Intentional December: A Time for Quiet

A Time for Quiet

Normally, during the month of December, my schedule is jam-packed full of traveling, church events, family get-togethers, and holiday parties. And I’m thankful that I’ve had these wonderful opportunities and life events for the month of December in years past.

But, this year is going to look a little different.

I love planning, going to holiday parties, attending Christmas programs, and other events this month. But, I’m actually looking forward to a different-type of December this year.

I’m looking forward to a December that encompasses a little more of the quiet and less of the hustle and bustle that often comes this time of year.

My son has definitely taught me the gift of just being present and not always “doing” and “planning”. It’s an amazing gift that I often struggle to fully appreciate and accept at times. I’m hopeful that this month will reiterate the importance of having the stillness and quiet in my life during this time we celebrate our Lord and Savior’s birth.

Not Our Typical December

My side of the family decided to combine our Thanksgiving and Christmas celebration in one weekend this past month. My brother and sister-in-law are joyfully expecting their second child during the month of December, so this made it easier on them to plan ahead for our double-holiday get-together this past month. And I’m looking forward to planning a special trip to go visit them within the next couple of months after our newest family member arrives.

For my husband and myself, having one get-together for my side of the family helped us out a lot because we live about five hours away from my side of the family, so the cost in driving can definitely add up. Also, driving with a 14 month-old-baby can easily accrue several stops along the way, making the trip even longer.  So, I’m happy that we consolidated our travels into one trip.

Along with the lack of travel for our family this month, my church normally hosts a lovely and meaningful Women’s Christmas Tea event on the first weekend of December, but this event had to be canceled this year due to our new church building not being completely finished. An alternative location ended up not being an option for the event.

I was initially disappointed, as this is such an amazing event for the women in our church and community, but clearly it wasn’t meant to be this year, and so I’m looking forward to using this day in another way this December.

My husband and I also usually plan on attending a Christmas program and New Year’s Eve event. Last year, we went to the Nutcracker Ballet and we did a New Year’s Eve cooking class- both were phenomenal!

But this year, we’ve decided to hold off on planning to do any specific events or programs for the holidays. We’re still in our money saving-mode! With exception to my lovely husband planning a mini-getaway- which will be the first one we’ve had since our son was born last year.

Our little guy will be staying with my in-laws for a night. It will definitely seem a little weird without him, but I know the quality time with my husband is much needed, and it will be a fun time for us to get away for a couple days.

Being Intentional: Less Hustle, Less Noise

All-in-all, I’m actually looking forward to less planning, less events, and just going with the flow of what the days and weeks bring this next month. I’m setting aside the hustle and bustle and the noise, to intentionally seek the quietness, stillness, and peace that come with Jesus.

I want to intentionally create time within my home to stop, relax, and appreciate my surroundings and the people around me.

I’m looking forward to spending a night just driving through and looking at Christmas lights within a neighborhood. There’s always something magical about just looking out a car window and starring at the beautiful lights, admiring the work of the homeowner who took the time to decorate for Christmas.

I’m looking forward to relaxing at home, spending time with my family, and just listening to music and watching Christmas movies. It’s nice when there’s no place to go, nothing to do, and there’s time to relax. There’s something peaceful about Christmas music, and it lightens my heart and soul. It also helps me to deeply appreciate and better understand the love of God.

I’m looking forward to what impromptu things will unfold when our family doesn’t have so much planned for this month.

I’m hopeful there will be more conversations, laughter, giving, and love, as well as reflection over what this season is truly about.

But, I have to be intentional about seeking peace and quiet during this time of year because if I’m not, I can easily fall back into the idea that this season is about “me doing”, “me planning”, and “me going”, when really, it’s not about those things at all.

I’m hopeful that God will use this time of quiet to soften my heart, and open my mind to worship Him and experience the season in its fullness, as it is a season of love and peace as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

Advent Reading

As we are within the first week of Advent, I have been taking the time to do an Advent study to further the quieting of my heart and to spend quality time in God’s Word- remembering the true meaning of the season.

I have decided to follow the Women Living Well Advent free downloadable ebook. The book is titled, Keeping Our Intentional December: A Time for QuietHearts Focused on Jesus, and it’s by Courtney Joseph and the contributors
at GoodMorningGirls.org

This Advent study includes a weekly Bible study as well as a devotional passage, which I really like. It then breaks down each day of the week by providing daily scripture readings and reflection questions and a time of prayer.

This study also contains daily activities to keep the family involved in understanding the true meaning of the season. And it even includes some weekly Christmas baking recipes for those that love to bake this time of year.

I have enjoyed doing a few of Courtney Joseph’s Bible Study plans through the Women Living Well website. She and her team do a wonderful job of putting together the studies and using the S.O.A.K. method for the daily reading questions and discussions.

I like that the Women Living Well website allows each person to take on the amount of reading and “homework” that he/she feels comfortable with, and it also allows studiers to be a part of online discussion groups through Facebook and the website.

It’s a great resource, and I highly recommend it.

 

 

I hope that in this season you find the peace and joy that only Jesus can bring. Thank you for stopping by The Fish Full Life.

 

Reflection:

How will you and/or your family be spending this Christmas season? Are you making time for reflection, peace, and quiet during this December?

 

 

 

Turn Off the News and Love Your Neighbor

“If you love deeply, you’re going to get hurt badly. But it’s still worth it.” -C. S. Lewis

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“People grow when they are loved well. If you want to help others heal, love them without an agenda.” -Mike Mchargue

 “Know this my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” -James 1:19

 

I have a friend who recently posted the following on Facebook a few days after the election: “Turn off the ‘news’, and love your neighbor.’” The image was of a beaten-up sign, that looked like it had been spray painted and put out in front of a business or on someone’s lawn.

The sign wasn’t large, invasive, or anything pretty to look at, but the words were and still are a powerful reminder: to love one another.

It’s been almost two weeks since the results of the United States’ Presidential election came out, and it’s been a long couple of weeks of thinking, reflecting, and praying on my end.

 

There’s still tension within our country. There’s still fear for what the future may hold. And there’s still so much uncertainty and anxiety that can overwhelm a soul when the news constantly bombards us with everything that’s wrong with our world.

I watched the news the first day after the election, and sporadically since then. As I’ve said in a previous post from the summer, I never want to tune out the world, but I can’t process events properly if I’m constantly being bombarded by everyone else’s opinion.

And I most certainly lose sight of the love and light in my heart if I’m constantly tuned in to fear, noise, and hate.

What I pour into my soul, will outpour through my thoughts, words, and actions. If I’m constantly pouring fear, worry, hate, frustration, and anger into my soul, that’s what will pour out.

My heart beats strongly for social justice, wrongs being made right, and truth being revealed, and with that, I strongly believe in the power of waiting, listening, and loving while seeking God for the right choice of words and the right choice of action.

And sometimes, that means no words and no actions.

Sometimes, it’s better for me just to listen to a friend, rather than putting in my two-sense.

Sometimes, it’s better for me to just smile and walk away rather than get into an argument.

It is possible to love someone without agreeing with them.

 

We can genuinely love people even if our views are different than theirs. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” -Mark 12:31.

Because most of the time, that “neighbor” for the day is someone that’s close to us; it’s someone that has set us off because he/she doesn’t agree with us.

It’s a spouse who didn’t take out the trash after saying he/she would.

It’s a friend who didn’t call on your birthday.

It’s the Facebook friend who posted a snarky comment to your post.

It’s the child who is ungrateful for the meal that was made.

It’s the person that cuts you off when you’re in the middle of telling a story.

It’s the little battles, the enemies of everyday lives that push us to have an outburst, to roll our eyes, or to go into a silent anger. We choose to be disgruntled and uneasy, and worst of all, we choose to be prideful. We choose to go on in our anger and lack of forgiveness, spreading it throughout the rest of our day.  

We become short with our family.

We get impatient with the drive-thru worker.

We fail to see the elderly couple needing help with an item at the store.

Because we’re too busy in our anger and sulking to reach a state of repentance for our own actions and forgiveness for another.

 

Loving people isn’t just for the people we get along with and agree with. It’s a passion that should reside and overflow from our hearts because Christ first loved us.

Undeservedly, Christ showed compassion, caring, and ultimately love for the least of these. He went to the outcasts, the degenerates, the hated, the misunderstood, and listened to them, spoke to them, ate with them, befriended them, and most certainly loved them.

And it wasn’t because they deserved love, nor was it because he agreed with their actions or way of life, but rather he gave love because his heart desired to show the world what real love looks like- what God’s love looks like.

God’s love is a joyful willingness to put others before ourselves- agape love. And it’s a love that only stems from the one true source- God himself.

 

We are all human, and we are beautifully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). We all have a desire for love- it’s entrenched in our very beings. And it’s not easy; some days it can be extremely difficult. But, we can choose to love despite our circumstances and despite our feelings.

True love does not overflow from feelings and circumstances, but rather, love overflows from a sacrificial heart that’s in-tune with our Heavenly Father.

He desires for us to be content, to have hearts that overflow with a love that can only be given from a God whose very name is the definition of what love truly is. 

 

I know love doesn’t always overflow from my lips, but I pray that God would continue to work on my heart, mind, and soul to change me and shape me to be a vessel that is used for His glory, His truth, and to share in His love.

Because His love is the most powerful, life-changing gift this world has received. And it needs to be shared by the image-bearers of this earth.

 

How can we genuinely love people even if we don’t see eye-to-eye with them?

We can hold the door for someone when we walk into a store.

We can make the new mom a dinner for her growing family.

We can let the car behind us, who seems in more of a hurry than we are, pass us and go on his way.

We can slow down and say “Hello, how is your day going?” to the check-out person at the grocery store.

We can genuinely listen in our conversations, and be watchful of how we use our words- are we using our words to lift up, or are we using them to tear down?

We can offer to pay for a person’s groceries or fast food order who is in line behind us.

We can give our time to set up a coffee date with a friend who is having a rough time.

We can offer to babysit a friend’s children so that she can have a night out with her husband.

We can call and tell our parents that we love them.

We can give a gift to that person who doesn’t get a “thank you” all that often- the mail carrier, the cashier at the store, the gas station attendant, the garbage collectors.

We can send a letter to a grandparent that we don’t see that often.

We can invite the neighbors over for dinner who may look different than us, speak differently, and have a different lifestyle than we do.

We can stop to thank a veteran for their service.

We can offer to help clean the dishes at a social gathering.

 

Choose to turn off the news, and love your neighbor.

 

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best- the sun to warm and the rain to nourish- to everyone, regardless: the good and the bad, the nice and the nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” -Matthew 5:43-48 MSG

 

Spotlight: Teaching with VIPKID

Thankful- His Ways Are Greater Than My Ways

Every time I try and plan out what to write for my next blog post, it usually immediately changes as soon as I start hitting away at the keys. I’ll often go completely in a different direction, and I believe that’s God directing me to take a different path other than the one I intended.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” -Isaiah 55:9

In this month of Thanksgiving, I’m beyond thankful for the ability to write, read, learn, and share as I grow in this blogging process. I’m still very much new to all of this, and I appreciate all the gracious responses and comments as I continue to learn and grow as a writer.

 

Looking for a Job

As some of you may know from reading a previous post of mine, our family has been trying to save money. We are thankfully not in debt, besides our mortgage, but we’ve been praying about a solution to bring in more income during this time in our life.

My husband works A LOT, so I did not really want to put the burden on him to continue to look for more overtime. I also coach swimming in the evenings, on days that he is home. This is through a non-profit organization, so the income isn’t anything to brag about. I deeply enjoy coaching- the continuous learning, the relationships with swimmers and families, and the interactions with my fellow coaches. It is a very rewarding job, and I’m thankful to be able to continue to do it post baby.

Beyond coaching, I really did not want to leave the house for another job. I enjoy being home with my son, and it’s been a priority for our family to make that happen. But, being the “Type A” personality that I am, I had been conscientiously looking for different part time job opportunities, most of them being away from the home.

My background is teaching high school English, and I really didn’t want to go back to teaching full time. Other jobs that looked interesting, were all away from the home. I know there are plenty of stay-at-home moms that sell make-up, party products, jewelry, etc. from home, but this just doesn’t fit my personality.

As my husband and I continued to talk about finances (I know, fun, right?), I prayed as I searched the internet. I came across a blog that I had never read before and the blogger had mentioned an opportunity to teach English online to students in China through a company called VIPKID.

Skimming over the requirements, I was thrilled to see that this may be exactly what we were looking for. I could stay at home, the hours were great for a mom with a baby, and many of the teachers that were currently with the program had strong reviews about working for VIPKID.

I’m thankful to say I’ve been with VIPKID since mid-October 2016 (still a newbie), and so far it’s been a great experience! God fully opened up this opportunity to teach from home and online, and it’s beyond anything I could have imagined I’d be doing for a job!

 

My First Month’s Experience with VipKid

Initial Interview + Demo Class

From the start, I was very impressed with the hiring process for a VIPKID teacher. I submitted my resume to VIPKID and heard back within a day about their interest in setting up an online interview and demo class with me.

I was sent a 5-slide power point presentation on a mini lesson that I would teach after my interview with an employee in China. Through the VIPKID portal, I was able to set up an account and schedule a time to interview and teach the demo class.

For the interview, I purchased a new computer (which we needed), a headset, a computer camera, and a dry erase board for my demo class. I believe I also had a few props to incorporate into the mini lesson. My interviewer was a native Chinese-speaker, but she did speak English pretty well.

She discussed the basics about the company, asked me about my experience, and discussed my pay based on my qualifications. I have taught in the past and I do hold a teaching certificate, but a teaching certificate is not needed to teach with VipKid.

The minimum requirement is a Bachelor’s Degree, and one’s pay is based off of one’s qualifications and certifications. So, this would be a great opportunity for someone who just graduated from college but is having a hard time finding a teaching job. It’s also a great opportunity for a stay-at-home mom (like me), or anyone that’s wanting to bring in some extra income. This job gives a person the opportunity to teach abroad from home.

 

Practicum Evaluation

After my initial pass with the interview and demo class, I was given additional resources and videos to look over and study. I was also given another full 25-minute lesson with power point sides which I would use to teach during the practicum evaluation. I had 3 days to finish the videos, and I was told to be prepared to teach two practicums within a 10-day time frame. I believe it was also this time that I was given a teaching contract for six months, which I was to look over and sign if I agreed upon the requirements and pay, which I did.

My practicum evaluator was from the United States, but she was currently residing in France, so she was a native English-speaker. We briefly discussed the videos from my training, and she addressed any questions or concerns I had about the program, etc. I then taught the 25-minute lesson.

My practicum evaluator stopped me around the half-way mark to ask how I thought the lesson was going, and to give me some feedback. We then continued the lesson until the end where she gave me additional feedback.

The practicum evaluator was not able to tell me whether or not I was hired by VipKid. She did let me know that I would hear from them via e-mail on whether or not I would be hired or need to do a second practicum.

Thankfully, I was hired right away and didn’t have to do a second practicum!

 

Additional Teacher Training

After I was hired, there were additional and very important training videos to watch. I then had to take a quiz over the videos.

Most of the videos discuss how VIPKID operates, how they create their lesson plan format, what to do if there’s IT issues while teaching, how to teach a trial class, etc. There was a large amount of information to go over and videos to watch. I would highly recommend going over these training videos and downloading the information to look over several times.

I had read some reviews where people complained about the hiring process taking two weeks or that the training was long. I agree, it did take a little while, but it was not bad at all. Clearly, this company wants quality teachers which I respect, so I think it is well worth the effort to go through the interview, demo, practicum, and additional training for the job. For me, it solidified that this company is legitimate and cares about the overall package they represent.

 

My Classroom & Teaching Hours

Teach English as a Second Language Online!
This is me in my online classroom.

Since starting my position of teaching from home, I’ve created my own little online classroom. I have my computer facing a wall so that I can use the wall for a whiteboard and a reward system for students. I’ve also been using plenty of props. A lot of the props are simply my one year old son’s toys, but I have bought a few things specifically for teaching from home.

Most of the hours for VIPKID are early in the morning during the week, and then Fridays and Saturdays offer some evening teaching hours. I live in the U.S., so depending on where you live, it will vary on the time you would be teaching.

VIPKID is considered a part time job, so I would estimate it’s pretty difficult to teach full time with the hours provided by them. I teach anywhere from 2-4 hours a day, roughly 5 days a week. The minimum hours that one is allowed to teach is 7.5 hours per week during peak lesson times. The peak lesson times are usually a 5-6 hour time block in the mornings, and then a 4-5 hour time block in the evenings on Fridays and Saturdays.

As for full time work with the company, through the online forum, I’ve disovered that some teachers ARE teaching full time. BUT, most of them live in an area of the world where they are on Beijing time, or somewhere close to it. Working full time in the U.S. may be a little rough if you have family, as you’d be working overnight and early mornings most of the time.

The company does offer lots of hours for bookings, but those bookings may dip during certain times of the year due to Chinese holidays, American holidays, the students who book with you, etc.

I can’t say enough good things about how happy I am with this job so far and with this opportunity to do what I enjoy while still being able to stay home with my son.

I’m hoping to do a three month follow up blog post on working with VipKid, so be on the lookout for that in the near future.

If you’re interested in teaching with VipKid, or if you just want to find out more information, follow this link VipKid Recruitment. I guarantee it’s worth exploring!

Other Blog Posts on VIPKID

6 Month Blog Post on VIPKID

3 Month Blog Post on VIPKID

If you’d like to view my online classroom, follow this link Amber’s Online Classroom.