Friday, November 20, 2009

They Didn't Say it Wouldn't Be Tough...

I hope that most of our posts are focused on the great things that are happening in Chicago. I hope that they shine light on the things that we love here and the amazing things that God is doing all around us. My hope and prayer in writing the blog is you would get a snapshot of what life is like and what we're up to. To be able to give you a true snapshot sometimes it is necessary to admit that sometimes its tough. As much as I love Chicago, love our church, my school and the opportunities we have had for friendships at the seminary frankly sometimes its hard. At times I feel like I'm studying abroad again. Going through stages of cultureshock through immersion in a new culture. Somedays it feels like home and on occasion it feels like I can't seem to get air and I get overwhelmed. Sometimes it feels that we have too little going on and too few connections in our new community and others it feels like we are totally swamped and over committed. Lesson plans that need to get done, church committments and activities, hanging out with friends, and of course studying, studying and more studying. No one ever said that this transition wouldn't be tough and I guess this morning I need to admit that at times it is. But please know that it is also good.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Gift of Caring and Acknowledgement

Wow, today was a really run day. Today was the first day that I got my new "toy", um or should I say, educational technology tool, and in a word "AWESOME!". I don't know how to begin to share what a blessing all of you were and continue to be in caring for me and for my students. When I presented the technology to my students I started by saying, "There are people that you have never met nor will probably ever meet that care about you, your education and your future." They were shocked. Some students audibly said "No there's not", others "Yeah, right", yet others sat there with a perplexed and slightly amazed expression on their faces. As I continued to tell them the story of our new technology and how it came to be students were grateful, excited and for many of them one of the few moments in their educational career they have felt proud. They were able to have something that not many other people get to have. Our class has something special. They have something special and dare I suggest they may be someone special. We had an incredible day figuring it out, trouble shooting, them laughing at my "third grade hand writing" and them being very grateful for the new tool. One table of girls that had an exceptionally hard time seeing the board before had smiles from ear to ear and after I had finished notes for the day I asked them, so... and received heart felt, "that is awesome!".

We are excited. We are blessed. I am humbled. I hope that my students make you proud. They may not be on the honor roll, they may not go to an ivy league school, or maybe the will. Maybe one student will pass my class that wouldn't have been motivated to do so before. One student took notes today for the first time since he's been back at school (behavioral issues), maybe just maybe hope will be shared.

I know I have said it many times and I will say it again, we are blessed. Matt and I are blessed by incredible family, friends and support. I am amazed and a bit humbled to know that you are even reading this. Like Matt said in his last post we would love to hear from you. Please feel free to use the comments on the blog to let us know you're listening, facebook, email or a phone call. We will do our best to keep up our end of the deal as well.

To all of you that gave, thank you. To all of you that prayed, thank you. For all of you that continue to keep us in your thoughts, thank you. For those of you that have sent notes, emails, etc. thank you. You are wonderful and a blessing.

Ps... I will post pictures soon of my students and our new toy... I mean... educational technology tool. :-) (One student did tell me today that I was like a kid that just got a new toy for Christmas)

Friday, November 13, 2009

So I just read Jenny's last post and I was reminded how wonderful she is. On top of her many talents she is a great writer as she did a superb jog of summarizing the past month in a few short paragraphs! It's hard to believe we've only been in Chicago a few months as it is already feeling like home and we've gotten into the rhythm of our new life here. Having said that, I was reminded through a conversation with a fellow student and new friend how much I miss you all. As most of you realize, I haven't done a great job of staying in touch. However, I would greatly appreciate hearing from you all from time to time. Emails, phone calls, letters, notes of encouragement are always appreciated. My pledge to you is to do a better job of keeping you all in the loop with what is going on in my life in return. I'll respond to your direct contacts as well as attempt to keep this blog more up to date.
My classes are going fairly well. Sadly I did not do very well on my mid term Greek exam, but the professor has graciously agree to allow me to take an additional vocabulary test to make up for quite a few of my lost points. My other two classes (Introduction to Biblical Studies and Personal Inquiry Into Faithfulness) are going well. I just did a paper for IBS on Matthew 21:33-46 which is the parable of the tenants. It's pretty incredible the life a passage can take when you explore it from so many different perspectives. The perspective of those Jesus was talking to, the perspective of writer 50 years after Jesus' death and so many more perspectives. It was a tough paper, but all in all it was a good experience. Now I just hope the grade will reflect that!
In PIF we are talking about the sacrament of the Eucharist or communion. That has been fascinating and I have to write a paper on that for Tuesday. So classes are going well and we are in the home stretch. Only four weeks to go! I need to sign up for Jterm classes and Spring semester as well as decide if I'm going to do my CPE this summer. Needless to say, life keeps on and is very busy, but good. I've made at least one close friend and several other good friends. We hope that all of you are doing well and look forward to hearing from you and appreciate the past words of encouragement too!

Matt and Jenny

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Culture Shock, Craziness and the Comfort of Friends and Family

Well, it's almost been a month since my last post. I keep thinking, "I should really blog more often" or "It's about time I sit down and blog" and then I get so nervous about what I'm going to say or how I'm going to say it that I give up and walk away for another week. But at long last I'm here, and I have all intentions to finish this post (although I had those intentions the three other times I have sat down and started a post I had the same intention).

Over the last month I have been overwhelmed by how blessed we truly are. I recently posted about a need and desire for some new technology in my classroom. I was hoping there would be a chance that in the 5 month time span that the project would exist on DonorsChoose it might be finished. I was blown away that in 2 1/2 weeks that need was met. The portable, interactive whiteboard has been ordered and it should be here within the next two weeks. Each day I eagerly check the mail and dream about the impact it will have on my students. Each day I am inspired by your comments, your support and your trust to push myself and my student farther and to do the very best I can with what I have been given that day. I am reminded that we do not walk these journies alone, but are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses and supportive friends and family close and far.

I am proud to say that I officially am a licensed, ENDORSED, Chemistry teacher in the state of Illinois! It took 8 weeks after school started, but it is official and I even have the piece of paper to prove it. It's comforting to know that after all of your support that I will be able to legally be able to continue to teach my kids afterall. :-) I have also discovered that the reason it was a bit difficult to get my first endorsement in science in Illinois is that they have restructured their system so once you have one science endorsement you have much more flexibility in teaching the other sciences. Which is phenomenal (although I won't believe it until I verify it from three separate sources), and will allow me more flexibility in the future as our needs at school change.

The latest news is that tomorrow, I will be beginning my master's work. It's a bit of a long and quick story. In short, we decided to make the sacrfices to allow me to work on my mater's while Matt is in school so that we can both finish. It is an online program that will also allow me to get certified in Billingual Education. I am really excited. Nervous and a more than a little worried of how this is all going to work but I trust in God's timing and His plan. I take one class at a time for five weeks, so I will start and take the first class and we'll reevaluate after that.

Life continues to be good, challenging, blessed, frustrating and inspiring. We recently celebrated the life of our dear friend, and my "thrid Grandpa" Frank on what would have been his 98th birthday. As we mourn the loss of a kind and wonderful spirit, we celebrated the man who inspired, that loved and we loved. We have had a fire in our apartment building (nothing serious), a friend's trip to the emergency room, a quick trip to Iowa (for the funeral), and in it all we are surrounded by supportive friends and family. When I become overwhelmed by culture shock, when I feel incompetent and out of my league, someone is always there at the right moment. When it feels like I am going to stay in bed forever and it will all just go away, I am reminded about the thoughts of friends and family that are supporting us along this journey. Thank you for your continued support. Thank you for your emails, facebook comments and continued support. We are blessed.