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Monday, February 23, 2015

Reflecting on Chicago ~ Hamilton Elementary

I have been writing this blog entry for a week and 
I just can't seem to get it right.
This particular part of my Chicago life is so dear to me 
that words seem to always fall short.

This time in my life has been life changing.  I'm leaving here a different 
person and my time volunteering at Hamilton is a huge part of that.

Of all the surprises that Chicago held for me, 
perhaps this was the best surprise of all.

 I've posted about Hamilton before, but here is the quick recap.  I was looking to volunteer at a school in my neighborhood and I stumbled across Hamilton in my search.  There was a wish list on their website and one of their wishes happened to be someone to paint at the school.  

It was a perfect marriage of their need and my ability.

A perfect marriage of my need and God's plan and purpose.

I began painting there in October of 2010 and I have been painting ever since!

 There is hardly a wall I haven't added a bit of color to 
and with each brush stroke,
 I was given a gift.

The gift of friendship.

The gift of joy.

The gift of serving.

The gift of encouraging.

The gift of laughter.

The gift of love.

The gift of family.

As is often the case in God's economy, the more I gave, the more I received.

As a bonus, our church was able to do about 10 service projects as well, benefiting every aspect of Hamilton.

It was Jesus with yard tools, hammers, paintbrushes, brooms, rags and goodies.

We also got to encourage the staff with gifts and encouraging words.

I just don't know when I have had a greater privilege.

To the Hamilton Staff, I would say that you have blessed me immeasurably.  
Your genuine love and care for students is amazing.

 To Hamilton parents, you have taught me so much about getting your hands
dirty and making things happen for your kids and the students to come.

To Tracy and Ally - thank you for the many shared hours of painting
collaboration in the library and even more for your friendship.

To Ellie - thank you for being my sister in the Lord and a constant
source of encouragement.

To Kerrie - thank you for sharing your time with me in the Science room.  
Thank you for letting me store all my paints and brushes in your space.
We had a lot of fun - didn't we!?!

To Yolanda - I have learned so much by watching you interact with the 
staff and students.  You truly lead by example.

To Mr. Gray, I would say that you have forever inspired me to serve others.  You have taught me so much about leadership, sacrifice and the power 
of believing that things can be better if we do the work.
You are my hero.

I thank the Lord, above all, for allowing me to cross paths with
these amazing people.

Hamilton, I will miss you.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Reflecting on Chicago ~ Neighbors

I thought it would be fun to wrap up my City Chat Chicago blog with my reflections on what the Lord has gifted me during my time here in Chicago.  Little did I know what He had in mind when I enthusiastically agreed to make the move from Texas to Illinois.

Boy - has it been full of surprises and treasures.

I have about 5 more weeks here.  Suddenly, that seems like a very short amount of time!  I have so much to be thankful for that I better get to writing!


Oh, how I love my neighbors.

Alan and I always pray that the Lord will place us exactly where He wants us -- and then we keep our eyes wide open to see who He wants us to love on.

It was sure easy here in the big city.  We live in a 3 unit building, so those building mates were our first friends here.

Jamie and Kevin lived on the top floor and Matt lived on the 2nd floor.  We moved into the duplex down (floor one and the basement level!)  We loved these guys from the start. 

I would vote Kevin as one of the nicest guys on the planet.  He was always ready to help you with anything - always kind and friendly.  He was our "shoveling snow in the middle of the night" guy.  I love Jamie!  We had many great conversations and sweet times.  They moved out to the suburbs about 1 1 /2 years ago and we still miss them! 

Matt married Kristen about 1 1/2 years ago so we got a new building mate!  Great choice - Matt!  They are so dear to us.  They are family.  They are kindhearted and so genuine.  They have been amazing neighbors and friends.

Ken and Courtney moved in when Kevin and Jamie moved out.  We have loved having them in our building as well.  They are both kind and generous.  Quincy loves their dog, Sylar. 

All of us have shared many a meal, had lots of conversation, watched out for each other and helped each other out numerous times.  We feel so fortunate to have landed in the same building with these guys.

I had some neighbor parties and got to meet quite a few people on our street.  Many of them became sweet friends.  Some of them have already moved away.  There is such a transient nature to a big city.  People come and go -- so you better get to know them fast!  Big thanks and love to Ryan and Michelle (Hannah and Owen!), Chris and Flora (Zoe and Leo) and Ryan and Alison.  Our lives were all the richer for living near you!

Matt, Sharon, Nicholas, Jennifer, Wayne, Carlos, Rebecca and Dan have been steadfast and wonderful neighbors.  Rebecca and her then roommate, Jenni, took me to brunch my first Mother's Day away from my daughters.  I will never forget that!  Josh, Janet and Jackson just moved in next door at the end of the summer.  Although we have only had a short time with them, they have become very dear to us.  There are some others that we are at least acquainted with and we are grateful for each one.  The Lord placed us in the midst of some wonderful people.

It is hard to imagine what life would be like without these amazing people.  I am so very thankful for each one of them and for all that we have shared.

This was my first move to literally never feel loneliness.  The Lord provided us with friends so quickly that it was a smooth transition.  What a huge part these neighbors have played in our life.

They have made our time here in Chicago rich, indeed.

Thank you.