My summer break has almost come and gone.
I have enjoyed this summer immensely and I had some time this past week to reflect on last school year and this summer, as our family enjoyed our annual lake vacation.
Here are some of the things I thought about this week:
First of all, I was pregnant for the majority of last school year.
I was the sickest I've ever been in the early pregnancy stages. I didn't have much "morning sickness" with the other two girls. I got a few pretty hardcore migraines when I was expecting Claire, but with this pregnancy, I was exhausted. I was nauseous. I was HUGE.
I realize that with two older kiddos to follow around and with me being (cough) 30 (cough) now, maybe I'm just not as young and able to bounce back as I once was.
Regardless of the reason...I was tired. And therefore, I was not as good of a teacher as I could have been. I sat a lot. I closed my eyes and rubbed my temples sometimes. I ate lemon-drops like they were going out of style.
And although my students were wonderful during the whole year, I'm looking forward to a year filled with energy! A year marked by me feeling GREAT and not sick. A year where I walk around the classroom...and keep my eyes open...and lose weight instead of gaining it!
Yes, I'm looking forward to THAT kind of school year!
Secondly, I reflected on the changes I've made in my photography business. Wow, what a difference a year makes!
At this time last year, I was swamped with sessions. My weekends consisted of photographing families and I was at the studio editing, ordering, and trying to stay caught up at least three times a week...sometimes late into the evening.
When we found out we were expecting...things changed. I had already decided that I needed to cut back and spend more time at home with my darling husband and girls. At the thought of three children, I started looking at our budget and seeing what I could cut out to make the transition from basically a full-time photographer, to a less than half-time photographer.
We had really made a lot of gains on our debt snowball using my photography income and with some cutting back in other areas, we realized I wouldn't really NEED to photograph anymore.
I could just take a few weddings and a few sessions every season, for the sheer joy of capturing the journey! What a blessing!
The third thing that I spent much time thinking about on our lake trip was the various changes in my ministry over the last several months.
I have always thought of my teaching as a huge part of my personal ministry. Every year, God seems to put students and families in my path who need to be loved on.
Sometimes, it is as simple as meeting a student where he or she is and not giving up on him or her. God always fills my cup to overflowing through these situations, with encouraging cards from parents, "just because" gifts from students, and of course, those homemade coloring pages that say, "Mrs. Newkirk is the best teacher ever."
Sometimes, the situations aren't quite as easy though. Like this past school year, when one of my kiddos lost his mom. I'm not gonna lie...it was rough. I was unsure of what to say sometimes...unsure of when to not say anything at all. But again, God gave me an awesome opportunity through the situation, when I was able to talk about Jesus at the funeral. That just doesn't happen in the public school system, and yet last fall, there I was, sharing my faith in front of a bunch of strangers.
I have been singing in our praise band at church for almost as long as I can remember. I think I probably started helping with leading worship shortly after junior high. I joined the worship planning team after high school and have been involved in the planning aspect of our services since then. It has been a joy and a reward to be involved in this manner.
In the last six months, my role has changed significantly. Both our senior minister and associate minister moved on to other ministry positions this past spring. They were both mostly responsible for the worship planning and leading in the past years. When they both finished their ministry with our church in March, the responsibility fell back to the worship planning team.
Because of my involvement with the band for the longest amount of time out of the current band members, I was asked to plan the service and lead worship. Of course, I said yes. But I'll admit, it wasn't without some reservation.
Things have been done a specific way for many years. The congregation was accustomed to a specific style of worship...a specific group of people on stage leading every Sunday. I, myself, was used to (and completely satisfied with!) the way we did worship at ACC.
However, as usual, God came through in a mighty way. The other band members have been such a huge help through this process...continuing to show up every Sunday for practice, helping to get out the music, and sharing in the planning of each service. The congregation has been so encouraging.
I've been blessed beyond belief by stepping into this role, even though I was so, so nervous at the beginning of the process.
It hasn't been easy and it hasn't been perfect, for sure. There have been days that I have stopped the song because I started it too fast...or in the wrong key. There was even one Sunday when I accidentally turned the volume all the way down (which almost abruptly ended the song!), even though I meant to just make it a little quieter.
The mercy and grace that the congregation has given me during this time has been so humbling. So edifying. Just wonderful.
It's a great reminder of the grace Jesus has shown us, even though we are a messed up group of people. And perhaps a greater reminder of the grace I need to extend to others.
My family life, school life, photography life, and church life have changed a lot over this past year.
And I'm so, so very grateful.