Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Music Is Back

Music has always been a huge part of my life.

When I was very young, I remember my daddy's guitar and the piano in our house. I didn't know how to play either, but they were there. I remember one Mother's Day when I was in early elementary school, when my mom and I sang a duet together in church. I also participated in the church musicals with my brother. Pretty sure a wore a poodle skirt one time. We were the cutest. 

[Note to self: go find these pictures.]

In the 5th grade, I learned to play the flute. I continued all the way through college in marching and concert band. My junior year of high school I started to learn the piccolo for concert season and played that in the marching band at Texas Tech in the Goin Band. I still play both instruments, but not as often as I'd like.

After 7th grade, I started singing at church in the youth group band. Props to Goob (aka my good friend Jeremy) for trying to teach me to sing, have confidence, not be afraid of failing or looking dumb, and for putting up with me for so many years. I still have to work on those things daily and surrender those things to Jesus. I sang at church as a backup singer through high school and when I returned from college on breaks. I learned so much about myself, God, and music through these years.

During college, I was diagnosed with Type 1-Diabetes. After that, worship at church, at home, or in the car was usually filled with tears and trying to lead others in song would have been a hot mess. I stopped singing in public for awhile. Goob told me when I moved home after college that he wanted me to sing again on Sunday mornings. In tears, I told him that he didn't want me blubbering in front of everyone, and I wanted no part of that. But he kept pushing me and told me it might help me by singing in front of people again. He challenged me in a way that no one else could, and I finally said yes. Music began to enter my life publicly again. It was hard, and I felt so vulnerable sharing such personal feelings and pain with others around me. 

Fast forward a couple months. I left the church I grew up in to help start a church as their girl's minister. Through that, I had many opportunities to lead worship again. It challenged me in ways I hadn't been previously because I was leading more and not just singing backup. Tim, the pastor of the church, gave me opportunities to lead and grow in my musical abilities even though I didn't feel qualified. I learned from so many wonderful women who sing far better than me during my time there.

When I changed churches about a year later, I started going to a much larger church. Since it's larger, they have many great singers and didn't need my mediocre talents. It's been four years of going to this church, and I have always wanted to get back on stage to lead others in worship. I never felt qualified. I never felt like I had enough talent. I never felt like I had enough time to give on a Sunday where lesson planning and grading take all my energy along with my very few days of rest.

The problem is [NEWSFLASH] It's not about me. 

What? Crazy.

It's about taking my talents and the gifts GOD has given me to serve Him more fully. 

After my trip to Rwanda this year with a sweet friend who sings on Sundays at my church and other friends who are all about challenging me and my lack of confidence, I said yes to leading on a regular basis.

This is a leap of faith because I don't have a perfect singing voice, and I don't have a ton of time to give places other than school. BUT I know that I need to use this gift in the ways God calls me, even when it's scary, uncertain, and I don't feel worthy. 

It's also a testament to how God wired us and designed how we more fully glorify Him. It takes others building relationships with us to help us grow, learn, and improve by challenging us. It's what is expected of me at work as a teacher, that I build relationships with kids and other teachers. Why wouldn't it be the same in my walk with Jesus? My parents, Chris, Claire, my band directors, Goob, Tim, Laney, Val, Reagan, Jami, Ranelle, Kayla, Lauren, Lizzie, Janet, Alison, Josh, Luke, Stephanie, Lincee, and so many others who either helped me grow as a musician or challenged me when I didn't necessarily want to be challenged. 

Tonight, I'm leading worship for the first time in 4 years. So here I go. Jumping in all the way and saying yes to God's plan for the gifts He's blessed me with. Pray for me. I'm going to need it. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

#TMC16 Recap

I got home from Twitter Math Camp 2016 (TMC) almost a week ago, and I just haven't been highly motivated to sit down and write a recap. Every other year, I can't wait to come home and share all the great things with the people who read my blog. This year was different, though. I'm not 100% sure why, but I think it's a combination of things. Right before TMC a student at Jonathan's and my school passed away suddenly (he wrote a beautiful tribute here, but pack your tissues), I found out my grandmother had a stroke on the last day of TMC, and I am still processing a lot of heavy things as I learn more about moving to Rwanda. It has been a heavy summer. Great, but heavy. More so than I was anticipating.

I also wanted to get right to work on the things I learned and how I want to make changes in my room. I didn't want to waste the little time I have left of summer on blogging. As I started writing my recap though, I realized how much I needed to write in order to process some of the things we discussed last week. So here's what's been bouncing around in my head.


I got to see my #soulsister Casey after almost an entire year of being apart. #blessed
pink sparkly cupcake and being reunited!

He hates pictures so much.


Casey and I dragged Jonathan to the Mall of America. I'm kidding. It brought him great joy to hang out with the two of us and keep us out of trouble. We found this amazing nerd store (Marbles: The Brain Store) and J and I bought almost the entire stock of Mobi games (Bananagrams but building math equations instead) for our classrooms. Casey found a game for her classroom too. Overall, it was a good day at the mall. The giant NFL football helmets were great too.

Future Mrs. JJ Watt 

Later that night, we met up with lots of TMC friends who were getting into town. It was crazy, but Casey and I went back to the hotel with smiles on our faces so excited about the next few days.


Descon! The Pre-TMC Desmos day completely overwhelmed my brain, and I did not know where or how to focus my time. Card Sort is a really cool new feature and a visually impaired student has the ability to use Desmos too. The Desmos crew never ceases to amaze all of its teacher fans. They are the smartest people who after you've asked a seemingly complicated question say oh of course let me show you how to do that.

That night we went to the Minnesota Twins game. So fun with friends, but Casey broke up with me for taking a selfie and sending it on the snapchat. Oops.


TMC BEGINS! Deb and I matched unintentionally, and it was awesome.

I went to the greatest Morning Session I have ever been to. Michelle Naidu did an excellent job sharing her experiences with differentiating in class to reach all her students and help them close the gaps in their learning. I am taking activities and pieces of how she differentiated her classroom to make it fit my pre-cal classes. I loved the activities like snowball and our group thinking/concerns sheets where over the three days we filled in how much we felt like we addressed the topics on our sheet.

After that, I went to Getting Triggy With It with Fouss. She used lots of ideas I have used and seen before but forget about during the school year. It was good to be reminded of things I have seen, ways to make things better that I have used in the past, and also to see some new ideas.


After lunch, I talked in front of the entire group and didn't throw up. I gave a My Favorite about Rwanda and got lots of great feedback. A couple people are interested in coming next year on the teacher trip and others are excited to learn more about serving other communities in new ways. It has been a journey for me and I loved being able to share that with my math community.

Then, we heard from Tracy Zager who challenged us to share with multiple grade levels. This struck a chord with me because it is exactly what the American team shared with the Rwandan teachers, but I hadn't considered taking that idea home to my school district. I am not sure anyone is open to hearing about it at home, but I want to continue to think of ways we could use this. Even if it is just with my elementary school teacher friends, I should be listening, helping, and sharing with them every chance I get. Collaborating across grade levels is going to help us all get better.

Debating in math class with Chris Luzniak was next mostly because my brain was mush after presenting and I just followed Jonathan where he went. I am so glad I went! I loved this idea of always having a second answer in math class where you have to back up your answer somehow. It scares me to try something so outside of what I am comfortable with, but it will be so worth it.

I went to warm-up routines with Jessica Bogie and Lisa Bejarano for the last session of the day. This really encouraged me to create a plan for the week so that my kids aren't bored doing the exact same thing every day. I love Estimation180, Which one doesn't belong?, Open Middle Problems, Find the Flub, Counting Circles, and Clothesline Math, but now I just need to come up with the structure to utilize them all.

We ended the night with trivia and ice cream. #TeamDibs was great and I am so glad I got to know Glenn and Dave better. Such intelligent and funny guys! 3rd place just gives us room to improve for next year. :)
We all changed our pictures to this during trivia. #shenanigans
Team Dibs! *Dividing Is Before Subtracting* or *Dibs Is Bringing Sparkle* whichever you prefer


Highlight of today was Max's rational function session. Alex and I loved it so much that we skipped the flex session to continue working on our card sort that we hadn't finished yet. Then I worked with Sam and we chatted about Pre-Cal. I would love to teach at the same school as this guy (actually all of these great teachers at TMC, but that might get a little cray).

As stupid as this sounds, I really loved "watching" The Bachelorette with my math friends. Casey, Heather and I all live in different time zones and can't even tweet at each other without spoilers and 2 hour delays in conversation. For the first time ever, we were all in the same place to watch this ridiculous show. No one actually heard anything that was said because of all the drunken yelling, but whatevs. I loved it.

I love these girls. So. Much.
At home, I hide behind the couch cushions. I could not do that here. Do not judge me. 
Monday night I was in the Zeta house where they were practicing the dance for the TMC party anthem, and I joined in on the fun. Thanks for letting me be a part of such greatness!


Great My Favorites. Song. Go watch it! Lisa's speech. Announcement for next year's TMC in Atlanta. Tears. Saying goodbye to my ex #soulsister. Post TMC lunch and party in the airport.

Song Team!

Last lunch! Sad face!

I will miss these people if I can't go next year. I can't think about it or I will be too sad.

This year, I went outside my comfort zone of only talking to my people, and it played in my favor. I enjoyed myself much more. I made so many new friends. I really feel like I belong in this community and have things to contribute. It is a little crazy that it has taken 4 summers for me to get to this point, but I am really glad I've gotten there now.

To the newbies: Don't make it take 4 trips to TMC for you to make friends. I know it's scary, but it's so worth it and everyone is VERY accepting. Also present something, even if you think no one wants to hear about it. They probably do, and bonus you'll make more friends that way.

Friday, July 1, 2016

#Rwandering: Day 12

4 am: Wake up, get dressed, go eat breakfast.
4:15 am: 2 jeeps arrive to take us to the Akagera National Park
5 am: get in jeeps to head out on our safari
5:20 am: 1 jeep gets a flat tire
5:40 am: both jeeps get back on the road and head west towards the park
8:15 am: Both jeeps make it safely to the park and we're ready for our adventure with animals.

It was an early morning today, but we had many adventures and got to see lots of animals. 

Some highlights for me were:

1. Hearing everyone's reactions to their favorite animals. Carol's reactions were especially fun and exciting to listen to as I sat next to her in the back seat.

2. Carol had some amazing animal sounds.

3. We filmed footage for our "Africa" music video. Thank you Toto for such a perfect song.

4. We got SUPER close to some giraffes and zebras.

5. Best part of the day was the first few minutes when we saw the biggest elephant ever with a little white bird sitting on top of him. Amazing!

6 pm: We arrived safely back to the guest house.
9 pm: We all fell into bed fast asleep.

Tomorrow we must say goodbye and head home. This part is always challenging. Pray for safe travels and not too tearful goodbyes. 

PS. I'll post pictures later. Too tired. :)

Thursday, June 30, 2016

#Rwandering: Day 11

all. the. tears.

This has been my life for the entire trip. If you thought I cried a lot before, you have no idea.

This morning, I talked to a Rwandan doctor who shared some great things about diabetes with me. He made it sound possible to live in Rwanda with diabetes. I think it's possible, but I think it will be more challenging than he made it out to be. Still a ton to pray about and surrender to the Lord. There's also more research to do with an American doctor who knows about the care I am able to receive in the US.

We had a really good meeting with John Africa and the Head Teachers at the New Life schools, where we shared the good things we saw in the classroom and the ways we think they can still continue to grow. It was a 3 and a half hour meeting that was very productive. Loved every minute.

This afternoon, Carol and I met her missionary friends at a delicious bakery, where I was able to ask questions about moving to Rwanda and the culture shock that comes with it. I loved having a different perspective than what I had heard from Africa New Life people. Again, so much to pray about and think about before any decisions are made.

Where I stand right now:

The plan is to come and stay for a couple of months to test out a longer period of time to experience Rwanda not on a team. Being a teacher, it makes sense to come in the summer. Probably next summer. Still have no idea where or how the Lord is leading. There's a ton to pray about and a ton to surrender. Maybe now you understand a little why there's been so many tears.

This is so exciting and so scary all at the same time. Be praying for my heart and my head and my emotions and really everything. I'm crying as I write this. Who's surprised?

Love to all of you! Also in denial that the trip is almost over. Off to our safari EARLY tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

#Rwandering: Day 10

Today was the last day in the classrooms which is sad because that means the trip is almost over. But it is SO joyful because we were able to see the completed New Life High School and the changes they have made to the New Life campus in Kayonza.

Carol, one of our teammates from Washington, just wept when we got out of the van today. The money that came from her husband's memorial after he passed away went to finishing the school. The amount that they needed to finish the school was the exact amount Carol sent to Africa New Life. Crazy how God works.

We spent some time in the classrooms, but as always it isn't enough. We were talking at dinner tonight that we wish the trip could be 3 weeks. I think if the trip changed to 3 weeks, we would still feel like it wasn't enough. We just crave more time with our precious friends.

After our time in the schools, we went on a home visit to Lauren's sponsor child, David. This is my second time seeing David, and he is just the sweetest. I love watching him and Lauren interact. It is very special to observe and participate in. The family was all dressed up and ready to welcome Lauren into their home. The mom had a dress made with the fabric Lauren sent her for Mother's Day and the dad was in dress clothes. They are also working on paying off their house so that they own it. The neighbor who was letting them stay there decided that he could sell it to them since he wasn't going to return to Rwanda.

We told some of our life stories on the bus rides, and at dinner, Carol said how encouraging it is to see all of us allowing the Lord to have control over the struggles we have overcome to get here. It's cool to see God work in all of our lives despite our imperfections, illnesses, and weaknesses. He is able to shine because He is strong instead of us pretending to be strong.

It was enchilada night again. The Texas crew is 100% on board with Emma's enchiladas. Read Lauren's food blog.

After dinner, John (our driver from the last two trips) came over to the guest house to thank me for giving him more test strips for his glucometer that I brought him. I come down stairs and he gives me a huge hug and asks about my day. He says he'll be right back and comes out with a beautiful purse/computer bag to thank me. He's such a sweetheart! He also promised to teach me how to drive if I move here. Love that dude!

Tomorrow I talk to the doctor about the betes. Prayers for good conversations!

Off to bed I go. Love to all of you!