been there, done that

"You forced me to become strong
When I just craved bein' weak..."
-The Good Kind, The Wreckers

Right now in science we're studying botany with the middle school classes, and today, as I celebrate Arissa's 2nd birthday in heaven, I can't stop thinking about her and our turnip plant, or wishing I was walking around in Tennessee pointing out the lichen and the nonvascular plants... I don't know if it will always be this way for the rest of my life, but this time of the year is so hard for me! I only have this one and last year to look back on, but ever since Arissa's death and the events surrounding, all of those sad, bitter, and hurt feelings start to creep back into my life and my heart around the end of November timeframe... All of those feelings drag me down so far and leave me feeling so weak... Which is definitely the best all-encompassing word to describe my life two years ago....

Weakness is a natural response for me when things are hard, probably because it's so easy, and I'm lazy by nature, something I fight every day but will probably always struggle with... I can think back on that time and remember lying in my bed for hours, sleeping so I wouldn't have to think about anything, or be around people and have to try to be strong or even try just to appear to be strong... That was the absolute easiest thing for me to do then... play the 'weak card' and feel sorry for myself...

and where did it get me? It wasn't until I allowed the Lord to take control of the situations (which He already was in control of anyways) and my emotions that I was able to become strong and allow Him to do His great work in me...

I continue to miss Arissa more and more with every passing day, but I think that's ok... I don't spend time dwelling on my grief, because I don't feel grief, I feel nothing but joy in my heart for Arissa... and I certainly try not to ever go back to that moment when I first found out about the accident or any of the other events that were happening... But that tends to be a hard thing for me to avoid come late November... When it comes the same days and weeks of certain events in my life, I almost can't help but place myself right back in those same situations, and play out the conversations and my thoughts and feelings at the time... let me tell you, that is not helpful even a little bit for me! Two years after the fact, if I start to feel just as sad, bitter, and hurt as I was then I'm gonna start playing the 'weak card' again, and I'm gonna start making all those same mistakes I made way back when.... and the Lord knows I'm completely unusable in that frame of mind!

The problem is, I don't know how to avoid all of those feelings flooding over me all the time... So..... the Lord enlightened me and put His word on my heart:

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

2 Corinthians 12:8-10

The Lord has put me in an amazing place this year.... it's the same place, and yet somehow a totally different place from where I was last year... the jobs, the family, where I go home to, all that's the same, but I've reached a completely new place of contentment with who I am, where I am, what I'm doing and why I'm doing it, and it is truly an amazing thing! I praise God daily for what He's done in my life since this school year started... I feel like I was at that place of contentment in Tennessee, especially after I gave it all up and allowed the Lord to take total control, and when I left Tennessee, I knew I was following God... But, I'm not so sure the 'contentment' factor set in here until a few months ago....

So now that I'm there, and at the same time facing the end of November, I absolutely want to avoid any opportunity for me to lose that and sink back into my "weakness" mode... But God does not stop me from coming face to face with that craving to become weak again everytime I close my eyes and look back at those times two years ago...

And somehow, I find myself so grateful for that because still, He consistantly forces me and assists me in becoming strong every day... He puts me in this position of surrender... "Surrender, give it to Me, or give up and let weakness take over your life..." I hear that all day every day... the temptation to become weak is so intense sometimes, but the pleasure in finding strength in the Lord is so much more intense, and praise God that I've been there, done that, and He is forever faithful!

In looking for strength these past few weeks, I've read through all of the emails I've sent to date, and especially the ones sent approximately 2 years ago.... Those are hard to read, but at the same time, very comforting to remember the way that God worked in my life back then and to realize the way that He's still working now, doing the same things and teaching me the same lessons... I'm so thankful I have those records to look back on, and that the Lord led my heart to write down the remarkable things He was doing in my life and continues to do on a daily basis!

On a 'update' type of note, my children are doing wonderfully! The relationships I've been able to build this year have been so great, and the Lord reminds me continually of the great blessing He's given me in all of my students! The science classroom is running so smoothly, I absolutely love the new teacher I'm working with this year, we have so much fun, and I've built some strong relationships with the other staff members who I, for whatever reason, distanced myself from last year... God has been so good to me, and I feel oh so undeserving but very thankful and amazingly blessed!

So this past Thanksgiving, I found myself ever more thankful for the people, the opportunities and the trials that the Lord sets before me, giving me strength daily to face them all... and I'm so thankful for each of you, who without fail, support me and pray for me as I follow God along this path... Thank you, thank you, thank you so much! And please continue to pray for us at Eagle Ranch, these next few weeks are usually a little crazy, what with Christmas and a big two week break just around the corner!

Thanks again... I love y'all so very much!!

Anna Kathryn

"I thank my God everytime I remember you;
in all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy!"
-Philippians 1:3

Here's some exciting news... I'm definitely in the preview for We Are Marshall!! Here's the link if you want to see me:

now, you have to pay attention... it's quick... at appx 2:14 the words "hope never dies" show on the screen, then there's an upclose shot of a football being kicked, and then, at about 2:17 into the preview, there's a crowd scene that fades in and fades right back out.... if you look in the crowd, towards the bottom right, about 3 people in on the bottom row, you'll see me!! i'm in an orangish redish leather jacket, and look completely emotionless... haha, acting is not for me! but how exciting that I'm in the preview! That means I'll be in the movie! we're having a "see if you can spot me" party at Hollywood Cinemas on Dec. 23, and you're all invited!! haha, it'll be $8.50, or whatever they're charging these days, but it'll be a great movie! and i'll be available for autographs and pictures afterwards... hahaha, JUST KIDDING!!

120 mph...

"Rather than surrender to an uncontrollable God who made us and trust Him during the ups and downs of relationships (or life), we take control by directing the energy of our hearts in ways that allow us to feel as though we're at the steering wheel of our own lives."
-Sharon Hersh, Brave Hearts

I was driving to the mountains a few weeks ago for this amazing celebration of love, when I found myself talking to Arelius, we'll call him Al... It was at that moment when I made the observation that some days, more than I would like to admit, I talk to the voices in my GPS more than I talk to God, my Savior and my best friend.... and not even just that, but there are days that I depend more on the voices in my GPS as they navigate me to where ever I'm going than I depend on God as He navigates me through my life and through all the situations I encounter everyday...

I've seen God do a lot in my life and in the lives of people all around me throughout my whole life... In these past couple of months, however, I've become strangely but completely oblivious to most of it... Maybe I've disconnected myself from God to an extent... Maybe I've become too concerned with worldly things, and less with my God who created me...

I've become hugely aware recently of the reality of the enemy's presence... Paul tells the Ephesians, "Do not give the devil a foothold." I know from personal experience that when you give him a foothold, he will run all over you... I've seen it in my kids at school, I've seen it in my friends and relatives and I've seen it in myself... In the midst of it all, I've found myself feeling so lost... and I've just figured out why!

It's so clear, I write about it in almost every e-mail... It's a total trust issue... When I find myself trusting and depending on my inanimate friend Al who speaks "mechanical" more than I trust and depend on my God, I've got a pretty intense problem... When I depend on the world and my own abilities to figure things out and solve problems, instead of trusting God to take care of it all, I've got an even bigger problem... That's one of the many footholds the enemy looks for, and he latches onto it when he finds it and will continue to tell us we can do it on our own for as long as we'll listen....

And for some reason we keep listening... But we can't do it on our own... I know I can't, I never could and I never will be able to... It's just like dancing for me... I've never tried it, I'm not going to, and it's always worked out really well for me, so why do I keep trying to take on this real world important stuff?

I jumped out of an airplane last week... It was my first jump in a couple years, but my fourth jump in all... It was amazing, we did backflips and we landed half a mile away from the airport! One day I'd really like to be certified and I'll jump for as long as I can... A lot of people asked me before this past jump "Why?"

"Why jump out of a perfectly good airplane?"
That's so unoriginal... because it's fun! Maybe if there wasn't a
parachute, that would be a logical question, but there is...
Easy answer...
"If people were supposed to fly, God would have given us wings..."
Oh come on... We're not trying to fly... we're trying to fall...
you don't need wings to fall, people.... just weight and open air,
both of which God has given us plenty....
"Why tempt fate?"
If I believed in that concept, maybe then you would have a point...
but I don't... aren't we all here until God's ready to take us home?
"Aren't you scared?"
No, and here's why...

When I fall out of that airplane at 120 m/hr, I'm in a position of total trust... There's nothing else I can do besides trust... It has absolutely nothing to do with myself, my tandem instructor, or even the parachute packer... According to the statistics, it's extremely likely I'll make it down ok... And according to the statistics, I'm much more likely to make it to the ground ok than I am to make it home in my car ok... But the statistics don't mean a thing... The truth is, in both of those situations and in every other situation, the direction of our lives is completely in God's hands... and when I'm out in that open air, falling, doing spins, whatever, and there's nothing blocking my view of His beautiful creation from 2 1/2 miles up, I'm made so fully aware of the greatness of my God, and of His total control over the outcome of this situation... Nothing beats that feeling... the feeling of total rest in God's hands... total contentment with His plan... total trust and dependence on Him to do with me and my life as He pleases... There's nothing better, and I think it's something everyone should experience in their lives... but I know it's not for everyone, it's a pretty extreme reminder!!

Anyways, it was in that fast moment that I figured all of this out... Where has my mind been? Where has my trust and dependency been? On myself? HA! I've gotta make some changes... I can't do a single thing at the school or anywhere with that mindset!

...And that's my prayer, that I can make every single moment of my life a 120 mile an hour leap into the hands of God, and I would challenge each of you to do the same thing... It's quite a freeing experience!

Especially at the school, which always has it's hard times and sad times, but God is so great, and we get through them all... I love every second of my time there, and I'm so blessed to get to hang out with those kids! Thank you, thank you, thank you all so much for your prayers for us out there! We feel them every day and in every situation!

Y'all are wonderful, and I feel unbelievably blessed to know each of you! Keep the prayers comin', God hears them all and we're seeing some great things happen in those kid's lives!! Thanks again, I love y'all and appreciate each of you so much!

Anna Kathryn

"I thank my God everytime I remember you,
in all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy!"
Philippians 1:3&4

I've had a lack of funny stories for awhile... it's not because they don't happen, because I laugh A LOT everyday... It's so hard to put those moments into words though, you really have to be there and know the kids... but I'll try to express some of the greatness surrounding this earthworm project we did with the middle school classes... There were three groups per classroom and about three students in each group... They each had a jar of dirt and an earthworm... The first task was naming the earthworms...

Wormy, Dude, Bob the Billy, Timmy, Precious, Zachariah (the most loved worm of all)... Those were just a few of the names...

Then came a great moment in the last class of the day... Two groups still deliberating over what to call there worms...
One student exclaims, "Buffy! We're calling ours Buffy!!" and looked at me in such excitement...
A student from another group, who had originally coined that nickname for me responds with a huge smile and a lot of laughter, "We're naming ours Buffy too!!!"
So at the end of the day, I had two earthworms named after me.... it feels good, haha....

We found Zachariah's main caretaker, a real 'tough guy' with a previously unknown soft side, talking to his worm a lot... One day some of the kids were talking about squishing their worms, and he said with such passion, "Whatever you do, please don't squish little Zachariah!"
A day or two later we added a worm or two to all of the jars, and when we told the groups, little Zachariah's owner was so upset, "Now how will we know which one is Zachariah??"
And when we finally went down to the lake to set the worms free, we were all astonished to hear: "Can we put Zachariah on a hook and go fishing?"

Well... I know it's not much, but it's all I have... I started to type two other stories, but they just weren't funny typed out so I erased them.... Oh well... I'll start jotting down the one-liners that keep us laughing everyday... it'll be fun...

an eternal experience

"I've heard all the stories
I've seen all the signs
Witnessed all the glory
Tasted all that's fine
But nothing compares to the greatness of knowing You, Lord."
-Third Day

What a whirlwind of a summer I've had! Probably the most exciting couple months of my life to date, no joke, right up there with front row Kenny Chesney! Let me chronicle here some of the excitement:

It all started with a radio blurb that my dear friend Helena heard, which ended up landing me a spot in a major motion picture, in the stands at a football game seated directly behind Kimberly Williams Paisley, who plays the wife of Matthew McConaughey's character in the movie We Are Marshall, set to be in theaters in late October... Look for me in the crowd at the Morehead/Marshall game, it'll be a fun game of 'Where's Anna Kathryn'!! Anyways, that thrilling opportunity gained me some friends in the directors who I won't soon forget, and landed me a trip to the film's wrap party, where I stood forehead to cheek with Matthew for a picture, and then shook hands and talked for a minute or two... So that was a pretty exciting time of my life....

The very next week I met my fabulous cousin and best friend, Emily, in SUNSET Beach, where we found ourselve mingling with wild animals, literally, as apes and tigers crawled all over us looking for the perfect photo opp... Well, we found several, and marked that day as probably one of the neatest experiences of our lives...

A couple weeks later I went up to the great state of Tennessee to work in the kitchen with the best cook I know... I spent the week cooking 60+ eggs and whatever else we ate all week, and serving 50+ camp kids and counselors and had the time of my life... I saw some great people I hadn't seen since camp last year and I met some new people who I'm so excited to know.... It was a great week, and I was very sad to leave, but, unfortunately life in Georgia continues even when I'm gone, and my expert phone answering services (ha!) were much needed back at Milton Martin Honda...

Just three days after I got back to Georgia, and after yet ANOTHER mistaken "are you still in high school" comment, I took the tragic trip to my friend and life mentor, Carolyn's house, for not so much a trim, and lost more than a foot of hair.... Fearing deep down that I would lose part of who I am, I had an extensive photo shoot before and after the 'cutting,' so that I would remember what it was like... All went well, and I lived to tell about it.... And now people say, "You look older, like, your age!!" Wow.

In the midst of all of this excitement, I'm driving around in my car, high above the cars around me, on cloud nine, thinking back to my special time with Matthew, when I hear a familiar voice on the radio... It's Mac Powell, of Third Day, singing the final notes of a song I've known and loved for months... I think to myself, "Hmmm...." and put in the cd... I play the live version, where Mac stops singing midway into the song and says these words, pretty much directly to me:

"In our lives, no matter where we could go, or who we could meet, or what we could see, or what we could earn or be given to us, or accomplish, there is nothing in our lives that will ever even come close to the greatness of knowing Jesus Christ, our Lord."

God is so good! He blesses us richly everyday with exciting opportunities, and just life itself... and how often do we live for those experiences, and stand in complete awe and excitement of them, instead of the One who set them into motion? That's crazy... I think back on the last 2 months, and I have some fun memories, I did some things that I'll never forget... but in the long run, none of it does anything for anyone unless I use it to glorify God, and allow Him to use me in those experiences... I don't know why it all happens the way it does, but if the only reason that God allowed me to do all these exciting things in the past two months was to remind me of the fact that without Him, none of it would have been possible, and the fact that He wants my desire not to be life experiences, but to experience Him, then He did it... That's what I want, and that's my prayer.... Because nothing, not Matthew McConaughey's cheek on my forehead, not orangutans and tigers sitting on my lap, or any amount of time in east Tennessee, not even looking like I'm out of high school, none of that will ever even come close to the greatness of knowing Jesus Christ our Lord... What a great feeling that is, because, honestly, when will I ever be that close to Matthew again, and why would it matter if I was? When am I ever going to want to fork out that kind of cash to hang out with wild animals again? I don't live in Tennessee, and I won't for a while if ever again, and my hair will grow back out, because that's the way I like it, and I'll look like a high schooler again... BUT, God will NEVER stop loving me, and my experience of His love and grace will never, NEVER change or go away, it is constant and it is free, and it lasts an eternity! Why would I desire anything other than to be in His presence, filled with His grace and love, always?

For no reason other than the fact that He loves us so much, God blesses our lives and allows us to experience exciting and neat opportunities, and if we allow Him to, He will use us through them all to make an eternal difference in people's lives... What better experience is there than that? I have to remind myself daily to thank Him for all He does for me and everything I've been able to experience and the things He teaches me through all of it... It's a fun and exciting journey I'm on, and I can't wait to see what happens next as I seek to experience the wonder and grace of God eternally and in everyhing that happens......

Again, in the great words of Mac Powell:

"I find myself just living for today
'Cause I don't know what
Tomorrow's gonna bring
So no matter if I rise or fall
I'll never be alone...
Nothing compares to the greatness of knowing You, Lord."

Well, school starts back tomorrow... We're 6th through 9th grade now, 48 students as opposed to 36, a new science teacher for me to work under, a boa constricter named Bo and a oversized frog with teeth named Jaba in our classroom, and a good amount of new students... Please pray for us, staff and students alike, as we get to know each other and learn to work with each other... It'll be a great year, there will be trials, there will be a lot of fun times, I'm sure, and a lot of disecting! But most importantly, pray that it is a productive school year, that God reveals Himself in a mighty way, and that our new kids and our old kids each open thier hearts to what He has to offer them through this life experience of theirs and for an eternity afterwards...

Thanks for sharing in my fun times with me and for carrying me through my life with your prayers and support! I love each of you so so so much!

Anna Kathryn

"I thank my God every time I remember you,
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy!"
Philippians 1:3&4

...if you can?

Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?"
"From childhood," he answered. "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."
"'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."
Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
Mark 9:21-24

It goes without saying that the man believed and Jesus cast the demon out of his son... When I read this story a couple weeks ago I was floored by this man's experience, and request of Jesus to help Him... not the part where he asked Jesus to help his son, but the part where he asks Jesus to help him overcome his unbelief... I love how after a lifetime of raising a literally demon posessed child, in those few seconds standing before Jesus, he was made so aware of his real problem and how to find the true and lasting cure...

There have been many times this past year that I've had a hard time believing some of those kids I've gotten to work with would get anything from their time with us... I've found myself thinking, 'these kids have been on a path of destruction for years, they are, with the help of satan, destroying their own lives! If God could help them, surely He would have by now...'

Last Friday, we had an awards ceremony for our students... Six of our guys graduated the program at Eagle Ranch... I was so proud! I gave hugs and cried and made them promise they would keep in touch forever... Maybe in 10 years one of those guys will come see me for the flying frog! I have no doubts that all six of those guys will do great things, as this year I have witnessed only part of what has been a great transformation of their lives at Eagle Ranch... I will miss them each with all of my heart!

At that ceremony, I observed our students... not just those six, but the whole group... We were missing a few who should have been there, but most of the group was in tact... As I stood there and quietly observed those sweet children who I love so much, I saw A LOT of emotions and an outpouring of love as they said goodbye to the graduates and to our science teacher who is moving on from us... How have I been so oblivious to the amazing things God has done here in the last 10 months!? That's unbelievably ridiculous! Lord, I do believe! Help me overcome my unbelief!

When working, volunteering, or just hanging out with at-risk youth, it is absolutely vital that you believe that God can change people! He's done it over and over again for 21 years at Eagle Ranch, and He will continue to for years to come! He has done an amazing thing in those six guys, and will continue to in them and rest of those kids, and I'm learning to change my prayer from "if You can help them, God, please do" to "THANK YOU, thank You, God, for helping them!"

Last year I experienced a lot of changes, such as the capacity to move around every now and then, wake up in the morning instead of the mid-afternoon, and cook a little every once in a while, but the thing I learned most from my time at WVR was God's ability to carry me and bring me closer to Him through incredibly hard times... that's something I will never stop learning more and more on a daily basis... but the thing that I've been made more aware of than anything else this first year at Eagle Ranch is the importance and the power of faith in prayer... not just prayer, but faith that God really is there and that He's actually listening, and that everything is possible for Him, and through Him... When you approach the Lord not with skepticism, but with confidence that He is ALL powerful, He will bless you beyond all comprehension, and He will make miracles happen all around you... There are countless stories all over the New Testament of people who had great faith, and the miracles that Jesus performed in their lives! I've seen it happen this year... I've been skepticle and oblivious all year, but thankfully, there are people in those kids lives who are niether skeptical nor oblivious... God has heard us all, and I've seen great things happen in the last ten months!

What a sad goodbye it was last Friday, but what a joyous celebration of those kid's progress and trust in God! I am forever changed and impacted by all I learn from all the amazing kids God has put in my life the last two years, and I thank my God for all of them all the time!

In the same way I thank my God all the time for all of you, whose prayers have carried me through all the events of the past two years... Though I often take it for granted, I so appreciate what I've been given in each of you! I love you all very much! Pray for those six graduates as they begin this new stage, and pray for the kids still at the ranch as they continue this progressive journey to a beautiful life-changing relationship with their Maker!

Well... I'm off to a summer full of car servicing and selling and phone answering... I'm very much looking forward to having some time to breathe and relax, but I probably won't be writing many novelesque e-mails, due to the fact that pretty much my only internet access is at school, and I won't be there again until August... But you could hear from me between now and then, you never know! Thanks for sticking around!

Anna Kathryn

"I thank my God everytime I remember you!
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy!"
Philippians 1:3&4

ps... if you or someone you know teaches middle school science and is looking for work, maybe you or someone you know should apply for a middle school science teaching job at eagle ranch!!

this is sad... i have no funny stories....

the crashing waves

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I'm in
Onto the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He's holdin out His hand
But the waves are callin out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I've tried before and failed
The waves they keep on tellin me
Time and time again, "Boy, You'll never win!"
"You'll never win!"

Last year at WVR, one of my sweet girls who I love dearly said to me, "Listen to the lyrics of this song, it's amazing" and she played The Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns.... I was like "Yeah, that's great..." This is a girl who I watched grow and who I grew with all year, and those words rung so true to her time at the ranch, and how God was working in her life as she listened to the truth that God always revealed to her... At 13 years old, she was able to hear that song in a way that I didn't hear it until recently... Now I'm convinced they wrote it about me, except I'm a girl...

I'm reminded of the time I went to the Bahamas with Young Life... We were on this 52 foot sailboat for 7 days and nights, just floating around the caribbean... It was great, amazing, really.... until we drifted upon a tropical depression... not quite a hurricane, but that's what we liked to call it, Hurricane Cristobal.... anyways, one gusty night, after everyone was asleep except for me, my cousin (Emily), Hollis (then Matthew), the deckhand (Ryan) and Tall One (Zach Belcher), the wind and rain grew so strong that we weren't sure we would make it through the night... all we knew was that we had to save that boat, and it's crew, from certain destruction! the five of us, in the pitch black of that stormy night, through the wind and the rain, put the tarp up over the deck of the boat and saved it's life and our lives forever! Now, maybe it wasn't quite that dramatic, but I remember looking over the side of that rocking boat, and thinking "If one of us fell over, we would be gone in an instant in those waves!" It really was terrifying, but the Lord kept us safe, and both the boat and it's crew made it through the night!

Oh what I would do to have the kind of faith it would have taken to step out of that boat towards Jesus' open arms if He had been standing out there in those waves that night... Now, I'm not gonna lie... I've been struggling, and I'm pretty certain that if I were put in that scenario today, I would hold onto those sails for dear life!

Everyday I wake up and ask God for a "good day" and every day I leave school worn out answering the question "how was your day?" with "not so great..." I've been extremely succeptible to hearing and believing the lies that satan whispers in my ear every moment of my time at Eagle Ranch... "Please... you can't do that job.... you'll never make a difference in those kids lives... you're not a good communicator... you don't know how to teach... you're like a 13 year old, those kids see you as a peer, not someone to look up to and learn from... quit, give up, you're wasting your time...." those words have flooded my mind for weeks and have left me discouraged, upset, annoyed, FRUSTRATED... any negative feeling, that's how I've felt recently...

Those thoughts and feelings are so unlike me, really the opposite of who I am, how I live my life, and how I feel 99% of the time.... I am so typically an extremely positive and excited person.... That's why the people at the Honda dealership enjoy me so much, they're just not used to seeing somebody who smiles ALL THE TIME, especially selling cars all day... that seems crazy to them, but that's me, and I like that about myself... God's given me so much, why waste my time not rejoicing in Him always? So when I start feeling down and discouraged, and can't seem to pull myself up, it's really torturous to me! But that's where I've been the last few weeks... I've been hearing these things that are so far from true, and I know they're lies, I know I'm at the ranch because God has me there, and there's some reason, He will use me, and I can do ALL things through Him... but I've started to forget the truth and believe the lies, and I'm allowing satan this grip of fear and discouragement over me... Even at the very point that I thought I had control and was convinced of the truth, they started coming at me faster and harder, and I've wondered if they're lies at all, maybe they're true, maybe I should leave this place... wow, I don't recall a time in my life that I've felt so discouraged and confused about what the Lord's will for me is! Even through the ups and downs during my time at WVR last year, I knew the Lord had me there, and I knew I was in His will... Here's a quote from an e-mail I sent that December during those hard times: "Proverbs says "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding..." so that's what i'll do....... i'm gonna walk blindly with Him, and trust Him..... He's given me such strength the last two weeks... more strength than i thought was possible for this weak body to ever encompass....but He makes me walk on water in raging storms.... all i have to do is keep my eyes focused on Him and not on the storms surrounding me.... pray that i have continued strength to do this..." Where is that faith and that trust today? I don't know... but that's life, we struggle and we overcome.... We overcame those storms together and we'll overcome this one too... so that's where we're at, me and Jesus.... this "overcome" stage...

...but the Voice of Truth tells me a different story
The Voice of Truth says "Do not be afraid"
The Voice of Truth says "This is for my glory"
Out of all the voices callin out to me
I will choose to listen and believe
The Voice of Truth

Thankfully I serve this amazingly wonderful God who loves me and sees me through these misunderstood times.... I cannot overcome these lies on my own.... Please, if it were me on my own, I would give up, shut down and quit.... I would hold onto those sails for dear life and never let go... That would be really easy for me to do... But the Lord, who always steers me in the right direction, combats all of those lies every day! And because of Him, I am encouraged! Because of Him, I can step out into the raging waters at Eagle Ranch every day that I'm given the opportunity to, and every day I will praise God for that! And because I know the Holy Spirit is constantly moving through that place, I don't have to ask for a "good day" or tell anyone ever that it wasn't such a good day, because everyday the Lord gives us there, whether one kid opens his heart to what Jesus can do in his life or 33 do, it will always be a GOOD day, simply because Jesus brought them to the ranch and they have the opportunity to learn about Him and to make life changes... and it will always be a good day for me, because Jesus put those great kids in my life and I get to hang out with them every day... And Jesus will always be standing in the midst of it all holding out His hand, waiting for me, all of those kids, and for all of us to listen to the Voice of Truth... Because of those things, I don't ask God for a "good day" anymore, but I thank Him for the GREAT day that He's set before me!

I am convinced now, through much discussion with my God, that I have a great purpose at Eagle Ranch, and I know that, no matter how incompetent I feel, as long as I make the consious decision not just every day, but every moment of every day to step out into the crashing waves, Jesus will be there... He has made me very aware of His constant presence and guidance, and of His sovereignty over my being at Eagle Ranch for another year, and I praise Him so much for that, because I have been very ready to say "goodbye" these past few weeks... But, thankfully, now is not the time! My life wouldn't be nearly as exciting or humorous, or filled with the wonders of Christ if these kids weren't in it, and I'm very pleased to be spending another year with them!

Please pray for me as I'm sure I'll continue to hear these lies every day, but maybe I just won't be quite so succeptible, and pray that I'll be constantly encouraged by the Lord's great work at the ranch and in my life! And also, this is moving week!! We're moving all week into our new beautiful school, so pray for us that all goes smoothly... This is the week we've been waiting for since, well just since August 5th for me and the students, but for years for the rest of the staff!! Y'all are wonderful and I love you very much! Thanks for being so faithful in your prayers for me and this ministry I've been given the opportunity to be a part of!

Anna Kathryn

"I thank my God everytime I remember you!
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy!"
Philippians 1:3&4

Signs that they're listening:

Man, the other day in class, Mr. Millwood was talking about what 'listening' looks like, and one of my 'gangsta' boys said, "I have James 1:12 written down here where Miss Buffington told it to me the beginning of the year, 'Dear brothers, everyone should be quick to listen slow to speak and slow to become angry.'"
WOW! That is huge to me!

I don't even remember this happening, but apparently I mentioned at some point that atomic fireballs are my favorite candy... well, last monday, one of my 7th grade boys came in and gave me what appeared to be a jar wrapped in a cracker barrel bag... I opened it and it was a jar full of atomic fireballs! I have never been more surprised! I was like "this is my favorite candy!!" and he said "I know, I saw them last Thursday and thought about you!" Hey, maybe if they hear the things that aren't so important, they hear the ones that are important too...

About a week after I told all my classes about Arissa, I was at the gym watching some of our kids play in these big basketball championship games against each other, and one of them walked by me and says "Blu Blu, Miss Buffington." I said "Blu blu tibed," and he got the biggest smile on his face!