Sunday, November 23, 2014

Being Your Teacher Makes My Heart Bigger

Dear Students,

Thank you for being off-task.  Thank you for blurting out inappropriate comments.  Thank you for cheating on your assignments.  Thank you for complaining about having to play a game.  Thank you for breaking the rules even though you definitely know them by now.  Thank you for pretending you don't like me.  Thank you for throwing the school supplies that I spent my own personal money on.  Thank you for fighting with me about doing your work. Thank you for wandering around the classroom.  Thank you for leaving papers on floor.  Thank you for damaging the books.  Thank you for all of the very childish things that you do, because the truth is that you are increasing my capacity to love.  I made a commitment to love and serve you guys.  Some days, you don't make that easy.  Some Many days my reaction is anger and attempts to control.  You see, my heart is broken.  It doesn't work the way it was supposed to work.  I have to re-learn how to extend grace.  How to control my emotions.  How to love unconditionally.  You might not realize it, but you are helping me to do that.  Thank you for all the opportunities you give me to not love you.  It is choosing to love you in those moments that is changing my heart.  Your manifestation of the broken human condition reminds me that the ugly show you sometimes put on display lives in me, too.  The song and dance of sin and immaturity that you do on the daily  reminds me that we are one in the same. We are both messed up inside.  The good news? God loves us.  He loves every bit of us.  He loves us at our worst and our best.  There is nothing we can do to make him love us more.  There is nothing we can do to make him love us less.  God is teaching me how to love you that way, too.  Being your teacher makes my heart bigger.  For that, I am grateful.

Love,

Your (growing) Teacher

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Moments


"Here Miss.  I couldn't find an apple."

There are lots of tough moments in teaching.  Moments where kids disrespect you.  Moments where you feel like you've messed up big time.  Moments when no matter how hard you've tried a student just doesn't get the concept you were teaching.  But then there are the sweet moments.  Moments when a student expresses to you that your activity really helped them to learn something.  Moments when you hear brilliant, thoughtful answers in a discussion.  Moments where you get to just enjoy their unique, still-forming personalities.  One such moment happened on my birthday (about a month ago).  A student--not an easy student--came up to me with a bruised, misshapen orange.  "Here Miss," (what they tend to call me), "I couldn't find an apple."   From anyone else this gift might have left me puzzled at best, but from this student this was huge.  He is a special education student.  He struggles in school.  He is very disorganized, and constantly forgets things.  From this student the gift of an orange in lieu of an apple on my birthday was an extremely thoughtful gesture.  I knew that moments later I'd be trying to coerce him into doing his assignment, and filling out his planner, and trying to help him to remember that there are other responses to bullying besides revenge.  But that one sweet moment let me know that I had built a connection with him.  I can only hope that I am making these little connections with my students.  That they feel my love and care.  That in my classroom they will have bonded with one stable adult.  I have to hold onto these moments through the painful ones and hold onto the belief that somehow amidst the chaotic mess of teaching and learning that I am making a difference.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

Did you notice that it took Walmart and other businesses one day to switch from Halloween to Christmas?  We still have three weeks until Thanksgiving, people!  My family calls me a Scrooge because I insist that we wait until after Thanksgiving to start the Christmas festivities.  I just don't want to neglect Thanksgiving and fall, and plus I think the holiday season is more special if we keep it within some clear boundaries.  So, I'm trying to save my holly jolly and savor the last bit of the fall season.

One of the most fun things I did this autumn was hosting a pumpkin party!  I love to have people in our home.  I thought it would be fun to have people over to eat fall-y treats and decorate pumpkins.  However I'm super awkward.  It's like the middle school girl who fears rejection rears her acne-ridden head. I'm always afraid to invite people to things, thinking they'll think it's lame, or think I'm lame.  I told my sister Jordan about my idea.  Jordan is the socially adept one of the family. She posted a Facebook event and we got that party started. We decided to make it a sister party and Jordan, my sister Rachel and I all invited friends.  Without my sisters pushing me, I probably would have never been brave enough to host the party.  Now, I'm so glad I did.  Jordan baked a bunch of goodies and I decorated and bought craft supplies for sprucing up our pumpkins.

Decorating supplies included:
chalkboard paint and chalk
gold glitter (the herpes of craft supplies)
modpodge and book paper
gold paint
white paint

Food consumed:
Chex Mix (we made it ourselves we swear)
caramel apples
pumpkin cheesecake cupcakes
chocolate chip cookies
apple cider
pumpkin pie hot chocolate












It was so fun enjoying some fall action with friends!  How are you celebrating the season?  Are you like me and holding the ho-ho-ho, for now?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Something About Cleaning

 Every time I clean I can't help but feeling there's something innately spiritual about it.  Don't get me wrong, cleaning is one of my least favorite things.  It's right up there with paperwork, and brussel sprouts.  My natural cleaning-bent is to spread out clutter, not pick up after myself as I go, and then go on a giant cleaning spree out of necessity usually brought on by impending visitors.  Or when I will clean, I will clean just enough to keep people from judging me.  Sometimes I even go to extreme lengths to make my house appear cleaner than it actually is.  I have to think that there is some correlation between the way I clean the house and the way I keep my heart clean.

My heart needs constant upkeep.  I walk around in a broken world with a broken mending heart.  I think this is what Jesus was talking about while he was washing his disciples feet.

John 13:6-10:  "He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”

My heart has had a bath.  I have been made clean from the moment I accepted Jesus as my King.  The Holy Spirit takes up residence in me ensuring that there's a point of uncleanliness I'll never reach again.  It's just that each day I think thoughts, say words, and take actions that are, well, dirty.  And I consume.  I consume media that tells me it's all about me, all I need is more stuff, I should do whatever I feel like doing.  I hear lies from an enemy that wants to kill and destroy me like, "You are not beautiful.  You are not loved.  You are not valuable."  I watch the people around me do things that seem fun and harmless, but that ultimately lead to destruction and heartache.  My heart needs daily cleansing.  My feet need to be washed.

Basically, Philip and I hadn't been keeping up with the daily cleansing of our home.  So, we made a plan for keeping it clean.  We discussed how often each chore will be done, and who is responsible for what.
It seems that along with our little triplex rental, my heart has been getting a little funky lately.  I have been spending time in the word and prayer approximately three days a week.  Sometimes I keep myself just "clean" enough so that people won't judge me, or I put on a show to fool people into thinking I'm clean.  Kind of like using (if you will) *spiritual* dry-shampoo and perfume on days you don't have time to shower.

This sort of cleansing isn't going to cut it anymore.  In college I spent time with God each day and one day a week I spent an extra long amount of time with him.  However, I had so much more free time in college.  As I've transitioned into life after top ramen and all-nighters, it's been tough scheduling in a quiet time.  My only really free time is in the morning, and after 4 PM (5:30 during soccer season, just call me Coach).  I've got planning, and grading, and a husband that likes to be fed and have my attention once in awhile.    My goal is to get to five Quiet Times a week.  I know this won't happen overnight, but I am going to work towards it.  I believe that it is a worthwhile investment.  I've observed that on days when I unplug and get alone to connect with God everything in my life--my marriage, my attitude, even my lessons--tend to go better.  If you think of it, pray for me because I know that forming this habit won't be easy.  Let's just say, discipline isn't my spiritual gift ;).  Here's to the pursuit of a clean heart and home.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Resting with Intentionality

I believe in doing everything in life with intentionality.  Even things that seem trivial like rest.  After surviving my first year of teaching (I'm not really ready to talk about it yet) I finally have a good chunk of time to rest.  Now what do I do with myself?

In the past, I have used all my down time to peruse Facebook, and Pinterest, or space out watching TV.  Now, those things are enjoyable and restful in moderation.  However, I think I squeeze the most out of my rest times when I use them in different ways.  As an introvert, to truly rest I also need some think time.  Television and mindless internet surfing are brain-numbing activities--which sometimes, I need!  But if I stick with my default rest mechanisms I think that I will look back on this summer with a tinge of regret.  So I am making a plan for using my rest well.

Here's how I want to rest this summer:

Read!  The irony of being an English teacher is you don't really have time to read for fun during the school year.  You're busy keeping up with the kiddos' reading.  This summer, I vow to read books because I want to read them.  On my list are  Great Gatsby, The Divergent Series, The Fault in Our Stars, I am Malala, and Blue Like Jazz.  Here's hoping I get through at least a couple of these.

Write!  For me, writing is reflective and that is one of the things that I find the most restful.  It helps me to look at my life and see value.  I also am optimistic enough to believe that I have important things to say, and that my writing could potentially benefit someone else.

Create things!  I enjoy making things.  It helps me to feel at peace.  Being creative is a huge part of my personality, so I think I feel like I am in my element when I am creating something.  Plus, this is another thing I had a hard time making time for during the school year.

Be with Jesus!  This is probably the most restful activity, though it might require the most effort.  When I spend time in the word and in prayer I rest on a soul-level.  I am currently going through the devotional "Thirsty," for the second time and it's still so good!  One of my favorite things to do during the summer is to hit a park with some iced chai and spend time with God in the sunshine.

Be outside!  I love the outdoors.  However, there are two pesky barriers that often keep me from venturing outside.  1.  I am always cold.  I hate being cold!  So when it's cold outside (and we're talking Chelsea-Standard of what cold is) all I want to do is hide under a blanket with a warm beverage.  2.  I have a deep fear of bugs.  Seriously.  I don't think they will harm me, I just don't want them to touch me.  They creep me out.  It's so beautiful during the summer, that I am willing to risk the second barrier to enjoy scenery and warm rays.

Be with my husband!  I am an introvert, so I enjoy resting alone, but I also feel so at rest when I am with my husband.  I love to cuddle up on the couch surrounded by snacks and watch a movie with my beloved.  I also enjoy quiet-coffee shop conversation, and slow strolls through the park.  Ahhhh.

Don't worry, I also have some things to get done this summer like chores, finishing a giant research paper, and working at summer school (just three days a week for three weeks), but in the meantime this girl is getting her rest on.

How are you resting this summer?  
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