Empty.

Well, it’s taken me a week or so to process it all, but about ten days ago I experienced a day from hell in my classroom.

First of all, let me say this: student teaching did not prepare me for this crazy time in the lives of children. The few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are insane and the children are, for lack of better term, off the CHAIN. My student teaching finished right at the end of November, so I never saw this period of time at school — such an eye-opening experience.

Friday, November 30 is a day that will live on in my memory as my lowest teaching moment. 24 eight-year-olds made me cry in front of them and I just walked out of the room in my dismay.

Yes, you read that correctly my friends: I cried in front of my class because they were being so disrespectful and rude and then proceeded to just leave them.

I rearranged the whole afternoon so that I could help them with math. We’re behind in finishing our current chapter book read aloud, but I decided to push that to the side so that I could reinforce some math skills. Kids were playing around and crawling on the floor and one of them stepped outside in the hallway because he didn’t feel like finishing his work — seriously, I felt like the most incompetent person in the world. I told them to put everything away and go sit at their desks since they so obviously didn’t want any help with the assignment. There were still kids playing around the room and I was just fed up with their absurd behavior (“absurd” is a word that my students now know because I use it so often to describe the way they behave at the end of the day). It was like all of the disrespect and the little things just finally  made me explode into a rage of tears. I was fortunate enough to not start shedding uncontrollable amounts of tears in front of them, but my voice quaked and my eyes reddened with each word I tried to speak (read: yell). Then, I just walked out into the hallway.

To be completely honest, I had no idea what the heck I was doing. I couldn’t really believe any of it was happening. Did I just walk out of my classroom? As I was alone in my thoughts, I heard one student yell, “YOU MADE MISS STEWART CRY!!!” and I secretly in my heart hoped they all felt terrible.

Another adult saw me in the hallway and went into my room to tend to my class. This certain adult is a man sent from God as a behavior specialist in Durham who is able to tame uncontrollable behaviors. He’s magical.

As I cried in the bathroom alone, all I could think about was how weak I was — how I couldn’t even keep it together in front of my students. How unprofessional and inappropriate and, ultimately, embarrassing.

The students left and I was able to talk out my feelings with my coworkers (love my third grade team to the moon and back), and we came to the conclusion that maybe this isn’t the worst thing in the world. Maybe the kids needed to see that Miss Stewart has feelings like a real person, too (because let’s be serious, when you were a kid you didn’t think your teacher was a real person either).

I finally finished my sob-fest and told myself that Monday was the start of a new week. As I was cleaning up and getting things ready to go, I saw a key in one of my drawers across the room.

Friends, this key wasn’t just in any random drawer — it was in my confiscated toy drawer (yes, BeyBlades are the bane of my existence and I seize them upon witnessing their presence in my classroom).

This was funny to me, considering the fact that I did not confiscate any toys on that particular day.

I walked across the room to the unlocked drawer and opened it only to find a few of the toys missing. I felt so many things all at once: anger, violation, frustration, sadness. Where does a kid learn this stuff? Trying to analyze this predicament, I realized that this student first would have needed to get into my teacher cabinet where I keep the keys (in this teacher cabinet, I also keep my personal belongings, such as my phone, wallet/purse, and car keys). Then, he would have had to unlock the drawer and take the toys.

Essentially, this is a classic case of elementary breaking and entering.

Truly, I was furious, and yes, I did cry again. Why would a child steal from me? What kind of environment have I been fostering to make a child think it’s acceptable to behave that way? What could I have done differently?

In that moment, I had to pack up everything and leave. I couldn’t be in that building anymore. Driving home, I simply felt empty. That dull, empty feeling was like I got kicked in the stomach.

See, I work so hard in creating good lessons (and executing those lessons) for these kids. I want more than anything in the world for them to love learning and to really gain a positive school experience. I’m doing everything in my power to pretty much give these kids a brighter future and they disrespect me and steal from me. That really hurts, and to the point where words aren’t even really sufficient since it’s such a deeply pained emotion.

It took me a couple days to get back to my normal teaching self. Monday I was still pretty upset, even though I tried to mask my frustration with the situation. Tuesday was a little better, but when I discovered who the toy thief was I was pretty unhappy with that, too. It wasn’t until Wednesday I would say that I felt like I was back in my groove — and trust me, that’s a while for me to be off-kilter in a job where I normally feel very in my element.

My small group leader told me that when I was telling her about all of this (there were tears involved in just the retelling of this fiasco), it reminded her of the compassion that God has for all of us, even when we disrespect Him and steal from the toy drawer. Stepping back, I’m able to see more of how this is such a perfect opportunity to show God’s grace and love to these kids.

Even though I feel like I hit rock bottom that day, I’m confident that it can only go up from here. This time is just so difficult for my kids — the holidays are crazy for everyone, but I think the prospect of not really having holidays to celebrate is what makes it even harder for these kids.

A friend told me I wouldn’t be as upset as I was if I didn’t love these kids as much as I do. I think she’s right.

passion: the prayer.

i know that i probably shouldn’t be surprised in God’s faithfulness since He is always faithful, but it will forever astound me that He is always there when i call. always.

these last few weeks i’ve been praying over this passion conference in atlanta. for those of you who aren’t familiar, the passion conference is basically a week long conference of worship (which is probably a huge understatement, so i can’t wait to reflect on what that week teaches me) and i am absolutely beside myself with excitement that i’m going to be trekking down there in a couple weeks.

three weeks ago i was given the opportunity to lead worship with a dear friend of mine in durham for a triangle fca huddle leaders gathering (not really sure what else to call it…sorry my words are currently failing me, friends!) at summit. i hadn’t led worship at all since senior year of high school four years ago, so i was pretty pumped to help him out. dad told me that once i did it, i wouldn’t be able to stop and i was going to go nuts, and of course i didn’t really believe him.

i don’t know why i don’t believe my dad when he says stuff like that. the man is always right.

after leading worship that night something in me snapped again. i had this huge realization after i got home that night that i haven’t been leveraging all of my talents for Christ like i know i should. that broke my heart and i just started praying about this conference, asking God to send me to georgia if it was His will.

a day or two later i called my dad and just told him that i needed to go to passion. it had been put on my heart that i needed to go and have a mind-blowing experience and get even deeper in worship — dad agreed. i started praying that i could find a way to get to georgia and that i could find somewhere to stay. a group of my friends were going, but their rooms were full and my church group already had everthing in order and they were maxed out with their capacity.

i was still praying about it and was kind of almost giving up trying to find somewhere to stay — i started thinking about what i’d do that first week of january — maybe i would stop in a teacher friend’s classroom for a day or two or something along those lines.

the other night a friend of mine texted me, asking me if i wanted to go in their group since a girl had just dropped out and they had a bed space open up.

praise. God.

i think it’s the coolest thing to see God working and answering prayers, especially so visibly. to say i’m excited about what God has in store for me at this conference is such an understatement. i know He has great things planned for that week for not only myself and the friends that i am going with, but for everyone there. so many lives will be changed and i am ecstatic about that.

just want to share a little scripture that’s been on my heart lately. i’ve been going through 1 and 2 peter a lot lately, probably because my pastor is working through a sermon series in 1 peter and i’ve been led to continue on into 2 peter. anyway, be encouraged and know that your prayers do not fall on deaf ears, friends!

2 peter 1:3-11

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you  may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. fort his very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. for if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. but if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. for if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

eve carson.

the spring of my senior year of high school was the same time that unc’s student body president, eve carson, was shot to death in chapel hill. i will never forget hearing about it on the news and my mom being terrified to let me leave since there were so many similarities that my mom saw in eve and myself.

since i started at unc, there have been memorial services and things of the like every year, the eve carson scholarship was created, and we celebrate eve and her legacy for a week in march every year called “every moment counts.”

honestly, i wish i could have met her. she seems like such an amazing person, and after reading about the incident of her death for nearly four years i can only imagine how wonderful she was. this article in particular sparked my interest:

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2011/12/unc-student-eve-carson-begged-captors-to-pray-with-her-before-they-killed-her-says-murder-trial-witness/

i think it says so much about eve’s character and her relationship with Christ that she wanted to pray with her captors. her whole story really puts things in perspective for me — even though she was in a time of ultimate fear and despair, she still relied on Jesus.

i’m reminded of james 5:13 when i think about her wanting to pray with the men who kidnapped her — “is any one of you in trouble? he should pray.” i can only imagine that she was praying as hard as ever that night, but friends, our prayers do not fall upon deaf ears! as hard as it is, we need to understand that the answers to our prayers are not what we always want them to be. God is in control; He knows what He’s doing.

it kind of takes me back to jason’s accident almost five years ago now. he was a wonderful person who loved the Lord and his life was taken from him for no good reason known to man. even though jason passed away, he and his story were able to save so many people.

despite the great amount of sadness that this brings, eve has not been forgotten, and neither has her faith.

i definitely look forward to meeting her in heaven.

the little things.

i’ve always been a fan of the little things in life — you know, stuff like getting a box of new crayolas or getting free water at a restaurant. i just think there’s something about the little things in our life that make things brighter, maybe even happier if you will.

embrace the little things. share those small, sometimes seemingly insignificant moments with someone you love. i went to the doctor today and saw a unc med school degree hanging on the wall, which instantly made me think of my friend olivia who just got into unc med school. i told her i saw it and thought of her and how awesome it was that she’d have one of those to hang up soon, and that in itself made her day.

i love it when i can do that. you know, make someone’s day. isn’t that the best feeling in the world?

i like to try and make it a point to make someone’s day a little better everyday. isn’t that why we’re here? i mean, God put us on earth to do His will and we are called to show love and compassion to everyone around us.

earlier today i finished reading the book blue like jazz by donald miller — it was great, i highly recommend it. in one of the chapters, miller mentions mother teresa and how she found the strength to love so many people. what was her response?

she said she loved people because they are Jesus.

wild concept, right? it’s a concept that my church (shoutout to summit rdu/brier creek south!) believes, too, and one that i try to live by — love God, love people.

she loved people because they are Jesus (see 1 john 4:12). i mean it makes sense though, doesn’t it? we are God’s people, His creation, made in His image. now to me, that is a pretty wild concept. every single person on this planet was made in God’s image. that’s just too cool.

i love romans 13:8 (i love the whole book of 1 john, too, particularly the third and fourth chapters, but there’s no way i’d type all of that out on here at this present time, so i encourage you to check it out when you get the chance!) — i think paul puts it pretty bluntly for us:

let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

we have this awesome opportunity to love one another, to share special little moments with people.

it’s those seemingly insignificant moments that can make a world of difference. showing the smallest loving, thoughtful action can completely change someone’s day. my dad and a few of my sunday school teachers from long ago would call this “being Jesus to someone” — i know i’ve been affected by things of this nature many times and am forever grateful for those people who have been there with umbrellas on all my rainy days.

all in all, let’s make a pact to love, and not just love the people like us, but to love everyone, to share meaningful moments with many. let’s make some days, friends. a little bit of love can go a long way.

viajes a córdoba y granada.

i really enjoy traveling. it’s official. heck, it might even be love.

i’ve been traveling around the iberian peninsula the last few weeks and have loved every minute of it. this past weekend was certainly no exception as i traveled to córdoba for a day and then spent two days in granada.

córdoba was a neat little town — apparently it’s in the running to be one of europe’s cultural capitals for the year 2016. neat stuff. we went to a cathedral and explored a bit and had a lovely day. note: this obviously wasn’t the most exhilarating place i’ve been to since i’ve been in europe since this is the only writing i’m planning on doing about it. here’s what the place looked like:

now let’s get to the good stuff: granada.

granada has definitely been my favorite place we’ve seen thus far as a group. the city was just such a neat place! there’s a lot of arabic-inspired things all around since it was the last muslim city to fall to los reyes católicos, ferdinand and isabella, in 1492.

note: yes, i am a huge nerd.

we visited this place called la alhambra which is more or less a moorish citadel/small town within granada. it was so cool walking around there — it’s so dang old! not sure if you realize this, but granada fell in 1492 (yes, i know i just posted that a paragraph ago) which is the same year that christopher columbus sailed across the atlantic. kind of a long time ago, right?! anyway, please check out this view from entering the citadel:

awesome, right?! yes, those are mountains — granada is near the sierra nevada mountain range and only an hour away from the mediterranean coast. definitely my kind of place.

anyway, exploring around here was great. there are three parts to the area and we hit all of them. here are some highlights:

okay, this is super cool — so like i mentioned earlier, la alhambra has tons of arabic inspirations; ergo, there are pieces of arabic phrases (many from the qaran) all over the walls. this specific phrase says, “solo Dios es venecedor“, meaning “God alone is victor” — how awesome is that?! i’m in love with it.

this is the view from the top of la alhambra — so incredibly gorgeous. some of the houses are actually built into the mountains, which is pretty sweet. here you can specifically see the older part of the town.

after our visit, we had some free time. i got some snackage with will and shatarra and then we went back to the room to relax a little before dinner. we watched part of a bullfight on television, which was interesting — needless to say i have to admit that i’m looking forward to seeing one of those in real life sometime soon before i leave spain (there will be footage of this on the video camera, never fear dad). we ate dinner in the hotel with the group and then went and saw la alhambra at night, which is apparently one of the top three most desired sights to see in the world right after the eiffel tower in paris, france and the vatican in italy. sadly, my pictures at night didn’t come out too well, but check out a lovely google image here.

afterwards there was naturally more exploring! there are tea houses everywhere with all kinds of tea (these places are called teterías) and also all kinds of hookah. i tried the hookah thing and let’s just say it was like that part in grease when sandy tried to smoke a cigarette for the first time. there is so much tea everywhere, in every flavor imaginable! i tried a kind called marroquí, which is a green mint tea. delicious. they sell it on the streets as well as in shops around the city:

after a fantastic first day in granada, we had round two at the cathedral! friends, i love the cathedrals we’ve been to, but i think this one was my favorite. first we went into part of the cathedral that isn’t really part of the cathedral (kind of confusing, i know, but just go with it) called la capilla (a chapel). the coolest thing about this? i saw the tombs of king ferdinand II of aragon and queen isabella I of castille, no big deal.

oh wait, IT IS A HUGE DEAL AND I WAS FREAKING OUT.

sadly, they didn’t allow pictures in the chapel at all, so there’s not really any documented proof that i saw their coffins and tombs in the chapel, but trust me. that’s probably one of the coolest things i have ever seen in my life! ferdinand and isabella are buried with their daughter, juana la loca (she’s called “la loca” because she was very emotional and had lots of problems) and her piece of crap husband felipe (he cheated on her and just kind of sucked in general). it was absolutely mind-blowing to see the tombs and the intricate details of everything. i also saw queen isabella’s crown — that thing is siiiick! i’d like to think i could rock something that classy on top of my head. after checking out some incredible historical artifacts and whatnot, we made moves to the cathedral.

wow.

i’ve been to a few cathedrals since i’ve been here, but i’m pretty sure this one was my favorite. yeah, sometimes they all start to kind of look the same and one cathedral’s architecture blends with another, but this one was just absolutely breathtaking; it almost brought me to tears.

note: sorry rafa, but i was tuning you out a bit when we were sitting in the pews.

clutching my rosary, i just couldn’t stop thinking about how insignificant i am in God’s plans and how astoundingly great He is. He’s been worshiped for thousands of years and here i am, only 21-years-old, sitting in an ancient cathedral where the likes of spanish royalty  from the 15th century came to pray and attend mass.

there’s something really great about the significance of feeling insignificant if you asked me. personally, i usually feel small. it happens when you stand an inch from five feet tall. but this kind of feeling of smallness is different; it’s awe-inspiring. i knelt at one of the benches while the group was making its way into another room and just prayed for a minute. i hate to say this, but my church situation in spain has been lacking. since i’ve been out of town pretty much every weekend, i haven’t gone to church, and there isn’t a protestant church anywhere around here (at least that i’ve found). i haven’t been to church for a service in four weeks and it hasn’t been the easiest on me. i reveled in the moment to talk to God (not that i needed to be in an old cathedral to do it, but it was a good time for me and something i won’t forget doing).

being in the cathedral made me consider so many things. i am so incredibly blessed beyond even my own understanding — i mean, i’m currently in spain studying abroad, that’s blessing enough! i have a wonderful supportive family and great friends and a home to go back to when my time here is up. a verse from job came to my mind, too:

stop and consider God’s wonders.

i am pretty sure i’ve mentioned this verse in a previous post at some point, but it needs to be mentioned again.

i am experiencing so many of the wondrous things that God has made. i am looking at history in its actuality. how can i not stop and consider God’s creation?! this freshened perspective on my study abroad experience was much needed and has given me great clarity these last couple days.

anyway, pictures of the cathedral! how could i let you read about my heartfelt experience in the cathedral without showing you? that would just be cruel.

outside of the cathedral — it’s so big!

so much gold and intricate details everywhere! so breathtaking.

the stained glass in all of the cathedrals i’ve seen has been gorgeous, but this one is one of my favorite windows.

all in all, i definitely give the granada portion of my weekend a 10 out of 10. i’d love to go back if i could, but i don’t think i’ll have time. this weekend i’m heading to barcelona and then will probably end up spending the rest of my time in sevilla (possibly making a day trip here or there before leaving).

well, now that this post is sufficiently long enough to be read as part of a novel (speaking of which, i finished water for elephants on the way back to sevilla; so good, i totally recommend it!), i salute you for bearing with me and trucking through all of the nearly 1500 words which this post contains!

look out for more updates, specifically including another pros and cons of sevilla post!

a celebration.

disclaimer: i’m about to get real up in this post.

so tonight was the night the world discovered that osama bin laden was killed.

bin laden was not only the terrorist ringleader for the attacks on 9/11 in new york, but he is also known for many prominent attacks worldwide that began in the early 1990s. bombings of american embassies in africa, deadly firefights with soldiers in somalia, an attack on the uss cole — this guy has gotten around to breaking many hearts and ruining many lives in his time.

upon learning that osama bin laden was dead, americans flooded pennsylvania avenue (and probably other avenues and lanes and streets and things of the like), crowding the gates to the white house, anxiously awaiting president obama’s words to the nation.

honestly, this kind of gave me a strange feeling — hundreds and hundreds of americans it total celebration over osama bin laden’s death. i mean, i understand that it is great that he no longer poses a threat to our nation and the rest of the world — i am so relieved about that. but who are we to be celebrating such a thing? does that make us look like the enemies that we claim to hate?

do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him. (proverbs 24:17-18)

things seem so backwards in the Bible sometimes, don’t they? love your enemies, turn the other cheek — do not gloat when your enemy falls.

i am happy to hear of the restored safety to our nation, but is our safety from terrorism completely restored? right now is a time for constant prayer for our nation and those who are leading us through all of this. just because bin laden was killed does not mean that we should be gloating and taking pride in his immediate “defeat” because what will the rest of his followers do in retaliation? what about other nations? are europeans rushing streets and national buildings? what does the world’s perspective on all of this entail? there are just a lot of other things to think about with this if you asked me.

once obama started his national address, i hung on every word. i’m sure millions of other americans did, too.

the president ended his speech quoting the pledge of allegiance:

we are one nation. under God. indivisible. with liberty and justice for all.

we’re a nation under God.

what, then, shall we say in response to this? if God is for us, who can be against us?…it is God who justifies. (romans 8:31-33)

i’ve had that verse from romans on my heart all day and here i am writing about it (big surprise, i know). as a nation under God, who can be against us? who can claim victory? we have our victory in Christ Jesus, friends, and it is HIS death that should be the only one worth truly celebrating.

let’s look to justice being served over the fall of an enemy.

it is finished.

hallelujah, we’re alive, hell was silenced when you cried it is finished.

i love easter. well, resurrection sunday. my dad used to get mad if my brother and i called today easter instead of resurrection sunday since easter is by technicality a pagan holiday and my dad’s into technicalities with Jesus things.

one of my personal favorite passages in the bible is about living victoriously through the death of Christ in 1 corinthians 15.

where, o death, if your victory? where, o death, is your sting? the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. but thanks be to God! he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. let nothing move you. always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 corinthians 15:55-58)

i just love that. LOVE. THAT. seriously, it gives me goosebumps just thinking about how awesome God’s love is for us and how merciful he is despite our sin. i mean, we are loved so much that God sent Jesus to conquer death for us so we wouldn’t have to bear such punishment.

hebrews has a great point of view on all of this.

just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (hebrews 9:27-28)

one sacrifice. one love. one life to live.

Jesus and his resurrection (death bringing life? mind blowing, i know, but so astoundingly and breathtakingly beautiful) certainly equate to #winning.