Thursday, November 28, 2013

Being Thankful

Today, in the states, is Thanksgiving day. As I am scrolling through all the Facebook posts seeing everyone's comments about Thanksgiving, I want to cry. My heart is sad because I am not in my American kitchen slaving over the stove cooking everyone's favorite dishes. I want to hug my daughter and pet my cats. When I get "down" like this, I want to curl up in a ball by myself and block everyone out. But not this time. Not today.  I've been trying to teach my students the importance of being thankful, even when you don't feel like it. So, today, I will practice what I teach. :-)

Things I am thankful for: (in no particular order)

  • First and most importantly, I am thankful for God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. For reasons I can not explain, I have always sensed His presence in my life since I was a small child. He is the reason I choose to get up every morning and not give up on life.  I thank Him for loving me, for not giving up on me and for teaching me how to love and serve Him with an undivided heart. 
  • I am thankful for a special family in Valdosta. There is a Scripture that says, "God sets the lonely in families..." and that is just what he did with me. He placed me in this family and they loved me and my daughter without reservation. I saw the love of the Father in them. Because of them, I am a different person than what I was before I met them. They are precious and I love them and do thank God for them. 
  • Shelby Ruth Thompson. This girl is most precious to me. Life with her is NEVER boring. I miss her more than I thought possible. Hopefully I will get to see her in June. This is the longest she and I have ever been separated. But it has been good for her. She is learning to live on her own and has done a lot of growing up the last several months. Love you baby-bear to the moon and back. :-)
  • My two baby brothers. Bless their hearts. They had a rough time of it growing up. Part of that was my fault. I wasn't the nicest big sister. They have grown into fine men and I love them both very much.
  • My parents.  Was life perfect? No, but then what family is? They did the best they could. I thank them for loving me and giving me life.
  • Highland Christian Academy. I was at this school for 14 years. Shelby practically grew up there. It was like an extended family. I miss all the teachers and staff. We were a close group and I miss that.
  • Mary Lisse. My sweet team teacher. How I miss you! I am so thankful God sent you to HCA. I will never forget the first time I met you. I walk into your room and you are all smiling and bubbly and I try to match it, but well, you know me... hahaha. But one thing I did know when I walked away from your room that first time, I knew we would get along just fine. And we did. Probably too well! LOL You kept me sane and on level ground. Whenever I was about to go off the deep end, or think to much of myself, you were quick to pull me back down with your sensible, practical way of looking at things. I LOVED that about you! I miss having you next door to me, poking your head in my room, commenting on my latest organizational anal-ness. Miss and love you bunches!
  • International Academy of Suriname. Without a doubt, I know God has placed me here. I love my precious students and the staff here. 
  • Books.  Yes, I am thankful for books. I love to read. Lately, I have done a lot of reading. It is a safe way to escape the loneliness that sometimes assaults me in the evenings. 
  • Hardships. Yes, you read that right. I am thankful for the hard times, the lonely times, the sad times. For it is through these times that I am forged into the person God wants me to be. It is through these times that I hopefully shed some of my fleshy ugliness and am clothed in His righteousness. It is in these times that I more clearly see the hand of God moving. The hard times make the good times even sweeter.
  • Family. I have family in different states. I am thankful for all of my aunts, uncles, cousins, niece and nephews. I think of you often.  Granny, I love you and miss you so very much. You are on my mind quite often. You will be one of the first people on my list to go see as soon as my feet hit American soil in June. 
  • Friends. I am thankful for the friends the Lord has put in my life. I miss the ones stateside. But he is forming new friendships here in Suriname, and for those, I am very grateful. :)
  • My students. I love these sweet little lambs. I have 15 precious first graders. I enjoy teaching them. They are a bright spot in my life. 
Praying you all have a great day. Eat a lot of yummy food, and hug your loved ones tight.  And don't forget to thank the One who makes it all possible.
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever, his faithfulness continues through all generations."  Psalms 100:4-5

Monday, November 25, 2013

Ants, driving, beauty and the Kingdom

November is almost over. How in the world did that happen? I know people say this all the time, but there is truth in this statement: time is passing way to quickly. In just 3 weeks, it will be time for our Christmas break.  I will not be able to go home for Christmas and it was nearly my undoing only because I've been a bit homesick lately. However, as sad as I am over this, it will be fine. I will survive. There must be a reason, so I will take comfort in that. Silver lining: it will be very quiet in the house and I will have a lot of time to read.

Just a few things to mull over since my last update.  First, Ants. Yes ants. If I never ever see another ant in my life, I will be a happy girl. There seem to be an overabundance of ants here in Suriname. They are everywhere and in everything. BUT, with that said, I'd MUCH rather have an ant problem than a roach or spider problem. They say things grow bigger in the tropics, and I think I may agree. I have seen some pretty big roaches and spiders. Thankfully, not in my house. Just ants in the house. So, I think I can live with that. Although, I will still reserve the right to be highly annoyed at them. ;-)

Next, driving. They drive on the opposite side of the road here. It has taken some getting use to. I really don't like driving. But sometimes I just have to. When turning, I still have to remind my self, "stay left, stay left."  I was out and about on Saturday and almost turned the wrong way into on coming traffic. Oi Vey. Even when walking, I forget about the opposite lane thing and sometimes look in the wrong direction before stepping out. I almost got hit a few weeks ago because I was looking the wrong way first and almost stepped in front of an oncoming car.

It is the little things in life. Like the beautiful Suriname sunrises.  Captured this beauty one morning as I walked to school. 

Walked out my back door one evening, and saw the beautiful full moon beginning its rise in the sky. 

Suriname sunset. This is just one of many beautiful sunsets I have witnessed since living here. 

Saturday night, the International Academy staff had an American Thanksgiving. 
There was a lot of GOOD food, fellowship and laughs. I don't know about the others, but I know I ate way too much food. I was miserable once I got home and tried to sleep. Heartburn is not fun. But it was worth it! 

And last, the Kingdom.  I am still in awe that I am in another country.  Sometimes, when I am out and about and see the different people and hear the different languages, I just start grinning like an idiot. I just LOVE it. I love watching people and listening to them, even though I don't understand what they are saying. Which in some cases, is probably a good thing!   Sunday night, I went with a friend to an Assembly of God church here in Paramaribo. They had a praise and worship service that was led by a team from Trinidad. It was really a neat experience. At one point in the service, I started looking around at the congregation. Most were praising, some were swaying. I thought, this is what it will be like in heaven. It won't just be white people, or black people or just in English. It will be people from ALL nations and ALL languages together praising God.  I think that is why I love teaching at IAS so much. I have children from 8 different countries in my class. I literally have the nations in my room. Some days it makes me weep. I love them so much and am so very thankful that God is allowing me to minister to these precious ones. The Kingdom of God is here. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Update and Random Thoughts

It is hard to believe that I have been living on another continent for almost 3 1/2 months!  Sometimes, when I am walking down the street, I shake my head in amazement to think I am walking on non USA ground. Things are going well and I am adjusting to life in a foreign land. Here are some random thoughts for you about my time here so far.

  • ketchup & mayo:  when you order french fries here, they give you both ketchup & mayo to dip your fries in. At first I was grossed out. Then one day, I was like, "what the heck". I am now a fan of the dynamic duo. When in Rome... and all. 
  • rain, rain go away.  We are in the small rainy season now. It rains almost daily. I don't mean a light drizzle. But what my granny use to call a "frog strangler".  The only good thing about the rain is the temperature is a wee bit cooler. Still in the 80's, but not nearly as hot as the previous months. 
  • men peeing.  Yes, you read that right. It is quite common to see a man urinating on the side of road, next to a building, in a ditch, etc. I have learned that when I see a man standing still with his hands in front of him to NOT look. Oi Vey. 
  • time change.  In the states, time fell back one hour. Not so here. So now, there I am 2 hours ahead of my Georgia & Florida people and 3 hours ahead of my Alabama people. Makes talking to my baby-bear more of a challenge.
  • stores. On nearly every street corner, well, it seems that way, is a Chinese store. It is a small store, much like a convenience store in the states, owned (usually) by Chinese people. Everyone around here calls them Chinese stores or China shop. They sell everything from milk to shower curtains. There is a smaller one around the corner from my house. I had my first harassment incident there a few days ago. A man that I passed on the road turned around and followed me in to the store. I did not realize it until he was right next to me. He started saying how he liked white skinned women, I was pretty, etc, etc, I am just trying to figure out how to get away from him. He starts saying some ugly things and making an ugly gesture. I am praying for a way out. And I say the only thing that comes to mind, "I follow Jesus, I don't do those things."  hahaha. yup. That was all I could come up with. He finally turned around and left. 
  • Typical school day.  My day usually starts at 5:15 am. I try to be out the door and on my way to school by 6:05.  Teachers have to be there by 7 and school starts at 7:30.  Children leave at 2:00 and teachers stay until 2:30. However, you know teachers, we never leave on time. Most of us hang around longer. Most days I do try to leave at 3:00. But Wednesdays I stay later because I help with the after school Bible club.  When I get home, I usually just rest by either reading a book, or watching something on Netflix. Most nights I am asleep by 9pm.  What a boring life I lead. But I like it. It suits this introvert just fine. 
  • Restaurants.  Not a lot of variety. I don't eat out very often. I have eaten at a few Chinese places. Of course I found McDonald's and Popeye's. Funny because I rarely eat at McD's in the states. But here in Suriname, they have spicy fried chicken. And it is very good. That is my go to place. :) I finally ate at Popeye's a few weeks ago. It was really good. They also have a Pizza Hut here.
  • Doctor's offices.  Going to the doctor here is definitely different then the states. First, there are no appointments. You just show up, take a number and wait. Their hours are typically 7 or 8 am until 11, then from 5 to 7pm.  When it is your turn, you go in to the doctor's office. NOT an exam room. They do not take your temperature, blood pressure or weight. Nothing. They do not take a medical history. You tell them what is wrong and then they write a prescription or lab orders. In my case, it was lab orders to have my thyroid levels checked. She did not touch me. Did not exam my neck for a goiter, did not listen to my heart beat or my breathing. So very different.  On the upside, because of the insurance I have, I did not have to pay anything out of pocket at the doctor's or the lab. :) Silver lining. 
  • HEAT. Have I mentioned the heat yet? Oh. My. Word. I just thought south Georgia was hot. I have never sweated so much in my life! It doesn't take much to break a sweat here. Just walking across the room will cause a massive down pour. I have got to find me heavy duty deodorant when I come state side. (yes, I went there.)
Well, there you have it. My random thoughts on Suriname.  Please keep me in your prayers. I have the nations right in my classroom. And it is my desire these precious little ones and their parents see the love of Christ in me.   Also, I would love to be able to come home for Christmas break. However, funds are a bit tight and the round trip flight a little more than I had anticipated. Please be in prayer that IF it is God's will I come home for a break, that He will provide.  Miss you all very much!  Enjoy those cooler temperatures you are now getting. :-)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Poem for the birthday girl

A very happy birthday to my baby-bear, Shelby. 22 years old today! I love you to the moon and back. Wish I could be with you.  Here is a little poem I wrote for you. :-) Love you much, Shelby!

Ten fingers, ten toes.
Blue eyes and a cute nose.

Squirming, screaming,
Your papa beaming.

Midnight cries and feedings,
First steps and your mama pleading
for sleep, precious sleep.

School days,
Your sassy ways,

Feeling brave,
And misbehaves.

Leads to timeouts
And your shouts
As mama does some spanking.

Missing teeth, braces, and makeup,
All too soon, my baby is growing up.

Friends and School dances,
Not always studying, & sometimes taking chances,

What ever you did and where ever you went,
God usually gave your mama a hint,
Kept you honest and safe.

Graduation came all too soon,
Mama cried her usual tune,
Baby is growing up.

On your own,
Working and a home.

Paying bills, cooking and cleaning,
No longer on mama are you leaning.

No more a baby
But a beautiful young lady.

Happy Birthday my sweet girl.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Missing home


For the most part, I have not been homesick. But every once in a while I get a deep ache for home. Mainly for my daughter, Shelby. I actually have no home to go back to. I gave it up when I knew I would be leaving the country. Shelby moved to a different state 2 months before I left. So even when I go back to the states, I won't be staying in my home city. I will visit, but will spend most of my time in Shelby's home. Shelby's home. I can't believe I just typed those words. My baby is grown. She is no longer a baby. She has outgrown my lap years ago. It is hard to believe that 22 years ago I was eagerly awaiting her due date. But in Shelby fashion, she was a day late. Tuesday is her birthday. This will be the first birthday  I have missed. And it is making this mama's heart hurt. She is in good hands. My sweet friend whom I've known since college lives in the same city as Shelby. I refer to her as my babymama. :-)  I know Shelby is being looked after, whether she wants it or not. lol.

Looking back on the last 22 years, I can honestly say I wouldn't have done it differently. Having a child outside of marriage was definitely not a good decision, but the things she and I have gone through have helped to shape the person I am now. I cant imagine my life without her. Things have not been perfect. She didn't have everything I wanted her to have. But we never starved, always had a roof over our head and clothes on our backs. There were days I cried out to God in desperation for help raising her. My constant prayer for her was that she would know the love of her heavenly Father and that He would fill the void in her life caused by not having an earthly father.  I was not the perfect mother. I made my share of mistakes. It is my hope that she knows she was loved, wanted, and cherished. From the moment she entered the world, I have loved her and been thankful to be her mama. She has made me proud. Despite some minor learning challenges, she made it through school. The day she graduated was a moment I will never forget. She is now a certified nursing assistant and I couldn't be prouder. She is working hard and living on her own.

Who knew that we would one day be living on different continents? Life is funny that way. As much as I miss her, I wouldn't have it any other way. I know I am where God wants me. Just as she is where God wants her. So, as her birthday approaches, instead of being sad that we are separated, I will choose to rejoice that she is doing well, and that He is watching out for her during my absence. She is, after all, His. I know she is in good hands.

Friday, October 11, 2013


Family. This one word can stir up many feelings. Some good and some painful. Family is where one should feel safe, accepted and loved. In Psalm 68:6, it says, "God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land." (NIV)  
I have lived every part of this verse. I have been the rebellious one who thirst for the comforts of acceptance and love. And I have been the lonely who was placed in a loving family. I have been accepted, loved and very well cared for.   We have studied God's Word together, eaten together, cried together, laughed together and prayed together.  As I begin this new journey in my life, I will leave this family (geographically only) behind. My heart breaks as the day of my departure draws closer. Yes, we will stay in touch via email.  But it won't be the same. I will miss their physical presence. I will miss babysitting their precious girls. I will miss cooking for them. I will miss praying with them. I will miss just being with them. They accepted me and included me as part of their family and I will be forever thankful. 

The above paragraph was written in July. I never finished it. I left for Suriname, August 2, 2013. I have never in my life felt such peace. I can honestly say I am exactly where I am suppose to be. That certainly hasn't stopped my insecurities, but I have a deep settled peace knowing God has placed me here. I am having to constantly redirect my thoughts when they begin to travel down the road of "what have I done?" ;-)  NO regrets. However, the transition has not been without heartache. But through it all, I know God is with me and will guide me through this time in my life. 
I know those close connections will come. I am learning to lean on God and trust Him completely. He is my one constant here. When I begin to feel lonely and disconnected, I turn my thoughts and heart to Him.  He is my comfort. He is my calm when I feel like I am about to break. He is my breaker in the storm when I feel like I am about to go under. He is my family when I feel like I am alone.

This song, "Oceans" has become my heart cry here in Suriname. "I will call upon your name and keep my eyes above the waves. When oceans rise, my soul will rest in your embrace."  Resting in his arms.... doesn't get much better than that. :-)

Finally, a Suriname post! ;-)

 Ten weeks ago I arrived in Suriname. I am certain this is where I am suppose to be. However, there are just a few things I am starting to miss. Yes, I miss my daughter the most. But beyond that, the things I am missing are a bit surprising, if not strange.  I miss my former house. I was very blessed to live on a farm. My view was spectacular. Whenever I would turn down the lane after a long day of school, I would sigh with relief as I turned down the lane. Home was a place of peace, joy and solitude. I miss sitting on the porch watching the birds, squirrels and whatever else would stroll by.   I miss my comfortable recliner and that old red couch.   That couch was the best napping couch ever!  I miss watching college football and cooking/eating hot wings every Saturday. I miss Valdosta in general. Traffic was nightmarish at times, but there is just something about that place I love. Maybe it is because I raised my "baby" there. But Valdosta will always have a special place in my heart. (The crazy drivers, not so much.)  I miss going to the store whenever I felt like it. I miss drive-thrus and late night Waffle House runs.

     With all that I may miss, one thing is for sure, if given a chance to choose again, I would STILL choose Suriname. I know this is where God wants me. I am in love with my students and with the people here.  The wildlife I see is different. Instead of squirrels scampering on the ground, I see Iguanas running around. I see different species of birds. Instead of Georgia pines and pecan trees, I see palm, coconut, and banana trees. No beautiful lane to drive down, but when I turn the corner and see my house at the end, I still sigh in relief. Mainly due to the fact that, by this point, I am hot and sweaty from the walk home. ;-)

     I am enjoying teaching the different nationalities that are represented in my class. I have children from Brazil, Guiana, Tanzania, Italy, Holland, South Africa, USA, and China. Afternoon dismissal is my favorite. NOT because the children are leaving (hahaha) but because of all the different languages I hear as parents and drivers come to pick up the children. The first week of school, it made me cry. All I could think was Jesus loves every single one of these people. And what a privilege I have to be here to minister to the different nations.

     I will try to be a little more diligent about updating my blog. I do post pictures on my facebook page. Look for the "Suriname Album" to view the pictures.   Your prayers are appreciated. Please pray for me and the students and faculty of IAS.  I do hope to come home for Christmas. That is still up in the air at this point. ( pun intended!)  Thanks so much for your prayers!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My Life Long Dream

Growing up the eldest of 3 children, I was often responsible for "looking after the boys" and helping out around the house. On occasion, I would be a bit rebellious and act out. Oh, ok, honestly, I was a brat, hung around an older, rougher crowd and was on the verge of being completely out of control. Just before my 12th birthday, my parents, I imagine out of exasperation and needing a break, sent me to a camp run by the Salvation Army. I had no idea what type of camp it was. I am not even sure they knew. But somehow, I ended up at a Christian camp. On the second night, after a campfire service, I surrendered my life to Christ. After a week, it was time to return home. I remember being worried about getting tangled up with the same group of kids. I prayed that the Lord would help me. I got home and my parents informed me we were moving in 3 days to a different state! The Lord was watching out for me. We moved to Savannah, Georgia. It was there I met an older lady who took me to church.  When I was almost 13, I very clearly remember standing in my living room praying and feeling a tug/call on my heart to be a missionary one day.

Fast forward to college. When I was 16 and praying about what career to choose, I felt impressed by the Lord to be a teacher. I was very excited. Once at college, the desire to be a missionary resurfaced and my two dreams merged: maybe I could be a missionary teacher. Then, senior year hit, I decided to do my own thing and ignore God. The end result: pregnant and unmarried. My dreams were shattered. My life a mess. I graduated college 4 1/2 months pregnant. I decided to keep my baby. I rededicated my life to Christ and raised my daughter. I got a job teaching pre-K, and after 5 years, was hired to teach at a Christian school. During this time, my dream to one day teach over seas sat in the back corner.

Later in my adult life, I found myself the care taker of my ailing father. Towards the end, I was not even able to go out of town, let alone out of the country, for fear he would die while I was gone. He died on September 11, 2012.(you can read about it here) 

In January, I decided to try to find a public school job so I could have insurance and a retirement plan. My dream of teaching overseas was long forgotten. As I began to fill out applications, the Lord begin stirring in me about teaching overseas. I looked up several mission organizations and filled out applications.  Funny thing is, as I was doing this, I honestly didn't expect a response. I thought I had missed my chance to see my dream come true.  But I received several emails and had a few interviews. After much prayer, and I do mean MUCH, :-), I felt the Lord leading me to accept the position at International Academy of Suriname in Paramaribo.  I am beyond excited. I resigned my position at HCA. I hope to leave for Suriname in late July.

Whatever your dream is, if God put it there, there is always hope. Yes, life, and even ourselves can get in the way, but if we submit ourselves to God, I believe He can redeem our hopes and dreams. It might not be what we originally thought, but in the end, it will be what He desires. And isn't that what we want? To do has He desires? :-)

Friday, February 8, 2013


If you were to ask me what my favorite season is, most of the time I would say Fall.  There is just something about the deep rich hues of Autumn colors that soothes my soul. Spring comes in a very close second. There is nothing more beautiful than new life after a winter void of color and depth. As I have walked through life, I have noticed that we also can experience seasons.  There are times when I feel fresh and alive and brimming with color. There are other times when I feel cold, lifeless and bare.  It is in those time that I find I need to cling to God the most.
     In September, I walked through one of the hardest things in my life: I had to bury my sweet father. Even though he had a myriad of health issues, and had been declining, his death still came as a shock. He had been in the hospital for over 2 weeks. While there, he had fallen 4 different times. They released him to a nursing home here in Valdosta for rehabilitation. The plan was for him to remain in the nursing home for 3 weeks. Then, I would move him back home with me. I already had plans to build a wheel chair ramp. Shelby and I drove to Gainesville to pick up his car because the VA was going to transport him by Van to the nursing home. We got there an hour after his scheduled departure time. But the van driver was running behind. Therefore, Shelby and I got to see him and hug him. I am so thankful the Lord worked that out. I didn't know it at the time, but that would be the last time I would hug him and kiss his cheek.
     The day he was released from the hospital, he died. We were in the hallway at the nursing home about to check him in. He had just fallen and we got him back on his scooter. He said he felt funny, then his head fell back and he just died. Right there in front of me, his life slipped away. I fell apart. I was not ready. It completely caught me off guard. It was just too soon. I wanted him at home with me.  I don't think I ever felt more alone and more devastated than I did sitting on that hallway floor while nursing home attendants scurried back and forth trying to get help for my daddy.  The next few days were a blur. I was numb. I know it was the prayers of my sweet friends, coworkers and family that got me through that week.
     As I've walked through these past few months, there are times the pain of his loss is so intense, I hurt.  But, I have learned during those times of intense suffering to cry out to God. It may sound silly to you, but I found when I do not know what else to do, I just praise Him. I thank Him for the things He has done. I praise Him for promising  to never leave me or forsake me. I thank Him for loving me with an "everlasting love".
     Dealing with daddy's death is not the only thing I've had to endure during this barren winter. We've had to deal with some financial hardships, loss of relationships and more. Then in January, my only child, Shelby, had a wreck. It totaled my nearly new car. Someone hit her, causing the car to flip. She was suspended upside down.  She walked away from that accident with only bruises from the seat belt. A miracle. The next day as I was looking at my totaled car, I can not explain the gratitude I felt that I was only looking at a broken car and not planning another funeral.
     Through all of these things I've had to walk through, the one thing I have learned to do is rest in God. See, that is where the winter comes in.  Winter is not a time of death, but a time of rest. Those barren trees may not look pretty on the outside, but on the inside, life is going on as usual. It is  just dormant. It is resting. It is preparing for a time of beauty and vibrancy. When it is time, those barren limbs and fields will begin to blossom and bloom.  So it is with this season of my life. Right now, I am resting. I am barren and lifeless on the outside. But on the inside, God is moving. He is preparing me for a season of beauty and blossoms. I can sense the work He is doing on the inside of me. And like those trees just before the first new shoots of green spring forth, I am waiting in expectation for the beauty God will rain down on my life.