Sunday, November 11, 2012

Interphase...

... is the preparation phase for cell division. During this phase, our cells grow in size and make copies of our DNA. OK... that flew over your head? How about this... you can't make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich until you get the ingredients out of the pantry... you have to prepare first! Our entire life is a preparation phase. Preparing us for only one thing... one Person... but we'll get back to that...

All of my life I grew up NOT OK with blood or bodily fluids. Even at 28 I look the other direction when a nurse sticks me with a needle (and that's been a lot lately). I did my best not to be injured. Rarely rode on anything with less than four wheels for fear of scraping my knees, but the last two years of my life have started looking much different. As most of you know I lost an amazing student almost 2 years ago and it absolutely rocked my world. I've lost a lot of people in my life, but there was something different, something about him being so young, that changed my perspective on many things. God took me through a series of challenges and lessons on grief during that time.

One way I used to always handle grief was to pack up and run. So when I got a phone call about a really awesome job opening at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta it only seemed appropriate to look further into it. I didn't want to have to walk passed his locker one more time. The job was, for me, a dream job... working with pateints and their families, communicating between doctors, parents, and schools about the educational need of the patients so they didn't fall behind in school... basically the child life specialist of the education world. Who even knew that type of job existed?! So... I applied... and got denied. :) It just simply wasn't in God's timing... but I KNEW it was what I was supposed to be doing. I could feel Him calling me for it and soon after I would quickly see Him preparing me for it.

A few months later I began talking to a close friend of mine, Jessica, about an organization called Lighthouse Family Retreat. LFR is an organization that takes families living through childhood cancer to the beach. Honestly, I thought I would be a hot mess if I ever had to work with those families. I mean... I'm an emotional person! Just ask my mom, siblings, or basically any person who has sat next to me at church, or next to me during a cell phone commercial... you know... the one where the guy sends the girl the pics of places he is visiting and then shows up next to her?! Melts my heart every time! Anyway, I never imagined I'd have the strength to support a family and love on them in a way that would be helpful. These conversations with Jessica occured while she was talking about her experience with LFR and also when she was planning to have them present at Cornerstone, a gathering of people in Atlanta to learn about service opportunities in our city. This also happened to be during the time I was 100% certain I was going to Kenya over the summer. As is the story of my life... God's plans are usually MUCH different than mine and Kenya didn't happen, but Lighthouse Family Retreat did!

Transit, the middle school ministry inside of North Point Ministries, added a rising 8th grade mission trip to LFR last summer. I felt called to reach out and see if there was a way I could help... so they made me a co-leader. I went from being certain I would never be good at it, to feeling called and leaning in, to being a frightened co-leader not knowing what at all to expect... but knowing I cried during EVERY SINGLE video we watched as a team. Small secret: I wasn't completely comfortable until someone from Lighthouse said to us: "God doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies the called." Thank goodness for that... because this little lady was having some serious doubts and fears. God quickly showed me the power of an open heart, love for His people, and the goodness through even some of life's most difficult trials.

I got home from Lighthouse knowing it would never leave me. I got plugged in as a hospital ambassador for the organization at Egleston and Scottish Rite in Atlanta and loved every minute I got to spend with the incredible patients and their families. We laughed, rolled beach balls, sang with clowns, made necklaces, and colored paper fish... my own personal Disney World in Atlanta. (FYI: DW is my most favorite place... and the happiest place... on earth)

Now... I don't know if you're following this... but I went from not getting a job at Children's, to volunteering for an organization that serves their patients, to serving INSIDE of Children's for an organization that serves their families. God is pretty crafty!

Also... if you have read anything else I've posted, or know me closely... you know I've been dealing with a lot of medical issues myself. It's actually a blessing to have the experiences I have and to be able to relate to the kids and their families on a familiar level. It's not fun, scary at times, and exhausting... but I honestly wouldn't change it.

Once I got back into Children's... it was so incredibly 100% clear... I was supposed to be there. I didn't know when and I didn't know how, but God was preparing me. Of that I was certain. In July, another position, the same job description as last time, opened up (I checked daily... I'm not going to lie). I applied... and waited... and waited... and waited. Unbeknownst to me... Children's HR froze the hiring of the position, so I didn't hear anything until October 9th. The phone call was something like this, "Can you come in tomorrow at 9 for an interview?" Of course I said yes... went... and the people sitting at the table were: two people who had interviewed me last year, along with the person who got the "yes" when I got the "no." Again... I'm not going to lie... it was awkward... up until they mentioned they were going to skip a few parts they already knew about me from last year, to which I replied, "No! Don't do that! It didn't work out too great for me last time. Let's start over!" I got a nice loud laugh from the table :)

I start my Educational Advocacy position at Children's on December 17, 2012 :)

God is faithful... especially when we are faithful. He uses every aspect of our life to prepare us for what He has planned... not what we have planned. Our role... just follow Him. The easiest thing I've ever done is follow His lead... after I released control ;) You see, our preparation is for His purpose, not our own. Every single day we are being prepared, by our amazing Heavenly Father, to serve Him on this Earth. If we aren't allowing Him to do just that... we are only holding ourselves back from sharing His glory. I didn't want to stay in my job after Sanders passed, but in the time the Lord had me there I've learned to grieve, face difficult circumstances, reach out and hold someone's hand, ask for help, and to love on people who need it more than I do. I learned how to live my days for Him... not for myself.

Interphase... it's the preparation phase for cell division. Not even our cells work without preparation first! Why should we expect anything different from our God? After all... He made our cells to work that way!

 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Here goes... well... everything...

I've always been a pretty active person. I participated in several different sports growing up: tennis, swimming, t-ball (OK... one game), dance, and competitive cheerleading. So, when I got older and began to view myself as lazy I started wondering what was wrong. I always loved being outside with my friends, but through my mid 20's to now I began finding myself more comfortable at home and not doing much of anything considered active. Last year I decided to change that, so I trained for and ran my first half marathon. I should have seen the warning signs then...

More notably, over the summer I began having severe headaches and my right eye began to slightly droop. I noticed it, but figured I was just getting old (HA). Then my mom noticed it. If you've read any of my posts before today you probably already know about the Aneurysm Scare of 2012. Thankfully it was only a scare and all was well in that area, BUT we still didn't have answers for any of my symptoms. While AS2012 was occuring my neurologist was running a blood panel for several other options. One came back positive... an acetylcholine receptor antibody. I know... that means nothing to you... basically it is an antibody of "little white soldiers" that stand between my nerve endings and my voluntary muscles. The "soldiers" block the messages from getting to my muscles causing fatigue of the limbs, droopy eyelids, double vision, and in more advanced cases, breathing problems. All of that to say... I tested positive for one out of the two indicators for an autoimmune disorder called Myasthenia Gravis. I know... I had never heard of it before either! But... they have a foundation and a 5k... whoot whoot!

From there I was ordered to have a CT scan performed... and behold! they found that my thymus (a gland that should no longer be active in an adult body that produces these "little white soldiers") is still going strong in mine... SO... I'm having mine removed on November 12th. Thanks to modern technology they won't have to open my chest and instead a tiny little camera will go in with a skilled team from the Emory Cardiothoracic Surgery department to remove the gland and all of its tissues. The goal: to be in the 60% remission category after the surgery!

Now... if I still exhibit symptoms of the disorder (which I won't) then I will take medication... but please hear me when I say... This is NOT life threatening for me and I will live to be as old as the Good Lord intends me to be. In fact... After my surgery I begin training for my second half marathon, The Nashville Country Music Half in April 2013. Currently I'm receiving IVIG treatments to help build my immune system before the surgery. This is just a precaution so that I'm healthy enough to have a successful surgery.

I am 100% confident that our amazing God has a plan that is best for me and those I love. I'm also 100% reliant and peaceful in that plan. No the plan isn't always easy, and no I may not always be comfortable in every second of it, but I know that if I stick it out, the reward is far greater than anything I could imagine. God has placed amazing people in my life that are sticking this out with me and have continued to support me every step of the way. I'm more grateful than you will ever know.

Here's to praying for sturdy veins during IVIG and steady hands during surgery ;) hehe

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jordan Elizabeth White

We will never understand why a man, ironically named Lucky, decided to drive 4 times over the legal alcohol limit last Wednesday night... and while at the same time he was running a red light, our Jordan was taking a left turn as her arrow turned green. We will NEVER understand why Jordan was called to be with our Heavenly Father so young and, honestly, none of us have the energy or the right to try to reason it. But I do know that we have faith in our Heavenly Father's plan and that even though we mourn here selfishly on Earth... they are rejoicing her arrival in Heaven.

Our precious Jordan continues her journey on this Earth through 4 strangers. These 4 strangers are still on this Earth because she gave them life through the donation of her organs. If you are not a registered organ donor... please consider registering: http://donatelife.net/register-now/.




 






I Will Rise - by Chris Tomlin

There's a peace I've come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There's an anchor for my soul
I can say "It is well"

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

[Chorus:]
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

There's a day that's drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

[Chorus:]
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
"Worthy is the Lamb"
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
"Worthy is the Lamb"
[x2]

[Chorus:]
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My Journey of Uncertainty... Grounded in Faith

The past week and a half has been quite the adventure! There's nothing like believing your life may end soon, to realizing it won't end but may dramatically change, to finding out it's actually all going to be OK.

I've been debating whether I was going to openly share this, but if it can inspire one person, or help one person through a difficult time it will be worth it. I don't know how to better describe it than to just post the updates I sent to my family and friends for support and prayer. Below you will find these updates.

Spend time every day thanking God for being who He is, for all He has given you and will continue to give. ~ Steph

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." - Hebrews 11:1

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." - Exodus 14:14

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August 3, 2012 - Update #1

So... My mom coming to pick me up has been the best thing I could have asked for. The conversation (as I was sobbing, of course): "Mommy, I have an aneurysm." "What can I do, honey?" "I want to see you!" "When?" "Now!" "I'm getting in the car!"

Thank goodness for amazing parents!!! God blessed me with the best!

So I'm in St. Simons... we've named my aneurysm... her name is Annie. My mom says it's because she's so small so it reminded her of little orphan Annie. I guess that just goes to show all of you where I get my sense of humor from ;)

So just to give you all a little more info now that I'm able to communicate it without breaking down: I went to my primary care physician a few weeks ago for my annual blood work. I have been having headaches for a few months and my eyelid started drooping. We talked about it and she referred me to a neurologist. I met with her last week and all of my neurowork was OK and everything was operating fine, but she wanted to do a MRI just in case. Last minute she decided to add on the MRA (I think she decided I had good insurance!) ;) Last Saturday I went in for my 45 minute MRI/MRA. Her last minute addition of the MRA may have saved my life!

Everything on the MRI came back OK... I figured it would since I wasn't having any of the nausea symptoms that come with possible tumors, etc. I actually told my Mom before the scan that if anything was going to show up it would be in my blood flow... something about the pressure and the way my headaches have been moving... I'm not a medical professional... but maybe I should be ;)

So for the past 4 days I was trying to get my results. The nurses kept giving me the run around and nobody would tell me anything. Finally yesterday I had 3 missed calls during my meetings on my first day back at work... it was my neurologist's office. They called to tell me they've found a small aneurysm in the right artery of my brain. The discussion with the doctor is blurry right now, in fact I asked her to repeat herself 3 times, but she either said it was 1.3mm or 3mm... either way... TINY in comparison to those that typically burst.

I am scheduled to meet with a neurosurgeon on Wednesday morning at 8:15 to discuss what was found and what/if we are going to do about it. My neurologist even mentioned the neurosurgeon may want to just "watch" it... I find that unacceptable... so does my Mom... so we're prepared to fight for a "laaaaaaaaser" removal. They do that... right?!

Anyway... until then I'm working from St. Simons... getting ready for the new school year. Some amazing coworkers came into my classroom yesterday and helped me get everything up and ready... now I'm just going through paperwork and online trainings.

Thank you all SO much for your love, prayers, and support. Thank you to those who have taken the time to call, text, email, provide movie rentals, etc. I know I haven't gotten around to calling you all back... I will... promise... but please know I've received all of the messages and couldn't pray for a better group of people in my life. God has blessed me with the most wonderful people!! He has a plan... I TRUST HIS PLAN... and I KNOW He will take care of me! Love you all and I'll be in touch!

************
See "Faith Defining Moments" blog post from August 4 :)

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August 6, 2012 - Update #2

I'm coming home today :) My mom and I are driving back after she gets off work. Y'all know me... I can't sit at home any longer. Don't worry, though... My body is good at telling me when I'm tired and need to rest now... And for once in my life I'm listening! I need normalcy, so I'm going to work tomorrow as if nothing is wrong! Well... Except for the zit that has taken up residence on my face... And y'all know me... I NEVER get zits! Ugh!!!

Each day it is getting easier to find God's peace. I've definitely decided its not my time to go... God has a lot left for me here to do, so He must be planning to heal me. So right now most of my worry and stress is related to the unknown of the treatment plan, if any, and we'll find that out Wednesday morning at 8:15. Dr. Barrow is my neurosurgeon and after a little research (not on aneurysms... I refuse to google that) I've come to see he was quite the attractive man... 20 years ago... And he's the chief of neurosurgery at Emory. So God's taking good care of me by getting me the best :) Mom was hoping for a younger Christian version of Dr. Barrow... But she assures me he may have a son... Forever the matchmaker my mom. I told her nobody will want to marry an aneurysm so we should focus on evicting Annie first ;)

Again... God continues to amaze me with the love and support I continue to receive from each of you. I am so thankful and will never be able to repay each of you enough. I feel your prayers everyday and to be completely transparent... Each time I want to get upset I remember all of you praying and know everything is going to be ok. Praying for total healing and a report from the neurosurgeon that we're all clear and can go about our normal lives... It's possible... God can do that ;) And if not... Of course praying for His will and that whatever treatment or procedure I must go through creates a pretty magnificent story about His love and glory! My amazing friend and 2nd member of my Super Trooper club (my mom being the first member), Marissa Carney, reminded me that God is here... Has already walked this road, and now wants to walk it with me. I just hope He's a speed walker ;)

Love you all SO very much!!! I'll be in touch after my appointment on Wednesday and want to see each and every one of your faces VERY soon... After my zit goes away ;)

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August 8, 2012 - Final Update

God is AMAZING... but we all know that already ;) I don't believe that God tests our faith... just as we should never test Him... but I do believe He puts us in positions where we can glorify His name through evidence that others may be able to see and understand. All of the fear, insecurities, and anxiety I've experienced in the past week were well worth it for the opportunity to be able to lift up His name and glorify His amazing works!!

Today I went to the neurosurgeon for the appointment about my aneurysm. When I first found out about the aneurysm I was told it was located in the right artery of my brain... turns out this is not the case, and as the neurosurgeon said I'm a victim of "modern technology." The aneurysm... or "baby aneurysm" as they call it, is actually located in the right carotid artery, near my cheek bone way outside of my skull. In fact, it's cavernous, meaning it is located in a pocket of my skull facing away from my brain so that if it ever did decide to grow and rupture, it may cause eye problems, but is not at all life threatening and they could even correct the eye problems. My neurologist will be treating me for migraines (unconnected to my baby aneurysm) and I will get a MRI in 5 years to compare to see if there has been any growth. All in all... Dr. Barrow... my favorite neurosurgeon... says all is completely fine and I'm completely safe and healthy.

Now... how my aneurysm went from inside of my brain to way far away from even close can only be explained one of two ways... my neurologist and radiologist need to go back to medical school OR God moved it to a safe place. I choose God!

To Him be the glory forever!!

Thank you all SO much for your prayers and support!! God has listened, answered, and showed us all once again He is here and for us!!!!!!!!!!!! It was your prayers, strength, love, and relationship with Him that pulled this one through. I am so incredibly grateful!!

I love you all and can't wait to see your faces!! My step-sister says I "have a new lease on life." I'm ready to live it... fearless... openly... and shouting how much I LOVE MY GOD!!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Faith Defining Moments

Life defining moments... If you "Google" life defining moments you get sites and explanations related to choices, experiences, meetings, deaths, etc. While we have all experienced many life defining moments, I feel like we often forget to find the faith defining moments within them.

It's easy to be scared, happy, or inquisitive. We all want answers and we all have emotions. What's hard to do is during those moments, finding God... not just finding Him... trusting Him. As a Christian, I've said my fair shares of "I trust God!" "I trust His plan!" BUT do I always really feel it? I believe it without a shadow of a doubt... but do I always FEEL it?!

Human beings are so incredibly built. The intricacies of our bodies, our emotions... our minds (ironic in my current situation... but it's amazing how it works) are beyond our comprehension. Scientists have spent thousands of years trying to cure illnesses and to create technology that allows us to identify problems BEFORE they exist. It's one of those pieces of technology that has literally saved my life... yes a scientist created the machine I layed in... but it was GOD that allowed a neurologist to find the one TINY blip that shouldn't have been found. As my mom says, "It was meant to be found."

I've found myself scared... just scared. I haven't asked "Why me?" I haven't screamed "It isn't fair!" but I have been scared.

Does God have a plan? Absolutely!

Can He heal me? Absolutely (and He will)!

Is this a defining faith moment for me? Absolutely!

You see... God uses us for His glory! He's going to heal me... and everyone will be able to see how miraculous our God is! I have faith in Him! I did before we found "Annie" and I will forever after! Am I scared? Yes... I'm a baby when it comes to pain... but I'm NOT scared my God won't show up! He's been here all along... and (as my dear friend Marissa reminded me) He's already walked this journey... now He's here to walk me through it.

I'm taking His hand... Hopefully He's a speed walker ;)

Friday, June 22, 2012

LFR... Giving you and those you serve my heart!

Being a short term missionary has it's ups and downs. We all know the enemy attacks whenever we are on the brink of doing something amazing for the kingdom. It comes with the territory. So while experiencing missions can be very fulfilling, it can also be very draining. But THIS... this experience is like nothing I've ever experienced. I am humbled and in awe of the amazing works of our God.

Instead of going back to Haiti... like last year, or going to Kenya... as was originally planned... I followed what I felt was the Holy Spirit guiding me on this journey that would lead me to Lighthouse Family Retreat in Florida this summer. Equipped with His love, comfort, and the support of so many of my family and friends, I embarked on an adventure of co-leading 21 rising 8th graders and 20 of their parents on a trip that would change each of us forever. We spent months preparing this young group to do laundry, love on children who are/were on treatment for cancer, show support and enthusiasm for those in the family who are well, and to show the love of our Heavenly Father in ways that only He could do through us. And boy did they represent our Lord! I am so incredibly blessed to have been able to witness the workings of these 21 students. I didn't hear a single one complain! They did laundry, cleaned up after other people, filled drinks before family members had a chance to ask for more, and some of them even carried around children who were weak and tired throughout the entire day (Susannah... you're my rock star!) I am incredibly encouraged by this group of young students... who will one day change the world. They can do it! I know they can! I've seen them change the lives of 15 families already! It just goes to show you that if you put a little faith in our younger generations... they will take charge and make waves in a messed up world.

The week was full of fun, laughter, talent shows, ice cream parties, movies on the lawn, and yes... even questions and tears. It's hard to be in a situation with children who have been diagnosed with cancer, and not have questions. One of the children in treatment told one of my students they aren't afraid to die. Of course this brought up questions for my student, who thankfully opened up to our small group and began to discuss this. It's a hard concept for any human to understand... not being afraid to die... but the faith and love for our Lord and Savior answers and brings peace to the idea, because for that child... and for each one of us... when that day comes... we get to BE WITH our Savior! That's nothing to be afraid of my friends! A parent on the retreat even told me: "I can't wake up every day wondering if my precious son is going to relapse. I have to have faith in God." Another parent told someone on our trip: "I believe God gave up His son, so I wouldn't have to give up mine."

The lessons I have learned, and will continue to learn, from the people on this trip are more than I could have prayed for. Missions are funny in that way... you leave to serve others and always find you feel they are serving you more than you could ever give to them. Thank you to Lighthouse for reassuring us that "He doesn't call the qualified... He qualifies the called."

It's interesting... I don't shed tears or get a little sad now for their situations or for fear God doesn't have planned to heal each child with cancer. Reality tells us He doesn't plan to heal each child while they are on this Earth, but when they meet Him... they will be healed... AND He has a perfect plan for each one of us. However, I do shed tears because I miss them... Each person I spent that amazing week with. I do shed tears of joy for having experienced a perfect week and for thankfulness for the amazing people God allowed me to meet.

God has been working! I mean... we know He always is... but it's really amazing when we get to see it play out.

Here are some photos from Retreat 3 - Gulf Place, FL: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10101436452185150.3112923.4903588&type=3&l=4323ef40b4 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lighthouse... Here We Come!!!

It's no secret to all of us that God loves His children. In fact, He loves each and every one of us more than we could dream of being loved and in ways that we haven't even thought of loving someone. We need His love... and we need to be people that want to show His love, as best we can, to everyone around us. That's what we're called to do. We're called to love. We're called to love the weak, the sick, the poor, the rich, the healthy, the strong, the old, and the young. We're simply called to love.

Within that calling it is said in 1 Peter 4:10 that the Lord has equipped us all with special gifts that we are to use to show the world his love and grace. With those gifts, God urges us on different paths in life to make sure we are making the most of the gifts He has given us. Thankfully... He gifted me with the ability to relationally relate with His children... and to love seeing them smile :)

In three days I will be on a bus headed to Gulf Place, Florida to serve as a co-leader on a team that will be serving families who have children living with childhood cancers. What's in Gulf Place, FL for these families?? An organization called Lighthouse Family Retreat! LFR is an organization that works to provide a week away from the challenges these families face in a fun in the sun type of way. Families who have children living with cancer are able to apply for a free trip (minus the cost of transportation) to this retreat. They hold many retreats each year at different places up and down 30A. I am incredibly humbled and blessed to be able to go this year and to be able to serve the families that will be there.

The particular retreat that I'm attending is a little different than others... in fact... half of the team going with us to volunteer is middle school students! The other half? Their parents! haha If you know me, know my job, and know my heart... you're thinking to yourself... "she just can't get away!" The student/parent teams going with us are going to be serving meals, doing laundry, making beds, and cleaning condos all week. Yes... middle schoolers doing laundry... I'm excited to see this in action ;) One of my students has even been practicing his laundry skills so that he's ready! That's dedication!!

I am so thankful that I get to be on the frontline to witness the life changing experiences that are going to happen, not only for the families that we will be serving, but also for the volunteers on my team. They, nor I, have any clue just how amazing this week is going to be. God is going to show up in a huge way... I just pray that we're ready!

Below is a list of prayer requests I sent to my team this morning. If you could partner with us as our prayer warriors we would absolutely love it. I have felt the prayers and love of my supporters up to this point and am so thankful for each of you and what you have given in love and financially to support our team! You are a HUGE part of what is going to happen next week... so thank you thank you thank you!!! Also, below the prayer requests, is the Lighthouse Family Retreat blog. Please feel free to check back here next week for updates and on that blog, as well! I love you all and thank you again for all of the support you have shown!

Prayer requests:
- We want to pray for, not only our safety in travel, but for the safety of the families that are traveling to Lighthouse, the crew members, and staff members.
- We want to pray for the health of all of the children: that their doctors will provide them clearance to make it down to the retreat and that they will remain well to participate and enjoy a stress free week of fun in the sun!
- We want to pray for our own provision and peace as we pack, pick up last minute items, and make our way to the busses Sunday morning... (You're supposed to be on this trip! God chose you specifically! Nothing is going to get in the way of that... don't let any lies reroute your motivation or your thoughts. Remember... God only provides truth and goodness... any lies you hear are not the Lord... but the enemy distracting you from your purpose.)
- We want to pray: That the Lord will open our hearts and minds to what He has planned to show us, teach us, and how He has planned to use us for the families we will serve. Each person on this team comes equipped with talents and gifts that God has given us... let's use those to extend His grace and love to the families we will serve.
- We want to pray that the Lord will humble us. To use us so that the families will see Him in us first. (1 Peter 4:10 says, "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." - I'm humbled to be a part of a team that knows this to be true and is following God's call to serve in this way!)
- We want to pray that during the difficult times... when we're tired, hungry, and sunburned that we find our strength in the Lord... only He can make this week successful!

Lighthouse Family Retreat blog: http://lighthousefamilyretreat.blogspot.com/

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thank you!!

Dear friends and family,

I can't thank you enough for the amazing support and love you have shown me over the previous months. I continue to feel your love and prayers as our team prepares for this amazing journey. Tomorrow night we will be having our last leadership team meeting and then next Sunday we are off to Florida. It has been a long road of preparation, but I am so confident in my team of middle school students and their parents. They are going to do amazing things for the families we are going to serve while at Lighthouse Family Retreat. A few of my students have even started learning how to do laundry at home in preparation for the week of laundry, making beds, writing sweet notes, and playing with the wonderful families of LFR.

God has provided in such a huge way through relationships and financially. Our team is definitely blessed by our amazing Lord... we are in great hands. Please continue to pray for the students traveling on my team and for their parents. Many have expressed feelings of anxiety and concern. Please pray for their discernment, peace, and for our safe travels. I don't think you can ever fully prepare a person for the relationships they are about to build with a family who is living through one of life's most difficult struggles, so please pray for all of our hearts, as well... that during our weakest moments, the Lord will lift us up and be glorified through our love for the families we are serving. Thank you all again so much for your love and support!

I'll be updating my blog during the week while I'm down in Florida. Please feel free to follow the journey as I go :)

http://stephimmel.blogspot.com/

Love you all!

~Steph

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

"Our willingness to wait..."

"Our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on the object we're waiting for." ~ Charles Stanley (in reference to Isaiah 64:4)

OK... I'm not delusional... I know reading that quote creates two reactions (1) duh, or (2) easier said than felt. I have to be honest... I can sway in either direction depending on when you ask me. I would love to be able to say that I'm on the "duh" side all the time, but my human self, and spiritual warfare attacks can definitely put me in a place where impatience will take over, even if it is something that I desire so much.

I am currently in a period of waiting - Waiting to find out whether God has a different plan for me than I went into college thinking I had for myself. Being in a position where you are waiting to find out whether your career is going to take a different path, one that you feel is clearly where God has been leading you, is stressful, consuming, and exciting all at the same time. Coming to the end of that waiting period, knowing you will get an answer soon, makes it that much more difficult.

I am a huge believer in spiritual warfare! I am also a huge believer that we are attacked most during the times we are doing the Lord's work, when we are on the right path, and when the enemy wants to stop us from achieving anything great that may glorify our Lord. So now, as the enemy attacks, rallies my insecurities, and tries to get me to believe lies about myself, I'm beginning to view it as a compliment and working to daily find the peace the Lord offers us. With that peace comes patience and an understanding that He has a plan for us that will exceed all of our own earthly expectations. I am confident that regardless of the outcome, He will provide the desires of my heart, the desires that are focused on living for His glory, serving His children, and fulfilling my purpose for Him on this Earth... during that very small amount of time on Earth compared to the eternity I will one day get to spend right next to Him.

Until then... I will rely on this truth: “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened." Matthew 7:7,8

To the one who works daily to stop me: "Bring it on! I'm on the right path... you know it... and I know it... and you can't stop me!"

"I am doing a great work and I cannot come down!" ~ Nehemiah 6:3

Monday, April 23, 2012

I can't wait until I'm 18!

Quick thought for today:

I can honestly say that my job is not boring. While I ache for the day the Lord shows me a path that, while still influencing middle school students, also allows me to utilize my administrative mind and talents, my days at work are never boring. Kids will teach you more about life and more about yourself than you probably care to know. They're full of questions, their own form of knowledge, creativity, vulnerability, "innocence," love, drama, all rolled into one large sponge of a person who soaks in absolutely everything around them. Middle school students are all of that... plus puberty! Oh the stories I could share...

Today I overheard a student say, "I can't wait until I'm 18!" While this is a normal statement made by all children it caught me today in a different place. Just recently I have learned to embrace my age and stage of life for what they are, instead of constantly wishing away the future and waiting for another time when things will be different. I wonder just how much of my childhood I actually spent wishing away the time!? As humans I wish we could fully embrace the present, where we are, and what God is doing in our lives. But then again... we're only human. I want my students, and God willing, one day my own children to spend their childhoods enjoying being kids. To fully embrace the freedom that comes with being a kid, learning new things, exploring, making mistakes and picking yourself back up. It's part of life... why wish it away for the days that require responsibility, bills, and the really hard part... self-awareness?!

After all... all of that practice of learning new things, making mistakes and picking yourself back up as a child only prepares you to do the exact same thing as an adult ;) Do we ever really grow up?? As a child I could be caught saying "I can't wait until I'm 18..." and now I'm saying... "28 is coming way too fast!"

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sitting... Waiting... Praying

Just recently an old friend of mine found out her husband has been diagnosed with cancer. They have two beautiful children and spend their lives surrounded by so much love from so many family members and friends. Life is a funny thing: one minute we think we have a grasp on what is going on around us and the second the storm has calmed and the sun begins to sneak a looksy at the world we find ourselves facing another struggle... another challenge... another celebration... another question. I'm not saying there isn't peace... there is! Most people just struggle to know where to find it... and understandably... our world is a very rough and cruel place...

In my 28 years of life I've faced more struggles than I wish anyone to ever face in 98 years of life. I've experienced human loss: loss of young children, loss of best friends, loss of family members, loss of innocence, poor poor poor decision making, and many different forms of abuse. My story, like most, if written down, would look like the first Honors English paper I ever submitted my freshman year of college... covered in red ink... might as well have written "Epic Fail" across the top.

But my story also comes with years of redemption, love, forgiveness, happiness, laughter, and more community than I could have ever prayed for. There's something about finding the love of our Savior that makes all of the trials we experience worthwhile. Don't get me wrong... I'm not thankful for the loss, pain, suffering, and scarring I've received over the years, and will continue to accumulate... but I am thankful for the grace, forgiveness, and love I've learned to both give and receive. None of this would have been possible without having rediscovered my relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ... and continuously waking up daily to renew that faith and will to live for Him.

On those days when I find myself waiting for the next bad thing to happen... because let's be honest... most of us do it... I remind myself that there is nothing that could come my way that I can't face. There is nothing that could come my way that our Lord would not protect me from and guide me through. I am where I am, doing what I'm doing, and experiencing what I'm experiencing for a reason. I might not always know what that reason is... but I find peace in our Lord knowing that no matter what, He will be glorified in the end. So to steal a line from Jack Johnson... well... modifying it a bit... right now I'm just going through life... "Sitting... waiting... praying."

I guess you can say my story, between my baptism at 9 and rededication at 25, was simply a rough draft... waiting for the final copy to be submitted. Truth is... my story still has the same words written on the pages as it did before, but now without the red markings...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Done Waiting...

Tomorrow will be 11 months since my dear student, Sanders, passed away. 11 months since I had the unfortunate experience of a young child, that I spoke to daily, leave this Earth. There really is no way to describe it... nor could anyone ever understand unless they, too, have been in a similar situation: being confused, physically disturbed and upset, walking down a hallway one minute and ducking into the nearest room the next because you have to curl over a table your emotions are pouring out so hard, and feeling the weight of comforting the other 150 students who are now staring at you for direction. I'm not his family, but if you are at all familiar with my teaching style, you know those students are my children. Each one a daily gift from God to remind me that my desire for children has not gone unnoticed.

I think it's a rational reaction to ask questions and search for answers, and during the course of the other 4 deaths I have faced since I was 17 I would normally take this time to seek out what would help me ignore what happened and wait for something better to come along.

When I was home over Christmas break there was a story on the Jacksonville news station about a helicopter that went down that day. This wasn't an ordinary helicopter, it was carrying an organ that a patient in Jacksonville was prepped on the surgery table waiting to receive. Needless to say, it never arrived.

We all have stuff we're waiting for...

But I'm done waiting for something better to come along. I'm done hearing myself and dear friends talk about doing things now to pass the time until God gives them the job they really want, the promotion they've been seeking, the husband\wife of their dreams, or the baby they've always prayed for. Not to be insensitive... I've certainly had my fair share of dream job, bring on the husband moments, but it's time to be satisfied in what God has given us, or not given us, in this moment. To feel blessed in what we have and humbled that He has chosen to use each of our unique gifts for His glory.

I'm not waiting around for something "better" anymore... I'm waiting around for the best! I'm waiting around for Jesus! And until He gets here, or I get there, I'm going to work where I am for Him. Rising out of the darkness of the most difficult situations and glorifying his name with the confidence and motivation that can only come in trusting our Savior.

Ending today with this song... If you don't have it... Download it :)

Waiting Here For You
By: Christy Nockels

If faith can move the mountains
Let the mountains move
We come with expectation
Waiting here for you, waiting here for you

You're the Lord of all creation
And still you know my heart
The author of salvation
You've loved us from the start

Waiting here for you
With our hands lifted high in praise
And it's you we adore
Singing Alleluia

You are everything you've promised
Your faithfulness is true
And we're desperate for your presence
All we need is you

Waiting here for you, Lord
With our hands lifted high in praise
And it's you, Lord, we adore
Singing Alleluia

We will wait for you, Lord, he'll stand with you
We will sing alleluia
Singing Alleluia, alleluia
Singing Alleluia, alleluia

Waiting here for you
With our hands lifted high in praise
And it's you we adore, we adore
Singing Alleluia

Waiting here for you
With our hands lifted high in praise
And it's you we adore
Singing Alleluia, singing Alleluia

Waiting here for you
With our hands lifted high in praise
And it's you we adore, with our lives
Singing Alleluia, singing Alleluia

Monday, January 9, 2012

The love of a child...

It's amazing how as you mature and experience more you quickly learn that nothing you do in life is in isolation... one lesson that should be taught to every child, whether they hear it or not. No matter what we experience, when we experience, how we react to it, etc. later in life we see the fruits of our labor... or the consequences of our actions. Everything is interrelated, and we would be doing ourselves a disservice to not take notice.

God has been impressing upon my heart to reach out and work to not only visit other parts of the world, but to inspire others to do the same. We can't all hop on a plane and go visit other countries, but we do all have the ability to impact and invest in others to leave a lasting impression on them that could change the course of their lives. This is exactly what my students rallied around at the end of 2011 to accomplish... to bring awareness and aid to those living in Kenya with HIV/AIDS.

Partnering with Care for AIDS has been the experience of a lifetime and watching students serve others has impacted me in so many ways. Please read the blog post on the CFA site to read about what my students did: http://careforaids.org/blog/

I'm thankful for the experience and for the work God is doing through me for younger generations. It's really such a humbling experience to have been chosen by God to do such work. Louie Giglio said it best last night when he said that all the younger generations need is adult support and belief. He's right... they are a group of children, students, and young adults who WANT to do good in the world... they just need guidance and support! Thank you, Lord... to You be the glory!