Monday, December 10, 2012

Purposeful Planning: Proverbs 19:21

Let's be honest.
I make mistakes all. the. time. I am human and I mess up. I forget things, I get tired, I become irritable. I am hard to be around sometimes. I don't always accomplish my purposes. In fact, I regularly mess up my one true purpose more times than I even care to think about. My purpose is to glorify God. As a Christian, God commands it of me in 1st Corinthians 10:31, which says, "So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." I am not going to be able to accomplish this on my own by any means, but I think that's kind of the point. What's the point of trusting God if you have all the answers? No one has all the answers. I know I don't! Jesus died for my sins because I am a sinner. I don't deserve God's grace and I never have. That is why people say that Jesus and the personal relationship we can have with Him is the greatest Christmas gift that can be received, because I don't deserve a personal relationship with Someone so completely Holy or for my sins to be forgiven. I still can't wrap my mind around it sometimes. For me to attempt to glorify God is laughable, but it is a command. It is my purpose.
Many long and short term plans trail are under my "purpose" umbrella. Which is also a little silly when I look at Proverbs 16:9, which says, "In his heart a man plans his course, but The Lord determines his steps." I think it's important to have plans. That way at least you are lifting your feet for God to place your steps! It's heartening though, that I am not in control. I definitely have major potential to mess up my life prettttttty well. Upon further perusal of the BIble relating to this particular topic I found something SO cool. God knows what is going to happen and has known for forever. Nothing ever surprises Him and He is orchestrating everything. In Isaiah 46:10 God says, "I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please." How NEAT! And earlier in the book of Isaiah, Isaiah 14:24, I found a passage that says, "The Lord Almighty has sworn, 'Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.'" Which is heartening because it lets me know, without a doubt, that no matter what I do, God has plans for me and for everyone that WILL be fulfilled. I still have free-will, but God has known what I will choose to do since the beginning of time. I may wander off-course for a little bit, but I will always be right where God knows, and has known, I will be.
The tentative plan for my life is to attend the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and obtain a degree in broadcast journalism from the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. Someday I will get married to a great guy who loves the Lord and try to be the best wife and mother possible. I will raise my children in a loving, safe home and laugh long and often. I will bring casseroles to church potlucks and volunteer to attend school field trips. I will wash dishes and fold laundry with the best of them. I will instill traditional values in my children and encourage them in whatever they choose to do. I'll attempt to read book after book, in very little spare time, nestled in a library nook with creamer and coffee. When I get older I'll invest in a stronger eyeglass prescription and start crocheting blankets for my grandchildren. I'll take up quilting like my great-grandmother Jensen, who had the quilter's equivalent of that King Midas' touch. Then I'll watch birds from my nursing home window. I'll have very powerful binoculars and know each of the bird names by heart. I'll tell stories of the past with the younger generations that come to carol or play bingo with me. I'll ask them what organization they are trying to obtain community service hours for, and encourage them to be as involved as they can in that organization. I'll write thank-yous, because I'll appreciate seeing them so much. When I pass from this life into Heaven and eternity with Jesus, my Savior, I'll want my funeral to be a happy one. Happy because they know I will be seeing Jesus face to face. Which brings me full circle. I need to give over all my plans to Jesus because I know I am powerless to make anything happen. But you know what? That is perfectly fine with me. :)
I think these last three passages flow fairly well together, and sum up this entire blog posting.
Proverbs 19:21 "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."
Psalm 33:11 "But the plans of The Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations."
Proverbs 16:3 "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thinking Thanksgiving

          Right now I'm headed down I-40 W to Exit 12: Arkansas 540 N at an approximately 73 mph clip.
         This route is familiar.  I've definitely been here before.  There's an unbelievable amount of trees and bodies of water.  It is all very exciting to see on the roads to and from Little Rock, Arkansas, but we are much happier to drive to them than away from them.  Typically, our family will point out scenery for the duration of the entire drive to Nana and Poppy's, but we're usually sleeping on the ride home.  Which is why, by the way, I'm able to write this in the peace and quiet of our car on I-40 traveling west this morning. My family is asleep.  Okay, Dad isn't, but he's the driver for the next twelve hours, so maybe he should be. :)
         However, if you asked me to define the physical locations that have shaped the person I am today, the roads of Arkansas, then Missouri, then some other state, would not rank in my top ten.  Or twenty.  Not to make them feel bad, but they are just not going to make any sort of impressive ranking on any sentimental list.  Some people say that life is the journey, not the destination.  Which is so true.  However, I'm not sure they were talking frequent flyer miles or filling up gas tanks.  Not to complain.  Ahhh this is a tangent.  Getting back on track...
         My first home was in Little Rock, Arkansas, on a cute little row of homes situated comfortably on Johnny Cake Lane.  Which is adorable because Johnny Cake sounds a little like patty-cake and a little like the Muffin Man who lives on Drury Lane.  Our next door neighbor had previously gotten her nose removed and sometimes she would garden without the prosthetic.  That is kind of cool.  I was very little, so I don't remember that, but I've heard stories.
         When it all comes down to it, the house I truly remember and that holds such a special place in my heart is my little house in the middle of a cornfield.  I guess it's not in the MIDDLE of the cornfield, but it feels like it.  The house is an old immigrant house and has a quarter of a mile long driveway.  I can remember hosting my very own temper-tantrum one very cold day  and deciding to run away and can also remember not getting very far.  At all.   We're talking number of steps in the single-digits.
         I had a yellow-and-white striped room, then a flowery room, and finally a quaint purple room with three windows on the second story.  This is significant because I broke two panes of glass on one of those windows trying to pull a Cirque du Soliel run-and-jump-off-this-wall move while my sisters watched.  I thought I had the motion perfected, so I brought the sisters in to view the performance.  I didn't quite manage it perfectly the first time so I wouldn't let the sisters comment on it yet, although Lillian tried.  I guess what she was truly trying to tell me was that I had cracked the first glass pane.  The second circus act left me with a broken window, seven stitches, a  glued area in my foot, and a concerned question from baby Julianna, "Is Sadthana broken?"
         Side note: "Savannah" is truly a hard name for younger kids to pronounce.  Julianna called me "Sadthana," Lillian called me "Santa," and Madeline called me "Sadayyou."  She definitely made that harder, but it was adorable.  I tried to coax my cousin Banner to say my name yesterday (Julianna even bribed with chocolate) and he laughed so hard at me.  I don't know if he was truly laughing at the impossibility of his getting the pronunciation correct or if he was laughing because he was going to see "Chow" in Cars for the upteenth time that day and was on cloud NINE.
         That was a great reading room, too.  I would read the Redwall books by Brian Jacques and watch my purple flower clock to figure out my Book-It minutes.  Sometimes I would re-count because I couldn't believe I had read so long.  It was a great feeling.  I wrote a special letter to Brian Jacques once.  I mean, created special lined paper with cute animals on the edges and figured out how to send mail internationally and everything.  I got the traditional fan letter response and promotional materials.   Sapphire's mom wrote him a letter some time later and he sent back a signed photograph and a personal message.  I was super happy for Sapphire, but that took some getting over.  He died this year.
         I also loved to sit in this giant tree in our backyard and read and eat plums. Sometimes I would bring apricots with me, but plums were the best for reading.  I loved that tree.  It had approximately three perfect spots for sitting and one super great hidey-hole for my plum while I was up there.  As time passed I became too freaked out about snakes to truly enjoy my perch.  I climbed a tree yesterday though! Most snakes in Arkansas are poisonous, so the climb was probably therapeutic.  My hands are still a little sore from the bark.
         The sisters and I had so much fun in our yard.  We had a big dirt area called the "Desert" where crops used to grow.  We were always digging around in that dirt.  You could find the best stuff in there.  Our cousins buried a bunch of junk to make a 4-wheeler track when we were very young and we were uncovering those things for years afterward.  We were raised Christian and we knew that no one knew where Moses' grave was, so when we started digging up something white and porcelain, we naturally thought we were going to be the ones to unearth Moses.  It was an old toilet seat.  That was kind of a let-down.
         There were other dirt piles in the desert.  They had many purposes.  We would grab a bunch of garden hoses and string them across the yard to our dirt piles.  Sometimes we would find some frogs and make a frog water park out of a particular hill.  A bunch of them hibernated in our sandbox.  Other times we would all put on mud clothes and douse a particularly large dirt pile with water.  A rousing game of king-of-the-mountain would ensue and typically Madeline or I would win.  Mom would take pictures of how muddy we were at the end of a good Desert day.  Dad would let us drive around remote-controlled racing cars out in the Desert, which was so neat.  I can't remember if we made a little track for the cars or if we just let them run free, but I do know that there were glass shards in that dirt somehow. We were careful, but we never wore shoes unless we were playing in the snow.
          I went through an archery phase (let's be honest, I haven't gotten over my archery phase...) and so Dad brought home a compound bow and set a target on a hay bale propped up against our storybook red barn. The arrows found a target more often than they didn't, happily. I even hit THE target sometimes. I do remember that I hit the tippy top of the front side of the BARN. We just waited for a good storm to come knock the arrow down. There was no way we were going to be able to retrieve it otherwise.  The significance was that for a while I could go around saying that I could hit the broadside of a barn and HAD. Then someone pointed out that the front of a barn is without a doubt NOT the broadside of a barn and I felt both silly and robbed of a great line. What is the significance of the broadside of a barn compared to the front of it, anyway?  Even now, it's tempting to head over to the farm (my grandparents still own the property and rent out the house, but not the barn) and shoot the barn to resurface the memory and be able to say that I did.  I can also simply blog about it, and that's just fine too. :)
           We played house all over the farm.  Madeline and I were the parents, Julianna was typically a child, and Lillian was some sort of animal.  Sometimes we were all the moms making fake pies in our pink playhouse.  Our playhouse was so much fun.  Mom drew out what she wanted the house to look like and Dad and Grandpa built it.  The house had one room, six windows, electricity, a wood floor, various kitchen sets, a front light that stayed on, a light fixture inside with a light-switch, and a front porch.  Mom and some of her painter friends painted it three colors: white, light pink, and hot pink!  We all helped pave our brick pathway from the sidewalk to the front porch of our pink playhouse.  It was our life size barbie dream house and was absolutely a blast.  Every year we would have our "Clean-Up the Playhouse" day and sweep and mop the floors.  We even went as far as to wipe down all the kitchen set stuff.  The celebration at the end was that all the sisters would pick up their box fans and sleeping bags and everyone would try and spend the night in the playhouse.
          I could rattle off so many stories and so many places around that farmyard: the window at the top of the stairs where we found our "pet" spider and named him Penny, the baby mattress used for sliding down our staircase, the spooky basement where we ran the rock polisher with dreams of jewelry-making, the wonderful Quonset building that housed the corn that we "swam" in, the cherry-drops made from the swings of our swing set with the "tumble turf," and the baby kittens we rescued and adopted and loved.  However, that may be overkill.  I can sum up my feelings in a matter of sentences.  Although my family doesn't occupy that home anymore, I'll always carry the sweet memories of all the wonderful times lived there.  A piece of it will always be with me.  So that wherever I am at, I'll be right at home.

I'm driving the 560 named Lizzy!  This tractor is attached to a pipe trailer and its hub-cap has definitely undergone some reconstructive surgery! :)
The farm on a wintery day in February! You can see the playhouse peeking out from behind the swing-set! :)

YAYYYY Football season! This was the first game in our super fun rain jackets! I loved those things! Three of them ripped during this they weren't worn again.  Anyway! I've spent every school year on this track and have LOVED it! :)
Three cheers for the annual Christmas Daddy/Daughter dance! Grandpa is included, of course! :) They do so well and are SUCH great sports! So thankful for my family at this school event and always!!! :)
Hey, locker buddy Madeline! :) This is a picture from junior year- but was a good "school locker" picture and I was so glad Madeline was in it! She is such a big part of my school experience, too! I love seeing her in the hallways! :)
This is our BEAUTIFUL Hamilton County Courthouse! So pretty! It's even pretty inside, too! :)
This is our great coffee shop called "Espressions" near the square by the courthouse!  We LOVE the owner and LOVE the restaurant! Whenever we have family visit (my fun aunt is pictured here! :) ) we try and bring them to Espressions! This was taken on a Saturday this year in between Julianna's volleyball games and the games of the Aurora High School volleyball invite where we were cheering! :) 

"There is no place like Nebraska, good ole' Nebraska U..." Everybody now! :)
This was taken at the State Fair in 2011! It is so fun to see some of what the state has to show for itself in one place!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Train of Thought


There are so many great things that happen on Thursdays.
1: Our student council usually sells breakfast pizza from Casey's in one of the science rooms and if you get there in time, you get to greet a good portion of the student body before class starts.

2: If the calendar week were a roller coaster, Thursday would be the last segment of track right at the top of that first giant hill.  There is a certain quality in the school hallways that speaks both student exhaustion and excitement, akin to the nausea of the first drop of the Patriot at Worlds of Fun.  Thursdays are the calm before the storm of Friday night football games and busy weekends.  Students come together and give their "last hurrah!" of energy to finish out the week. I love it!

3: After school Madeline and I run to our currently unpaid position at Kirby's School of Dance. It is SO FUN! There are four classes that we assist with; elementary students come over to the Bremer Center in Aurora and learn to tendu, chassé, and pirouette.  Kirby teaches them tap steps as well, but I truly can't remember the names of the steps! We both thought it was a job, but it just might be volunteer work.  Jury's currently out, but it is such a fun thing to do on a Thursday afternoon! 

The final great thing that happens THIS Thursday is that our Honors Composition class posts their blogs! I will be reading all of the entries before falling asleep tonight! Our topic is, "Who Am I?"  I truly love to hear about people's lives.  Oh, what I would give to listen to the world's stories!  To read a giant storybook of all that is happening and has happened on earth! To watch puzzle pieces and fragments of people's lives come together!  That is one reason I love the Bible so much; what an fascinating and detailed history!  Can you imagine the ability to laugh at every funny story, to cry at every sweet moment, and to relate to so many occurrences that have happened throughout the course of time? I may not be able to have great conversations with all of the people I "know" about who they truly are in this lifetime, but reading people's blogs in this class is a fun start!

I guess this last paragraph leads me to my current mental dilemma.  When in conversation with someone I don't really know, I'd rather not talk about me.  It's not that I am not confident in who I am or that I do not  know who I am, but rather that it is just uncomfortable.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe it's a deep psychological stranger-danger trust issue. Honestly, I'd rather not know. Sad as this sounds, it scares me a tiny bit to post about my life on a blog even for a very, very small group of potential readers.

So. This is me talking to my best friend, telling them about my life.

I first breathed in fresh, Little Rock, Arkansas, air in November of 1994. I am the first of four girls born to Rick and Marci Epp, the most important and influential people in my life.  I was born with a common condition called Jaundice.  In a nutshell, that means that in the first week of my life was spent under a phototherapy light which broke down excess bilirubin created when I recycled my old red blood cells.  I wore little sunglasses and was carefully watched around the clock by my family for the devastating fact that I would become blind if my sunglasses were to fall off. This is an odd thing to bring up when talking about who I am today, but I believe it highlights two specific things about my life.  One, I love to be in any kind of spotlight.  I love acting under stage lights, reading under nightlights, and dancing under football stadium lights. Two, my family has always been my support group, my closest friends, and my biggest cheerleaders.  They watch out for me and are constantly nearby to laugh with, to cry with, and to walk beside tangibly and intangibly.

I also slept 15 hours a night as a newborn.  This panicked my parents, who took me in to see my pediatrician, who also panicked, several days in a row to make sure everything was okay.  Finally, he just told them that I was perfectly healthy, that they had been given a gift, and to go home.  I have always enjoyed my sleep, but today do not sleep anywhere near 15 hours a night.  I like to think I was stock-piling sleep hours for the years to come.  I am currently the family night-owl, ironically petrified of the dark. (I say this in complete seriousness.  People laugh, but it is too true.  Darkness creeps me out, paralyzes me, stops me in my tracks.  I have a phone flashlight app on the home screen of my little droid, and I might use it more than my alarm clock.)

All growing up I had a head of dark, curly hair attached permanently to a gigantic bow.  Mom is from the South and the South believes in bows.  Huge bows.  I had to wear a bow until fifth grade.  I remember really disliking them then, but I absolutely love the bows now as I look back at pictures!  I can remember wearing a bow to the swimming pool so that Mom could tell who we were in the water.  That was such a brilliant idea!  We also had our first haircut the summer after we turned five years old.  Every parent teaches their children different things different ways and these two "requirements" taught me to care about my appearance.  I am by no means saying that every child must have super long hair with bows hanging down to their shoelaces to learn to care about how they present themselves, but for me this taught the importance of taking care of oneself.

My kindergarten through second grade years were spent at the Epp Academy.  I learned to love my family and learning at the same time.  My sisters and I are so close, and I believe this is in part due to the fact that we were all we had for friends in the early years of life.  I can remember fun family times that happened at all hours during the day.  I also remember thinking that every person in the world had one friend outside their family.  We had a friend named Arienne who would come over and we would play in the dirt in our yard by our cornfield.  We named this patch of earth "The Desert" and we played king of the mountain on hills of mud and dug up things our cousins had buried to make a 4-wheeler track years before.

Having one friend in no way, shape, or form prepared me for the culture shock of entering the Aurora Public School system in third grade, where approximately 100 other children my age went to school. One hundred kids. One hundred third-graders. One hundred, one hundred, one hundred. Did students here have one hundred friends?  I knew I could count that high, but I just couldn't believe I could count that many friends.  Making friends was a hard thing for me to do that year.  Thankfully, I contracted chicken pox.  That gave me approximately two weeks at home, right around the time of my birthday.  It was such a welcome thing.  Then, one unfortunate PE class (never my strong suit), we were playing line tag and I ran smack dab into Britni McBride, breaking my nose.  I had surgery the next day, a beautiful plastic cast, and a glorious amount of time at home to recoup-orate from my days at school.

My middle school days were not much better socially.  I spent my recesses hiding out in the girls bathrooms.  It seems strange now, but I can't remember a lot of my middle school days.  I'm actually thankful for this fact; I think I have mentally blocked them out.  I left my mark on the middle school handbook, now no one is allowed to use the restrooms during recess and the bathrooms are checked before that dreaded time to make sure no one is camping out in there.

Cheerleading changed my life.  This sounds silly, but it is so true.  It gave me confidence.  I was astonished to have people know my name that I didn't know, have people start talking to me instead of the other way around, and have...friends.  I learned upperclassmen's names when we inserted them into our rebound cheers for basketball.  Classes switched up and I was with different people all of the time.  I got to know so many people.  My middle school years taught me humility, and my high school years gave me confidence.  I know that I can never be full of myself because I am so far from perfect and I also know that there are people who I can invest time into.  I never want anyone to feel like they don't have friends or that no one likes them.  It is my personal mission to make sure that everyone around me feels loved and accepted, because everyone is worth love and acceptance.

As a new person, I started to become involved in the activities of Aurora High School.  Today I am involved in cheerleading, the Fellowship of Christian Girls, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Aurora Mentoring Program, FFA, National Honor Society, Student Council, the Senior Officer Team.  I am a Student Ambassador, the FFA secretary, the National Honor Society president, and the Student Council secretary.  

In June of 2008 I became a Christian.  I accepted Jesus into my heart, knowing that He died on the cross for all of my sins and rose again on the third day, victorious over death.  I know that He is coming again.  I know that this world is not fluffy clouds and rainbows, but we, as Christians, are the "body" of Christ and need to shine as stars in this dark and perverse generation.  Our old youth pastor, who I looked up to and respected, was found to be without a pastoral degree, abusing his wife, and stealing from the church.  This left me with enormous trust issues. It was so hard to learn from pastors after that because I didn't absolutely believe that they were who they said they were.  God has worked a miracle and truly delivered me from those trust issues, mainly through the realization that Christians are far from perfect.  The Bible is Truth always.  Humans will fail me all the time and I will fail others all the time, but God will never fail me.  We are Christians because at some point we realized that we needed a Savior.  I daily struggle to be more like Jesus.  

This class is the only class I need to graduate.  When I was looking at my schedule this year I started to wonder why our senior class was still in school.  We could all, depending on how exactly we planned our individual schedules, graduate at semester.  I started to be bogged down with that dreaded thing called "senioritis."  Then I realized that we are here to set the pace for the underclassmen.  We are here to encourage them to become involved in school activities, to give them the confidence that I was given almost four years ago. 

Who am I?
That goes back to where I'm from:

I am from hair straighteners,
deep black bobby pins and anti-frizz spray.
From library nooks and rocking chairs
that comfort, engulf, surround like a cocoon.
I am from the excitement of a the crowd
at a football game, poms, and face paint.
From shiny book covers to dusty tomes
smelling wiser, or newer, than I.
I am from conversation, chatter in the hallways,
quiet in the classroom.
I am from encouragement,
confidence in others and a happy hello.
From Kanakuk Kamps, fresh off the jet ski,
throat hoarse and skin burnt red.
I am from grace, delivered by mercy and 
overwhelmed by God's love.
I am from glitter and tutus
that take forever to make just right.
From newspaper rolls for making signs
late at night wielding foam brushes.
I am from the family that enjoys one another.
Smiles, laughs, sings around the dinner table
engraved by pencils from homework past.

1. The Broken by Bebo Norman
2. You Are Everything by Matthew West
3. Amazing Life by Britt Nicole
4. Forever Reign by Hillsong United
5. Light Up The Sky by The Afters
6. There Will Be A Day by Jeremy Camp
7. East to West by Casting Crowns
8. Hero by Skillet
9. Your Great Name by Natalie Grant
10. Should Have Been Me by Citizen Way
11. The Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns

This song is a journey! If you listen to it, please read until the end! I LOVE this song because I absolutely relate to it!

Mary Ellen Pankratz is my Grandpa's sister. She is pictured here making Zwieback, German bread rolls.  She owns a catering business and we always (a tradition!) buy from her for our German meals!