Monday, October 26, 2015

Forgive and Learn

Things seem so different. A month. A year. A few years.

There's no easy way to say good-bye to someone who was important to you. You go from saying good morning, texting all day long, being the last person to say "good night." Planning all of your weekends around busy schedules. Telling all of your family and friends and before you know it it's over. Nothing.

I still remember the first moments. The fast heart beats, avoidance of eye contact, nervous laughter, and smiles. They seemed so sweet and in my naive heart, so real. While I was with you I started evolving into the best version of myself, but I can safely say that I was not at my best or shining my brightest when I was with you.

I wanted to bring out the best. I wanted to push you to be more of yourself than what the world saw. I knew my passion, but I wanted to help you see yours. I wanted you to love life the way I do when I teach. I wanted to bring out both of our faults to work on them together. I wanted both of us to be the best possible versions of ourselves. I always wanted to bring the best of who I was to the relationship and I hoped you would do the same. That may have been what pushed you away the most.

What seemed like a large amount of time together seems so minute now. We danced together for a few steps and now have moved on. It wasn't always pretty and there were times that we stepped on each other's toes. The hard times are what I am most grateful for, because they have taught me how to be a better and more understanding woman.

I cannot go back. There are nights that I would not want to re-live whether it be crying in my pillow or waiting up for you to get home and text me. The missed Skype dates or the drunk phone calls. The stress, the tears, the heartache, and the worry helped me become stronger. It helped me build my patience, be more comforting to others, and focus on what is really important. Those scars helped me learn that I never want to leave someone feeling the way you made me feel.

I am not writing this to tell you about all of the low points in my life. I am writing this to tell you that I forgive you. The resentment and dislike I had for you no longer has a hold on me. It is because of you that I will ensure that my future husband will never make me feel inadequate. I will look for someone who feels incomplete when I am not around, but does not need me to push him towards his goals and dreams. You are the reason that I have to be with someone who has a fire burning in his heart to do what God has created him to do, because I have seen the adverse affects of not being driven. It is because of you that I will always seek to find the best in what seems like the worst situation, no matter how hard that may be. You are the reason that I am my friends' shoulder to cry on when boys are being mean, because they were mine for such a long time. You are the reason that I got to experience an entirely new side of myself that I wouldn't even know existed if you didn't leave me behind wondering why.

I forgive you, because without the hurt that you caused me I wouldn't have run to find new adventures somewhere else. I would not have delved into my faith that I had been avoiding while we were together. You are the reason I looked at my family with a new realization that they are my constant and I will never love someone who does not love them. I forgive you because you sent me running straight for new places and new experiences with people that needed me. I have you to thank for these things, because they never would have happened if I stayed in one spot wondering how I could make our relationship work.

You have moved on and you seem so happy. I want you to know that I am genuinely happy you have found what you were so desperately looking for while we were together. My hope is that you are never given the scars that you gave me, but if you do I hope they cause you to grow the way I feel I have grown.

I just wanted to tell you thank you. Whether you knew it or not, you helped fill my life with everything I was about to miss out on.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

My Passion

It's pretty crazy how quickly life can change...
One day you can be telling your freshman literacy teacher that you're going to be a psychologist. The next you are teaching swimming lessons in Japan. Before you know it you're student teaching with 23 little six year olds.
Life happens so fast, sometimes it's hard to keep up.
Among the business of student teaching, the craziness of the dreaded edTPA, the tiredness of working, and the life that comes with all of it, it's easy to forget what got you started.
I can accredit my successes to many different individuals and life experiences, but one stands out in my mind among all of the stress that life brings me. It's my purpose to teach and the one time that I have felt God move me in a way that no one or nothing ever has.

Rewind to the summer before my senior year in high school. Good ol' 2011...

I was about to go on a trip to Guatemala with my cousins John and Linsey to work for a program called Living Water Teaching. My mom was driving me to the airport. I still remember her saying, "Why don't you go into teaching?" I thought she had lost it. I told her I was not patient enough. I couldn't handle it and there's just way too much going on with teachers. There was just no way that I could do something crazy like become a teacher.
I knew some Spanish, but when it came to talking to adults I just couldn't bring myself to do it. So, I started talking to kids. We talked about everything I could think of that I felt I could communicate. They made me laugh, and I just wanted to be around them every chance I could. We spent our days teaching in these schools in the roughest areas I had been to in my life. I remember walking down the trail to the school thinking, "How are they so happy? They have nothing and they just love life. I want that." I loved helping and teaching them about Jesus. We were later told that it was time for adult ministry, and that I would need to start interacting with more adults. I just couldn't do it. I wanted to be around kids. I wanted to talk to them. I wanted to laugh with them. I wanted to teach them about all that I knew in hopes that they could teach me something, too.

We were about halfway done with our trip when we had a church service one night in the mountains. There were adults and a couple random kids. The pastor asked all adults to come forward that had something on their minds that they needed prayer for. Then, he called the missionaries to come forward to pray with them. I was nervous. I didn't know Spanish well enough to pray with this woman, but I wanted to try. I put my hand on her shoulder and I prayed. I prayed harder than I ever had for anyone. We both started crying, but it didn't stop. I wanted her pain to go away. I wanted her to have the joy of Christ.
When I sat down, I felt different. I felt comforted. I felt this indescribable feeling of service. Then, I felt God. He spoke so clearly to me it was like I had run into a brick wall. He said, "I know that you have all these plans, but I need you to teach my children." That was it. 
The message that he gave me has given me drive and clarity for the past four years. After that night, my life has been completely changed because it's not my life anymore. I will go wherever He calls me.
I don't know how He did it. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a planner and I love to be proactive and get things done. I had it all figured out, but that message completely changed me. I feel and see God differently than I ever have before. I am filled with the most joy when I am teaching. There are times when that's all I think about and a majority of my actions are made in mind of my students and how I can help them.

The past four years have taught me so much, but I am so grateful for the message that God filled my heart with on that summer night in 2011. God has called me back to Guatemala for the second time, to Tanzania, Waterloo, this past summer to Japan, and now Clinton. I feel that this is only the beginning. I don't know where He will call me next, but I do know that I will serve His children and people wherever I am in the world.

Sometimes, I need a reminder of why I do what I do. I think that's normal. I created this blog this summer to help inspire people. There might be hundreds of people that read it, and there might be just one. I wrote this blog because I want to inspire people the way that I have been inspired. I want someone to hear my story and see the glory of God and how he does work in peoples' lives.
This story seems so simple, but it's the basis of my whole life. I will never forget that night as long as I live. No matter what stresses life throws at me, I know that I serve a God that will help me handle them with grace and become a better person because of it.

My prayer is that you continue to seek Him. He has a plan for you, just like he had one for me.

Friday, August 14, 2015

"How was your summer?"

"How was your summer?"

It's such a simple question, but how do I even begin to answer it? My summer started off like any other. I was looking forward to the traveling and trying to get back into the swing of swimming lessons from teaching in previous years. Some days were hard; it would be anything from behavior management issues to missing going to Culver's with my siblings. Some days were easy; one of my students would make progress or I would get to talk to my best friend about things going on in my Japanese life.
The adventure of this summer is something that I can't really describe in a way that would make sense to someone who did not get to experience it first hand. Yesterday, when I was saying goodbye to all of my students, I realized that they made my summer worth wild. The traveling was nice, but they are the ones that brought me joy. Nothing beats the feeling of helping a kiddo pass the impossible Atsugi swim test, hearing that one of your students is moving to Iowa to be with me, and getting a letter that said, "Miss Daisy, thank you for believing in me."
The magic of Camp Adventure is not from the trainings, it's not from the uniforms, it's not even from the traveling. The magic comes from the kids that need a little extra light and love in their lives. It's not something that you can prepare for because if you put your heart completely into it, it's something that will change you.

Last night as I was crying thinking about all the goodbyes I said to my kids, I realized that the more I travel and follow God's calling the more goodbyes I have to say. My heart aches at goodbyes. You never truly know the impact you made, where the person will go, and what will come of their life. I always wonder if I made a change, because that's been my goal since I got my calling to teach. God has called me all over the world to work with different kids, from orphanages in Africa to military bases in Japan. Who knows where he will call me next. I do not know what the future holds, but I do know that I have many more goodbyes to say and I will need to lean on Christ to get me through those heart felt times. 
After working with each student, I realize that I will never be completely at home again. I don't think I have since I was seventeen years old. My home is in Heaven, and anywhere else I am just a tourist. Every student I work with has a special piece of my heart, so my heart will always be elsewhere. I am so thankful that God continuously fills me with love so that I can pass that on to children all over the world. I am blessed to be that instrument for him. My life is full of goodbyes, but it's also full of the richness of knowing and loving beautiful people all over the world.

In a word, my summer was inexplicable. The magic of what I have experienced in the past ten weeks is something that I will never really be able to put into words. I am so grateful to have gotten the opportunity to experience the Japanese culture to better relate to a variety of students. I am blessed to have gotten to know all the families that I did this summer. Even if it was just a short time, they have overwhelmed me with love and support that I could never even begin to thank them for. I am also thankful to have gotten to know the girls so well; between working and traveling I have some life-long best friends that I will cherish forever. 
I almost did not come to Japan. I wanted to stay at home and make money. I wanted to watch my brother's baseball games, go to the park with Avery, have my sister drive me around, watch tv with my mom on the couch, and go to the box with my dad every morning. I wanted to do all the things that led to a comfortable life at home. I have learned that the biggest blessings are when you follow God's plan for your life, but the Big Guy loves to push you out of your comfort zone. I hope that those of you that read my blogs are encouraged by my journey's to seek the ways that God is encouraging you to get pushed out of your comfort zone. He won't call everyone to drop everything, go to Japan for ten weeks, spend all day in the water and go by "Miss Daisy." If you listen, he will call you to do something that will help you become an instrument of change. You never know, maybe somewhere somebody may need exactly what you have to offer this world.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Last Weekend and Loving Yourself

This was our last weekend in Japan. I cannot believe that ten weeks is almost over. It's been such a wild ride, between the travel, the lessons, and the girls.

Friday night a few of us hung out and just chilled. We played Cards Against Humanity, watched YouTube videos and just took it easy.
Saturday we woke up early to catch the bullet train in Yokohama. The bullet train was insanely nice! I have never slept so comfortably on a train before, perfectly smooth and quiet. We arrived at Kyoto and went to see the Bamboo Forrest and Monkey Farm that day. We went and hung out near a river in Gion that night and walked around.

The next day we went to the Thousand Torii Gates and Golden Temple before heading back home. On the way home Josie and I stopped in Yamato to watch the swimming moms dance outside of the train station. It was really neat! Kyoto was beautiful. The girls are great. It was just a nice relaxing weekend. The perfect way to end the summer travel!

This is our last week of teaching swimming lessons and it's a little challenging because of how busy and emotional it has become. The moms have done nothing but welcome and support us while we are here. I believe that they are part of my family and I cannot thank them enough for all the support they've given us. I am overwhelmed with the love they have provided.

Something that I am realizing more and more with life experience is how important it is to be real. Be genuine. Be yourself.

I am still learning. I am learning about myself. I am learning about those that I love. I am learning about where God wants me and what he wants me to be doing there. There is so much I don't know, but I do know that I am going to be who I am and do what I know is right, even when it's hard. I know that I want to always strive to seek to understand. I know that whatever I do and wherever I go in life I want to reflect the glory of God in what I do.
I am blessed. I am so fortunate that I know God sent me here to teach his beautiful children. I know that with all of my heart. I have a purpose and I know it, and I am beyond thankful for that. I have a clear vision of what Christ wants my service to look like. I may not know where exactly that will be, or who that will be with, but I know how I can show his love around the world. The experiences I have gotten this summer (and prior to this summer) have helped reinforce that I was sent here to love the "unlovable." I find no greater purpose than when I am helping someone who may feel a little out of place. These are the people that need someone to look at them and tell them they have more abilities than disabilities and I am honored to be that person. My experiences have reinforced that.
I am also lucky enough to have been raised by a strong woman that teaches me to serve Christ in my actions through working hard and being genuine. My mom teaches me to stand up for what is right and never ever give up on people that need you. I am seeing that how you are raised has huge effects on the kind of person you are and what you believe. So, like I have said in a previous post, if you are a parent be conscious of the kind of person you are. Whoever said, "mom is always right," is right.

I want to encourage my readers to continuously discover who they are. This summer has been a huge learning process for me. Wether you are 21 or 91, I encourage you to continue to find yourself in things that you enjoy. I also want to encourage you to love yourself and don't try to hide who you are.  Spend your life doing what you enjoy and find a way to make that something you do every single day. Show your feelings. If you're sad, it's okay to cry sometimes. If you are upset, find a way to efficiently let your emotions out. Be genuine. Lastly, I hope that you take time to let God speak to your heart. It is so easy to get caught up in the everyday life that we live, but seek Him. Look for him in little things and ask him for help with the big things. He knows exactly what is going on, but admitting that you need Him is not admitting defeat, it's what you need to do to grow. Christ thinks you are beautiful exactly how you are and He created you the way He did for a reason, embrace it. Love yourself, because He loves you.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Different Kind of Love: Family Love

Since my last post I have gone to a couple new places and had a few new adventures.
Last Saturday we went to Muira Beach after sleeping in that morning. This was more of an Americanized beach, which was so refreshing. It was nice to just lay on the soft sand (sand flea free!) with the girls, even if it took us longer than expected to get there.
Sunday we booked an MWR trip to go canyoning. The bus took us up in the middle of Japan and it took about four hours to get to the canyoning place. We were all tired from the night before, but we had been looking forward to this trip for so long! We got to the canyoning place and the guide told us that we could potentially hit a storm, in which we would have our excursion called off. They were unsure at the time if the storm would hit the area we were going to. After forty five minutes of squeezing all of the Japanese ice cream that I've eaten this summer into a tiny wet suit, getting gloves, helmets, boots, etc. we were ready to go! We loaded into a hot van and took a fifteen minute ride to the canyon. The guide seemed a little uneasy, but it was a pretty intense job anyways so we went with it. We slid down two falls and I could feel the adrenalin in my body pumping. I was shaking, but I was so excited. Then, the water started turning brown and the guide told us they had made a "professional decision" to call off the trip. We ended up having to climb up the muddy slope up the side of the canyon using a rope to hold ourselves up. I luckily made it without falling (thank you, CrossFit) but others came up with their faces covered in mud. We took the four hour drive back and were a tad disappointed but thankful that we were able to return home safely.

My blogging this week is mostly about the families at NAF Atsugi. While working with the children on base I have learned so much about the mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters here. I have talked to my students about struggles they face wether that be their parent leaving on the ship or what they ate for lunch that day.
I can't even begin to tell you how many things the parents at NAF have done for us this summer. From bringing us big gifts like dolls and boots to bringing us small things like epson salt. These adoring mothers would do anything for us, even if it means making homemade lasagna vegetarian or driving us to Dominos at 9:00PM. I am so eternally grateful for the selflessness that has been displayed to me this summer. These people are incredible.
The truth is that the more I get to know these families, the more my heart overflows with love. Traveling is incredible. The opportunity to see different places and different life is something that can never be replaced, but there's just something about being with families. There is something about seeing a mother look out for her children. There is something about a little boy following his dad and looking at every action he makes. There is something special about families.
I am so fortunate that I have gotten to know these people that have forever changed my life. I will miss the travel in Japan, but what I will miss most of all is the kids I have worked with and the families I have gotten to know over this experience.
I consider my students to be part of my family. I see them every day. Some of them I have seen every day all summer. I push them to do their best. They push me to balance being a friend, a teacher, and in a way a big sister. These kids have brought me the most joy this summer, and I am still not quite sure what I will do without them.
I know that wherever these outstanding people I have met go in life, they will be successful. I have no doubts that my students will grow up to change the world. This summer wasn't about just teaching swimming. It was about teaching my kids that the only person they need to compete with is themselves, setting a good example for those that look up to them, working hard and never stopping until you look at what you've done with pride in your work, and looking at the things you have done and seeing a change in yourself. This summer was about so much more than swimming. This summer was about making a small little impact on children that make sacrifices every day by having their parents out at sea. This summer was about being the change in a new way, a way that I had no idea could exist.

It's with tears in my eyes that I think about leaving my new families, but that does not even compare to the love in my heart that I will always have for them. I am forever grateful for the acts of kindness, gifts, kind words, and support that has been given to me this summer. I will always consider NAF Atsugi and the people that live here my family. I will always love and remember them, no matter where in the world I am.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Mount Fuji or Bust

Last weekend was one of the most adventurous weekends of my life. It started so simply, but I am still recovering from it. Last Friday night consisted of me sitting in my pajamas with the aquatics girls eating delicious homemade lasagna from a wonderful swim mom, while mentally preparing to climb Mount Fuji on Saturday. It was simple, but I loved it.

Saturday we were ready. I had hiking boots that a different fabulous swim mom let me borrow as well as bars to keep our protein levels up while we were hiking. I had two liters of water, lots of layers, and a mind ready to climb. We left the base at 4am and left on an hour train ride to Shinjuku. We were going to take a bus to the 5th Station on Fuji from Shinjuku. It was twelve other girls and myself on this jaunt. Then, when we got to Shinjuku my roommate's shoe broke. Not long after that we could not find the bus station, so a kind Japanese man ran us around Shinjuku looking for this stinking bus. We finally found it, went inside, and to our dismay we found out the bus was full for the entire weekend. We planned our whole weekend around this trip to Fuji. We were tired, grouchy, and disappointed. After a couple hours of brainstorming, eight of us decided that no matter what we were going to climb Fuji that day.
The train rides were about four hours long. The bus ride was an hour. We slept on the trains, buses, and at the lobby on the 5th Station. It was an extremely long day before the hike even started.
Positive: We got to see the most gorgeous sun set on the 5th Station.

Then, we started hiking. I knew I would be struggling. I am a small town girl from Iowa, of course I am going to be out of breath hiking up Japan's largest mountain. I thought the stairs were so steep, because they were past my hips. I felt like I was doing extreme CrossFit step ups. The first station seemed so long, but we made it! I was so happy to get a stamp on that darn stick once I got there. Then, things got a little more intense. We were literally climbing up huge rock boulders. I did not realize that I should have been going to the WRC's rock wall prior to climbing. There were a few times where I was discouraged, but my home girls Sarah and Josie kept me going. I am so thankful for them, their patience, and their persistence to help me continue on. I can't describe the hike up Fuji, probably because it was all throughout the night and it was kind of like I was sleep hiking. It felt never ending, but we finally stopped in between the 9th Station and the top. As soon as I sat down I fell asleep for 45 minutes, but I woke up just in time to see the sun set.

The holy grail was when we got to the top. I wanted to cry I was so happy. The top of an uncivilized mountain never looked more beautiful to me.

The hike down was basically loose gravel at a steep decline. Just when you thought it was over, it kept going. My feet were killing me. I was wearing the same clothes for two days. I wanted to shower. I smelled terrible. I was covered in dirt. It was quite the experience, but it felt so good to get to the 5th Station again. Five hours later, I got my shower. I got to rest. I got to take my shoes off. Everything was good.

The mountain was not the best experience of my life, but it taught me a lot. I learned that sometimes you need to go through hard things to see how tough you are. Mount Fuji is all a mental game. It is mind over matter. 
I also learned how accomplished you feel after you go through something you will never make it through. I would have regretted it for the rest of my life if I did not climb that day. 
I think that at this point in my life I don't have a husband. I don't have children. The only person I truly need to worry about is myself. This is the time in my life where I can live with spontaneous freedom. I can make decisions on a whim the way we made the decision to night climb Fuji while sitting on the floor in the Shinjuku train station. It has taken me way too long to realize that. I am so thankful that I did.

I just want to live a life that I can be proud of. I want to look back on my adventures and smile, because I know that I lived life to the absolute fullest. This was my favorite and worst experience in Japan all wrapped up in one. It is like a love/hate relationship that you just can't stop thinking about. I am so glad I did it.

This is life and I chose to live it.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Happy Birthday, Miss Lilly!

Some people sparkle. They walk in the room and you know they're there by the way they smile, talk and sometimes even sing. Their sparkle stands out in crowds but it also stands out when you are alone with that person. They're the kind of people that you look at and think, "God really did create you special." Joslyn Hicks is one of those people.

I remember the first time I saw this goof ball, she was signing "Firework" by Katy Perry, which could not be more accurate to the kind of person she is. She was so full of life. She was so full of happiness. I thought to myself, "that girl is going to spread some Camp A magic this summer, wherever she goes." God works in mysterious ways. He gives us things that sometimes we don't even know that we need. Well, baby, this firework is the friend that I needed to make my summer everything.

"Josie" and I have been pals since the beginning. The very first night we went out, we were walking to the train station. She told me she had to go to the bathroom and then ran across the street into traffic. I panicked hoping nothing was wrong and followed her. Of course, I was the one that almost got hit my a car (sorry, mom) but that was when I realized, we were going to become good friends. I mean, I almost got ran over by a car for this girl. Doesn't Bruno Mars sing songs about that kinda thing?!
Somewhere in the process of frying our hair from the pool and dodging oncoming traffic the past two months, she has become my best friend this summer. We have talked about everything from boys to eating habits. I can trust this girl with my life and then some. We are so different, but in ways that make perfect sense to be friends. I am "the mom," she is the social butterfly. She is every part of outgoing that I know God wants me to get better at. I am so grateful that he put this firework in my life to be everything I am not. I struggle to find words that describe how thankful I am that God has chosen me to be friends with her. She has done everything from creating a new style for me to buying me nail polish to brighten my day when I am sick. How is it that three months ago I had no idea who this goonie was?!
I am not part of a sorority or anything of that sort, but this girl is my sister. She has listened to me on hard days. She has checked on me when I am sick. She has gotten ice cream with me every time I ask. She has heard me talk annoyingly a lot about my family and boyfriend. She is everything that I sister can be and then she is even more than that. Her happiness is the happiness of those around her, but it also comes from God. I am grateful for that.

God made Josie Hicks with a heart of gold. A heart that thinks of everyone. A heart that is so full of beauty that it leaks out to her appearance and actions. The most accurate verse I think of when I think of her is this:

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.

Proverbs 31:45

So, she may drive me crazy. I wish this girl would use a stinking cross walk. She is verrrry excited about her birthday (Jose, at 21 you do not need a week celebration... but, I'll give it to you anyway). I really hope her family takes her camping when we get back (I don't like it, but I was willing to do it so she would move on from the idea). There are some nights that I may need to be a temporary mom, but that's okay (we can use the term "voice of reason" ;) ). I love her like a sister. She is part of my family now and forever. Thank you, Miss Lilly, for being the world's greatest friend, sister, fashionista, support system, and listening ear. I could not ask for a better Camp A sister to experience life with this summer. Love you! Now, let's conquer FUJI this weekend!