Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sinking Ships...

I read this recently... "Ships don't sink because of the water AROUND them. Ships sink because of the water that gets IN them. Don't let what's happening around you get inside you and weigh you down."

Right now I think it would be really easy to let all the things happening in the world get inside of me and weight me down. I always want to do whatever I can to help people in need and I love to give... my time, my money, my things, just give... With all the events of the past few weeks and all the chaos that is always happening in our world, there is often a lot of opportunity for me to give. But when I am placed in situations when I am giving to those in need, I am also exposed to incredible heartache. And that heartache often gets me down because I can't do all that I would like to do to help the people in need. So, as I watch things happening in the world, and the people that are being so abused and mistreated and the people just in need of basic human rights and human needs, I have to not let it get in and sink my ship, but I also have to be careful to not ignore what is happening. I have to look for ways to get involved and help where I can.

There is also a lot of negativity going around right now. People are expressing so much hatred towards one another right now. There are many different opinions about the things that are happening in our world and which side is right or wrong, or the best way for countries to intervene or not intervene. And I could express my opinion on that and what I feel like should be done, but to be honest, I am not in a position to make decisions, and I am seeing so much dissension over these issues... It is incredibly sad that we let the actions of a few evil people come in and divide us and then those issues divide us again and again until we have forgotten that we are all humans... we are all the same on the inside... God created us all equally and we let the color of someone's skin, the place they are from, the language they speak, the religion they practice... whatever it is... keep us from seeing them as a creation of the one true God, keeps us from seeing them as a person with the very same needs as ourselves... So regardless of how I believe the situations in the world should be handled at the moment, I have to be careful to keep the negativity out... or it is going to sink my ship...

I also love that quote because while there may be a lot of... just mess... happening all around me all the time... I think it is God who can help me keep my ship afloat... He is what has made my ship waterproof... He keeps the mess out... and when I spring a leak... well He is the one who can patch it. Because the mess will get into my life, there is no doubt about that. The question is when the mess does get in my life how do I handle it and who do I turn too. 1. I think that if I continually pursue God and make Him first in my life then I can avoid letting a lot of the mess in to begin with, but when it does get in because the world we live in is infected with sin... well 2. I can know from the experience I have with God that he will handle the situation. I can't worry about the what if's... I mean honestly... what is the worst that could happen to me.. I could die... and would that really be so bad? I know I will spend eternity in heaven that is not a bad place to be. I know I would leave my family without me, but if I were to die, God would know it... it wouldn't be something He hadn't already planned... so should't I trust Him enough to know that if He felt it was time for me to leave this earth He would make sure to provide for my family?

So, if I know these things... there really should be nothing that discourages me... nothing that sinks my ship... because I can always trust that God is in control... and as the negativity flies all around right now because of all the mess happening in the world... I can stay positive and look for ways that I  can help the hurting and help those who have been forgotten... and show them the love of Jesus through any ways I can help...

This verse about prayer really stood out to me this week... and just reminded me about how in control God is... because He can do more than I could even imagine... His love is too great to understand, but I am sure glad I have experienced and continue to experience His love... And so I will continue to trust the One who is in control of everything and believe that He will accomplish infinitely more than I could even imagine...

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Life... A Daring Adventure

Helen Keller said, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all." I sometimes think about my life and wish for a little adventure. It seems that I crave adventure and look for ways to stray from the beaten path. But is that all adventure is? Finding those moments when you are exploring something that seems out of the ordinary? Can I find adventure in my day to day life of being a wife, mom, and teacher? Everyday new things are happening, but I often let them just roll right past me and say that life is just the same old thing every day. I let the busyness of daily life to keep me from appreciating the daily adventures I encounter each day.

I began thinking recently how can I find the beauty in my day to day when it really just seems so... not beautiful. Particularly the job of being a mom... I spend a lot of time doing things like cleaning toilets, sweeping floors, folding laundry, making lunches... And I began thinking about this life of and title I have of Mom.... How is "mom" adventurous?? How is "mom" beautiful?

I make a lot of sandwiches...

I fold a lot of clothes...

And while those things are some of the boring things of being "mom" I also get

Midnight kisses when my son thinks it is time to play instead of sleep...

And I get to read books and snuggle...

Recently my oldest asked for me to read her a chapter a night of a book before bed. She is perfectly capable of reading on her own, but she wants to do that together. I love getting to read to her. I can introduce her to some of my favorite childhood adventures that inspire me now to want to lead a life full of adventure. We can read and dream together about the worlds we encounter in the books we explore.

While I may not see much of what I do as mom as very daring or adventurous... each day brings something new with my kids. Moments that if I don't let them just pass me by make my life all that much more beautiful. And each one of those little moments add to what makes my journey beautiful...

Homework as the sun sets at Dad's soccer practice...

Smiles because we can kick a soccer ball together...

These precious moments add up to create a really beautiful journey... that is full of adventure when seen through the eyes of the unique and brilliant children God has placed in my life.

Ecclesiastes 5:18 - 20 says, "After looking at the way things are on this earth, here’s what I’ve decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that’s about it. That’s the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. It’s useless to brood over how long we might live." 

I want to make the most of this job I have as wife, mom, teacher, friend... and each day can be a daring adventure as I encounter the beautiful moments that make up my journey... 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Finding Reality

I saw this statement recently, "What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be."

This hit me like a ton of bricks... How many times in my life have I become so upset with the injustices of what I felt like was supposed to be instead of what is actually real. This week I had a discussion in class with my students about how fairy tales and myths affect what we believe, and almost everyone agreed they influence us by shaping what we expect from reality.

The problem with is we begin to imagine a reality that is very much a fairy tale. What girl doesn't dream of having the life of a Disney Princess, and what boy (or man for that matter) doesn't think they can be like Tony Stark of Ironman. The lives we read about in books, see on TV and in Movies look so real to us as we watch and read about these people and places that have been crafted to be "perfectly imperfect." The girl gets the guy and the castle or if not still ends up finding an amazing sense of empowerment in being a strong independent woman, and then the guy always saves the world, gets the girl, and makes millions of dollars. Good always defeats evil, problems are always solved etc. Even in the inevitable deaths of a Nicholas Sparks book/film there is good; the story may make you cry, but there was love and happiness and such unwavering love that you can't help but cry when that person loses the love of their life. Even in stories like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars we see such incredible evil, and then we watch how good always triumphs!

All of these myths, stories, and fairy tales greatly shape the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be. We are supposed to fall in love, never argue, never fight, and if we do it is supposed to resolve itself in a magical 30 minutes - one hour. We are supposed to end up in the fairytale castle with little woodland creatures that come and clean up our messes. Our children are supposed to be great friends, who while they argue and fight still end up best friends who can become crime fighting superheroes who work together to save the world. We picture a world in which we have no pain, we get everything we always hoped for, we can pursue our dreams with no fear of rejection and we will always receive the support we need. Our dream life would allow us to provide for ourselves, our families, our parents and anyone else we want to help. I think we often leave school (high school or University) with this invincible feeling of "I can conquer the world!" and then we encounter a taste of reality and realize this finding a job thing is much harder than I imagined. Or this marriage thing is not what I thought it would be, because this person who could do no wrong when we were dating just really hurt my feelings and doesn't seem to care one bit. Or realize the amazing income we thought we would have is quickly depleted by the necessities of life. We get in a car accident, we get sick, our loved ones get sick, our brothers and sisters drama quickly invade our life when we are supposed to be the mediator between a sibling and parent, or we find out that life just kind of sucks sometimes.

Not only do we have fairytales shaping our perception of what reality should be, we also have social media. We see people posting about their perfect relationships, and their perfect children, and perfect jobs, and how they are "living the dream!" and say to ourselves what about my dream, what about my relationship, what about my kids, what about my job?

That is what screws us up we picture these impossible things for our life and when reality meets our dreams we are crushed. As a dreamer I have a really hard time accepting that because I want to be the one who dreams this amazing life and makes it a reality. The problem is I am finding that there are just some things you can't dream into reality. There are those moments in our life where the person we love and dream and pray will be healed dies, and there is the moment when we dream of a job that we have always wanted would happen and we don't get it or we can't make it happen, and there is the moment when we imagine the fairy tale of our home with the prince and the perfect children and don't forget the woodland creatures cleaning the house just doesn't happen. So, as a dreamer I am left with a bit of a conundrum.

How do I hang on to my idealist personality but still accept that reality is not going to always match my dreams?

I don't want to just quit imagining a better life for me and my family. I don't want to let go of the childhood hopes I had for my future. I want everything to turn out for the best. And I guess I can continue to dream and hope and pray that it does turn out that way, but I know that will mean I am faced with disappointment. I mean a large part of my hopes hinge on humans, and we know humans in their imperfection sinful state will always disappoint. So I have 2 choices really, let go of the dreams and stop being disappointed, or hang onto the dreams and continue to feel the let down of disillusionment.

I think though I would really like to find an in between place... a place where I can still dream and hope but not be disappointed when what I dream and hope doesn't happen. And I guess that means finding contentment in my reality. Coming to realize that what I have is a good thing even when evil wins (good will eventually prevail), even when people hurt me, even when what I really hoped would happen just isn't going to work, I have to look at what is good and what is right about the reality I am living in. There is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. When I let myself get so filled with disappointment over the dreams I wish would come true I cheat myself out of enjoying the good I have right in front of me. I also cause those around me to deal with my disappointment because I let it affect me in a negative way, and that causes a spiral of disappointment because my negative mood cause the relationships I want to flourish to suffer, which then leads to even more disappointment and so on and so on...

So, while I can't control how the people in my life act, and while I know they will continue to disappoint me and cause what I dream to not always come to pass, I CAN control my reactions to my disappointments. I CAN turn to what I know God tells me in Scripture, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9 What God dreams for me is way better than anything I could dream for myself. And it doesn't mean I am not going to filled with disappointment at times and it doesn't mean my dreams aren't going to be crushed at times, it just means that I HAVE to accept the fact that God is in control even when my life feels so OUT of control. I also have to remind myself that the Bible says, "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7 I love how this verse doesn't say, tell God what you need and thank Him for all he has done, then he will give you all you ask for... No, instead it says "Then you will experience God's peace..." Disappointment will still come... dreams will not become reality, but there can still be peace... peace in a God who loves me and truly does have a plan for my life. 

I am going to stop letting the picture in my head, of how things are supposed to be, screw me up, and realize there is no picture. THIS is how it is supposed to be. It is like an Etch-A-Sketch, the picture keeps changing with every turn of the knob, and sometimes someone or something is going to come along and shake that picture until nothing is left and a new picture has to be created all together. I don't want to allow disappointment to cloud that new picture, I will always dream of blue skies and a life in which all my hopes are fulfilled, but I am also going to roll a little more with the punches and do whatever I can to stop living in my head and find reality right where I am...

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Thirty is an attitude...

Its official... I am 30. And as this birthday has  approached I have often thought, "I feel like I should have been 30 a long time ago," but then I also think, "how is it possible I am 30 years old when I still feel like I am a teenager some of the time." This year not only brings my 30th birthday, and my middle child turns 5 years old. At 30 I have an 8 year old, an almost 5 year old, and a 3 year old. It sort of feels like I should be 30.

I know so many people who dread getting older, or who do the whole I am 20 for the 2nd time... or I am 29.95 plus tax... etc. And while yes, I can commiserate with the whole getting older feeling, but I also think we really should be celebrating and proud of each year that passes. Why do we so often hide the age we are instead of looking at each year that passes as one more year in which we can say, "I learned a lot this year, and here is what I am going to take from it." Or why not look back on the year and say, "I am so grateful for these things!" and keep adding to that list every year. Each year we get older should just be another jewel in our crown, because each year holds beautiful memories, moments, lessons, and hardships. And yes, even those hardships are beautiful, because without each one of the things that happens in our life, we wouldn't be able to grow a little stronger or a little wiser and who doesn't want to grow stronger and wiser.

So, going forward into 30, I look back and think about what did I learn this year and what I am grateful for.

Well, the first thing I learned was I am striving more and more to be a better wife and mom. And how is it possible for me to do this. Well, it comes from simplifying my life and my family life. The conversation in our house has become what can we cut so we can have more time at home and with each other. I have started thinking about ways I can better manage my time, and this summer I started putting things in place to help me do that, and as school has started I have been working to make those plans fit in to the craziness of our school schedule. 

Second, I learned I am in love with a little island and it's people. I made my first trip to Sri Lanka when I was 28, but the following 3 were made while I was 29, and I am about to make my 5th trip. I can honestly say, the place, the people, the food, they have taken a small place in my heart. And I am so grateful for all teh of the friendships and relationships I have built. I am grateful that God has allowed me to connect with this place. I could not imagine my life without these people. However, that as also taught me another lesson on loving and loving well, and loving unconditionally, and sharing my love. It is very easy to pour all of our energy into one thing at the expense of another, and I have realized I can't love Sri Lanka and cheat other things and people in my life just as much as I can't love other areas of my life and cheat Sri Lanka and the people who mean so much to me there. So it's about finding balance and making loving each important part of my life in just the right ways for them, and it won't be an overnight accomplishment, but I can work to find just the right balance.

Third, I learned I am not as bad of a teacher as I thought I was. While I may not be good at teaching all the details of a subject I am good at showing students how to be passionate about following God's plan for your life, and about loving people. And not being afraid to figure out who you are. I learned that I do need to work on certain aspects of teaching in order to better communicate with the students the information they need to learn, but also showing them I love them and care about them and want to see them succeed no matter what happens. Which leads me to another lesson I learned: I can be overly critical of myself, but not in a perfectionist sort of way... more in a way that I see how things should be and I don't think I meet that standard. This really affects my teaching in a way that when anyone says something I take it as criticism and don't take the feedback in a way that would just help me improve.

Last, (well not really last, I did learn other things, but last for this post) I learned that I function so much better when I take time for my relationship with God and my own personal growth and mental/physical health. When I make sure I have that time, it really gives me more energy to give to the other people in my life. This gives me more to grateful for, especially grateful for my husband, who lets me have nights to go the movies free of kids, or lets me go sit and have a coffee completely alone to focus on time with God, time for school or things that just allow me to grow for me. Or the time to go ride my bike and get exercise when kids are refusing to stay in bed!

So in learning these things, it has helped me decide on a few goals for this next year and what I hope year 30 will bring me.

1. More time with my husband and kids.
2. More time at home so I can feel better about how the house is running.
3. Work on listening to my husband more and communicating better so that we can continue to have another successful 10 years.
4. Balance my love for my family, my friends, Sri Lanka etc. by not cheating one to give time to another.
5. Take feedback I get and make it positive and beneficial to growth.
6. Continue to share what God has made me passionate about with the students I am impacting and the people in my life.
7. Find time for my relationship with God and strengthening myself mentally, spiritually, and physically.

I really want to embrace being 30 and I look at this as a new decade beginning in which I will be able to grow and learn even more about who God made me (that is never going to be finished), and a new decade for making relationships with my family even stronger (my kids are out of the baby years now, so this next 10 years will usher all of them into the teen years!), another decade of discovering I really did marry my best friend, and another decade for living my life to the fullest enjoying each beautiful adventure that comes my way.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Dying to Self

So, it has been a long time since I posted! This summer has been an adventure to say the least! June I was busily preparing for the school year and spending as much time with my kids as possible, and July brought a family vacation and an amazing two week trip for me to Sri Lanka. I am so in love with that place and the people, and a few of the people in particular are a part of my family now, and I can't imagine my life with out them!

Then August brought the start of school, and that meant lots of adjustments in schedule and life and just getting back into a routine. I have lots to write about things I learned and experienced this summer, but this post has been on my mind for a while.

Today was a very interesting day however, and will generate a post very soon about how amazing our friends are, and about how maybe there are times it takes God intervening for us to realize we may need to slow down! So, stay tuned for more folks, because this journey is just getting more and more beautiful by the day.

This quote came across my Facebook news feed about a month ago and I instantly saved it. I have been contemplating it ever since. I have had several thoughts about on a few different levels. First, spiritually and how I have to die a little inside and be reborn in Christ. Second, relationally particularly in relation to my husband and how I need to die a little in order to follow his lead better and wisely work together vs against each other. And third, personally as I think about the transformation process I go through as I become older and wiser.

As I thought about the idea of dying a little inside in order to be reborn, I couldn't help but think about what Christ did for me on the cross. Because Jesus died on the cross for my sins I have to die to the sinful way of human nature, and then I have to be reborn in Christ which does make me wiser and stronger. The Bible says in Romans 6: 6 - 11, "Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did." This clearly represents this idea of dying on the inside in order to be reborn stronger and wiser and more like Christ. My problem tends to be sometimes that I can't seem to kill of that sin on the inside. I like to hang on to it a little too much at times, but what I liked about this quote is that it really made me think. If I just kill off that sinful part (which will never completely go away, but I can stop hanging on to some of it), then I will become an even stronger and wiser me, more and more like Christ, which is my goal to bring glory to God in being worthy of being called a daughter of God. 

I continued to think about how this idea of dying a little on the inside to be stronger spread to other parts of my life besides just spiritually. And I realized in my relationship with my husband was one for sure. There are so many times that I am extremely stubborn, it kind of is just part of who I am, but when it comes to my relationship with him, the bible is clear that he is the leader of our home. Sometimes, I can push and push and push or just not let an issue drop because the answer he has given doesn't quite satisfy what I was hoping to hear. And that is when I have to stop and die a little on the inside and tell myself (particularly tell the stubborn self centered part of myself) he is the leader, listen to him, and trust that he is leading in the right way. I have to die a little on the inside so I can put his needs and our children's needs before mine. Not in a die inside and lose who I am and be a door mat that they walk all over, but die on the inside so that in my self-sacrifice I can become wiser and stronger and kinder to the people God has placed in my home, and trusted me to love here on earth. 

Then, that brought me to thinking about myself, and how I am in a daily struggle to be stronger and be wiser, but often the way I go about doing that is not by looking in, but focusing only on the outward methods of training, when really if I did focus on the end, I would be dying a little on the inside so I can be reborn into something stronger and wiser. The idea is to let those things inside that need to die go and not just sweep them under the rug, but officially take those things out of my life, and begin to focus on building myself up spiritually, relationally, and professionally. 

I've decided to embrace this idea for the rest of the year. I want to have a goal of dying a little on the inside each day so that by the end of the year I can be stronger, and wiser, and hopefully more capable of being able to bring glory to God, my father.

Monday, June 8, 2015

One word can change everything...

So, I find that what people say can have a drastic affect on me. That whole saying "sticks and  stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" saying is a totally wrong. Sometimes all it takes to steal my joy is one word, one sentence from someone and I can go from being on top of the world to seeming like someone pulled the rug out from under my feet and I've fallen hard.

What's so crazy is I realize this and I still let myself be so affected by the words some people say. Generally I find its either something someone I really care about said or something someone said about WHAT I really care about. What's so crazy is that I will sit and stew and think and over think and analyze what was said and let it completely take away any positive feelings I had about whatever it is they commented on. And I guess I should clarify. If someone says something positive I'm like "oh cool thanks!" And I move on with life. But if what is said is even remotely negative it can bring me down so fast and really affect my mood and excitement and honestly can even make me want to make drastic changes to plans and even life in general.

So, I have realized 3 things:
1. The opinion that truly matters is God's opinion. He created me the way I am and loves me and all my perfect imperfections. And even though I sin and screw up he will still love me. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus." Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." And 1 Corinthians 10:21 says, " So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." So it really comes down to no matter what anyone else says, I have to look at myself and say, "Are you bringing glory to God." If not, well then maybe that person is right and I need to rethink my choices, but if I am then I need to let the comment role off my back and move on already.

2. I gotta lighten up! Really, one comment by someone (even if it is someone I care a lot about) does not reflect everything they feel, and by my over-analyzing it, all I am doing is putting words in their mouth that they never even said. Which is really unfair on my part. And if it really does bother me than much and I can't just let it go, then I need to just ask them about it instead of sitting around and reading way more into a small comment than I should. 

3. And probably most importantly, when someone really does say something negative to me, I need to remember where my joy comes from. I can't let even genuinely mean or negative comments steal my joy and ruin my day. James 1:2-3, "Consider it pure joy my brothers when you experience trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance." 1 Peter 1:8 -9, "You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls." Romans 15:13, "I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit." That's what I want more than anything. I want to be so completely filled with joy that I overflow with hope for all to see. If I let someone's words steal that joy, then I am also letting those words steal my hope as well as any hope that could overflow into someone's life as well.

Going to go forth and live with joy because it makes the journey all the more beautiful. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

"A good song is like a good meal..."

Haven't posted anything lately. Not for lack of having anything to say necessarily, but more for lack of having the words to say what I really want to say. I think my brain went on mental shut down after the school year ended and everything I have been thinking has been running around my mind like a hamster in a wheel and the hamster just doesn't know when to quit.

Life has been pretty ordinary lately. Nothing too exciting, and I think that is when I start to think about so many different parts of my life, so needless to say, several posts to come soon.

But today I was struck by something that has been a part of me for a long time, and I can't help but write about it. I love music, I have always enjoyed music and liked listening to music from back in the day when I blasted New Kids on the Block and Paula Abdul cassettes in my room to when I started driving and I used my makeshift stereo system to blare my "Nothing Says I Love You Like Punk Rock" Cds, to now when my musical taste ranges from classical, to pop, to Sinhalese songs, to Hindi songs, to rock, and any other number of musical choices. What I have come to realize is that for me music isn't about the actual music (I know odd), but it's about the words and the memories and the experiences and people tied to the music. A single song can make me laugh, smile, and/or melt into a puddle of tears.

I am so tone deaf. And I have ZERO rhythm. Which is why my love of music is kinda of odd... I love to dance to, but you have probably never seen me dance, and if you do see me dance its because either you love me A LOT and see me in moments when I am just me, or I love you A LOT because I am willing to dance in public and cast aside all cares about my severe lack of rhythm for you. Now you may have heard me sing, and I apologize now. I know I can't carry a tune to save my life, but there is something about a song I love coming on that sometimes, regardless of whose ears I may be hurting, I can't help but sing. I love being at home and in the car when I can just sing along to all my favorites, which is an extraordinarily long list...

So, knowing that it is not the actual instrumental part of the music I love the most, but more the lyrics and memories tied to the music, I have begun to see music and songs as a way of explaining my life. I seriously set music to what I am doing. Like in a movie when a song plays during a scene, its like that for my life. If my life were a movie I have a song for every scene. I can hear a certain song, and its like I am suddenly transported to a completely different time and place. I mean vividly transported. If I shut my eyes I could tell you exactly what I was smelling and tasting and seeing whenever that song had its biggest impact on my life. For example, Norah Jones' "Come away With Me," "Painters Song," "Lonestar," and just about any song from her "Come Away With Me Album" instantly transport me to Bolivar, Missouri, in my sliver Ford Focus with the windows down, and the orange and red fall leaves blowing past my windows as I drive down the street between the dorms. The air is just cool enough and crisp that it brings a slight chill to my skin, but it's just a perfect moment. I could go on describing the scene but when one of those songs come on it is like I am suddenly slammed through time into a completely different place and the memories flood back. It's like that with just about every song I hear. I instantly connect it to some memory, or to a person, and when it comes on it can be an amazing memory and I can laugh about it, smile about, feel sentimental, or cry about the pain, loss, or joy that whatever it was brought me. When I hear the song Oceans I am transported to a beach in Sri Lanka and the amazing moments I have shared with my wonderful creator Lord and the times I have spend in prayer breathing in the spray of the ocean and thanking Him for the beauty around me.

I also love how a song can so succinctly capture what I am thinking. The lyrics of song can easily express so many feeling within a few lines. Way to go song writers! I find that I catch myself wanting to insert song lyrics into what I am saying, or when someone says something that is also the line from a song I start singing the song in my head. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Longest School Year Ever...

With last night's graduation ceremony what seems to be the longest school year ever came to a close. It was a bit emotional watching these students I have come to love cross the stage and begin a new adventure in their life. But it made me also realize that with the closing of this school year I also begin a new adventure. Maybe not as mysterious and unknown as the adventure those 31 students will experience as they embark on the road to University and the rest of their life, but an adventure none the less.

This school year has seemed to go on forever. I honestly feel like it started 2 years ago. As I look back on the beginning of the year it is hard to believe that some of what happened only happened 9 months ago. 1st it was a long year for me as a teacher. I was working hard to refine my 6th grade curriculum and the creativity it took out of me was incredible. By the end of the year I was done, I honestly could not think of ways to bring life to the curriculum because I had given every bit of my creative juice to the beginning. I began to really lack the attention to details that I felt the class deserved. I was also teaching a brand new subject with my 12th Grade class. While this was incredibly fun, it was also extremely challenging. It was almost like standing at the bottom of a steep mountain climb and trying to climb without any ropes. It was extremely exhilarating with each hunt for a new foot and hand hold, but it was also terrifying at moments and I felt their were times I was just gripping the rock face for dear life as I tried to maintain some sort of control of a curriculum I really had very little familiarity. There were moments of greatness in both class for sure, but the amount of time I spent planning and reading and creating and pouring in emotionally to those classes really took a toll on me. The school year has really left me feeling like an incredibly wrung out dish rag.

Second, the school year for my 3rd grader seemed really long. Most likely because I did not give the time I should have to paying attention to what she was doing. I have to say, I have one of the most incredible 8 year olds ever. This kid can look at what she has to accomplish, plan out when and what she needs to do, and get it done with very little help from me. While I know I am incredibly luck she is so self-sufficient I feel like a bit of a failure as a co-teacher. I gave very little input into anything she did unless it was crunch time. I mean I never really even helped her study for a test. She still managed to make As on almost every thing she did over all but if I had taken the time (or had the time) to give to her and help her review then I think she could have been even more successful than she was. She has already created a summer plan by the way on how she is going to keep herself on track for next school year and make sure she reviews the material. No help from me, she has created herself a schedule and everything. While that is great for me as a mom, I also know I need to be a bit more active in her learning and make sure I am there when she needs it.

Third, the school year for my little guys was long. This was probably the best part of the year, but it did seem to not go as planned and turn into a bit of a different picture than I originally drew. Part of this change came from our one car situation. We would drop the kids off at school a bit earlier than I planned, and we would pick them up a bit later than I planned because we were sharing one car and that just makes things take more time often. But it also ties back to my need to spend so much time on school. I feel like too I watch my now 3 and 4 year old change academically in huge ways and change personally. They both have lost that "babyness" and have become little kids. They have made huge strides in development and it has made 9 months seem so much longer than 9 months.

All around these last 9 months have brought so many changes to my life, I could go on and on with a list of things that changed and made this year just feel sooo long. It also had me wishing for the school year to just be over, so I can honestly say there was a bit of relief at the end of graduation that "yes! this school year is over and I can move forward into another chapter with a clean slate."  As bittersweet as it is to see some amazing students move on it is somewhat nice to start with a blank page. It's time to start writing the next chapter.

So as I begin this new journey, I've made a few decisions on how I am going to try to make sure this isn't the longest school year ever again (because honestly I don't think I could handle one that seems any longer than this one did!).
1. I have scaled back on my teaching days. I may be picking up some work on one of these days but it won't be teaching classes, and this should really help bring some free time to my life that allows me a bit more flexibility and availability to give either to my husband, kids, or house...
2. I am getting started now! I have accomplished so much this week as I wrapped up the close of this school year. I began planning next year, and have already made huge strides in planning for next school year. In doing this I have set some goals for the 2 months of my summer vacation. I will spend set times each week when it does not take away time from spending with my kiddos planning and preparing for next year so I don't end up spending every waking moment planning the next day's lessons. I really want to have it done when I return to school in August.
3. Through items 1 and 2 I believe this should help me with having more time to spend helping my oldest with her school work, or just being available when she needs it, and making every moment count with my younger 2. As I said in previous posts I am done waiting... time to seize every moment!

I have a few things I may be adding to my life next school year, but I feel like after the lengthy adventure this year I am bit wiser and bit more cautious and purposeful in my time management. I am working on not over committing to things that I don't "have" to do, and I am definitely going to enter the next school year with a much better plan of how I will spend each day, so I don't look back and say, that was the longest school year ever... Again!

C.S. Lewis seemed to really get this, "If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next." I am ready to think about the next and not let the now keep me so dried out that I have nothing left to give to the next. As I continue to wring myself out giving every last drop into the present moment or present urgent task, I leave nothing to give to the next amazing moment that comes my way. Psalm 90:12 says, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." It is a wise move to enter my next days with a better plan than I did this year. As much as I like a bit of unpredictability and like to change up what I am doing often, it is wise to think about my next. Ephesians 5:15 - 16 says, "Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." Again, I am reminded that I should be living as the wise... the wise MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY! 

So, starting today, I enter into this next summer and this next school year a little wiser and a little more prepared to live with a plan to avoid missing amazing opportunities God brings my way. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

A final word to my students...

So this week was my last week with my 1st group of Seniors. I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed teaching these 12th grade students. I love government so teaching them about government and how it works, there are so many things I wish I could have done differently, things I wish I could have taught that I didn't, books we could have read but didn't... and so many other changes. Luckily, I will get to try again next year in the hopes of making what I teach better. I want them to fall in love with government and its inner workings just like I have. Yet, I don't want to just read about it, or memorize facts, I want them to really experience it. So, this year I was sort of just flying by the seat of my pants trying to get something done and something taught. Now that I have my feet wet, I hope it gets better!

I also taught them about Economics. That terrified me every moment. I took Economics.... I understood enough of it and worked my butt off to get an A. However, scraping an A out of my Economics classes in University is completely different than teaching Economics.... AND there is math in Economics! I don't do math. When Makenzie (my 8 year old) brings home her 4th grade Math homework I break out in a cold sweat. Trying to teach something I barely understood was really shaking my confidence. So, I spent every night before class studying as much as I could, staying up late, reading my textbook, online articles, whatever I could to help me understand what I would be teaching the next day. I know I didn't fool my students. I know they knew I had no clue what I was talking about sometimes. I love that I work in a place though that allows for teacher input. In talking about what I was teaching I was able to find a solution. There were so many concepts I was teaching that were really not necessary for the students to learn about. Especially considering I only had about 8 or 9 weeks to teach it all! I've been able to make changes for next year now to teach Economics concepts that I am really comfortable with AND will be SOOOOO relevant to my students. This really excites me! I so wish I could have offered that to my students this year. I love each one of these kids now young adults and I think we could have had a blast in class if I had been more comfortable with the material I was teaching.

Lastly, I taught about different Worldviews. I have to say this was my favorite material... even though I LOVE government. We learned about Secularism, Post-Modernism, Marxism, Islam, Christianity, and New Spirituality. Again, I wish I had been more familiar with this material. I had so many ideas on how I wanted to teach it, but I just didn't have the time! I barely had the time to read the material and understand everything, and now that I have I finally have the time to find different ways of teaching it and helping the students understand and experience it. I so wish I could have made this experience better for them. Within Worldview I got to really challenge them to think about what they believe however, and I really enjoyed that, and I think for the most part they appreciated that the most about my class.

So, as the year came to a close I wrote a few words to share with them that I hoped they could take and use to inspire, encourage, and challenge them as they go out and begin their new adventure.

This is just a bit of what I shared with them:
"You have a come this far in life, you have had teachers, parents, coaches, and mentors pour into you. Trust your decisions and trust your dreams.... To achieve greatness and do something you never imagined possible you will have to break some rules. I have learned that sometimes in order to make things happen you have to just go with it and ask for forgiveness later.... Failure helps you avoid future failures. If someone never fails then they are more likely to trip up later, but if you fail you learn something and it makes you better. Sometimes, the lessons you learn from failing will be the ones that stick with you and will help you realize something you never even dreamed could be possible.... Don't listen to the people who say you can't. Take the opportunity to prove them wrong. Be confident in what you do, and take pride in your work. When someone tells me I can't do something I see it as a challenge to show him or her that it really was possible.... In some instances my determination to prove them wrong has then led me to find something new I didn't even know I loved!... Take each opportunity in which someone says you can't do something to inspire you to do something great!... Live life like this is your 2nd chance. (A lot of people and now these students know this is how I live my life and why). Are you spending your time on the right thing? Ask yourself this A LOT because time is all you have and you may discover one day you have less time left than you think. A lot of people want a short cut, but the best short cut is the long way. Which basically means just WORK HARD and work your butt off. And remember, no job is beneath you. If you get a job flipping hamburgers, you be really great at flipping hamburgers (or making pizzas as some of my students might consider one day). If you get a job cleaning toilets, you be really great at cleaning toilets.... You should always be looking for ways to give back to others. Find opportunities to invest in younger generations. Look for ways to help those less fortunate than you and truly show them you care. Explore the world, but not as a tourist. Explore the world and look for way's you could change people's lives, and you might just find your life is changed for the better. The way you perceive and react to the world is a choice. Make wise choices. Don't let the world make choices for you, because only you get to determine how you will respond to things you see and people you meet.... If you took one tenth of the energy you spend complaining and apply it to the problem you would be surprised by the result. No matter how bad things are you can always make them worse, so try to view even awful situations for the good that can come form them, and don't forget that even then it could be worse.... Some of the friendships you make at University will last a lifetime. Make wise choices in friends. YOU set the tone of the relationship and don't let someone lead you astray from what you know is right or wrong because you are looking for a group to fit in with or a place to belong.... Don't judge people by the way they look. You may discover some amazing people are hiding behind a lot of different exteriors. One of your best friends you make at University may appear completely different than you, but you might discover you have a whole lot in common. Ecclesiastes 4:9 - 12 says, "Two people are better than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back to back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple braided cord is not easily broken." Find you a person to stand back to back with and hang on to them.... Don't be afraid to leave your plans for a new dream... no matter how many times a new dream comes along... Be prepared for great opportunities... luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Make a plan, be okay with changing it, but have a plan so when the opportunity comes you are ready.... Don't forget God has a plan for you, and knows everything about you so even though you are venturing off to start a new chapter in your book, make sure that chapter includes time alone with God, and time with other believers who can build you up.... Your definition of success is going to change... A LOT!... What you envision as successful now will not be the same next year, and for sure not the same in 4 years of even in 10 years. Be okay with that definition of success changing. As you are shaped and as you learn some of the biggest lesson in life you will ever learn over the next 4 years think about what you view as success. Think about what is really important to you and hold on to that. When everything in this world one day fades away, how will you define success? You are about to embark on an incredible journey, and make some the best memories of your life, and have probably what you will say is the most fun you will ever have. Remember this is just the beginning though, and I know God had amazing things in store for all of you. Every single one of you has the potential to be an incredible influence on this world in so many different way, so go out and be great, go out and create a new definition of success that has yet to even be imagined."

I wish I could have added "I'm sorry you were the guinea pigs. The class that I had to practice with and learn from. I wish I could have made everything as great as I envisioned it. I am so glad that you were in my class this year. I truly loved every moment I got to spend getting to know you. I enjoyed watching you learn about yourselves and interact with one another. I think you all are so blessed to have such a great group of friends to continue on with, and don't take the foundation you have gained here for granted. At the end of the day I hope you learned a little about government, a little about different worldviews, maybe even a little about economics, but I hope more than anything you learned you have someone who cares greatly for you and about your future in me. And I hope you learned about yourself and your relationship with God. I hope that relationship was strengthened and I want you to know if you ever need anything I am happy to help! I can't wait to see how each one of you change the world.

That's what I wish I could have added. I wish I could have done so many other things, and now I am even more challenged to make next year so much better than this year was.

The end of the school year is a mix of emotions, but this year saying goodbye to these seniors, who have genuinely touched my heart, is quite a challenge. I plan to take better advantage of my time next year for sure!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Waiting... Waiting...Waiting...

Waiting can be really hard.

Lately in life I feel like all I've been doing is a lot of waiting. Waiting to determine if we would buy a new house. Waiting for my trip to Sri Lanka. Waiting for the school year to end. Waiting for the next big thing. It always seems like I am waiting for something.

Now that we have decided to stay at our current home, I am no longer waiting for that decision to be made but I am now waiting for us to finish some projects at the current house so I can organize and get some things settled. This week I am waiting for some students to finish an exam. Always waiting, waiting, waiting....

What I've discovered about waiting though is I can either let myself get depressed and in a funk about no progress being made, or I can maximize the time I have while waiting. I love a good countdown and I let that get me excited most of the time, but I can also get caught up in the number that never feels like it will pass. I find myself in a struggle to enjoy the moment because it always feels like I am waiting for something better. The here and now often starts to feel like the same old same old thing, and whatever I am waiting for will bring change and maybe even excitement.

Yet I think the biggest challenge is finding the excitement in the everyday and cherishing the moments I have right now. Making the best use of my time today so when some big moment does come I can fully enjoy it.

Saturday we had an amazing day as a family. And we didn't do anything incredible we just enjoyed the day. Yes, it was my youngest kid's 3rd birthday, but any day could have been like that day. We had breakfast together and just laughed, we went and the kids played at an indoor trampoline park which could have easily just been the neighborhood park, we ran a few errands all together which sometimes is annoying but was actually really fun, stopped to enjoy the waterwall we were near, and we ate dinner together and talked and enjoyed each others company and no one was on their phone, running around the restaurant, doing cartwheels in the booth, or crying (major accomplishment!). I realized on Saturday that so many times, we wait for some event to give us moments like that, when really we should make each day that way. There is no need to wait to enjoy the day. It's the whole Carpe Diem thing. Seize the day ... well really seize the moment! I mean really that's what it comes down to.

The goal this week for me has been to find at least one time a day to stop waiting and just enjoy what I have right in front of me, and to stop putting off things and pushing kids and family and whatever aside to wait for a better moment because this or that is more pressing or I just feel like it needs to wait till later.

No more waiting time to seize the moment!

Although I will keep waiting to see this place again... so in love with this little island....