Monday, December 24, 2012

A Child-Like Fearless Faith

<p>I had a dream last night. Well, actually it was kind of a nightmare. I was in a theater like room that had red and black stadium seating, red fabric walls, a red platform in front and a black sound booth in the back over my head. It looked a lot like my hometown movie theater. I'm not sure who exactly I was with but the back row that I was in was full, there was an empty row in front of us and then the rest of the seats were full. I remember the woman teaching was a lady named Karla Chesnutt, and her husband Shawn was running sound. At some point, when the dream started going downhill, a kid who looked like Justin Bieber made a comment about one of the empty chairs in front of my row, Karla turned into my freshman science teacher, and a kid who looked to be around my age was suddenly holding a shot gun and said that he was going to start shooting. I was resting my head on the shoulder of the person next to me and had one of those flashes of dream knowledge where I knew that I was going to die. The shooter and I started having a conversation that I don't remember, then I remember seeing my dream self as if I was sitting in that empty seat. I leaned back in my chair, turned my head to the side, and felt the spray of bullets on the right side of my face and neck. Then, I woke up.

Being involved in a shooting is my biggest fear. So, naturally, this dream stuck with me all day long. Around 5 a close friend asked if my mom and I wanted to go see Rise of the Guardians with her and her mom. I wanted to go to spend time with these friends, but that dream flooded my mind. We agreed to go, and instantly I wondered if I had just volunteered to face my biggest fear. We walked in and my friends mom choose our seats, in the middle, one row from the top. The row in front of us was empty and a family sat in the next one after that. The seats were red and black stadium seats. The walls were made of red fabric. Folks, I got real uncomfortable. I considered faking an illness just to get us out of there. The lights dimmed and the movie started and I started praying for protection really, REALLY hard.

Sidenote: Here's the plot of the movie as told by Wikipedia: The spirit of winter, Jack Frost, describes how he came to be hundreds of years ago, lifted from the depths of a frozen lake by the Man in the Moon, and has been invisible ever since because people don't believe in him. At the North Pole, Nicholas St. North, better known as Santa Claus, is alerted that Pitch the Bogeyman has returned and is threatening childhood with fear. After summoning fellow Guardians the Tooth Fairy (Tooth) the Easter Bunny (E. Aster Bunnymund) and the Sandman (Sandy), North learns from the Man in the Moon that they are to induct Jack as their new member. Jack is brought to North's headquarters and they attempt to swear him in. Jack, frustrated by centuries of isolation caused by children's disbelief in him, declines to join. Regardless, North persuades him to cooperate for now by explaining their mission and the looming threat of Pitch.

2nd Sidenote: I need to take a step back and talk about church this morning. I was 100% not in the mood for it. I was tired, annoyed with the world, and really just wanted to watch The Office. So, the sermon about expecting to hear from God and some of the ways He talks to us, had absolutely no appeal or affect on me. Or so I thought until I saw this movie. Then I realized God was having a 97 minute meaningful conversation with me through an animated holiday children's movie. 

There were tons of themes in this movie that could be linked back to Christian beliefs but the one that hit me hard was one about fear. Pitch changes the world as kids know it by filling their dreams with fear. I firmly believe that one of the way Satan gets to us is through our dreams. He has really gotten to me a lot in the past year by filling my mind with fear. Fear leads to doubt and disbelief, once he has his foot in the door, Satan creates mayhem. Nothing about fear is constructive especially because Jesus told us, that because we have Him we literally have nothing to fear because He already fought and conquered it. One line at the end of the movie said by the star kid to Pitch when Pitch seems to have the upper hand on the fight is, "I believe in you, but I'm not afraid of you." This takes all of the power that Pitch had over the kids. Back in reality, we believe that Satan is real and that he can and does attack us. BUT, when we choose to believe and trust in the Lord, Jesus takes the fear out of facing Satan's attacks.

The movie also puts a huge emphasis on the faith and belief of children. The star kid, Jamie, is the last one who believes in them and he refuses to let his friends tell him any differently. He believes so fiercely that when facing all the fear in the world, he stands firm without any second thoughts or hesitation. Jamie had also never seen Santa or the tooth fairy but he believed them to be true- so much that he was willing to risk his life for them. Even more so, he was willing to face ridicule and judgment from his friends because they no longer believed. We are so called to a faith like that. A deep, playful, carefree, whole hearted faith with no strings or conditions.

Through this movie, God not only reminded me that a life with Him means a life without fear, but also that life in Him is joyful. While it is not without struggles and difficult situations, it calls for a child-like faith without limits, fear, or conditions. A faith that will never fail to see you through every single day. As I was watching the movie and hearing the things God was saying I heard, "I am yours, you are my beloved, there is no reason to live your life in fear because I have never and will never leave you. This is my promise to you as your Guardian, as your Father." What sweet words to hear in the middle of Satans war with fear and doubt. It's amazing what happens when you decide that you're not going to listen at church when the sermon was one that you were ment to hear.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Let's pray for each other, y'all.

Hello friends, I hope this Friday night is treating you well! I have some prayer requests for you if you would be so kind as to help me take these things to God.

The first is for my mom, Lynn. My mom is my rock. She is my heart and soul. She is that little voice on my head saying, "Jooorrrdaaannn, what are you doing?" when I could probably be making better decisions. On October 19th this woman who has devoted her life to being God's servant and serving every single person she meets, was diagnosed with breast cancer. While the seeing the "C" word and my mom used in the same sentence still gives me the willies, the doctors have assured us that she has the most ideal situation (for one having to endure this situation at all). The cancer was found during a routine mammogram and was caught so early, it would have been years before the would have even felt a lump or and hint of sickness. It is also a much less aggressive form than others making it less of an emergency. Even still, my mama requires a double mastectomy to make sure we won't be back here in 5years. This is a lot of trauma to her body but also mentally and emotionally. I ask that you pray complete and permanent healing over her body, peace in her mind, and security in her heart.

My mom is one if God's most special creations. She is all that I strive to be, the best teacher I have ever had, and my reminder that no matter what problem I'm facing, what situation I'm in, there is always some good. During the worst season of our lives, her smile, while sometimes accompanied with tears, was true and sincere. Through her example she taught me how to serve, how to encourage, and how to love. My mama taught me to live leading with my heart, trusting the One who gave it to me to guide it perfectly.

My second request is for my stepdad, Darrin. Darrin had to watch his mom battle cancer more than once and then saw it take her life. To say this diagnosis has been taxing is an understatement. Darrin has shown my family how sweet life can be. When he came into our lives, I was 16. All I saw was another man who would hurt and let me down. When I employed my mother's positive thinking, I selfishly saw at best a two parent income and the possibility of getting a cell phone. It took a long time before my heart softened towards him but it was inevitable. This man is the heart of God. He cares about people more deeply than I could imagine. He loves my sister and I as his own, even when my actions should have turned him away. He shows us everyday how a husband treats his wife and how a father treats his kids. He shows me that the love God has for his kids. Whatta guy. I ask that you pray for reassurance and comfort in his heart, peace in his mind, and strength in his faith in the face of his fears.

The third request is for a new friend I have and her family. They are seeing God move in their lives in a radical way. He is calling their family to grow in both size and in faith, and that's hard. For them I pray for clarity, wisdom, and courage to obey without hesitation.

My last request is for a few of my own issues. Right now, I'm really frustrated with my work situation. I have a heart for God's will but an obedience problem. I can't wait to leave Applebee's and begin my career, but need to wait for God to give me the go ahead. Patience has never been my strong suit. I am feeling led towards using my degree in a rehab setting for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. I don't know if that is Spirit led or the new fad of the week for me but I'd love to figure it out. I also and still struggling health wise. I am seeing a doctor here who says I was mis diagnosed with Lymes. This is good, as Lymes is incredibly annoying but he believes that I have had mono for the past 7 months which is a loooooong time for symptoms to be present. There is no treatment for mono, only symptom management. Relief from constant physical pain, extreme fatigue and dizziness would be great. The last request is for my trust in His provision. I am more broke than a bad joke. This is nothing I am unfamiliar with (I like shoes), but a constant test of faith and I struggle with doubt. I have given God control of my finances, now I just want the doubts gone.

I don't know how many people read this, but I havery been told Jesus said where two or more are gathered in His name, He is there. I would be forever grateful if y'all would help me out on these. I would also love for you to post your own prayer requests below in the comment section so I, and everyone who sees them can cover you with blessings. I'm pretty sure this counts as two or more, because I know He is here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Update: Nashville Style!!

Hey Y'all, happy Fall!! I've heard that back home the weather is very fall-y. Here in Nashville, we're a little confused and still think it's summer with highs near 80. I can't wait for that to change!

As it has been about a month and a half since I have moved to Nashville to follow this adventure, I figure I had better fill you in on all of the things that have been happening! First off, here is a little back story about how I got to here. I was finishing up my internship in Illinois in a community recreation facility that was not hiring at the time. My options were to enroll into grad school, or go back to Iowa neither were appealing. Then, a friend from camp asked if I wanted to spend a year or so in Nashville as she got into grad school at Vanderbilt. I prayed about it and on the day that she needed an answer, I found out that I would be coming into the right amount of money to allow me to do this. I took this as God's answer and committed.The week I was home, we struggled to find a trailer, I felt really sick, and we learned my car was completely undriveable. We were wondering if I was supposed to move to Nashville at all with all of the obstacles in the way but lo and behold, two days before it was time to make the 12 hour drive, a family from church let us know that they had an old car right in our price range they needed to sell and we got a trailer! The move went great thanks to my wonderful, loving parents who spent a lot of time and money on their most expensive daughter :) Thanks again, Mama and Darrin!!

Right away I begin sending out my resume and after about 150 job applications, an interview and job offer at a fortune 500 marketing firm (I know,weird right?!), several calls from banks and insurance companies, I interviewed and was offered a position at a group home as a direct care staff with promise of promotion to house coordinator within six months. During this time I also accepted a position as a server at Applebee's. I accepted the job at the group home with an ecstatic and very bright outlook on my future. Soon after accepting the position, I began to work with them on getting ready for training and lots of information that was not given in the interviews came out. The feeling that I had gotten about this job being the answer to my prayers as the start to my Recreation Therapist career soon turned to a really low time. I felt as if I had made a terrible mistake coming to Nashville, I was feeling worse than ever, and everything thing I was doing was being undermined in some way that left me two steps further back than when I had begun. After long hours in prayer and lots of time talking with my Mom, I called the group home and told that I was unable to continue the training process and would not be able to accept the position. As soon as I hung up the phone, I felt this huge weight just lift off of my shoulders. As discouraging as it was to have a really great start to my life career and be back to square one, it was the right move.

Aannnnnnd that's when it hit me, I came upon the realization that I was learning another one of God's supa fun lessons about how much more He has in store for me than I could ever come up with myself. Here are some of those realizations:
1. Listening to God, and following directions the first time around is much more constructive than trying to make your own path (you'd think I would know this by now). I was praying for God to provide me with His perfect job that He led me to Nashville for. The whole time, the answer I was receiving was simply "wait." Of course, I told Him waiting was silly, and after long, nightly discussions explaining the concept of rent and utilities and the first day of the month in which these were due with the Being who created the universe, He humored me and and allowed me to play out my plan for my life with an attractive looking, and promising job, the whole time saying, "wait." My plans fell through and gave way to the only other possibility, to wait.

2. God listens to my prayers. I was praying for His perfect job, He had already given me the one He had in mind for me right now. I was also telling Him that while I fully respect His working in mysterious ways, I really suck at discerning them and could He please be a little less subtle- I took the job on my plan, the one that I thought was perfect and that He will later use to show me how awesome His plan is, and BOOM all I felt was depressed. You can't get much more blunt than removing all the joy from one's life. Thanks, God.

3. Trust, trust, trust, TRUST, in the Father's love for His kids, it's a good love. Once I figured out that my fear of not having enough money for bills was taking over my faith in His plan and His timing, I actually listened to Him and agreed to wait. Instantly upon giving into to the Lord and all he has for me I began to see all of the little ways he had already answered my prayers. When I began to do His work, the provision was overwhelming. We have a good God.

Throughout my whole learning experience, I was working at Applebee's (my original plan at a supplemental income to my career income.) It is important to mention here that I had applied to restaurants all over Nashville. This particular Applebee's is about a mile away from the group home's main office and I would not have found it if I had not applied for the group home job. Anyway, I LOVE this job and I know that this simple waitressing job was one of the main reasons I was supposed to move to Nashville. My coworkers are fantastic. They were (and continue to be) so patient with me as I figured out what I was doing, they have taken the time to accept me into the "day shift crew," they're so incredibly good at what they do and are amazing teachers. Unfortunately, while they give out all these blessings to their regulars, the managers, and their families, I feel like they haven't had many given back to them from those who they bless. I'm pretty positive that the main reason I got this job, was to be a light in a place where there may not be much light at all.  It is the best feeling knowing that blessing these people everyday is one of the purposes of my life. That being the person with the personality that God gave me is the exact perfect fit for this situation. This realization really makes Him come alive in me. I am putting my full financial faith in Him to provide for me with His job and by doing His work, it's not easy but I can tell you that it is fun to have your mind blown so regularly watching Him do His work. And,while it is so incredibly hard to move 12 hours away from your life and family and friends and everything, to be told to wait, I am happy to do it. At this time, prayers for patience would not be unwelcome :)

Along the lines of work and career paths, on October 5th I passed my the National Certification exam to become an official Certified Therapeutic Recreation Therapist! I am Jordan A. Gage, CTRS!!!! It's pretty sweet having credentials behind your name, not gonna lie. While I know that therapeutic recreation and the skills I have acquired over the past 4 years will somehow relate to the calling on my life, I maintain that I don't think God will be using me in the traditional TR sense. I'm not sure what that means or why I needed to spend $450 to take the most stressful test of my life (not that I'm bitter about it or anything), but I know that when I find out it will be worth the anguish. (dramatic, I know.)

On another note, I really wanted to get back into the church going lifestyle and found a great one about 30 minutes away from my house! I have been attending Grace Church: Nashville for the past month and love it. I have always loved my home church, the Heartland Vineyard in Cedar Falls but this church rocks. I learned a lot about the Holy Spirit back home and thought I knew what they were talking about, but I didn't have a clue. This church WORSHIPS. Like, WOOOORRRSSHHIPPPSSSS. It's amazing. I think part of the reason I like it and it feels so differently here, is because right now, I'm anonymous.  I always felt distracted and watched in my home church because I knew everyone. I had attended since I was 8 and had been leading services in the kids ministry every week from ages 11-21. I would sit through service thinking about school, or how the teachers were doing in the Kidzone and how I should be back helping rather than sitting in church and wouldn't allow myself be open to the teaching and what God had for me that day in worship. Now, I find it easier to surrender myself to the Holy Spirit and am really learning to how to  worship and how amazing it is. I have also gone to a young adult's bible study on Thursday nights and can't wait to get to know the people more. Thes

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Time Travels

First off, I'd like to apologize for the lack of regular posting. But, this blog was never intended to be a daily update of my life and it's happenings (that's clearly Facebook's job). It was intended as an outlet for things that I feel I'm supposed to write about. When I post a new entry, its topic or topics are the things that I have been unable to get off of my mind for quite a while until such time when I know it's time to write them down.

This brings me too the first of a few topics that I feel are supposed to be in this post. Time.

Time is kind of a funny concept if you think about it. The whole world follows this schedule, based on the rising and setting of the sun that somehow puts all the events of our lives into order. It gives them a duration, and separates the past from the present from the future. This little four letter word is so incredibly important to us. We refuse to waste it, and go to limitless lengths to be sure we don't; we would go even farther to try and get more of it. We put so much stress on ourselves to ensure that we are spending it in just the right ways. What's more, we all have a different outlook on what is right and what is not. I don't think this way of thinking is all that out of line. After all, we all know we have an uncertain amount if time in this world that could run out without warning.

My dilemma with time is not if I am wasting it, because I do not believe time can be wasted. Something can come out of every minute of every day. My dilemma is am I spending it correctly? Am I where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing. Right now, I am having quite the time in Nashville, Tennessee. I love it here. I've been here only two weeks, have a fun job serving at Applebee's, and am in the running for my first "career type" full time position managing a group home. I know this is where I am supposed to be, I really do. But I can't deny that I have doubts. The doubts stem from the concept in question: Time. Because I don't know how much time I have, I want to spend all of it with those I love. I have this nagging feeling that time for burying myself in my favorite place on the planet, my family's arms, is limited. If anything were to happen, I wouldn't regret coming to Nashville, but I would regret not spending every second I was here with my family. I know where these doubts come from. They come from the same place that planted doubts in the strongest of Christian believers. But because these doubts hit me at my absolute heart they are hard to ignore (as was intended).

Even though I have these doubts, I still feel confident that am doing the right thing in the right place. I am confident because when I'm doing the right thing I get this awesome feeling. It's that feeling you get when after being at war with yourself over a decision and finally choose which path you're going to take. That feeling that starts as a smile and then fills you from the inside out; when your head finally sees your heart is right. That's the feeling that I make decisions on. When I get that feeling, I know that I am following God's plan for my life. That's the feeling I got when I chose my internship, the feeling I got when I said yes to Nashville, and the feeling I got after my first interview for this career job.

I understand that for some it is really hard to wrap your head around this concept. The concept that a superior being has our every decision planned out for us, and has since before the beginning of time. But I believe it. It's kind of like time. You can't see time, but you can feel it. I can't see God's plan (much to my dismay), but I can feel it. It feels like a smile. Like when my head finally realizes my heart is right.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Oh, right. I have a blog.

I just realized it's been for-ev-ver since I last bad! (props to whoever got the Sandlot reference in the previous sentence and said forever correctly!) I have been insanely busy in Aurora, Illinois working on my internship, and now with only 3.5 days left (WHAT?!?) I should probably let you know what I did!

As I'm pretty sure I mentioned in a previous post my responsibilities included conducting assessments, working with the Inclusion team (the team that places skilled individuals to work with the kids who want to participate in general programming in their home park district), planning and leading programs, assisting with special events and other programs and most recently, volunteering with the Lose the Training Wheels program.

Lose the Training Wheels is a non-profit based out of Pennsylvania that travels the country hosting a Monday-Friday bike camp that teaches kids with special needs how to ride their bikes without training wheels. This was without a doubt the most incredible week of my internship. The program used adapted bikes with rollers instead of a back tire that  help the kids build leg strength and also work on their balance. As they improved, the rollers were changed out and became skinnier and skinnier until they were the width of a normal bike tire. When they mastered that, the kids were put on bike with two wheels and off they went! I was amazed at how fast they would pick it up. We had some kids riding completely independently on Wednesday. Some of these kids' parents were told that their child would never have the motor skills and or the ability to ride a two wheeled bike. Almost all if these kids were the ones who mastered it.

We were all partnered up with a rider and responsible for helping them learn to ride. It was awesome to see your kid start out the week all wibbly-wobbly and so hesitant on turns, and then watching them gain the confidence to ride a bit faster, and then a bit more. They got better and better to the point where you're sprinting after them telling them to slow down and not take the turn at 40 miles an hour. But then, the magic moment would come. The bike guys would bring out that glorious two wheeler. Your rider would look at it with huge eyes, bursting with nervous excitement. They looked at you and then for their parents who looked back with the same emotion filled eyes as their kids. We would park their bike and the camp leader would take them on those first few runs on two wheels. It was so awesome to see their faces on those first few runs. Some had smiles that threatened to crack their cheeks, some had a look of absolute concentration. Their parents were usually speechless, tears streaming down their new pride filled faces, recording every wonderful minute.

The best part was then after they were off the two wheeled bike for the first time. Everyone had been cheering their name, hooting, hollering and clapping for them. They are pulled to a stop, get off on shaky legs and dive into a waiting mom or dads arms. My favorite was a little guy who was nine years old and quite reserved. He rode his roller bike around the track quietly, focused and working hard. He was one of the first to be offered the two wheeler. The bike guys called his name and he walked over looking even more serious and got on. His mom was completely still, gave her camera to the mom next to her and white-knuckeled her chair. Little Man was up, they ran/rode together for the first few runs but then the camp director took his hand off of the handle, he was riding completely independently for a good 20 yards! They turned around and this time went about 40 yards. He was a natural! The director told him to hop off and get some water but as soon as his feet hit the ground his solemn little face erupted into the biggest, brightest, proudest smile and he ran straight to his mom who was bawling her eyes out. That smile and the hug that followed brought almost every volunteer to tears. He was so proud! He finally accomplished something he had always wanted to do. It was beautiful. When he finally let go and ran right back to that bike, he didn't stop riding for the rest of the week. He proved we are not disabled because of our disabilities. We are able because of our abilities.

On another, less heart warming note my internship is ending in 4 short days. Even though I don't plan on staying in community recreation, I am still completely thrilled I got this internship. I learned so much about te fundamentals of Therapeutic  Recreation and the process that it follows. I was given the opportunity to plan a lead a variety of programs and do a rainforest worth of paperwork. It was all so worth the exhausting schedule and overwhelming days in the office till 10. This Thursday I will drive back HOME to IOWA and present my experience to the LYHS underclassmen and turn in a paper (a paper that inspired this blog post. Love procrastination) and be officially done with college! I still plan on attending grad school and hopefully reforming the human services field but I will wait until the thought of sitting through classes doesn't give me an instant headache. So, after the poster presentation I will enjoy the luxury of being at home for about a week. I am SO excited for this. I have really missed being in familiar surroundings and seeing the faces that I love the most. While I am not ready to come home permanently, this past 6 months away have definitely made me cherish my home time more than ever. While I've been in Aurora, I've been actually very reserved and focused on my internship. Weird right? I've even started running because it helps me sort out intern problems and figure stuff out. I'm looking forward to being myself again!

After my week at home I am so very excited to move to Nashville,Tennessee! One of my friends from camp got into an amazing graduate program at Vanderbilt University and while visiting me in Chicago, she asked me and another awesome friend of we wanted to move down with her. I am SO happy that it worked out and that I have the opportunity to go! I have committed to a year in which time I will be working my butt off and while having a great freaking time, will be saving money to put into those accounts named India and Camp :) I wish I could tell you the name of said job but as of right now, I don't have one. I would love to explore a couple other facets of TR before I choose a full time job but I am trusting that that will all fall into place as it is supposed to. I'm not worried.

As some of you know, I have been battling some health issues. Last March I had some sort of allergic reaction that caused my ear canals to swell shut causing vertigo. Well, that vertigo never went away and brought along with it pretty extreme fatigue and some vision issues. This along with some other symptoms had me seeing doctor after ENT specialist after neurologist, who all told me I just had some funky virus that would basically come and go for he rest of my life. We wanted to rule out whatever we could so I got tested for Lymes Disease. Turns out, I've got it. I only remember being bit by a tick on my ear in 4th or 5th grade but considering I spent the better part of last year running around in the woods at Camp, who knows when I got it. Anyway, I'll see some doctors hopefully soon, get on some antibiotics for a few months and be good to go forever! After all this time, I am just praising God that we have a name for what is going on and a plan of attack!

All in all, I can't complain. I've  been granted 22 years in this world and they have been pretty great. From the experiences I've had as I transition into real life adulthood, I can only imagine what the next 22 will bring. I wish I could say I have a plan  but I think we all know that's not true. Plus, it wouldn't be anywhere as great as the plan that is already there for me.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


 In my line of work, we spend almost as much time focusing on the transitions between one activity to another as we do on the activities themselves. We do this because some of our clientele have a lot of anxiety in the unknown, especially when it comes to things that directly affect them. We have lots of different techniques to do this such as writing out our schedule and going over it several times a day, creating picture schedules for those visual learners, doing "First/Then" boards which explain each activity of the day as first we do this, then we do this, or minute warnings 5, 3, and 1 minutes before it is time to switch activities. Through all of these transitioning techniques we are not only preparing them that one activity is going to end but we are giving instructions on what they need to do during transition time, and what they will be doing after the transition. Knowing all of this information enables everyone to have a smooth change in environment, activity, or expectation. 

This makes a lot of sense not only for the people I work with, but for everyone. Who wouldn't want to know what is expected of you now, what you are doing next, and exactly what you need to do to get there? I can't think of anyone who wouldn't appreciate it. Life would be a million times easier right?   

Unfortunately, this is not how life works for a lot of the population; and it's definitely not how my life is run, much to my dismay. My transitions are not nearly as structured as this, and I feel like I am usually, if not always in the middle of one big change or another. In fact, I have somehow stumbled into the one transitional point in my life I've always kind of dreaded. I have graduated college, am officially half way done with my internship, and in exactly seven weeks I am expected to be a REAL person. A  fully functional, contributing, real-life member of society..AKA: a Grown-Up. I really envisioned myself to be like 27 when this happened. 
Nope, 21almost22 and boom. Here it is. Of all the transitions I've had (and documented on this blog), this is "the one" that makes me want to find a shovel, dig a hole, set up shop and live underground until life fast forwards and I just find myself functional and stuff. I think the reason it is so much bigger than any of the other changes I've encountered is because my next step isn't into a situation that is geared around learning a specific set of skills and developing into a role. Instead it's taking that skill set and applying it without the support of professors and people who know you're learning and structure your time.

I've had a feeling that the last yearish of my life was merely transitional. I was more than happy at Camp last winter and spring, and I'm very pleased with my choice of organization to do my internship with and am very grateful for the experience I've had and will have for the next 7 weeks, but at both of these places I have felt a restlessness that I just cannot put my finger on. I think that I am being prepared for something bigger. Something that will use the skills I have been given in a way that completely makes total and perfect sense of everything I have experienced. I know that when it is time for me to know what this adventure is culminating to, all the random successes and the struggles I've had and the lessons I've learned from them will suddenly come together and I will see the amazing puzzle that I've been putting together. I don't think I will be using my skills in a traditional sense though. I think my degree will come into play somehow, but not as I learned it to be in school. The prospect of this huge adventure is absolutely thrilling and completely scary, but I suppose that's pretty typical for the unknown right?

As for now, I have 7 more weeks left in my internship. I am going into my 3rd full week of leading programs and it is going well. However, this has reinforced my previous thoughts of not wanting to work in community recreation at the level I am in now. I am enjoying my time here, but leading programs is just not my favorite thing. I would love a position in community recreation if I was at a coordinator level where I can oversee programs and implement the therapeutic recreation-y stuff while still interacting with the participants enough to maintain a strong rapport but not actually lead them. I would also like to work in a setting that is more geared towards physical therapy as well. Basically, this internship had showed me that other than Camp settings and physical therapy, I really have no idea where I want to go with my degree. **Enter stage left: whatever it is that God is planning. The next step I am choosing to take because I am trying to figure out what God is up to is finding a good job that will allow me to build up a savings account so I can go to India and work with Loving His Lambs. I need a good sized savings account because I will not be receiving any sort of income while I am in India. But the Lord is really continuing to show me that He will take care of my finances though, as long as I have faith that He will. I was shocked and amazed yet again when He came through for me just yesterday. (we're going on 5 years of this being a regular event as I never seem to be able to make enough money and yet I continue to be totally shocked every time He happens.)

I  have a plan on what I  am going to do for the next year and I am hoping that it is actually what I'm hearing from God according to His plan, and not just what I want to do. (Prayers for this plan are completely encouraged.:) I am also trying to incorporate "Our" and "we" as opposed to "I" into my vocabulary so that I'm always remembering that it's God's plan for my life, not my plan for my life. I am not doing anything, We are doing everything. With His help I'm going to start getting back into His word and hopefully He will let me figure out this next adventure. I know that everything happens in perfect timing, and He only lets us see what we are ready for, but sometimes (all the time) I wish He would help me with transitions the way I help with transitions.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Unsaid Words of Love

"Father and Daughter" 
Award winning short film by MichaĆ«l Dudok de Wit. 

Although it makes me kind of sad, I like this film. It's the story of a father who leaves his daughter and rows off into the ocean, it begins with two figures riding their bicycles, the smaller of the wheels in perfect symmetry with the larger. The father and daughter climb to the top of a hill at which point the father looking at his daughter the way only a father can, hugs his daughter before climbing down to the seashore. He cannot resist running back and holding the girl one last time before rowing off towards the distant horizon. The girl runs up and down against the skyline waving as the sun gradually sets. There is no explanation. She returns again and again to her vantage point on the cliff to peer out to sea for his return. Each return marks a passage in her life from child to adolescent, mother and eventually old woman. And still she returns to search for the father who left her, longing for his love. In the end she dies and is reunited with her father in heaven. It is a joy filled, wonderful reunion. The gap in her life that was created at the absence of her father is now completely filled with his love.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Intern Life (pt. 3)

Wow, I can't believe I'm posting about my third week in my internship! Time is flying!

This week was all about getting ready for when programs start, which was today. I was working with the full time staff program leaders and getting familiar with the preparation process. We made binders, talked about participant groupings, the overall flow of the program and lots of other stuff. I will spend the next two weeks observing and then I will begin making my own plans and leading them myself!

This past weekend I went on a trip with work to the Superman Celebration Festival in Metropolis, Illinois. For those of you who are unaware, that's Superman's hometown. It was awesome to see how excited the participants got when they would see a super hero they really liked and how they could barely contain themselves while taking pictures with them. The bus ride to lunch was noisy with talk about who's favorite super hero was stronger than someone else's favorite super hero and which participant was actually the real Thor or Spiderman in real life, and just hadn't revealed themselves yet.

After the festival we went to a waterpark and had a great time cooling off from the 90 degree weather. Eventually after going down all the slides and chillaxing in the lazy river, everyone wound up in the wave pool and the most epic battle of good against evil began. My coworkers and I were taken hostage but luckily Aquaman, Water Spiderman, and Superman were there, we were rescued and the day was saved. I think my favorite weapon that was used was "the power of confusion." It was a great weekend and I can't wait to do it all over again this weekend when we travel to the Illinois State Special Olympic Summer Games!

Lots of people have been asking me those typical "new intern" questions. Where are you from, how do you like your internship, and what's next? Most of these questions are extremely easy to answer. The one that always trips me up though, is "what's next for you?" I never know how to answer this question because I don't have a clue where I'm going to be in the next 2 months. I am (as I ALWAYS am) working on not worrying about it and rather just keeping my eyes and heart open and waiting to see what God puts in my path next. I would love to stay in Illinois and work for FVSRA, I would love to move to Maryland for the next two or three years and get my masters, and I would love if God took me to India and served with Loving His Lambs ministry with children who are orphaned and have special needs. I cannot wait to see if any of these options come through or to see what other adventure God has in store for me.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Intern life (pt. 2)

Hola, Bloggin' buddies!

Week 2 is over and I am already a full day into week 3! What the heck? I seriously feel like I was dying of boredom on the drive from Iowa to Illinois like, 20 minutes ago. I cannot believe how incredibly fast time has flown!

I have been doing lots of training, lots of school stuff, and lots of learning. This week will be full of Day Camp orientation, where I will be talking to the staff about Therapeutic Recreation as a career and how beneficial it is. I won't be working at the Day camps but I hope to make it out there at some point to observe and see the campers! The biggest thing so far in this internship is learning the value of the little details. I have always been a "big idea" person, but never had the tools nor the knowledge of how to make it work. I am learning all the background things that go into a big idea. This meticulous process is probably one of the most valuable things I will learn during the whole 14 week internship. I am still SO excited to wake up and go to work everyday and you know, I don't think that's going to change anytime soon. :)

Ok, slight shift in topic. A friend of my mom's posted a status about one of her friends who is being led by God to MOVE to INDIA and set up a home for orphans with special needs. Yes, pack up her life in America, and literally move to India. INDIA! This is blowing my mind. She has a ministry set up there called "Loving His Lambs" were her mission is to "rescue and rehabilitate orphaned and abandoned children with special needs in Alwal, India." Can you believe that? What an adventure. This is something only God could do.

In order to make this mission a reality, she needs some help. Follow this link here to her blog and to see the list of things she is needing to get started. I know that God has led her to this place, and I know that He won't leave her side in India until He opens her life up to her next great adventure. Please, help support her so she can support these kids who as of right now, have literally nothing.

I have always been envious of people exactly like this woman. Someone who can clearly discern what God has planned for their life, jump on the opportunity, and do things like pack their bags and move to India to start a ministry from the ground up. I crave faith like that. Just earlier today I was thinking I was pretty proud of myself for moving 5 hours away from home. Pretty dull in comparison. I think it's time to get a passport.

I would also ask that you completely saturate this cause and this woman with prayer. I know I am definitely going to. I am also praying that He would use me to help in any way that I can. I don't know what God has in store for me for the next few years, heck I don't have a clue what I'm going to do in 11 weeks and 6 days when this internship is up, but I do know that God does, and that He is waiting for the exact right moment to reveal it to me.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Intern Life (pt. 1)

Hello friends!!

Happy Memorial Day! Thank you to all the past and present men and women who are fighting for our rights and our freedom! Especially to my mom, dad, uncle and cousin for their time in the service! 

Well as you may have heard I am a resident of Illinois for (at least) the next three months as I complete my internship! I have one week under my belt and I am so reassured that I made the right decision about coming here!

First of, can I talk about the facilities. A-MAY-ZA-ZING. I threw an extra syllable in there because it's totally necessary. If you want to see a glimpse of it, here's the link to the Vaughn Athletic Center's website. Watch the video in the corner (shout out to the man going across the net monkey bar things in the pool, I KNOW HIM!). Anyway, the facilities allow the clients to have endless limits. The VAC is the Fox Valley park districts recreation center, my department is Fox Valley Special Recreation Association, which operates out of the VAC. I originally thought that FVSRA was it's own entity in it's own building, but I like this way better because it provides an inclusive environment and is busting barriers and stereotypes against people with special needs every single day! 

My first week was a lot of orientation stuff, meeting everyone within the department and talking to them about their specific jobs and responsibilities to get a better overall feel of the organization.
I have also been doing a lot of work with FVSRA's adult programs coordinator. Her name is Marcella, and she's my "mentor."She is in charge of programming for the Adult Day programs. They do tons of different programs ranging from volunteer projects, to exercise programs, to an Skype art class done with another adult day program in Ohio. It's really cool. 

I also got my first round of programs that I will be leading!  My first big task is to take a group of athletes to the Illinois State Special Olympic games in Power Lifting, Swimming, gymnastics and bocce ball. I just completed the coaches training and will be helping out at the last few weeks of practices for them! I am also leading 
  • Field trip Fridays- a program that takes several different age groups to different sites around the cities. 
  • Sensory art, which is creating an art experience that not only creates something awesome but engages each of the five senses. 
  • Splash N Play which is a pool program. They have a mini water park at the facility the program involves new ways twice a week to do gross motor therapy while they play. 
  • Pee Wee sports with 3-5 year olds. ohmygosh. (I'm unsure if I will be able to handle that much adorable twice a week) 
  • Movin' and Groovin' program which gets young adults active in recreational activities while working on life skills. 
  • Aquatic Fitness class for adults and Super Saturdays which is a combination of play, sensory, and movement all wrapped up in an hour and a half!
For all of these programs I will observe and get a general feel for the first 2 days, and then jump right in and take over for the remaining sessions! I have to manage budgets, set goals for the program and the participants, do all of the assessment and intake procedures to group my participants, assess and evaluate them 3 times throughout the program to make sure they are reaching their goals, and do assessments and evaluations at the end to make sure/ improve goals and objectives of the program. I think there is a few other tasks in there that I've forgotten.

The other half of my internship is spent with Inclusion. I am SO very excited about this part. If a child decides they want to participate in Park district (general) programming but needs accommodations, we pair them up with a 1-on-1 or 2on1 aid. I think I am going to be doing my senior project with the inclusion team and would love to stay with them after my internship. I think I am most excited about this part because it is pure TR. From the initial assessment to the final evaluation it is a constant process of progress notes, goals and objectives, evaluations, hands on active interventions, one on one work that will enable a kid to fully and equally participate in a community recreation program! It's also an amazing thing to show the community and the other kids that focusing on an individual’s abilities rather than a disability is possible and much more productive.

I spent this beautiful Memorial Day weekend exploring my new home and the cities around it. I spent most of my time reading in cute coffee shops and spending money at Half Price Books. It was a great weekend. 

I am going to try to update this specific entry look for part 2 next week!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Choice

A few days ago, a close friend of mine and I were having a conversation  that led to a question about faith. My friend asked me how when a person goes through horrible things that leave lasting physical, emotional, and mental scars, how does their faith not only persist, but remain strong and even grow? I tried to explain my thoughts on the spot, and completely and miserably failed. Since then the question has been on my mind constantly, and after spending lots of time in thought, I would like to try and give it another shot.

To me, having and keeping faith is an active choice that I make daily. The first thing I am choosing is to believe that God sent His son Jesus Christ to live a sin free life, and then die the ugliest of deaths for my sins, so that I may be forgiven and live forever in heaven with Him. That is John 3:16, Christianity in a nutshell. For me, that is the part that has been taught to me ever since I was a kindergartner in Chuck and Loraine's Sunday school class at my old church-the easy part. I choose to believe that is true, from the deepest parts of my heart.

 Growing up, I found out pretty quickly that the world can be a very dark, cruel place. Sometimes things happen to people who believe in and are faithful to God that are unfair. They are things that are so un-Godly, they make you question the existence of Him at all. If there is a God, or a Jesus Christ, why the heck do things like this happen?! I think choosing faith means that at the end of the day, all your doubts are put to rest, not because they were answered but because you choose to believe in spite of them. (Not an easy task, friends).

My second choice is that part of believing in God, includes believing what He says. I haven't read the entire Bible (or you know, anywhere near that), but I love how it is said in Isaiah 49 (especially verse 16, "I'll never forget you-never. Look, I have your name written on the palm of my hand"). Even though there are times in life where things just suck. When you've been hurt to the deepest depths of your heart, and you can't see God in any of it, He's there. I choose to believe that He is there. I choose to believe that He has a plan for my life. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "As soon as Babylon's seventy years are up and not a day before, I'll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for." Instead of Babylon, because I don't live there, and because I'm not Jeremiah, I feel God is saying to me, "I know this sucks, and it's hurting you, but I promise, I'm here and I'm going to show you why. It's just not time yet. I know what I'm doing, I promise. I've got this. I am taking care of you, I'm right here, just be patient. Soon, you'll understand, and I can't wait to show you the beauty that is what's next." I honestly cannot explain how amazing it makes me feel to type those words. It is my honor to choose to believe those words.

The hardest part about that choice is following through with my actions. Staying put, when all I want to do is run. Being patient, when all I want are answers. Staying silent, when every fiber of who I am is begging to collapse into someones arms and cry. All the while, showing nothing but His grace and His love to the ones who are causing the discomfort. Because I choose to live in His light, and to be the person He wants me to be, I choose to do these things too- to the absolute best of my ability.

Because I choose to believe He is my savior, that His word is true, and I choose give my honest to goodness best effort to walk in His shoes, I get to experience the best part. I get His joy. His joy cancels out the gross stuff, it shines out, magnifying all the amazing things I've been given, leaving the gross stuff manageable and insignificant. I get to experience His hope. Hope in that future He told me about. Hope in the fact that my wildest dreams are bland in comparison to the plan He already has for me. Even in the darkest moments of my life, He put His hope in my heart, and I knew I was going to be okay. But the thing that I have been promised, before I was even a thought, the thing that out shines everything else He promised, is His Love. The unconditional, radiant, crazy love that underlines and intensifies everything else that is given, and restores all the damage and pain that I have ever felt. The love that only a Father could give, is mine for the taking. I'm still working on accepting it, but I know it's there. It's His love that brought me to the people, the places, and the experiences that I hold closest to my heart. And it's His love that will one day carry me home.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

You Make Beautiful Things

First off, HAPPY EASTER!! What a beautiful day it is!! How amazing that our God would send his only Son to the ugliest of deaths, with our hearts in His eyes, and save us. That's beauty.

Well, I figured I should take some time and fill everyone in about what I am doing and such.

We have started our Spring season at Camp Courageous. I was really excited about this because Spring= beautiful free time. Typically we work 14 hour days, but this season we only work 8-4!! We have groups of students from area school's Special Ed Programs come and do 3-5 activities and then head back to school. It has been really cool to see the teachers and sometimes gen. ed. "buddies" see the students at a camp designed especially for their success and to see how different they are when they are succeeding at the activities we have for them. My favorite moment so far was in my first group. This group was made up of five students from the Special Education program, four "buddy" students (general education), and two teachers. We were at the Super Zip, the camp zip line, and were harnessing up to go. One of the students used a wheelchair and the teachers and buddy students figured since she uses a chair she probably wouldn't be able go down the zip line. Little did they know, when we say EVERYONE can do EVERYTHING at Camp Courageous, we mean it. We began harnessing her up and got the sling seat she would be using in place when one of the teachers asked her if she really wanted to do this. The student answered her with a grin that was undoubtedly a "heck YES!!!" We wheeled her up to the platform and I stood and watched as the Adventure Specialists hooked up the block and tackle equipment and clipped her in. I was watching the other students and teachers and couldn't help but notice one teacher's white-knuckle grip on the railing with one hand, the other over her mouth, clearly a nervous wreck. As the commands were shouted to prepare for the zip, the student let out a shriek that can only be described as pure joy and anticipation and was lowered off the platform for the ride of her life. I glanced again at the nervous teacher and saw a few tears slip out of her eyes, her nervous face replaced with one of hope and gratitude. That is why I love this job. The chance to see people watch their loved one's doing things that they never thought they would be able to do. Seeing those loved one's eyes widen with excitement, watch them achieve something they had never thought of, and that beautiful smile that never fully leaves their face, always lingering at the corners of their mouths and shining out of their eyes. I cannot express the joy that it brings me. If you're looking for something beautiful, look no further ladies and gentlemen. 

While I am loving my time here, the end is approaching. This is a very bittersweet thing for me. I love much. The people I have in my life now will always be some of my favorites. But I cannot deny my excitement for what is next! First and foremost, I will graduate from UNI May 5th with five of my best friends. I am so excited! After that I move to Aurora, Illinois on May 19th and start my 14 week internship at Fox Valley Special Recreation Association. With the exception of having a place to live there, I'm sooooo ready to go!! The next step is semi up in the air right now. There is a REALLY amazing place in Bend, Oregon that contacted me for an internship interview that I am strongly looking to go to after my internship. There is also a grad school opportunity that is absolutely too good to be true at this point. It's a two year Masters program for Human Services Management in Maryland.. In this program you go to school while working directly in the field. I would be learning how to manage a group home for people with special needs while living and working in a group home. I am looking for more information and will probably be applying soon!

I have been feeling really out of touch spiritually for the past few months and was starting to get discouraged (as seen in lack of posting). I felt like I wasn't where I was supposed to be and then had some tragic losses in my life of some pretty great people. I prayed all the time to begin to feel God's arms around me and to see how taking the people He did was more than just cruel wrath. I turned to worship music and sat with my eyes closed just listening, praying, hoping for weeks. One of my favorite bands, Needtobreathe has a song called "Garden", it is a beautiful call to Jesus to be the center and it has been on repeat in my head for a while. I still don't have the answers to those questions, but I am beginning to feel God taking my hand and leading me again. Man, does that feel great. Even as I type these words I am beginning to feel His love starting to cover me again. It feels like coming home. I'm excited to for the next season of life, and am loving living this one out to the fullest.

The title of this post comes from Gungor's "Beautiful Things" Check it out!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Answer to: Sooo, whatcha doin' now?

I could not be more excited to say that I am officially done with my undergrad classes! I will graduate May 5, 2012 with a Bachelors degree in Leisure, Youth, and Human Services with an emphasis in Therapeutic Recreation!!!!!!!!!!!! I received an internship at Fox Valley Special Recreation Association! I was hoping to get this internship and cannot be happier! I have also moved back to Camp Courageous! It has been awesome to be getting back in touch with friends from the summer, as well as meeting a few new ones. Right now, we have all been doing work jobs, or basically all the stuff that we don't have time to think about when we have campers here. I have been working with two other girls in the pool cleaning, painting and doing other odd jobs. This past week I have removed every speck of rust (give or take a speck or 12) from and polished every inch of stainless steel in  both the women's and men's locker rooms and have moved on to doing the same for the stainless steel on the pool deck. Glamorous stuff, right? Not so much, but as Camp is a non-profit organization it counts on it's program staff and generous volunteers to make up for the lack of cleaning personnel or a service to come out and do these things for us. Most of the program staff (aka counselors) also teach swimming lessons to the kids of Monticello. A few of these kids have special needs but the majority do not. These days are quite different from the regular schedule of Camper Camp. Here's a rough outline of what I will be doing when campers come:

7:20-Wake up
---For me personally, this varies from about 7:20 to 7:25. The great thing about camp is that we have a uniform-staff t-shirt, pants, comfy closed toed shoes. Usually the pants that you see first are the perfect ones for the day. Brush those teeth, throw your hair up, and you're ready to go! 
7:30- Counselors in cabins
---Wake campers up
---Help get campers dressed and ready for the day
---Go to nursing and administer all medications
8:30- Breakfast
---Get campers food from kitchen who have special diets
---Help campers get breakfast if they need help
---Help campers eat breakfast if they need it
9:00 First activity
---The activities we do are based on that group's interests- not on their abilities. Every activity is adapted so every single one of our campers can experience and enjoy it. Every camper climbs the tree if they want to, every camper walks the Burma Bridge (airplane cable over a ravine, tightrope) if they so choose, and every camper gets the chance to fly down the zip line if they feel so inclined.
10:00- Second activity
--- We have lots of varieties of activities at camp. There are the camp traditionals arts and crafts, camping out, canoeing, archery, swimming, and those sorts but we also have yoga, the nature center which houses lots of different animals from miniature horses to a ferret to a desert lizard that the campers care for twice a day, to adventure activities (zip line, climbing wall/tree, tight rope, high and low ropes courses) and TONS more.
11:00- Third activity
12:00- Lunch
---Meds passed
---special diet food passed
---Help campers with lunch (if needed)
---Help campers eat lunch (if needed)
1:45 Rest Hour
---Rest hour is a time that the campers (and counselors) can go back to the cabins and relax and recharge for a full afternoon. Typically two staff members (counselors) are on Rest Duty with the campers to attend to any needs and to hang out with them. Counselors work one or two rest hours a week.
2:15- Counselors in cabins
2:30- Fourth Activity
3:30-Fifth Activity
4:30-Sixth Activity
5:30- Dinner
---(repeat steps from breakfast and lunch)
6:45- Evening program
---This is a time when all the campers and counselors come together and do activities as a whole camp. In the summer these were usually some sort of water incorporated activities where every person at camp would be soaked to the bone. This winter we will do more indoors activities. 
8:30- Bed time Meds
8:35 Head to cabins to get ready for bed.
9:00- Night Duty in cabins
--- During night duty two to three counselors sleep in the cabins to attend to any needs and personal care that needs to be done through the night. We check campers at 11pm, 2am, and 5am and then we all start the day together officially at 7:30am (sometimes the day starts much earlier than that, as some of our campers are so excited to be at camp they may not sleep past 5 or 6). Night duty is sometimes tough because we work a 14 hour high active day, sometimes don't sleep at all at night and then get up and work another 14 hours. It's ok though, some of our campers look forward to their week at camp all year long and the amazing staff at CC are willing to go the extra mile for them. We do one or two night duties a week.
9:30ish- Staff back to the staff dorms for the night.

All through out the day we attend to personal care and the needs and wants of our campers. We strive to make everyday better than the last so they can have the best week ever.  In the meantime, we also laugh non-stop, create amazing memories, and build friendships that will for sure last a life time. I cannot explain the energy at CC. The staff here are some of the most amazing people I have ever met. People who change every activity to something related to Harry Potter for that one camper who loves to pretend he is Harry. A director who dressed up as Micky Mouse just because he saw a camper dressed as Minnie. An entire staff who put on 80's prom dresses for Fancy Thursday dinner and dance ridiculously with their campers. While every day isn't peachy keen, there is an unrelenting supply of support every which way you turn. The staff who live at camp are truly a family, and an amazing one at that. I cannot wait to see what this Winter and Spring seasons have in store for me!