The absence of light

candle-frame2I love the energy and excitement that surround the educational process. I love learning. I am passionate about reading and writing. I love the idea of sharing what I know with others – and even better – teaching others how to think and learn for themselves. I teach middle school English/Language Arts so one would think that I would be as happy as a clam that I get to do what I love every day. And I will admit there are flashes of those truly wonderful, teachable moments. But lately, I have just been drained of my passion and love for teaching and for learning. It makes me sad. I wish I could re-capture some of the excitement and figure out how to pass it on to my students…but lately that has not been the case. (I’m a little embarrassed to admit that – but I have to be transparent – or I should not even bother to blog). During one of our amazing early morning conversations, Brian helped me really get to the heart of why I have been pretty miserable lately at school. It’s not about kids who misbehave, or administrators who seem to be out of touch. It’s not even about parents who are practically non-existent in the lives of their children. I’m certain those things occur everywhere. The revelation that I had this early morning was that it is just dark here. There is no light. There is so much brokenness and hurt and pain that light has a hard time shining through. And when a glimmer of light seems to shine through, it is quickly extinguished. I try not to write negative posts – and I’m not trying to throw myself a pity party about my work situation. Again, I’m just trying to be real about life and about the hardships and struggles. Matt Chandler, in his latest message, spoke about people who “pretend” things are ok and great – just so they will appear to be further in their walk than they really are. I don’t want to be one of those people who pretend all is well and that I am positive all the time and that nothing gets to me because I am a strong woman of faith. Rather, because I am a strong woman of faith, I can be real about life and problems and darkness, and know that God meets me where I am and loves me for who I am. I pray daily that I could be a light to someone here in my school. But reality hits me that it may not look the way I think it should. I know in my heart that some people occasionally stand in just a glimpse of the light in me…but I feel that most of the time, that light is swallowed up by the thick darkness of the world in which I work. It is my prayer now and going forward that I do not ever relent in my desire to shine. That I do not ever let the darkness of the world snuff out the candle I carry. And that I commit to memory that there really is NO such thing as darkness….it is just the absence of light. May my light NEVER be absent in this place.

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Just Stay Calm

So today I came home with such a heavy heart. Teaching middle school is challenging! Teaching middle school in an urban setting – surrounded by poverty, drugs, fights, absent parents, etc) is even more challenging. It is a tough, but at times a rewarding gig. But some days….

This afternoon I had, in my opinion, a less than pleasant interaction with a co-worker and it has really brought me down. Six hours later I am still carrying around the weight of feeling disrespected and I can’t seem to shake it.

And as I sit here, I’m thinking things like “I really need to find another job” or “Just wait until I see her next week and tell her what I really think about her.” But here’s the problem with both of those thoughts. I don’t want to find another job. That school is my own mission field. I am certain that God hand-picked me for this place. And I know that in very small ways I share Jesus with them by just loving on them. And I’m not going to tell her anything that is not of God…because as a Christ follower I am to reflect Christ in all of my actions and words. And what on really think is maybe she was having a lousy day. Maybe she is dealing with more than I know. Maybe she needs someone to share Gods love with her.

It’s amazing what happens when I stop trying to manage life on my own and actually let go and let God show me what my life should look like. God speaks to me in so many ways. Today, in the midst of my struggles, my husband sent me this verse…”The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:14. It was precisely what I needed to hear. And though it came in the form of a text message from Brian, I’m certain that God placed Brian in my life to journey with me through this life. As I sit here and type I am enveloped In sense of calm and comfort. I’m certain that God is here with me…”For God has said,’I will never fail you.I will never abandon you.'”

I know that in each and every encounter God is teaching me a lesson, helping me grow, or simply displaying His love for me. I am grateful for the tears that flow from trying times, because I know that out of those tears come joy. And while there are days that I question my place in such a challenging school, I know that this is God’s plan for me. God called me to this place to do good.

1 Peter 2:21 “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.”

Discipline creates desire

“When you don’t feel like it, do it anyway. Discipline creates desire, not the other way around.”

I recently came across this quote and thought it was perfect for my goals for the summer. I started my very first week of summer break with the goal of working out a minimum of 4 times a week. Now, throughout the school year my alarm tears me out of sleep at 4:30 every morning. And here I was setting a goal to get up at 5:00am (sleeping in for a half hour) at least 4 times a week in order to get in shape and change my lifestyle. Which leads me to why this quote seemed so appropriate for me this summer. There have been many mornings that I do not feel like it. Many mornings. But I kept telling myself that the more disciplined I could become toward my goal, the more desire I would have to keep at it. It has truly been a phrase that I believe has made a difference…but not just toward my physical goals. Another goal that I have set for myself (and I think most Christ-followers do) is to be more immersed in God’s word – in order to be closer to Him each day. I love to read and study and learn…and I cannot even name the closeness that being in the word has brought me. But I’m not going to lie – sometimes it is hard. At times the frustration that I feel trying to “understand” outweighs the feeling of closeness that I get. One of my Bible study groups right now is studying the book of Isaiah. Let me just say that I didn’t even know that I didn’t know so much. It has been such a challenge. But the same principle that I have applied to my physical way of life has been so beneficial to me growing my spiritual side. There are times when I don’t feel like sitting down and trying to understand or to apply the word to my life. That’s the truth (and I feel guilty for saying that)…but the more disiciplined I become in my time with God through his word, the more desire I have to do it more. God has planted that desire in my heart to learn and study and spend time with him. It has been an amazing transformation for my spiritual life. The times that I don’t feel like it are few and far between in both my workouts and my study time. I see and feel the physical benefits of my early morning workouts, and I see and feel my relationship with God and the conviction in my heart growing as a result of my time alone with His divine teachings. My desire to serve God and to share Him with others is stronger than ever before. So glad that I came across this quote and that it has made such an impact of my every day.

People Person

I have never been one to have a big circle of “friends.” Never had real close longtime friends. Sometimes that would bother me – make me wonder what was wrong with me? Or what was wrong the other people that they didn’t want to be my friend. But for the most part, I have been good with not being especially social and kind of being alone. Over the last few years I have done a lot of looking inward and thinking about who I truly am and why I am that way (sometimes being self-aware is no fun). What I have really learned about me is that I have been the one who has chosen to not have friends. I seemingly got along with a lot of people, but rarely let anyone “in” or close. It has been my choice to keep people at a distance. Until now. The relationship that I have with God is all about love. His love for me…and in turn me showing that love to others. You’ve kind of got to be a “people person” to show and share that love. It’s not that I don’t like people, or that now I am faking it. Now that I have truly felt the love of God and  have seen it working and alive in my daily walk, I want to share it with others. What has been really great about this growth process is that I have been blessed with some absolutely amazing people to get to know. God brought me my best friend, my ministry/accountability/study partner, and the love of my life – Brian! (I could gush and get all sappy here – but I will spare you…just know I love him to pieces). God has also challenged me to leave my comfort zone and to open up to other new people. I have met some increible women of faith who are genuine and authentic. They love God and during our times together are so real…they share the good, the bad, and the ugly. I am awed that God loves me so much that he has sent me such Godly sisters from whom I can learn so much. I have also been given the blessing of serving many beautiful people who are broken and lost and in true need of Jesus. People who just want to be heard and loved. I love listening to their stories, and sharing mine. God has pushed me out of my “shell” and has given me so much strength. While I don’t feel worthy all all of His blessings and mercy, I am so grateful that He loves me extravagantly enough to not leave me the way I was – but rather to lead me to becoming the person I am becoming…a people person.

Sleeping through my storm…

Recently Brian and I started a small group in conjunction with a series called “Fearless” we had been doing at Foundation Community Church. The study is based on a book of the same name by Max Lucado. So far there have been so many things that have really stuck with me. I’ve been asking myself what it is that I am truly most afraid of. Where do those fears come from? And on and on. And as a follow up to all of those questions, how do I react when my fears control me. There is a story of Jesus and his disciples climbing onto a boat one day. Jesus took a nap. While he was sleeping a violent, fierce storm blew up. The disciples immediately questioned Jesus by asking him if he didn’t care if they died. This reaction has always interested me. They knew what he was capable of…they just wanted to know why he wasn’t helping them. They were questioning his character. They were frustrated and angered even. My big take away from this lesson is that Jesus knew all along what was going on. He didn’t “accidentally” fall asleep. He purposely slept – for the disciples to grow in their faith and understanding. It makes me wonder how many times God has gone to sleep so that I could grow. How many times have I become angry at God for seemingly not caring that I was suffering? I know that he has slept through some of my storms so that I would come out better on the other side. That’s a lot of love. I see my responses in the words of the disciples. I have questioned God and his love for me. And through the course of each of those storms, my faith has grown. God loves me enough to sleep through my storms.

My mission field

The past month at school has been a rough one. Not rough due to the behavior of my students, or because of the insane expectations that have been put on the staff by our administration (insane is putting it lightly), but rather by the situations that many of my students are in. Everyday I hear stories that are hard for me to understand…hard for me to even fathom. Many of my students face daily challenges that I will never know. They are neglected, hungry, Continue reading

Random…

Today, at the end of yet another exhausting school day, I stumbled into the teacher workroom. It usually takes me about 15 minutes after the students leave for the day to de-tune and re-group before I can even think about the pile of work that awaits me in my classroom. Today, when I checked my mailbox, hoping there was not more work to add to my list, I was so surprised to find a king size of my favorite candy bar. Attached to this 2.6 oz. treasure was a note that simply said “Sending positive thoughts your way…” This made my day! I was truly touched that someone thought enough of me to take the time to buy my favorite candy bar (or to even know what my favorite candy bar is), to attach a note, and to sneak it into my mailbox. Wow…how special that random act of kindness was to me. I will make it a point to “pay it forward” tomorrow and try to make someone else smile. Hopefully, someday we will live in a world where random acts of kindness become less random and more the norm.