Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thankful, Part 5

The Qba Edition.

I took my first trip to Qba in March 2009, but I did not know then just how this trip would change my life. I have been on several of these kinds of trips in the past, and each one has been a really good experience, but I have never had one of these trips stay with me the way that my trip to Qba did.

I had never seen faith in action the way that I did that week that I was there. Their ministry faces tremendous opposition from the government, but they know what God has called them to do, so they persevere, and when they meet a setback, instead of despairing, they have faith that God has something even bigger and better for them. And God has blessed their faithfulness--they are literally changing their country for Christ.

When I came back from that first trip, I knew that I wanted faith like theirs. I even prayed that if God had to bring opposition into my life in order for me to have that faith, that He would bring it. Be careful what you pray for. :P I didn't know at the time that the next year and a half of my life would be a constant test of my faith. There were so many times that I cried out to God during this time wondering where He was and why He had abandoned me. I was completely overwhelmed by my fears and my insecurities; there were times that I even doubted God's love for me, and I certainly didn't think that He could use a mess like me.

I have been back to Qba two times since that first trip, and on my most recent trip, in the summer, God brought tremendous healing to my heart. I went back to my brothers and sisters completely broken. I felt that my faith had been tested and that I had failed. I had let God down. What I love about the Qbans is that they are so relational. There was a point on the trip that I was able to share with some of them what had been going on in my life over the last year, and it was so sweet to be able to receive their love and encouragement and to hear what God had been teaching them as well. Then, in a later conversation, one of my sweet brothers spoke some very kind words to me. He told me the gifts He could see that God had given me, and He told me that God could use and that He wanted to use those things in me. He challenged me to not waste the gifts and abilities that God had placed in my life. The words that he spoke to me were not things my friends hadn't been saying to me for months and months, but this was the first time I really believed them. For one, the words came from a man, and for women, there's just something different about encouragement that comes from a man. I think it was also good that the words came from someone who is not involved in my everyday life, someone who, aside from a couple of e-mails here and there, hadn't had contact with me for a year. And yet, he could still see these things in me.

For the rest of the time I was there, several people made comments about how much I smiled and would ask me why I was smiling so much. It was because for the first time in a long time, I was genuinely happy.

When I came back from my second trip to Qba (Summer 2009), I was frustrated with God. I couldn't understand why I was here when I only wanted to be there with them. But this time was different. I understood that, while I missed my precious brothers and sisters terribly, God has me here, and since then, I have been trying to translate the things He taught me in Qba to my life here.

It hasn't always been easy, and there are times that I still doubt, but I feel like I can finally have hope again. I am not entirely sure just what it is that God wants to do with me, but I can finally believe that He DOES love me and that He DOES want to do something with me.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thankful, Part 4

I am thankful for a family who loves me very much.

Since I moved away from home, my life has mostly revolved around my friends and "family" that I have established in Houston, and I tend to take my actual family for granted. However, sometimes it just takes a trip home to remind me how blessed I really am.

These are some of the many things I love about my family:
1. Grandparents who have a heart for missions and who have always encouraged me and supported me in any mission trip I have gone on
2. Parents who are unfailingly generous
3. A mom who is always willing to listen--I don't always want to talk to her about what is going on, but I know she will be there when I need her
4. A dad whose overprotective tendencies drive me crazy but that I know I would miss if they weren't there
5. A brother who shares and understands my sense of humor even when others in the family don't
6. A sister-in-law who makes efforts to make me feel like I am a part of her family
7. I love that my dad is still willing to play games with me when I come home even though I neither win nor lose graciously most of the time.
8. I love that they encourage me, both through words and example, to continually seek the Lord and remain steady in my faith even when things are difficult.
9. Examples of strong, Godly women (mom, grandma, aunts, cousins...)
10. Thanksgiving especially reminds me how thankful I am that I come from a long line of excellent cooks and bakers who have passed on at least some of that skill to me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful, Part 3

I'm thankful for my new job.

Without going into too much detail, last year was probably the hardest of all my years of teaching. I was not at my best, and I was either in tears or close to it every day on my way to work. God knew that I didn't need to be at that school any longer, but He also knew that I'm stubborn. He had to completely pull the rug out from underneath me in order to give me the courage to change.

Toward the end of the year, I asked to be transferred to a different school in the district and ended up teaching 7th-Grade ELA at a middle school this year. Teaching middle school has not been without its challenges, but I'm making more of an effort to meet those challenges head on rather than hiding from them or pretending they don't exist as had become my habit at my old school. Seventh-graders are squirrely and silly and have almost no filters, but there is something about them that makes me smile every day.

I'm excited (and, honestly, a little scared as well) to see just how God is going to continue to grow me this year.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thankful, Part 2

I was going to include these girls in my previous post but then decided to give them a post of their own. I am unbelievably thankful for the small group Bible studies I have been able to be a part of over the last year.

My old small group. I started meeting with these girls in the Spring of 2009 and stayed with them for a year-and-a-half. I had been in several small groups before this one but never experienced the depth that I did with these ladies. Every week, they challenged me to go deeper in my walk with the Lord. They also taught me about accountability (even when I was a stubborn student). I had prayed for accountability for a long time, and all I can say is, "Be careful what you pray for." These girls would not allow me to settle for being anything less than what God has called me to be.

My new small group. As I said in my previous post, the last year was really difficult, and as a result, I pulled away from all but a very small group of friends. Over the last few months, God has brought considerable healing to my heart, and He showed me that He has given me the ability to love and to encourage others and that squandering that ability would be disobedient. I realized that God was calling me to leave my old small group in order to begin a new one and start investing in other girls in the class. What a blessing He gave me with the girls He placed in my small group! I have so enjoyed getting to know these girls better over the last few months. I know that God brought us all together at the right time, and it has been such a privilege to be a part of their lives. I am excited to see what God will continue to do in each of our hearts.

Thankful, Part 1

(I meant to start this yesterday and have posts every day this week, so I'll just play catch up today.)

When I start making a list of all the things I am thankful for, one of the first places my mind always goes is to my amazing girlfriends. Throughout my life, God has been so faithful to provide incredible women that I have been able to share my life with, and I want to take a little time to spotlight some of them.

My Sidus Sisterhood. This is just a random sampling of my college girls. These were the first girls that really made me feel like I was part of a group. What I love so much about them is that even after eight years, we can still get together today, and it's like no time has passed. I laugh longer, louder, and harder with these girls than I do with anyone else.

My GGs. This was my first real group of girlfriends in Houston. It was hard coming from the close friends I had in college to a place where I didn't really know anyone, and for a while I kind of jumped from one group of friends to another. These girls were the first to give me the sense that I truly had a place where I belonged. They were the first ones to love even the unlovable parts of me while still encouraging and challenging me to grow in my walk with the Lord.

My Crew. The last year or so has been one of the most difficult times of my life, and these girls have walked every step of it with me. They have shown me unconditional love even when I felt I was completely unlovable; they have encouraged me when I needed to be lifted up; they have spoken difficult Truth when I needed a good butt-kicking; and they have laughed, rejoiced, and cried with me. I know that when I am with them, I can be completely real, without pretense.

My Paradigm girls. These ladies have been such an encouragement to me. It has been such a blessing to sit back and watch the way that God has moved in each one of their lives. I have been challenged in my faith by watching the way each one of them pursues her walk with the Lord.

It is amazing to me how God brings just the right people into my life at the exact time that I need them. I am so blessed to have each one of these girls in my life.

This made my day

The picture is a little hard to see (stupid old camera flip phone!), but I wanted to share my little joy for the day. I really like the kind words ("Ms. Ruddell is the BOMB!," "I'm thankful for Ms. Ruddell," and "I <3 Ms. Ruddell"), but I think my favorite part is the commentary at the bottom on the turkey's ultimate demise.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

SMH (the one example of "text-speak" I can actually get behind)

From the middle school files this week:

I was asked by a student if it was racist to say "Chinese food."

My students are currently working on propaganda projects. The following is an exchange I had with a student on one of their work days:
Student: Ms. Ruddell, what's Nike's slogan?
Me: Just do it.
Student: No, I need to know what Nike's slogan is.
Me: Just do it.
Student: No, I need you to tell me what Nike's slogan is.
Me: Are you messing with me?
Student: No. What's Nike's slogan?

We got an e-mail from our librarian today saying that she has chocolate bars for sale to benefit a club at another middle school in the district. The club sponsoring the fundraiser? The Health Club, of course.

On my desk, I have a small replica of The Colosseum that one of my students brought me back from Rome several years ago. A student picked it up and looked at it and said, "Is this supposed to be a waffle cone?"

(I can hardly wait to see what Friday brings.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010