Monday, December 31, 2018

Reflections. 2018. Grace.

In every single “year end review” that has been posted I have seen a common thread: this year was … Not a good one. The word that I actually want to use can be abbreviated to two letters : C. F.
The world hurt. Our country hurt. Alienation and angst prevailed. On a global scale. On a national scale. On a local scale.

And, sadly, on a family scale as well. Not our immediate family, as in our kids and grands, but in the family as a whole. Kind of a general hot mess.
SO, so many face-palm moments. Mike and I prevailing our own current event conversations usually went something like this:
“Hey, did you see….” or "Did you know..." or "Did I mention..."
And then 'yes' or 'no' depending on the appropriate answer.
Most often followed by, “Are you serious?” 
And then we would sigh. Together. And just look at each other, because,  really, what was there to say?
My confession is that I did not hate this year. 
Despite all the uncomfortable, we were blessed beyond measure and the hard stuff has brought about movement in a better direction. This has been a year of personal reflection and acknowledgement of things holding me back. 
It has been a year of intense hard work, followed by victory laps and our own version of the Hallelujah chorus. Small breakthroughs put me on a path of continuous change. And, 20 years in, I have a stronger hand than ever holding my own and joining me on this path. 
It has been a year of so many changes, changes that have both devastated me, shocked me, sent me to my knees, left me trembling, but never, ever alone. In the darkest of nights I have had the strength of a great love and The Great Love, both protecting my heart and never allowing it to become hardened.
I have seen so many prayers answered this year that my faith feels just a little stronger, and my heart is renewed with mercy and (I hope) kindness and generosity and hope for the year to come. 
And I saw superheroes this year. The "girls" and I gave away a dream wedding. We went to New York City. Fourteen brides married their guys in our venue this past calendar year. The B&B and venue together matched my teacher's income. We added two tiny container cabins to our rental inventory. Our 9 greatest delights continue to be our 3 amazing children, their wonderful spouses, and our 3 beautiful grands. We have the two BEST fur babies known to man.
And - if possible - I fell more madly, deeply in love with Michael Joe Wilder.
This was a profoundly difficult year. Painful in many ways that many will never, ever know about.
This was an amazing year. Beautiful in so many ways that it would be shameful for me not to proclaim it from the rooftops.
My word for this year was grace and - truly - it has been a year of grace.

A year of receiving grace and year to extend it. To others. And to myself. 
As I sit here on this NYE, reflecting on the 365 days gone by and looking forward to the ones ahead, I wonder what my next word will be...
I don't know yet...
For the next few hours I'll continue to hang onto to GRACE and continue to be thankful for what it means in my life and in the life of those I love so much.
...Happy New Year's!!!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

When the teacher gets taught.

Last year I had a scary thing happen in my classroom.  It was not a fight. It was not a medical emergency. It was not a student that found my authority benign.
In the midst of another lesson and practice at analyzing a literary passage, I was passionately probing my students to go further. I had asked the most important question, “Why?!” for at least the tenth time.  I was pointing out symbolism and metaphor and asking “So, what? Why does it MATTTERRRR?”  with a maniacal grin on my face. 
If you are an English teacher, you KNOW the face and grin that I refer to. It's when we're in our element; in those discussions where the "light bulb" moments tend to happen, where "teachable" moments occur, those instances where students don't realize it at the time, but they'll return two, ten, maybe twenty years from now and tell you the EXACT second when. They. Finally. Understood.
I have found that my passion can be contagious. If only for a few. My students get a glimpse into a deeply rooted belief that it is all about something bigger. Story is what holds humanity together. The stories we read matter, and the stories we write with our lives matter even more.
But as I was oozing enthusiasm as only crazy English teachers can, I heard a whisper:
“It doesn’t.”
The voice seemed so loud I almost thought a student actually said it. But they didn’t. I scanned the room for hints of dissent, but in that moment every student was present; engaged and trying to break the code that only I seemed to understand.
I kept going, calling on every student brave enough to take a stab at the interpretation. But with every hand I called on the voice became louder.
This does not matter.” 
“What are you doing?” 
“How is this helping them?”
“Seriously, what are you doing with your life?”
It came from within. This voice I could not name was accusing me of wasting my life. I pushed through the day, believing that it was just that, a bad day. However, as the days turned to weeks and the weeks to months this voice haunted me nearly everyday.  I was rounding into the second semester at a new school, with the most supportive administration I had ever had, and quite honestly some of the loveliest children I had ever met, and I hit a wall.
Let me pause and even backtrack a bit and say that I do not think this was a divine voice (aka the voice of God) speaking to me in the middle of our reading of The Glass Castle and questioning whether or not my vocation was making a difference in the life of my students. 
As a daughter of a public educator, I've lived my entire life believing in the fundamental power blocks that make up the system. I believe that every child deserves a healthy system that works amazingly well for them, that serves them fully and well, and this includes well educated, enthusiastic teachers that love their jobs and their subject matter and that strive to bring their 'A' game to the classroom every single day. 
I knew (still know) that my job was not only important, but crucial to my students. But there was something new brewing, and it was also crucial and something that I knew I would be wise to not ignore. 
Long story short, a miraculous thing began to take place in my 5th period class, a class of self-proclaimed "mis-fit" seniors. When I took myself out of the picture and let it become a student-led class (within reason) something beautiful began to happen, and for the first time in my teaching career I was able to partake in a God-thing so healing and so nurturing that I was as changed as those 12 students that sat in a circle that they themselves established in our room. On more than one occasion, the bell would ring and no one would budge. The air amongst us was truly that sacred. We were afraid to move, afraid to disturb or hurry what was happening amongst us. 
The day I said good-bye to those 12 was one of the hardest - and one of the most exhilarating - of my career to date. Hard because the human side of me was going to miss them something fierce. Exhilarating because I knew they were truly, TRULY amazing human beings that were going to thrive and flourish and one day make a difference on the world around them. 
At the end of each day. At the end of each year. At the end of each career...isn't that what teaching is all about?

Monday, December 17, 2018

End of year thoughts.

Jesus is the bread of life. His word feeds our souls.  Just like we can’t go more than a couple days without food, this is a perfect reminder that we cannot go more than a couple days without Jesus.  
Without depending on him fully, and letting His spirit dwell and direct our lives completely. 
How do we do this?  We KNOW Him more.  There is always more to know about Jesus. And “there is nothing compare to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ” (Philippians 3:8). The Word is our way of knowing Him more, and  - just like spending more time with those we love - we fall more deeply in love...this time with Him. 
In our lives we love the people that we “know” really well.  The same is true for our relationship with the Lord.  Although He loved us when we did not know him, as humans we cannot love Him unless we know him.  Therefore the the verse “taste and see that the Lord is good” should continually have fresh meaning for us.  
This year has been a transforming one. Maybe future blog posts will catalog some of it; maybe some of it will remain private. But as the calendar year comes to an end, I seem to have a deepening awareness of His presence in all things. The word “taste” no longer simply refers to tasting food that the Lord has created, but it refers to “tasting” the word which He spoke from the beginning of creation. I want to feed on His word more than I feed on food.
Jesus, may the bread of life (John 6:35) sustain both my body and my soul. Amen.