Sunday, April 24, 2011

He is Risen. He is Risen, Indeed!

Easter is one of my favorite holidays. It is a perfect welcome to spring, but more importantly a time for us to honor our Lord and celebrate His resurrection. I can remember all of the Easter traditions from when I was little; waving palm leaves on Palm Sunday, Resurrection eggs (each egg containing an item and a verse symbolic from the Easter story), wearing a brightly colored smock dress that coordinated with my brothers’ outfits, Easter hat parade at school, visiting the Easter Bunny at the mall, Cadbury eggs (even though my older brother is the only one that eats them, we still get them in our basket), Mom’s Easter tree, dyeing Easter eggs and going on the hunt Sunday morning before church.

My favorite Easter tradition of all, however, is Easter breakfast. And I don’t mean the one piece of candy we are allowed to eat out of our basket before church. For as long as I can remember my mom has made what she calls “Empty Tomb Rolls”.  These rolls are intended to symbolize the empty tomb that was seen after Jesus had been crucified and His followers found that the tomb where He had been buried was empty. He had risen, just as He had said.

Every Easter Sunday at church we greet each other with the standard phrase “He is Risen!” and the other responds “He is Risen, indeed!”. We also end the service with one final “He is Risen, indeed!” in unison. Four powerful words that after sheer familiarity tend to lose their luster. Easter shouldn’t be the only day of the year that we take the time to honor the crucifixion and resurrection. We are alive today and everyday because of Him. He died for us.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. -2 Corinthians 5:21

Empty Tomb Rolls
Frozen yeast rolls
Large Marshmallows
¼ cup Cinnamon
¼ cup Sugar
1 stick melted butter

Let the rolls thaw but not rise.  Form a roll around a marshmallow (be sure it is sealed over the marshmallow). Melt butter. Mix cinnamon and sugar together in a bowl. Roll the rolls in melted butter and then in cinnamon and sugar mixture. Place in a lightly buttered or greased muffin tin, cover with a dish towel and let rise at least a couple of hours or over night. Bake according to package directions for the rolls. 

The marshmallows will melt and stick to the roll when baking so when you bite into the roll it is “empty”!

Matthew 28:1-9
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.

He is Risen. He is Risen, Indeed!

Happy Easter!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pump the Brakes!

Senioritis has definitely kicked in. Actually it did the minute junior year ended and senior year began. I didn't know there was such a thing in college, but there most definitely is. Although it comes in a different form. In high school you count down the days until prom, graduation, and departure for college. In college, the countdown to graduation is a touchy subject and too depressing to even bring up. And although the fun weekend events in the Spring are some of the best to look forward to; they also serve as a reminder that you're getting closer and closer to the end. And this time, the end isn't just the end of the is literally the end.

I guess you could say I like to be social. Exhibit A: I stay up way too late simply because I don't want to miss anything. Ask my friends. I require little sleep. Don't get me wrong, I love nothing more than sleeping in, but I would also stay up until 2 in the morning every night if I could. And I have done so all through college, until my internship allowed me not to do so. I tried a few times, but the following day at school was never a fun one.

In addition to being a social butterfly, I also love planning. I love keeping in touch with people. My friends have actually dubbed me the "Social Networking Queen", I like to think its a compliment, but sometimes I'm not so sure. I love having people over, cooking, having parties, going to parties, meeting people for lunch/dinner/ice cream (not a big "let's get coffee" kind of person...that phrase actually drives me crazy). Really I just love being with people. And lucky for me my job will allow me to be surrounded by a classroom full of (little) people.

Spring Semester in college for our friends usually involves pulling out our calendars and planning weekends. Since the Fall is strictly football, we make sure to try and make the Spring equally exciting. Although this year the Fall was a tough act to follow after an undefeated season and a National Championship. Over the past 3 years our Springs have included lake trips, beach trips, Nashville trips, Birmingham trips, concerts, (most recently) weddings, and of course the traditional Spring functions: Spring Break, formal, rodeo, Greek Sing, socials, and the list goes on. I was always under the impression that the Spring would be more relaxed, but it actually ends up being a whirlwind of miscellaneous events.All of the fun times with friends and lounging in the afternoons/evenings with not a care in the world, is about to quickly turn into playing catch-up with phone conversations and planned reunions instead, as we all go our separate ways.

Sadly, all of the fun spring weekends for 2011 have almost come to an end. (minus our sweet friend Georgia getting married on the 7th!). I have only been home once since Christmas, due to the fact that we have had something every weekend. I'll be going home this coming weekend for Easter, and after not having seen my family in over 2 months, I am definitely looking forward to my time at home. After this weekend, the next time I make the drive from Auburn to Nashville will be post-graduation and it won't just be for the weekend. I will unpack my car and move back in to my room at home with my parents. Most would dread this, but fortunately I have a great relationship with my mom and dad and kind of look forward to being with them again. That doesn't mean it won't be a major transition. After living with my best friends for 4 years, coming and going as I please, and (in the most conservative way) doing what I want; it is going to be a serious change.

The next few months are going to be hectic, to say the least, in the McKinney household. I graduate in May. Daniel's fiance, Krista, graduates from grad school. David graduates from high school (he's actually enjoying his countdown, unlike myself). Wedding showers and preparation galore. And the big day is June 18th. After that my mom and I are considering taking a beach vacation to relax and debrief from the fun and hectic times. Well deserved, don't you think? 

This past weekend was the last big spring weekend for me in Auburn. I'll be sure and enjoy every minute of the free weekend here between Easter and Graduation. Although, that weekend may mean going full emo mode while packing; filled with tears and depressing thoughts about leaving this place and my friends. This morning I woke up and had an email about graduation. That's when it hit me that it is only 21 days away. Where have my last 4 years gone?! I feel like I was just moving into my freshmen dorm; like I was just walking up the stairs as I watched my parents drive away crying like babies leaving me. Now they're probably crying like babies, not because I'm leaving, but because I'm coming back home. (Joke....kind of.)

I tend to overuse phrases sometimes. One of my most recent is "pump the brakes". Meaning, slow down and take it easy. I feel like this is extremely fitting right now. If only I could look life in the face and yell "PUMP THE BRAKES!" I have a feeling life would look right back at me and say "Get used to it...there's no slowing down". So I guess I should get use to it. 

Pictures from our final Spring (2011) 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Goin' to the Chapel...

The next few years I can imagine I will be buying a lot of wedding gifts, attending many weddings, hosting showers, and maybe even welcoming sweet new babies to the world (Don’t worry friends, no pressure…). I never thought I would reach the age at which my own friends were getting married. And even though it is happening, I still don’t feel old enough! But my goodness there have been so many engagements recently; both high school and college friends! If you’re in a sorority you can relate to the old tradition of a candlelight. The candle is placed in a bouquet of flowers and the engagement ring is slid on to the candle. The candle goes around the circle as sorority sisters sing a sweet customary song about love. The new soon-to-be bride blows out the candle after it has gone around a number of times and places the ring on her finger. After the surprise and the screams and probably a few tears, the future bride stands up in front of the chapter and shares the proposal story. It is such a fun and sweet tradition! Our sorority has had quite a few of this old time ritual this year (I believe the number is near 14?), and wedding bells are ringing like crazy.

Some of these newly engaged girls (and one already wed) are my very dear friends. I have a very close-knit group of girlfriends at Auburn and will cherish those friendships and memories forever. Graduating and going our separate ways come May will be extremely difficult after spending the past 4 years with them. There are 9 of us; 2 engaged, 1 married, and a couple others maybe not far behind. My friends and I have always loved weddings. Our favorite movies that we watch repeatedly almost all include weddings, (Father of the Bride, 27 Dresses, Maid of Honor, etc…) we’ve fawned over bridal magazines and blogs, tried on (out of any man’s budget) diamond rings just for fun, and could probably plan each other’s weddings because we know each other’s “wedding taste” so well by now. Call us crazy, but there’s something so joyful and fun about weddings!

When the first, Kasi, got engaged in September, it was surreal. We all knew she would be the first, but her candlelight was a complete surprise so it came as a shock to all of us. And we couldn’t have been more thrilled to celebrate. She got married March 5th. And what a charming wedding it was. It was beautiful and I will never forget walking into the bridal room and seeing her glowing; surrounded by all of our friends praying for her and her new life. She was a stunning bride and had the most beautiful reception in her own backyard. Her husband is currently in seminary and she has moved to North Carolina with him while he finishes up there. Their marriage is purely grounded in faith and a love for the Lord and I so admire them and know they will share a wonderful life together.

Not too soon after Kasi got engaged, my older brother proposed to his girlfriend, now fiancĂ©. Daniel and Krista are getting married June 18th and I think I’m more excited than they are. I have always dreamt of having a sister and she will, and already has, filled that role perfectly. I have full intentions of writing an entire spiel on their upcoming wedding, so I won’t say much now. I am so blessed to have an older brother that I respect and admire. I have seen from him what a true gentlemen is and I am so excited about their marriage and welcoming Krista to our family. (Here’s their wedding site…tell me you’re not obsessed).

On Christmas Eve morning, while cooking in the kitchen with my mom, my phone rang. I was surprised to be receiving a phone call on Christmas Eve, especially from one of my best friends, Georgia. Of all of our friends Georgia would be the most likely to be dressed up in her Christmas best, wrapping presents, baking cookies, and chatting with her close-knit family on the morning of Christmas Eve. I knew before I even answered the phone the reason she was calling. When she answered in a giddy, high-pitched voice I knew it. She was engaged! We also knew this one was coming, but had no idea when he was going to do it. Christmas Eve is her favorite day of the year, and Scott, her soon-to-be husband, proposed in front of a large Christmas tree in their hometown, Atlanta. I got to spend a few days with Scott and Georgia soon after the engagement while we were at the National Championship. It was so fun to see them together and hear all of their wedding chatter and also see their personalities bounce off of each other. Georgia and Scott are getting married May 7th (SO SOON!). I imagine we will all be emotional wrecks that weekend seeing that on top of the wedding, 5 of us will be graduating 2 days later, and all of us will be parting. Bring on the tissues.

On to our newest little engaged one, and when I say new I mean it happened 2 days ago. Dana is one of those people that you can carry a conversation with and you’ll leave feeling elated about life and just simply happy. She is one of the most positive people I know and also one of the most intelligent. I have a thing for words…I love words. Interesting fact? Dana has the best word choice/vocabulary of anyone I know. Not only will you leave a conversation happy, but you’ll feel wise too. Dana is a pre-med major and I would move to wherever I could for her to be my doctor. She will be one of those doctors that people recommend simply because she is personable and delightful, in addition to the fact that she will be great at what she does. She and her now fiancĂ© AJ, (who is also pre-med) have had almost all of their classes together. I guess you could say they had chemistry…literally (Dana will appreciate that cheesy joke). They literally spent every second together and after weeks, maybe months, of denial and Dana saying “we’re just friends!”, we weren’t surprised in the least when they finally started dating. AJ and Dana both have fun, bright, quirky (in a good way!) personalities, and it’s almost unreal how compatible they are. AJ is from Michigan and will be moving back to attend Medical School starting in June. Dana, who is from Montgomery, will also be moving to Michigan and will start applying for Medical School. I am so excited for them and their adventure. And what an adventure it will be; the South meets the North. They plan on getting married March of next year. Who knows who else will be engaged at that point.

I guess weddings will kind of be like little reunions. What a fun time to get everyone back together and celebrate someone’s new life and catch up on each other’s. Let wedding season begin! And at this point, I’m completely okay with the chaotic time. If it will give me reason to reunite with all of my friends and help with this ever so dreadful “college to real world” transition…let’s keep those wedding bells chiming!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Let's play 'School!'

I know I haven't posted in a long time, and I know that my large number of followers (sarcasm) have been losing sleep over my lack of blog time. The past few weeks have been absolutely crazy! After Spring Break (which was absolute bliss) I hit the ground running. One of the requirements for our internship is to teach 20 full days, 10 of which are consecutive. This means that I am responsible for all of the planning, preparing, and teaching; while the cooperating teacher is in and out of the room, but mostly out. Needless to say, the past few weeks have been hectic and exhausting, but also very enjoyable and rewarding.

All of my students had to write me letters prior to my arrival in January. They told me all about themselves and their school and also asked me questions. I can imagine this was a great exercise for their most recently learned “writing process” as each letter I received had an introduction, body, and closing.  The letters were fun to read and the detail they chose to give me was quite comical. I got some great descriptions of their desks, the school bathrooms, and the cafeteria food. Everything I wanted to know, right? When reading the descriptions of themselves, I tried to imagine what each one of them would look and act like. I went back and read them a few days ago, and what was a stack of letters with (at the time) meaningless words, became a stack of letters from my sweet students that described themselves perfectly.

Now by no means have I picked favorites throughout this whole teaching experience, but there are definitely a few in particular that I am drawn to because of their behaviors and unique personalities. There is one little girl that is a mirror image of myself as a child. The similarities are uncanny and sitting by her at the lunch table is sometimes the highlight of my day because I feel like I’m having a conversation with my past. I knew we had a lot in common when she walked in the first day wearing a matching floral outfit with her monogram on the front, a big bow in her hair, and a Vera Bradley monogrammed lunch box. (If you haven’t caught on yet, I have a small obsession with monogramming).

This is where the letters come in. All of the letters started off with the generic “Dear Ms. McKinney….My name is _________ and I am going to tell you about myself.” I imagine that was written on the board for them to duplicate verbatim onto their paper. I started flipping through them and came across the letter that came from the precious little girl that shared my monogram obsession. Come to find out, monogramming wasn’t our only shared interest. Her favorite food is macaroni and cheese; “Kraft to be exact” was what her letter said, and I couldn’t agree more. Nothing beats the blue box. Her second favorite food is peanut butter. I could, and do, eat it by the spoonful. She loves school supplies. My dad can vouch for me on that note. I still have never found my dream pencil pouch.  She loves her teacher and going to school, which is enough to describe me as a child. I was more excited about school than I was about having a weekend without it. In fact, I think I looked forward to Mondays, which sounds absolutely ridiculous now. 

During my consecutive days of teaching I was supposed to implement a few of my own teaching/classroom management strategies. I used an old coffee canister and decorated it with the words “Magic Sticks”. I took 15 popsicle sticks, one for each student, and wrote one name on each stick. When I ask questions or need a helper during the day, I can draw a “magic stick” to determine who will be called on. That way I can keep track of who has been called on and make sure it is fair. The magic sticks are supposed to be “magic”. The students are under the impression that the sticks that are drawn are the students that are on their best behavior and are listening; thus deserving of being called on (Obviously it is pure luck and there is nothing magic about it…). Of course they straighten up right when they hear the wood clanking inside of the canister in hopes that their name will be drawn. It’s amazing the kind of incentive you can use to get kids to behave.

My little mini-me was one of the ones that immediately straightened up and got quiet the minute she saw the magic sticks coming out. She didn’t require much straightening up however, seeing that she was always trying to please the teacher. Following the week that I started using the magic sticks, she came up to my desk that Monday morning giddy and beaming. “Ms. McKinney I want to tell you something!” she whispered in my ear. “Well I play school at home, and my playroom is like my classroom. I have a little board and a desk and everything. This weekend I told my mom about the Magic Sticks and she gave me a cup so I could make my own!” I started smiling and told her that I used to play school when I was little and had my own classroom too. When I asked her what she used for her magic sticks, she answered, “Well I didn’t have any popsicle sticks so I just got a few knives, but I can’t write on them, so I just pretend”.

I happened to have leftover popsicle sticks in my bag from when I had made the magic sticks. While my class was at the library at the end of the day, I put about 20 popsicle sticks in a Ziploc bag. I put her name on the bag and stuck it in her take home folder. When she got back she opened her folder and I saw her eyes light up and a smile that stretched from ear to ear. She ran to my desk, sticks in hand, and whispered excitedly in my ear “Are these for me to make magic sticks?!” I nodded my head and she hugged my neck. “I can’t wait to tell my mom that I can have real magic sticks just like you, Ms. McKinney! She’s going to be so excited to have her knives back!”

I felt just as excited as she was. It warmed my heart to see how ecstatic she was…all over a bag of popsicle sticks. I can remember so many times when I was younger trying to mimic little things that my teachers did and from that, building my very own classroom at home. It’s fun to think that I’m the one being mimicked now. And secretly, I wish I could visit her little classroom and play school with her one day. I could even teach her how to create makeshift lockers between the slats of her staircase, just like I did when I was little. I don’t even have to pretend to play school anymore, now I really do have my own classroom.