September 30, 2009

Perfect Fall Day

Today was an absolutely gorgeous Fall day so I decided to take Sophie to the suburban dog park/forest preserve in Glendale Hts. I used to take Abby there when she was a puppy but haven't been back since and wow, was I was in for a treat! They have a path which I was told in a loop was 6 miles long surrounded by several ponds/lakes. I passed an area full of grasshoppers, a crane in the lake, many, many other dogs, birds and everything else you'd expect to find in the forest preserve. Sophie enjoyed every second of it. Running into the water every chance she could and sniffing every inch of the path. (and as far as she was allowed off the path!) At one point she even tried to eat the butterfly flying above her. Though I wasn't happy about that one, I had to smile. She was so excited!! I am going to bring her back when the leaves start to change, can't wait!
Her new friend, Wrigley.

Beautiful, peaceful crane

"Stephanie, you are too slow!!! Come on!!"

Right before she darted into the water again!

September 28, 2009

I Prayed Outloud!!

Another thing I realized I didn't share about -- last Monday at small group I finally prayed out loud!! I have had a fear or praying out loud but know it's something I need to get over if I ever want to lead a small group or mission trip (both of which I feel led to do in the next couple years) Jason and I pray before our meals, road trips and other times and I have prayed a few times in front of him but am still always nervous and cut it short. Last week our group split off into two groups to share prayer requests. After we shared our requests we were to pray for the person to our right. I've been in a small group before where this has come up and have had to pass before because I just couldn't do it. But last week I finally got up the courage and did it! I have been praying to be able to do this for such a long time and it felt so right! I was giddy the entire drive home! Then the next morning I went to my DuPage Willow Women's group (I joined this when I lost my job in an attempt to get plugged into suburban life) and our time ran very long. We had to do a quick closing prayer and if we had any prayer requests we were to say them during the closing prayer. I felt very led to share about my 2nd interview I had later in the day so I, again, prayed out loud...this time in front of about 15 women! Woo hoo!

Comment, Comment, Comment!!!

I just spent some time updating my profile and realized that the reason that the settings were not set properly to allow for comments from everyone. Please, please, if you are reading my blog comment every once in a while. I know all I say is probably not comment-worthy but if you have anything to say please let me know you're reading my blog. The reason it is public is so others can share in the excitement (said with slight sarcasm!) of this unemployment time so comment away please! Or if you don't want to comment on a particular post, at least comment on this one so I know you've been here:)

THANKS! :) Love to all!


Update: I ate all of the tomatoes from the post below! YUMMMMMMM

DMB 2009

I love seeing Dave Matthews perform live. I've always been a fan but seeing them perform live and jam out is such a thrill! One year I even drove out to Champaign and went to a show by myself just to see them play in Assembly Hall. Fortunately I outgrew that phase of my life, but still like to catch at least one show a year and look forward to it pretty much all year long! This year my options were Alpine (which I'd like to say I've outgrown too unless I can get a hotel room to stay in...LOL, call me an old lady) or the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater, which I cannot stand for too many reasons to list. But as I was searching for tickets I saw they were also playing in Des Moines, IA where Jason grew up and brother lives so I thought it would be fun to make a weekend out of it. We ended up getting tickets and left early afternoon on Friday (a perk I like to remind myself of with being unemployed) and headed out to Des Moines. The venue was really small and just had a home-like feeling to it. We had great seats and they played a great setlist! Already looking forward to next years show (but hoping it's back at Toyota Park! :)

Archetecture Tour

I'm a little late in getting this out but Jason and I had purchased a two-for-one ticket to the Wendella Architecture Tour a few months ago. (Jenee had sent a mass email about the offer through We had tried scheduling the tour a few times but it just kept getting pushed aside but the coupon expired in December and like we'd want to go on a boat tour when its cold! We finally made it last weekend and ran into Jenee and Will standing in line. Not completely random as they had purchased tickets too but totally random considering we had tried to go numerous times and had no idea they were coming into the city. The boat tour was so much fun! This was my second time and you always learn so many fun-facts about Chicago and the buildings, I could do it again and again. Plus it was a gorgeous day to be out on the river. My favorite tid-bit was learning that the Windy City got its name because of the long winded speeches after the Chicago Fire to promote the World Fair being hosted in Chicago. I always knew it wasn't called the Windy City because it's windy so I was glad to finally be able to remember why it got it's name. :) After the tour, we went for lunch at the Trump Towers Restaurant, Sixteen, and sat outside on the patio overlooking the city. (if we stood up) We ended up passing on lunch and ordered a drink as the prices were a bit steep! Being up there just made us feel like we were somebody important! The view was gorgeous and was a special treat on an already special day. Thanks Jenee for the suggestion of both the two-for-one and Sixteen!

September 23, 2009

Sonny Acres Trip

I went to Sonny Acres today to get myself in the Fall spirit. As many of my entries have said, I love home-grown tomatos. I tried to get to the Farmers Market as much as possible in August but never made it. Then I was in Mexico for a week and then was too sick to eat so I never got my August home-grown tomatos fix! I think I may have gone a bit overboard today?! HA!

September 21, 2009


If you're reading this blog you already know that I am unemployed, therefore living off my bi-weekly unemployment check which does a little less than pay the bills.

I generally don't even open the credit card junk mail but for some reason I decided to open all 5 pieces of my junk mail tonight. I couldn't even believe what I saw. A PINK credit card with my big initial on it!!

Honestly I think if I was to design my own personalized credit card with every imaginable design possible this would have been it!! I LOVE monogrammed stationary and note cards...whats better than a pink monogrammed credit card!? Seriously, what are the credit cards doing to us.? Have we not learned enough the past year that we're spending entirely way too much more than we are making?! The LAST thing I need is the temptation to open up a credit card right now. I am just appalled that these credit card companies are taking advantage of our financial situations right now. Way to try to get me when I'm down with your cute little monogrammed pink card. Though I wanted to keep it, if not to just look cute in my wallet, I know better and chose to cut it up. It was fun while it lasted.

September 20, 2009


I am very excited to share that Pearl Jam's new CD has been released!!! I think listening to my favorite bands new music is probably one of my favorite little things in life. (the pic is of the shelf at target where I bought it. HA!)

I said I would blog about the concert but I didn't have the time because it was the week I left for Mexico. The concert was great! Well worth the money (though it was a bit unfair that everyone paid the same price and we were higher than the nosebleed section while others were in front row) I'm hoping next time I'll luck out and be one of the people in the front row and those people will be in my seats. After having to miss them at Lolla (you'd think I'd be over being bitter about this by now?? ummm, nope.) I'd have thought I could have scored better tickets. Still an amazing night though and was glad I was even able to get tickets!!

song-of-the-day|"The Fixer"|by Pearl Jam (this is the only song I've really been able to listen to on the album since it was released a while I am sure there will be a better song that should be in it's place but I haven't had enough time to listen and evaluate the entire album yet! :)

My Boyfriend Needs a Garage!

I got to Jason's place earlier in the week and this is what I walked into.
(this is his living room)

He got the idea that we should make bean bag boards. He would design and construct them and I would be responsible for painting them. We were supposed to do this in my parents backyard but when he realized I wouldn't be able to do it this week because I had plans in the city he took it upon himself to start (and nearly complete) them the same day he came up with the idea.

It was one thing to see his living room like this but then I realized he was using his balcony to cut the wood. I seriously love this kid. What is hotter than a man who is good with tools (and is also techy!)?? If anyone needs a garage (and shed for his tools) it's Jason!

PS. these boards turned out great!! I'm slacking on finding the Cubs logo to paint on them them but I cannot wait to use them. Jason is so handy!

September 17, 2009

Baja, Mexico -- Part 2

So now that I've given the meat of my trip I will invite you into the last few days of my trip.

As you know, we got there safely and I caught on pretty quickly about our assignments and my role at the mission. I woke up and went to bed every night praying that I was there to serve God and was in the mindset of "Okay, I'm in Mexico instead of at home, of course God, you will use me to the the best of my ability...I'm already way out of my comfort zone, homesick, exhausted and everything else I may have been feeling each morning/evening. But after church on Wednesday night I went to bed journaling and praying a much different prayer. I realized that I was not really allowing God to use me where He wanted me. I was paired up with my awesome roomie, Michelle, most of the days and since she had already been to the mission in May she knew the ropes and who better to give me a taste of the mission than her? (plus I had a blast with her and really enjoyed getting to know her!) However, on Wednesday I realized I was going about this ALL wrong. I had talents that maybe Michelle didn't have and vise versa. Though Michelle enjoyed weeding and picking up trash (haha Michelle! Just joking... Love you!) God may have had a different plan for me and I had to allow for Him to show me. So Thursday morning I woke up early to shower and skipped out on breakfast and instead went to the Prayer Garden.

Prayer Garden -- where it all went down! :)

God had placed a little girl, Alondra, on my heart while journaling. I had no idea why God had brought her to mind, just that she was in a wheelchair and smiled all the time and basically I just wanted to hug her tightly and bring her home with me. (I only saw her for a quick second when we were getting a tour of the mission where Theresa was working with her) There I sat for over an hour praying and journaling and asking God to use me where He wanted me and I'd be up for anything...however dirty or sweaty or tired I would get. So a couple hours later I find myself raising my hand to work in the Daycare Home for the morning/afternoon where Alondra would be.

Theresa (from our group) working with shapes with Alondra. (look at her smile!!)

I was practically skipping with joy as I journeyed over to the Day Home. (quite a ways away from Sala where I had received my assignment.) I walked into the home and all of the children were out of their wheelchairs, seated in a circle on chairs and getting a lesson in Spanish. After about 10 minutes of me feeling pretty insecure in this room, one of the boys asked me my name (in English) and then welcomed me to their classroom (again in English) for the day. After being in Mexico for nearly 5 days and only hearing Spanish besides between our own American folks, this little gesture made me more comfortable than you could ever imagine. My first assignment was to take Javier on a bike ride. Javier, a 14 year old, has muscular dystrophy and his 2 brothers were getting physical therapy for the day so the teacher thought it would be perfect if I could take him out on the mission for his bike ride. His bike had 2 large wheels as training wheels, a slot for his feet to be strapped in and a steering while made specially for him to hold onto to steer. I was told that he would lead the way and that my only job was to push him along until I got too hot to stand it. So off we went. And oh my gosh,,,oh did we go! I didn't say in my last entry but the missions grounds were HUGE! And Javier had me pushing him across every square inch. Everyone knew Javier as we passed he'd shout, "!Hola!" and they'd respond back, "!Hola, Javier!" He'd point out the hoses with water by the macadamia trees, saying "Agua." and every other word was "!Wow!" While we were walking (sweat dripping down my face, neck, back, chest...because I was wearing jeans...I thought I was going to be sitting in the classroom all day! HA!) I saw this little gecko-like thing jet across the sand. I got all excited trying to show Javier but he was less than thrilled. I later learned that he is pretty much afraid of everything and wouldn't enjoy a gecko! oops! So after about 30 minutes of walking around the mission we finally came back to the classroom. The rest of the afternoon, I had the biggest smile on my face enjoying hearing about each child and their story. (and Alondra wasn't even there that day!) I thought the Day Home was children from the orphanage who just had disabilities but instead was children from the community who were bussed in by the orphanage and taught during the day and then bussed back home. All in all it was the most rewarding day of the entire week!

Javier on his bike. (too bad his eyes are closed in this picture!!)

I had no idea I had such a love for those children but since returning home and praying about it, I realized it's been there all along I just never put two and two together!

Since I've been back I've been researching schools and have narrowed it down and am applying to Northeastern Illinois University to hopefully start grad school in January for my Masters of Arts in Special Education!! The program consists of 45 credit hours, 2 internships, 16 weeks of student teaching and should take 2 1/2 - 3 years to complete.

Baja, Mexico -- Part 1

So I know I need to blog about my trip to Mexico and despite having nearly 2 weeks to gather my thoughts, I can't seem to figure out a way to write something that would even begin to capture even a day, let alone my week at the orphanage without this being 300 pages long!

So I will attempt walk through the week in this entry and then follow up with a small snippet of the last couple days in the next and leave the rest to my journal which I wrote while I was there.

I had been praying about going on a mission trip for well over a year and when I lost my job, I figured that was all part of God's plan to send me away for a few weeks to some third world country to help end world poverty or something huge like that. But that wasn't the case at all, and how glad I am that God knew more of what I could handle than I did!

Once I lost my job, I began searching numerous websites for a trip which I would be able to go on...everything from Willow Creek, to Park Community to my favorite church in Iowa, and even tried googling mission trips thinking I would just sign up and go with a group who was looking to do the same. I was starting to lose hope but decided to check Willow Creeks one last time and a new trip had been added...a trip to Vincente Guerrero, Mexico to Foundation for His Ministry, an orphanage 5 1/2 hours south of San Diego, CA. The trip was scheduled for exactly one month and 3 days from the day I started inquiring about it. My biggest obstacle would be to meet the financial obligations since I am obviously broke as a joke. I prayed about the trip and within a week I was being interviewed and was all set to begin soliciting for the $850 sponsorship. Within two weeks God more than provided the funding for the trip which allowed me to start worrying about other things. Some of those included:
  • I went to our first meeting and decided everyone was very different from me and how in the world would we all get along for an entire week?
  • I don't sleep well anywhere but my own bed (everyone knows I hate sleepovers, let alone in a room with many other people!)
  • I don't travel well on roadtrips with Jason, how was I going to travel with 10-15 other people in one van? (those same people who I was confident I had nothing in common with!)
  • My last worry was being gone for a whole week. Kinda strange that my parents provided me with many trips where I traveled for a week at a time to exotic places such as Mexico, Virgin Islands, Canada, California, Europe and just a million other places in the states but I still get homesick after being gone for more than 3 days.
But I spent a day fasting and many hours in the Bible and both Judy and Meredith gave me verses to reflect on leading up to and on my trip which were all a huge help!

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified, for I the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. -Joshua 1:9

Greater is He who is in your than he who is in the world. -1 John 4:4

God says Jesus will give you the strength you need. (from Judy)

Faithful is He who calls you who will also bring it to pass. -1 Thessalonians 5:24

Okay so fast forward through the worrying and sleepless nights leading up to it (complete with very ugly nightmares) and I'm at O'Hare meeting the group with all my stuff packed and ready to go. Flight to San Diego was fine, did some wandering around at Seaport Village in the afternoon, had dinner with the group in Old Town, had a good nights rest at the Hampton Inn and before I knew it, it was Sunday and we're all loaded up in the vans to head across the border and begin our mission. (Note: At this point, I feel like I've already been gone 4 days and am already feeling homesick.)

But after the 5 1/2 hour van ride, we made it to the orphanage!! The week basically consisted with getting up before 5:50 so you could shower (no showering allowed one hour before or one hour after any meal was prepared/served) and showers were to last no longer than 3 minutes. After showering there was about an hour to kill before heading to the cafeteria where you'd try to get as much food into your stomach before they started cleaning up. (I'm not were seated, prayed and finished eating within about 10 meal time was not the time to get to know your neighbor or hear what others were up to) After breakfast we killed another 30-50 minutes before Sala (translated to living room in espanol) where we had morning devotions, similar to a church service with worship music and a lesson...usually all in Spanish and translated to English or vise versa. After sala, we would get our morning assignments, ranging from a variety of things. Many days Michelle and I were out by the nut house attempting to weed the prickly weeds and getting bit/attacked by ants. Another day we were on garbage duty which involved collecting all the missions trash (including the kitchens festered with maggots, flies, ear wigs and other fun bugs. We then went to the city dump and well, literally dumped it there!)

(Other assignments included working in the medical offices cleaning or helping stock shelves, working in the theater which was being gutted -- such very dirty work, cracking macadamia nut shells in the nut house, cleaning the visitors center's (where we slept) bathrooms, mopping floors, working in the kitchen de-boning chicken, sorting clothes/blankets and shoes with the outreach center, preparing food in the soup kitchen, sewing in the sewing room, watching/teaching children in the day camp, work with the special needs children in the day home, weeding/planting in the prayer garden and just about any other imaginable work you can imagine at a working mission with about 10 different amazing missionaries besides the orphanage!)

There was a 15 minute break around 11:00 where the local folks would serve quasadillas and other cheese-filled yummy snacks. Then it was back to your morning assignment until lunch. Lunch was the same as breakfast...trying to beat your morning time of chowing down as much food as possible in fear of not liking dinner, which was always a very light meal. After lunch we either had another assignment or would head out to children evangelism. For child evangelism, 4-5 of us would hop in a van with a Spanish speaking teacher and head out to the village where children lived, caring for their younger siblings (all not attending school) while they're parents were at work for 12-14 hours a day. We would circle around the village in our van with a megaphone calling all the children to meet us for the afternoon bible study and project.

This. was. AMAZING.

The children were so loving and excited to be with us. Some had Bible verses memorized from the week before, eager to learn more. They all participated in the children's Bible songs which I, of course couldn't learn the words to...let alone the motions which went with them! After about an hour and half with them creating a project they could bring home, we would fill their cups (or 2 liter jugs for some) with milk and give them each a table spoon of peanut butter to help their little bones grow and nourish them properly.

After the afternoon assignment or child evangelism is dinner. Dinner was something small, generally soup but wasn't the time to expect a large meal but was expected to be consumed in 10 min or less. One day a week each of us would be on kitchen duty, which was comprised of setting the dinner tables, bringing out the food and drink and then cleaning up afterwards. (but the day I volunteered, there wasn't a chance to clean up because we had adult outreach.)

Which leads me ever so perfectly to...Adult Outreach which was on both Tuesday and Thursday evenings. For the purpose of this blog I will focus on the Thur night outreach. First, our outfits were ridiculous. To be respectful of their culture we wore long pants, with a skirt over it and then wore something over our heads to protect our hair from lice or other bugs. What we don't understand is no one in their culture wears those pretty outfits, secretly I think they all laugh at us when we leave! :) So Adult outreach we would play with the children (who would immediately run toward the vans as soon as we arrived!) They loved piggy back rides, jump rope, long hugs, being carried, any kind of conversations. (in espanol of course) and anything else you'd let them do. I was blessed both nights to be able to go to the homes and invite the parents to the pelicula (movie) We were showing a children's cartoon and then after the video would pray and do an alter call and offer up some time for prayer. I got to see into these homes where the families lived. No unpotty-trained children (that I saw) wore diapers or pants, the bed frames generally didn't have mattresses and if they did, they didn't have any sheets/blankets. But what amazed me most is that everyone was so welcoming and wanted to hear what we had to say. The smiles on these tired yet affectionate faces was real. There was so much love. During the movie on Thursday night, I had a little boy, Sergio, who asked very politely (in espanol) if he could sit on my lap. He was so gentle, loving and kind. Him and I chatted, exchanging names and other things that my extremely limited espanol allowed me to chat with him about. He had 2 sisters who were with him and the three of them were so sweet. As the movie went on and the children were getting sleepy, he kindly asked if he could rest his head in my lap. Through the movie he asked me a few questions, one I remember was if that was Moses' Mom. Me not really knowing the story of Moses I had to ask Rolanda who confirmed it was and let him know. I have been and will be praying for Sergio and his family every night. Honestly, I am at a lost for words when I try to explain what all happened that evening. It was moving and life-changing for me and I cannot begin to have the words to describe it.

Sergio, his 2 sisters and me

Another highlight of the trip for me was Tuesday morning 6 of us were able to deliver the shoes we had all collected and brought to the village. I was able to help the children and moms fit into their new shoes. The children knew exactly what they wanted. I thought they would want the shoes with the best colors or the shoes their parents couldn't afford...but these children didn't even want the sandals, they wanted the sturdy gym shoe with laces so they could run and play. It really put things into perspective for me.

Friday was the last day on the mission and we worked in the morning and then had the afternoon off. We started off at the very small local flea market and then went to the local beach and had a relaxing afternoon. There were perros y gatos everywhere along the beach and it broke my heart. Along the roads there were stray dogs every hundred yards just asking to be hit by cars. All were malnourished and dirty so not petting/loving them was really hard for me!!

As I said earlier, I was very homesick from the beginning. Everyone kept asking if I missed Jason or what it was that I missed but my best explanation was "home." I missed being able to check in and be home. This trip was the perfect amount of time for my first mission trip and the perfect setting for my first mission trip. The group I went with was very diverse, and we all brought our own gifts to the group and got along so well! I learned something from each person in the group and learned how well God can make each of us perfect for our own unique job. Something I have felt very led from the very beginning of the trip would be to lead a group from Willow Chicago to this same mission next year. Going as part of S. Barrington was very different than going with Willow Chicago. It's hard to explain why but the most obvious being that I attend Willow Chicago...not S. Barrington and our resources (not even mentioning our lack of pastor) is enough reasons alone to want to go with the Chicago church.

I also learned while on this trip that my next trip which I would not be leading would be to a third world country and possibly living with a host family and doing something more specialized. My heart has a lot more to give and believe God would better use my gifts in a different setting.

These are all things I am praying about and only God will know where to best use me in the coming years. This one week in Baja was one of the best spent weeks of my life and I am so thankful that I was provided the opportunity to go, the funding available from loved ones and the health to get me through the week.

September 16, 2009

Alive and Well

Well it's been on week and 4 days since I have been back from Vincente Guerrero, Mexico and I am finally well enough to update all on my life. As I just wrote, I am "Alive and Well" (taken from Kenny Chesney's song, "I'm Alive" -- featuring the one and only Dave Matthews) That just about sums up my life right now. Last week was something I hope to never feel again. Even though I went to the doctor I am still not sure what was wrong with me, just know that I had no appetite, high fever, couldn't keep anything inside of me, achy, and pretty much felt like death. Once I was finally feeling well enough, my body was so weak I was tired all the time. Just driving downtown or walking to the el felt like I had just run a marathon. Even last night I was whipped by 9:30 and slept for 12 hours straight! Last week gave me an appreciation for cancer patients and how they must feel all through their treatments. And the many other diseases and chronic illnesses. I am so happy and grateful to be healthy again! The little things I take for granted! Being healthy...something we should all never take for granted!

More to come on my trip...stay tuned!

song-of-the-day|"I'm Alive" |by Kenny Chesney with Dave Matthews