So...What am I thankful for this year??
The ability to travel. Everyone knows I can't sit still for long. This year I travelled to: Alaska, Seattle, Portland, Canada, and Nashville. It was my first year in a long time to not hop on a plane to go overseas, but that's okay. I really enjoyed exploring all the sites and these locations had to offer - and had a GREAT time while visiting each of them!
My job. I love my job, and many people can't say that. I'm thankful that I was able to move up from being a noontime assistant ("yard duty teacher") to a substitute teacher's aid. But even in being a substitute teacher's aid, I've been placed at a school long-term...and I love it there. The staff are incredible, the teacher's are kind, and I have the chance to use my language skill set with American Sign Language. Every week I'm there, the more personal and language growth I see in my life. (How does this picture of a post-it note relate to my job? My job has loads of funny moments. Loads and loads!!...Including this one, which I wrote on a post-it note for the teacher I was working with at the time.)
My beautiful mother! This is one lady I'll never stop being thankful for. Ever.
She goes to work, takes care of my dad, is my sounding board, coordinates a women's retreat, constantly cracks the corniest of jokes, and she even makes me dinner on nights she knows I'm out late because of school. She balances a lot, and I'm thankful for the Godly example she has been in my life. I'm thankful that she's not just my mom, but my friend.
Donuts. I'm thankful for donuts. Many of you may not know this, but donuts are my weakness. While in Portland this summer, I spent over 30 minutes in line waiting for one of the city's hot spots for the sweet pastries...and it was worth it! For years I have been telling my mom on my birthday, "Please don't get me a cake...I would like some donuts instead." It may seem silly, but I really am thankful for one of my all-time favorite snacks!
My little sister, BreAnna. She's the best little sister a girl could ask for. She keeps me laughing ALL of the time, and I enjoy all of our conversations. We have the best sleepovers and enjoyed tackling our summer bucket lists together this year. BreAnna has brought more encouragement to my life than I can even explain, and I only hope that I can encourage her as much as she has encouraged me.
My 4-year-old cousin, Rayna. This kid keeps me laughing every time I see her. Last night at dinner she kept telling me that she and I are best friends, and how she just couldn't wait to come to my house for Thanksgiving Day. This morning when she woke up, apparently she told her daddy that today was a "Crystal day" - so she couldn't play with him. She could only play with me. When she arrived, she instantly requested that I sit next to her for lunch, where we had the following conversation:
"Crystal, I love family dinners!" - Rayna
"Yeah?? Me too! Why do you love family dinners?" - Me
"Because I get to see YOU!! And I LOVE spending time with you." - Rayna
My new baby cousin, Erica!! Rayna is now a big sister!...Isn't she cute?? I'm thankful for every chance I get to have to hold her...Especially since the line to do so is always so long! (Ha!) She's adorable, and quite possibly the squeakiest baby I have ever met. Who wouldn't be thankful for a chance to snuggle with such an adorable baby?? (Side note: I'm also incredibly thankful for the aunt that gave me these two snuggly and playful cousins to adore!)
The support I've experienced since finding out about my Facebook fiasco of my photo going viral. Wow. Talk about a powerful amount of encouragement!! I know I've not blogged much since my initial entry about the situation, but I promise to write more soon about everything. I can't deny it - the last few months have been a crazy roller coaster ride, and one that isn't quite finished yet...But WOW. When I made my first post on Facebook about what happened - and then blogged about it - the support has been off the charts. During a really hard day, I recently had a friend/mentor tell me something along the lines of, "Look at all the support you have!! As I watch your blog and Facebook page, you've had more support with this one issue alone than I've ever had in my many years of ministry." And it's true. I've had a LOT of support, and I cannot give enough thanks for this as this crazy, unexpected journey unfolds.
Not only am I thankful for the support I've received, I'm also thankful for all the encouragement. (Although, I do realize that these practically go hand in hand.) Since the Facebook Fiasco started, I've received message after message from friends and strangers alike. I heard from many of my 1,550 Facebook friends, plus others I've never met from around the world. I have heard from people with the same type of birthmark that I have, from people who have a child who has what I have, and from people who didn't know what a Port Wine Stain was until they clicked on my blog, or read the article the Fresno Bee wrote on my story.
The encouraging messages I have received have been such a blessing, and an unexpected surprise. While I knew some people would message me, I didn't expect such a high number of emailed support. Like I mentioned above, this has been a roller coaster ride I need to write about again later, but without the encouragement I have received - I know this journey would have been 100,000x harder than it has been.
On the days when I've allowed myself to become distracted by the discouragement of my situation, I've had so many of you tell me, "I just know God is going to do something great with your story!! I know it!!" So thank you. Thank you for lifting me up when I have struggled and been down. Thank you for following my story, sharing it, emailing me, praying for me, and for encouraging me in all the different ways you have all had a part in. I know many of you are rooting for the plans and story God has for my life, and I appreciate it!
Recently I went to Nashville to work on a video project. Ironically, it is a project I had planned before my picture went viral. Around June or July I called my friend, Brian, and told him of a video idea I had in mind...A video I've wanted to do for at least a year...and a video in which I wanted tell a part of my story, but also with the ability to use this video to hopefully promote and attract potential speaking opportunities.
I went to Nashville early in the month of November and I've already seen two cuts of the video. It looks FANTASTIC. Brian is incredible at what he does, and it was a joy to work with him and my new friend, Melissa. Being in front of a camera was a bit awkward for me at times, as I'm use to being behind the camera...but I really enjoyed every moment of this project.
I'm thankful for the opportunity to take time off work and school so I could travel to Nashville and work on this project. I'm thankful for cough drops, which were a huge contribution to the creating of this video. I'm thankful for the patiences of both Melissa and Brian, as well as their encouragement throughout the whole process. I'm especially thankful to have the chance to work with Christian "video guy" who took the time to pray over the project we were working on, as well as for God to use the video to open more doors to speak to others - whether the door be their computer screens on YouTube, or by me (hopefully) gain more speaking engagements where I can speak and encourage others in-person.
If anyone is looking for a chance to tell their story through video, I highly recommend that you check out his website: www.tekmerion.net (I've not published my video yet, but I will keep you all updated and share it once I am able.)
My friend Melinda! We are total opposites, which is a beautiful thing...but that's another entry for another day. (Ha!) I'm thankful for the many deep conversations that have taken place in my car with this lady, and am thankful for her constant reminders to have faith, to dream big dreams!...That nothing is impossible.
I'm thankful for the ability to dream God-sized dreams, and to be proud to do so! With God anything is possible - and what's not to be thankful about that? My dreams are BIG, but my God is even BIGGER. (I have a whole bulletin board in my room that is dedicated to my God-sized dreams!)
This beautiful lady (Amberly Neese) is one of my mentors, and one of the best speakers I have ever heard. She's a fantastic speaker, friend, and has one of the biggest gifts of encouragement that I have ever seen. Earlier in the year I sat down to talk with her, telling her of my God-sized dream to become a public speaker. That same day, and since then, she has taken the time to share her words of wisdom, bits of advice, and encouragement with me. She was the main speaker at a retreat I did a 20 minute talk at, and I'm so glad that she was there. With her being my mentor in this area of life, I found it to be more than fitting for her to be there as I spoke to a group of women and hopefully started my speaking career. I'm thankful for women like her (and Denise) who take the time to really invest in my life like they have done, and for women like them who take the time to really "champion me on" (As in the world of Amberly!) - especially in the last year.
Again, this is only a summarized list of the things and people I am thankful for. If I included everything and everyone, this would easily be the blog that never ends.
Too add to my list, though, I am incredibly thankful for God's strength, guidance, His patience, and protection. Between random gallbladder surgeries, cruise ships catching on fire, heavy school loads (while working full time), pictures going viral...My life has been crazy busy and adventurous, and I can't imagine living life without my God.
I don't know what the next year will hold for me, but I'm going to continue to dream my God-sized dreams and dream BIG. I'm going to continue to be thankful for both the little things, and the big things, on a daily basis.
What are you thankful for??
The Travelin' Chick,