Sunday, October 20, 2013

She had no idea...

She was taken to the doctor to get a few stitches in the back of her head when she was about 10 years old. A boy had thrown a rock at her head during recess. Because of her insanely high pain tolerance, she had no idea that anything was even wrong. She just walked around the playground, dripping blood, without a care in the world.

My sister struggled to "connect" with the world. She had autism and mental retardation. She did not say her first words until she was 5 years old. She was known for looking up to the sky while singing a song to herself. She was known for memorizing things. Entire movies she had seen once. People's names that she had met only once.

We shared a bedroom our entire childhood and teenage life. As a young child, I did not know any different. My sister was sister. That's the way it was and she never bothered me.

In my teen years, as I started to think more in depth about the things of life, I began to feel sad for her. I would think, "She has no idea what she is missing out on by not being able to connect with this world." I thought about how she didn't have real friends like I had, or how she would never marry and have kids like I would, or how she would never get her license and drive like I would. And it just blew my mind that she had NO idea that she was missing out on any of that. No idea... Because she was in Erin world. A world that so many people that loved her tried to break into.

I always wondered what life would be like for her as an adult. And again would feel sad thinking about her future compared to what mine would probably be.

Little did I know that she would touch more lives than I ever would. Its funny how God gives such purpose to the most unlikely people. She had no idea that God was using her all along, nor did she even fully comprehend who God was, but he sure was using her.

The day that she passed away was devastating and weirdly peaceful at the same time. Peaceful because I knew she was with the one who made her exactly the way He wanted her. It all made sense and came to closure for me. I did not need to feel sad for her for what she was missing out on or what her future would hold. For she lived a life of purpose. Maybe not intentionally...but it was purposeful. I now know that God's purpose for our life far outweighs the drivers licenses, friends, husbands and kids that I wished Erin could have.

I am blessed to have grown up with that girl. Sure, hearing a song at 2am or fighting for the shower because she took 15 showers a day drove me crazy, but I have been given a new perspective. A perspective that comes from God through people like Erin about what is important in life. And what is important is Jesus Christ.

My former youth minister and dear friend, Donovan, spoke at her funeral and said something that I will never forget. He said, "Erin's life is an interesting thing. She has unknowingly taught people so much about God's character that in the end, she fades away, we fade away, and all that is left is God." Nothing more honorable can be said of someone than that. I pray that my life will do the same.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Being relevant and putting bloggers articles in their proper place.

This article really paints an accurate picture of what is happening all over America. Even for churches that try hard NOT to be like this... its still a huge temptation to give in to the "Lets be more relevant... more cool!" motive when planning and making decisions for the church.

As much as I love our Sunday School curriculum that we use with our 7th-12th graders, I see this desire to be relevant to our "hard to reach youth" written in their lessons as well. Nearly EVERY lesson has an activity or discussion question centered around modern day celebrities. Sure, I get it. That is what youth are familiar with. Good teachers are supposed to take what they know and build upon it. But I feel like talking about celebrities within the context of scripture just minimizes the power of God's word. Also, if we are encouraging our youth to "set their minds on things above" then talking about Hollywood gossip just feeds their desire to set their minds on "earthly things." Besides...I don't have a clue who half of those people are anyway.

I have struggled for a long time as the wife of a youth minister. I love our teenagers, but have always felt like I don't relate to them well. I didn't even relate well to teenagers when I WAS a teenager. I've struggled with thoughts about not being effective, them not liking me, and beating myself up over a teen who doesn't want to come back to church. I've learned that relevance to youth cannot ever take place of me loving them and more importantly God loving them.

Doug Fields, former youth pastor of Saddleback church, preached on this topic at the SYM conference a few years ago. He warned us to stop trying to be so relevant. We don't have to make it relevant because Jesus IS relevant to teenagers. He has everything that teens are looking for in life.

The above article is a great read...However... I'm going to begin a second soap box now about articles like the one above....

Facebook has had many phases over the past year or two. There has been the phase of, "Like if you agree, Comment if you don't" on all political issues. There is the pictures of ladies dressed in the 1800s sitting on "settees" with a funny quote that was obviously not said in that time era. And here lately, the big thing has been links to articles from bloggers. The kinds of articles I'm seeing lately either have to do with being a mom (like the ones saying that you don't have to be a pinterest pooping super-mom) or they have to do with how to reach today's changing millennials and culture for Christ.

As thought provoking and helpful as these articles are, I fear that too many well intentioned Christians (myself included) are spending more time reading these than the Bible itself. That we are placing more value on what a talented blogger says about these topics rather than what God says. When we know that we are struggling to be a good mom or that we are struggling in the ministry and church to reach those around us, we run straight to a good Christian blogger instead of running to our knees in prayer...asking for God's mercy and strength to guide us. May we never value a human's words more than the life-changing words of God himself.

And yet, this very blog post is kind of ironic. I'm urging all of us to stop dwelling on bloggers words in my own blog post. :/

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Take a drink

In my few years of teaching, I've come in contact with quite a few very troubled students. Their troubledness combined with the fact that they are also only 5, brings some big crying fits. And I'm not talking about little temper tantrums. Most people would think, "Kindergartners can't do that much damage when they are upset." Let me assure you that some of the most violent angry outbursts I've ever seen came from a former student that was a 30 pound 5 year old.

That being said, I've tried lots of different approaches with these angry fits. And there is one ridiculously simple approach that I swear by and seems to work most of the time. 

I just tell them "Take a drink."

I have a little girl that has taken many a trip to the water fountain in my classroom. She is a scraggly haired girl, with holes in her uniform clothes, and shoes that are 2 sizes too big. She is normally happy, but when she snaps, she snaps big. 

I walk her to the water fountain. She doesn't even know that's what she needs, so she doesn't take a drink when asked. I have to turn the knob for her and gently push her head toward the flow of water.

Its pretty amazing to watch her (and other students who have done the same thing) as she takes in the rehabilitating water. She is still trying to scream as the water is being gulped in. But within a few seconds her eyes close, she grows silent, her body loosens from stubborn stiffness and she is guzzling in this water that she didn't even know she needed.

When she is calm, she pulls away and I always ask, "Are you better?" She gives a calm nod and then we are able to have a reasonable conversation.

There is something about drinking water that is calming and satisfying for these types of students. It regulates their breathing so that they can no longer cry and scream. It also distracts them from their intense emotions and current situation.

I see so much of myself in that scraggly haired girl in those moments. I have moments of hurt feelings, ruined plans, or pushed buttons that make me completely melt down. Yet there is this readily available to me. And I forget that I need it.

"...But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." -John 4:14

We, by nature, have desert souls. We are dry and desperately thirsty. We crawl through the desert reaching for worldly pleasures to temporarily quench our thirst. But yet, there is a spring right before our eyes that will leave us eternally satisfied. Thank you, Jesus, for letting me take a drink. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Your fast days...

Isaiah 58 has totally rocked my world tonight. I read it 3 times in a row as tears flowed down my cheeks. I usually try not to depend on The Message version too much for true interpretation, but this was too powerful to ignore. Conviction swept through the little crevices in my soul. Especially during this season of Lent.

The Hebrew word for the word "fast" means to "cover the mouth" or "abstain." The purpose is to turn our eyes off the things of this world and back onto God in order to help us remember that we are not self-sufficient. That only God can satisfy our souls.

Isaiah 58:1-9

“Shout! A full-throated shout!

Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,
face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

“Well, here’s why:

“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.

You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
a fast day that I, God, would like?

“This is the kind of fast day I’m after:

to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

Lent is something I've never participated in or even thought about. But I thought I'd give it a shot this year not realizing the effect it would have in just 2 weeks.
I decided to give up Facebook on my phone. I deleted the app. And because I don't have my own laptop, I just use Jeff's laptop at the end of the day to "check in" with Facebook. I thought that when I would get to finally look at facebook at the end of the day that I would be on forever trying to catch up on the scoop of everyone's life. I'm finding that I don't even desire to know. And in all reality, why did I ever think that the countless duck lips poses, gun control rants, and to be honests were anything I needed to know about? And if my relationship with Christ is judged one more time by whether or not I like his picture or keep scrolling, then I'm going to scream.

Its a shame that Lent has been portrayed as a Christian version of the New Years Resolution. I am realizing that it should be so much more than that. To be "more self disciplined" is not the point. To profit from fasting to show a "better version of yourself" is not the point either. Because we all know that to make more of us is to make less of God.

I thought I'd miss it, but now I'm realizing that it is liberating. I have time to "be available to my own family" as this scripture says. I have freed up mental capacity to think about the injustice that concerns our God. I pray that this is just the beginning of liberating my time and energy to know my God more. That through my tiny sacrifice of facebook that I would cling instead to His sacrifice on the cross and more importantly, his resurrection. I pray that God will show me how to turn my fast days into the kind of fast days that He is after. The kind that shows love and compassion to the least of these. The kind that makes less of me and more of Him.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Simple Woman's Daybook

For Today, Sunday, January 20, 2013

Outside my window...absolutely beautiful day! After a late arrival last week at school for icy roads, the 65 degree weather this weekend was much welcomed. We spent much of our time on Saturday outside because I know winter is not over, and we may not have a chance to be out for awhile.

I am remembering...when my babies were babies. I have not gotten rid of a single bit of the kids clothes. I finally convinced myself that it was ok to let go of it. If I have another kid, clothes can be replaced. Right? Anyway, I'm giving clothes to friends and family that are having babies, but I weeded through and kept some of the "special" clothes. Their first outfits to wear home from the hospital, Easter dresses, favorite jerseys, etc. It was a sweet time going through and remembering that stage of life that each kid wore that certain outfit in. 

I am thankful It seems like the past 2 months have just been completely full of tragic news. On top of the Connecticut shooting has been news of families that we know that lost a loved one too soon and sudden. Jeff and I witnessed a kid get hit by a car in December in front of my school. He is doing fine now, but that was the worst thing that I ever saw happen. Could have been so much worse. Things like that, though, put everything into perspective. Suddenly, my "problems" are not as much a burden when I realize how fortunate me and my family are to be together and safe.

I am creating... I bought a basic wooden doll house at a garage sale for 5 bucks yesterday. Nothing fancy. No doors or windows or anything. But I'm excited to paint it and decorate it to give Carley for her birthday. Cannot believe she will be 3 in June!

I am going... to Hot Springs, Arkansas in March. The 4 of us, along with my parents, will be going to stay in a little cabin and just play! We will go do something fun everyday, but I'm most excited about just playing outside and doing some fishing with the kids at the lake.

I am reading... I JUST started The Hobbit. I saw the movie and loved it, so I will spend the next 4 years reading it. (Lol. I hate how slow I am at reading books. If I just didn't need to sleep then this wouldn't be a problem.)

I am hoping... that this is the year of unpiling everything that has piled up on top of us from last year. Last year we got piled up with baby clothes, medical bills, and tree limbs! So our immediate plans include getting rid of all of that. Man, its going to feel good when all of it is gone. 

On my mind... my motivation behind my busy-ness. (See "Pondering these words...")

From the learning rooms...I have a super sweet class. Its been a fun year. Some of my students are about to start the Accelarated Reader program (Colin gets to start that too, in his class!) and ALL students are taking books home to read every week. 

Pondering these words... "We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." -1 Thessalonians 1:3
From the kitchen... Jeff is planning on brewing up a mean stew tomorrow. And when all of that is gone, breakfast for dinner is in the works. I've been craving breakfast for dinner for a while!

Around the house... We will be having a garage sale here in the next few months. The goal is to raise money to get a new shed. But...because we don't have a shed (and don't have a garage) all the stuff that will go into the garage sale are piled up in our guest bedroom. So I guess that is another thing that has piled up on us. Ready for it to all go!

One of my favorite things... having Colin at the same school as me. He has done SO well this year. I wondered if he would have a hard time adjusting and if that would distract me from my job, but it has not been a problem at all. We have our little system about what he does after school when I'm still "on the clock" and its just been good. I love the little waves and whispered "I love you's" that I get in the hallway when I see him. And he is reading like crazy! I love hearing him read his book after school in my classroom. He is such a good good boy.

A picture from my album... My Carley girl got her first haircut. We only cut 2 inches, just to even it all out. But she seemed to feel pampered. She kept saying, "Wook, Mama! She's bwushin my hao!"

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A weird Monday...

I had tears in my eyes the whole way to work, my heart racing at how I should even respond on a day like today. I didn't even want to go to that place but knew I was completely responsible for making today as "normal" as possible. 

I visualized my classroom and decided I could fit every single one of my students in my bathroom if needed in an emergency. A 50+ year old bathroom that I have always complained about smelling so bad, has suddenly become a bit comforting to me.

I walk in the door holding my little boy's hand and drop him off in the cafeteria, as is our normal routine. I smile and tell him to have a good day, but I'm really wanting to just take him home and go get my baby girl at the daycare as well. I exchange looks with coworkers and administrators as I walk to my classroom. Lots of smiles and "Good morning!" exchanges. But their eyes look weary and nervous.

Its an understood sentiment among the teachers and staff that no one wants to be there, but yet at the same time, today is a day that a teacher's calling has never been felt stronger.

When 20 young children are killed just a few days before in the Newtown, Connecticut shooting, parents are upset. Teachers are upset. Some of the older students who understand what happened are upset. 

Since becoming a mother, I have grown to love interacting with my student's parents. I love parent conferences. I love seeing their faces beam with pride when I talk about their child. I even love seeing the loving look of concern when something is wrong. I love helping those parents who want to help their child but just don't know how. I know what they want to hear and how to word what they may not want to hear. But on this solemn Monday, I was hoping to avoid all parents because all of a sudden I couldn't tell them what they wanted to hear. I couldn't promise that their child was perfectly safe. I couldn't promise that I had what it took to keep 22 students from being harmed by a crazy person. 

As a teacher, you are responsible for the mass production of thriving and successful individuals. How devastating when that all comes to a screeching hault because of something that is completely out of a teachers control. 

That Monday was a wonderful day, however. We searched the school building for a "missing" gingerbread man that had run away. The secretary, nurse, librarian, custodian, etc. all played along as we asked them if they had seen our gingerbread man. Our secretary even sent me an email from the gingerbread man himself. We returned to our classroom to find the gingerbread man safe and sound and with a special gingerbread cookie snack at each seat. I've done this every year, but I cannot even explain the emotion that rose in me as we came in and my students reacted. Huge eyes, jumping and laughing, covering their mouths in disbelief that the gingerbread man came back with snacks for every one. One boy came to me and said, "This has been a weird day. But a really really great day!" I could not have said it better myself. 

I like to end my blog posts with a solution or an answer. A verse that wraps it up or something. But I've got nothing. I think I'm ok with the fact that through this tragedy I'm left with fear and humility. Yet at the same time I'm left with a confirmation of my calling to teach and an urgency to do it well.