more gifts

for the first post about this list of gifts, see this.

63. The mystery behind the wind

64. Hummingbirds

65. Dreams that come true. Literally.

66. The anticipation of an upcoming photo shoot.

67. Sitting in a pitch black apartment, blogging by the light of a computer screen.

68. Receiving a ‘Mother’s Day’ gift from a student who doesn’t have a mom. 

69. Being able to go to a grocery store and buy anything.

70. A warm, comfortable, furnished apartment to come home to at the end of the day.

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This week in pictures

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I have a photo shoot this Saturday- a family of 4 with one on the way! I am loving my new lens and can’t wait to see how the pictures turn out! Being able to get paid to do photography is almost as good as getting paid to teach… it seems like I should be doing it for free because I love it so much 🙂

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Artsy photo #1 of the week. Can you tell what it is?

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Artsy photo #2 of the week. Can you tell what it is?

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Believe it or not, this was a sunrise I drove into this week on my way to school. I absolutely love clouds that are scattered- they let lots of light through and create amazing photos… I will literally pull over on the side of the road to take pictures like this. If you know me, you know how much I LOVE sunrises and sunsets. I just usually am not up for early morning sunrises. But as a teacher, I see them every.single.day. And yes, I doubted the profession I chose when it hit me how often I’d see the sunrise 🙂

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On my way to good ol’ Trader Joes this past Sunday after church and this view caught my eye. BEAUTIFUL Danville night and I once again realized how darn lucky I am to be in the Bay Area. It truly is gorgeous.

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I don’t pride myself on this photo- in fact, I really don’t care for it. But, it is a reminder of my fun walk/run with Lynnie on Wednesday before Youth. Great conversation during our walk/run ended with an aerobics, dancing, moon-walking session in the parking lot of the church to some tunes blaring from my iPhone. This crazy dance sesh caused my hair to fall out of its bun- which then lead to me bragging about this massive mane I have. Lynnie was hardly jealous 🙂 She snapped a photo to capture the moment. Gosh, how I love cameras.

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And here we are tonight. Dinner is gone, the screen door is open, the wind is blowing while the sun sets, and I get to listen to birds chirping and the waterfall rushing. I love my apartment. I love nights like these. I love sitting by myself and getting to soak up all that surrounds me. My run today was much needed- I was in a terrible mood, stressed with the unknowns of my future job, housing, etc., and I was beating myself up about various stuff. At the end of my run I ended up, conveniently, at Whole Foods and bought some delicious food to make at home- and walked the rest of the way home. It’s amazing what time outside in the amazing California weather will do- what headphones, worship music, walking, and thinking can do for your mindset.

On my walk home from Whole Foods today, I was listening to a song that I have left on repeat many times throughout this past year in different circumstances because of how much it speaks to me. It’s the song “You Are I Am” by MercyMe. I have to be honest, they are not typically a band I love or listen to very often. But the more I listen to it, the more I sink into the lyrics, listening as it voices my true heart. The deepest parts of me have felt, muttered, and experiences these things.

“I’ve been the one to shake with fear, and wonder if you’re even here. I’ve been the one to doubt your love, I’ve told myself you’re not enough. I’ve been the one to try and say, ‘I’ll overcome by my own strength’. I’ve been the one to fall apart, and start to question who you are.”

This is where I think we find ourselves so many times if we are honest with ourselves. We fall apart and then question who God himself is. shake with fear and then wonder if God himself is near. I doubt God’s love and then tell myself that I am not enough. Funny how they never match up with God’s truths about us. The song goes on to then reveal that we don’t just have wrong theology so many times, but who God is and he powerful, gentle, and loving character.

“You’re the one who conquers giants, you’re the one who calls out kings, you shut the mouth of lions, you tell the dead to breathe. You’re the one who walks through fire, you take the orphans hand. You are the one Messiah, you are I am.”

What hit me today on my walk was this: God conquers the giants in my life. Not me. I walked around all day today trying to fight my own giants- trying to conquer my own struggles, trying to win my own battles, and while leaning on God, not realizing that he is there wanting to fight for me this entire time. He conquers the giants, not me. He fights my struggles for me, he steps in when I am too weak, and he never has asked me to do this on my own. He shuts the mouths of lions. He not only conquers my giants, but he protects me from situations that try to harm me. It doesn’t mean I don’t experience hard circumstances or situations- it just means that he protects me from ultimate destruction.

You and I get to walk around all day knowing we are fully protected in the grace, promise, and sacrifice of the one true God. He is sovereign, gentle, kind, merciful, full of grace, full of forgiveness, full of love and he has never ending patience for you and I. He has our futures in the palm of his hand. He goes behind and before us, promising to shape us into his likeness and reveal his glory in us. He promises to meet us where we are, but not to leave us there. He promises to build us up and use us for great purposes. He promises us his Spirit, which guides us, speaks to us, and reveals secret things to us. What an incredible gift.

And yet, if we don’t take the time to reflect on these truths, we (I) sit in the unknowns full of fear and doubt, lacking faith, and struggling through each day. God has not called us to live like this. He has big plans for us- are we willing to jump into the river and experience what is moving? The reality is that the river will flow with or without us. We just have to be willing to get in if we want to see what He will do. He promises to use us- and we don’t have to get it all together first.

Sit with this quote today: wait at God’s promise until he meets you there, for he always returns by the path of his promises.

“And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature…” 2 Peter 1:4

One Thousand Gifts

photoAbout 6 months ago, I read through One Thousand Gifts and was so encouraged by the amazing, little, mundane, and also extraordinary things that the author was grateful for. Through her journey of finding 1,000 things to be grateful for, she began to see the everyday, common things as extraordinary and special, each containing their own precious and unique qualities from the Lord. I began keeping a list of things I find myself grateful for- and while I am nowhere near 1,000- I am going to start listing things I am grateful for throughout my blog entries. I would love to have you join me in finding something to be grateful for each and every day. There are SO many things that happen right before our eyes, and I encourage you to start finding them, noticing them, and appreciating them.

Henry Ward Beecher once said, “The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.” 

Here is my list so far:

1. Pillow talk conversations with best friends that offer belly-aching laughter, truth, and calm before bed.

2. Walking out of the gym sweating, feeling tired yet on top of the world.

3. The tranquility of a waterfall.

4. The sound Grayson (my nephew) makes as tries to pronounce letters and words.

5. Phone conversations with my mom that are raw, honest, life-giving, and full of truth.

6. The smell and feel that candles bring to a room.

7. The sound of people flipping through their bibles at church.

8. The face one of my students makes when I tell him how proud I am of him.

9. A hug from a student.

10. The quiet hum of students hard at work in a classroom.

11. The comfort from sharing an inside joke with a friend.

12. The way true surrender feels- when you finally let go once again and understand all you have to do is fall at the feet of Jesus.

13. Winter Retreat 2013

14. “Aren’t you forgetting something, Miss Williams?” A student asks as he reminds me of our end-of-the-day hug routine.

15. Crisp, cool air during an outside walk. Sun shining, winter air still hitting your cheeks.

16. I get to call myself a daughter of the Most High King, Lord of Lords, and Lover of my soul.

17. The healing power that comes from pure weeping.

18. Delicious taste of a new cookie recipe as it comes out of the oven.

19. Praying for someone and knowing the Lord gave you all the right words.

20. Getting a gift from a secret pal.

21. Homemade dinners with my parents.

22. Couch time with my mom where we can vent, talk, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company.

23. Accountability from friends- the trust that is built between each other and with God, they are challenging and raw.

24. Laughter between friends.

25. Complete comfort within silence with a friend.

26. The way the Holy Spirit reveals truth perfectly in his timing.

27. Having coffee at a coffee shop that has it’s own flare and environment. Sipping a latte over good conversation? Perfect.

28. My mom’s health. Her devotion to and love for her family.

29. The joy and raw truth that my senior girls share with me at youth group.

30. The anticipation of how a relationship with these girls will develop.

31. The beauty of changing seasons and the restoration that comes through them.

32. Delicious food- but that it tastes 100x better with great company.

33. Sleeping in on Saturdays and the rest that comes from not having to be anywhere.

34. The rest that comes from a worship-ful environment.

35. Healing conversations where the full truth is presented, misunderstandings are put to rest, and questions are answered.

36. Plane flights with friends.

37. Laughter that only you and another friend understands.

38. Second chances… and third ones too.

39. When the Lord answers questions you’ve been asking for a long time.

40. Hearing Grayson say “Auntie Ally”

41. Early mornings when it’s raining outside

42. Clarity from God in situations you’ve been unsure of

43. Starbucks on Sunday mornings

44. The anticipating mystery of the Holy Spirit working

45. The sound of ocean waves crashing on the shore.

46. Family dinners: conversation is sweet, honest, real

47. Waking up without an alarm

48. Hugging students who need a little extra attention

49. Ending the school day by telling my kids: I love you, I’m proud of you, you are awesome

50. The anxious heart of a woman when a relationship is brewing

51. The feeling of being flat on your face before the Lord for what he is doing in your life.

52. The morning buzz of Starbucks as people await their morning wake up call

53. Anticipation for church

54. Praying for people in a moment of response as a form of worship and surrender

55. Hearing “Miss Williams” from my students

56. Tears streaming down your face as you worship

57. Praying for someone over voicemail

58. Making homemade meals for people

59. Long walks with friends

60. Hikes that end with an amazing view

61. The power and awe that is felt from watching any and all sunsets.

62. Photographing people’s most precious moments

I will continue adding to this list- please join me in finding the random, yet beautiful things to be grateful for.

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” -Maya Angelou 

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“Paradosi”.

Surrender.

What does that even mean?

We are so often told to “surrender”- and that the result will be freedom.

I want to feel fully free. Christ gave it ALL in order that you, that I, might live in freedom. And not just when it is easy to live freely.

But in everyday life, through all of life’s situations- free. Completely, utterly, and deeply free.

Sitting in traffic the other day, I felt a nudging. “Ally, with everything going on in your life right now, you should be surrendering and re-surrendering multiple times a day.”

So I decided to look up what this word means in Greek. I love looking up definitions in Greek- such a raw and real definition. I read through the first few definitions, getting a clearer idea of how to view this word, how to make it more applicable for my own life.

to give into the hands (of another)
to give over into (one’s) power or use
to deliver to one something to keep, use, take care of, manage

I love those definitions. The idea of surrendering to a God who would give, and still does give, anything and everything to chase after us, to pursue us, to find us, to mold us, to hold us, and to teach us is worth giving in to. I kept reading down the list of definitions, and if the earlier ones were not enough, I got to the bottom of the list… and I was in awe of what I read:

when the fruit will allow that is when its ripeness permits

I was quickly reminded of the verse in John 15:2 that says, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

I love the imagery of this verse. I was so encouraged by thinking of the idea of surrender. I am hopefully living my life in a way to bears fruit, but when that fruit (various areas of my life) will continue to surrender, daily- sometimes many times daily- it will continue to grow more and more ripe. So much hope, and anticipation for the way God will choose to use me, to mold me, to teach me… all in hopes of becoming more like him.

The faithfulness of God. Brings me to my knees in humble adoration of such a loving and patient God.

Freedom- being free. Living free in all areas of my life.

This is something I continue to work towards.

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life to the fullest

this past weekend my best friend Rachel, or Best as I call her, went to Carmel for two nights. My parents were generous enough to give us a gift certificate for this adorable place right downtown. We had an absolute blast. It was a refreshing, fun, hilarious, refueling time together. She just got back from Guatemala where she was for a whole month, and so we had LOTS to catch up on 🙂 I have never spent time with someone for long periods of time where it is just so easy. So fun. So calming and so memorable. Every time. She truly is my Best and I love her so dearly. She challenges me and asks great questions, we enjoy similar things, we are similar but so different, and she loves God in an incredible way… now that this is sounding like an advertising ad for my best friend, I will just say that we had a GREAT time together and I can honestly say I came back more energized and excited about life than when we left. We all need friends like this in our lives- ones that push us, that know us, that we can tell everything to, and that can see through things when we cant see through them ourselves. I am so grateful for this friendship and so excited to see where we both go as future educators. We are so close!!

Here are some photos from our adventure last weekend 🙂

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Quit hanging on to the handrails . . . Let go. Surrender. Go for the ride of your life. Do it every day.

My Philosophy of Teaching

I found this paper I wrote from 3 years ago in college at APU and it was such an encouragement to see that I have had the ability to put these beliefs into practice through my student teaching this past year. While some things might end up looking a little different in the actual classroom, I do and plan to implement this philosophy for years to come. 

Henry Adams was once quoted saying, “A teacher affects eternity: he can never tell where his influence stops.”  I believe teaching means far more than educating a student; it means encouraging, supporting, challenging, instilling confidence in, and loving each student as you educate them. As a future educator, I want nothing more than to be an effective, encouraging, and building teacher who instills life into her students. My goal as a future teacher is to live the ‘silent sermon’ in my workplace, encouraging students to serve and treat others as they do themselves, challenging them to the point of large intellectual growth, and showing my students their potential for learning and the benefits of education. Overall, I want to be the best teacher I can be, as God has called me to a life of higher standards. He has gifted me to educate others and I want nothing more than to honor him with all aspects of my life, even my future career.

A huge part of being an effective teacher is having a set of ‘best practices’ that are demonstrated daily, encouraging the students to be the best they can be. I believe there are a few key beliefs every teacher needs in order to be effective. First, it is crucial to have “high expectations of student achievement” (Rohrer, 2008). The students need to know that they are expected to be the best student and person they can be, in any and every circumstance. Not only is it important for me to demonstrate this for myself in the classroom, but it is also crucial that I encourage students through the times they don’t expect this of themselves. Each student needs to know they are capable of passing with more than an average grade; every student can exceed their own expectations. This might require more study time, tutor time, or reading time, but it is critical that I promote the importance of striving to do their very best. Having high expectations will create an environment of healthy competition as well as demonstrate the importance of striving to do your best in all aspects of life, not just education.

The second key belief in educating students is a “supportive, cooperative learning atmosphere” (Rohrer, 2008). After reading the Essential 55 by Ron Clark, I believe that my classroom should operate just like a family. Starting on the first day of school, I believe each student needs to know the expectations of how to treat each other in the classroom, and demonstrating the idea that we are a family sets the bar very high. As a family, my classroom will treat each other with respect, put others above themselves, listen effectively to each and every student, as well as respond with encouraging words to each other on a daily basis. This not only prepares the students for a warm, effective learning environment, but it trains the students to treat everyone they come in contact with that way. When a teacher creates a learning environment that is supportive and cooperative, it allows room for mistakes while challenging the students to do their very best.

Third, it is critical that the teacher has a “manifest belief that their subject is important” (Rohrer, 2008). If I am not excited about what I am teaching to these students, there is no way I will get an excited response for learning from them. It is essential that I see the importance of the material, realizing that every aspect of each subject is preparing these students for the future. Especially through teaching young children, it is crucial that I teach each subject in an exciting manner because if I write it off in a first grade classroom, they are likely to write it off for the rest of their school years. It is not fair to a student to write off certain aspects of a lesson because you do not care for it or see the importance in it when they could be especially gifted in that area. An effective teacher demonstrates the beauty and excitement in each subject, realizing that each student looks forward to a different subject of the school day, and would want to do nothing to ruin or take away that excitement.

Next, an effective teacher is willing to “tolerate ambiguity” (Hassett, 2006). I once had a professor who explained beautifully, “Assume the student knows nothing, but can learn anything.” This goes hand in hand with ambiguity because as an effective teacher, it is vital that we realize students will not know everything right from the start and that it is our job to present the material in a way that allows the students to learn new things. Students will make mistakes and they will struggle with grasping concepts and understanding language, etc. When you present the information in a way that allows each student to grasp the concept, you are able to progressively move forward with all students on a similar level. It is inevitable, however, to have every student at the same learning level, but it is the teachers’ job to present either more challenging information, or more one on one time with students who need extra help.

Lastly, a teacher needs to believe that “not knowing” is okay (Hassett, 2006). An effective teacher, in my opinion does not intimidate their classroom with the feeling of superiority. An effective teacher has an authoritative demeanor, but never puts themselves above the students. A classroom should be a place where mistakes are beneficial because the outcome is an environment of growth and progress. The teacher should also make mistakes and an effective teacher will openly admit when they are wrong and apologize specifically to students who are affected by their mistakes. An environment where students are not under pressure to get every answer right allows them to make mistakes, make progress in return, and learn to grow in all circumstances, good or bad.

Albert Schweitzer once said,  “Ethics, too, are nothing but reverence for life. This is what gives me the fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, promoting, and enhancing life, and that destroying, injuring, and limiting life are evil.” An effective teacher is an ethical teacher without a doubt. Similarly, a Christian teacher is an ethical teacher. For me personally, a true Christian teacher is held to very high standards and should take their job very seriously. In the public school specifically, Christians have great influence over their students. I want to see my job as a challenge everyday to represent the love, grace, and joy of Christ in all I do. I want to be a teacher who sticks out in a crowd, in front of my students as well as my peers, and who makes ethical decisions based on my own convictions from my relationship with God. This to me is an effective teacher. Ethical teachers in the same way, treat every student equally, challenge each student fairly, listen to both sides of the story in all situations, and are unbiased with every student. An ethical teacher is one who communicates well with the parents, listens to parents, teaches to the best of their ability in all circumstances, is honest with grades and paperwork, as well as lives a life outside of school that is worthy of recognition. As a future educator, I believe that my life outside the classroom should incorporate the same beliefs that I possess in the classroom and should be a life that I would be proud to let anyone watch. When a teacher lives an ethical life, especially claiming to be a Christ-follower, their life should be one that is admirable, humble, honest, and authentic to whom they claim to be in the classroom.   When all of these factors match up, I believe there is no way for a teacher not to be effective. An effective teacher is one who is ethical and consistent in their daily lives, especially in their walk with God.

Moreover, an effective, ethical teacher has a developed classroom theory as well as many classroom management strategies for running a classroom. Franklin D. Roosevelt was once quoted saying, “If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships- the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.” Classroom management not only allows a classroom to functionally work together, but it creates an environment of learning and development. The biggest disservice you can give to a student is a hectic classroom environment where they are unable to get work done. The classroom definitely has a time for fun and excitement, but if it cannot be first and foremost a work environment, it will not be manageable for you as a teacher. As a result, students will naturally feel anxious and consequently work in a less effective manner.

Classroom management is a great way to periodically remind the students of your expectations, promote academic achievement and confidence, as well as keep the students on task throughout the day. My host teacher, Mrs. Varellas at Paramount Elementary School, was an excellent demonstrator of classroom management. She not only gives out tickets to students who behave well throughout the day, she also does table points that encourage the students to work well with their peers. Mrs. Varellas also has a very organized, easy way of running her classroom. She has a picture of every student in her room posted on the main wall of the class with pins that make transferring papers and displaying a students’ work very easy to do. Classroom organization for her is, “Crucial to staying sane and getting the students work up for parents to see.” Other great ideas that I have seen demonstrated in the classroom is a clipboard with each students name written on an index card. It allows the teacher to quickly and easily write down information about students’ behavior, progress, etc. There are hundreds of different classroom management strategies, and as an effective teacher, they are crucial for the students and myself.

How might a new teacher be an effective teacher, you might ask? A huge part of learning as a first year teacher is that teaching by the book might not be the most effective. Most students, especially certain ages, learn better by hands on and a more practical approach than the teacher’s manual. First year teachers have to be comfortable teaching outside the box and adjusting to the needs of the students, even if it seems abnormal (Nemser, 2003). An effective first year teacher will not worry as much about their weekly visits by the principal or critiques by their mentor as they will the learning advancement of their students. An effective teacher will do whatever it takes to see their students growing and learning, and when that happens, all the other worries fall into place. Teachers also need to realize that growth and adaptation to a new school and classroom takes time and patience. With time and confidence, as well as challenges, a first year teacher can be a very effective teacher if they are willing to go through the good and the bad.

Lastly, I believe it is imperative for a teacher to be aware of his or her strengths in order to confirm their passion for teaching, especially the specific grade they should teach. My strongest personal strengths, which are belief, relator, and communication have helped me to understand myself more intimately. Taking the Strengths Finder test helped me feel more comfortable with the way God made me and confirmed the calling on my life to be a teacher. An effective teacher must understand their strengths as well as the consequences to those strengths when used inappropriately. These strengths are very helpful in understanding why we act the way we do as well as how we can effectively run a classroom. I personally believe that every teacher should be required to take a strengths test before teaching, preferably in college before they pursue a major. It is helpful to their own personal development as well as how they will help in the development of their students.

All in all, an effective teacher is consistent in all areas of their life. An effective teacher has practices that help them in their interactions with other students, is an ethical and faithful teacher, and has a clear understanding of how to run a classroom efficiently. As a future educator, I know that I will face my struggles and challenges but I also have so many moments to look forward to. My favorite part of education is that if you are able to be a successful, effective teacher, you have successfully trained your students for life, not just the growth of their intellect. God has called me to impact the lives of little children in the classroom and as an effective teacher, I plan to take that very seriously.

learning

I check in with myself regularly to see what I am learning. And sometimes I realize that I am not aware of those things enough. Being aware of what I am learning helps me to be grateful for God’s endless pursuit of us. So here is a list of what I am learning… maybe some of you out there want to add to this.

1. God wants all of us. He doesn’t just want me when I have the desire to fully pursue him. He doesn’t just want me on the fence. He wants everything from me- but only if I want to give it to him. He pursues, but he doesn’t force. He wants my life to be reflecting that constantly and all the decisions, words, actions, and reactions in my daily life are a pure reflection of my current standing with the Lord. God wants all of you. He wants all of me. And I am praying to continually be in a place where I want that- whatever sacrifice that might mean and all.

2. I could talk about teaching all day long. I went to a job fair this past weekend and was tentatively offered a job in Vancouver. The best part of the job fair? I got to talk about teaching all day with professionals, friends, and family. I get so excited about the opinions and beliefs I am forming on the educational world, and it is so fun to process all of it with others who enjoy the same thing.

3. I can be better tomorrow than I was today. And I constantly want to be aware of the way my life can glorify God because it is too easy to lose sight of that. And the fact that it is so easy, scares me.

4. Friendships have seasons and true friends understand that sometimes it is inconsistent and not always easy, but that no matter what the circumstances, nothing can effect it. I am so grateful for the friendships that continually point me back to God, to his way of living, and to his heart and will for this life.

 

 

more to come…

carrying me

Romans 8:26-28

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” 

 

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