Here are a few pictures from our time in Joplin, MO this weekend.  There are no words to describe what we encountered there so maybe these few pictures will help.  Please forgive their poor quality (iPhone specials).  But amazingly, despite all the destruction, so many people I talked to were hopeful and thankful to the Lord for sparing their lives.  Truly uplifting!

"The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. 
 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; 
he hears their cry and saves them."  
Psalm 145: 18-19

The church that organized the work crews
Where to begin?

The men trying to remove fallen trees
Wooden debris from just one home...
The church kindly provided our work crew with lunches and water

Thankfully the family survived

A roof that blew off during the tornado



I have definitely been running low on the joyful juices lately - as well as the motivational ones.  I have only been able to get myself out of bed for one early morning run this week (goal: 4 mornings), which has left only evenings for quick runs before supper.  GRE studying . . . what's that?  I have only been able to study productively one evening this week due to storms, a migraine and laziness.  This week has also been especially difficult at work, dealing with neglectful parents, making Child Protective Service reports and trying to help foster children understand why it's not their fault that everything in their life has been turned upside down and all the people whom they love dearly have been ripped away from them.  I will not lie.  It's been a rough week.  On top of this, I have been having a lot of second thoughts about my graduate major choices.  Am I limiting God's almighty power by saying, "I can't do this job.  It's too hard."?  Just as I found teaching difficult, my job now has many of the same stressors and heartbreak as I work each day to help children deal with their problems and rise above their circumstances.  

So decision time came around for what to do during this wonderful 3-day weekend.  First I had thought of flying to the Caribbean, sitting under and umbrella and reading all sorts of feel-good-useless-books to drown out the many questions in my mind and the disturbing issues that I've face this week.  Then I thought of simply staying at home in my bed, watching movies and blocking out life for a bit.  But God had other plans.  God truly works in mysterious ways because today as I was shutting down my inbox at work, the last email I read was from a co-worker who plans to go to Joplin, MO this weekend to help out with the disaster relief effort.  I could feel God's still, small voice in my ear urging me to think of others instead of myself.  In fact, out of all my goals, helping others selflessly has received the greatest shaft.  I hesitated, almost walked down the stairs and out the door.  I was tired, irritated and felt on the verge of tears after my last fax to Child Protective Services.   But it is not written "my will be done" but rather "God's will be done."  

My co-worker was so helpful, providing me a number for a local church in Joplin that is organizing volunteers to help those in need.  Armed with a post-it note and a scribbled phone number, I headed home to call.  I still felt doubt.  The television and my comfy bed was calling for a long, relaxing weekend of doing absolutely n-o-t-h-i-n-g.  The woman who answered my call was so kind and amazingly positive given the devastation.  She promptly arranged accommodations for myself and Cody, offered us 3 meals a day and even took into account what we would like to do as volunteers.  Amazing. 
"Rejoice in the Lord always and again I'll say 'Rejoice!'."

So tomorrow, Sunday and Monday, I will put aside my wants, doubts, goals and thoughts and instead focus on others in much greater need.  I will rejoice that the Lord saved my home from destruction.  I will rejoice that I am physically capable of helping others.  I will rejoice that is using me to brings His joy to others.  Rejoice in the Lord always!


Lady O' Lists

I'm a "list girl" at heart.  I make lists for household tasks, work obligations, life dreams, groceries, areas of personal improvement versus weakness . . . and this is just to name a handful of my many list categories.  There's nothing more satisfying to me than making a long list and then systematically scratching off as many items as possible (often as quickly as possible!).  With each scratch-off, my confidence and motivation grows.  If I'm feeling especially unmotivated, I will even write items on my lists that are already completed!  So here is my  goal To-Do list for today:
Very helpful!

Goal To-Do's
1) Run at least 1 mile
     * Walked 1 mile, ran ~1 mile
2) Study at least 1 hour for GRE
     * Studied 1.75 hours
3) Consume 3 healthy meals
     * Breakfast: fruit smoothie w/ fresh fruit and yogurt, 2 T almonds
     * Lunch: 1 egg, 1/2 c. carrots and 1/2 apple
     * Supper: leafy green salad w/ cucumbers and dried cranberries; 1/2 boiled chicken breast
4) Drink only water
5) Selflessly help another

#5 definitely needs more focus.  While my daily job is all about helping others, is it really "selfless" if I am getting paid for it?   Thoughts?  I definitely have a long way to go to achieve my goals but I'm feeling positive and innervated.  


Setting Big Goals

Welcome dear friends!  I have steered away from blogging for many years but I've finally capitulated.  Since there never seems to be enough time in the day to keep in touch with all my wonderful friends and family, I'm hoping this blog will help to connect us.  Please do visit often and I will do my best to post often.  

However, I have to admit.  I do have a selfish reason for starting this blog as well.  Lately I've found myself falling into the trap of working, eating and sleeping with very little purpose in life and you, my dear friends and family, are going to keep me honest.  And with honesty, comes self-reflection.  Often I have inspired moments but more often than not, those inspirations never become reality.  So in order to counteract this character flaw, I have narrowed it down to four measurable, attainable goals.  

My Big Goals (ala TFA)
1) Take the GRE  on July 22nd and earn the following scores: Verbal Reasoning 700-800, Quantitative Reasoning 700-800 and Analytical Writing 4.5 or above
2) Run a marathon by August 2012
3) Maintain healthy cooking and eating habits at least 6 days a week
4) Selflessly help another at least once a week
* Disclaimer: I give you full permission to hassle me if I do not stick with these goals!

So.  In light of sticking with something and becoming accountable, yesterday I registered for the GRE (July 22nd...yipes!).   This morning I took a diagnostic GRE exam.  My benchmark percentile ranking was 56%.  Not good and a definite reality check.  Given that I need serious scholarships in order to afford graduate school, this means I need to get even more serious about studying.  

Time for some serious prep!

I have faith that I can do much better than my diagnostic score if I create a plan and stick with it.  I know that if it is God's will that Cody and I go to graduate school in Fall 2012, then He will work it all out according to His good and perfect will.  All I have to do is be diligent and have faith.  Off to plan and study!