#TBT: The Field Trip that Changed Me Forever

Sixth grade.  1986.  I had the coolest feathered hair, apparently still liked teddy bears, and wore long, dangly earrings.  I mean, it was 1986, who didn’t?  (If you look very closely at my sixth grade photo below, you may be able to ascertain that the earrings are actually a rotary phone and the dangly part is the receiver.  What can I say?  I was cutting edge…What’s a rotary phone, you say? Well, it was “so 1986” is all you whippersnappers need to know. CUTTING EDGE, I SAY.)  But I digress.

5th grade

My family had made a big move from Moore, Oklahoma to Winter Park, Florida over Halloween of my fifth grade year.  At first, it was extremely difficult leaving the only place I really remembered as being my home, not to mention our church, my friends, my school and everything that was familiar because Oklahoma was my world.  That kind of move is extremely dramatic to a fifth grader.

Living in Florida did have its perks, I soon found out, as my family spent our first Thanksgiving in Florida having a picnic lunch on the sand of Daytona Beach.  We had the beautiful, sandy space to ourselves, watching the waves crash and seagulls flying overhead as we munched on sandwiches and chips on a blanket.  Also, now that we were official Florida residents, we qualified for a special season pass to Walt Disney World & Epcot Center…guys, it was $30 per person and we could go as often as we wanted during their three slowest months.  Um…hello perk!  (And hello 1986!) Guess how we spent our days off school??  Speaking of school, Aloma Elementary was a pretty cool school, too.  I was boy crazy for these Florida surfer types, participated in musical and theatrical productions put on by our school, joined a competitive gymnastics team at the local Y, and looked forward to the Sixth Grade field trip in January to Cape Canaveral, Florida – the Kennedy Space Center.

Teachers and students all across America had eyes on Florida that week, as this particular NASA mission had a teacher named Christa McAuliffe joining the crew.  History was being made by putting the first private citizen in space.  Teacher Christa McAuliffe trained with the astronaut crew and prepared educational lessons that would be broadcast from space.  Pretty stinkin’ cool.  Our sixth grade field trip to the Kennedy Space Center was scheduled for a day that the Challenger might launch.  We had the chance to literally be on site as the rocket blasted out of the atmosphere, rumbling the earth below us and breaking the sound barrier above us.  I said might launch because lift-off had  been scheduled since January 22, but the Challenger did not pass all necessary inspections the previous days, some of which were weather-related.  Our group of sixth graders loaded busses on January 27 and unloaded with numerous other excited school groups at the Kennedy Space Center.  We found out early into our morning that the Challenger had not been cleared to launch on January 27th,  so instead of spending much of our field trip outside as close to the launch pad as possible, we spent most of it inside the (much warmer) Kennedy Space Center, soaking up exhibitions, models and dreaming of being an astronaut (or a teacher in space) someday ourselves.  It was glorious.


So the NEXT day, on January 28th, 1986, back at Aloma Elementary, my classmates and I  learned that the Challenger HAD BEEN CLEARED TO LAUNCH, so all sixth grade classes took their lunches outside during our designated lunch hour, and pointed our eyes to the sky.  Around 11:28 am we watched what looked like a small rocket (from where we sat in the school yard playground) and a smoke plume following it, both rising higher and higher through the blue sky.  We were close enough to hear the sonic boom with our own ears as the shuttle broke the atmospheric barrier.  After that, I thought I was seeing the rocket boosters separate from the shuttle, as two separate smoke spirals made their way out of the original one.  A few short minutes later, we filed back into our classroom and the TV/VCR cart was up front.  In 1986 the classrooms were not equipped with TV’s, so seeing that cart meant we would be watching an “educational” movie on a VHS tape.  Except this time it didn’t.

Our teacher was somber.  It was at that moment that I learned from her that the two spirals I had seen were, in fact, NOT the rocket boosters separating, but the Space Shuttle Challenger exploding and debris falling back to Earth.  All seven occupants of the shuttle were declared dead.  The mood changed drastically as we spent the remainder of the day watching news report after news report of this tragedy, which occurred in the exact same spot we had been at 24 hours earlier.  We whispered disbelief to each other, wondering how this could happen, mourning Christa McAullife, who we all felt connected with, although we did not know her.  We felt personally intertwined with this tragedy, having studied the crew and the Space Program for weeks prior to our field trip with excitement building,  THEN having been on site on the day it “almost” launched and THEN watching it from the schoolyard the day it did launch and finding out it ultimately exploded in front of our eyes.  We sat with all of America in stunned silence.


I went on a field trip on January 27, 1986 that changed me forever.  What I watched happen in the sky on January 28th, 1986 was an absolutely terrible, harrowing loss for ourselves as individuals and as Americans.

But how this experience changed me may might not be what you think.

That field trip changed me forever by:

  • Teaching me that Americans pull together in crisis, every time, exhibiting an indescribable united spirit; that America is beautiful.
  • Introducing me to tragedy, grief and loss in a way that helped me navigate through other times in my life that I’ve had to deal with these issues on a more personal level.
  • Showing me that heroes do exist, and a lot of times they look like ordinary people.
  • Allowing me to still be fascinated by something amazing like space exploration, despite one gigantic and tragic public failure.
  • Letting me know, that despite tragedy, taking risks can still be worth it.

As President Reagan said in his speech to the nation that night, “I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff.  I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen.  It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery.  It’s all a part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizon’s.  The future doesn’t belong to the faint-hearted, it belongs to the brave.  The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.”

So I say, whether you’re a sixth grader of a forty-something adult, let’s honor this 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster by encouraging each other with this mantra:

Let’s Be Brave.




2015: Bye Felicia! (Why I’m glad to say good bye to 2015 & hello to 2016)

2015 photo

2015 wasn’t my favorite.  And while nothing major or life-altering happened negatively, there was just a heaviness over a lot of the year.  Relationships were strained, finances were difficult, depression and anxiety decided to show up and stick around awhile and no matter what I tried, things were just difficult.

Now please know that I am not being a Debbie Downer, I absolutely cherish and love so many moments from 2015.  I have a sweet, amazing family.  My friendships are rich, my job is fulfilling.  I work for an incredible organization.  I was a part of many neat events.  Our home is my happy place and it’s warm and cozy.  I see blessings every day that I am thankful for and so not worthy of.  Jesus is my rock and gives me unconditional love daily.

But I think it’s OK to say it if you’ve had a tough year. 

So I say with exuberance, “Bye, Felicia!” to 2015 & “Hello!” to 2016.

I absolutely love new beginnings….I’m one of those people who is a sucker for fresh planners, empty calendars pages, new pens, and a new start.  On January 1st, 2016, I literally felt a release, as a sense of peace and expectation washed over me.  And I was so grateful.

So let’s look together, in 2016, with fresh faces and opportunities, no matter what kind of 2015 you had.  Maybe your 2015 was good.  Great, let’s celebrate that and see what 2016 has to offer.  Maybe your 2015 brought some hurts that you are reeling from.  If at all possible, let’s leave those in 2015.  2016 is new.  It’s different.  It opens new possibilities. And for me, I believe it brings restoration and rebuilding.  Maybe it does for you, too.  Who will join me in saying, “Hello, 2016-Can I give you a hug??”

Isaiah 43:19 “See, I am doing a new thing!  Now  it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

What We Can Learn From a Sunflower

sunflower 2

I’ve noticed patches of sunflowers in the last few weeks, brightening fields alongside the highway and other parts of town as I drive during my day.  Have you?

It got me thinking.  Here are a few things we can learn from the sunflower:

  1. Bloom Where You Are Planted – Sunflowers seem to grow in the unlikeliest of places.  Do you find yourself in a situation that you or others do not see as ideal?  This could be a time to grow and bloom anyway.  Sometimes the risk to remain tight in a bud is greater than the risk it takes to bloom.
  2. Keep Your Face Toward the Sunshine And Shadows Will Fall Behind You – No matter what you’re facing, if you keep your eyes on the Sun ( the Son, Jesus Christ), the darkness will fall behind you.   “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” — John 1:5
  3. Even On The Darkest Days, You can Stand Tall & Find the Sunlight – Friend, when you can’t see light past the darkness, it’s there.  Stand tall and you will find the sunlight.

As you notice the sunflowers in your daily path, let it be a reminder to you that beautiful things grow in unlikely places, looking toward the sun makes the shadows fall behind you and that even on the darkest days, you can stand tall and find the sunlight.  If a sunflower can do it, so can we.

Embrace Your Season

Honored to be sharing over at the LifeChurch.tv Sisters blog today! http://lcsisters.tv/2015/05/18/embrace-your-season/

Life.Church SISTERS


10431179_10152139857791451_8882665317328428534_o by Melissa Brown

Do you have a favorite season? Mine is autumn. The crisp air, the flannel shirts, the bonfires, the caramel everything, the excuse for hot chocolate, and most definitely, the brilliant show our Creator puts on with the turning of the leaves. Oh, I just love it!

Have you ever noticed how we use weather-related terms to sometimes explain what is going on with us personally? For example,  “a dry spell,” “being snowed under,” “on cloud nine,” or “a ray of hope”.

As I think back on my life, I can see different seasons playing out. Some were awesome, maybe described as spring because it was a time of new beginnings and beauty. Some seasons of my life were not so awesome, probably best described as winter because they were pretty cold and dark.

As I’m having this reflective moment, I realize something important:

My prayer life is…

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Still, Still, Still: A Christmas Carol

A couple of years ago, I wrote this in response to a sermon series our pastor did on Christmas Carols and I wanted to post it today, during this Christmas Season.


Do you know the Christmas carol titled “Still, Still, Still”?

Here are a few of the words:

Still, still, still, One can hear the falling snow.

For all is hushed, The world is sleeping

Holy Star its vigil keeping

Still, still, still, One can hear the falling snow.

Still, still, still… These words do not seem to have a place in the hustle and bustle of a busy life, especially at Christmas time. Parties, presents, and projects usually have us in a frantic frenzy as we rush from one event to the next. Often, before we know it, Christmas day has come and gone. Only then do we realize that, despite our good intentions, we never experienced the peace that comes from truly relishing in God’s amazing love for us.

Isn’t it interesting that God commands us to “Be still”? Do you think it’s because He knows we sometimes have a hard time doing it on our own?

What happens when we actually take time to be still? The answer lies in Psalm 46:10…”Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth”. When you are still before God, you better understand that whatever you are facing, whatever your day has been like, you can completely rest in the fact that God is God. He’s awesome and amazing and sovereign. He loves us more than we can imagine and He’s got things under control.

Spend time today purposely pursuing stillness in different moments. Perhaps you could wrap up in a blanket & head outside for a peek at the stars, wondering what that holy star looked like, the one that signaled Christ’s birth many years ago. Maybe you can take a minute to watch your young child sleep and as you gaze at that sweet face, wonder what Mary and Joseph thought of their newborn son. Open your Bible, read a favorite Scripture…then sit and wait.


What truths resonate in your soul about Christ as you take time to be still before Him?


Wanting to put more Christ in your Christmas this year?  Check out some of the Christmas/Advent reading plans on the YouVersion Bible App or online here:  https://www.bible.com/




Hi friend,

How are you doing with your 30 days of thanks?

I am about halfway through this particular gratitude journey and most days I can’t wait to pick just one thing to post about.  There have been a few days, however, where I’ve struggled a bit with even coming up with one.  I know, crazy, right?

So…I thought maybe you and I both could use some inspiration to keep us going.  I rounded up a few lovely images from Pinterest to spark the fire and fan it into a flame!

I pray that, whether you are writing something every day or not, you are pausing more often to be thankful for what God has given to you.  I promise you that contentment,  peace  and awe at what God’s done in your life will be at the end of this road.

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