Light in the Darkness

I’ve been in some really dark places. Not metaphorically, although there are stories to tell about that, but dark as in the absence of light. Several years ago- and the topic of a previous blog post- I went into a cave. When I turned out my flashlight, the darkness felt suffocating. I was ill-prepared for such an adventure and my borrowed flashlight was pretty small. However, in such darkness, my flashlight lit up the entire cave room.

I think of Alaska when I think of darkness. I lived there for four years and I feel like three and a half of those years were spent in darkness- both literally and figuratively. A few times, friends and I were driving from Anchorage to our school in Glennallen. The four hour drive included mountains, wildlife, streams, snow, and trees- the wilderness. It was like driving through a calendar or a post card. One night, the moon was full and there was several feet of snow on the ground. My friend turned the headlights off and we drove by the light of the moon bouncing off the snow. Again, the darkness was penetrated by the light.

The darkness of the world seems to be closing in. Death is lurking in the hallway of my father’s nursing home. A daily deluge of information pours in about Coronavirus and precautions to take to avoid it. Life feels like it’s at a standstill. Am I working or am I on summer break? Who even knows anymore. I could list about 50 other things that can get a person down, but I don’t want to feed the monster.

I would prefer to think about the Light. Paul tells me that I was once full of darkness, but now I have light from the Lord so I’m supposed to live as someone of the light. I think one way to do that is to keep my eyes on the author and perfecter of my faith, who is Jesus.

This weekend, in the midst of this darkness, I was able to spend Easter with friends. We read Scripture that we discussed, prayed, and sang songs. All which was a beam of light because we were focused on Jesus, who is the Light.

The Next Day

I woke up early this morning. Even though I had gone to bed early last night, I was exhausted. It’s funny how tired you get from just sitting around all day. I had told my mom and sister that I would go sit with my dad today. One positive thing about being quarantined and off work is that I have plenty of time nowadays.

I drove down with a bag full of books to read and cards to write. I figured if my dad slept all day like he had the day before, I would have something to work on. After going through the usual gauntlet of entry, I walked into his room. He was asleep and his bed coverings looked like he had been wrestling. His comforter was all balled up and he was hugging it; he was sound asleep.

I settled in and walked over to his bedside. I looked to see if he was breathing-he was- and gently touched his shoulder. His eyes flew opened and he told me hello. Much to my surprise, we talked for a few minutes before the nurse came in with his breakfast. I asked him if he was hungry, and he said he wanted to eat some oatmeal. He told me to put two packets of sugar in it. When I wasn’t feeding him fast enough he said, “You can get me some more of that oatmeal.” He ate the whole bowl of oatmeal and drank coffee. Then he took his daily medication.

He dozed on and off a little until lunch came. He surprised me by eating a whole baked potato and all of his pudding. I guess he was making up for not having eaten the day before. Mom stopped by shortly after and brought a pizza and cinnamon bread, of which he ate a lot. They chatted for a bit and then my sister came in to visit. Then the nurse came in and gave him a shower and changed his bed clothes. I had combed his hair and given him a little more tea before I left for the day.

Wow. What a difference a day makes. Yesterday I was convinced that he wasn’t going to make it and today he was up and talking and eating and hardly slept at all. He also didn’t experience as much pain as he has been.

I know there can be good days and bad days, and today was a good day. I was thankful that I had hours to just sit with him, help him eat, watch him move his bed up and down like a carnival ride and fiddle with the bedside table. He was lucid and alert and commented on how he liked the curtains.

So, I’m celebrating this good day and not thinking about the days ahead. It seems best to just take each day as it comes, to not try to predict what it’s going to be like, but watch it unfold in real time. Like Mumford and Sons sing, “I will learn to love the skies I’m under” and not anticipate the hard times.

The Phone Call

Today started with a phone call at 6:46 am. I saw my mom’s name on the caller ID and I knew she was calling about my dad. She told me the nursing home had phoned her because my dad’s blood pressure was dropping and we should come to be with him. I told mom I would be right over.

I wasn’t surprised by the phone call; I’ve known that this day was coming for several months. I went through the motions of getting dressed, making sure I wore a short sleeved shirt because his room is always too warm. I put on earrings and decided I should wear a little make-up. That seemed important for some reason. I fed the cats, hesitated with the thought of making coffee but decided it would take too long, and got in the car.

On my drive over to mom’s house, I had a thousand thoughts going through my mind. Would today, April 10th, be a day that would hold significance in my life from now on? I was thankful this didn’t happen yesterday because it was sister’s birthday. I should have gone to visit yesterday, I had a card for him to sign for my sister. Was it really snowing? Yesterday it was 65 and we dyed Easter eggs on the back porch. Would we get there in time? I hope he doesn’t pass away alone.

I picked mom up and we sped down the highway. There wasn’t much to say and we had been awoken by separate, unexpected phone calls, so we were both in a stupor. My nephew called while we were driving because he wanted to visit. Due to Coronavirus rules, we had to call the nursing home for clearance and were told he would need to wait until administration arrived before they could give a definitive answer.

We arrived at the home the same time as my sister. We entered the building, signed in, had our oxygen levels and temperatures taken, and were given a mask and a handful of sanitizer. I don’t think we even said hello, just exchanged knowing, worried glances.

When we walked into my dad’s room, he looked so small and frail. His temperature was soaring and he wasn’t communicating. We stood around his bed and he held mine and my sister’s hand. He had a really tight grip, especially when he would experience pain. You would think for someone who looked so frail they wouldn’t be able to crush your hand.

The home approved my nephew Carlton’s visit. Then they moved my dad into a private room so we would have space together. The decision to do so was very quick and efficient. An older lady walked in with a hand truck and said, “I’ll just move the whole dresser to the other room.” Before we could say anything, she was rolling it out the door. He and all of his belongings were in a new room in a matter of 5 minutes. He was almost awake for his journey down the hall.

My nephew, mom, sister, and I sat around his bed, talking about different family vacations and memories while he slept. My dad’s temperature went down, he talked a little bit, and then he went back to sleep. He was still asleep when we left at 5 pm. A few times he looked up, smiled, and then drifted off again. The doctor came in and told us that because he had displayed a big change in behavior (fever and sleeping), they called us. We explained that we thought this was it. This was the call. She told us that of course she didn’t know for sure, but he had a little more time, but we are at the end. Knowing the truth didn’t bring the relief that I thought it would.

It’s a weird thing to be waiting for death. Part of me wants to barricade the door and sit by his bedside forever and another part wants to just swing the door open and invite him in because I don’t like seeing my dad lay day after day, asleep in a hospital bed, waking only to wince in pain. But I know that once Death is in the room, it’s permanent. Death doesn’t just visit for awhile and leave life unchanged.

But there is hope.

Today is Good Friday and we celebrate the death of Jesus. We can celebrate His death because three days later He was resurrected and conquered Death for good. Because of his faith in Jesus, that means death is conquered for my dad as well. When his body won’t hold him anymore, he’ll begin his life in eternity.

He’ll walk again. He’ll never experience pain or suffering or heartache or sadness. He’ll get to join the heavenly choir and worship His Creator. He’ll see colors and sounds and things that are unimaginable to us here. He’ll get to see Jesus and thank him in person. I know hope will come wrapped in grief, but as I read in I Corinthians 13:13 today, “Three things will last forever- faith, hope, and love- and the greatest of these is love.” I’ll be sad when he’s gone, but I suspect he won’t be sad to start his new, forever life.

Middle School

When I dreamed of being a teacher, I wanted to teach high school. I knew I couldn’t teach elementary. I’m just not a sing songy person. I was once left in charge of the preschool classroom at church just long enough for the teacher to take two of them to the bathroom. When she returned they were into all sorts of things they weren’t supposed to be and I was being held captive by a kid telling me a story. When the teacher returned, I witnessed an honest-to-goodness Disney movie moment. The teacher started singing a song, and like the bluebirds and mice that assisted Cinderella, the children starting putting things away. I marveled at what was clearly witchcraft.

I never wanted to teach middle school. I don’t even like looking at pictures of me from my middle school years. I was obsessed with New Kids on the Block, didn’t have a clue about hair care or make-up application, passed about 20,000 notes a day in class, had a smart mouth, and I can’t even talk about the clothes I wore. At camp, middle school week was the week that we couldn’t do any games in the woods because they always tried to couple up and sneak off to make out. They talked back, were smelly, and awkward.

But, a job opened up to teach 7th and 8th grade English. It meant full-time, having my own classroom, and would get my foot in the door so I could transfer to the high school when a position became available. So, I took it. One week before school started. I didn’t have a clue.

One morning during my first year as a teacher, I was at my desk and a girl walked by and said, “If you’ve got something to say, why don’t you say it to my face.” I looked around, noticing we were the only two people on that side of the room. I replied, “Um, are you talking to me?” To which she replied, “Yea.” We took that conversation into the hall which resulted in her going to her seat in tears. Another girl walked in, also in tears. It wasn’t even 8 am. RJ was sandwiched in between the two criers. He looked at me and said, “What’s going on?” I replied, “It’s middle school, RJ.” He accepted my answer without blinking an eye.

Another time, I was passing out papers. I turned to go down the other aisle and was suddenly caught up in a child who was doing a celebratory spin with his arms wide open. This resulted in him clothes lining me. I was so shocked, that I said, “You clothes lined me. I’ve never been clothes lined before.” He was equally shocked and said, “I’ve never clothes lined anyone before.” That same kid was walking, while reading a book, and knocked a lava lamp (that he had gifted me) onto the floor; it shattered everywhere. I quickly googled what was in a lava lamp to make sure toxic fumes weren’t pouring into my classroom. I discovered we were safe, but that didn’t stop another kid, who had a flare for the dramatic, to start wheezing and acting like he could’t breathe. Admittedly, I was actually excited to finally get to touch the inside of a lava lamp.

In the middle of class I’ve had kids offer me dates with their dads, or their friends’ dads. I’ve set a trash can by a kid who was turning green because he was dipping snuff in class and swallowed some of it, but couldn’t leave until the School Officer came to get him. I’ve had kids dance while I teach. Sing a song for the whole class. Walk up to me with a tooth in their hand. Accidentally spit in my eye while talking to me. Laugh so hard they cried because I said the word ‘but’ in class while we were talking about conjunctions. I had a kid raise his hand and ask if I could sew his belt back together. Once, while I was on hall duty, a kid crawled under a table and would touch other kid’s legs. I came running into my room because I kept hearing blood curdling screams. I’ve had kids fart so badly that we were all gagging, but he sat there proudly smiling. He was the hero for the day among all the boys.

It took about four months to convince me that I could never teach anything but middle school. For all their quirkiness and smart mouthiness, I find them to be the best age. I don’t have to wipe their noses or change their pants- although I have suggested they check their drawers from time to time- but they are still willing to ask for help and aren’t yet embarrassed to share their opinions and thoughts. I can convince them to do anything if I show them I have candy.

I’ve really been missing my students. Schools all over the country are closing for the year and I’m dreading the day our state makes that call. Yesterday, I hosted my first digital class. I told students it was optional and they could attend if they had questions or if they just wanted to see each other. I wasn’t sure if I would get any response.

I got to see 21 of them. I received several emails that others couldn’t attend, but wanted to do so next week. Those who showed up mostly wanted to just talk. They got to show off their bedrooms, talked about video games, how bored they were, the books they were reading, and I got to meet all of their pets. It as all going great until 6th period.

Now, 6th period is my class with the most behavioral issues, but they are typically very minor. Yesterday, I had 6 boys sign on. We were chatting about life and video games when a 7th boy called in. This student loves attention more than the average middle schooler. In an 8 minute period of time he did the following: turned his music up so loudly that we couldn’t hear each other, shared his screen with a really obnoxious video playing, and drank ‘water’ from a Blue Moon beer can. In an effort to try to mute his mic, I kicked him out of the class. I didn’t worry too much about it, but he quickly signed back on and danced with his dog. Then he left and returned with a jar of spaghetti sauce which he proceeded to pour down into his shirt, then he removed his shirt. He clearly had an audience again and wanted to put on his best act yet. Needless to say, he has lost the privilege to use his computer and now has to do assignments on paper and pencil. I couldn’t believe I had behavior issues on a video call, but here we were. Honestly, I wasn’t that shocked. That seemed like a pretty middle school thing to do.

Despite that special kind of crazy, I still like middle school. It was really good to see their faces and hear their voices and watch them interact with each other and laugh or show empathy when someone shared about their fear during this time. So, here’s hoping that we get to return for at least a few weeks, but if not, I’m praying they’ll at least stop drinking from beer cans and keep their shirts on in the middle of class.

Mystery Ride

Stephanie and I chatted happily as the train rambled through the Hungarian countryside. We munched on trail mix and the sandwiches that we had packed. We slept, we read books, we switched seats with Karen and Julie. After 12 hours which included a stop at the Hungarian/ Romanian border, we were finally pulling in to the Brasov, Romania train station.

We were all teachers throughout Hungary and were on spring break. Many of us spent our weekends traveling around Europe while we had the chance, and we had chosen Romania to spend our extended break. We were excited to get to see the Transylvanian region and the Bran Castle, known as ‘Dracula’s Castle.’

We didn’t have firm plans, which was pretty typical when we traveled. We arrived in Brasov in the early afternoon and figured we would get off the train, head into the city, and find a room for the few nights that we would be staying. This was a tried and true way to travel, so we weren’t worried about finding our way around or finding a place to stay.

When we stepped down from the the train, the air was bitter cold as snow swirled around. We chatted and shivered as we walked down the sidewalk, hoping to find a place to cross over and head into town. We were light packers in those days and everything needed for a week was in our small backpacks.

Suddenly, we were approached by two men wearing black jackets. The first man, who wore big, thick glasses, introduced himself. He asked if we needed a place to stay and said that he had a room that he rented out in his house. In his hand he held a photocopy of a page from The Lonely Planet Travel Guide. He spoke English with a heavy Romanian accent and told us his name, which unfortunately I can’t remember. He kept pointing to the paper in his hand and insisted that he was the man that Lonely Planet so eagerly endorsed. The man standing beside him, nodded his head in agreement.

We all took turns reading the page and discovered that his price was super cheap. We could all stay in his rented room for under $10. The real clincher was when he told us that there was a private bath and breakfast was included. I don’t remember there being much discussion, but we were sold.

It wasn’t until we were riding in the back of a car with the two men, speeding down a Romanian road, that I started to wonder if this was such a good idea. I didn’t voice my thoughts to my fellow passengers because they were asking questions and getting suggestions for sites to see and restaurants to find dinner. I started to wonder what part of me thought that getting off a train in place I had never been and getting into a car with two men whose only credentials were a photo copy of a travel book was a good idea.

Thankfully, he turned out to be legit. He really was the man from the travel guide and he did come highly recommended by the author of that particular article. The other man was a taxi driver that was hired daily to take the room for rent guy to the train station to seek out patrons.

In his home, our new friend rented out a room that slept four. He showed us to our room, which was very modest and very cold, but it looked clean and it was very inexpensive. We dropped off our backpacks and asked what was the best way to get to town.

Instead of just telling us, he asked if we would be interested in a tour guide at no extra charge. We of course said yes and he walked us all over town, telling us the history and current state of affairs and sharing bits and pieces of Romanian culture. When it was time to eat dinner, he pointed us to a restaurant that offered authentic Romanian cuisine. He sat at a table beside ours, drinking coffee. He would not sit with us and refused to allow us to buy his meal. He said he did not want to impose upon our trip. Little did he know, but he had made our trip unique with his personal knowledge of the area.

When we went back to his home, we retreated to our room. The bed was lumpy and I at one point thought it might be stuffed with straw. But after a long day traveling and being a tourist, it didn’t take long for me to fall asleep. We awoke the next morning to a lovely breakfast of eggs, toast with jam, and hot tea. We set out for a day of visiting Bran’s Castle, sans our host. We arrived back to our room late that night and left early the next morning after another delicious breakfast.

Our host enjoying breakfast with his guests.

Now, this story could have had a very different ending. When I think back to arriving at the train station and being approached by two strange men and then getting into their car, I feel sick to my stomach. The only people who knew where I was in Romania, were with me. Cell phones were still new and I didn’t know anyone who had one. I think I might have mentioned to my parents that I was going to Romania, but didn’t give specifics as to where.

A few months ago, I asked my mom if I ever told her this story. The look on her face told me that I hadn’t. That trip seems like a lifetime ago and I think about how much has changed in the world. Life seemed simpler then.

We discovered places to visit by looking in guidebooks, like The Lonely Planet, or talking to others who had visited the area we were going. We had a big fat book that we carried around so we knew the train schedules. I called my parents once a week, on Sunday evenings. I don’t remember ever wondering if something had happened to them if they didn’t answer the phone; I just assumed they had other things to do. Now, if I can’t reach my mom on her cell phone, I figure she must be dead in the floor. None of us were tethered to a phone, so we talked on the train. We laughed when we got lost and gathered around the map or attempted to ask for directions. I checked my email once or twice a week. We had one station that was in English and that was CNN, so TV watching was sparse. Social media wasn’t around, at least as far as I knew.

It’s almost as if I lived life in the moment. Getting a break from all that stuff seems like an ideal vacation.

Although, maybe having access to information 24/7 has made me a little bit wiser and today would prevent me from hopping in the backseat of a strange man’s car and asking, “Where we headed?”

Amnesia

I woke up at the normal time, 5 am, and stumbled into the kitchen. I hit the button to grind the coffee beans, poured water in the reservoir, and hit ‘brew.’ I meandered into the bathroom to put on my make-up and attempt to tame my wild mane. My hair has dreams of being in an 80’s metal hair band and I daily have to crush those dreams with product and a straightener. When finished with those tasks, I went back to the kitchen to get my coffee and read before going to work. I poured the coffee and took a sip. Instead of the strong, dark coffee that I always drink, I was met with weakened, dirty water that only sort of resembled coffee. I returned to the scene of the crime, the coffee pot, and investigated the issue. I had forgotten to put the freshly ground coffee in the machine. I had brewed, and drank, water that had been filtered through day old grounds. Gross.

I typically have a very good memory. In reminiscing with friends, I’ll remember insignificant details that they have forgotten. Unfortunately, I seem to only be able to remember silly things. I am very forgetful when it comes to remembering important things. I forget to be grateful for all the things. I forget to praise. I forget to worship. I forget to make sure people know that I love them. I forget to write thank-you cards or just thinking of you cards. I forget to focus on what’s important. I forget who God says He is. I forget who God says I am.

I’ve been struggling with the situation in the world. Which has been weird to me. I have two months off every year for summer break. Of course, usually during the time off I can go to the store, buy toilet paper, meet up for coffee with friends, invite people to my house for game nights, or hike in the woods. There is also a definite end to summer. I know that come August, play time is over. There is no known end to this madness.

Today I was really working myself into a pity party. I finished the two books that I had been reading and was trying to decide on what to start next. I realized that I had a copy of Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love. I’ve read several of his other books, but had somehow missed his most popular. The first chapter is all about how incredible, holy, and unfathomable God is. One section stuck out to me:

There is an epidemic of spiritual amnesia going around, and none of us is immune. No matter how many fascinating details we learn about God’s creation, no matter how many pictures we see of His galaxies, and no matter how many sunsets we watch, we still forget.

Crazy Love, pg .31

It seems silly that we, especially those of us who claim to be followers, forget. But, here I am.

When reading the Old Testament, I’m often surprised- like mouth gaping open, shaking my head surprised by the actions of the Israelites. In Numbers 16, Korah and his followers go against Moses and Aaron. The earth opens up and swallows Korah and his gang, as well as their families and all their possessions. Then fire falls from heaven and consumes 250 more rebels. Talk about a chaotic, terrifying day. The Lord had Moses direct Eleazar to collect the bronze censers from the 250 who had been burned up, and hammer them out to overlay the altar as a reminder to the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the Lord. I want to believe that the memory of that day would be seared into my conscience and I would never, ever forget.

But verse 41 states, “The NEXT DAY the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.” A plague struck the people and 14,700 die before Aaron offered incense and made atonement for them. Somehow, overnight, they forgot the day’s events and continued in their arrogance. They had also forgotten being rescued out of Egypt, walking on dry ground through the Red Sea, having manna delivered daily, and a whole host of other miracles. Not to mention being lead by a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day.

Reading this account got me thinking about things in my own life that I have forgotten and how much of an Israelite I truly am.

Several years ago, I had one semester of student teaching left. I was unable to work at the local college and student teach, so I had to quit and move back in with my parents. I found myself really stressed because I wasn’t allowed, nor would there have been time, to work another job while student teaching. I didn’t know what I was going to do because I didn’t want to become a burden to my parents, but I also didn’t have the funds to pay tuition and be unemployed for five months. At that time, in the state of Tennessee, you could get a job without having your teaching license as long as you were working towards that goal. However, it was really difficult to get a job because there were so many qualified, licensed people applying.

When people would ask where I wanted to teach, I would say, “In a small community like Johnson County.” However, when it came time to think about applying, I didn’t give it a second thought because it was an hour a half from where my parents lived. But I was desperate. I was sitting in my mom’s office looking at job openings and saw an opening for an English as a Second Language teacher in Johnson County, TN. I called the number on the website and explained my situation. To my surprise, the lady on the other end told me to fill out the application and offered me an interview for later in the week.

I made the 3 hour round-trip commute from my parents house for about a week. I had been looking for a place to live that was closer to work. However, given the location of my job, there just weren’t a lot of rentals available. I had decided to try to find something about halfway in Hampton, TN. It’s a beautiful place and I think the 18 people that live there would agree that there just aren’t a lot of housing options.

I sat down and prayed about a place to live. I decided to be bold and ask the Lord for specific things in an apartment, so I made a list: nice neighbors, safe, a bathtub, a back porch, a nice view, under $400 a month, and a washer and dryer. I visited one apartment that was a little over my price range and was actually pretty scary. It was dark and I never would have felt comfortable to take my shoes off because it looked dingy and dank. But, it was the only option.

Or so I thought. My grandmother contacted her niece, who lived in Hampton, to see if she knew of any place. It turned out that she lived in a triplex and there was a newly opened unit next door to hers. I visited and it had everything on my list, except it was $50 cheaper a month. It was bright, and clean, and felt like home. The only problem was that the landlord had offered it to a lady that morning and were waiting to hear back from her. They told me if she declined, they would call me. I was disappointed, but thought I could probably make the dark, smelly apartment feel homey if I closed my eyes and tried hard enough.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to see how that was going to turn out because the landlord called and offered me the bright, shiny apartment. The apartment didn’t come with a washer and dryer. After I moved in, my grandmother’s niece knocked on my door and asked if I could use a washer and dryer and she wouldn’t take any money for them. As a reminder of the Lord’s kindness, I framed my list and kept it in my apartment. I still have it displayed in my office.

I hate that I have spiritual amnesia when it comes to remembering the goodness, holiness, greatness, and kindness of the Lord. I wish remembering came naturally instead of needing reminders. Reflecting on this memory has been just what I needed today. The Lord knows my heart, He knows what I need before I even ask, and He is faithful to His word and His promises.

Choices

The last several days the idea of how seemingly small choices impact life has shown up in many different ways. I’ve had conversations with friends, listened to sermons, read articles and blog posts, and mulled over the impact of daily choices.

I look back over my life and see how my choices have lead me to the life I currently live. Three or four years ago I was introduced to a group of people through a mutual friend. This friend told me about this group and how amazing they were and that I would fit right in with them. She invited me to a retreat that they have every February. I thought she was inviting me to some type of family reunion, so I declined her offer. The idea of spending a weekend with a group of people who all knew each other and I didn’t know anyone sounded like my idea of a terribly uncomfortable time. It sounded a lot like my high school experience and I had zero desire to revisit that.

Then I made a few choices. Choices that seemed random and haphazard, but led me to here.

For five years I lived an hour from the school where I taught. I drove twice a day over two mountains to teach in a small school in a tiny mountain community. I loved the school, my co-workers, and the community- but had no desire to live there. I spent 10 hours a week in my car and nearly $350 a month in gas. The final straw came one week when it took an hour and a half to get to work one morning because of an accident that was blocking my two lane mountain road commute. I had to back track and go another way- all at 6:30 in the morning. Soon after that, I was driving home and met a semi-truck coming up the mountain. The back of the truck was in my lane and I was involved in a minor accident. I knew that I needed to seriously start looking for something that was either closer to my home, or I needed to move closer to my school. I never had peace about moving closer to my school.

A new church plant started in the town where I lived. I knew the associate pastor and his wife and so I made the choice to attend and make it my home church. I made the choice to attend a small group that consisted of a friend of mine and a couple I did not know. I became friends with the couple and they told me about this group of people they thought I would fit in with.

I made the choice to apply for a job closer to home. I was offered the job and accepted it. I cried as soon as I hung up the phone and cried pretty much all summer because I had to leave my small mountain school. I even tried to get my job back at that school and was offered it back, but I felt the Lord strongly telling me no.

I was so heartbroken and missed my friends that I actually cried almost everyday after school for the first year. I made the choice to be miserable instead of seeing that I had gotten everything I had prayed for- a church home, a 7 minute commute to work, more pay, less time in the car, opportunity to participate in a Bible study because of the extra time I now had, opportunities for new friendships, etc.

On a whim one February, and after a few more invitations, I made the choice to go to one of the retreats. I figured if it was weird I never had to go back, but maybe it would be fun. My friends from church were going to be there, so I knew that I wouldn’t be totally alone. To my surprise, it took about 3 minutes for me to feel completely welcomed and accepted. It reminded me of a weekend at camp. After the weekend was over, I drove home and thought that I might like to attend another one of those retreats.

And I made the choice to attend another retreat and many after that.

Today, I can’t imagine my life without the people I met that weekend. I was listening to a sermon by Chip Ingram on Sunday and he said to think about the people you spend your time with because in five years you’ll be just like them. He was talking about how we need to choose our friends carefully. That thought excited me because the people I choose to spend time with love Jesus and encourage me to do the same.

If I had made the choice to go my own way, stay at my mountain school, and leave the choice up to chance rather than God- man, would I have missed out. If I had stayed at my school, I wouldn’t have started going to the church, so I wouldn’t have met my friends, The Crue. I would have missed out on so much fun and laughter, but more importantly I would have missed out on how much my walk with Jesus has been impacted.

I think it’s beneficial to look over life and see how events are connected. It helps me to be mindful that the small choices I’m making today could change the direction of my whole life; and I don’t want to miss out because I’m not paying attention to my choices.