Thursday, March 22, 2018

Thursday's Thoughts

The world lost a beautiful soul yesterday.

Caleb, a c/o 2017 graduate of my school, passed away yesterday morning. 

My heart is breaking for his parents, siblings, family, and friends.

I told my mom last night, "He was only 19. So young!"

I never taught Caleb.

But I have fond memories of him. 

I remember meeting him as a 5th grader. He was a tall kid and always had a smile on his face. He was so sweet/kind to everyone. In elementary school, he almost always had a soccer ball out playing at recess or lunch and before/after school. I remember during Elementary Camp my first year here at DA, he and his buddies chit-chatting until far too late, and one of my co-workers and I had to shush them so they'd go back to sleep. It didn't work because they were just so excited. So what'd we do? We laughed and let them chat and giggle and play with their flashlights and we enjoyed the sweetness of these 5th grade boys enjoying themselves at their 5th grade camp-out :)

I remember his encouraging attitude. I don't know how many times I saw Caleb sitting with a friend having a hard day, with his arm around them, encouraging them. Or times I saw him running with his sister or another elementary student during a race at school, when they needed that encouragement... Or when his classmates were having a hard time with school/life and he rose up and encouraged them to continue on the right track.

Then over the last 2 years, Caleb was one of my students' Best Buds (a program where we pair every elementary student with a high school student). My student LOVED Best Buds days each month. And that was all because of Caleb's attention and care of J. One time in particular, I remember J telling me, "Ms. Nichols, I just think it's so cool that even though he's so much older than me, he still plays with me and talks to me and hangs out with me. And he really listens to me. He looks me in the eye and he REALLY listens. Even if older friends come by, he STILL listens to me. He makes me feel so special."

 Caleb was like that with everyone. He made anyone he was with feel special. He was such an incredible role model, not just for his Best Bud, but for all students. He was so smart. He was considerate of others. He was well-behaved, respectful and polite. Caleb was the kind of student a teacher dreams of having in his/her class. 

Caleb lit up a room.

And when he came out here in November on a surprise "mission," I remember standing in the office and smiling at how many people instantly lit up upon walking in and seeing him standing there. 

The news of Caleb's passing has effected our whole community here. 

I can't even imagine the pain being felt right now by his family.

Caleb was loved by so many.

So there are so many people hurting right now.

But, as one of our 4th grade girls said yesterday in Kids Club...

It's so very sad. 

But you know what's cool? 

It's cool that Caleb gets to hang out with Jesus now.

So yes, I've cried. 

And I imagine, I'll probably even cry some more.

But I'll do like that sweet 4th grader...

And I'll think of how cool it is that Caleb is now hanging out with Jesus. 

And that is the hope that comes with a relationship with our Savior.

What a sweet, sweet hope that is.

And what a precious thought...

Caleb hanging out with Jesus

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

World Down Syndrome Day

Did you know that today is World Down Syndrome Day?

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It's a day when we bring awareness to Down Syndrome (or Downs, for short). 

I'd planned on sharing a few facts and/or observations I've learned along the way, through teaching Special Education and through getting to know individuals with Down Syndrome. 

But I thought the image below sums it up far better than I would've done.

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Down Syndrome happens.

And, for whatever reason, society has attached this stigma attached to it.

The first step toward erasing the stigmas out there is 


The next step?


Be aware.

Educate yourself. 

Get to know experts

Get to know people with Downs (or someone who knows a person).

In no time at all, you'll realize just how incredibly wonderful these individuals are.

They might look slightly different... 

They might speak slightly different... 

They might learn slightly different...

But in no time at all, I guarantee that you will realize that these incredibly wonderful individuals are actually quite a lot like you and me. 

They just happened to have been born with an extra chromosome. 

So be aware.

Accept differences.

Be the change.

Spread the love.

And if you're like me, and you know and love someone (or many different people) with Down Syndrome, then know you are exceptionally blessed :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tuesday Talk - There's this person...

Every now and then, a person comes in your life

A person who leaves an unexplainable mark on your heart. 

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This is Sheila.

And she is one such person.

When I met Sheila 8.5 years ago, I knew I'd met a friend.

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She has, quite possibly, the biggest heart of anyone I've ever met.

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She almost always has a ginormous smile on her face.

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She finds the joy in almost every occasion.

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She has the most contagious laughter.

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She is a friend to all.

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She brightens any room she enters.

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She makes my life so much more enjoyable.

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She is always genuine and kind and true to herself.

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She is an encourager.

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She's my friend. 

And my heart is so very sad to see her leave this week, heading back to continue her beautiful life in the country she calls home. I know our Heavenly Father has big plans for this incredibly beautiful soul. And I can't wait to see it all unfold. 

Sheila is such a blessing in my life.

I will forever be grateful for all the sweet memories I have made, hanging out with her, riding to ball games, having her help in Kids Club, watching her start/run Friendship Club at DA, and seeing her spend time with my students every Friday afternoon. 

And yes, I'll probably shed a tear or two when we say goodbye to her in our Friendship Club party this afternoon. But I am so excited for her to follow her dreams back to Canada. And I pray that God richly blesses her every step of the way. 

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Today I'm joining Ashley and Erika for their monthly Tuesday Talk link-up, where we all come together and talk about anything that's on our mind. And today, as it's my last day with this sweet friend, she's definitely what on my mind.

Friday, March 16, 2018

5 on Friday

Happy Friday Y'all

Today I'm joining AprilNatashaand Christina for their 5 on Friday linkup, where we share five random bits of our lives from the week.


Every Friday during 8th period, we have a time of Social/Conversation Skills, where we'll sit and chat, play games, something... The rules are simple. You must participate with the group. We take turns choosing games. And you must play with the group. You must exhibit good conversation skills during this time... Listen well. Don't interrupt. Answer questions appropriately. Ask follow-up questions. And so on... My kids have come to enjoy this time at the end of every week. Of course they love game time. 

But I believe the reason they've loved this time the most is because of Sheila. Sheila has come and hung out with us almost every single Friday afternoon since school started. My boys have gotten so excited to see her walking towards our room. It truly has been a highlight of their week (and mine too). Today will be our last Friday game time with Sheila, as she heads back to Canada next week. And even though we know we'll still see her once or twice next week, it's a bit bittersweet having to say goodbye to this incredibly beautiful soul who's invested so much into our lives.

We're so happy for you Sheila. 

But we sure are sad to see you go.

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In Kids Club this week, we used apples to help us learn more about the Trinity. And I must say, the kids were so engaged this week. I believe I had their attention more this week than I have in a long time. They were answering questions. They were listening well. They were amazing! And I loved every minute of it :)

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I got to overhear a fun conversation between two of my students earlier this week, in which one shared with the other all about why the Bible is such a good book. And I realized, yet again, one of the many blessings that is the existence of this class!

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For Pi Day on Wednesday, our school held a costume contest, among other fun activities. And even though I didn't personally dress up, I helped my crew get into the spirit. We had a clock, roman numbers, a calculator, and a math riddle represented by our class. This crew makes my life so much more enjoyable :)

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Let's be honest.

I'd like to say that I'm over here killin' it, day after day, being the rockstar teacher I daydream of being. But I'm not. Because, while I put on a fake brave face and say I'm doing great, I'm tired. I feel like I've fallen behind and that I'm that person in the picture below. 

But y'all... 

We only have 1 more week 'til Spring Break. And while I do love my job and my students, I'm so incredibly ready for Spring Break to get here as well.

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Monday, March 12, 2018

March's Coffee Date

Happy Monday Y'all!

Today, I'm joining Erin for her monthly Coffee Date link-up, where we pretend we're on a coffee date with a friend and we share whatever's on our hearts at the moment.

If we we're on a Coffee Date, I'd skip the coffee and would instead be drinking a Dr Pepper, and since we're daydreaming here, I'd probably be wearing this shirt I found online (HERE) recently, and am totally adding to my "wishlist" :)

It's perfect, huh? 

Anywho, on to the post...

If we were on a coffee date...

I'd tell you that God is really working on my heart at the moment, teaching me, (yet again 'cuz I'm apparently hard-headed/stubborn) that it is just so incredibly necessary to put my entire trust in Him.

I'd also tell you that I truly love this job of mine and even though it can be hard (often), I cannot imagine doing anything else.

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I'd tell you construction work is STILL going on in my building. I'm trying really, really hard to be positive about how long it's taken. But I definitely do not always succeed at this. Especially when they're still banging on my wall at 7 pm. Or when they're outside my window at 8 am. Ha! And actually, even more than that, I'm ready to have people over again. This week will be the third week I haven't been able to do so since my kitchen/living room has been a construction zone. So here's hoping it's done by the end of the week :)

I'd tell you plane tickets are expensive. Oh my word, are they expensive. I'm getting ready to purchase my tickets for the summer. And contrary to what some might think, the cost of my plane tickets come out of pocket. So since tickets cost more now than I was expecting and since I just found out that my income tax refund check is far less than I was expecting, it'll take me a while longer to save up the funds for this.

I'd also tell you that while we're on the subject of money... We're starting our unit on US money (and adding/subtracting decimals) in Math this week. Aren't these task cards super fun? I found them on TeachersPayTeachers (HERE) for free and I totally can't wait to share them with my kiddos later in the week - once we actually know what each coin/bill looks like and stands for...

I'd tell you that I had big plans to work a lot in my classroom this weekend, totally revamping how I do a lot of my teaching. But instead, I took some time to take care of me and I spent the day Saturday with friends. Then Sunday I woke up with a massive headache, and took it as a sign from God that I needed to rest and take it easy. So I went back to bed, and woke up a little after lunch time, ready to cook/bake some for the week ahead (since Sundays are the only days my kitchen is usable). Then I went over to my classroom and prepped for the beginning of the week ahead. And I realized that even though I had big plans for revamping things, it's okay that I didn't. What I'm doing now is indeed working with my kiddos. So I'm going to choose to be happy with that and the fact that I got some well needed time with friends and also, some truly well needed rest time as well this weekend.

I'd tell you that I'm working on my next missions newsletter. My goal is to finish it up in the next week or so and get it sent out. I need to fill up one more spot on it. And I'm not 100% sure what to add. Thus the hold up. I'm hoping that the reason God's had me wait to send them out is that He has something awesome in store for that last section needing to be completed on my newsletter :)

I'd also tell you that I'm so incredibly grateful for all of the men, women, families, and churches who sacrificially give financially to support my ministry here in Senegal. Because of those financial blessings, I'm able to continue doing the work God's called me to do. And I don't take those gifts lightly. What a blessing!

And last, but certainly not least...

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tell you that I'm so thankful for my mom. She's truly one of the most inspiring women I've ever known. She's gone through so incredibly much and has always risen above. I'd tell you that she's supportive, encouraging, loving, and kind. She's the one who, only after God, I most strive to be like. My mom is my absolute best friend and advice giver and I'm so blessed to call her mine!

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018


Happy Wednesday Y'all

Want to know what I'm currently up to?

I'm currently PLANNING a surprise (involving hot cocoa) for my kiddos on Friday (or maybe Monday - I haven't decided yet). At any rate, I can't wait to see their faces! It's going to be awesome!! :)

I'm currently SEEING a new seating arrangement in my classroom. I had to move things around a bit since my new students started this week. Well, one started on Monday. And as of now, the plan is that the other will start either tomorrow or Friday. Anywho, the other day, I changed our seating arrangement. There are two reasons I arranged the desks like I did. #1) A few of my kids asked to have independent work areas. So separating the desks helped with that. #2) By arranging them in this way, they can do independent work at desks OR move them together for small groups. And I can pull them to the table for whole group activities OR small group work with the teacher. I know it's only been a couple days so far. But I really like this arrangement. We'll see how it goes...

I'm currently MAKING an effort to sit and do more prep after school each evening, in the hopes that I won't have to spend so much time working every weekend. And for the past few weeks, I've done pretty well at this. Here's hoping this continues. After all, I could get used to not spending ALL day long on Saturdays in my classroom :)

I'm currently PRETENDING that I'm not seeing/hearing construction madness at home. I realize that when they finally finish (although, at this point, that seems so far away), it'll all look nice. So I can appreciate that. But y'all... After hearing/seeing madness for almost one full year...

I'm currently WEARING my favorite pants. They're dressy and cute. So they're perfect for work. Plus, even better than that... They're super comfy. I took this picture before work today, while I sat with my feet propped up, waiting on today's lunch/dinner to cook before I left for work this morning. *Because Wednesdays are a late day for me, I almost always bring dinner with me and eat while doing prep work in my classroom after Kids Club is over. 

And because it's my blog and I can...

I'm adding in a couple more Currently items to my list :)

I'm currently MISSING my Mama and wishing I could see her. Only 3 more months... :)

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I'm currently READING and studying my Bible more and more. I'm learning so many lessons from God, through His Word. In fact, I wrote about this the other day. If you missed that post, you can read it by clicking HERE


Today I'm joining Anne and Sarah for their monthly Currently link-up, where we are all sharing a bit about what's currently going on in our part of the world.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Lessons Learned Through Bible Reading

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A little over a year ago, I wrote a post in which I flipped through Bible, sharing some of the verses and passages that have been significant/meaningful in my life.

If you missed that post, you can check it out HERE.

And as I flipped through the other day in church, looking for a verse the speaker was preaching on, I realized I've added even more notes since that blog post.

So then that evolved into a blog post idea.

And here we are today.

Here are just a few lessons God's taught me recently through my Bible reading.

Lesson 1 - God's taught me the prayer/power of " IF "

Lesson 2 - God's taught me to be ready to tell my story.

Lesson 3 - God's taught me the faith/trust needed to accompany the words, "even if He doesn't..."

Lesson 4 - God's taught me what our mission is, as Christians...

Lesson 5 - God's taught me that He's not slow to fulfill His promises.

Lesson 6 - God's taught me to be a voice for the voiceless.

Lesson 7 - God's taught me to trust Him for safety.

Lesson 8 - God's taught me to have faith like Abraham.

Lesson 9 - God's taught me how He tends His flock, just like a shepherd.

Lesson 10 - God's taught me to have persistent faith.

What has God taught you through His Word recently?