayed to find a church where I could get involved and feel like I was a part of it, and be challenged spiritually in the meantime, because that was such an important part of my life before I came here.  I began attending ICF, the church that meets here on our campus.  For several reasons that aren't really important, I had been a bit skeptical about attending there, but I have to say it has become my church home away from home.

2.  I prayed that God would give me deeper relationships this year.  The first year after a big transition is hard, and I tend to forget how long it really can take to develop genuine friendships.  While I truly felt blessed by my friends here last year, I think we all (myself included) quite often kept things very surface-y and we didn't open up and trust each other as much as sincere friendships require.  After another year of doing life with people, I can honestly say I don't feel that way at all this year.  One big factor in that was my small group of girls.  I love how God arranged this group.  There were six of us, from four countries (U.S., Canada, Australia, and Kenya) on three continents, and only two of us were even here last year!    We met on Thursday nights throughout the year, first studying a book, and then reading through the book of Isaiah.  Each week we spent at least the first hour just catching up on each others' lives, laughing a lot of the time.  We also dedicated part of the time each week to pray for each other.  Having the accountability and support from them this year just made such a difference to me!

My small group girls.

These next two might sound a bit odd, but trust me.  I love our Rosslyn community, and these are in no way a reflection on it.  They just demonstrate my desire to challenge myself to get outside the bubble to experience more of life in Nairobi.  

3.  I prayed I would meet people/make friends who weren't a part of the Rosslyn community.  There are SO many people here from around the world, and many of them are doing amazing things to serve God and people.  It can be very easy to stick around our campus and forget about how God is working in other places.  This is a request I'll continue to pray, but I love how God began to answer this year.  I met two other girls from Kentucky last fall, and while we didn't get to spend a lot of time together, it was fun running into them occasionally and just knowing they were here!  Two people who have become some of my closest friends aren't directly connected to Rosslyn either, although the story of how they almost were is pretty cool--especially since we met them anyway!  I think we were all just destined to be friends.  :)  Spending time with them and learning about their ministry project has been great.  There are others I've been able to meet and get to know this year as well, and I pray that God will continue to open doors in this area next school year.



4.  I prayed that I would be able to become more involved in non-Rosslyn activities and ministries.  This is also something I want to pursue more next year, but I'm satisfied with how this year went.  I've been able to make several visits to the Vapor Sports Center in the Kawangware slum.  If you don't know about Vapor, you need to!  (www.vaporsports.com)  Getting to know the director at the center and spend time with some of the kids out there has been special, even if has only been 4 or 5 times throughout the year.  Over spring break I got to visit the ministry site of Kawelle (www.kawelle.org) in Vumilia, one of the IDP camps that was created after the election violence of 2007.  (Kawelle was started by the friends I mentioned in #3!)  It's pretty incredible how God has arranged the circumstances for this project, and He's also put some amazing people in place to help it grow.  While I was only able to make one trip up to Makutano this year (sad!), it was still encouraging to see how God continues to bless Village Project Africa.  Seriously.  Too many stories to tell about perfectly-orchestrated circumstances, finances, human resources, etc.  We met an incredible boy named Brian while we were there, and it's just so exciting to be a part of what God's doing.  In non-ministry-related things, I was able to once again sing with the Nairobi Music Society during first semester, performing Handel's Messiah in October and a Christmas concert in December.  More recently I was invited to play with the Nairobi Orchestra for a spring concert accompanying the Nairobi Music Society in their performance of Jenkins' The Armed Man and Brahms' Requiem.  I hadn't played flute in an organized group for sixteen years, so that was both fun and challenging!

Besides these four major requests, there were other smaller things I'd hoped for, and I could tell you all kinds of ways God answered those prayers too.  I've had multiple chances to grow personally and professionally, for which I'm also thankful, and it appears that God is already opening doors for more of those things for next year.  I've also had some amazing travel experiences--going to Passion and rafting the Nile in Uganda, an educators' conference in South Africa, a trip to the coast in December, and two trips to major parks I wanted to visit here, Lake Nakuru and Amboseli.

I am constantly affirmed that this is where I'm supposed to be right now, and I am so thankful for the support of my family and friends who trust God enough to be ok with me being here, even if they don't like it so much.  I'm thankful for this school community that is so supportive and encouraging.  Most of all I'm thankful that I can look back and see the hand of my Heavenly Father at work throughout the last year, both in my life and the lives of those around me, and in the gifts He's given, both big and small.  Great is His faithfulness.




19 May 2013

Just Who Do You Think You Are?: Thoughts on Finding Identity in Christ

Identity in Christ.   A  lot of us hear this phrase batted around, but how often do we take time to think about what it really means, or if we're applying it to our lives?  This is something that God has been bringing to my mind over and over again in the last month or two, through different circumstances and conversations.  The whole topic of finding identity in Christ is something that I've become passionate about, especially for girls, as I've grown in that area myself and as I've observed how much it affects our lives.  Let me see if I can put my thoughts and what I've learned into words...

Identity in Christ was something I'd grown up hearing about, and as a college student and young adult I would have told you that I had my identity in Christ.  However, looking back, I think I knew much more about God's identity than MY identity IN Him (and if I had truly known Him, those two would have gone hand-in-hand).  It wasn't until my late 20s that this became something I HAD to work through and truly begin to discover for myself.  It didn't happen overnight, and in fact, I truly believe this is a lifelong process--one of those "good works" that has been started in me and will be carried out until the day when I am made complete in Him (Philippians 1:6).  But I do think that I have come a long way, and I have to say, life is so much better on this side of the issue!

About a month ago, a friend gave me the chance to teach one of his high school Christianity and Culture classes here at Rosslyn.  We batted around a few ideas, but this topic came to mind one night and stuck.  To open the class, I asked the students to write a bit about who/what they felt the world expected them to be--how they felt defined by family, religion, culture, media, friends, etc.  Some one-word responses of theirs were nice, smart, successful, irresponsible,  and beautiful.   It wasn't hard for them to quickly generate a list of what they thought they were SUPPOSED to be.  I then asked them to write a bit about how well they felt they measured up to those expectations.  I didn't read their responses, but it was pretty easy to see simply from their physical reactions to the question and the way they were writing that for most of them, they felt pretty inadequate.  We could all generate our own list of what we feel we're expected to be, and I'd be willing to bet that most of us probably think we don't measure up.

At all stages of life, we have questions and doubts tied to who we are (or think we are): Why am I here?  Why can't I be more like....? I'm a bad student.   I'm a bad parent.  I'm not smart enough.  Who will love me?  Why have these bad things happened to me?  I don't fit in.  Why me?  Why NOT me?  I can never be forgiven for that.  I'll never be good enough.  Who am I?   The list could go on and on.

So many times we try to find our identity--and the answers to these questions--in other things:  possessions, careers, relationships, status, family roles, appearance, activities, adventure, successes, failtures--we even define ourselves by the LACK of these things.   While it is very true that our personalities, relationships, roles, and life experiences play a large part in how we perceive ourselves and interpret and interact with the world, more important than any of these is the reality of who God has created us to be and who He says we are, because even when our circumstances change, the truth of who we are in Him never will.

Consider the life of Moses in these words by Rick Warren:
"In Egypt the baby Jewish boys were condemned to die, so [Moses'] mother put him in a little boat in the Nile River. It happened that the daughter of Pharaoh was taking a bath, and she took this little boy back into the palace to raise him as her own son.

Moses had an identity crisis. He was born Jewish, but he was raised Egyptian. He had to ask himself at some point in his life, 'Who am I?' This was quite an important choice because it would determine the rest of his life. He was in line to be Pharaoh. If he said, 'I'm an Egyptian' and faked his heritage, he would live a life of ease. He would have an outstanding career. He would have fame and fortune.
If he said what he really was — Jewish — he would be humiliated, kicked out of the palace, and sent to live with a bunch of slaves for the rest of his life.  Yet Moses saw his people being badly mistreated as slaves, and he could not be silent...So he made a decision that cost him the next 80 years of his life.

Hebrews 11:24 says, 'By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter' (NIV). The word 'refused' in the Greek literally means to reject, deny, to totally disown. Moses cut himself off from a promising career as an Egyptian, and he refused to live a lie. Instead, he wanted to do what God had made him to do."

After reading this, I began to study the life of Moses a little more.  In Exodus 3, Moses had his encounter with God at the burning bush.  God had given Moses instructions to go to Pharaoh to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.  In Exodus 3:3, Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"  God's response?  "I will be with you." Um, God?  You didn't answer his question!  Moses, trying to rephrase his question, said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?'  Then what shall I tell them?"  God's response?  "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

Moses began with a question about who he was.  God answered by declaring who HE was.   I think that is the first thing we have to get straight when searching for our identity.  Who is God?  When we know that, THEN and only then can we begin to understand who He has created us to be--which makes sense since we're created in the image of God.  If we don't know the original, we have nothing by which to process the image. 

After we develop a healthy understanding of Who God is, we can begin to understand what He says about who He's created us to be.  For starters, here are some things God says about YOU.  As a child of God, you are:
  • chosen, God's special possession (1 Peter 2:9)
  • a new creation, reconciled, Christ's ambassadors, the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:17--21)
  • fearfully and wonderfully made, seen by God (Psalm 139:13--16)
  • a dear child, forgiven (1 John 2:12)
  • alive with Christ (Colossians 2:13)
  • redeemed (1 Peter 1:18--19)
  • not fearful, but powerful (2 Timothy 1:7)
  • have freedom and have been given confidence (Ephesians 3:12)
  • created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27)
  • God's handiwork, created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10)
  • chosen to be holy and blameless, adopted (Ephesians 1:4--5)
  • precious and honored (Isaiah 43:4)
  • known by God (Psalm 139:1--4)
  • beautiful (Psalm 45:11)
  • LOVED. (John 3:16)
I asked the students to compare the first list they wrote--the things they thought they were expected to be--to this list.  I asked them what they noticed about the differences between the two.  One girl finally spoke up and said that in the first list, the words denoted things that WE had to do or become to earn a reputation, but in the list of words of who God says we are, those are things He has done for us. A pretty profound observation.  The reality of who you are has nothing to do with you. It's not about how you grew up, where you're from, what you look like, how well you perform, how much stuff you have, how unloved you feel, or how much you've screwed up.  It's about God, what He has done for you, and who He says you are.

So what does this mean for our lives?  We have to stop looking to people and things to fulfill us.  NO ONE can ever do this for you--it's only God.  When you look to people, and activities, and success, and stuff to help you find your identity, you will be sorely disappointed--and probably miserable--because people will let you down.  Activities will end.  Successes will be forgotten.  Stuff will break.  What DO we do?  Look to God.  Spend time with Him.  Find out more about who He says you are.  Ask Him to TELL you who you are!  Spend time with others who are finding their identity in Him because they'll help point you in the right direction.  Separate yourself from influences that detract from or are in conflict with who God has created you to be.  Find your strength, your confidence, your contentment, your peace in Him.  Doing so will not only make your life more fulfilling, but you'll be bringing glory to God in the meantime, displaying his artistry and workmanship as His creation.

For some final thoughts on this, check out this video:
http://vimeo.com/15393241

Side note:  One of my favorite things about God is the idea of being redeemed--purchased, bought back--from what once mastered us.  While typing the list above, I was reminded of this song by Big Daddy Weave.  If you don't know it, and believe it, you should.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzGAYNKDyIU






28 February 2013

Amani ya Juu: Praying for Peace in Kenya

I borrowed the title for this post from the name of one of my favorite ministries/shops here in Nairobi because it just seemed fitting.  In Swahili, amani ya juu means "peace from above."  The next few days, weeks, and months have the potential to be rather tentative here in Kenya, and it truly can only be God's peace, a peace from above, that will heal this land and bring people together.

Several of you have been asking for some details about the Kenyan elections that will be held this coming Monday, March 4, so I thought I'd compile a bit of the information for you if you'd like to know more.  U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Robert F. Godec, explains it this way: "The general election on March 4 will be the most important since independence. It will be an important test of Kenya's progress. It is the first national election since the post-election violence that claimed over 1,000 lives and displaced 600,000 people, and the first under Kenya’s new constitution. The government of Kenya, the international community, and civil society are working hard to ensure this election is free, that it is fair and that it is peaceful."


While I've learned bits and pieces of Kenya's political history while I've been here, and more so in the last month or so, I am certainly no expert.  However I have been told that most of the issues coming to light in this election are rooted very deeply, so there is certainly no quick-fix to the situation.  To compound the issue(s), the team of men who appear to be the current front-runners as candidates have both been indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity in the previous election and should be appearing at the Hague for trial in the near future.  While their unity as runningmates could result in more ethnic unity within Kenya, their election could also mean a cold shoulder toward Kenya from the international community.

Since I am no expert, I thought that simply sharing links written by people who know a lot more than I do would be more beneficial.  Below are links to a few articles that are beneficial in understanding the current political climate in Kenya:

Q & A: Kenya's 2013 Elections

Kenya Elections: Maps and Graphics

Uhuru Kenyatta: Indicted Candidate

Obama's Address to Kenyans

As you can see, there's quite a bit at stake over the next few days.  Depending on how the results turn out next week, run-off elections could be held in April or May (whether or not the results are judicially disputed would determine which), prolonging the time of uncertainty.

For those of you asking about my personal security right now, our Crisis Management Team here at Rosslyn has been working on safety and security issues for months and months.  They're closely monitoring the situation, along with input from the U.S. Embassy and United Nations political advisers. We're "hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst."  Right now I feel just as safe as I would at any other point.  We've taken measures to be prepared IF difficult situations arise, but like I said, we're hoping none of those will need to be used.  At the end of the day, God's still in control, and no matter what happens, we can rest in that.

So please join us in prayer over the next few days, particularly.  Pray for God's peace to reign here in Kenya--for His peace to draw Kenyans together across ethnic lines, for His peace to allow the "system" to work and keep people from taking matters into their own hands, for His peace to protect the people of this country.  Please also pray for two specific areas that are close to my heart--Kawangware here in Nairobi (home of Vapor Sports), and Makutano (home of Village Project Africa).  Kawangware is labeled a "hotspot" for election-related violence, and when I talked with one of Vapor's directors last weekend, he agreed that there is a lot of tension in the area right now.  During the last election, many families involved with Village Project Africa were affected by violence--some even lost their homes and had to move to IDP camps away from the village.


  The words to Kenya's national anthem are :

O God of all creation,
Bless this our land and nation.
Justice be our shield and defender,
May we dwell in unity,
Peace and liberty.
Plenty be found within our borders.

Let one and all arise
With hearts both strong and true.
Service be our earnest endeavour,
And our Homeland of Kenya,
Heritage of splendour,
Firm may we stand to defend.

Let all with one accord
In common bond united,
Build this our nation together,
And the glory of Kenya,
The fruit of our labour
Fill every heart with thanksgiving.

We pray that Kenyans will live by this prayer in the coming days, and that peace and liberty will be found within the borders.  The following verses were shared in church last Sunday, and they seem a fitting conclusion:

"In the Lord I take refuge.  
How then can you say to me: 'Flee like a bird to your mountain'...
When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?
The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne.
He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them...
For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; 
upright men will see his face."
Psalm 11



16 October 2012

Sometimes By Step

The idea of taking life step-by-step seems to be an idea that's come up a lot in the last few weeks, in one way or another. 

I've lost track of how many people in the last three weeks have asked me what I'm going to do when my 3-year contract is finished here at Rosslyn...in June of 2014.


A friend posted a comment about taking life one step at a time as a lesson learned from the book of Joshua.  

Another friend told me he will "still enjoy this season" even though he has no idea what God has in store for him past the end of the year.


While it doesn't bother me at all for people to ask what I'm going to do in two years (I have no answer for that question, by the way!), if I focus on it too much, it can very quickly cause me to become anxious about the future.  I'm a planner.  I like calendars and lists and organizing people and events to make things happen.  The thought of showing up to school without lesson plans is almost more than I can handle!  I also DON'T like NOT knowing how things are going to work out, so having to speculate about the future isn't something I particularly enjoy. However, one thing I have learned in my life is that things WON'T always happen the way you think they will...and I have also learned that following God's leading is always better than following your own plans.  

As humans, I think it's our nature to want to know what lies ahead so we can plan, be prepared.  There are certainly Biblical examples of planning for certain things, such as Joseph planning for years of famine by storing food in times of plenty (Genesis 41),  the ant storing food in summer to be ready for winter (Proverbs 6), or Jesus planning for His departure from earth by teaching and investing in his disciples, so they would know how to carry on without Him. 

Clearly planning can be good a good thing.  However, we have to realize that there are times when God is going to call us to trust Him one little obedient step at a time, without knowing or understanding what lies ahead.  Even if the little step means big changes, we have to just trust Him step by step.  Too much focus on OUR plans, or impatience about where we are in life, can keep us from "enjoying this season" of life if things aren't just the way we want them to be, and our plans can then become an idol--demanding our focus and commitment away from God, and causing fear and anxiety in the meantime.

I was prompted to write this tonight as I was listening to the Passion White Flag album.  The song that kind of tied all these things together for me was Chris Tomlin's "No Turning Back." (Click here to listen.)  Much of the song is just the repeated lyrics of "I will follow You, no turning back."  Listening to those words helped me remember how I got here in the first place, reminded me of God's faithfulness, and brought to mind all these ideas of "one step at a time." 

The verse that keeps coming to mind is Proverbs 16:9:

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD 
determines his steps.

This is a good reminder to me that the best plan I can make is to continue walking in the path God has laid out for me and to trust Him to guide my steps from here.

I borrowed the title for this post from Rich Mullins' song of the same name.  It helps me to remember that sometimes, MANY times, the best way to approach this life is one step at a time.  No turning back. 

"And step by step You'll lead me, 
 and I will follow You all of my days."

 

28 August 2012

Back at It!

The last time I wrote, in early June, I was sitting in a room in Rome, and wow, has a lot happened since then!  This post is mostly an update to catch you up to what's gone on in my life over the last 12 weeks or so.  So if you're still interested, read on!

Colosseo, June 2012

After leaving Rome, I headed home to central Kentucky.  I even made it home in time for the annual Beer Cheese Festival in my hometown!  Yum!  It was a great way to run into a bunch of people at once to say hi for the first time in a year.  I was in Winchester for a week, then I flew to South Carolina to spend some time with my family.  We had a great time catching up, and I got to help Susan (my sister) get a little more settled in their new home! My dad and I found a great Indian restaurant in Columbia, Mom took Susan and me to high tea at Laura's Tea Room in Ridgeway, and Susan and I even got a special trip to the Biltmore Estate and Winery, provided by the family of one of my Rosslyn students.
 
Kovachi's, "Christmas in June," and Laura's Tea Room

I returned to Winchester, attended a friend's wedding, and two days later, I headed to the Pigeon Forge area of Tennessee with Candy and Julianne for a few days of some girl-time, great food, and bargain shopping!  Oh, and I can't forget the laughing.  There were multiple instances of laughing so hard we couldn't breathe!  Good times.  :)  They missed their families, but we didn't want to leave!

At our cabin at Oak Haven Resort in Sevierville, TN

After our little trip to Tennessee, I stayed in Kentucky most of the rest of my time back, however I was able to spend a day in Indianapolis seeing my grandmother, cousins, and some high-school friends.  Being able to settle for a few weeks in Kentucky allowed me to catch up with a bunch of friends, eat a lot of Mexican food (Don Senor five times, I think??!), and even participate with the praise team at my church for two Sundays.  I had a surprise early birthday "party" (cake included!), and then my awesome friends had ANOTHER party for me with some former colleagues, so I got to see even more people before I left!  When I left the States on July 25, I headed to Paris to spend two nights there (where it was affirmed that I can't speak French AT ALL!), and then I made my way back to the cool air of Nairobi, where, upon landing, I was greeted with the tune of  "Jambo, jambo bwana..." (listen to Jambo Bwana here!) and my friendly, ever-so-helpful taxi driver, Charles.

Tour Eiffel, July 2012

While I was "home," the weird thing was that it didn't seem weird.  I really wasn't sure how it would be to go back, but in many ways it just seemed like friendships and activities picked up right where we left off!  I was very thankful for this and for the amazing hospitality shown to me by so many, especially the ones who let me crash at their house for weeks on end!  ;)  I'm also thankful for my church family who welcomed me back, let me tell stories of Kenya, allowed me to participate in leading music, and prayed for me as I left again.  They have been, are, and will continue to be such a blessing to me!

Closing prayer on July 22; 3 of us on stage headed to 3 different countries!

One other big event for me was graduating with my master's degree from Georgetown College on August 12!  After working on it for three years, my coursework was finished in early June, but the graduation date made it official.  I received my new teaching certificate yesterday, and now I'm fully certified for eight more years!


Now I'm back at Rosslyn, beginning my second year here, and my eighth year of teaching--where has the time gone?!  The weather here in Nairobi right now is a little all over the place, but tends to be more on the cool, wet side.  I spent Sunday afternoon melting at the pool, but I've worn sweaters and scarves the last two days!  It's a little unpredictable, BUT it's NOT the hot, humid air I left! Woohoo!  One of the highlights for me upon returning to work was one of our staff orientation days when the school took all of us whitewater rafting on the Tana River.  WOW!  I love rafting, and this had to be the best "ride" I've had so far!  No pictures though, which is a bummer.

School started August 9, and I currently have 18 students in my fifth grade class, which is a great size!  If I've counted correctly, those students have collectively lived in at least 23 different countries--amazing!  This is one of the times I'm especially glad that I moved around so much growing up.  While I didn't experience the drastic cross-culture transitions that they have, I understand a little bit about how it feels to not know how to answer the "Where are you from?" question.  I hope I can help them appreciate where they've been by letting them share from their memories and experiences and validating those in the classroom. 

Something that's blessed me as the school year has started is getting to see former students.  I had such a wonderful class of kids last year, and seeing them again warms my heart!  Formerly, teaching 5th grade in the States, I usually didn't get to see students again, since they went to middle school at a different location, unless I ran into them around town.  Here, the middle school is only a few hundred yards away, so I've seen "my kids" often!  On the first day of school, almost all 24 of them stopped in to say hi and give me a hug, and a good handful of them have continued to do that a couple times a week!  Love those kids!!

My kids from last year--now 6th graders!

 
I'm looking forward to the opportunities this year will bring, including getting a student teacher for the first time next semester! Another first for me will be being able to participate in singing Handel's Messiah.  In October, combined choirs from around Nairobi, along with the Nairobi orchestra, will perform the Messiah for Voices for Hospices, with the proceeds of the performance going to Nairobi Hospice.  Practice for that starts next week, and I'm really looking forward to it!  I've also been given the chance to attend the Association of International Schools in Africa (AISA) educators' conference in Johannesburg, South Africa at the end of October, and I'm super excited about that as well!  Until now, the farthest I've been able to go for professional development is Hazard, KY, so perhaps you can sense my joy! Haha!

Our theme verses for our school year here at Rosslyn this year come from Romans 12:9--13.

 "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord's people who are in need.  Practice hospitality."

On one of our staff orientation days, we were asked to think and pray about what stood out to us most about those verses. There are SO many good things in there, but the part that I had to think about the most was "honor one another above yourselves." It's really easy to be selfish, even in the little things that no one else would notice. And honoring other people isn't always something that will be noticed. For example, at times, keeping my mouth shut honors people much more than it could by what I could choose to say. I think selfishness is a very natural human characteristic, which is why for some of us, it's a hard habit to break. I pray that God reminds me of this verse throughout this year so that I can actively honor others above myself.

I have so much to be thankful for right now. As the rain was pouring a few hours ago, I was thinking about how blessed I am to be living somewhere warm and dry, that I have a bed to crawl into at night and blankets to pull over me. I got a message last night that a girl in my class in college was in her last minutes of life as MS finally won the battle in her body. One of our custodians and his wife who were to welcome their first child to the world in the next few weeks lost that baby last week. I have some friends struggling with jobs and some struggling with personal issues they've battled for years, others trying to get out of a hurricane's path. A few friends have lost a parent in the last few weeks or have parents who are very ill. I'm sitting in a city where possibly millions don't have electricity or running water in their homes. There is a lot of heartache around me, and I earnestly pray for God to comfort all of those affected and to give me a thankful heart.

If you've read this far, thanks for sticking with me!  Until next time, God bless!

Night sky above my apartment on my birthday

 



 


05 June 2012

Headed Home

Michael Buble has a song called Home, and the first words are, "Another summer day has come and gone away in Paris and Rome, but I wanna go home," and that's exactly how I feel tonight!  I'm sitting in my room in Rome, getting ready to try to sleep for a couple of hours before I get picked up to leave for the airport at 5 a.m. to begin my journey home.  I've had a great couple days here, although I don't think I've ever walked so much in 2 days in my whole life!  I am READY to go home!  Lord (and British Airways) willing, I'll be there tomorrow evening.

I promised this update over 2 weeks ago, thinking I'd have time to write it over a week ago.  I severely underestimated how much I had to do before leaving Kenya!  So while I'm pretty worn out tonight, I wanted to take the chance to post this before I get back to the States, especially because several of you have been asking where my update is!

I also decided that in addition to the "Things I'm Looking Forward To" list, I have a "Things I'll Miss" list too.  Please know in advance that many of these things are just silly, I have lived perfectly fine without them for nearly a year, and they are certainly not necessities, or for the most part, things that actually matter at all in the grand scheme of life.  I just won't mind getting to enjoy them again!  Obviously a few are a bit more serious, and those are mostly the people who matter most to me.  :)  And maybe it will help you realize how much we take granted, even little things, in America.  Ok, here goes...

Things I'm Looking Forward To:
  • Calvary Christian Church!!!
  • ice
  • ordering cold water with one word: "What would you like to drink?"  "Water."  See?  Done.
  • Tide and dryer sheets...well, and a dryer!
  • pollo bandido at Don Senor
  • beer cheese nachos
  • REAL Heinz ketchup
  • friends
  • family
  • stop lights...more than 2...and people actually stop at them
  • less honking (although I've discovered Italians honk more than Kenyans!)
  • water that flows continually in the shower and stays the same temperature
  • consistent internet service
  • smaller potholes
  • fewer (or 0?) power outages
  • drive thrus
  • not paying for parking every time I have to buy groceries
  • Target
  • being wakened by things other than leaf blowers  ;)
  • not having to worry about stepping on a gecko in the dark 
  • being able to drive significant distances at decent speeds
  • free refills
  • no speed bumps!

Things I'm Going to Miss from Kenya:
  • mochas from Art Caffe
  • Pick N Peel juice (SOOOO good!)
  • super inexpensive, really fresh produce and flowers
  • dinner at Diamond Plaza and Anghiti...gotta find a good Indian restaurant in Lexington!
  • Jico
  • the low humidity and temperature
  • "my" pool
  • cheap "mo-bile" phone service
  • the "Hi, fine." conversation  :)
  • falling asleep to the beat of drums in the distance
  • Kenyan rain
  • my "Kenyan" friends
  • the Rosslyn guards welcoming me home every time I pull in
  • cheap movie tickets
  • not being at Joseph and Mary's (yes, that's right) wedding
Well, that's what I have for now.  I'm sure I could add more if I spent more time on it, but that gives you a little bit of an idea of things I'm thinking about.  Like I said, this is meant to be more humorous than anything, so please don't take it too seriously.  :)