Thursday, August 29, 2013

7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Last weekend felt like it was a reevaluation of who I am and where I’m at. This is something that I’m constantly thinking about and considering- I never want to be complacent.

Saturday, I attended a workshop at my school on “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Franklin Covey. I’ve mentioned these habits before because our school principles are founded on “The Leader In Me” program (the kid version of the 7 habits made for schools!). So, these 7 habits are something that I’m familiar with and the concepts came as no surprise.

But isn’t funny how the same thing can just rock you over and over again? God does that a lot- probably because we need more than a little bit of reminding to stay on track some times.

I’m not usually one for “self help” books and programs- a lot are based on secular ideas and God doesn’t really fit into their formulas. But the 7 habits from Covey are ones that resonate a lot with me as a Christian. Sort of as a download for myself-- I’m going to give you a little recap of how these can change your perspective & I how I think God fits into the picture. Feel free to skip around & read the ones that intrigue you the most!

1.     Be proactive.

"Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am." 
[Philippians 4:13-14]


You can carry your own weather. You control your attitude and how you respond to situations. Your                                            circumstances don’t define you- it’s the unchanging God of Heaven who defines me.

For kids, maybe someone is bothering them at school. They have to power to choose how to react to the situation. When they are proactive, they quit blaming the situation that they’re in or their problems on someone else and decide that they are in charge of themselves no matter what.

2.     Begin With the End in Mind

"I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back."
[Philippians 3:12-14]

                        How do you live with purpose and vision? I am still thinking about this. The course challenged us to create a personal mission statement and I know that God wants me to have a purpose in my actions as well. I feel like I have had a few different personal mantras throughout my life, but are      they powerful enough to say that they are my “Personal Mission Statement” for my life?

                        I have followed this habit on a small scale, set little goals and raced to achieve them, but I’ve only been alive for twenty something years- how can I even begin to understand the concept of a long-term pursuit? This mission statement of mine is currently in progress. It’s not something that I can nail down in one day.

   If you had (or have) a “personal mission statement”, 
what would it be?

3.     Put First Things First

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
[Luke 12:34]

Where do you place your highest priorities? We are all given the same amount of time-it's just up to you on how you steward your time.

 “Things which matter most should never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
[Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe]

                    There are 4 quadrants where we spend all of our time-  we are either pouring our time and efforts into the:
1) Urgent and important (crises, deadlines, etc)

2) Urgent but not important (interruptions, emails, meetings, phone calls, other people’s priorities)

3) Not urgent but important (planning, education, relationships, personal growth)

4) Or the not urgent and not important (aimless internet surfing, mindless TV, meaningless conversations)
How many of us spend countless hours in the not urgent and not important quadrant?

            I don’t want days filled with things that are ultimately meaningless.
            I want to spend my life on the things that matter most.     

            What are the things in your life that matter that most that need more of your time & energy?

I’ve discovered that the next four habits are achieved almost easily once we’ve mastered the first 3.
I have found that powerful people who take responsibility for themselves find a lot more success in relationships.

4.     Think Win-Win

“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”
[Matthew 20:16]

                        This means being courageous and considerate at the same time. Win-win is a mindset that seeks mutual benefit. It is a simple concept that is often much easier said than done. It’s really all about redefining or refining your idea of what it means to win.

When you change your idea of a win to getting your needs met, doing something the right way, or gaining personal growth or progress, it’s a lot easier to win in every situation.


5.     Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
[Matthew 7:7]

Gosh the Lord has been speaking this into my life for over 5 years now and I’m still not perfect! This is all about listening and discussing in order to understand, not necessarily to agree.

Let’s be real: sometimes you just aren’t going to agree. When agreement is the goal, the conversation may never end. Look for what people feel and what they need- and give that to them- whether it is encouragement, affirmation, advice, or just two open ears.

Why do we have two ears and only one mouth? Because it’s a lot harder to listen than it is to talk.

6.     Synergize

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ...But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it." 
[1 Corinthians 12:12, 18]


We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Value those differences. How boring would it be if we were all the same? We are better when we can build on each other’s strengths and compensate for each other’s weaknesses.

7.     Sharpen the Saw

"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies."
[1 Corinthians 6:19-20]

Take care of yourself. When we put first things first and decide to be proactive, it’s a lot harder to make excuses on taking the time to nurture your body, mind, heart, and soul.

Whew! If you actually read this whole thing, you might feel the way that I did after yesterday: provoked but a little overwhelmed. Even though I feel a little like I now have about 20 new things on my “self improvement” list, I realized that the first habit on the list is to ‘Be Proactive’. When I bring God into that picture, he is what defines me and what helps me to ‘carry my own weather’.

I can first and foremost focus on the one thing, living in his Holy Spirit, and the fruits of that will flow out. It’s a process. God is continually refining me and making me into the holy and beautiful person that I was created to be. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Teacher Talk: Why I teach?

First day of school picture!
I'm Lauren.
I'm not your average teacher.

I live in Costa Rica, I'm not a perfect teacher blogger, this is just my first year teaching, and it happens to be in a country where I hardly even speak the language.

Today, I'm linking up with my friend Jamie (& Nicole)'s new, monthly, Teacher Talk!

Why I teach?

That's a loaded question.

I didn't really pick teaching, I feel like it sort of just picked me, freshman year of college, when I was trying to figure out what I was being called to do...and I fell in love with it along the way.

Since then, it has been my dream to go abroad and teach English.
So when God handed me this opportunity, even though it came with a lot of sacrifice- I had to take it. 

I guess it's for the moments when my students cheer because it’s reading time. For the moments when my students are so engaged, they forget to ask how much longer it is until lunchtime. I put up with snotty noses and germ kids all day, because I love hugs and wide-eyed smiles. It's for the moment when a parent tells me that their kid declared at home that I was someone that "genuinely loved" loved them.

It's for the moments when we drop everything, forget the lesson, and confront a situation in the classroom through discussion and sharing of ideas. It's for moments like this:

It was a Friday afternoon. Friday afternoons are my enemy that I am constantly combatting. There is just this bug that gets under the kid’s skin and doesn’t let them sit still for more than a minute. This particular Friday, nobody was paying attention. I clapped a few times, did a few “macaroni and cheese”-“everybody freeze”s. But I had to face it; the afternoon had gotten the better of me this time.

Finally, one of the sweeter, more respectful students called out to the class- “Hey guys, be respectful! Teacher Lauren worked really hard on planning this lesson for us.”

In a tearful tone, she continued, “I have seen her working really hard. And I know what it’s like to work on something really hard and then have no one pay attention. It doesn’t feel good.”

Cue the tears from me! I was so touched by her words that I could only just sit there a moment and soak in all the love and vulnerability that she was pouring out to me and the others. Sometimes it’s nice to hear that kids know that you have feelings, too.

After a brief moment of silence and contemplation, we put our books down, and moved out to our rug on the patio. We took turns going around the circle and talking about what it felt like to be disrespected and ignored. I even apologized to the kids that I hadn’t been seeking to understand them with my whole heart, either.

It’s moments like that, when you see the inside of a heart or when we get to share life together, that I am reminded that of why I am a teacher and why I make the sacrifices I make to serve these children- who seem so big and opinionated- who I forget are just little at heart and looking for some love, guidance, and someone to listen to them. 

At the end of all my practicums/student teaching I have given my kiddos bracelets as a goodbye present.
Tying the bracelet on their wrist gives the perfect amount of time for telling them why they're so special
and why I will miss them so much. I already have the string ready for this year!
Most of my class :)

"God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another."

[1 Peter 4:10]

Oh, and teaching provides a few laughs now and then!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Planning is Part of My Ministry

As I sit here (...during my planning time, whoops), I wanted to touch on something that has been resonating with me a lot lately. I am not the normal, type A teacher. Sometimes I wish that I was, but I'm a little bit different, and that's just the way it is.

If I'm being honest, when I look at my teaching qualities, my strengths fall on loving, and a little less on planning ahead. But as it turns out, teaching in it's nature, demands a lot of planning time. This doesn't come easily for me. What comes easy for me is intentionality in relationships & focusing all of my attention on who I'm with and how I can serve them. So naturally, I gravitate towards this.

However, it has become apparent to me, that in all facets of my life (even outside of teaching), planning must be a part of my ministry. 

Without vision, the people perish. Without well thought out plans, my classroom becomes chaos rather than an environment for loving & nurturing. Without clear intentions in friendships, those relationships fall to the wayside. Without a vision for your future, goals remain unachieved and forgotten.

When I set aside vital blocks of time to organize and itemize (as painful as it may be to get started), I am able to pour so much more into my students in the times when we're together. That extra hour in the evening helps me to get ten fold more out of my hours during the day.

Anyway, that's just my tidbit on teaching (and a little bit of life) for today. 
I've got to go double check my plans for math class this afternoon! ;)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Altogether Beautiful

"You are altogether beautiful, my darling, there is no flaw in you."

[Song of Solomon 4:7]

A few months ago, I had a spontaneous photo shoot with my sweet friends Suzanne and Isabel. The intent was to show all the millions of ways that one can wear a sarong. But honestly, this is no fashion blog so the post idea kind of went to the wayside until Katie at Hope Engaged decided to do a photo-shoot link up displaying how our God, the creator of beauty, delights in creativity! 

These pictures were taken all in my backyard in the beautiful Costa Rican morning sun. We narrowly dodged the afternoon rain.

With my wedding quickly approaching, I have been studying the book of Song of Solomon. It is a beautiful love story with our Bridegroom in Heaven and a beautiful example of how our earthly marriages ought to be.

God calls us beloved. He is lovesick for us. 
He has made us perfectly and is just longing for us to come away with him. 


Isabel, Suzanne, & I

"My lover said to me, "Rise up, my darling! Come away with me, my fair one!"
Song of Solomon 2:10

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Sharing the love.

Introducing...the Liebster Award! This is a very exciting, well-renowned, put-on your resume kind of award, so listen carefully! 

Just kidding, that's not really true at all. In fact, you've probably never heard of it. Fortunately, I was nominated by Simply Swarbrick simply because I'm enthusiastic new blogger with an audience of primarily mom & dad (who obviously don't blog), my sister, and my fiancĂ©, McCray. 
This award is for up and coming blogs that have less than 200 followers. So what is a Liebster, you ask? Liebster is a German word that means sweetest, kindest, dearest, cute, endearing, etc. 
Such a thoughtful award! Here are the rules to accept this award:

[1] Link back to the person that nominated you.
[2] Answer the questions from your nominator.
[3] Share 11 random facts about yourself.
[4] Nominate 5 more blogs with less than 200 followers.
[5] Pose questions for your nominees

Here are the questions I was given to answer:

1. Why do you blog?

The reason I started this blog was to document my adventures in Costa Rica this year. Lot of people wanted to keep up with my journey, so this was the solution! Since starting back in January, I've realized that I really like writing and doing all the "behind the scenes" designing, etc. As my journey in Costa Rica will be ending in December, I will most likely continue to document my upcoming Marriage and our ministry together wherever we may land! Even though normal can be good, it's not for me. If I'm going to blog, it's because I have a unique story to tell! 

2. What is your go to dinner recipe?

 SautĂ©ed vegetables, all day long. Put a little bit of olive oil in the pan, chop them up, and you're good to go. Usually with pasta or rice. Often, I'll look up a recipe and try something different, but that its definitely my "go-to". 

3. How do you unwind after a long day? 

Cooking dinner and then snuggling up on my couch and reading a good book, having some quality Jesus time, or watching How I Met Your Mother! I am about to copy Leigh Anne @ Simply Swarbrick  and put a 'Bookshelf' tab on my blog to share my recent reads!

4. What is your favorite blog post you've written?

Wow, I have had a lot of cool adventures over the past 6 months but the best adventure is what God has been doing in my heart. He has been calling me to a life of wholeheartedness and I have been getting so rocked by what he's doing in my heart. 

You can read more about it HERE (Post title: I just want a heart that is fully in love). 

5. What tips do you have for preparing for the week? (at work or at home)

  • Make lunch ahead. It is the key to eating healthy! Otherwise...I end up with some really weird lunch combinations...
  • Put first things first! So, I'm not always the best at this, but when I plan create lesson plans for the week ahead of time, I am able to minister to my kids so much more instead of panicking at the last minute. 
  •  Get to bed ON time! Also a challenge, but a fool proof secret to being successful. 

6. If you were given $20 to spend on anything, what would you spend it on?

Art supplies! I love to be creative. I know, since Pinterest came about, that's like the "trend" right now, but I promise, I liked it before it was cool!

7. What does your perfect Saturday look like?

Haha this varies greatly. I'm laughing because this has been a very lazy Saturday.. filled with coffee, postcard writing, blogging, and reading in my outdoor kitchenette. But more often than not, I'm traveling somewhere to see as much as I can of this little country!

8. Which season is your favorite and why?

Spring spring spring!!! Unfortunately, I missed Spring this year, because I was in Costa Rica where the only seasons are 'wet' or 'dry'. Fortunately, Costa Rica is kind of like Spring all the time! I love the time when the cold is leaving...but it's not too hot. Everything is blooming, usually including my life and love life, too. Everything is just happier to me. I even loved the smell of those stinky Bradford Pears that surrounded my high school, because that meant it was Spring!!! 

9. What do you splurge on? 

Adventures! Many of my adventures back home are free, but since coming to Costa Rica, I have had traveling opportunities that I just couldn't pass up. Of course, since tourism is the #1 industry in Costa Rica, many of those things are a little more than pocket change. Just to name a few: waterfall repelling, dolphin tours & whale watching, crocodile tours, & volcanic hot springs nights. 

10. Where would be your dream vacation spot be?

Europe. Since meeting my dear friend, Suzanne, my desires to see that side of the Atlantic have grown immensely. One of the first vacation splurges that will be on our married "to-do list" is backpacking across Europe!

11. What do you pack for lunch during the week?

Generally, it's always a varied version of a vegetable, chicken, pasta or rice, and bean combination with a side of fruit. I like hot meals for lunch and that is an easy one! 

11 Random facts about me. 

Lets be real, to me this feels like one of those Xanga or MySpace things that I did back in junior high. But here it goes anyway.

11. My eyes are never the same color. One day they're blue, the next there green, sometimes gray, or all three mixed together.

10. My favorite color is green. From what I can tell, it's God's favorite color, too.

9. My classroom is a jungle animal theme, mainly because I love zebras. Not zebra print, just zebras. And because as my old drama teacher used to say as we were leaving class, "be careful, it's a jungle out there". 

8. I am not afraid of death, but I'm afraid of old age. I'm afraid of getting old and I'm afraid of my parents getting old. I honestly don't know how I'm going to handle it.

7. I get restless when I get too much rest. Does that even make sense? I can't handle being lazy for more than one day in a row, or else I'll go crazy.

6. I feel really called to intercede in prayer for...everyone. The nations, my students, my family/friends, my future beloved whoever is on the Lord's heart... but I'm not very good at it. I need to work on that.

5. I'm a note taker. I take notes in every sermon I hear, when I'm reading my Bible, when I'm at a meeting, in a class... a lot of times I don't even read my notes later. I guess it just feels good to be doing something with my hands.

4. I seriously love rock climbing. When I return to the states, I will be finding a rock climbing gym.

3. I don't really know why I chose teaching. When starting college, I kind of felt like I was good at a lot of things but not super great at just one thing. So I guess I settled on Elementary Education because I just had to be well rounded, which I was. Fortunately, I through my Education program I fell in love with my major and haven't looked back.

2. But, looking forward, I know that teaching won't be what I do forever. Teaching is just one of my passions. I like too many other things not to try those things out one day, too.

1. I have no idea what the future holds for me after Costa Rica except for the beginning of a beautiful marriage. I can't wait to find out what God has in store!

I nominate these great bloggers for this award (lets just be real, the name Lauren is just awesome):

1. Elle Alice @ {a beautiful hope}
4. Lauren @ Marked By Grace
5. and my dear friend, Jess SHINE

...and because I know that we all really don't have that much time, I'm only giving 5 questions. 

1. Why do you get out of bed in the morning?
2. If you were moving across the world to a place that you knew nothing about and you could only take 3 things, what would they be? 
3. What is a song from your past that has defined a certain period of your life?
4. If you knew you could do something and definitely not fail, what would you do?
5. I you were writing a letter to yourself at 16, what would you tell yourself?

Hope those aren't too hard, but I wanted to make you think. 
Because really, no one is actually going to read this if it's done the boring way. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Whale Tales

This past weekend I was overjoyed to finally get out and experience Costa Rica again! 

We had a long weekend so my new roommate, Ashley, and I hit the road Friday morning for Uvita (Bahia Ballena), Costa Rica. First we headed down to San Jose to catch a bus to Posas Canoas 
(literally I could not pronounce that right- everyone at the bus station kept laughing at me). 
We were all set to buy our 7:30AM bus ticket...
when we found out that it was completely sold out. 

The next bus left at 11:00 AM. So, we were left with quite a few hours to kill in a not so friendly neighborhood. But we made the most of this 'inconvenient but not the end of the world' situation by enjoying some gallo pinto (rice & beans) & eggs for breakfast and practicing our Spanish.

Finally we made it to our hostel, The Tucan Hotel, in the middle of a Costa Rican rainstorm. 
It was pretty hippie style, to say the least- but we loved it!

We paid $6 to sleep in hammocks. Sounds glamorous at first, but I ended up with about 25 bug bites on my face ( I'll spare you the gory details and pictures, I promise) and my neck has been sore ever since. 
I probably will opt for the $10 room next time.

Anyway, the whole reason we chose Uvita was because it's ballena (whale) season!!! 
From July-September, whales from the Southern Pacific migrate up to the warmer waters of Costa Rica to have babies and raise their young! So we booked our tour and headed out bright and early Saturday morning.

On our boat tour, we got to see a mama whale and her baby!

And a few jumping dolphins!

The whole time I was in awe of the Lord's craftsmanship. These coves where the whales hideout are literally shaped like a whale's tale- check it out (aerial view):

AND there's an island located in one of the coves called "Whale Island". No, not because whales go there. But because there is a hole in the island so water sprays out of the island, just like a whale's blow hole. It just felt like it was all connected in a beautiful design by our Creator. 

PLUS it didn't storm that afternoon so got to spend the rest of the afternoon on the expansive beaches.

Sunday morning, we hiked up the nearby mountain at 6AM to find this hidden little gem. We were in awe of the beauty of these clear blue cataratas (waterfalls). The only way it could have been more perfect would have been if McCray was there- his heart loves waterfalls so much!

So anyway, this was just a recap of another beautiful, magical, 

and slightly unbelievable weekend in my big backyard.