Friday, May 18, 2012

What a Year!

Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted anything! I can't believe it's been almost a year to the date that I left to spend the most amazing summer of my life in South Asia! I have learned and grown so much since then!

When I left a year ago, I had no idea what to expect. I was scared, nervous, and shy, yet I was also very excited to see what God had in store for the summer! (Here's a link to my first post last summer, when I was in the airport waiting to head overseas...)

God changed me and showed so much last summer! I gained a lot of confidence and boldness (albeit a quiet bodness-- hey, it's still me, lol) that would not be there if not for the experiences I had overseas. I also gained a love and passion for South Asian people, and I feel called to go back one day.

After coming home, I started my first year at Southwestern! I wasn't really sure what to expect here, either, but I have really come to love it, and I am glad that God led me here, even though I had to leave my friends and church family in Arkansas. You can read about the difficulty I had with that decision here and here...

I was also incredibly blessed to be called to serve as the Director of Children's Ministry at a church in Denton within a month of moving to Texas! I cannot tell you how grateful I am for this church! Not only did God provide a wonderful job for me, He also provided a third family for me! I can now say that in addition to my Louisiana and Arkansas families, I have a group of believers here in Texas that immediately made me part of their family! I am blessed, indeed! :)

As for some of the things that God has shown me this year, I could write a book, but I will try to limit it since I am still working on being more concise, lol. One big HUGE thing that He showed me this year is that He has called me to work overseas. Before coming here, I was still unsure of exactly which direction He was leading me. I knew I loved working with children (still do!), and I also knew that I had a passion for internationals, but I really wasn't sure exactly how (or if) He was going to use both of those together, so I decided to get a dual concentration-- one in both areas. As I went through my first semester, I focused more on the children's part of the degree, especially since I had a new job as a children's director. I did try to incorporate an international aspect within the children's ministry at church, though, because I really felt strongly about the importance of it. In January, I got a letter that I had written to myself at debriefing last summer (our program supervisors had us do this, and they sent them to us six months after we left the country). In it, I was reminded of how much I learned in my summer in South Asia, and especially how much I loved South Asians. God used this letter to remind me of a specific experience that happened just three days before we left our city, in which 1) I really felt a connection/love for a specific group of South Asians, and 2) I gained a new confidence in myself and that I could be independent in South Asia, speaking up and being bold because of the confidence I have in Christ! Long story short, God used this letter to remind me/confirm in my heart that He was calling me to work overseas. That doesn't mean that I will not work with children in some form once I'm overseas (see some pictures of us doing that here), but I know that He has called me to work with South Asians overseas, and I couldn't be more excited! I still have two more years of school before I can do that full-time, but I am looking forward to all that He is going to teach me during this time of preparation!

A second thing that He has been showing me this year is that my identity is in Him alone. For practically my whole life, I have found a big part of my identity-- who I am-- in my academic success. I have pretty much been a perfectionist since day one. My baby video shows me dumping my cake over on my first birthday because I didn't want to get my hands dirty, lol. (Side note, that is a classic only-child for you-- my research paper for Parenting and Faith Development was on birth order... rabbit chased...) Anyway, I have always made good, no, excellent grades, and when they were not up to my standards, I got upset. My mom recalls a time at the end of third grade when I said to her that I didn't have a good year because my best friend got all A's, and I made a couple of B's. When I was in the eighth grade, I was struggling with Algebra I because the teacher didn't teach in a way that I understood. I refused to get a tutor because I was afraid it meant that I was dumb, but my mom stepped in when I made my first (and only) C. Anyway, fast-forward several years, and I graduated 2nd in my high school class. Fast-forward several more years, and I graduated summa cum laude from college, with a 4.0 in my degree (3.92 overall). Fast-forward a little more, and I graduated last May with my Master's degree in Gifted and Talented Education with a 4.0 and a couple of awards from the National Association for Gifted Children. I remember the first day of my first class at UALR, we had to fill out a questionnaire about ourselves and state what our goals were for the program. One of mine was to graduate with a 4.0. Not to gain knowledge of how to teach gifted children (although, that was a goal-- I just didn't put that in writing). It was pretty obvious what my focus was. 

Anyway, all of that to say that my whole life, I've been known as "the smart kid" or "having so much potential" or "an outstanding student". I've internalized a lot of that, and I found a lot of worth from it. Something I have learned this year is that I am not in school right now to make good grades (although, I can and do certainly try). I am in school to learn and prepare for what God has called me to do, and my worth-- my identity-- is in Christ alone. In short, God showed me that my academic success/grades had become an idol. I wish I could say that He just showed me that one day in my time with Him, but that's not what happened (although it was somewhat of a factor). Actually, it was because of a few things. Last semester, I made my first B since my sophomore year of college. I was upset, but not too much. This semester, though, I really struggled. In one of my classes, we had to write a paper and as part of the process, we had to submit small assignments to the Writing Center that were supposed to help us with the writing process. I was humbled pretty quickly, because I soon learned that although I was a pretty decent writer overall, I did not know how to really break down the writing process, and my grades on those assignments were TERRIBLE (and believe me, I am not exaggerating... my average on those assignments was about a 68%). As a result, my grade in the class will more than likely be a B. Something else really helped to teach me this, though. For another class, we had seven books to read over the course of the semester. I read six. I knew my grade would suffer somewhat, but I was honest on the final and said I didn't read them all. I ended up with a zero for my reading grade, which was worth 20% of the final grade, so I will more than likely have my very first C. At first I was pretty upset, but then I realized that 1) I'd had all semester to read all seven books. Sure I didn't have a deadline other than the day of the final and procrastinated because of other, more pressing assignments, but I still knew I had to read them. I ended up reading five out of the six the day before the final and pulled an all-nighter to do so. Had I managed my time more effectively during the semseter, I could have read all seven without the all-nighter and settling for six out of seven. 2) I learned a lot from this class, and I really enjoyed it. The grade I end up getting will never change or take away from that. 3) As my friend/co-worker/youth minister put it, "C=MDiv", lol. :) (In other words, no one will look at my transcript and analyze my grades when I am trying to get a job-- they just want to know that I graduated!) 4) Most importantly, regardless of the grades I make, I am and will always be a child of God. When I try to find my worth/identity in my grades/academics, I will never be satisfied. My fulfillment should always be in Him alone. I hope I never lose sight of that!

Wow, that was pretty long-winded, lol. I guess maybe I did write a book! Oops, I will have to try to continue working on that "being more concise" thing, lol. ;)

Anyway, it has been a remarkable year! This summer, I am looking forward to working at my church. We will be "Kickin' it Old School!" for VBS this year, and I can't wait to take a few of the kids to camp. All in all, I am thinking it's going to be a busy summer! It will be very different from last summer, but I know that God will still do amazing things!

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen." (Eph. 3:20)