Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Going Down the Slide

So here I am. What was "on the horizon" is definitely standing right in front of me. What I was so excited about in the first place is finally beginning to hit me. I am moving to a new community, I am starting a new job and I will be finishing my degree.

Upon recent events I have decided that I am a very courageous woman. I have pursued many different life experiences, which include surviving the metro traffic in Chicago. Instead of making what most people would consider small accomplishments, I do things like board a plane to Cambodia , and pursue a new language 1o hours away from home. And before every single experience like this, the same thing happens.

I freeze.

People will say things like "Wow, aren't you nervous?" and I'll smile, give a small chuckle and say " Oh goodness, no! I'm so excited!" and I think to myself "Man, people just don't know how to live ". There was also a time when I thought that staying in one place for longer then a year was almost unbearable, not to mention totally "life sucking" and boring. When I got my first full time, "big girl" job, I loved the idea of working 8:30-4, but hated the feeling of being "committed" and "stuck". It took me awhile to really be o.k. with giving up my gypsy lifestyle, but I've come to the conclusion that I think that gypsy quality of mine is a permanent thing, coming and going in different ways and at different times. I knew that my time in Hutchinson was going to be short, because I only had a year left to finish my degree. I knew that soon after I graduated, I would be moving again, maybe to a place where it is sunny and warm, calling Bingo on a beach.

I wish I could say that I'm excited about this new job. I wish I could say that I can't wait to move and get a new start for 2o10, but the fact is ladies and gentleman, I'm a little bit scared. I know that things are going to be o.k., that it is going to be a great experience, a "defining moment in my life", if you will....but right now, I am scared.

I remember this feeling the day before I flew to California to join the Continentals, a performing arts ministry. I watched an entire season of "Dr.Quinn, Medicine Woman" that I had bought with some Christmas bonus money from one of my jobs. I laid on the couch in my p.j's and ate chocolate ice cream. I remember distinctively how I cried at the episode "The Circus" an episode where a circus entertainer and her daughter come to Colorado Springs, and the circus act ends up being all the townspeople. Colleen ( Michaela's daughter) was assigned to the tight rope. Before the big event, she got cold feet and decided not to walk the tight rope. But of coarse she ended up gaining the courage to actually do it, and it was at this point in the episode that I cried. It was then that I realized that my unknown experience is a tight rope, and I'm about to walk on it. I don't know how it's going to feel, whether or not I will fall or who is going to be down there to catch me if I do fall. But I did know one thing: I had to walk that tight rope.

Have you ever found yourself in a place like that? A place where you are so scared, and yet you know deep down in your heart that you have to do this? You know that God has allowed everything to fall into place in His perfect timing, and yet you still roll into a little ball and shut yourself out from the world, because that is something that you have control over.

Maybe that is why I find inspiration in characters like Anne from "Anne of Green Gables", Christy from "Christy" and the beloved "Michaela Quinn: Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman". All of these women overcame the odds, all of these women didn't allow fear to get the best of them. They took risks, lived vibrantly, loved deeply and remained true to themselves.

Today while I was on the phone with my mom, she reminded me of the "Themed analogy of my life" that she tells me every time I find myself facing change and the unknown.

When I was a little girl, we lived in a little apartment complex that had a play ground in the back. The play ground had one of those old aluminum slides, and I refused to go down it. My younger brother Lucas, however, didn't think twice about the aftermath of the slide, but went down it multiple times. According to the story, I had to watch Lucas go down the slide several times before I decided to give it a try. Once I did go down the slide, my mom couldn't get me off of it!

That childhood story has helped me understand myself better, especially when it comes to facing change and the unknown. I won't "go down that slide" unless I can see that the results will be safe. But the truth is, life isn't safe. So much of my life has been spent being in fear. Fear of driving, fear of failing, fear of dating, fear fear fear fear fear. I think that one of the reasons God allows me to go through these adventures in life is to increase my trust in Him and to accept that life isn't safe. If you spend your life avoiding pain, heartache and embarrassment, you won't really live.

So my friends... Go down that slide! And soon I'll take my own advice. I'm getting there...and when I do, I know that I will fall into the arms of my Savior, and in those arms, I am safe.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Another Chapter Unfolds...

It amazes me how quickly life happens.

So far, this year has been an intense whirl wind. I have been so consumed with going to school, working and surviving as a "big girl in a big girl world" ( O.k... so that old song "I'm a Barbie Girl in a Barbie World" just popped into my head) that I haven't had time to really process life as it's happening. Now that I am home for Christmas and snowed in due to an intense blizzard that is sweeping the Midwest, I have had some time to process the most recent changes and events that are now officially off of the horizon and standing right in front of me.

Let me give a quick recap on the years events. In August I moved to Hutchinson, MN. to complete my Associates degree as an Activity Director for geriatric settings. Last week I completed the semester and will be finished with my seasonal job at Target on January 1st. This next semester is my last semester before obtaining my degree, and a huge piece of it will be my internship. After very little thought, I realized that it was be literally impossible for me to successfully complete 18 credit hours of coursework, work full time and do a minimum of 25 hours of internship. With that reality in mind, I worked to secure an internship at two nursing home facilities in Fairmont, with the intent to move back home. With that being the plan, I focused on the tasks at hand and put that on the "mental shelf".
About 3 weeks ago, my instructor told me she had some good news. Ready to hear any good news as I was in the midst of battling financial fear and stress, I listened intently. A former student of hers had contacted her to see if she had any students that would be able to fulfill an Activity Director position at a brand new facility in Cannon Falls, MN.

My teacher Julie recommended me ( A huge honor!) to this former student of hers. To make a long story short, about 3 weeks later she called me and we set up an interview for Tuesday, the 22nd. I tootled my way over to the interview in Cannon Falls, GPS in tow, relying fully upon the technology of a machine to bring me to my new destiny. After braving some city traffic ( I HATE metro driving) and reminding myself at least 5 times that I am a "Strong, confident woman" ( A typical mantra that I say to myself when I think I'm going to die in metro traffic) I pulled into Cannon Falls. Cannon Falls is such a charming, sweet town. It is smaller then Hutchinson, and maybe about the same size as Fairmont, but it's just plain charming. 

The facility that I'll be working for is called "Twin Rivers Senior Campus". For all of you who are not knowledgeable in geriatric terms, a "campus" is a senior facility in which several levels of geriatric needs are offered in one place. The needs that are met on this campus are assisted living, independent apartments and memory care ( dementia unit).Twin Rivers is brand new, and it is HUGE. After I parked my car in the underground heated parking lot, the receptionist buzzed me in to what can only be described as "The Ritz Hotel for Senior Citizens". Beautiful, bright color schemes encompassed the walls and decor, creating a truly "right at home" feel; the furthest thing from an institutionalized nursing home or senior center.

After a campus tour, the interview took place. During the interview I literally watched and listened to the Lord visually and verbally connect everything that He has made me as a woman of Him, my past experiences in activities and customer service jobs, in addition to the adversity that I experienced with difficult co-workers who didn't "get" the field and worked very hard to keep things the way they are, rejecting any change; especially anybody who brought change and a fresh perspective. Every answer that I gave to the women who interviewed me were the answers that they were looking for, and every question I had for them was answered clearly and honestly.

 I left the interview feeling as if this was going to happen, but I also was willing to accept any curve ball that God might throw my way. Later that night they called me offering me the job and I accepted! As of the 2nd week of January, I will be the very first Activity Director/Volunteer Coordinator of Twin Rivers Senior Campus! Just typing those words makes me excited, but anxious all at the same time. To be given such a responsibility is truly an honor, but to remain confident while undertaking this responsibility will be entirely another manner. However, I know that without a shadow of a doubt that this IS my element. 

Working with seniors and plugging in my creative and interpersonal skills is just as natural to me as singing on stage, using a microphone. Here are my responsibilities:

  • Create and produce the weekly and monthly activity calendar
  • Participate in PR for the facility, reaching out to the community to find volunteers and resources for the department
  • Doing activities for the residents, and creating resources and plans for nurses aids and families to conduct activities on a more consistent basis
  • Managing the department's budget and supplies
  • Plan outings for residents
So now that I have the job, the moving part is going to come really quickly. On November 30th I gave my land lord at my current apartment my 60 day notice. I have my apartment secured until the end of January, but my plan is to move into an apartment by the week that school starts.Now the question is, where do I move to?

I did my footwork and found a place that seemed to fit the bill. However, during my interview, it was mentioned that I might be able to rent an apartment in the facility. I approached this idea further, and they are willing to rent me out one of their brand new apartments for $600 a month. This includes all utilities, heat, water, Internet, cable, laundry facilities IN my apartment and heated underground parking. Not to mention the the fact that I won't have to pay for gas to get to and from work, put miles on my car that is barely hanging on and won't have to deal with weather. The reasoning behind living in the facility ( other then all the wonderful elements listed above) is because they are starting my position at 30 hours a week, with the hope that it will turn into a full time position dependent upon the growth of the campus. Because of this fact, they were very understanding in the predicament of finding an apartment that won't make me commit to a one year lease. I can't wait to post pictures of this apartment! It's the most beautiful apartment I've ever seen in my life. Spacious, granite counter tops and finished wood cupboards, floor to ceiling windows, tons of storage space. It seems too good to be true.

Isn't God good?

Yesterday over a fabulous cup of Starbucks coffee with my mom ( which we all know makes coffee better.. the people we have the coffee with) my mom gently reminded me that just two years ago at this time in the year I was struggling hard core, trying to let go, and let God lead me to the next place. My job at Carlson Craft's didn't work out, my dreams of pursuing music ministry fell through and my attempt at Sign Language Interpretation didn't go as planned either. I was struggling with depression, lost and very much afraid. Now two years later, not only has He uncovered a passion and a deep love for this field, but He has shown His faithfulness in my life in a way that has turned my life around. My life is living proof that if we let go of what WE want for our lives and trust that what God wants for our lives is so much more fulfilling, beautiful things happen. It's that adventure... that sense of knowing that we aren't alone and that our lives aren't our own. I have been given the privilege to give of myself in love and ministry for this population, using all of the gifts, strengths and experience that I possess.

My prayer is that all of you who read this will at some point in your lives understand and see themselves as being strategically placed on this earth with a beautiful and divine purpose to further His kingdom. And I further pray that you will be able to let go and trust the Lord to lead you on your adventure. In a sense, isn't that what the Virgin Mary did? She left everything that she ever knew and gave up whatever hopes and desires she had to fulfill God's plan and purpose for her life.

Merry Christmas everyone! May you be reminded that you, like Mary and Joseph, have a divine purpose on this earth. A purpose that can only be discovered when you let God be the compass of your adventure.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Singing on a Breaking Branch

Last October, I had the privilege of attending a "Women of Faith" conference in St. Paul, MN. If any of you have never attended one of these, I highly recommend investing in this weekend! It was the 3rd one I've been to, and I am always amazed at how God uses those women to inspire me, help me examine my life and to learn something new, or be reminded of an old concept that has suddenly taken on a new form.

Sheila Walsh is one of the speakers in the ministry, as well as an accomplished author and vocalist. Her newest book to be added to her God breathed inspired library is "Let Go". The title spoke to me when I saw the book on the sales table, being surrounded by the scurry of a large group of women, dropping their money for all the resources that were available. I always have told myself that if there was a book that I wanted, then I would wait to buy it on or Ebay for half the price, but every time I forget that little thing I told myself.

I started to read it right after the conference, but it got pushed aside as I forged my way through the semester course work. Last night I had a terrible nightmare that lasted almost the entire night. One of those nightmares that continued even after I had woken up and gave myself that little pep talk that "this is only a night mare, it isn't real".

After I woke up this morning, I decided that I needed to heed the call of Jesus, and submit myself to Him. Do you ever find yourself in a place of pure resistance of spending time with God? You exhaust your resources of relationships, entertainment, food, etc. and when you are not distracted from the pain that you are experiencing, or the anxiety that is mounting in your spirit, THEN you turn to God? I'm ashamed to admit that I am one of those people. I usually like to start my quiet times by reading a set of devotions, and/or a Christian life book. After I made my coffee, I snuggled up into my bed again, ready to lay it out on the table.

Because this is a blog and not my own personal diary, I will not divulge everything that took place between God and I; However, I will tell you that I once again experienced the joy of letting it all go; working my way through the pain, the anxiety, the confusion, and the hurt that I have experienced from other people.Here is a quote that I read in one of the chapters that sent a shiver down my spine.

" Let us be like a bird for a moment perched
On a frail branch while he sings;
Though he feels it bend, yet he sings his song,
knowing that he has wings."
-Victor Hugo

How often have you felt like a little bird perched on a branch, and yet you felt that branch was about to break? Did you actually feel as if you had a song to sing? How often have we been that bird, and forgotten that we had wings to help us fly if the branch really did break? 
So many things happen in life that seem to clip our wings, making us unable to fly. I know that there have been so many moments in my life where I had forgotten that I cannot fly on my own. And yet I would try, so many times, only to be reminded that it is Jesus who is our wings. And when we know we have wings, then we have the peace to sing. 

Oh to have a peace to sing when we feel that branch breaking. Do you have that peace? I know that I don't. I know that in my humanness, every time I feel that branch breaking, my song turns into utter fear. I worry about how it is all going to work out.... I worry about not having enough, when all along, Jesus IS enough.
Jesus IS enough.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

How Rude! What a Seasonal Target Cashier Wants You to Know

Alright, it's finally happened. This "fast, fun and friendly" Target cashier is nearing holiday burn out! Have any of you read that section in Readers Digest about "things (fill in the occupation) want you to know"? Well, here is the seasonal cashier of a Target store's version and my 2 cents!
Things A Seasonal Target Cashier would like you to know:

  • I have a very small amount of space to bag your items, so when your cart is empty, please put the bagged items back in your cart. I know staring into space is enjoyable, and that you probably need that extra time to think about what you are making for dinner or where you are going to buy gas for your car, but I am graded on the speed of my transactions.... and the 3 people behind you would probably appreciate it too.
  • Please do not talk on your cell phone when you come through the lane. I know that you don't know me and you probably don't care to chit chat for a few minutes, but I am a human being,and when you choose to completely ignore me as you go through the line and do not as so much make any eye contact with me, I feel absolutely offended.
  • When I am bagging your completely heavy, bulky toys, please hold the bag open for me so I don't spend 15 seconds trying to hold the bag open and get the toy in at the same time. Doing this is just polite.
  • If you have a checking account, please use your debit card. When you write your checks, it takes at least 3 more minutes by the time you write it, it goes through my system, and then I have to swipe your ID, which usually takes you about 2 more minutes on an average to find.
  • When your check or credit card is not accepted into our system, it is not my fault or the fault of Target. It means there is something wrong with your account. Yelling at me and threatening to leave all your items for me to put away is not going to fix the problem, but it will take up your precious energy and piss off the people behind you.
  • We need to keep the hangers on the clothing items. It would be so great if you'd take a few seconds taking the hangers off before you purchase the items. This saves a lot of time, especially if you are planning on clothing your family 12.
  • If you have 4 twelve packs of the same kind of pop, they don't all need to go on the conveyor belt. Give me one of them, and I'll scan it 4 times. It's as simple as that.
  • I do run out of change and bags from time to time, and there are times when I can't obtain those items exactly when I need them. Your patience would be appreciated in moments like these.
  • Please do not put your cash and coupons on the conveyor belt. The chances of them getting eaten by the belt are great. And no, I cannot rescue your 50 cent coupon. It's gone forever.
  • For all you coupon clippers: I am happy to help save you money with your coupons, but please give them to me BEFORE the transaction starts, so that when I need to find out how much one item is to get the 2nd one free, I can do so right away. Also, sending your child in another line to use the gift card that you obtained from your previous purchase that you were informed to NOT use in that purchase, is shady. What are you teaching your children? Not good.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Post Semester Update and Ramblings

It is 2:15 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, and I, Sarah Ardella Green, am lying on my bed in my P.J.'s.... dreading the fact that in about an hour, I need to "get with the program" and get geared up for a fantastic night of "fun, fast and friendly" work at Target.

Last night at 5:30 p.m., I submitted my very last assignment of the semester! To celebrate, I drove to our local Chinese buffet and ordered takeout, something that I RARELY do. I am very pleased to announce that for $12.95, I have enough fried rice and orange chicken to last me at least three meals. :) I love seeing my money stretch, especially when it is the the form of Chinese food.I am so grateful that the semester is over. 

On my way home from the coffee shop last night, I was telling my mom that this was probably the hardest semester of college in my life thus far. The coursework in my first year of college was incredibly more difficult then this semester, but I did not have the reality of balancing a nearly full time job, 16 credits and living on my own, with everything that "living on your own" entails. I am proud of myself!  Last night in an effort to sort through the gazillion thoughts that have been running through my head for the past couple months, I decided to start to reorganize my closest, and pitch and throw away assignments from the semester. I was pretty close to hanging up all of my graded "A" projects on my fridge, totally willing to toot my own horn.

I am in awe at God and His faithfulness in my life, as well as of the people in my life. I am also always in shock that after all these years, it still doesn't take very much to throw me on my knees in anxiety, struggling to trust God for the next steps. Why do we do this? He has shown us time and time again that He is faithful, and will provide and deliver His children; and yet here I am again, struggling to "Let go, and let God".

A few weeks ago my instructor informed me that she had some really good news. Grateful for any good news and an ounce of seeing "the big picture", I listened intently. A former student of hers who is the marketing director of a brand new assisted living/independent living/memory care campus in Cannon Falls, MN. had contacted Julie to see if she had any students that would be a good match for an Activity Director's position. Julie recommended me to her, even making the flattering comment that she "wishes she could clone me". To make a long story short ( which if anybody knows me well, this is an incredibly difficult thing for me to do) I have an interview scheduled with this woman on Dec. 22nd at 11:30.

The campus is brand new, and they don't even have an activities department yet. The amazing thing about this possibility is that I will have the opportunity to build an activities department from the ground up, with supervision from a woman who has taken the same classes I have and has worked as an Activity Director. The thought of being given a responsibility SO huge is daunting and a little scary, but incredibly exciting! I can't wait to spread my wings in this field, applying my passion and everything that I have learned. The other cool part about this opportunity is that it would double as my internship (a paid internship!), which was the reason that I had to move out of my apartment in Hutchinson, because I couldn't afford to do a minimum of 25 hours a week of internship, 18 credits and work full time in order to live here.

It seems like this is what God wants, that this is the next step on the journey. If it isn't what He wants, then I'm headed back to Fairmont for the semester, completing my internship at two nursing homes in town. I'm struggling to let this one go, as I wait for more information. It is so easy to get anxious and worrisome about this situation, but every time I even think about getting scared, I literally hear God's voice in my spirit " Sarah, are you going to trust me, or are you going to trust what you see in front of you? Trust me Sarah, I love you."

In my humanness and struggle to constantly trust God with everything in my life, I can't help but wonder how Mary felt around this time; pregnant with the Son of God, married to a man who she hardly knew and fleeing from her country, and SO young. Was she afraid? Probably. But did she allow her fear to prevent her from fulfilling God's plan for her life? Absolutely not.

~Breathe deeply the peace that can only come from a small baby in a manger. Trust God in the way that a young virgin did so many years ago. ~

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Gift of Peace Wrapped Up in the Form of a Tiny Country Church

It has been far too long since I have come to this quiet corner of my world to reflect and document my current season of life. So much has happened, and I feel quite old by making the statement "Where has the year gone?", but the truth is that I am quite in shock and awe at how fast this year has ended.Once the semester is over and my brain isn't littered and filled to the brim with text book information and deadlines, I will reflect more on the recent events of my life. But for now, I felt it necessary to blog about a beautiful experience that I had tonight.

At the beginning of this semester I joined the Ridgewater College Choir. I joined on volunteer status, viewing it as an opportunity to meet new people and a place to plug in my musical gift. It didn't take long for me to feel as if maybe I had made the wrong choice in joining this choir. Out of all 6 of the sopranos in my section, at least half of them were ( and still are) completely tone deaf, with at least 2 of them being tone deaf AND shrill. Come to find out, most of the people in the choir have never been apart of a choir and have never really sung before.

Having been involved in musical opportunities since I was a little girl, I have had my fair share of vocal training. I should also note that I have a very sensitive ear when it comes to sounds; pitches, tones and inflections of people's voices are very important to me. Being aware of this fact, it was extremely difficult for me to demonstrate patience when we would review the same simple cord at least three times and still sing it wrong or when I would be trying to sight read and learn a difficult cord, hearing the exact opposite in my ear at all times.

Throughout this experience, the Lord has humbled me in so many ways. Unbeknownst to me in the beginning, He had a plan to use me in the lives of some of those choir members. Hurting individuals who are unwed, 18 year old mothers, alcoholics on parole from jail, debilitating insecurities, a practicing paganist. These are all facts that I learned about each of these individuals. It was then that I realized that this wasn't about me singing, but this was about me becoming part of a bigger plan; a plan that I may never fully see, but know that without a shadow of a doubt that God has (and is) using me in the big picture.

Tonight the choir sang at a tiny little country church seemingly out in the middle of nowhere. Other then the Deaf church that I went to as an ASL student, this church was the tiniest church I had ever stepped foot in. The congregation couldn't have been more than 100, as it only had about 10 pews in the sanctuary. The women of the church made and served an incredible, nourishing hot meal of several different soups, a variety of sandwiches, crackers, cheese and desserts.

After we ate, the choir crowded together near the altar to do the performance. The church was decorated beautifully with lights, and a tall Christmas tree off to the side of the sanctuary. While starting our first number, I realized that this is what Christmas is really about. A small, simple, humble church that opens their doors to a college choir in an effort to bless and minister to us. As we sang "Silent Night" a tear rolled down my cheek as I was reminded what Christmas is really about.
The last couple of months have been some of the most challenging months of my life. It has been a struggle to learn how to balance 16 credits and a nearly full time job, with everything else that life throws in on the side. It has been very hard to get into the Christmas spirit when you have looming deadlines, little sleep, money troubles and bouts of loneliness to contend with. But tonight, just for a small time, everything was still. I could feel the Holy Spirit waving His hand of peace over every single person in that room as the notes that were sung many times before suddenly had a different sound, which was not a coincidence.

May you feel God's peace during this Christmas season. May you feel and choose to seek a peace that surpasses all understanding. A peace that allows you to feel, understand and know deep in your heart that God's timing is perfect and the love that He has for His children is available for the taking.