Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Persevering with Joy

"He loves others, works hard, and overcomes his circumstances no matter how bleak the moment may seem.  I have a lot of respect for this young man.  I appreciate his intellect and fervor for science and learning and I am in awe of his compassion and his ability to show love and bring joy to each person in his life.  He is already an asset in the lives of everyone he knows and he will absolutely be a huge asset on any college campus.  I can’t wait to see what his future has in store."

Yesterday, I wrote these words in a letter of recommendation for a young man who I both admire and respect.  Ralph is a senior in high school and going through the process of applying to some of the best colleges in the country.  With an impeccable academic record and a slew of extracurricular activities, Ralphie is sure to gain entrance into a great college, but what makes me so proud is that Ralph's accomplishments are in spite of the pain and sadness that the last year has brought.  A little over a year ago, Ralph came home to find his mother and step-father arguing.  That night, his step-father and step-brother packed up their belongings and moved out of the house.  Over the last year and a half Ralph has had to get used to a brand new way of life.  He has learned to live without a father, without a brother, and with the emotion of returning to a quite lonely house when he was so used to returning to a full and bustling home.  Through these changes, Ralphie has continued to peruse life and relationships to the fullest.  He found reasons to smile, reasons to be grateful and he never looked back.

It is young men like Ralph who encourage me and give me hope for others around the world.  Hope that pain and abandonment can be overcome with love, joy and determination.  Hope that with the right support and guidance, any youth can overcome what life or their parents have thrown at them.  Hope that God has a bigger plan than what we can see in the moment.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Hope in the Desert

The purpose of today's post is to brag about an amazing young woman who I have watched blossom into a strong, beautiful, vibrant flower despite her dry, hopeless situation.  She is a symbol of hope and determination for mistreated youth everywhere.

I met Laura when she was 14, loud, rebellious, and searching for someone who would love her for exactly who she was.  After suffering abuses at home, Laura was placed in the foster care system and landed in my Algebra I class.  We clicked pretty immediately.  We bonded in this indescribable way that a teacher and her favorite trouble maker can't help.  You kind of just know that you were meant to be in each others' lives.  As a kid, Laura bounced from foster home to foster home, back and forth across county lines and on and off of different drugs.  Luckily, along the way, she found people who believed in her and knew that she was meant for more than the pain and loneliness she had learned to embrace.  At 17, Laura was adopted by a family who loved her and treated her as her own.  Later that year, we all watched her graduate from high school, with tears in our eyes! Laura's story only continues to bloom from there.  Now she is 22, a face of the National Foster Youth Institute, has shadowed congress members in the White House, is hosting a foster youth awareness event in LA later this month, and is, right this moment, in a job interview to work at one of the group homes that helped to change her life!!!

I am so indescribably proud of Laura!!  She has crossed rivers and broken boundaries that many people in her life never thought she could.  I hope that I was and will continue to be a constant reminder to her that she is loved, valued and looked up to!  As a teacher and a youth worker, my biggest hope to be a place of light and love for other children and teens as they find their place in the world!  I love you Laura and I am so proud of who you are and who you continue to become!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Busy Bee

The last couple weeks have been crazy! I've been subbing 4 days a week, meeting with potential donors, and I flew to Idaho to see my sister and my in laws.  The calm in the whole storm was rocking my sleeping, 2 month old, niece.  Andee Paige is so sweet and smiley and such a light of joy.  I didn't know it was possible to have so much love for such a little blob, but she captures my heart!

It is truly hard to stomach that I'm going to be gone for three years.  I'm going to miss Andee's first three birthdays, her first words and her first steps.  But I am looking forward to skyping with her and her parents, to sending her videos from South America, and to the day that she learns to call me "Tia Chelsea."  I love my little blob, Andee Paige!! I am so excited to spend as much time with her as I can, and then to be able to send a little part of Ecuador back to her!!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Heart of a Child

The 2015-2016 school year took a toll on me.  I taught an extra period (which means I didn't get a break in my day) and I taught two new classes.  I was tired, worn out and cranky.  Despite all of that, I had an important reason to get up each day!  My heart and my soul endured each day because of the joy and fulfillment I found in my students.  I've done a few pretty tough things in my 29 years of life, but nothing was as tough as having to tell my students, that I would not be returning to teaching for the 2016-2017 school year.  I knew I was making the right decision, but my kids are MY kids!

This school year has been so different.  I'm not a full time teacher, but in the month that Montclair has been back to school, I have subbed 7 days of school.  It feels like I never left.  I look forward to going to work, to seeing the bright shining faces of the kids I love and to sharing my journey with those who are interested.  The last couple weeks, back on the MoHi campus, have been such a light and a reminder that my heart lies with children, no matter where they are, because the hearts of children shine brighter than anything else I know.

I am so excited to bring the children of North America together with the children of South America.  United, "two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up" Ecclesiastes 4:9-10.  Imagine what the hearts of children all over the world can do when they are united as one!!

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Blur of Summer

The last couple of weeks have been crazy!  I met my beautiful new niece for the first time, I turned 29,  I sold almost all of my belongings, I raised 10% of my monthly support and tomorrow I am substituting at the school where I used to be a full time teacher.  Emotions are running high and a million things are swirling through my mind.  Life is flying by and I'm having trouble catching up, but through it all, God is SO good!

Last week I had a moment to stop and breathe.  Sitting in the shade under a tree, I took a few minutes to listen to the breeze, close my eyes and thank God for the peace of that moment.  Having a chance to take a deep breath and thank God for my friends, family, co-workers, and crazy new life was just the break I needed from the hurricane that this summer has been!!

Come September, I will be living with my sweet grandparents and have a regular routine.  My grandfather has Alzheimer and it will be such a blessing to spend my last few North American months loving on him and his wife!! I will also be able to put so much more energy towards fundraising!  I have high hopes for the coming days and am so grateful for the big plans God is laying out in my life!!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Trusting Jesus

This post is a little late because I spent most of last week camping with my church's youth group.  Now, let's be clear, we weren't exactly "roughing it."  Unless beach camping in Malibu, with running water and delicious meals like smoked tri-tip, chicken tacos, and sausage breakfast burritos counts as the rough life.  But, we did spend the trip without power and cell service which means we were off the grid for longer than any currently living high school student has ever chosen to be off the grid before.  It turns out that being off the grid is exactly what our kids and leaders needed.  Without YouTube, Facebook, tweets and texts life seems to slow down.  Each morning, our 45 minutes of quite journal time was like a peaceful getaway with God.  The sound of the waves and wind were a relaxing break for my over stimulated brain.

On Monday, we journaled about Psalm 139.  I was struck both personally and as a small group leader, by verse 1 which begins with, "Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me."  Since accepting my position with ITeams I have started a monthly newsletter, a blog, an Instagram and I have even spoken at my home church a couple of times.  As I move forward, it is becoming time for me to make personal appointments and begin building a solid team of donors, but I have been nervous about money conversations.  What if people don't believe in our ministry in Quito?  What if I have trouble sharing my heart and enthusiasm for the work of Jesus in Ecuador?  While reading Psalm 139 I was reminded that God knows my heart and my fears.  I was encouraged in the knowledge that God is always searching the inner parts of who I am and that he will be leading my conversations.  As a small group leader I was super encouraged to remind my students that they, also, are never alone.  God knows their passions and desires and he has a plan that will lead them into a life of true fulfillment.

Youth camp was a great opportunity to experience a small part of what I will get to do in Quito.  As a teacher, I have such a heart for children.  I love to encourage them to stretch out of their comfort zones and to strive towards their goals and passions.  I am so crazy excited to work with a program that will teach and bring together students from the US and Ecuador!!  I will have the opportunity to remind children from all over the world that God is searching their hearts and that he constantly knows and loves them!!

So in the future, I'm letting go of nervous.  I am trusting that my love of God, his son and his children will shine!  I am trusting that prospective donors will be just as excited to partner with me in support of uniting children from around the world!  I am trusting Jesus!

Sunday, July 3, 2016


I don't actually leave the US and launch into full time ministry until mid 2017, but it certainly feels as though my life has already begun to orbit a whole new planet.  13 days ago, I was beginning to wonder if I had somehow slept though my own launch date only to wake up while my life was entering an atmosphere that I was not completely confident I could survive in.  However, that was a long 13 days ago.

13 days ago, while I was trying to fall asleep on the barely carpet covered, concrete, LAX floor (as hard as I try, I keep ending up there) I was tired, thirsty, sleepy and nervous that landing in Costa Rica was just going to confirm my deepest unspoken fear.  It had been weeks.  I'd been putting on a good face and explaining to others, while secretly trying to convince myself, that I was smart, determined and capable of anything.  But, let's be honest, I have a degree in math.  MATH.  The acquisition of language, English or otherwise, has never been on my list of talents or skills.  I just couldn't bring myself to say it out loud.  I don't know if I can learn Spanish and I definitely don't know if I can learn enough to network and build lasting relationships in a Spanish speaking community.  Well, I've always been taught that God meets us where we are and boy am I grateful that that's true.

10 days in Costa Rica affirmed that I remember way more Spanish than I could have hoped and that I am totally capable of learning and building relationships in Spanish.  Far beyond my hopes and expectations, I also made several amazing new friends. Before Ecuador, I will be returning to Costa Rica for language school.  The next time I am sitting on a plane to San Jose, I won't be nervous.  Instead, I will be anxiously anticipating spending time with the family I found at La Montana Christian Camps.

God manages to constantly surprises me.  I'm not sure why I would have thought that this trip would be anything other than surprising.  I was so absolutely affirmed.  I know that I can trust that whenever this ship finally launches, God will have made sure I am totally ready!!!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Leap

It was in April that I decided it was time to pursue a career in full time ministry.  A lot of people didn't see this coming.  I had been teaching at the same school for 7 years.  I was established and settled.  But in the scheme of my life, this change has been a long time coming.  I was probably 11 when I stepped out of a bus and, for the first time, found myself on Mexican soil.  I didn't realize it until later in the week, but it was on that trip that I discovered my passion for serving people and serving Christ.  So, a short 17 years later, I resigned from my teaching position, accepted an offer from ITeams and come Spring of 2017, I will be moving to and serving in Quito, Ecuador.

Last Sunday night, I found myself in a window seat, squished against the wall of a plane, watching the LAX tarmac disappear into a sea of flashing lights.  I was on the way to Elgin, IL for my first official day as an International Teams (ITeams) employee.  I didn't have low expectations so much as I had no expectations.  This was a whole new world for me.  When I arrived at the ministry center I was greeted with smiles and hugs.  After that, every lesson, every staff member, and every interaction only made me feel more and more a part of a family who values what I value and loves the Jesus that I love.

I can't begin to imagine what the next couple years will have in store for me, but I have no doubt that taking this leap was the best decision I have ever made.  I am so grateful that Jesus called my name and I am so glad that I decided to follow.