Beyond My Walls, San Salvador Mission Trip: Day 3

{please follow my journey through photos here!}

Goooood morning! It is 5:30am Tuesday morning here in San Salvador! Yesterday was our first day of work at the Children’s Center (CDI)! My day started off with another cloudy morning sunrise (much like the one today!), but once again, it’s better than any sunrise I’ve seen in Columbus, Ohio. Before I got to work praying, I actually did a little rooftop yoga to help center my mind and wake up my brain and body! I then spent a good amount of time journaling, praying and reviewing God’s word so that I would be ready for our house visit later that morning. I prayed in Child’s Pose and asked God to use me for Him in whatever way was necessary. I asked Him to take away any barrier I might have from speaking and simply use my words and my body to His glory.

After breakfast and a devotional from Bob (he is on this trip with his 4 kids, one of which, Jenna, is my roommate!), we got on our way to Guayabo! Along the way, the “micro-bus” I was in stopped to pick up 5 of our translators for the day. Suddenly, our van, which should safely sit about 11 people, was stuffed with SEVENTEEN people! Our translators are kids in their early 20s and most of them are in college. They are all hilarious, infinitely helpful, beautiful people. Some of them have visited the United States before, giving us something in common to talk about. In fact, although we live thousands of miles apart, we have quite a few things in common! There are 3 big things that I clicked on with each of the translators immediately: Facebook, Instagram & Twitter! I have also learned that “Selfie” in Spanish, is “Selfie!”

When we arrived at the CDI, we got a quick tour, downed some coffee, and organized into our morning groups. John, Annie and I were introduced to the woman whose home we would be visiting. Unfortunately, none of us can remember her name! We were teamed up with Andrea (Andi) as our translator. I feel as though Andi and I would be great friends if she lived in the US! I am pretty sure she is the Salvadorian Patron Saint of Selfies! We walked with this woman to her home, probably 25-30 minutes away and uphill the whole way! Whenever we came to a fork in the road, we’d ask which way, and of course she would point the direction going UP! Thank God for all my workout classes! We got tothe woman’s home and her husband was there working inside the house. Their land was actually quite nice for Guayabo! They had 5 jugs filled with water, which is important when you don’t have running city water like we do, chickens (one was even a pet and lived inside the house!), and a dog! When you peeked in the house, it was just one room for everything. Their beds we against the walls on 2 sides, the kitchen was on another side and the front door was on the 4th side.

The woman introduced us to her husband and pulled out three stools for us to sit on her front porch. Their dog was wandering the home and immediately got shooed away to make room for the visitors. We graciously accepted the seats and proceeded to have small talk to try to get to know the family and where they were with their faith. Juan has a job where he picks vegetables and carries them in giant bags on his back. Some days, the woman, although she looks frail and weak, carries just as much weight as her male counterparts. They have 5 children, 3 of which are young enough to be enrolled at the Children’s Center. We discovered that the woman seems to understand Christianity fairly well and that God’s love is a gift that we can do nothing to earn. She belongs to the Catholic Church down the hill from their home and attends weekly. Juan, on the other hand, attends church about once a month. We asked them if they had a Bible, and they brought out this old, worn, falling apart Bible. I heard once that if a Bible is falling apart, it must be owned by someone who isn’t. That might explain why the woman was able to walk nimbly up and down the steep Guayabo hills in dress shoes without the slightest of stumbles. We proceeded to go through our pre-marked verses, stopping after each one to check for understanding. Both Juan and his wife understood what we were attempting to tell them until we got to the part about not being able to earn God’s unconditional love. This is common amongst many Catholics; they believe that we can only get to Heaven by doing good works. Salvation can be earned. After many verses and discussions, John asked Juan if he was ready to accept Jesus into his heart. Juan stood silent and gazed over the horizon. We gave him a moment to collect his thoughts before John asked him what was holding him back. It was revealed to us that he felt as if he wasn’t good enough God’s love; that he hadn’t yet earned it. No matter how many verses we showed Juan and explained to him that if we believe the Bible to be true, which we do, and something is in the Bible, it must be true, he still wasn’t ready to commit. At this point, had I been alone, I would’ve quit and said, “Well, thanks for your time! I’ll check back in later!” But Annie pushed through. She told a story about her struggles with being good enough and how she worked through it to finally realize that she can’t ever be worthy of God’s love. Something in her story struck a cord with Juan and he connected with what God was trying to tell him. John asked again if he was ready to give his life to Jesus and this time he said that he was!! His first question was, “Now what??” We explained that John would recite a prayer, Andi would translate it into Spanish and Juan would repeat it in Spanish. Hearing Juan tell God that he was ready to accept his undeserved, unconditional love was a blessing like I’d never experienced before. After the prayer, we celebrated with Juan and encouraged him to get connected to other believers. Fortunately his wife is a believer and can help him with this. I hope we are able to keep updated with Juan somehow and make sure that he is able to find other believers and strengthen his faith.

On the walk back to the center, I felt frustrated because during our house visit, I really didn’t say much. I pretty much sat with John, Annie and Andi and followed along. At one point, the family dog returned and I pet the dog for a long time. At one point, her even rested his head on my lap! But I didn’t really have much to say that I felt could have helped Juan or his wife’s understanding of God’s grace. I felt useless. Like here are John and Annie, two amazing people with so much to offer, and I just sat and smiled like an awkward bump on a log. I was disappointed in myself. I was just really hoping that God was going to use me during that house visit and I don’t feel like he needed me. I suppose it’s true that sometimes we have to get out of God’s way and let Him do His thing. Sometimes that involves us and sometimes it doesn’t. While walking, I prayed that god would have another way to use me that day.

As Melissa got ready to deliver her lesson, I wandered around the children taking photos. At one point, I found two of the daughters of the family we had just visited! As Melissa and her translator were talking, these kids were rowdy! It’s truly a good thing I can’t speak Spanish because my teacher mode would have come out in full force!!! After the lessons, there was a craft the kids got to make and take home. I had fun helping the kids. They didn’t care that we had a communication barrier, they just wanted someone to pay attention to them and help them.

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Once the kids’ lesson was completed, they were allowed free time to run around and play. I went to check out the construction area where we are building a playground and completing some other tasks. Still trying to be useful for God, I picked up a shovel and began helping where I could.

Our entire group got to go to the home of Victor and Sylvia Turcios for dinner. Victor is the pastor at Iglesia Gran Comision and works very closely with the CDI. Their home was very simple and not a mansion by any means, but they worked very hard to make it welcoming for us. Dinner wasn’t quite ready when we got there, so a group of us went to the playground next door to play soccer. I didn’t play, but took photos and held cell phones instead! When we returned to the house, we were treated to a delicious meal of homemade tortilla soup, homemade jalapeño pesto dip (I tried it even though I’m a weakling when it comes to spices! It was very good, but very spicy!!!), quesadillas, pound cake and coffee.

Sylvia serving us her delicious meal!

Sylvia serving us her delicious meal!

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It was then back “home” to the hotel for our debriefing meeting and bed! All in all, I had a wonderful day and got to experience some truly incredible things. I am still working through my frustrations of not feeling useful for God, but I know that He has a place where He will use me for his glory.

Beyond My Walls, San Salvador Mission Trip: Day 2

Our first full day here in San Salvador was of course, AMAZING. I am realizing though, that with the incredibly full and busy days ahead of us, I may not have time to provide detailed posts every night. I can survive on 5 hours of sleep, but the way I usually write and edit…I’d only get 3 hours of sleep! SO, I will provide as much detail as possible, but I just hope that between my handful of words and bevy of photos, your curiosity about my current adventure will be satiated!

  • I woke up at 5am this morning to experience my first Salvadorian sunset. Unfortunately, it was a little cloudy from last night’s  rainstorm, but the sunrise was still more beautiful than any I’d seen in Columbus for a while! I tried to have some quiet alone time of journaling, but as soon as I’d get to writing, the sun would rise a little higher, creating the “just right” Kodak moment.

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  • Breakfast was at 6:30am. During breakfast, we went over the plan for the day, fellowshipped together and had a short time of devotion to put our heads and hearts in order for the day.
Eggs, beans, ham & cheese roll, plantains, and OF COURSE...COFFEEEEEE!!!!

Eggs, beans, ham & cheese roll, plantains, and OF COURSE…COFFEEEEEE!!!!

  • After breakfast, we left for Iglesia Gran Comisión San Salvador and the first of 3 church services we would attend and serve at throughout the day. At each service, our pastor, John Ransom was preaching! The only thing that made this slightly challenging was the fact that John was speaking with a translator. John would say a sentence or phrase and then the translator would speak in Spanish. Everyone at the church was so kind and welcoming and eager to have us there. I met hermanos Gerson (pronounced hair-son with a rolled rrrr.) and Emilio and their father, Emilio Sr. Gerson and Emilio sang in the church worship band. We sang songs in Spanish, that I could pick out a few words from. We also sang an old familiar song, How Great is Our God, but in Spanish! It was a unique experience to be able to worship with our hosts in their language and know that God not only hears us, but understands our hearts and our words.
  • We stayed at Iglesia Gran Comisión for another service, but instead of sitting in for the service, a group of us sat outside the worship hall and fellowshipped a bit. I am really enjoying getting to know the people on our trip. We are all connected in some way!
Church Worship Band at

Church Worship Band at Iglesia Gran Comision

  • By the time the 2nd service ended, it was lunchtime! We traveled to the local mall to eat in the food court. We were each given $5 to spend on food. San Salvador uses dollars like in the United States, but it goes much further down here than it does up north. Another difference is the popularity of the Sunday lunch crowd at the mall! We walked in and it was PACKED! I can’t remember the last time I saw any mall in Columbus so filled with people! Wait….Yes I can. 1998, City Center Mall was filled with teenage girls hoping to catch a glance of the popular boy group Hanson. I was one of said girls. But I digress. Apparently the thing to do with your friends and family on Sunday is go to the mall and have lunch in the food court. We were given our money and a partner and sent on our way. I was partnered with Alyssa and we TOTALLY underestimated how difficult it would be to acquire food in a Salvadorian mall food court when neither of us speak Spanish. Thank God we serendipitously chose the same line as Sarah! She was able to help us figure out exactly what we wanted!
  • After lunch, we headed to Soyapongo for church service #3. In Soyapongo, I met Mario, a guy that works with the church to run sound and helps with the children’s ministry. Mario’s English was better than some of my friends back home! I asked how old he was and he told me to guess. I hate guessing ages, but I played along and guessed 18. WRONG! 25!!! Such a babyface! I noticed that Mario was wearing a pristine pair of Nike Jordan shoes. I commented that my students back home LOVE their Jordan’s too. He said that he has to have them and has worked very, very hard to pay for THREE pairs of them! Mario does something working with computers and networking (even in his near perfect English, I had a hard time understanding exactly what he does! Ha!) and is currently studying for an exam for either a promotion or job change (again, even English didn’t help my lack of technical knowledge.). He showed me on his phone the reading he’s doing. No wonder his English is so good! He was reading words that would take me a few tries to comprehend! It was nice to talk to someone from San Salvador without struggling with a language barrier. Plus, I was truly inspired by his perseverance and hard work not only to get something he wanted but also his dedication to the church, which he has grown up in since he was a little boy. Just something about his joyfulness was magnetizing! I could have talked with him for hours! We also had a few good laughs watching the little kids interact with each other. Turns out kids are the same no matter what country you’re in!

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  • Since the third church service was so late in the afternoon, by the time it was over, it was dinnertime! Dinner was at a local restaurant, Tipicos Margoth. I had my first pupusa! A pupusa is a traditional Salvadoran dish made of a thick, handmade corn tortilla that is usually filled with a blend of the following: cheese cooked pork meat ground to a paste consistency refried beans, or queso con loroco. It was a simple, but delicious dish!
I was so hungry, I started eating before I remembered to take a picture!

I was so hungry, I started eating before I remembered to take a picture!

  • Post dinner, we had our debriefing meeting back at the hotel and figured out who would be doing what tomorrow at the children’s center. John asked if I would go with him and Annie on a house visit (i.e. evangelizing) in the morning. Of course I said I would go. Evangelizing has been my biggest anxiety in planning for this trip. I simply don’t think my story of coming to faith is all that exciting or meaningful. It’s not something that brings me to tears, and I think the ones that do are some of the most impressive stories. Heck, I can’t even identify the exact moment I was saved. I have just always known that Jesus is my Savior because I was raised in a strong Christian home. Sure, at some point I had to make the decision to follow Christ for myself, but I really can’t identify when that moment was. Yes, I have had times of trial where I have been angry with or confused by God, but I have never questioned his existence. Needless to say, I just don’t think my testimony is very strong or really even worth sharing. I am glad that I will be on my first visit with John, our pastor who obviously know what he’s doing and what to say. I will be able to learn a great deal from him and observe how he talks to people about his faith and what they believe.

Today was a long, exhausting day. I am eager and anxious to see what tomorrow brings!

Beyond My Walls, San Salvador Mission Trip: Day 1

PHEW! It’s 8:45pm here in San Salvador (10:45pm back home in Ohio) and for some odd reason, I am not tired yet! I should mention I have been up since 3am (thanks for the wake up call, Dad…ughhh), have been on 2 flights totaling 5 hours in the air and 1 45-minute van ride. I should be exhausted! But I’m glad I’m not so I can give everyone an update!

Our first flight left from Columbus, Ohio at 5:50 am this morning and landed us in Miami, Florida. From Miami, we flew to San Salvador, El Salvador.

In case you're as clueless as I was...

In case you’re as clueless as I was…

Right in the heart of it all!!

Right in the heart of it all!!

Both flights for me were pretty uneventful. I already knew that even with the best of intentions to be productive during either of the flights, I knew I’d fall asleep eventually. So I gave in and tried to catch some extra zzz’s before the long day ahead. Flying into San Salvador was simply breathtaking. Everything was so green! I could see homes and buildings from above, but the land far outweighed the buildings.

Once we landed, we went straight to Immigration. The woman checked my passport and documentation and ask how many days I’d be staying. My Spanish is beyond lacking, but I can at least count to 10, and we’ll only be here 9 days! WOO! I know the answer to this one! So I happily blurted, “NINE!” Well, there went my first opportunity for real Spanish. She looked at me confused, “What? Oh…ok.” She was very sweet and smiled at the silly blonde girl who couldn’t even figure out how to say “NUEVE!”

After Immigration came Customs. Once again, the friendly Salvadorian laughed at my lack of Spanish and asked me to push a button right below a giant red and green traffic light looking contraption. “OH! Ok! It’s green….what’s that mean??” I was hoping for some sort of exciting prize for following directions so well! WRONG! Apparently it’s a randomizer that randomly lights up red or green. Green – you pass through into San Salvador. Red – you have to put your bag through the x-ray machine.

Everyone made it through both Immigrations and Customs without a hitch. The only slight problem was that one of our bags got lost, and both fortunately and unfortunately, it wasn’t anyone’s personal items, “just” donations for the villagers.

My new best friend and San Salvador reference, Sarah, met us outside. Sarah works as the Missions Coordinator and her husband, Jorge, is the head of college ministry. She reminded us of a few important tips (DON’T drink the water and don’t flush toilet paper!) and gave us a rundown of the rest of the afternoon and evening before escorting us to our van drivers for the week. We all piled in and began the 45-minute trek to our hotel.

Looking out the window on the drive was incredible. We saw everything from horses just chillin on the side of the road, to dogs wandering around, to graffiti, to shirtless workers enjoying an afternoon siesta.

 

Okay…the tired is starting to hit me, so I’m going to wrap up the rest of the day kinda quickly:

  • We arrived at the hotel and received our room assignments. I am rooming with 2 lovely girls, Jenna and Becca. Small world! I graduate high school with Becca’s older sister! Our room is basically 2 queen sized beds and one twin. They are very quaint, but perfect. It feels kinda like a dorm room (but we have our own bathroom!).
  • We had orientation (schedule for the week, do’s and don’t’s, cultural traditions, etc.).
  • Our first outing was to the local grocery store! I stuck close to Sarah and she showed me some delicious treats you can only get in San Salvador. I will be returning home with plantain chips, white chocolate and peanut butter candies, cream soda and Oreo Wafers! YEAH! I’ve never seen Oreo WAFERS in the US!!! I also scored some delicious pastries from the bakery. Since I will not be able to bring them home, I documented the banana puff pastry that might have been one of the greatest things I’ve ever tasted.
I'M GOIN' IN!!!

I’M GOIN’ IN!!!

I couldn't even get a picture of the entire thing before my mouth took over and I started chomping!

I couldn’t even get a picture of the entire thing before my mouth took over and I started chomping!

  • After our grocery outing, we came home (the hotel) for dinner. PIZZA!!!! A little taste of home was fantastic!
  • Our last group activity for the night was getting to know each other a little better by sharing what we are most looking forward to this week. I shared that I am simply looking forward to everything!! I’m really not sure what to expect this week, so I am excited for it all! I will be paying attention to opportunities to be stretched beyond my comfort level and open to God’s changes in my heart.
  • It had started to rain during our meeting, so after we had concluded in prayer, a few of us when to the roof (yeah, you can just go chill on the roof!). It’s covered, so we weren’t being rained on. I tried to capture some photos of the storm, but I did not have any success. I will just have to remember it. That roof is going to be home to many of my quiet times this week. In fact, I’m just crazy enough to dare to get up for the sunrise tomorrow!

Speaking of which, I am now officially tired. Please follow me here on Ending Up Here, Instagram, and Flickr for as many updates as I can muster before passing out from exhaustion each night!! Thank you so much to each and every one of you for your support through kind words, encouraging texts, and just by keeping up with me here!! Noches! (I’ve picked up that the “Buenos” isn’t necessary. 😉 )

View from the airplane as we arrived in San Salvador. Created with the iPhone app Vrsly.

View from the airplane as we arrived in San Salvador. Created with the iPhone app Vrsly.

 

The 7 Life Miracles: Life Coaching, Session #1

My dear friend Julie Wilkes has written a book, The 7 Life Miracles! I will be working through her book and journaling my experiences as I go. For more information on the book and what I intend to do here, please check out THIS POST!

7 Life Miracles

Life Coaching, Session #1

After reading and completing the exercises for Miracle 3, Create, my “So What?” was to contact Julie and set up a Life Coaching Session. One of the purposes of the Miracle 3 exercises is to look at your life as is vs. what you dream it could be and then take steps towards creating your dream life. As I completed the exercises, I quickly began to realize that I had never really stopped to think about what my dream life is! I’ve always just taken life as it comes and crossed bridges as I came to them. I have never had one lofty goal that I have worked towards.

Another thing that compelled me to meet with Julie was the idea that I am not working in my dream career. Yes, I love teaching and I’m good at it, but if money weren’t an issue, is that what I would be doing? No, probably not. So what would I be doing? I’ve always had a couple ideas, but this is where Julie’s assistance would come in. I really wanted to talk to her, begin to define my dream life/career and work towards it.

How’d It Go?!

I had my Kickoff Session with Julie yesterday! This whole thing will be an ongoing process, involving meeting every other week and checking in on Sundays. Our first session was mostly spent on beginning to define what my dream job would be and some steps to work towards that. Julie and I have known each other for about a year now, but this was actually our first chance to sit down and talk intimately. At first, the session felt a little bit like one of my therapy sessions, which is actually a great thing! I’ve had a ton of success with my therapist and I think what they can do to help people is amazing.

Julie began by asking me to really try to think about what my dream life would look like. If I could live anywhere, where would that be? Who would my friends be? After a moment or 2 of thinking, I replied that I’ve always wanted to be somewhere warm; Florida or somewhere Southern, but what keeps me here right now is my people. My home has to be on the beach. I see myself with the same best friends I have now.  My perfect day would include waking up without an alarm clock, having my coffee, spending time with the dog and writing, and most importantly, being outside in the warmth.

This is when I was finally able to admit to myself that if I could make writing a full-time job, that would make me the happiest. But I have never tried to define or create my dream job out of fear. My mom was a teacher, so she knew how to make that happen and once I was a teacher, it became a solid paycheck with 3 months off in the summer. I have been very fortunate in my life that I have never really had to struggle financially. My parents were able (and wanting!) to support my college career and all the other things a person needs in life. Yes, I have had months where my bank account neared $0, resulting in serious budgeting, but then entire time, I knew another paycheck would be on the way in a week or 2. So the idea of having a new career and having to possibly worry about money has caused me to stay in the safety and comfort of my teaching career.

Next, Julie asked me to define a few of my strengths. I listed my ability to make friends with people, the fact that I am a super planner (but also noted that this can be a weakness), and that I am forever optimistic/happy. After reviewing what we had talked about a few moments earlier, Julie found it interesting that I cited not wanting to leave my friends as my reason for still being in Columbus, yet I also listed being able to make new friends quite easily!

Huh…

Now that I think about it, I can attribute that to another one of my strengths: loyalty. Once I am friends with a person, we are friends FOREVER (so buyer beware! 😉 ). I take my friendships very seriously and work very hard to nurture and grow them into lifelong investments. I am always wanting and willing to let new people into my heart, but I want to take special care of the ones that are already there. And I know what happens to friendships when someone moves away. We keep in touch, but obviously it’s just not the same as being able to see someone whenever I want, especially if I were to move down south, which is more than a few hours drive. Because of this, moving might not be something I focus on so much as a possible career change.

Julie then asked me to list my support system (my family and closest friends) and describe a time in the last year that I had been successful. It took me a minute to come up with an answer, but when I did it was completing the half marathon last year. I had to actually train and work for it – I couldn’t just decide to run 13.1 miles a week ahead of time and then actually do it. I especially felt successful because it was my body and no one else could do it for me. The greatest strength that helped me to be successful was my determination and commitment. I said I was going to do it, so I did. Plus, I paid $70, so there was a financial value.

After Julie and I had chatted and gotten to know one another, we defined my goal as working towards becoming a full-time writer. And here was one of the most important parts of this session – I CANNOT FAIL. Not “will not” or “refuse to,” but Julie’s coaching doesn’t allow for failure. Let me explain. My 1-year goal is to take steps to becoming a full-time writer, not to actually become a full-time writer. All of my goals that Julie and I set are goals that I would like to achieve even if I weren’t working towards a career change, so none of them will be hindering to my current wellbeing. To put it another way, in the words of Brad, one of my funniest friends, “It’s not, ‘Step 1 – Quit your job.'”

I know have goals for 1 month, 3 months, 6 months and a year. These are all very pliable and will probably change as time goes on.

1 Month Goals:

  • Research 1 other way to get published/or write
  • Learn about video blogging
  • Meet with 1 person who is a full-time writer and ask questions
  • Research writing classes I could take this summer

3 Month Goals:

  • Research 1-2 ways to get published
  • Try video blogging
  • Meet with 2 people who are writers to ask questions
  • Sign up for writing class
  • Research a place I would like to visit as a potential place to move to

SO WHAT?!

I am actually very excited about this whole thing! Just the idea of having a dream job and actually being able to work towards it in exhilarating! And who knows, maybe I’ll start doing all this and decide that blogging/writing isn’t my dream job at all, but something else is! I feel as thoughI am about to discover quite a bit about myself this year.

Also, I’m gonna throw this out there to help me accomplish a few goals: If you know anything about vlogging (video blogging), writing classes in Columbus, Ohio or are/know a full-time blogger I could meet with, let me know!!

Amanda & I know the 7 Life Miracles...do you??

Amanda & I know the 7 Life Miracles…do you??

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ALL THE LINKS!!!

  • My thoughts on
    • Miracle 1: Embrace HERE!
    • Miracle 2: Connect HERE!
    • Miracle 3: Create HERE!
  • Check out everything Julie Wilkes HERE!
  • The 7 Life Miracles on Facebook!
  • Seven Studios on Facebook!
  • Learn about The 7 Life Miracles book HERE!
  • Order The 7 Life Miracles  on Amazon HERE!
  • Check availability at your local Barnes & Noble Bookstore and get it now HERE!

The 7 Life Miracles: Create

My dear friend Julie Wilkes has written a book, The 7 Life Miracles! I will be working through her book and journaling my experiences as I go. For more information on the book and what I intend to do here, please check out THIS POST!

7 Life Miracles

Miracle 3

Create

Create your own canvas — Create the life you want to live.

Phew! This was one heck of a Miracle! I actually read the chapter a little over a week ago, but was so overwhelmed that I knew I needed to take some time to really deal with this Miracle.  It wasn’t going to be processed in one Sunday afternoon! In Create, Julie asks us to look at our life as an art canvas and start all over! We are to leave our past experiences behind, learn from them and breathe in a fresh start. SEE??? Now you know why this took a little time!

This section has a few activities to help us work through creating out own canvas.

Exercise 1: Viewing Your Current Canvas

This first activity asks us to take a snapshot of our current life, figuring out who we are and where we are in our lives today.

Choose a few key questions & answer honestly. I Have included my answers!

  • How do you feel today?
    • Relaxed, accomplished, motivated
  • What makes you happy?
    • Spending time with friends and family, exercising, cuddling with my dog
  • How do you feel about yourself/your choices in life?
    • Good! I know not all of my choices have been the best, but I’ve learned from them. I feel mostly good about myself. Some negative thoughts creep in sometimes, but I am usually able to shake them off quickly.
  • What are your passions?
    • Doing good things for my friends. Writing. Reading.
  • Do you have hobbies?
    • Working out, writing, reading
  • Do you volunteer?
    • Not as much as I’d like to.

Exercise 2: Uncoloring Your Canvas

This exercise encourages us to “…strip away negative colors that lurk on our canvas by thinking about any roadblocks, obstacles, and unnecessary anxiety or worry in our lives.” Because this can be an intensely personal ordeal, I have provided some quote from Julie’s book to help inspire you, rather than my canvas’ gross colors.

“Just a few negative feelings, toxic people or stressful situations can change how we interpret our life.”

“…choose to perceive these things differently as you move forward. Instead of letting someone break you down, allow yourself to create distance from that person or at least know that whatever he or she says or does is not truth – not YOUR truth!”

Let them go. Let them go. LET THEM GO!!!!

Exercise 3: Determine Your Colors!

Now we get to start with our perfectly white (okay, mine would be pink) canvas. “Let go of the past and imagine your fabulous future…be honest about what you want. I am not encouraging you to dream unrealistically — dream about what excites your passions and fuels your soul.”

Woah. Here we go!

“Picture the life you would like to live 10 years from now. What year will that be? How old will you be?”

2024: I will be 39!!

  • How will people describe you?
    • Happy, healthy, fun, reliable, kind, loving, smart
  • What is important to you?
    • The people in my life- my friends and family
  • Where do you live?
    • A house in Columbus. Maybe not the same house, but a house. If not the same house, perhaps in Clintonville or closer to downtown.
  • What do you do?
    • Teach, maybe write.
  • What is your home like?
    • Clean! Stylish, organized.
  • Are you happy?
    • YES! Well, most of the time!
  • With whom do you spend you time?
    • Most of my time will be spend with my future husband J and friends.
  • Can you see yourself laughing?
    • Quite frequently.
  • What time do you wake up each morning?
    • 5:30am
  • What’s the first thing you do?
    • Kiss my hubby!
  • Can you picture a place where you spend your time?
    • Some sort of “book nook.” A place with a big comfy chair I can read and write in.
  • Can you see the path you walk for exercise each morning?
    • If I don’t live in the same house, hopefully I will live in a house within walking distance to work, the gym, social gatherings, etc. I don’t know about walking each morning, but there will be some sort of exercise in my daily life.
  • When you go to sleep, how do you feel?
    • Tired, but accomplished for the day.
  • Are you living with passion?
    • YES!

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There are two more exercises that I did not document here. #4 involves creating a vision, timeline and goals to help you accomplish your vision. #5 asks us to decide how we will track our goals (okay, it’s much more involved than just that! You’ll have to read the book!). I have decided to be a journaler (obvi).

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Gosh, this Miracle has been especially trying for me. The main point here is to find a life goal and make a plan to work towards it. That’s great and I really want to do that, but here’s my problem: I’ve never really had life goals! I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s true! Graduating high school and college were never really “goals;” they were more things that were expected of me, so I did them. There wasn’t a question of whether or not it was going to happen. As for my career, Plan A was to be a successful photographer! I’m now a high school English teacher. My college degree is in Commercial Photography. It wasn’t until my junior year that I decided that photography wasn’t something I wanted to do as a career. But I had to work, and teaching was something I saw myself doing down the road. Little did I know that “down the road” was only like…half a mile! Anyways, my point is that my career goals have been a little wobbly over the years. When I think about where I’ll be in my career 10 years from now, I don’t really know!

Here’s the honest-to-God truth about my career plans:

I’m currently a teacher. And I really love it. I do. But is it something I want to do for 35+ years?? Hell no! When I think about being 49 (20 years from now), I honestly don’t know if I see myself as a teacher. Yes, I enjoy what I do, but is it my passion? I don’t think so. I’ve seen passionate teachers. My mother was one. She was over-the-top amazing as an educator. She daily worked to improve herself in her career, the buildings she worked in and the people around her. I’ve been fortunate enough to be educated by passionate teachers. Look, I love what I do and I work really hard to be good at it. I don’t take my job lightly. I’m preparing kids for the world, for goodness’ sake! My students’ ability to be functional adults in the world lies partially in my hands, so please don’t misread me when I say I am not “passionate” about my career. When I envision someone who is passionate about their job, I see someone who lives, eats, and breathes their work; someone working 24/7 to be better at their craft. And that just isn’t teaching and me. Quite honestly, when I leave my school building, I leave my work. Very rarely do I work at home after school. Sure, I’ll stay late at work to lesson plan, grade, etc., but as soon as I physically leave, I mentally leave as well. The only things I take home with me are thoughts of my students. They are on my mind much of the time. I wonder what they’re doing and if they’re safe.

Okay, so I’m not passionate about my job. What job could I be passionate about? And there is the problem – I don’t know. I could see myself becoming passionate about my job if I could teach book club versus English. One of the best parts of my jobs is watching fall in love with reading. Seeing a kid laugh at a character, empathize with a character’s suffering or question “Why the hell did the author write the book like that??” gives me the chills and makes the early mornings and career questions worthwhile. I could also work with students on writing about what they read, but in a less formal situation- just write! It doesn’t have to be this format, or this prompt…just write your reaction. So anyways. Book club. I could teach Book Club. But there doesn’t seem to be a need or opening for that position. Maybe there is somewhere outside of my building or district or city or state! I’d just have to move to be passionate about my job! Yeah….no. I’m not leaving my friends and family; people I’ve worked really hard to build relationships with. It seems as though I choose my people over a passionate career, and that’s fine with me.

Back to what a passionate job would be. Writing? Yes, I love writing and seem to be fairly good at it and would actually like to learn to be better! But as a career?? What would I write about that people would pay to read? I have no desire to write novels. Some sort of self-help book like Julie wrote? Honey…I have all the questions and zero answers. A blog? Lots of people make lots of money writing blogs! Sure!!! But I’m not so sure that enough people want to read what I write about – my life and my thoughts. Some people read it and I am thankful for each and every one of you! But I don’t have a big enough following that equals career; especially when I have a wonderful, good paying job!

So maybe I focus on another aspect of my life for my goal setting. I really hope to be happily married by 39, but is that a goal I can work towards? It really depends on another person and so many things have to work together to make it happen, so I don’t really think I can make that a “goal” per se. Also, I’m much more focused on being HAPPY at 39 rather than married! Yes, I hope to be, but being happy is much more important to me.

SO WHAT??? How will I work to create my own canvas?

My goal for this Miracle will be to make an appointment with Julie for a Life Coaching session. I have so many thoughts and emotions running through my head about where I see myself 10 years from now that I need someone to help me process it all!! For me, having a 10-year goal is very important. I don’t want to just float through life and take everything as it comes. I like having goals and I think having a more solidified plan would help give my life more purpose. Plus, the idea that my career and my passions don’t exactly match is something that has bothered me for a while, but I’ve never come to a resolution about it. Julie is a professional and has helped so many people – I would love to be a part of that!

And yes. I just made it my goal to make a goal. It’s my blog – I can do that!

“Positive habits can help you work in the most efficient manner, stay organized and calm, be your best, and make confident decisions that support your goals and aspirations.” – Julie Wilkes

My creation space this afternoon!

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ALL THE LINKS!!!

  • My thoughts on
    • Miracle 1: Embrace HERE!
    • Miracle 2: Connect HERE!
  • Check out everything Julie Wilkes HERE!
  • The 7 Life Miracles on Facebook!
  • Seven Studios on Facebook!
  • Learn about The 7 Life Miracles book HERE!
  • Order The 7 Life Miracles  on Amazon HERE!
  • Check availability at your local Barnes & Noble Bookstore and get it now HERE!

The 7 Life Miracles: Connect

My dear friend Julie Wilkes has written a book, The 7 Life Miracles! I will be working through her book and journaling my experiences as I go. For more information on the book and what I intend to do here, please check out THIS POST!

7 Life Miracles

Miracle 2

Connect

Look for your coach & pay it forward.

When I read the name of Miracle 2, I thought, Nice! I’m all about connecting! I could make friends with a brick wall! This Miracle is going to be MY JAM!!! Well, as it turns out, although both involve connecting with people, Julie’s definition and my definition of “Connect” vary slightly.

When Julie writes about Connecting with people, she means looking for people in my life that have “coached” me through difficult times and served as life examples. “…people will come into our lives to CONNECT with us, teach us, and show us how to be successful on our journey” (Wilkes 29). <– Hey Jules! You just got MLA cited!!! 

The assignment for me then is to find people in my life who are challenging me and strengthening me to become the best version of myself possible. This actually wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I work very hard to surround myself with good people that are constantly working to become the best versions of themselves. Watching people grow inspires me to do the same. So yes, it was easy to recognize that there are many people in my life who support my growth, but identifying exactly how they have fostered growth and change became the challenge.

These are 2 of my Life Coaches:

Amee

  • I know I have written about Amee before, but this entry wouldn’t be complete without mentioning her. In a few short years, Amee has truly become the big sister I never had. She is a beautiful spirit whom I look up to and strive to emulate in many ways. One of the biggest lessons Amee has taught me seems simple enough: Don’t be a jerk. I mean, this shouldn’t even be a lesson! This is just a common sense rule, right?!? Wellllll, I’ve needed some reminding of this rule and Amee has done it with a verbal smack to the back of the head, followed by a reassuring hug. A few years ago (Wow, time has FLOWN!), I was dating this guy, Mike. We would date for a few weeks (I think maybe once we made it past the 1 month count), break up for a few more and then get back together. Through an entire year of this, Amee was by my side for the happy times that Mike and I were together, the frustrating times while we were together, the devastating times when we were apart and finally, the sad, yet also exciting time that we broke up for good. She was happy when I was happy and understood my pain when I was sad. And what did I do to repay her for this kindness? I skipped her birthday party. It may sound childish, but for my group of friends, birthdays are a BIG deal, especially so for Amee, being a FREAKING cancer survivor and all! Here’s what happened: Mike and I were broken up for most of summer 2012, but were spending a lot of time together. At the end of the summer, right around Amee’s birthday, a weekend camping trip had been planned that I figured, if I could get Mike to invite me on, we’d have a blast and end up back together. Well, long story short(er??), that happened, but it came at the cost of missing Amee’s birthday because I put my relationship with Mike ahead of my friendship with her. And her feelings were rightfully hurt. Believe me, I still feel awful about it. I can’t remember any of Amee’s exact words to me about my decision to miss her birthday, but after all was said and done, I had learned my lesson. Guys come and go. Amee will be there forever. But don’t take advantage of that. Love her like the sister she is and don’t be a jerk.
  • Side note: One of the reasons Amee is a great coach in my life is because she isn’t afraid to call me out on my bullshit. She’s the first to sing my praises when I’ve accomplished a challenge, but she’s also the first (and sometimes only) to tell me I’m being a jerk, dumb, too sensitive, etc. I think that’s a wonderful quality in a friend, because I might not know that I’m experiencing a growing challenge if no one tells me.

Shelly

  • My friendship with Shelly started off a bit rocky. I met Shelly at my first big-girl, post-college job. We worked at a local campus newspaper. I was the Executive Assistant to the publisher (it sounds WAAAAY cooler than it was) and Shelly was a Graphic Artist/Layout Designer. One of my job duties was payroll every 2 weeks. Why my boss had the person who was paid the least dole out everyone else’s paychecks is beyond me. But it gave me insider information as to who made how much money. And guess whose paycheck was bigger than mine each week! SHELLY! So before I even knew her, I hated her. No, it’s not fair, but I was young and dumb and hadn’t met Amee yet, so I didn’t know not to be a jerk (makes sense, right??). I know that Shelly will ream me if I don’t include this portion of my jerkiness: I was such a jerk that a few of the other staff members and I would go to lunch once a week and I wouldn’t invite Shelly. I know. I was a jerk. Again,  I still feel awful about it. Eventually, Shelly and I began talking and discovered that (SHOCKING!) we were both young college grads that enjoyed the same things. I opened myself to her friendship (I know, I’m SUCH a martyr!) and we quickly became best friends. As happens with many friendships, they go through phases of being together 24/7 and seeing each other a few times a month. Last month (as you all SHOULD know! 😉 ) was my birthday. The party was wonderful, but ended in me having WAAAAAY too much to drink (it was an embarrassing, novice move. I accidentally skipped dinner and then gave in to way too many shots). For the past few months, Shelly and I had only been seeing each other maybe once a month. It wasn’t that we didn’t love each other, our schedules were just different. But there she was, at my party, taking care of my drunk ass.
  • Shelly’s Heroics include (but are not limited to):
    • Alerting me to the fact that it was past time to go home.
    • Finding my coat and putting it on me.
    • Assigning someone to carry me down the stairs.
    • Pulling her car up to the door and tossing me in it.
    • Having a plastic bag on hand in the car for any “emergencies.”
    • Once home, locating my pajamas and dressing me in them (even though my shirt was on backwards!).
    • Assuring me that even though I didn’t have my phone, friends were looking for it.
    • The next morning: Arriving at my house with my phone, McDonald’s breakfast and memories to fill in the blanks where I was a little lost.
  • Lesson learned: Don’t discount your friends just because they’re not around as much as they once were. It might have been easy to look at my friendship with Shelly and just assume we weren’t as good of friends as we once were and be concerned or even hurt by it, but she showed me otherwise with a delicious Egg McMuffin. 😉

I am blessed beyond words by the people in my life. I could go on and on and on about the lessons they’ve taught me and how they have helped me grow into a woman I am proud to be. But for the purpose of brevity, I will leave it to these beautiful women!

SO WHAT??? How will I make changes to connect with my Life Coaches?

  • I will continue to be open to the lessons my people bring into my life.
  • In addition to my once-a-week phone date goal I made for my last Miracle, I will also thank 1 person a week for a lesson learned from them.
  • Pay It Forward: I will allow myself to be open to others and use my life experiences, both good and bad, to help my friends learn something from me.

Now it’s your turn! What lessons have your life coaches taught you? How can you pay it forward?

“The strongest individuals are the ones who ask for help, offer help, and enjoy the journey of learning with others.” – Julie Wilkes

Twinsies!!! I never leave home without my book!

Twinsies!!! I never leave home without my book!

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ALL THE LINKS!!!

  • My thoughts on Miracle 1: Embrace HERE!
  • Check out everything Julie Wilkes HERE!
  • The 7 Life Miracles on Facebook!
  • Seven Studios on Facebook!
  • Learn about The 7 Life Miracles book HERE!
  • Preorder The 7 Life Miracles  on Amazon HERE!
  • Can’t wait until February 25th?? Neither could I! Check availability at your local Barnes & Noble Bookstore and get it now HERE!

The 7 Life Miracles: Embrace

My dear friend Julie Wilkes has written a book, The 7 Life Miracles! I will be working through her book and journaling my experiences as I go. For more information on the book and what I intend to do here, please check out THIS POST!

7 Life Miracles

Miracle 1

Embrace

Seize the day.

Make your life extraordinary.

Today’s chapter is all about embracing our lives as an unexpected gift. Many of us go to bed each night, expecting to wake up in the morning and go about our days. I am certainly one of these people. I have been very fortunate in my health to allow myself to expect to wake up each new morning. Sure, I have had bouts of illnesses throughout my life (who hasn’t?!), but nothing that would truly cause me to even consider that I might not see tomorrow. Even so, each day really is a gift. Whether I view each new morning as a gift because I am part of the world again, or if it is a gift because, among many small trials and challenges throughout the day, most days do not involve giant blows to my happiness.

However I choose to view them, I need to be more conscious of the gifts each day brings and embrace the blessings that they are. In The 7 Life Miracles, Julie instructs readers to ask themselves, If you were told you only had a limited about of time in your life, what would you change? She then provides a list of things to consider and recommends focusing on just a few that “resonate with where you are in your life right now.”

My Daily Embracings:

  • How I treat my personal time: At the end of my typical day, after a full day (7am-4pm) of work and some sort of workout, all I want to do is have dinner in front of the TV. Whether it’s Detective (ohhh…she’s a Sergeant now!) Olivia Benson’s hard hitting law enforcement, the secret identity of “A,” or the dramas behind the operating room doors (yes, I still watch Grey’s!), I need something simple and mind-numbing to simply chill out to. Well, 1 show becomes 2, and before I know it, I’ve stayed up way too late wondering why Columbus doesn’t have a crime lab like the one in Las Vegas (I will never give up on CSI!). As much as my mind needs some serious down time, I need to focus on limiting it so I can get to the other bazillion things on my to-do list.

I will limit my evening TV watching to no more than TWO shows per night!

  • Are there people you cherish with whom you have lost touch? My life has been blessed with amazing people. And as I have been told and have told others, “friendships wax and they wane” – they go through phases. My girlfriends that I rarely went 24 hours without talking to, I now catch up with once a month. It’s not for a lack of love or interest in their lives, it’s simply that my life changes and so does theirs. Sometimes our life paths are right next to each other, and other times, they’re a continent apart.

Every Monday, I will choose a friend I haven’t talked with in awhile and set up a phone/Skype/face-to-face date.

  • Would you shift your priorities to place emphasis on different things in your day? Some days I don’t have a moment to focus on the bright spots in my day. I go from work to the gym to Alternative Fashion Mob meetings to home to the shower to the kitchen to the microwave to the couch and to bed. PHEW! With all these obligations, many of which I have chosen to have in my life, I forget to stop and focus on how blessed I truly am. I can get so tired, stressed and overwhelmed that my life becomes one giant #firstworldproblem instead of a beaming #firstworldblessing. 

Every night before bed, no matter how tired I am, I will take a few moments to thank God for the good things that happened that day. I will take the time to write these things down so I can look back on them when my days become especially trying.

    • I am also quick to forget or neglect that there is a creature in my life that just wants my love and attention, a little bit each day. My Boston Terrier, Dewey, is never forgotten, but I get so wrapped up in my own life, that I don’t tend to his emotional needs. Yes, he gets fed and let out and cuddled, but the little guy needs some play time!! His #1 priority in his life is making me happy. Why shouldn’t I do the same for him? (Granted, it’s easier to take him outside for some Dewey Time when it’s not Snowpocalypsing outside!)

Everyday when I get home, I will dedicate 30 minutes of my day to Dewey. Whether this means taking him on a walk or playing ball in the house, he will get my undivided attention beyond the cuddling that I am usually in desperate need of!

Now it’s your turn! How will you embrace each day??

“Change doesn’t come easily, and it won’t happen just because you want it to.” – Julie Wilkes

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ALL THE LINKS!!!

  • Check out everything Julie Wilkes HERE!
  • The 7 Life Miracles on Facebook!
  • Seven Studios on Facebook!
  • Learn about The 7 Life Miracles book HERE!
  • Preorder The 7 Life Miracles  on Amazon HERE!
  • Can’t wait until February 25th?? Neither could I! Check availability at your local Barnes & Noble Bookstore and get it now HERE!