elisabethdanielsons

Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.

Thank You’s

Wow! Where have the past 2 years gone??? It seems like just yesterday that I just moved to Dallas and was scared out of my wits with the change that I had accepted in my life.  I was scared and nervous but also eager to be engaged in mission. I have learned so much over the past 2 years about myself, Dallas, what it means to be in mission, and God. I can not say how thankful I am to all of the people that I have in my life: people who  supported me from afar but also the people I have met along the way! I would like to take some time to give some shout outs to the people who have helped make these past 2 years a meaningful experience.

To all my fellow US-2’s, Mission Interns, and the Global Ministry Staff: THANK YOU for being you! You challenged me to think differently about mission and social justice issues. I am much more aware of the food I eat and also the random people that I meet on the street because of you. Thanks you for being with me along this journey.

To my fellow staff at Project Transformation: THANK YOU for welcoming me into this holy Eco-system with open arms. You have helped me become more confident in my abilities and have trusted my voice and opinions on our reading program and curriculum. You gave me opportunities to become a leader and helped me find authentic ways to connect to the communities here in Dallas. It is because of your influence and support that I am continuing in my call to ministry by attending seminary in the fall. I have never worked in such a loving environment. It was an honor and privilege to be part of this community for these past 2 years.

To my friends and church communities at Kessler Park UMC and First UMC Richardson (Access): THANK YOU for welcoming with open arms. It has been a joy to be a part of two thriving worship communities. Your music and messages nourished me and allowed me renewal each week. Thank you for the small groups and Sunday school classes that were offered. Because of these opportunities, I was able to meet and make friends that I know will be with me for the rest of my life!

To my home church communities in Hannibal: THANK YOU for praying for me and journeying with me in mission these past 2 years. Thanks for the abundance of notes  and cards reminding me that you are supporting me from afar. Thank you for your generous financial gifts which will allow more young adults like me the opportunity to be part of this life changing program. Thank you for your mentoring through the years. It is because of you that I discovered God in my life and have answered the call to be part of God’s mission. Thank you for modeling God’s abundant love.

To my family: THANK YOU for being supportive! Thank you for being a listening ear or a word of encouragement when things were difficult. Thank you for making family time a time of renewal and revival. I have learned to appreciate the time we have together much more because of the distance these past 2 years. I have also been reminded of the unconditional love you have provided me my entire life and am so grateful that I can call you family!

To everyone else: THANK YOU for following my journey, for your prayers and thoughts, and for your calls, emails, and cards. These past 2 years, I have been reminded to look for the good in the world, and I can see it everywhere.

 

I have a little over a month left here in Dallas. I am having a hard time saying good-bye to everything here but I am also in the process of celebrating all that I have learned. I am so thankful for the time that I spent here in Dallas because I have learned so much. This program and the people I have met along the way will be part of me forever.

Thank you!

Elisabeth

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Connections

So it’s been a VERY long time since I have written on my blog, and I’m not really sure the reason other than I just haven’t felt like it. I’ve been very busy at work with the start of our afterschool program. This is probably my favorite time of year because I get to go to our different sites and help our interns with their programs. I love giving people ideas and just being a sounding board in general. I by no means am an expert in child development, classroom management, or curriculum, but I do have some experience and sometimes just a fresh set of eyes is needed to help in any situation.

Well that’s a little update on what is going on in my world, but I really wanted to post about something that happened this past week that reminded me how connected the church can be.

So a little background info on this story… my birthday was this past Monday and I discovered that my driver’s license expired on my birthday. Now in some states you can renew your license online but not in Missouri. You have to physically be present in the state to renew your license. Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal but I currently live 6ish hours away from the closest city in  Missouri. So I had to plan a road trip. My original plan was to drive to Missouri on Friday, catch up with some of my college friends, spend the night in Southwest Missouri and then drive back to Texas on Saturday. I asked some of these friends if they wanted to do something but nobody responded in time for me to make plans so I was debating on what to do.

So as you know I’m a US-2 missionary through the United Methodist Church. I’ve been doing this for a little over a year, and this summer there was a new class of missionaries commissioned. I’ve been blog stalking the ones who are blogging to see how they are doing. I think it’s because I remember how I felt when we were trained and sent out and I want to be in prayer for them and also want to be there as a support if necessary. There is a new US-2 in Oklahoma City who I’ve been following and in one blog she talked about starting an afterschool program. I was sooo excited that I commented on her blog that this is what I was doing and if she wanted some support I could totally help her! I know I am such a nerd!

Anyway, she emailed me and we were planning on Skyping about Project Transformation and our afterschool program, but last week I Facebook messaged her and said I’d be going through Oklahoma if she wanted to get together. So of course she said yes cause this church has crazy connections. She even let me stay at her apartment Friday night even though we have never met her in person. How crazy is that? Just because we are in the same program, doing similar things she had the faith to open her house to me.

So I went to Missouri, got my license renewed and headed to Oklahoma City. I met up with Kristina and had such a great time getting to know her and her story but also sharing mine. I made a new friend who will probably come and visit me in the next few months.

In the Methodist church, we talk about mutuality in mission: sharing in mission together. This is the idea that we are never alone in our mission fields because there are people who will walk with us along the way. I recently got back from ‘midterms’ where I got to reconnect with my class of US-2s, and I have also enjoyed getting to know the new class of young adult missionaries through their blogs and stories. So if you are in my class, keep posting because I love hearing about how you are doing. If you are in the new class same thing. If you are a friend or supporter of mine or someone that just happened upon this blog, please pray for us as we continue in our mission work because through your prayers and support, we are able to continue making connections in communities around the world.

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Sabbath

So how many of you remember when you were little and people would ask you what you wanted to be when you grow up? Most younger children will respond with doctor, teacher, football player, or rock star. People will smile and say that those responses are just so cute. When you are in middle school, you still get this question and  your answers better be more serious or people will look at you funny. Occasionally there are the marine biologists and writer but most youth will choose more mainstream choices. When you are in high school the question will change to where are you going to college and what is your major going to be. This shows the asker how serious you are about your future, and heaven forbid you still don’t know what you want to be because people will tell you what you should do based on what they think of you.

Then as you are in college, you are asked what are you going to do when you graduate, where do you want to live, and other questions similar to this. At this point the person being asked these questions gets a panicked look on their face because they have dreams of what they want to do but in reality probably won’t be able to find one of those jobs right out of college. And over 5 years after graduating from college, I honestly don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and I think that’s okay.

I feel such immense joy at finding a place where I can be happy, but  at the same time I only have one year left. Last year when people asked me what I was going to do after being a US-2, I would just stare at them. I kept telling people I have 2 years to figure that out so why should I worry about it? In truth, ever since I graduated from college my “what are you going to do” was uncertain. I was a nanny for a very brief period, worked as a Lead Teacher in a 2 year old room, taught kindergarten, worked at a grocery store behind the front desk, and worked in another 2 year old classroom. That’s not counting the few times that I subbed or the summer after college where I worked as a youth director at a small church and as the 3 year old teacher in another preschool. My life for the past few years has been pretty uncertain, and honestly I needed an emotion break from that uncertainty.

In November, I went to a conference put on by GBHEM where I was asked what I was going to do after US-2 by a recruiter for a seminary. When I told him that I was trying to take a break from thinking about my future, he said, “Oh, your taking a sabbath from worrying about your future. That’s very wise of you!” And so from then on when people asked me what I was going to do after US-2 I told them that I was taking a sabbath! It was genius because sabbath is a magical christainese word that means rest. It made me sound smart and serious and makes people stop harassing me about what I was “going to be when I grow up.”

In the past several months I have refined this to “I’m taking a sabbath from thinking about my future after Project Transformation because I want to be fully immersed and committed to my work here and now rather than thinking about what I’m going to do afterwards.” Genius, I tell you! Genius!  This has really helped me get out of answering those questions, but it has also helped me consciously not think about what comes after PT. It’s not healthy to worry, and let me tell you I am a worryohalic! I am a worrier! In fact one of the first Bible verses I memorized was Philippians 4:6-7 which is “Do not worry about anything, instead pray about everything. Tell God what  you need and thank him for all He has done. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” BAM! This was my go to verse for anytime I started freaking out about my future.

I have learned a lot about myself this year. This experience has given me a year of grace and ease that I don’t feel like I have ever truly had before. I have been challenged to do things way beyond my comfort zone and have accomplished many goals. Part of this success that I have felt is the wonderful organization that I work with, but it is also that I have intentionally set aside my worries about my future to dedicate my time to the work that I am currently doing.

Although, my time left here is limited, I still feel at ease with my future because I know God is here with me in the present, so why would he leave me in the future? I know I need to begin thinking about my future but now I feel like I have unlimited options, and I have faith that God will help me make the right decisions whether that be going to seminary here or far away, finding a job in a non-profit, or possibly even teaching again. God was here with me before, is here with me now, and will be here in my future.

 

 

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Reading!

So our summer program has finally started! Hooray!!! Starting at the end of May until June 11 I have been helping train new people (mostly summer interns) to take over the summer program. Each summer Project Transformation hires around 100 college-aged young adults to run programs at 9 sites in Dallas, TX and 1 in Denison, TX! That’s a lot of people! Each site has approximately 100 kids! And these college students are in charge of planning and implementing enriching activities from 9-3 Monday-Thursday. Now you may be asking where do I fit in all of this? Well, I’m in charge of the reading program. Each day at every site there are volunteers that come to read with children one-on-one. There is a person at each site responsible for managing this program and I was in charge of training and managing them.

Are you still with me? We also assess every kid in the program on Guided Reading leveling so that we know which books each kiddo should read. We all manage to assess all of the kids at every site in the first 2 days of programming! All of this is to help kids maintain or improve their reading levels in the summer. You may be asking, “Maintain their grades? That’s not very impressive.” Wellllllll, statistics show kids in low income communities, who do not have access to age appropriate books, do not read during the summer and their reading scores go down in the summer. Our program boasts that 96% of kids in our program maintain or improve their reading over summer months. My hope is that this summer we’ll have kids improving their reading abilities over the summer!

We also have added reading focused activities in the afternoons as well. Kids at each site have been placed in groups based on what skills they need to help them improve. Woot! Woot! I’m pumped about this! I’m excited about the reading program!

Okay, enough talking from me… oh, I forgot to mention the best part of my job! I get to go and visit sites and see kids reading with volunteers! I must say that it is pretty adorable. I even got to read with a kid one day, too! So I figured I should show you some pictures of the amazingness that is our reading program!
IMG_0964 IMG_0959 IMG_0957 reading volunteer  (2) reading volunteer  (1)IMG_0996

 

YAY READING!  Well, that’s all I have for you today!

PS I’m reading this amazing book by Jen Hatmaker called 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, and it is amazing!!! It has given me a lot to think about so I’m probably going to talk about that next time!

Until then, Elisabeth

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Home

So I’ve been thinking a lot about my job lately. I’ve been here for almost a year! I can’t believe it! In away it feels like I was just in missionary training preparing to go somewhere I’ve never been, but in some ways I feel like I’ve always been here. There are many reasons why I feel this way.
I don’t know if you all know this, but one of the main worries I had before coming here was that I would be homesick. I have never lived more than a few hours away from “home,” and I’ve always called my parent’s house home even when I had my own apartment while I was teaching. It was always, “Hey Mom, I’m coming home this weekend.” Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t go home every weekend but I always used my parents and their house as my refuge from my frustruations in life. Whenever I was stressed out, I would head up to their house, and it would be just like it was when I was in high school. I never realized it but part of my problem was just that. I didn’t truly feel like a grown up because I was still depending on my mom and dad to rescue me and help solve my problems. Now don’t get me wrong, I have wonderfully amazing parents, but I think there is a point in your life where you need to pull away from your parents to help you find yourself. And living this far away from them has allowed me to realize I can be happy without depending on them to make me happy.
I know though that a lot of this feeling of ease and independence has a lot to do with the environment that my placement site has created for me. I work with an amazing group of people. There is something truly unique about all of the people in my office. When I first got here I remember getting trained in what my job was going to be and where I would fit into the organization. I learned a little about everyone else’s job and then pretty much the next day I was planning trainings for the interns who were coming. There is something about immediately being put in a leadership position that caused me to dig right in. I also love that questions and evaluation is encouraged. One of the most beautiful things about Project Transformation is that we are constantly trying to change things that are not working and finding ways to improve things that could be better. There is so much growth and energy in this kind of environment that I can just feel myself thriving.
Now I say all of this today because we are currently in training 101 interns who next week will be in charge of planning and implementing programming for children 1-11 grade at 10 sites in Dallas and Denison, TX. I find this amazing. These are college-aged young adults who may or may not be education majors. We are giving them a structure of tools and resources, but then pretty much turning the program over to them! WOW! This is so unique and amazing. I’m really enjoying getting to know them. I’m looking forward to having a great summer with all of these wonderful people!
It’s so amazing to me that in less than a year I can truly call Dallas, Texas my home. I have a little more than a year left in service, and I’m already hoping that I can either stay with Project Transformation or find another similar job here. I originally thought that I would do my two years of service and then try to go back to Missouri, but now I know that I’ll be okay wherever I end up. And man, that’s comforting! I can make a place “home” no matter where I go.

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Scoop Up the Dirt

I’m not sure if I can believe it myself, but this is the second blog post in a week! I know, I know I’m outdoing myself today! But I just had to update you on the super exciting project we completed at our apartments today!

We finished sifting dirt and made our community garden for the apartments this morning. We have been working on this project for quite a few weeks, and I’ve been super excited about the whole thing. I’ve always loved the thought of having my own garden of fresh veggies. I’ve been really interested in this the past year specifically thinking about how much things cost at the store, the need to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable, and to be more healthy. So we did this awesome fast… had a work day a month or so ago but still had more work to do. We had planted some seeds in the office but not very many survived because of the amount of time they were in the office. I discovered that plants are hard to grow inside! Well anyway, we worked today on getting the soil ready because the area we were planting had a lot of rocks and debris in it…. We used screens and sifted through the dirt and got rid of all of the “bad stuff.” I used an awesome online tool to map out the garden that told me how much room things would take. We even have a very creative and decorative border (think random bricks and rocks).

So the seeds have been sown and the starter plants have been planted. I’m hopeful everything will grow cause I’m going to be pretty sad if it doesn’t. Knowing my luck I’ll have 500 zucchini in the summer and get really tired of all of the different varieties. The thought was on the weekend to have a stand to give away the fresh produce to people walking by on the street. My hope is that I can connect more with the community around us through this garden! Who knew I’d be a community garden coordinator as well as curriculum coordinator at Project Transformation! I’ll make sure to post pictures as everything starts to grow!

Well, that’s about all for the day. Happy weekend everybody!

Elisabeth

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Super-indelible, never come off till your dead or maybe even later markers!

So I love children’s books. There are always great illustrations and stories. The characters are meaningful and there are often times themes that relate to your life. I got to read an awesome book this week that reminded me about my US-2 experience thus far. It’s called Purple, Green and Yellow. This Robert Munsch book is about a little girl who loves to color so she begs her mom for different kinds of markers. Well she gets bored with the last set which just so happen to be super-indelible, never come off till your dead or maybe even later markers. When she gets bored she decides to color on herself and of course this can not be undone. And I’ve found that my experience has been this way thus far. I thought I’d share with you one of the events from this past weekend that is a super-indelible, never come off till your dead or maybe even later marker on my life.

This past week was Read Across America week, aka the week before Dr. Seuss’ birthday. In my previous life as a kindergarten teacher, this was a really big week. We had volunteers come and read each day and dress up days, and a DEAR time(drop everything and read!). I didn’t think that I would be celebrating this event with my current placement site but little did I know…. It all started with the conversation about needing to replace old, outdated books from our libraries with new, pretty books that kids will love to grab off of the shelves. In our staff meeting in the question was asked is there a good time to push for book donations? I said well Dr. Seuss’ birthday is a big day in schools, a great event that already existed. This began what became, like Gru from Despicable Me would say, “kinda a big deal!” We ended up having guest readers come to a few of our sites to read Dr. Seuss books… myself included… and ended on Saturday at Barnes and Noble in Dallas and West Plano with a book drive. Oh, yeah and I got to dress up as the Cat in the Hat, complete with face paint and 3 fingered gloves, and read to the kids for story time!DSC00188

I love  being able to share my love for reading with lots of people! I got to hang out and color with some really cool little kids, read one of my favorite books, and share what Project Transformation does in the Dallas community. I got to talk about the program with several people and they were excited about what we do and were interested in helping out. It was great to see people get as excited as I am about what we are doing.  It’s funny how you can’t help but fall in love with the program and when you fall in love with something you want to share it with everyone!

I’m not sure how much money we made overall but I think it was a very successful day. Reading to kids this week reminded me how much I love acting silly and reading aloud. I know I’ve said this before, but this opportunity to work with Project Transformation has opened my eyes to so many things. Before coming here, I didn’t know really where I was headed and was really nervous about the future. There were some super-indelible, never come off till your dead or maybe even later marks that had left me wondering where I was headed. Now, don’t ask me where I’m going after this because I sure as heck don’t know. But for the first time in a long time, I see possibilities, lots of possibilities, and that feels really good. This is definitely leaving some super-indelible, never come off until your dead or maybe even later marks on me.

Til next time,

Elisabeth

photo 2

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Sharing stories

So one of my jobs with Project Transformation is to establish monthly dinners for the year-long interns. This is partly because I’m a US-2 and establishing a community is a big part of the US-2 program, but it fits in with PT because the interns don’t have anything during the after-school program. During the summer program, there are nightly dinners and lots of time for bonding. Of course, with 100 or so interns this might be easier to accomplish. Right now in the after-school program we have around 20 interns who for the most part are in school or have other jobs than just working with the asp. So nonetheless, I am determined to  have a dinner for them once a month(food is an incentive, right?). Along with this, the plan is to have a small devotional. So here I go with my plan in place!

So this past Saturday was the first dinner! We had a taco potluck, if you want to call it that. I cooked some meat (WAY too much) and the interns were asked to bring the rest of the supplies. I had about 8 interns RSVP yes so my mom suggested to get 5 lbs of meat since she thought they would eat a lot more than the people that she cooks for do(mostly church dinners). Well, at the last minute 3 contacted me that something came up, and they couldn’t make it. I was pretty bummed out! But we ended up having 5 interns, 1 boyfriend, and me. Not so shabby for the first one!

We ate tacos, and I have to say that they were pretty awesome. We talked, laughed, and had a pretty good time. I also asked what they wanted these to be cause they are not about me so much as they are about allowing the interns to build a sense of community. We decided that we should do carry-ins each month since that was cheaper than eating out.

And this is where I get really excited… instead of doing a Bible study-type devotional, we are going to….. drumroll please….. share stories! Each month one or two interns will volunteer to share their faith stories! How exciting is this?!? I have to say I’m really excited to get to know about the interns more and where they came from. During our US-2 training, everyone in the program (including the Global Ministries staff) shared their call to mission/ministry in the retreat center we were at. This was such a neat and sacred time for us to share together. Each of the Mission Interns and US-2’s came from unique places and had an exciting story to tell, and that was my favorite part of the day. So now I’m here, and I’m going to get to listen to more stories!

Anyway, I’m excited about the bonding, stories, laughter, and maybe some tears that might be shared in the months to come. I’m excited about building a community in this strange new world called PT.

That is all for today!

Elisabeth

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It’s been a while

So I have to apologize to my readers… It’s been a long time since I’ve written. I have lots of excuses but I have honestly just have been really busy and haven’t made my blog a priority. So I figure it’s about time to send an update.

So I think it’s interesting that several people have come up to me and asked me how my transition has been going. They seem surprised when I tell them it’s been really great. I guess I expected my transition to be rougher than it has been. I expected to miss home… I expected to be lonely… I guess I was also afraid of the unknown. There are several things, however, that have helped me in my transition.

1. I’ve been busy…. really busy….

2. I work with some really great people who are very supportive of me! The staff at PT have been very accepting and encouraging.

3. I have found some great churches and a small group. I have been attending Oak Cliff UMC on Sunday mornings where they have a contemporary bilingual service. I have also been attending First UMC Richardson  for their contemporary service and have been connected with a small group on Sunday evenings.

4. I have passion for the work that Project Transformation is doing. I feel my passions for children and education are being used to the fullest capacity with Project Transformation. I am really enjoying working with the interns to help the kiddos in the after-school program.

Oh, on a completely random note… I am learning how to drive in a big city. So our sites are spread out over the area and I’m learning which highways connect and where. The other day I took an exit and was really excited because it was on top of the exchanges of what I like to call “spaghetti.” I shared this in small group and one of the guys suggested making roller coaster noises during the trip. Not gonna lie… I tried it! It was awesome!

So I figured I’d include a random picture that I have taken since I’ve been here!

Whitney and Andrea (Site coordinators) “sleeping” in IKEA

Hope you enjoyed my post!

On the next edition (hopefully sooner rather than later): Things I’ve learned in Dallas!

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Training While Training

These past three weeks I have been settling in at work and at home. My apartment is part of a 4-plex that is shared with the AmeriCorp interns that serve with Project Transformation throughout the school year. We have a community room that is set up in the front room of my apartment and the interns are grouped in 2’s or 3’s in the other 3 apartments. I have my own small kitchen/dining room, bedroom, bathroom, and small living room (for my crafting). My first week of work, there was no one in the apartments, but they have all moved in now and we have had some fun bonding activities so I don’t feel alone anymore. I can be interverted in my own apartment if I choose to be, but I have had plenty of time to spend with other people.

As for church, I have been going to Oak Cliff UMC on Sunday mornings because this is where the Project Transformation offices are held. The service is bilingual and the sermon rotates English and Spanish from week to week. For the weeks that it is in Spanish, there is a translator and ear pieces for the English speakers and vice versa. I have also been connected into First UMC of Richardson thanks to Michelle Wood (a Mission Intern from Dallas area). I have been going to the Access Service in the evenings at FUMC. This service is a small (80ish people) contemporary service, and there is a young adult small group that meets afterward. I am excited about having a small group because I haven’t really been involved in a small church group before!

This week the offices at PT have changed. The interns have started training this week and the afterschool program will start officially next Wednesday. The energy in the office has changed, it is more vibrant and a little noisier, too. Today I will lead my first training for the Site Coordinators. I am excited about this but pretty nervous. I’m leading the curriculum training since that is one of the key components of my job. It’s a little difficult to wrap my mind about training people about things that I am knowlegable but in a different context. The rest of the staff here is super supportive though and has really taken the time to train me and answer my questions. I am truly excited about the things that PT is doing and am excited to help the after school program  grow and improve programming. I think it is truly a blessing to have been placed with such a great organization. They combine my passions in life together and I’m excited I’m here as a new resource.

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