So long, 2012! It’s been great!

2012 was a year of change, but a year of blessing, for me and my family.

I’m in the middle of my third year of teaching deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students and in my second year as an itinerant teacher – I travel from school to school and work one-on-one with DHH students.  That means I get the students who are able to speak and hear well enough to function in a general education classroom, but who are still struggling academically as a result of their hearing loss.  I love my job.  My co-workers are amazing, my students are fun to work with, and the classrooms and teachers I work with are great!  I am continually amazed at how God has blessed me with a job so fit for me.  I laugh a lot, especially when my students say things like: “I’m starting to think this is a tiny version of Alcatraz” [referring to my lesson on summarizing]. WHAT?

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My fantastic co-workers

This summer, God called me to take a second job as Kindergarten Director at River Pointe Church.  I had started volunteering in pre-school ministry with 4-year-olds.  In May, the early childhood director asked if I would be interested in the Kindergarten Director position.  It was all perfect timing – the 4 year olds I had been teaching promoted to Kindergarten my first week as director.  It was incredible!  Most of the kids already knew me, and I was able to continue to build those relationships and start building relationships with the amazing volunteers.  I loved my job – it is my dream job when I am a mom.  But with the school year starting back up, it was too much on my plate!  I was working 7 days a week.  My co-workers and boss there were INCREDIBLE, knowing I was overwhelmed, and doing everything they could to help me!  We looked for a long time for someone to replace me.  In November, Sarah took over: she is AMAZING and an incredible asset to the staff at RPC.  I miss my sweet and crazy kindergarteners, but I am much less stressed!

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Small groups during my last week at RPC]

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Tara (Saturday Coordinator), Sarah (new Kindergarten Director), and I

If you have talked with me, or seen my Facebook at all this year, you probably know that I have spent a lot of time social dancing in the past year (lindy hop / swing, and country).    In a swing dancing workshop, the skill of “following” finally made sense to me.  You might say I became obsessed or addicted.  I have acknowledged it and have gotten it mostly under control  🙂 .  Dancing has truly helped me come out of my shell: I can now approach a stranger and strike a conversation (or even ask for a dance), communicate with people and guide “small talk,” I learned that I am not obligated OR entitled to dance with anyone, I am confident in who I am (even when I fall flat on my back.  Twice.  Within 10 minutes.), and my desire to share my love for Christ with others has grown immensely.  I love that God has used dancing to change who I am for the better – there was definitely an adjustment period where I got a little carried away, but in the end, I don’t regret one minute.

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My dancing buddy and one of my best friends, Melissa

I’ve made many great friends dancing.  Melissa and I got involved in a group that cooks themed (usually gourmet) dinners every week.  It has definitely helped me expand my palate (I’m much more open to trying new foods.  Although, I’m still a bit of a picky eater)!  Some of my favorite themes this year were “Back to School: Apples” and “Places” (my idea!).

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“Foods Named After Places” Edition: Waldorf salad, Brussels sprouts, Chicken Kiev, and Texas Toast

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Wild West Wednesday Dinner (this happens to be Texas themed)

My brother, Nick, and sister-and-law, Olivia, graduated college.  I have completely grown to love Olivia more than a sister!  She is such an amazing woman, and somehow, Nick and I get along way better when she’s around! Growing up, Nick and I were either best-of-friends or worst-of-enemies at all times — it’s a huge improvement!  Then, they moved 8090 miles away to teach English to Taiwanese students in Taiwan.   I’ve done a lot of Google Chat, Google Voice, Skype, and Google Hangouts this year. Check out their blog: Nick and Liv Go Abroad.

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Nick and Olivia at the Fongguei Cave in Penghu, Taiwan

If you’ve been keeping up my blog, I have been doing a lot of crafting, baking, and sewing this year.  It’s been fun to open up my creative side and learn some new skills (sewing is still a struggle for me, but I’m actually enjoying it!). Feel free to surf my blog to check out what I’ve been up to this year!

My biggest blessing has been the amazing people in my life.  Especially my closest friends and my family.  I am so thankful for them.  I have been close to Rebecca and Elizabeth for a long time – but this past year has grown our friendships so much!  Melissa and I have been friends for over a year now, and despite our very different personalities, we became close quickly.  We’ve made efforts to stay in touch and keep up the friendships despite all having busy lives.  I love my monthly girls’ nights with these amazing ladies!

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Rebecca, Elizabeth, Melissa, and Emmelyn –
Our typical attitudes.

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Merry Christmas! Skyping on Christmas day

Here are some other fun things I did in 2012!

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Going to gardens in Texas with my Johnson grandparents

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Finished my first 5K for Attack Poverty with Rebecca [Note that I didn’t say “ran” my first 5K…]

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After 11 years in the Comet Optometry study, I am now going to have to start paying for glasses, optometrist visits, and more. Maybe Lasik for 2013…

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This summer, my family visited my current favorite place in the world – my grandparents’ home in Gig Harbor, Washington. This is the view. Love.

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I have wanted a DSLR for a long time – since I was in such a beautiful setting (Washington State), and had been saving up, I decided to go for it! Despite not remembering much from my digital photography class, I’ve had a lot of fun with the auto settings 🙂 Maybe I’ll actually learn how to use it in 2013!

The Prepcats Swing Dance team I was a part of – performing at Sugar Land TEDx

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Skeeter’s minor league baseball game

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Traveling to Port Aransas with the Elder family for the Harvest Moon Regatta

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Harvest Moon Ball – Swing dancing

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The amazing girls from the church group I am involved in. It was a Christmas Sweater party!

Happy New Year!

~ Emmelyn

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Shea’s Carrot Spice Cupcakes

One Tuesday night, my Home Team was waiting for the leader to show up.  All of a sudden, he walks into the room with this chick on his shoulders.  Shea was in the middle of a bout with cancer, bound to a wheelchair, and God brought us all together.  The next few months were rough on Shea, but she taught us all so much about perseverance, joy, and love.  She began losing her hair again.  The guys in our Home Team decided to shave their heads in support of her.  We all ended up having such a good time with it, and you could feel the love in the room.

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The support for Shea was incredible.  She definitely had some tough times, but she always got back up on her feet (figuratively, of course), and so many members of the team came through for her.

Fast forward about a year.  Shea is now cancer free, hair is growing, and still a vivacious woman.  The Home Team ended up splitting up because it got so massive, so a number of us hadn’t seen each other in a long time.  One of the girls planned a celebration for Shea, so that we could praise God for what He has done in her life.  It was so wonderful to see Shea with barely any traces of the cancer.  She still has her scars and her crutches (temporarily), but she is so full of life!

Shea requested some Carrot Spice cupcakes that were relatively healthy – so I got to searching and found this wonderful bundt cake recipe. However, I just love cupcakes [and I didn’t really have time to wait 55 minutes for the cake to bake].  So, I modified and adjusted the recipe. I have adorable mini-bundt cupcake tins that I don’t get to use very often, so I took full advantage!

Shea’s Carrot Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

CAKE:

  • 1 c. old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
  • 1 ¼ c. unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 c. packed brown sugar
  • 2 c. shredded carrots (about 4 medium)
  • 2 eggs or ½ c. fat-free egg product
  • ⅓ c. canola oil
  • 1 ½ c. white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • OR 1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • & 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • & 1 tsp. allspice
  • ½ c. raisins (optional)

FROSTING: (If you just want a dollop on each cupcake, do a half recipe)

  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • ½ c. butter, softened
  • 2 c. sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

FOR THE CAKE: Heat oven to 350°F. Spray mini-bundt cupcake pan or standard cupcake pan with cooking spray.  (My favorite is the baking spray – oil and flour).

In large bowl, mix oats, applesauce, brown sugar, carrots, egg product and oil with spoon until well mixed. Stir in remaining cake ingredients just until moistened. Pour into prepared tins, ½ – ⅔ full.

Bake 18-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan briefly. Remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely.

FOR THE FROSTING: In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar.  I piped a dollop on each mini bundt cupcake using a large star tip.  I also made some standard cupcakes and piped it on there like normal.  [see this post for tips]  Store frosted cupcakes in refrigerator; remove about an hour before serving.

Cake recipe adapted from bettycrocker.com; frosting recipe found at allrecipes.com.

Graduation Gift

My mom needed a few graduation gifts recently.  She wanted something cute and crafty, that wouldn’t be too pricy to make.

Here’s what I made!

Here’s the original concept from The Creative Crate:

The Creative Crate includes a printable version.  I don’t have an awesome printer (well… any printer for that matter).  But I DO have a Cricut and Sure Cuts a Lot 2.

I decided I wanted to use all cutouts – so I cut 2 sheets on the cricut (in gray), and then used the inverted letters as well!

I used a gluestick some and my skinny-tipped-glue (which didn’t work so well… it wrinkled the paper a bit).  I also cut the “bright” on yellow paper…. that was tricky because it was supposed to have holes. They were tiny, and because I may or may not be slightly stubborn, I used a toothpick to punch through each one.  I would recommend just not using holes.  What a novel concept…

I added flowers to the frame with sticky tack (mom didn’t want to wreck the frame)

Here’s the reverse image that I put up in my office:

Love it! I think they both turned out super cute!

The Lead

I’m officially addicted to dancing. I’ve gotten back into country dancing since October-ish.  I did swing dancing in high school and college, but just East Coast.  During the past two weeks, I’ve been lindy hopping up a storm!  And I’m HOOKED.   [Side note, I’m enjoying swing dancing more because I can pretty much dance every song with a skilled dancer, be spun around the floor, and not have to ask guys to dance.  As opposed to country.  Complete opposite, even when I go with a group of guys.]

So these past few days, I’ve been considering the parallel between my tendencies in lead-follow dancing and in my relationship with God.

If you’ve done any type of partner dance, you know – the lead-follow connection is very important.  For me, I have a problem (well, many problems).  My tendency is to try to stay in control and anticipate what is coming. It doesn’t go well!  I either look like I can’t dance or hurt myself.  A few well-meaning dance partners informed me that I was not being a very good follow, I’ve been working on improving my skills for the past few weeks.

It got me thinking… my desire to know what is coming shows up in other areas of my life as well.  I’ve definitely had practice decreasing this tendency in my relationships with friends and family.  But in my relationship with God, I try to overlook the problem {which never goes well}.  It becomes a lot more apparent when there are stresses in my life, and, just like in dancing, I end up being a bit of a mess!

Trust.  It is an important aspect of dance.  If I don’t trust my partner, then I can never see the full potential of the dance.  If I don’t give up my own control, it will essentially be a battle {not pretty!}.  I’d like to think I have improved at this over the past few weeks.  It is definitely easier to do with the guys I’ve danced with more.  It is a little intimidating with those leads who are crazy awesome dancers and try crazy things that I am totally unfamiliar with.  But at least I’ve made some progress!

Proverbs 3:5 has been running through my head.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

That verse pretty much says it all.  If I try to lean on my own control, my own understanding of my life and this work, I will fall.  But if I put my trust in God, he can make my life powerful for His glory.  When He leads me to do something unfamiliar and intimidating, I should follow.   God is never a bad lead.  He is completely trustworthy; He will not drop me or lead me somewhere unsafe.

To see progress in both my dancing and in my relationship with Christ, I need to continue being intentional – putting my trust in the lead and giving up control.  Things should go a lot more smoothly.

When I was contemplating all of this, and listening to the radio, this song by Jamie Grace came on called “You Lead.”

I found this poem entitled “Guidance.”  It’s a little cheesy, but it pretty much says what I’ve been thinking.

G U I D A N C E

Author Unknown

When I meditated on the word “Guidance”,
I kept seeing “dance” at the end of the word.

I remember reading that doing God’s will is a lot like dancing.
When two people try to lead, nothing feels right.
The movement doesn’t flow with the music, and everything is quite
uncomfortable and jerky.

When one person realizes that and lets the other lead, both bodies begin to
flow with the music.

One gives gentle cues, perhaps with a nudge to the back or by pressing
lightly in one direction or another.

It’s as if two become one body, moving beautifully.
The dance takes surrender, willingness, and attentiveness from one person
and gentle guidance and skill from the other.

My eyes drew back to the word “guidance”.
When I saw “G”, I thought of God, followed by “U” and “I”.
“God”, “U” and “I” “dance”.
God, you and I dance.

As I lowered my head, I became willing to trust that I would get guidance
about my life.

Once again, I became willing to let God lead.

If you have any thoughts, feel free to comment!