Monday, December 31, 2012

The Year Agos*: New Year's Eve

I wrote a post one year ago today describing my fall of 2011 and what would be the beginnings of my 2012. The post was short and sweet, seemingly because there was so much to fit in I couldn't possibly write about all of it. I wrote about OU games I had attended and different things that had happened with my schooling. About interviewing for a job, getting a job, and moving.

What I didn't write about, but probably should have, was the crazy mix of emotions fighting to overtake my poor heart. I was scared, hurting, excited, longing, anxious, and a whole host of other things. I ended my year of trust to begin my year of patience, knowing exactly what the new year would look like.

I would move to Tulsa, struggle to make friends, be taught lots of lessons in patience in my classroom and personal life, and long for the husband that wouldn't come for many years. I would rely on God while becoming a fully independent woman who would have to be patient waiting for her life to start. That was a year ago.

But today I sit writing this post looking at a diamond ring on my finger. I am sitting in a house with 2 roommates after celebrating life with an abundance of wonderful friends. I frequently have control over my classroom and am out living life.

Bottom line? 
I was wrong.

A year ago today, I had no idea what would happen to me. But my God did. He taught me to have patience in conversations, to actually wait for another person to speak and listen to them when they did. He taught me to be independent in a way that allows me to be dependent on Him and the beautiful people He has put in my life. He taught me to love myself regardless of who or what was in my life.

2012 has absolutely been the best year of my life. From start to finish. But a year ago today, I was preparing for the worst.

Good thing I'm often wrong and God is always right.

*This post begins a series of posts I will be doing entitled "The Year Agos." Specifically, I would like to walk through last January and February looking at how intimately God was working in my life to bring me to my future husband. Feel free to read along as I recount this tale for my future children and family to look back on to see the legacy of love God is building for them.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Is it March 16th Yet???" or "The Reason I Finally Cracked and Joined a Gym"

I love Adam. I can't wait to marry him. But I could definitely do without wedding planning. It's even driven me to this:

 Yep. You're seeing that correctly. I've joined a gym. And I don't think it will be long before I'm addicted.

One hour of no mention of dresses or colors or flowers or venues or photographers or cakes or anything that starts with a "w."

I could definitely get used to that.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Man of My Dreams

I got ready for my Friday night double-date with more anticipation and giddiness than would be considered normal for a double-date. But I had my suspicions. Could this be the night? Was I about to be asked one of the most important questions of my life? 

My excitement turned into confusion as a text from my best friend informed me she would be at a rehearsal dinner that evening. Wouldn't she be coming to Tulsa if this was the exciting night I dreamed it would be? 

My confusion grew as I arrived at the restaurant and half of the other couple was already there, waiting for the food she had already ordered for us all. After all, we did have to get to the movie (which I really had no desire to see) at 7:15. Both of our boyfriends were running late. As the minutes crept by, my appetite crept away. I didn't want to be disappointed - I was still on a date.

But then two people walked around the corner to sit at our table. Two people I was not expecting. Two people who had shared so much in my journey. As the two people, including my best friend (who had so conveniently lied), sat at our table I became speechless. 

I knew the time was here. I was about to start the journey I had been waiting for my whole life.

We quickly ate dinner before I was whisked away on my treasure hunt. Kaylee had given me the first piece of my map and my first clue and task. So off we went to Starbucks to buy a hot chocolate.
And then to the place I first met Adam. Waiting for me there was one of my dear, dear friends who had introduced me to that man the first time. A night I don't really remember due to the fatigue of my first day of school. As I hugged my dear friend, I thought back on all of those first months.
 Our first date.
 Our first months together.
 Getting to know how goofy he really was.
 Falling in love with a hard-working man.
Learning each other from the very beginning. 

Coming back to the present where I was experiencing the most romantic night of my life, I read the clue in that first exact spot I spoke with the future love of my life. And then off we went to the place of our first date. As we drove I remembered that night and how nervous we both were at the beginning. But how we decided to just have fun. Boy, did we have fun! We laughed and joked, flirted and told stories. We played Guitar Hero and he learned just how competitive I was.

At our next stop, I was presented with 3 men who have walked with Adam in his journey.
Can we just take a moment to notice the crazy amount of gold and maroon? One word: Delta.
Which made me start to think about the beginning and the way we each wove the other into our already full lives.
 Going to concerts with friends.
 Heading to political something or others. 
(I'm not really into the whole political thing.)
 Changing preconcieved ideas for the man my heart adored.
 Introducing best friends who allowed me to gush day in and day out.
 Making new friends and doing new things.
Being goofy while saying goodbye (and starting 2 of the absolute hardest weeks of this year). 

Bringing my mind back again, I headed off to a bookstore where Adam once so lovingly waited while I searched through hundreds of octavos. Upon arriving at the store, I was panicky. It was closed!! I wasn't going to get my clue! What was I supposed to do?!?

Then two people so dear to my heart stepped around the corner.
These roommates who shared all of college with me. Who held me while I cried wondering if a love story would ever happen to me. Who I watched say yes to their husbands while I cried tears of joy from them. They handed me the last clue which said I had to walk the last few paces alone.

This was it. He would be waiting for me there.

The tears started in the car and probably didn't stop the rest of the night. I thought about everything we had shared the past 8 1/2 months.
 Adam walking me all the way through the hardest training of my life.
 Falling in love with his family.

 Waking up at 5:00 AM to get breakfast on my birthday.
 Learning the other's reactions and feelings.
 Finding precious baby animals.
 Surprising him on his birthday.
 More family love. (I mean, really, aren't they just beautiful?)
 Celebrating 6 months together.
 Football games.
 Ice cream.

I arrived at the "X-marks-the-spot" to candles, roses, and romantic music. Walking the path, I discovered a treasure chest filled with gold coins. But, more precious than that, were the memories written on the coins. Treasures he had gathered from our precious time together.

After reading the beautiful letter he had left, I turned to face the man of my dreams. As tears filled our eyes, we were rendered speechless by the momentous occasion. Eventually there was nothing else to say or see and he knelt on one knee asking me the easiest question I've ever heard. I said yes and held out my hand waiting for that sparkly ring. We held each other as Jimmy Needham played. He sang in my ear.

We went back inside to squeal with all the friends waiting there. Ok, I squealed. He... talked? I was a little consumed with the squealing.

Riding back to my house, we swapped our different stories of the night. I called one of my best friends but had to hang up when I saw my parents car in the driveway. We walked into a house filled with our friends and family.

When I was little, I played wedding all the time, putting the armrest cover over my head as a veil. But, unlike many little girls, I didn't dream of how my wedding would look. I spent my time dreaming of the man I would marry.

I wanted him to be strong, funny, goofy, loving, hard-working, caring, and so much more. There was a time, especially in college, when I was convinced that man would never happen for me, but I am so glad I was wrong.

I am engaged to marry the man of my dreams. The man my parents have been praying for all these years. The man who makes my heart flip when he walks in the room. The man who loves God and loves me. The man who is going to share the rest of my life.
I. Can't. Wait.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Being a Teacher is Hard

And there is no way around that.

I feel like I hear stories all the time that end with the teacher saving some student's life or being the mother figure in the kid's life or changing the world with her music.

Let me clarify:

Yes. That happens. It's possible it has even happened already in my classroom. But, at least right now, at least for me, that is not the norm.

The norm looks more like this:

I walk into my school at 7:03 AM and already have 4 girls waiting outside my door for rehearsal. Early morning, no water, middle school girl rehearsal. Voices are whining and screeching and complaining rehearsal. Eyes are heavy rehearsal. Spirits are weary from the early hour rehearsal.

We sing through all our audition pieces and it is no surprise that only 1 of now 6 students has practiced since last week. I struggle through the songs with them, teaching notes I've taught at least a dozen times.

7:50 hits as the bell rings to go to class. I frantically head to the copier to make copies. Even though I was there until 5:00 PM the day before, I forgot to make copies. Again.

Copies in hand, I return to my first hour chaos. And chaos is usually the most appropriate choice of words.

I struggle, laugh, cry, sing, yell, and talk my way through 6 hours of classes. Six different times I let myself get frustrated. Six times I listen as my choirs and classes aren't quite where I want them. Some days it is six different times I lose control.

7th Hour comes and I welcome the silence that is Planning Period... until I look at the massive to-do list on the never-ending sticky on my laptop. 

And the reality is - I never get it done.
I never finish everything on my to-do list.
I always forget one so very important item.
I always feel a little more behind each day.

There is always something else. There is always an extracurricular activity I have to attend. Or a concert for which I need to prep. Or a fundraiser I need to count.

And when it all boils down this chilly Fall Break - I am tired. 

I am tired of to-do lists. Tired of the feeling of inadequacy that haunts me. Tired of the forgotten things sneaking up on me, making my stomach hurt.

Yes. Being a teacher is hard. But, using one of the most valuable tools I gained from my Pathways training, it is only hard. It's not too hard (although many days it seems that way). It's just hard.

And I can do hard.

So Monday I will walk into my school at 7:03 to the weary faces of middle school girls forced to wake up before 7:00 AM. I will have an all-day rehearsal on Monday, a concert on Tuesday, a fundraising delivery on Wednesday, and an all-day audition process on Saturday. I will be tired. I will feel inadequate.

But I will rest in the fact that my identity is not in the things I do and don't do at school. I am a strong, beautiful, confident woman who can make my own decisions because that's how God made me.

I will rest in the I AM who made my "I am" part of His story.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Photo Scavenger Hunt*: October 2012

*Taken from Diva Girl Parties and Stuff

Looking for something fun to do with your family and friends?? For the next week, I'd like to invite you to participate in the first annual October Photo Scavenger Hunt!! The rules are simple and there are prizes involved.

1. Have fun!! 
2. Compile a team (as few as 2, as many as 1,000).
3. Complete as many items as possible on the following Photo Scavenger Hunt list.
4. Make a Facebook album of all your photos, labeling each with the number from the list.
5. Comment on this post that you are participating, providing a link to your Facebook album.
6. There will be (really awesome) prizes for:
  • Most pictures taken
  • Most creative pictures
  • Best photography

Albums will be judged next Friday, October 19, after 10:00 PM. Happy Hunting!!

Photo scavenger hunt list...
  • 1. Take a picture of an unhappy child
  • 2. Take a picture of a team member on a kiddie toy
  • 3. Take a picture of a team member in six inch heels
  • 4. Take a picture of a team members next to the tallest person you can find
  • 5. Take a picture of an undressed mannequin
  • 6. Take a picture of a made over team member
  • 7. Take a picture of the most outrageous hat you can find
  • 8. Take a picture of a team member in a leather jacket
  • 9. Take a picture of an antique rocking chair
  • 10 Take a picture of a leather couch
  • 11. Take a picture of a gothic chandelier
  • 12. Take a picture of a live animal with a team member
  • 13. Take a picture of a team member with a security guard
  • 14. Take a picture of a sentimental coffee mug
  • 15. Take a picture of an unpopular logo
  • 16. Take a picture of a team members twin (must be a stranger)
  • 17. Take a picture of a pregnant woman
  • 18. Take a picture of a team member wearing crazy sunglasses
  • 19. Take a picture of a $75.00 tie
  • 20. Take a picture of a trendy lantern
  • 21. Take a picture of a man or woman that looks like a team members parent(s) or grandparent(s)
  • 22. Take a picture of a job application
  • 23. Take a picture of a business card
  • 24. Take a picture of a team member using an iPad
  • 25. Take a picture of a team member wearing a feather boa
  • 26. Take a picture of a blue rose
  • 27. Take a picture of a soccer ball
  • 28. Take a picture of the entire team (except for the person taking the picture) against a blank wall
  • 29. Take a picture of a dart board
  • 30. Take a picture of a blue sequin pillow
  • 31. Take a picture of an empty dressing room
  • 32. Take a picture of an interesting painting
  • 33. Take a picture of a team member planking/owling somewhere unusual
  • 34. Take a picture of a team member with an angry store manager
  • 35. Take a picture of a team member wearing a (Halloween) costume that is either too mature or too childish
  • 36. Take picture of a team member with someone on another team
  • 37. Take a picture of all of the team members sharing a fall drink
  • 38. Take a picture of a stranger's eye
  • 39. Take a picture of a stranger yawning
  • 40. Take a picture of a snowman
  • 41. Take a picture of something tacky
  • 42. Take a picture of the mountains
  • 43. Take a picture of a team member with food on their face
  • 44. Take a picture of a team member slow dancing with a stranger
  • 45. Take a picture of a board game none of the team members have ever played before
  • 46. Take a picture of a grandfather clock
  • 47. Take picture of a trophy
  • 48. Take a picture of fake eyelashes
  • 49. Take a picture of a yellow couch
  • 50. Take a picture of a foreign food or product
  • 51. Take a picture of a penny from 1990
  • 52. Take a picture of a coffee bean
  • 53. Take a picture of the most expensive perfume bottle's price tag
  • 54. Take a picture of a team member chewing six pieces of gum
  • 55. Take a picture of a team member wearing a jersey
  • 56. Take a picture of a team member with someone who is at least 6 foot 5 (cannot be a team member)
  • 57. Take a picture of a 20 dollar bill
  • 58. Take a picture of a moon
  • 59. Take a picture with an employee with the same name as a team member
  • 60. Take a funny group photo

Friday, September 28, 2012

Sweeping Up the Shards

I knew the glass was going to hit the tile floor long before it did.
It moved almost as if in slow motion.

I had finally decided to do the dishes because, let's face it, I only decide to do them if things are growing. (Ok, ok. It's not that bad, but I really really hate doing the dishes.)
Because there were so many, I had to wash a few glasses and put them in the dish rack. Those things are made to hold glasses, right? They even have the little pokey things on the outside to put extra glasses to dry! Perfect.

I had almost lost this particular glass already on this day. Counter space was hard to come by in my little apartment kitchen, and the glass apparently did not enjoy being placed so precariously on top of other glasses, bowls, and pans right beside my fridge.

I caught it then before it hit the ground.
The second time I wasn't so quick.

I turned around from the pantry and watched it slide
off the dish rack handle ever so slowly.
That heavy glass was no match for the
flimsy plastic of my lovely red dish rack.
There was no use in reaching my hand out to even try to catch it. All I could do was jump back to protect myself from the shards of glass about to take over my tiny kitchen floor.

I sighed and reached for the broom.
At least I wasn't attached to this set of hand-me-down glasses.
I began to sweep up the bits of glass, light reflecting off each piece.

I was impatient, though. Ready to get back to the one chore I hate the most just so it could be over. As I bent down to grab my dust pan, I noticed a small twinkling of light. And then another.

Tiny little shards I had missed with my broom.

Sighing again, I did a more thorough sweep. I was barefoot, after all. I didn't want this to end in injury.

Far too often than not, the first sweep through is
exactly how I handle my relationships. 

A glass breaks. A harsh word is spoken.
A friend leaves. A request is ignored.

As I watch something fragile in my life break into many pieces, I grab the broom to sweep it all away. I have the one conversation. I reach out for a little while. I let them hear part of my heart.

But then I walk away, leaving tiny shards of glass all over the kitchen floor of my friendship.

When it comes right down to it, I don't care enough about myself, the friendship, or the other person to get down on the floor and make sure I get every last piece of glass. I get scared so I just leave it. Good enough, right?

Fast forward six months. Or a year. Or two years. Walking barefoot through the kitchen of my friendship, I step on a forgotten shard. Just because the big pieces were removed doesn't make the little pieces hurt any less. In fact, the surprise of those little, forgotten pieces possibly hurts more than those huge pieces I discarded immediately. After time and time again of stepping on the small pieces, I stop walking barefoot and start carrying a broom with me, lugging it around into every friendship as a constant reminder that no floor can be trusted.

But what would happen if I was thorough? What would happen if I swept everything away the first try? If I had those hard conversations letting my friends know they had hurt me or apologizing because I know I hurt them? If I consistently reached out to a distant friend, not letting distance litter my floor with bigger and bigger pieces of glass?

I think it's possible I could be barefoot again. I could feel comfortable without a broom in my hand for every relationship.

As I was thinking about writing this post this morning, I realized one of the most tragic things about this scenario: I do this with God. 

I hide my frustrations, my anxieties, my hurts from the Creator of my soul because I'm too lazy to get on my hands and knees to sweep up the shards that are piercing my heart and life. And for what gain? A few more minutes on Facebook? More time napping so I can ignore my problems?

Two days ago I cautiously entered the kitchen created for my God and I, broom in hand. I wearily looked around because it had been too long since I'd been gone. Who knew how many pieces of glass were waiting to cut my tender feet? 

But I decided it has been long enough. So for now I'm carrying my broom and sweeping up each tiny shard so that in the future I can put my broom down and enjoy a nice dance party in my kitchen with my God.

What shards of glass have you left unnoticed in your friendships? 
With God?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Finding My Place

My name is Karissa and I don't have a place.

This has been my identity for so long. When my friends graduate before me, I don't have a place. And when I move to a new town, I don't have a place. When I'm not the best choir director, I don't have a place. And when I sit by myself in church, I don't have a place.

In my mind, there should be a small place carved out specifically for me everywhere I go. So what happens when there's not? Meltdowns in the form of shutting down and becoming defensive.

I didn't even realize I felt this way. Not until recently. But once I did realize it, my whole world was flipped upside down.

When I don't have a place - I don't matter.
When I don't matter - I panic.
When I panic - My world falls apart.

Dramatic much? Funny you should mention it. That's been the name of my game for so long.

Just stick with me.

I am a strong, beautiful, confident woman. I know this. Strong, beautiful, confident women don't need a specific place everywhere because they make their own place, right? So now that I know who I am, I won't ever feel like I don't have a place, right?

Oh, if it were that easy.

But it's not. Which brings me to this story.

I've also recently decided (thanks to a strange chain of events involving Arkansas, Patrick Mead, and some really fantastic people in my life) that I want to know Jesus.

But Karissa, you've been a Christian for so long? You mean you don't know Jesus?

Correct. More on that in the future. Just roll with it for now.

In wanting to know Jesus, I have started reading the Gospels more than I ever have before. They're fascinating. So yesterday in class at church, when my good friend Dave starts asking questions about Jesus' life, I was answering every single one. I've been immersed in the Gospels for a week. (And I'm a fast reader.) I knew the answers for which he was looking.

Except one.

Dave - "Jesus told his disciples he was going to do what?"
Karissa - "Prepare a room for them."
Dave - "Right. Prepare a place for them."

And class went on. That would have been it, because I didn't even really catch what Dave had said. He agreed with me! But God has placed an amazing man in my life who opens my eyes to truths I can't even see.

So while Dave was going on with class, this wonderful man sitting beside me acted on God's behalf.

He nudged me.
I turned to him.

Me - "I know I'm answering all of them because I've been reading the Gospels."
Him - "Did you hear that?"
Me - "Huh?"
Him - "He went to prepare a place for them."

Oh. My. Word.

A place. Jesus is preparing a place. I don't have appropriate words to express what happened to my heart in this moment. We both found the verse. (He on his iPhone, I in my old-fashioned concordance.)

I flipped to John 14:2
"In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you."
 My heart was overwhelmed, as were my tear-filled eyes. I quickly dug for a pen in my over-crowded purse and began to underline words that were soothing a wound I didn't think could ever be healed.

He's preparing a place for me.

I have a place.
I have a place. 

It's only been a day. And I still hear the words that I don't have a place. But now they're echoed by something else.

Me - "I don't have a place."
Jesus - "You are wrong, sweet girl. I'm preparing one for you."

How comforting that while I'm getting to know Jesus, He already knows me. And knows the words I so desperately need to hear.

Did I mention that John 14 was already
prepared for my reading last night?

My name is Karissa and I have a place. 

Jam-Packed Summer

It is July 23. Which means school starts exactly one month from today.
One month!!
My summer has flown by and I think I've pretty much forgotten what it means to be a teacher. At least I have a month to figure that out. 
In the meantime, a quick, 17-picture recap on my busy summer. 

I went camping with some lovely ladies.
 Watched this guy eat a 3 lb burrito. 
We do some exciting things in Tulsa, lemme tell ya.
 Made new friends.
 Went to some weddings with 
my best friend and my super hot boyfriend.

 Dominated some karaoke. (Let's just say, Usher was involved.)
 Started Pathways Core Training. A brief explanation. Pathways is a life-training program that gives you the tools to create the life you've always wanted. It allows and encourages you to look at internal barriers that have been holding you back. It then helps you break down those barriers while giving you the tools to create a great life. 
It's been the hardest, best thing I've ever done. 
More to come on it in later posts I'm sure.
 Hung out with some beautiful ladies from the boyfriend's family.
 Saw some fireworks with my man.
 Reunited with one of my best friends!
 Celebrated Fourth of July with my family. 
(Check out the cake. My mom's pretty cool, huh?)
 Celebrated this guy's birthday.
 Worked at a summer camp all summer long.
 Went to Arkansas.
 More specifically, Harding.
 And took a photography class.
I'm sure there is so much I'm leaving out. It's been a tremendous, busy summer filled to the brim with friends, family, and love. It's been a summer of learning so much about myself and the people around me. It's been a summer of change. 
But I don't think I'd have it any other way.