Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Birthday Celebrations-by Hazel

     I have to say that this has been a unique birthday with many mixed feelings.  My grandfather passed away the day before my birthday so his funeral was on the day of .  I think it is very hard to process a death in your family, especially when you are far away and it just doesn't seem real.  Quite honestly, this should have "ruined" my birthday but my awesome husband and friends prevented that from happening.  It is hard to be completely sad when people surround you with love and friendship, even when they do not know what has happened.
     I thought we were just doing low-key birthday things. I even went ahead and made myself a cake(which I love doing) and took it to work so we wouldn't eat the whole thing ourselves.  We also had some friends over the night before and just hung out and even blew out a candle on some cupcakes that I had saved for my actual birthday.  We also tried to make baked kale and carrot chips-we do not recommend these but it was fun to try.  So by all accounts, it was a great, simple birthday.  My husband had other ideas though. =)
     The plan (or what I thought the plan was) was to go pant shopping for Mr. Strange who managed to rip his khakis on the 8th grade trip by racing against another teacher for the top bunk. Can you guess who he was racing?

     Then we were going to get some frozen yogurt and go see the Avengers movie.  We were waiting on a bus to head for our birth"date" below.

     But inexplicably when we got to the shopping center, Mr. Strange insisted we walk up a hill to a different Starbucks than the one that was closer to the pant shopping.  I may have slightly planted my feet to insist that we did not need to go up the hill (hey, in my defense I am 7+ months pregnant and carrying what seems to be a baby Hulk) because there was another Starbucks without a hill but he managed to convince me we needed to go ahead and buy our movie tickets.
     Once he finally got me over the hill and down to the Starbucks, I was completely shocked to see 6 of our close friends waiting at a table with a chocolate cake with candles and a little mini party.  Someone got my shocked face below.

     Mr. Strange and our mutual friend Buttercup had been conspiring all week to plan a party with my favorite things.  Cake (even with milk to drink), movie, and dinner out.  As you may be able to tell, Mr. Strange was extremely excited to have pulled it off and not spilled the beans.

     It takes a lot to get out and about the city so it meant a lot to me that people came out to celebrate.
     We had a fun time at the movie and with dinner and it was a perfect birthday.  It didn't change the grief over missing my grandfather but I realized what close friendships we have developed here and what a blessing that is. Some days it is hard to be away, especially when difficult things happen, but isn't it amazing how God provides the perfect people and events in your life to encourage you right when you need it?  
     He has also provided the perfect person to go through life's adventures together, who knows just when you need a hug, unexpected surprises, flowers and support.  As I told my mom a few months ago, I was standing on a hot, crowded, smelly bus next to Mr. Strange and I realized that although I was extremely uncomfortable and miserable, there was was no place I would rather be than on that bus standing next to him.  So thank you Mr. Strange (and friends), for making this a birthday celebration I will always remember.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Breakfast of Champions

Hello People,

   Yesterday saw our school celebrating Telmarine Sports day in true competitive style.  Some schools may have lame sports like Quidditch, but riding a broom? I ask you, where is the athleticism in that? No our school believes in true feats of physicality and to demonstrate this we held our annual House Floorball Tournament.  If you too are unfamiliar with Floorball, as I was until yesterday, I will explain in brief.  Floorball is, in essence, hockey and roller hockey on shoes with a ball.  This is my understanding of it and after six or so hours of watching and cheering yesterday I feel confident in this assessment even though when I mentioned it to Howard, a scandinavian friend, he told me, "No, they are completely different."  
   Like some other schools, we have four school Houses into which the students are all divided.  Unlike some other schools we do not wear robes, so once again we find ourselves in a  position of superiority. Normally, these four houses are marked by solidarity, but yesterday each was marked by some good ol' competition.  16 teams in a double elimination tournament for bragging rights and  house points?  How could it be otherwise. 

   I am a house guide for the best of the houses, Veritas, and yesterday I was also something of a cheerleader for Veritas.  Every game I attempted to yell the loudest, jump the highest, and high five the hardest.  I succeeded in all of these except the high fives.  There I was beaten by a 7th Grade girl and I will admit, it hurt my hand and my pride.  Toward the end of the tournament our hopes seemed to be fading when 3 of our four teams had a loss and the team we thought was our last hope lost as well. Then something magical happened, not a magic wand sort of magic, more of a "miracle" magic.  One of our teams began thrashing the competition in the Losers' Bracket.  Suddenly, we found Veritas back from having all four teams in the Loser's Bracket to having a team in the Final against the only undefeated team left in the competition.  I haven't felt so tense since the 2010 post season.  We tried to chant during the final game but it was too tense. In order to win we had to beat them twice and when we beat Prudentia in the first game I thought I might cry.  The final 5 minutes seemed to tick by in hours rather than seconds.  1 Minute- no score.  2 Minutes- No score.  3 Minutes- No score.  4 Minutes- Veritas scores 1 and Prudentia takes three shots on the goal.  5 Minutes- Veritas scores and wins the House Floorball Cup!  Amazing!

   As competitive as yesterday was, and as much as I enjoyed being the loud obnoxious American and cheering on my teams, it really was a day about unity and friendship.  Whole families were there for the day.  Parents took the day off of work to come out and watch.  Everywhere was the constant eruption of cheers.  It was amazing to see the students from all 4 houses cheering each other on.  It was touching to see whole games stop because someone fell down on the other end of the field.  As a teacher, it was gratifying to see my students look to me when they scored or allowed a score, and come to me first for a high five when they won or they lost.  I love my students, from all of the houses.  I can't imagine a bigger blessing than doing what I am doing. I'm incredibly thankful to have the opportunity to be where I am investing in their lives. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wishful Thinking

Hello Peoples,  Recently, it may seem that I have neglected my blogging.  This is not true.  I haven't neglected the blogging, merely the posting.  Every day that I have begun to write here has found me pushing away from the old laptop in frustration.  It seems that nothing will come out when I want it too.  I seem to have thought constipation.  The truly frustrating thing about this "Thoughtstipation"is that it has come at a time of tremendous change and activity for our family.  For those of you wanting to keep up with us through this blog, I'm very sorry, but believe me, you wouldn't want to read what I actually wrote over the last couple of months, only what I should have written.

  Some things that have happened recently?  For starters, little Orbit is quickly becoming less a stick of Orbit and more a complete pack, nay a bonus pack with extra bonus pieces.  As Hazel will tell you, he's getting big.  Also, the Braves swept the Cardinals and took one of two against the Reds.  Lets have a moment of silent tomahawk chopping in honor of this achievement....................................................................................................................... thank you.    

  In the last two weeks alone, Hazel and I have journeyed south to Ephesus and the Aegean, and then north and to the Black Sea.  We've walked in the footsteps of Paul, visited the site of St. John's tomb and Mother Mary's house, and we've looked at the stark beauty of a cold sea and the garbage washed upon its beaches.  Hopefully, later this week I will be able to post a picture by picture descriptive account of our journey to Ephesus, a letter from the Ephesians, if you will.  

   If we thought we were busy in the fall, we were mistaken. Funnily enough though, the busier life becomes, the more reflective I seem to become.  The less time I have to stop and smell the flowers, the more often I actually do stop to smell the flowers. I found this to be true last weekend when I found myself sitting in the early morning on a balcony overlooking the Black Sea. It was cold and grey and everywhere there was the sound of waves crashing and the sight of cliffs falling down to the water.  I read my Bible, did some praying, and then started to read over a couple of my journals from the past year.  A constant theme was looking for God's next step in my life.  I guess this should come as no surprise from someone who was just about to graduate from college, but as I read it I found myself thinking back over other much older journal entries and a constant theme through those was, "God, what is the next step?"  In middle school it was, "God what do you want for me in highschool?"  In high school it was, "God what do you want for me in college?"  In college it became, "What do you want for my major," and then finally, "What do you want for me after college?" A few years ago someone gave me the following advice.  "If you want to find God, find some place quiet and just be with Him.  Listen and you will hear Him."  I have received a lot of advice in my lifetime, particularly recently, but no other advice has had quite the impact of that one word, "Listen."  It was followed with a statement, "God knows your heart, so listen for His." So I decided to listen and I found that I no longer knew what I was listening for.   

  I am constantly telling my students that God's plan is now. Its not just about what they can do in the future, its about what they let God do through them today.  To quote from Goonies, "Our parents, they want the bestest stuff for us. But right now they gotta do what's right for them, 'cause it's their time. Their time, up there. Down here it's our time. It's our time down here." This is what I tell my students, so when I sat to listen that morning staring at the water, I was disturbed to find I no longer knew what to listen for.  I've always listened for God to tell me His plan, but now I know more firmly than ever that I am in His plan.  I'm no longer worried about the future, I know that He has that planned too.  So the question occurred to me, what do I listen for now? Then it hit me.  What if I were to listen for the sole purpose of hearing God speak to me?  What if I listened for His voice with no other reason than my love for desiring Him?  What love for God would that be? I keep thinking of something else that same person who told me to listen also told me. "God knows your heart, so listen for His."