Saturday, September 15, 2012


Many of you are probably aware of my love and passion for Africa.  If not, let me catch you up...

In sixth grade, a unit/lesson about Africa sparked an everlasting interest in me.  From that day forward, my dream revolved around going to Kenya and experiencing her culture.  

This opportunity was awarded to me through a generous grant during my second year teaching.  I spent a month working on an Earthwatch Expedition investigating the Grevy Zebra (before going, I had no idea that there were different types of zebras).  

After the grant concluded, my parents joined me for two weeks of traveling through Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.  The experience was life altering, and I know many of you are rolling your eyes thinking everyone would say that.  It honestly was the best experience of my life.  

Since that trip, I've pined for opportunities to get back.  Unfortunately, the opportunity hasn't arisen.

The story continues about a year and a half ago, when I went to Nicaragua with a group of educators to provide professional development to teachers in a rural village.  

The trip was so uplifting and sparked a passion inside of me. Because of this experience, I decided to explore options of places to go and serve.  I began talking to my sister and through her understanding and encouragement decided I was going to take a leap of faith and spend up to a year working some place outside of my comfort zone and simply serving.

So, I began praying for guidance.  I didn't know where to go or how everything would happen, but I knew God would provide guidance.  I vividly remember during a trip back to Nicaragua last summer, I sat on the rooftop patio on a dark and hot evening and prayed ferociously for this guidance.  In tears, I begged God to show me the path he had in store for me.  Yet, I heard and felt nothing.  

I continued this process over the course of the summer.  One day in New Zealand, I landed in a gorgeous Methodist church, sitting on the back pew praying again that God would show me his plan and help open the doors.  Still nothing.  

I must admit I was beginning to doubt.  Here I was begging to go somewhere and serve, yet I felt no guidance of how I should proceed.

Several weeks after the New Zealand trip, I was reading a magazine article entitled, The Way Home.  As I read the article, tears filled my eyes (as they are now) because I finally felt the call.  My call wasn't what I expected, wanted, and hoped for...instead it was a call home.  As an adventurous person, I admittedly felt disappointed.  But I'm growing to realize the importance of being content wherever God leads you.  

Shortly after I returned home from New Zealand, I sat in my dad's office describing the unbelievable beauty I witnessed during my travels.  Dad quickly snarked, "Where are you off to next?"  I explained that there were no trips on the horizon, and he commented back, "Well, maybe now you can reconnect with your family."  That comment stung for a while.  I'm family oriented, and many of those who know us Barnes's, know that we stick together.  But later I realized this is God's intent.  His purpose of calling me home is to reconnect and find peace with the present.

So, although I'm closing the chapter on Normandy Drive, I'm not opening the chapter to the world (like I thought I would be doing now).  Instead, I'm opening the chapter to Marietta, family, contentedness, and peace.  I ask that you pray for me on this journey.  It is not what I expected or hoped for, but it is where God is calling.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Closing a Chapter

It's hard to believe it was ten years ago when I moved to Marietta.  

Honestly, I wasn't even looking for a house at the time.  My sister and her husband were living in the area, and while driving through the neighborhood with them, I pointed out a house that I liked.  My sister encouraged me to stop, jumped out the car (6 months pregnant) and ran across the road to grab a flyer.  I secretly think she had a perfect scenario created in her head.  I'd move to Marietta, accept a teaching job at a local school (of course where her children would be enrolled), and they would spend afternoons hanging out in my classroom finishing their homework before I dropped them off at her house for dinner.  I guess part of this scenario came true...I did move to Marietta.

Although I'm thrilled about opening a new chapter, I can't close this one without a little twinge of sadness and guilt for leave my first real home.  There were so many special times that I will always remember in this house.

The three snows that occurred while in this house...

More than a few smoke filled dinners that came out of this kitchen...

Ten years of family advent dinners served in this dining room...

Numerous pumpkin carving parties hosted on this porch...

Hundreds of Braves games watched in this den...

Thousands of bubble baths enjoyed in this tub...

A lot of z-z-z in this bedroom...

Many, many friends and family who spent-the-night in these two guest rooms...

Taking up a new hobby and learning to sew in my office...

My first ever garden planted and harvested in this yard...

Two sweet dogs who protected this house...

And too many laughs, smiles and tears to count.  For these experiences, I am grateful.  It has been a great ten years.

Goodbye, Normandy Drive.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

20 x 40 Update

Last year, I posted about my 20 x 40 list...the list of 20 goals I want to accomplish by the time I turn 40.  I figured it was a good time for me to recap and update the list, marking off what I've already accomplished and updating some of the goals to fit what I've decided are now more pertinent.

Learn to can fruits and veggies
Last year, the dad of my best friend taught me how to can fruits and veggies.  It was a great night.  I spent the evening giggling and recalling stupid things that my bestie and I did as teenagers.  Best part...I came home with 10 cans of green beans and 5 cans of stewed tomatoes.  Also, I brought home a canning bounty for Christmas.  Can't wait to give it a go myself.

Learning the ropes

my bounty...

Sew a quilt

Sew something for ME

Road trip across the United States
I did this several years ago, when I was headed to Colorado to write my comps.  However, we were on a time frame, so I never got to stop and see the random things along the the world's largest porcupine or world's tiniest dog.  So, I'd really like to do it again, but this time stop to enjoy the trip.

Take a calligraphy class
I took a calligraphy class, and I've decided it isn't for me.  I just didn't love it...although, my teacher did tell me I had great attention to detail.

Complete a triathalon

MAKE all my gifts for a year

Shop the World Longest Yard Sale

Learn to use power tools

Write a children's book

Make Gran's cookbook

Adopt from Africa
Fear not, you haven't missed a big announcement that there is a baby living in my house.  However, I have initiated this process.  The next step on my adoption check off is a "home visit."  During this step, professionals come into your house, interview you, and make sure that you have a house that could support a child.  I haven't wanted to begin this part of the process in my current house because it is not the best set up for a child.  However, once in my new ranch style house, this will be towards the top of my to-do list.

Improve my digital photography skills (and learn to use Photoshop Elements)

Become a foster parent
After much thought and prayer, I don't believe fostering is for me right now.  I don't have the schedule and set up to be a great support for a child.  So, I decided to do the next best thing.  I'm working on my final week of training to become a CASA - Court Appointed Special Advocates.  These people are appointed by judges in juvenile cases where a child has been removed from their home and are in state care.  The CASA is the advocate and voice for the child.  I'm very excited to start this process because I feel like it is an opportunity to use my God given gifts of love, passion, and empathy for children.

Travel to 6 of the 7 continents (sorry Antarctica) - getting closer
I haven't totally completed this component of my 20 x 40 list, but I am getting closer.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to teach in China.  The experience was interesting.  I pictured China to be very technological with large buildings and lots of people, similar to Beijing.  However, I taught in a "rural" area of two million people.  It was a great experience.  I'd like to get back to see more of the sights.  Because of my teaching schedule, I didn't have a lot of time to sightsee.  

Bikes, bikes and more bikes

Last month, I also traveled to New Zealand.  Now, that might be a stretch to call this part of the Australian continent, but I did find on-line that some people clump New Zealand, Australia, and the South-pacific together as the Oceania or Australasia continent.  So, in case I don't make it back to Australia...I'm counting it.

Also, I'm in the process of submitting a presentation proposal for a conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  So, hopefully I will be totally finished with this goal by the end of next year.

Write 365 thank you notes

Take 365 photos

Learn to UTILIZE my serger

Visit a fortune teller
Well, I didn't pay a fortune teller to read my future, but I did partake in a fun little children's literature tarot card reading.  One of the professors at NGCSU, kindly agreed to read the children's literature card and relate it to my current and future life.  It was a fun break from writing while we were working hard on several manuscripts...and such a lovely bonding experience.

Live in another country for 6 months

Obviously, I still have plenty of room to grow.  I have well over half of my list still to go, but some of them are getting closer.  I have to admit that it has been liberating altering parts of the list.  Sometimes experiences aren't what you thought they'd be and other times your wishes change.  So, here I am...content with where I've gone and what I've done, but also with lots of room to grow.