Tears

The last time my school year began in tears, I was beginning my last year at my former school. I’m hoping a big change like that is not what God has in store for me this year, but nonetheless, the year has started the same way. 

Without getting too far into the specifics of this particular situation, I want to record my thoughts at the present moment, because I’m probably going to need to reference them again and again over the course of this year. 

I was talking to my aunt while we were on vacation, and she told me about a conversation she had with my other aunt back when they were both teaching. She confessed that both of them were haunted by the idea that this was going to be the year when somebody figured out that they really weren’t any good at what they were doing. She told me that in talking to other teachers she found this feeling was quite common. Certainly, it resonated with me. I remember saying those exact words during my first year of teaching. I remember thinking the feeling would fade, and while my confidence has grown, that feeling dies hard. 

I think that’s why, then, a parent’s relentless criticism can so easily get in my head. It’s because on some level, even though I know that I am doing my best and giving 100% to my students, I fear that it’s not enough. I know that I could be doing better. And it’s true, I could. That’s the thing about teaching though, I could always be doing better. There is always going to be something else to do. There is always going to be something I decide I need to change for next year so as to improve my practice. I make mistakes. I’m human. When there are kids in front of me though, I don’t want to be human, I want to be perfect. When a parent challenges that, it cuts right to the core, and gets straight at my insecurities and so, I found myself in tears today, humbly in front of my principal. 

In reflecting this evening though, I was suddenly struck by the thought that I feel a bit like Daniel entering the lions’ den. (What a great way to feel entering the year, huh?) Being struck by this though, in and of itself, felt like God’s provision. I can’t tell you how rarely I find myself drawn to a Bible verse or passage in times of trial. Usually, in times like these I find myself aimlessly searching through the Word for anything that will speak. I hope I can say without sounding too trite, that I felt overwhelmed by God’s love as that passage came to me. I reread it shortly before writing this post, and I left with a few take-aways. I may indeed find myself in the lions’ den this year. I know that I enter this year with a parent who stands ready to accuse me regardless of what I do or don’t do. What is important, is that I remain faithful to God. That I execute my duties at work in a way that is honoring to Him, that I go above and beyond the expectations and remember that when I work, I do so for the children, and for God. More importantly however, I must remain devoted to God, I must be praying, I must be feasting in Scripture, I must be worshipping at church. More and more I want these stories imprinted on my heart so that in difficult times such as this, the Word will continue to be one of the first things that springs to mind. It might be a tough year, or it might not, either way, I hope it will be one in which I grow in my faith.

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Reflections

I woke up thinking of Becky and Fran today. A general missing them turned into reliving the horrors of what April 13 must have been like for them. How they went to bed not knowing it would be the last time. How Becky (thankfully) never woke up. How Fran was faced with a choice, and chose to walk into the smoke blinded by the hope of saving her daughter. How I woke up to numerous text messages and missed calls, and how I returned that call to my mother knowing that nothing good was waiting on the other end of the line. I remembered how I went to the conference I was supposed to attend that day anyway, because I didn’t know what else to do. How I remember nothing from that day, except telling my coworker what had happened, and then sitting by the fire in the hotel reading news reports and facebook posts. It was a long morning. 

Eventually though I came to realize how foreign this feeling of the pain was for me now. How in traveling this path of grief, distance has given me a pleasant numbness so that when I think of Fran and Becky I mostly only think of the good memories. I miss them still, of course, but not in the same guttural way I did in the beginning. Time does not heal all wounds, but it does soften the blow a little. 

It was with some sadness that I came upon this realization though. I remember that first year wanting so badly to go back to that first day. Somehow knowing that I can’t change what happened, it seemed better to live in that first day, where nobody believed it, where nobody comprehended what had happened. I remember getting through that first year, the anxiety over every holiday, over every family vacation, the sadness in the knowledge that two someones were missing and would be forever. This second year has been different, and for that I am grateful. I no longer wish to go back to that day, although in a minute I would go back to the day before. I feel the pain still, but it comes in small, soft waves, the kinds that lap on your feet as the tide recedes instead of the kinds that knock you over. It’s different too because having walked this far down the road, I know that God has not abandoned me, even when times were unbelievably tough. I knew that He would not on the morning of the 13th, but there were some dark days in there when I feared that He had. In the way that only time can show, I know that truth now in a different and more real way. It’s not the way I would have chosen to learn that lesson, but in the midst of the grief, I am grateful that I have.

Natural Rhythms

Summer always gives me these grandiose ideas about what it would be like to live by the natural rhythms that the world provides. What would it look like for example to live without using electricity? It’s funny, I’ve been watching a lot of Downton Abbey this summer and in the first few episodes electricity is just beginning to make its way into the home. The general attitude about it seems to be somewhat flippant, “what do we need that for?” It’s funny, to see those scenes, to hear those comments about how electricity might be somehow dangerous or evil, but there’s a little part of me that thinks they might be a little bit right.

I think about how much of my time is consumed and dictated by electronic devices, how access to easy and bright lighting allows me to stay up as late as I want. It makes me think about how much of the rhythm of life can be easily disrupted by over-utilization of electricity. I suppose it’s that part of me that yearns for a seemingly simpler time, when families worked together for their sustenance, when they lived by the sun. I know it wasn’t actually that simple, that it was actually dangerous in many respects, but there is an appeal there too. 

I’ve thought about trying it sometime- waking up with the sun, going to bed when it sets… or just lighting a candle to do some quiet reading by, but I always fail. The temptation of a brighter light by which to read, or an e-mail account to check is often just too strong and I don’t have any great philosophical reasons to persevere in my experiment. Still there remains a small part of me that thinks it’d be fun to experiment.

Bored?

It’s been quiet here on the blog lately. I haven’t had all that much to say, though I promise I’ll try to update soon!

In the meantime, if you want to head over to my other blog, you can see what I’ve been up to this summer. Warning: It’s exceedingly dull, and really just an exercise for me to see where my time goes! In any case, here’s the link: http://simplysummer365.wordpress.com/

Happy Reading!

That Time of Year Again…

Oh how I am missing this. The late nights down by the river, just a sweatshirt enough to keep warm.

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The toes, covered in sand… with the flip-flop tan evidence of a summer well-lived

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And of course there’s this. The lazy days on the Cape. Days that seem to go on forever, but weeks that are entirely too short.

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It’s true… it’s that time of year again, and I’m dreaming of summer.

Coming Down from the Mountain

It’s a better place
Standing high upon this mountain
I’ve seen your face 
Full of the light that holiest height can show
Blessed hand is why you you’ve given
But you’ve been given all you’ll ever need
To know

So walk down this mountain
With your heart held high
Follow in the footsteps of your maker
With this love that’s gone before you 
And these people at your side
If you offer up your broken cup
You will taste the meaning of this life

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I spent the weekend at the Christ the King Women’s Retreat. It’s the same place that I was immediately before the fire last year. I remember coming home from the retreat feeling as though I was on the mountaintop, and less than 72 hours later finding myself about as deep in the valley as I’ve ever been. It was so hard to go back this year, and it was hard to be there, but I’m so glad that I did. 

I’ve learned so much this year, and having this time away helped me to summarize it for myself. It’s been back to basics this year- just me and Jesus. We focused this weekend on the reality of God’s provision, and it was not hard to look back and see the many ways that God has provided. Beyond that though, God does not just provide for our worldly needs. He has provided for us once for all. His perfect provision was the death of Jesus on the cross. Only he could be the perfect substitution for the sacrifices required for our sin. I may not understand all of His ways, but for His sacrifice and for His love for me, I am eternally grateful.

Urban Oasis

It’s April Vacation, and I’m sitting here on my patio enjoying the beautiful weather. It’s hard to believe that it’s April and I’m out in a skirt and a tank top! I am so grateful for this space. It’s a little outdoor corner of the world to call my own, and this summer I am determined to make the most of it. Already I’ve had many meals out here, and have taken to doing my morning correspondence on the patio as well. I mean really, if this was your view, how likely would you be to spend your time anywhere else!?

Perspective

Not only so but we rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has give us.

-Romans 5:3-5

I came across this familiar Scripture yesterday while reading through a Bible Study I am doing. “This is it,” I thought, “this is how I want to live my life.” This year has felt so full of suffering. The loss of three beloved family members in just 10 short months feels more than a little hard to take sometimes. It is easy to fall into the trap of questioning, but those questions have no satisfying answers. We live in a fallen world, and things happen that I don’t understand, but I know that as much as my heart breaks at the loss of my family members, so much more so does God’s. When I think of God as my Father, and when I think of Him as the Creator of these people I love so dearly, I realize that He weeps as well for their loss. That helps, but the perspective I’ve gained is contained in that verse above. I may suffer here, but I do want to take joy in that suffering because in the end, it produces a greater hope in my Savior, a greater hope that this world is not the one I was created for and that I will not languish here forever. I want to cling to that hope. I want to allow this pain to have meaning, to allow it to draw me closer to Christ, and as I read that verse last night I realized that it had.

I lived such an idyllic existence before. I had over 60 close family members and not a single one had passed away in the 28 years that I had lived. We vacationed together every year, spending up to three weeks in a tiny cottage on the Cape that only has beds for 13 but regularly sleeps closer to 30. Our collective pain as a family was limited, we had not yet lost anyone close. In this life, I was never forced to cling to Christ. I loved Him, I knew Him, I put my trust in Him, but there was a part of me that still felt that I was in control. That all changed on the 13th of April, and I think it took months for the shock to wear off, just in time for my aunt to pass away as well. In those months however, I have learned so much about the one I call my Savior. Would I have preferred to learn it a different way? Absolutely, but given the circumstances, I am grateful for the lesson.

Update – Just a few hours after I posted these words, my grandmother passed away. Even more so, I cling to the hope that is found in Christ.

Birth, Death, and the Time in Between

I stood by my aunt’s wheelchair on Thursday, softly touching her hand, as my grandparents and I went to visit. My aunt never looked at me, her head remained tilted to the right, her eyes in the direction of my grandmother. It was unclear whether she recognized us and with little to say, little comfort to bring to someone so close to death, my attention was pulled towards my grandmother. I watched as she grasped the hand of her oldest daughter. I watched as she said hello, reminded my aunt that she was her mom. I was not surprised by her words. What was surprising to me though was the look on my grandmother’s face. I expected a look of sympathy, or of sadness, or at the very least something neutral to grace my grandmother’s face. Instead, as I looked at my grandmother I saw a face that was positively beaming. As she said hello to her daughter for what would be the last time, I saw the look that I imagine she wore on the day she greeted her daughter for the very first. Here was the woman who had been with my aunt since the very beginning of her time on earth, here was a woman who had until a few years ago had every reason to believe she would avoid burying a child, here was a woman who was less than 24 hours away from hearing the words every mother hopes never to hear, and she was smiling at the sight of her dying child.

The smile I saw spoke volumes. In it, I saw the joy that my grandparents must have felt at bringing home their first child. I saw the pride they felt when she graduated from high school and then from their alma mater. I saw the memories of the 65 years they shared with her. I saw the admiration we have all felt watching my aunt live with ALS, such a debilitating disease. I saw the sadness too of course, but more than anything in that smile I saw a mother’s love for her child.

This death was different in that it was expected. We had time to say goodbye this time around, and in fact, because of the progression of the disease it felt much more as if my aunt had been taken piece by piece instead of all at once. The little bit of the suffering that I saw at the end was more painful than anything I can imagine, but in some small way I am grateful for the time that we had. I am grateful that we knew that time was limited. I am grateful that each time we said goodbye we were able to say it like it might be the last time. I am grateful that we did not leave any “I love yous” unsaid.

On the night that my aunt died, her sister stepped outside to look at the wide Wyoming sky. She felt the wind my aunt loved so much pass by her, a sweet reminder that my aunt always said to “look for her in the wind.” She looked up and saw two perfectly clear stars side by side in the night sky, and beneath them a perfect crescent moon- a reminder of those we have lost this year. It is hard not to hope that somewhere, somehow, they are all together again.

House Cleaning Success

Sorry to bore you with a post about house-cleaning, but I had to post since I have finally found a routine that actually keeps my house clean! Last Monday I spent about 6 1/2 hours deep cleaning my house. I cleaned everything. I cleaned baseboards, I cleaned under the bed, I moved the couch, I dusted, I vacuumed, I busted out the all-purpose cleaner. By the end of the day, the house was cleaner than it’s been in probably a year, and I was looking for an easy way to keep it that way. So, a quick internet search lead me to this blog post and I was pretty sure I’d hit gold. Over the past week I’ve done the daily resetting of the house as well as making sure my sink stays clean. The dishwasher doesn’t need to run every day so keeping the sink clean is my goal. Beyond that I’ve incorporated the daily chores and guess what? A week later, my house is just as clean as it was last Monday. There’s something about just tackling one surface a day that makes keeping things clean SO much more manageable!