Saturday, January 10, 2015

Presence and Community

I don't think I believe in New Year's Resolutions.   Sure, commitment can help change along.  Recognizing change that needs to happen and resolving to pursue that change is a solid concept.  Setting goals and taking steps to move towards them is sound practice.  I'm about these things in theory:  it's the application of them that I have my woes with.  As good as resolutions sound, I just don't think that we human-beings are very good at "willing" ourselves to become better.

Maybe it's just me, but saying that I am going to be less negative with my husband, be more secure, be less of a hermit, keep my house cleaner, doesn't mean I am going to actually accomplish any of those things.  I, personally, don't grow by saying, "I am going to grow!"  Still, I don't want to do nothing.  I see habits, patterns, attitudes in my heart that could use changing.  There's some ugly up in me.  And I don't like it.

I've been looking back on my life, on times that I have grown.  I can see times when weakness became strength.  Befores and afters that prove my confidence blossomed over a season.  Times I was able to let go, move on, and forgive.  I know that growth is possible.  When I asked myself, what has really helped bring about change in my life I kept coming back to two things.  These things have been present in every fruitful season of my life.

 In order to grow in many areas, I am going to pursue presence and community.  That's to say, I want to be in God's presence, and I want to live in closeness with other believers.  Being intimate with my Creator does something to my heart.  It affirms me to my core.  It moves me to action.  It rearranges my priorities.  Having friends who know God and know me seems to affect me as well.  I can't explain it.  Real, genuine friendships help me to feel loved, to experience God, and to see myself and my life through a fresh set of eyes.  There's something about being in community that makes my soul sigh in relief.  It's as if I know, somewhere deep in my being that I was made for this.

 So, in 2015 I am pursuing two things:  presence and community.   Is this is starting to sound an awful lot like a resolution? I want to focus on being in God's presence and living in community that those things might produce growth in all other areas.  Label it what you will.

Did you make any New Year's Resolutions?  What helps you to grow?

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.


Your (growing) Teacher

Thursday, November 6, 2014


"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.
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