Tuesday, September 15, 2015

God is Faithful

I have been reminiscing the last few days.

It is almost impossible for me to believe, but this is the beginning of the 5th school year since I turned in my gradebook and keys and quit writing lesson plans for 8th graders.

Five years since I laughed with my students.

Five years since I read their sometimes heartbreaking/sometimes heartwarming essays and graded spelling tests for hours. (Don't miss those spelling tests a bit!)

Five years since I was shocked by their language and the words of some of their music, and fell for their traps to get me off topic by veering our discussions in another direction than I planned. These discussions were often more fruitful than what I had planned anyway.

Being a classroom teacher was something I loved! Granted, it could be VERY FRUSTRATING and STRESSFUL, but the energy of kids and the creativity of their ideas brought me great JOY.

I loved seeing the back-to-school pictures of all the kids on Facebook, and I know many momma- hearts ached as they prayed for a good school year for their precious children. Everyone wants their son or daughter to have a teacher who cares.

And I know there are GOBS of teachers who do!

When I decided to quit teaching, I hoped God would show me what HE wanted me to do next.

Surprise! He has been faithful to do just that.

While cleaning, I came across these 2 pieces that I wrote years ago.

New Friends

I have been teaching now for what sometimes feels like a couple of minutes (farewell Class of '74) and other times feels like I started when Elvis was King. I love my job for about 106 reasons and last night I discovered a new one. 

Some of my former pimply-faced students are now becoming my poised and delightful friends. Even though I only had them in my room for 1-2 periods each day for one year, I feel an-almost-motherly-pride in the adults they are becoming.

It is fun to hear them nervously, hesitatingly call me "Susan" as if I will say snippily, "May I see your agenda, please? That was inappropriate." 

It's fun to giggle with them as adults over a shared goof-up, fun to talk about grown-up topics, like "my boys" and "your boys", recipes, clothes, and what God is up to in our lives.

What a blessing!

Closed Chapter

I sit on our back porch swing
Listening to the birds sing
Winding down from the last
Days of another busy school year
Wondering if anyone can hear
The fear
In my heart
As I close this chapter of my life.

No more principal-imposed deadlines
No more ISAT test times
Ruining my late-night rest
Sucking the best
Parts of teaching
Into the slime pits
where they cowered.

Who am I now?
No 8th grade teacher
Secretly enjoying people’s praise,
“I could never do that”-
Take those child-shaped
And help mold them into writers, thinkers, imaginers.

It’s kind of scary.
I’ll allow myself a fairly
Decent time to say good-bye
To that part of me
And then I’ll see
What I will be….

Looking back, I see how faithful God has been to me. He allowed me to participate in the lives of young people all those years as a classroom teacher, and now I have the privilege of teaching Holy Yoga and working with wonderful girls and mentors in The Push Ahead.

I have learned so much, gone places I never imagined, and witnessed God at work. I'm reconnecting with former students and their moms and meeting new folks. It's FUN!

I'm not sharing this because I am anything special, because I am NOT. I'm sharing because the same God who has shown me his FAITHFULNESS and LOVE will do the same for YOU and I'm sure he has been.

Sharing with others gives God glory and is an encouragement during times when we may need building up.

So, how is God showing his faithfulness to YOU?  Tell us. Please!

Pin It!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Fashion Fun

Hello, readers!

I don't know what is happening weather wise in your part of the world, but we have had a lovely week here on the prairie. We were blessed with 2 inches of rain, which finished making our bean crop, so the farmers around here can relax a little bit and enjoy the last days of summer. The temps are deliciously lower-I am even wearing a sweater this morning as I type this!

All this has me thinking about fall fashion. I haven't done any research or bought a fashion magazine yet, but I do have a little want-to-buy list in my head. Here are a few things on it.

Stalking One: I'm crazy about this casual look. I would still love a pair of very lightly distressed jeans like these even though they have been around awhile now and may be on the way out. Who cares?!

via pinterest

Stalking Two: I have been wearing lots of cardigans the last few years, but would like to transition to more jackets. Comfortable, stretchy jackets. I found a cute black pleather one at Marshalls a couple of years ago and have worn it and worn it, so this year, I'm looking for a brown one. But it must be easy to wear and reasonably priced so I don't have to be married to it for 10 years.

Stalking Three: I need a new pair of brown leather boots, too. I bought my last pair on sale at Macy's about 5 years ago and have worn the heck out of them. I have jumbo calves, so I really want to find some with a wider opening this time so I don't have to unzip them every whipstitch to allow my lower legs to calm down a bit when I wear them over jeans. Any suggestions, bigger calved sisters?

                                                                            via pinterest

I would love a pair of Frye's, but their $300 price tag makes them a NO for me. Even though I've been looking for 2 years, I'll just keep trying to find some.

Stalking Four: A Kendra Scott necklace or earrings...... so cute!

via pinterest

That's it for now! Saying YES to the PRESENT, so I'm not going to spend too much time thinking about fall as I wear my summer clothes for a few more weeks. 

I had a lot of fun this season with the Get Your Pretty On Summer Challenge and will definitely participate in the Fall Challenge. Be on the lookout for sign-up information here.

So, friends, what are you dreaming of for Fall?

Pin It!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

My Arms Are Black and Blue....Farm Girls Go to Italy, Part 3

Note: I have had this post written for almost 2 weeks, but I just couldn't share about my wonderful journey to Italy at the same time that one of my dearest friends was saying goodbye to the love of her life after a massive heart attack. John's sudden death reminded all of us that we are not promised another breath, no matter our age or the plans we have made or the people depending on us.

I have spent a lot of time the past few days filled with gratitude for normal days with my family, more convinced than ever to LIVE each day, not just exist. 

I am so glad I went to Italy. If you have a dream, don't put it off, friend.

Bellagio, Bellagio, Bellagio

I feel like the pixie dust I was sprinkled with in Italy is starting to wear off, so I need to get my memories down on paper before the magic is completely gone.
Thanks for joining me!

(If you need to catch up, you can read Part One here or Part Two here.)

We were picked up on Saturday afternoon at our hotel, encouraged several times to take Dramamine, and taken to Bellagio, which has to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet. It is one of several villages scattered around the base of Lake Como, a huge body of water at the foot of the Alps in northern Italy.

Mr. Google describes Bellagio as the “Pearl of the Lake”. He is right.

I had never take Dramamine before, but I was scared not to because Laura mentioned it MANY times, so I took two.

The trip was “interesting” to say the least! I loved driving past Italian corn, bean and hay fields and at one point we were even following a John Deere tractor. Who knew?! It made this farmwife feel right at home.

Before long we arrived at the huge lake and began to drive on a very wind-y, narrow road with one blind curve after another. The driver would slow down, beep his horn a few times and go for it. We made it without incident, but I sure wouldn’t want to drive it myself in the little Fiats the Italians drive. Now I understood the Dramamine suggestion, but we all were fine.

And I was. Very. Mellow.

We pulled onto the one narrow street coming into town and headed slowly downhill. My eyes were on overload at the stunning and very “Europeanesque” (I know it’s not a word!) sights all around us.
The colors, the flowers, the old, old architecture, the cobblestone streets, the people on foot, the stores less than a foot from our van windows-beautiful!

We quickly arrived at the Hotel Serbelloni for a reception on a beautiful, flower covered terrace on the shore of the lake to meet Laura, Jeanne and Stephanie, our teachers for the week, and to get better acquainted with the other ladies on the trip. We knew immediately we were in for something special.

This was an Art and Faith Creative Retreat so we were all believers. There is just something remarkable that occurs when God’s girls get together to learn more about HIM. The Holy Spirit in each of us quickly bound us together, and we skipped all the insecure nonsense women so often bring out in one another.

We bonded. Big time!
And that made it all the more fun.

Sidebar TWO: Oh, how I hope you have experienced that special closeness that quickly develops between strangers when you share a love of Christ. If you haven’t, let’s talk about it…….

So here we were. A very open and willing group of Christian women brought together in a place of unbelievable beauty to use the gifts GOD gave us to create art. I had to figuratively keep pinching myself to be sure I wasn’t dreaming.

The next week was full of art lessons and walking tours of beautiful gardens, a villa, a monastery. We rode in fancy cars with drivers to multi-starred restaurants, the ferry to other lake villages and vintage boats-the kind you see in movies set in the 1960’s. On one trip we were overwhelmed with the sheer beauty of it all and spontaneously sang the Doxology.

It was awesome!

One afternoon, we split into 3 groups and went to cooking school in a cute little apartment. We later ate the delicious food on the tiny balcony under a 2 story grape arbor. Debbie and I are now certified Italian cooks who can make Tagliatelle, Bruschetta, Ragu, and Tiramisu.  And we have the aprons to prove it. Want to take a cooking class with us when our pasta makers arrive from Amazon?

Sidebar Three: I learned a lesson about hospitality that night. The balcony wasn’t big, the decorations weren’t fancy, everything didn’t match, but the food was delicious, the conversation was important, and we felt so WELCOME.  I need to quit thinking I must have my version of perfection in order to have guests over.

We hiked up and down the cobblestone streets for a little while every afternoon admiring the silk and leather goods. We met and became “friends” with the people who designed and made the shoes we bought in their little workshop in the back of their store. I bet I will wear them until I am 90 and they will still be in style-and they were reasonably priced too!

The Italians are such friendly people and I’m tickled that I now have Italian “friends” on Facebook and can’t wait to get to know them better. Did you know there is a translation feature that comes up when a post is in a different language? How handy!

Our little apartment was in the center of the village, and we soon begin to recognize some people and see them as we went about our day. Marta, Rita, Silvana, Elisabetta, Simona, the sales people where we bought our coffee, our gifts for people from home, and our many bottles of water seemed as happy to see us as we were to see them!

And then there was the food. Oh my. I love the way Northern Italians eat. The food was really fresh and the portions were reasonable and every meal we ate was better than the one before! And the meals last a


And gelato.

I'm sitting at a table along the street. Silvana and Leonardo are in the street. The gelato store is across the street. The street is narrow!

Several people have asked me about the “ART” that I made. I have to say that I really enjoyed the chance to learn and play with watercolors and my chalk pencil and little bitty pieces of paper torn from a fashion magazine.  We made jewelry, a mosaic of the Madonna, a travel journal, a mixed media canvas, and illustrations that symbolize our faith journey.

I had no expectations for myself since I am no artist and I was able to really enjoy CREATING and EXPERIMENTING instead of looking around at the work of others-many of whom were really talented- and feeling small and intimidated. Kudos to our wonderful teachers for making every project accessible for someone like me. It was FUN!

The week flew by and we said good bye with lots of hugs and promises to stay in touch via social media and reunions stateside. If we don’t see each other again here, we will in GLORY!

Our flight home was long and uneventful but God had one last big JOY BOMB for us.  As Debbie and I boarded our plane in Miami headed for Indy, we noticed a large group of young people boarding with us. We could tell just by the looks on their faces and the “light” of their presence that they were Christians who had been on a mission trip. We chatted and learned they had been to Haiti working with children.

Our hearts were turning toward home and our husbands who were waiting for us at the airport, so we decided to work on some Italian phrases to greet them. In our exhausted, slap-happy state, our giggles  at our "Italian" soon turned into flat out nonstop laughter. Yawns are contagious, but laughter is too, and before we knew it, half the plane was cracking up with us.

Can you imagine? A small plane of people laughing so hard we could hardly catch our breath-what a wonderful ending to our trip! Isn’t God fun? He invented laughter, you know.

This trip was one of those special life events that takes some time to fully process. I enjoyed it so much and on so many different levels.

I will never forget the time two farm girls from the Illinois prairie went to Italy and will never be the same.

Picture borrowed from Laura and taken by Cathy Walters, photography extraordinaire
Sidebar Four: I love a good list and still have gobs of pictures, so be on the lookout for one more post!

If you are interested in learning more about Laura and her amazing Creative Retreats (I want to go to ALL of them), please check out her blog A Kiss on the Chic. (Don't you just love that name?)
Pin It!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

My Arms are Black and Blue.......Farm Girls Go to Italy Part Two

If you missed Farm Girls go to Italy...Part One, you can read it here.

First stop-Milano, the fashion capitol of the world!

We flew into Malpensa airport, got our first passport stamps (!)  and headed across the street to the Sheraton. We got our first glimpse of the kindness of the Italian people and started running into other ladies who were joining us on our trip.

I always imagined before traveling to Europe, I would spend months with my nose in guidebooks learning all about the areas I would visit and planning out a perfect trip. Turned out that was just a pipe dream.

Debbie and I headed out flying by the seat of our pants, which is the way Brad and I usually travel-it’s worked out well for us, most of the time.

And it did this time, too!

Before we got off the plane, we chatted with the people next to us who had been to Italy many times and were returning to visit family. They told us 2 things we definitely had to see and we saw those things and so much more.

Janice, one of our fellow travelers, had tickets for a walking tour which included viewing The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci. We tried to book tickets online, but it was all sold out. We headed that way with Janice anyway, figuring we could tag along if we were willing to pay the money. 

Guess what? We couldn’t.

However, we ended up in Duomo Square, right where we needed to be to see the 2 sites our airplane friends had suggested! I love when things work out like that.

Dominating this square was the Duomo, or church, that is Milan’s most famous landmark. The cathedral was absolutely beautiful and took 500 years to complete. Can you imagine?

A couple of years ago, I read Pillars of the Earth, which was all about the construction of a Gothic cathedral in England. The book not only helped me appreciate the blood, sweat, tears and craftsmanship involved in such an undertaking, but also, the politics involved.

 I couldn’t help but compare the magnificence of the cathedral to our more simple churches in America. The Master Artists of the past created beautiful masterpieces of devotion to God. What are The Masters of today creating? Are we missing the boat by going the simple route? This church is quite a bit different than the "warehouse" style churches being built today.

OK. Now my head is hurting. I’ll think about that another day.

Next stop-Galleria Vittorio Emanuele 2


This was a beautiful shopping area that connected Duomo Plaza and Piazza della Scala. (I am writing that as if I had the lay of the land figured out. Believe me, I didn’t! I am directionally challenged and have been known to get turned around in shopping malls and hotel hallways. Google is helping me!)

Debbie and I ventured into the original Prada store and had a great visit with a beautiful sales lady. But, SURPRISE! We didn’t buy a thing! Nothing had a price tag…..can you imagine?
I found this Prada bag online for $2025.00.

Gulp. I doubt I ever find one at TJ Maxx or Marshalls-my favorite stores, but trust me, I’ll be looking.

Beth, Debbie and I enjoyed a long lunch and had a BALL watching people. It was like a 2 hour fashion show. We were especially smitten with a woman who appeared to be in her 80’s who had on the CUTEST buffalo plaid skirt, simple blouse and adorable shoes with her hair in a flip.

Proving style has nothing to do with age. BAM!

After lunch, we split up and the two of us began to make our way back to the train station where we were supposed to meet for our evening Canal Tour. We got a little confused about the direction we were to go and stopped to get our bearings.

A beautifully dressed woman began speaking to Debbie about the “ballot”. We soon realized that she was offering us 2 free tickets to the ballet which began in 15 minutes in the building right in front of us!


After thanking her profusely, we stepped into the most amazing theater and were treated to 2 hours of beautiful music and an amazing performance of Excelsior. I have only been to the  ballet twice before that. Once at EIU when I was in college and coerced Brad into going with me, which lasted about 10 minutes before he had enough and we left. He did take me to a kids' production of The Nutcracker a few years ago in Champaign. (He is such a good sport!)

So, my ballet knowledge is nonexistent. However, we didn’t need any to enjoy every second of this performance. A little explanation was given before the show began, but, of course, we understood none of it since it was spoken in Italian. At intermission, we tried to figure out the story line. I thought it was about the circus and cracked up later when we learned it was about the Industrial Revolution.

What a gift those tickets were! Two farm girls from Jasper County got to see a world class ballet in The Scala Opera House, one of the most famous places in the world.


We spent the rest of the evening enjoying a walking tour of the canal area, getting acquainted with more of the members of our group who also were on the tour and the other lovely tourists from Helsinki, Finland, and England. The world became a much smaller place for me that night!

By then, we had been up for I have- no- idea- how- many- hours, and I could barely stay awake on the train ride back to our hotel.

Our experiences that day had our gratitude cups filled to overflowing and we could have gotten on the plane and flown home satisfied and happy.

But it was just the beginning!

(Part 3 coming soon!)


Pin It!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Arms are Black and Blue....Farm Girls Go to Italy

Part One

Beautiful mountains.

Crystal clear waters.

Blooming flowers everywhere.

Lemon and orange trees.

Olive groves.

Dining alfresco with a grape arbor heavy with bunches of green grapes forming the ceiling overhead.

Sweet, sweet people smiling as I freely and happily practiced my Italian phrases trying to get the accent and the rolled "r's" just right. 

I'm sure I sounded like a fool. A very happy fool!

I have spent the last few days pinching myself as a reminder that I was actually awake and experiencing all this and not in some weird sleep experience in a week long dream.

Yes. This farm girl and her farm girl friend, Debbie, went to Italy!

Bellagio, Italy to be exact.-a place I’d never even heard of until March. And now a place I will never forget. During this trip of a lifetime, I made amazing friends and even learned that I enjoy making art. (After several days, I can now say that without giggling in disbelief!)

You may know that my One Little Word for 2015 is JOY.  Even in the midst of some very difficult times this year, God has graciously given me lots of joy to go along with the sadness.

Here is a bit of the backstory……..

Last winter, I signed up for Jeanne Oliver’s The Becoming of You series (which you should totally sign up for) and one morning while I was eating breakfast in Florida, I began watching the videos. I loved every one of them, but when I got to Laura from A Kiss on the Chic, I wanted to jump up and down.

Laura shared a bit about her Creative Retreats and described the Faith and Art Retreat she was planning for Summer 2015 in Bellagio. It sounded dreamy, but I’m not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, and I had never traveled internationally except for a couple of trips to Mexico.

However,God put a HUGE and immediate desire in my heart to attend this event.

I told Brad about it when he returned from his run, and without missing a beat, he said, “DO IT!” I sent the link to my friend, Debbie, and she was as excited as I was when her husband also gave the thumbs up.

We signed up before we could talk ourselves out of it, with no real idea of how blessed we were going to be. Thus began several weeks of preparation for traveling abroad-booking international flights, checking cell phone plans, insurance, getting euros, new suitcases and planning what to wear. We also had quite a list of art supplies we were supposed to bring with us.

Gesso and mat medium, anyone?
I had no clue what I was asking for when I went to Michael’s to get my things. And who knew there were so many different types of paint brushes. See, I am NOT an artist!

This trip was way out of my comfort zone and out of my box, but I LOVE to do new things, and I was up for an adventure with one of my best buddies.

And I had a feeling God was in the midst of the whole thing. A win from EVERY angle!

So, Debbie and I packed our bags, grabbed our new cameras and passports and headed for Italy with our eyes and hearts open wide.

Coming Soon: Part 2: Milano

Pin It!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

How to Brighten Someone's Day (and Your Own)

Can you believe it?

I am the featured writer today over on My Freshly Brewed Life. I'm sharing what I've learned about hugs.
The power of a simple hug can change someone's day. It's a fact!
Barbie and I met through an encouragement swap a few years ago and the girls from California and Illinois have stayed in touch. Don't you love that? I do!

Hop over and read my post and stay awhile to enjoy all the goodness you will find there.

This busy gal not only maintains a great blog, she has even written a book, Coffee Talk with Jesus. I have provided the link so you can easily take a look!


This post contains affiliate links but I only suggest things I think you will enjoy.
Pin It!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Fighting Back with JOY

Have you ever heard of Margaret Feinberg? She was new to me until this spring when my friend suggested we do one of her Bible studies with our small group. I am so glad we met through the pages of her study.

A flat-out gifted teacher of the word.
And I now know that she is a big deal in the Christian publishing/speaking world. She has written 4 books and Bible studies, has been featured in lots of media, and is a popular speaker at big events like Catalyst and Thrive. She was even named one of the 50 women shaping Christian culture today.

I used to wonder who would take Beth Moore's place when she wanted to step down, but God is raising up a whole new army of wisdom.

Of course He is!

We just finished Fight Back With Joy and I can't recommend it highly enough. It was right up my alley since Joy is my One Little Word this year. I wrote about it here. I have been so encouraged with the way God has brought this word to my attention over and over since January-the power of focus, I guess.

Margaret shares from experience how she was able to find JOY in the midst of struggles and weaves the scripture and life experience together in a way that makes it understandable and APPLICABLE. I love the practicality of her teaching.

Using lots of scripture, suggestions, and bonus activities, her words became more than just words. They became solutions to problems that were holding us back from the good things God has for us.

One of my favorite sections was Embrace Celebration as a Discipline. She reminds us that God loves parties and used scripture to prove it. NonChristians often have such a distorted view of God as a big party-pooper when in fact, he is the first party planner, comedienne, dancer, decorator, and cook. We are created in HIS IMAGE, so if we enjoy these things, it is because he planted the desire in us.

If you are looking for an encouraging study that will also challenge you, try this one!

Here are links to the book, study guide, and leader's kit if you want to check it out.

This is a study that I will repeat over and over. I want to be a person who looks for JOY BOMBS, which God is throwing all around me if I will only look for them.

He is throwing them for you, too, friend!


Disclosure: I am now an Amazon Affiliate and will be compensated if you purchase something from my links. My opinion is totally my own.
Pin It!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...