Monday, February 1, 2016

Pregnancy Journey: Finding Out I Was Pregnant

When I first found out that I was pregnant I didn't believe it. It was the day I was supposed to start my period, but decided to take the test anyway, "Just for fun," I told myself.

We had been trying to get pregnant for three months.  Each of those months, as I neared the day Aunt Flo typically paid me a visit, I managed to convince myself that I was pregnant.  That ache I felt in my back--had to mean I was preggo.  I felt tired that day--gotta be knocked up.  My stomach was a little upset--must be a baby!  And each of those months I faced disappointment when, yet again, my period came letting me know that we weren't expecting.

So, the day I got back a positive pregnancy test I didn't believe it was real.  I had an extra pregnancy test from a few months back when I'd taken one just for the experience.  I woke up to the pressure of a full bladder, and thought, "Why not?"  I knew that since it was the day I was supposed to start my period, even if I was pregnant it probably wouldn't come back positive.  I got up, peed on a stick, and waited.  While that little digital picture of a clock flashed, I got a phone call from our school secretary:  we were having a late start that day.  Little did I know, school wasn't the only thing that was going to be "late" that morning.

 I got off the phone and looked at the test.  It said, "Yes +."  I had to look twice to make sure that was right.  Remember, that day was a late start, a day Philip and I usually use to sleep in.  That clearly wasn't happening.  I ran into our bedroom and, despite it being 6 AM and a late start, I flicked on the lights.  "Philip, it says yes!  It says yes!"  He rubbed his eyes and grumbled, "That's awesome."  Though I had my doubts, Philip new it was true the moment I told him.  He never doubted that we were pregnant.

 I grabbed my ipad and started googling the likelihood of getting a false positive.  Of course, when you google you usually find more bad than good, and I became even less willing to accept our news as truth.  That weekend we were headed to a youth retreat.  So, we decided that if I didn't start my period over the weekend then I would take another test when we got back to confirm.  I'll tell you this much: I didn't pack any tampons.

A few things stuck out to me that weekend.  I wasn't puking.  I didn't have sore breasts.  It wasn't one of those cases where my body was telling me that I was obviously with child.  However, I was ravenous all weekend.  Thanks, progesterone.  Seriously, I am not a big meat-eater, but the camp served roast beef one night and I ate it like it was candy.  I served myself helping after helping and even passed up a brownie in favor of downing more meat.  On the road trip home, Philip stopped at a truck stop and asked if I wanted anything to snack on.  I got a whole Subway sandwich.  I ate that sub and was still hungry for dinner a couple of hours later.

The second I got home I took another test.  A faint plus sign immediately began to show up.  A few moments later the test revealed another positive.  This time, I knew it was true.  I was pregnant!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Beautifully Ordinary

"If you have a child, then you have an assignment from God. Whether by birth or adoption, whether you go to work in an office or the kitchen, regardless of your age or experience or natural talent for nurturing, God has called you to be a mom—and it’s an unrelenting, heart-wrenching, beautifully ordinary, holy job."

My favorite line from the book I am reading, "The Supermom Myth."  With mamahood just around the corner I wanted to read about my new life from someone who would give it to me straight.  From page one, she had me laughing.  I could tell she was going to keep it real and talk about being a mom and loving Jesus in the midst of it.  So I hid the book under "Water For Elephants" (my book-club's pick-of-the-month) and then shoved it into a bag so no one would see.  For some reason I felt embarrassed to be reading a Christian motherhood book.  I think in my head they have a stigma for being super cheesy!

A few chapters in, I have already gleaned so much from this book!  Many of the "villains of motherhood," which the book addresses, are things that I am facing even without a wee babe in my arms.  I think that line--especially the last part-- is still the best nugget of wisdom I have picked up.  I have within me a growing desire to live a beautifully ordinary life.

Let's flash back to Chelsea in college who would probably roll her eyes at this idea.  I wanted to do big things!  I wanted to change the world!  I wanted to be extreme!  I still want to change the world, it's just that I think that sometimes looks a lot more simple and a lot less glamorous than we often envision.

Philip and I had a dream of moving to the inner city.  There were a lot of good things behind that idea.  We wanted to be around diverse people--to be a part of cross-cultural communication.  We wanted to become more aware of the reality of poverty and to serve those who face it.  But let's be honest we also wanted shopping malls, hip restaurants, an exciting pace of life.  There is still so much appeal in it to me.  Additionally,we at least I, wanted to feel good about myself.  I loved the thought that I might be dodging bullets for the sake of the gospel.  Imagining the shock and disapproval people might feel at my dangerous, exciting choice only made the city option seem that much sexier.

Today, we live in Moses Lake, Washington.  We ended up here because plans A, B, and C all fell through.  When I found myself jobless, carless, homeless and without prospects I got a call from a Moses Lake Principal who wanted to hire me for a job I hadn't even applied for.  If that's not God dragging my butt out to small town America, then I don't know what is.

Now, I am still open to living in the city.  In fact, I still kind of want to.  I want to live a good story.  There's something that sounds so sweet to me about two small town kids moving to the big city.  Diversity and poverty are still two of our great passions.  I love skyscrapers, and malls, and indie eateries.  Maybe someday, I will live in the city.  The fact is, though, I am willing to give it up. I now acknowledge that at least some of my desire comes completely from how fun and exciting I think the city would be.

I am not saying that it's bad to have a dramatic life.  I am not even saying it's bad to do something just because it sounds fun and exciting.  Sure, sometimes God calls people to drop everything and move to an African village.  But sometimes God asks us to just live a normal life and be faithful in the mundane things.  I think that right now that's what he's asking of me.  So, I teach.  I hang out with my husband and my dog.  I invest in my teacher friends.  I live in a small rental.  I read books.  I do projects around the house.  I am plugged in and serving at an imperfect church.  I am growing a small human inside of me.  Doing these ordinary things in a beautiful way is holy.  Allowing Jesus to enter and infuse the gospel into my every day life is an act of worship.  No, it does not have the glamour of the life I once wanted.  But there is something profound about it.

This is my prayer.  (Maybe, if Jesus is nudging you, you will pray it alongside me):

Jesus I invite you into my ordinary life.  I ask you to take all the chaotic, messy, boring parts and make them beautiful.  I surrender my dreams in pursuit of you.  I believe that you want the absolute best for me.  I ask that you might use my beautifully ordinary life to draw others to yourself, and to compel them, also, to live their ordinary lives in your beautiful way.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

I Want a Loud Classroom

Dear students:
I want a loud classroom.  I know, adults are always shhhing you.  Sometimes I am, too.  True, sometimes you need to sit in quiet focus.  Sometimes, I am talking and your silence speaks respect.  But the other times, I want to hear your voices.  I want it to be loud with the sound of laughter when we play a vocabulary game. Loud with the sound of enthusiasm when we start a novel or you learn something new.  I am even okay with loud frustration or confusion:  the sound of questions echoing across the desks as you muddle your way through new information.  I want a loud classroom.  I want you talking about our content.  I want to teach you academic language and then listen to you play with it.  Some of you only speak Spanish at home.  Some of you only speak Spanish with your friends.  You need practice speaking English—as much as you can get.  Some of you go home without anyone to talk to.  Or with only younger siblings to talk to.  Or with parents too exhausted for much talk.  You need to practice speaking.  Because if you can speak well, you can write well.  Because communication is a key to success, relationships, and growth.  Students, even if you are shushed everywhere else, I want my classroom to be a place where you can be heard.  So, I will no longer pat myself on the back if an administrator happens through and my class is silent.  No, instead, I will embrace the chaos, the messiness, the noise of learning.
Your (learning as she goes) Teacher

Monday, November 23, 2015

Love Me at my Darkest


Do you ever wonder if the work you're doing is meaningful?  For me the question comes up all too often.  It is easy to get lost in the monotony of grading papers, sending emails, and reminding kids, to "please get on task," again, and to forget the purpose of it all.  So much work goes into what I do every day.  I am pouring my heart and soul into this.  But is it worthwhile? Teaching kids to find characters' different Points-of-View.  Helping them to memorize new words.  Making sure they are able to tell a good story.  Does any of it matter in the end?

A couple of weeks ago, I bought myself a bracelet that reads "I loved you at your darkest," as a reminder of how Jesus feels about me.

The typical response I get when I tell someone I teach Middle School is, "Oh.  I can't imagine doing that."  In some ways Middle Schoolers are delightful.  I enjoy them every day.  They are old enough to not need me to wipe their noses, but young enough that they get excited when I bring out a game or put on some Disney music.  But in many ways, my students are at their darkest.  Their little awkward bodies are changing.  Did you know that Middle School boys have 1000x more testosterone running through them than adult males?  The world around them is constantly shifting.  Their lives are controlled by teachers, parents, more dominant peers.  They are questioning who they are.  They are wondering if they are loved.  Sometimes the way that comes out is making jokes at each others' expense--talking someone else down in a desperate attempt to build themselves up.  That often means that they forget nearly everything.  They throw things.  They make messes.  This can be frustrating when you are the one who cleans up after them.  They have the immaturity of children, and the angst of teenagers.  Being patient, kind, and gentle with them is a choice I have to make over and over again throughout the day.

Looking at my bracelet I am reminded that I am doing important work.  I am doing the--sometimes exhausting--work of loving people at their darkest.

The C-Word

No, I'm not talking about that C-word.  I am talking about something much worse:  cancer.  Reading that word today it feels so different than it once did.  I used to hear "cancer" as if it was a word spoken underwater.  Cancer was this blurry thing that happened on TV, or to people's distant relatives.  Cancer couldn't touch me.  It couldn't come near the ones I love.  It was off in the distance.  I didn't give it a second thought.  Until cancer forced me to pay attention.

Grandpa and Grandma with some of their grandchildren last Christmas.

First, cancer attacked my grandfather.  It was a few years ago.  He went through chemotherapy and everything was okay.  Until it wasn't.  See the thing about cancer is it can linger.  One day you think it is gone forever and the next you might find out that it has launched a full-scale attack on you.  "Grandpa isn't doing well," my dad vaguely said, "He's not doing well at all."  Chemo didn't work the second time.  The cancer has spread.  We don't know how long he has to live.    When I last visited my grandpa, he didn't look like my grandpa.  My grandpa has a light in his eyes.  He sneaks me popsicles.  The man I saw was pale, and thin, and hairless:  a picture of suffering.  Walking, talking, everyday life was painful for him.  He spent much of his time in the bathroom battling nausea.  But he still called me darling, still told me I was beautiful, and still made me laugh.  My grandparents are active.  They love to travel.  They golf together.  My grandpa takes photographs.  My grandmother paints.  Aside from this, they love each other.  I'll often see them holding hands or snuggling or teasing each other.  My grandfather once said about his relationship with my grandma, "Whatever we do, we like to do together."  I don't know what she'll do when he's gone.

Philip and I wearing purple for my brother, Joey who has pancreatic cancer.

The next victim was my brother.  My wrestling, red-meat-eating, veteran brother.  An unlikely candidate for a deadly disease.  He is all height, beard, and muscles.  One day, he felt a grapefruit-sized lump near his stomach.  We first heard that it was benign, but they were going to remove it just to be safe.  Then I got the call from my mom.  She said it.  The c-word.  It felt like the world became a silent film.  Like I couldn't hear our conversation.  I could only see it written in white font on a black background, and it flickered every once in awhile.  Nothing about cancer makes sense.  You hear things like, "They found more lymph nodes with cancer in them,"  and even though you have no idea what lymph nodes are, your mind instantly goes to death.  Everything means you might lose someone close to you.  Even if that someone is a perfectly healthy twenty-six year-old.  Or, rather they were perfectly health.  As I watch Joey suffer from a distance I see him maintain his sense of humor, dignity, and quiet eloquence even through great adversity.  I believe he is going to beat this!  Will you believe with me?

Callie and her sister, Becca.

Finally, cancer did the most unfair thing.  Like a sharp frost that withers a white rose, it went after the most perfect, innocent, untouched thing it could find.  Cancer found Callie: my friends' two-year-old little girl.  I have known Scott and Tabitha since high school.  We have attended and served at Ross Point Camp together for many years.  One time when Tabitha was a counselor and Scott was a camper, they asked me to walk them to campfire so that they would be "chaperoned."  On a worship night at camp, Tabitha held me for hours as I wept.  Years later we watched Scott and Tab get married at Ross Point camp, and dreamed about the day we would do the same.  Callie is one of the few little people that gives me baby fever.  Her demeanor is so laid back.  She is always smiling.    She enjoys the presence of anyone that she meets.  The last time I saw Callie, though, something was different.  She was grumpy.  She was tilting her head to the side.  She was stand-offish.  Her parents attributed this to a normal part of toddler life:  teething.  Because who would suspect something more serious?  Then they had to hear something that no parent would ever want to hear:  Callie has a tumor in her neck.  It turned out to be, you guessed it, cancer.  The community of support that has risen up around them is a testament to how amazing and loved this family truly is.

I wish I had something profound to say now.  All I can cling to is what I always cling to.    My hope is in Jesus.  God is bigger than cancer.  I can't make sense of this.  But I believe that one day we will be in a place where there is no suffering.  Where there is no pain, no disease, and Jesus will wipe away all of my tears.

If you want to support Joey or Callie as they fight the good fight--first pray!--second, here are links to their Go Fund Me pages:

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