Jesus= Awesome

It's late on Christmas night and Nate and I just finished reading Matthew's account of the Christmas story as well as the first 15 or so verses in John. As Christmas approached this year I found myself drawn to both Luke and Matthew's account of the story and of Jesus's early life. Each time I read about Jesus I am captivated. It blows my mind that He was so full of unconditional love when He knew that He was here on Earth to die for sinners like me. In the words of Dave Matthews in "Christmas Song" He was here "to shed a little light on this darkening scene." I know that I am not worthy of His grace, but nonetheless, He has offered it to me. I got some pretty sweet Christmas gifts this year from my family, but grace is the best gift I could ever receive.

Anyway, it's getting late, but the song I mentioned above is a beautiful song that reminds me of how awesome Jesus is. If you have a few minutes to spare, check out the song by clicking on the link below. I hope all of you reading this had a blessed Christmas and stayed safe and warm!

"Christmas Song" by: Dave Matthews
She was his girl; he was her boyfriend
She'd be his wife and make him her husband
A surprise on the way, any day, any day
One healthy little giggling dribbling baby boy
The wise men came, three made their way
To shower him with love
While he lay in the hay
Shower him with love love love
Love love love
Love love was all around

Not very much of his childhood was known
Kept his mother Mary worried
Always out on his own
He met another Mary who for a reasonable fee,
less than reputable was known to be.

His heart full of love love love
Love love love
Love love was all around

When Jesus Christ was nailed to his tree
Said "oh, Daddy-o, I can see how it all soon will be
I came to shed a little light on this darkening scene
Instead I fear I've spilled the blood of our children all around"

The blood of our children all around
The blood of our children's all around

So I'm told, so the story goes
The people he knew were
Less than golden hearted
Gamblers and Robbers
Drinkers and Jokers, all soul searchers
Like you and me
Like you and me

Rumors insisted he soon would be
For his deviations
Taken into custody
By the authorities less informed than he.
Drinkers and Jokers all soul searchers
Searching for love love love
Love love love
Love love was all around

Preparations were made
For his celebration day
He said "eat this bread and think of it as me
Drink this wine and dream it will be
The blood of our children all around
The blood of our children's all around
The blood of our children all around

Father up above, why in all this hatred do you fill
Me up with love, love, love
Love love love
Love love was all around
Father up above, why in all this anger do you fill
Me up with love, fill me love love love
Love love love
all you need is love
you can't buy me love
Love love love
Love love
And the blood of our children's all around


December happenings

December is cRaZy!!! It seems like this month has been so stressful; I've come home many nights and have been so mentally and physically exhausted. Oftentimes it's been a struggle just to get out of bed in the morning--BUT this month has had quite a few high points. Here are a few of them:
An ugly sweater party...

Little suprises from my husband...on Saturday our school hosted the ACT and my room was used as a testing room so all of my posters and bulletin boards were either covered up or taken down and my desks were shuffled out of order. On Saturday Nate went into my room without me knowing to re-organize it and while he was in there he left me this huge parfait dish of candy and a sweet card. Then today as I was bragging to the secretaries about how my husband did the grocery shopping for this week and has even made two meals so far, I spotted a beautiful bouquet of flowers. To my suprise they were for me from Nate!

Great happenings at OHS...this week I found out I was awarded an $1100 grant that I had applied for earlier this year from the Mid-Nebraska Community Foundation. The grant will go towards the purchase of digital cameras and video recording equipment to use in my classroom! And--tomorrow we are having a large Christmas dinner during the lunch period. We'll set up banquet tables in the gym and have ham, potatoes, and the teachers all bring pies and salads. Nate and I spent tonight making turtle pumpkin pie and a salad that didn't turn out so hot. I'm SO excited :)


Driving home along HIghway 30

This is a poem that has been revised three times that I wrote on a drive from Columbus to Ogallala early this semester. All of the place conscious reading we did in my class caused me to think about the fate of small towns; this poem is a reflection of that.

Driving home along Highway 30

As I drive down Highway 30, through Silver Creek
I see the meat locker my Uncle Richard once owned.
The Silver Creek Locker sits along the edge of the highway
with butcher paper covering the windows
that have been damaged, I assume, from rocks
thrown by bored teenagers.

This run down, dirty-white building
used to be a major business in this town of 399.
I remember walking in the door, the smell of salt
tingling my nose, my hands shoved deep into
the pockets of my hand-me-down Levi’s
in an effort to keep them warm.
My Uncle Richard, in his blood spattered apron,
would emerge from the back—
a place I would never venture
because my wild imagination already gave me a
vivid picture of what laid behind those swinging doors.

My younger brother and I would suck on Lollies
while dad and Uncle Richard talked about fishing
and mom and Aunt Betty discussed all the latest gossip.
Aunt Betty was a hard working Polish immigrant
who still had a bit of an accent from the old country—
and it fascinated me.
As I drug my teeth in the sweet-tart sucker
I listened to her speak,
imagining what her life was like when she was my age.

Today as I drive through this tired, old town
I notice that many businesses look like the Silver Creek Locker and
I begin to grow a little sad—
sad that what my uncle worked so hard for is now gone,
sad that this seems to be the fate of so many small communities.
And as I sip on my Grande Americano from Starbucks
I regret that I did not stop at one of the mom and pop
shops that line Highway 30.

Finding a moment of peace- revised

As many of you know, I'm taking two graduate classes right now through UNL. One of the classes--Place Conscious Teaching--is winding down and will end in the next few weeks. This class has been a bit of a struggle. To be specific, the weekly place conscious writing (writing about our places) we did during the second unit was the most difficult part of the semester for me because I don’t feel connected to any place. I wanted to get the heck out of my hometown, I never felt settled in Lincoln, Kearney was nice—but I was a transient college student who was always moving, and Ogallala still feels foreign. So, this essay is my attempt at reflecting on this. I wanted to write at least one piece about the place I live, but it was so difficult because I don't feel connected yet. Sometimes I wonder if this lack of connection is derived from a combination of the isolation we're experiencing, the adjustments we're still making, and the long hours we put in at our teaching jobs. It's interesting how many outside factors can influence a person's sense of place. I posted an earlier version of this back in October, I believe, but here is a more polished version:

Finding a Moment of Peace

About a year and a half ago my husband and I moved to this small town—the Cowboy Capital of Nebraska, Ogallala. Because my husband had never lived in a small town before, we thought it would be a great new adventure. As we drove west down Interstate 80 in our rented U-Haul I marveled at the changing landscape and began to envision myself in a peaceful town filled with people who stopped working at 5:00 and then went home to relax with their families for the rest of the evening. Though we were moving far away from our friends and families, I thought the distance between us and them would bring my husband and I closer together. I hoped this new community would help me to feel settled. We had lived in three communities in a span of three years and never had the chance to set down roots...I was sure this new town was just the place for settling down. At the time, I thought our move was quite romantic.

It’s been a year and a half and the romance of living in a small town has worn off. Today I’ve already put in about twelve hours of work, two hours of homework, snuck in a thirty minute argument with my husband about how our families never come to visit, and I’ve managed to squeeze in a few hours of family time…really, it was two hours spent in front of the TV, but we claim it as family time because we sit on the same couch while we watch TV. Lately I’ve found myself growing disappointed that my town is not like the town I envisioned when we moved out here. I don’t remember the last time I was done working before 6:00 or even 6:30. And I certainly haven’t had every evening free to spend with my husband. Though living out here has brought us closer together, being so far from family and friends has raised another set of issues we weren’t quite ready to face.

Life seemed much easier when we lived in bigger cities like Kearney and Lincoln. I wasn’t constantly grading essays, filling out the endless amount of paperwork that comes along with teaching, and I certainly wasn’t up until all hours of the night worrying about how I could teach more effectively. We were also within a few hours from our close friends and family and could visit them often. Though I was newly married, finishing school, and working as much as my schedule allowed, I managed to have more time and less worries. Ever since we’ve moved out to this small southwestern Nebraska town I’ve felt bombarded.

Tonight, I am wondering how I can feel so stressed. This town really is peaceful. Everything shuts down at five-thirty, there are only two options for grocery shopping, and I only have a short half-mile jaunt to my spot where I can sit and look out over hills covered in wild grasses. I remember the first time I found this place. I had had a terrible day of school and was feeling like a worthless teacher. So I laced up my sneakers, grabbed my dog, and took off down the gravel road that runs near my house. I had never run that hilly road before, and though it was unfamiliar, I kept running until I reached the top. I leaned over to rest my hands on my knees so I could catch my breath. After a few seconds, I stood up straight and was greeted with the most beautiful view. I was looking out over the northern outskirts of Ogallala where hills roll and grasses sway calmly below a pink-orange sky. I stood there, looking out over the town for what seemed like hours. After awhile, I noticed that my breathing became slow and regular and I was aware that my chest was rising and falling in a natural rhythm. I looked down at my dog that had also grown peaceful during our time on the hill. He lay on the gravel road with his eyes closed, but his head was held up like he was meditating, the breeze blowing through his scruffy Terrier beard. As the sun sank below the hills, we turned to head back home and I felt a sense of peace come over me. It was the kind of peace that you feel only when you know you’ve experienced something beautiful and rare. I think it was then that I realized that even though my new life out here was going to be a whirlwind, I was okay.


Thanksgiving Eve

For Thanksgiving this year we are in Grand Island. Tonight we had some downtime, so we headed to the only place in GI that is open past 9 that has free wi-fi...Perkins! So, here I sit...drinking stale de-caf. coffee in a booth that looks like it is straight from a crappy 80s movie--all for the sake of blogging :)

Today during our usual Journaling time I asked my students to make a list of things they were thankful for. The responses were great :) So great in fact, that it has prompted me to make my own list:

-Salvation/grace: I am eternally thankful that Jesus suffered unimaginable pain and suffering in order to free us of our sins. I am aware that I am a flawed person (shocker, I know ;)--so I am appreciative of His unending grace.
-My husband: This man is extremely patient, caring, understanding, and loving--even when I'm the most difficult person to be around.
-Family and friends: These people mean the world to me--I am blessed to have so many loving and caring people in my life.
-Education: Eh...Knowledge is power :) Really though, my education has helped shape me into the teacher and person I am today. It may sound bizzare, but I feel like I am a better person when I'm taking classes.
-My students/my job: Though I may come home and gripe about work, I love what I do. My students are sweet and hillarious and so many of them brighten my day. I truly look forward to spending each day with them. I love being able to interact with kids and teach a subject I am so passionate about--I feel like I don't deserve such a fabulous job.

I encourage you to take some time to reflect on what you are thankful for this year. Hope everyone has a blessed and safe holiday!


Settling down

For my Place Conscious Teaching class we are required to submit a teaching unit that incorporates place consciousness--I have been putting off the unit all semester. The idea of teaching students in a way so they come to appreciate the place we live is a bit scary for me becuase I am a fairly nomadic person--in the words of John Steinbeck in Travels with Charley “….once a bum always a bum. I fear the disease is incurable.”

I am by no means a bum, but I do get a two-year itch. In the past six years I have lived in four different places. Since beginning my adult life, I really haven’t lived in a place long enough to put down roots. Sometimes I want to settle down, but just as soon as that thought crosses my mind I start to get the itch. It starts as a simple longing for other places and eventually transforms into full-blown discontent. Usually I can’t stay in that original place for more than six months after discontent takes its hold. Thus, the four moves in six years.

We've lived in Ogallala for about a year and a half now and I fear that I may soon get that itch. It's not that I don't enjoy it here...I really do. I love my job, I love that it only takes me five minutes to get anywhere in town, I love the hills that surround us, I love the lake...I could go on and on. I just fear that my nomadic personality will take hold of me.

Last week I finally mustered up the energy and worked on the unit late Friday night and into Saturday morning. When we come back from Christmas break, students will be taking photographs of their favorite places in town, writing poetry or personal narrative essays, and then will create displays of their work to place in storefront windows. I'm going to try to set aside time so I can do this alongside my kiddos.. I'm hoping that as students begin to develop a sense of place here I will as well.


Doing what he does best...

I haven't blogged for awhile, because the end of October to about January (actually--until about March when speech season ends!) is our craziest time of the year. In the past few weeks Nate has had a high school concert, a middle school concert, was the clinician at a festival choir of 150 middle school kiddos in Julesburg, Colorado. This month he has the Nebraska Music Educators Conference and the All-State Choir--he has 5 kids who made it this year! That is more than the school has had since the 90s! January brings him many honor choirs all over the state. Although it's a crazy time, I LOVE every minute of going to all of these concerts. Nate is an excellent teacher who truly has a passion for music--you can see this in him as he conducts. It's really refreshing to watch him do what he does best.

Members of the OHS Chamber Chorale

Nate directing all of his middle school students...seriously--look how relaxed he is! Who can be that relaxed around that many hormones?!?!

Nate directing 150 middle school kids in Julesburg, Colorado


Slam poetry

I found this video on my friend Katrina's facebook page (she also teaches high school English)...it is a high school student competing in a poetry slam contest. In my own words, slam poetry is not your typical poetry performance. It is an in-your-face type of experience where poets perform their poetry in hopes of getting a reaction from the crowd. Typically the people who judge these competitions are not experienced with poetry...usually, random people are picked from the crowd to judge the poets using a numerical scale. Anyway, this video blew my mind. I can't believe a high school student wrote this! I am looking forward to showing it to my students this week, hopefully it will spark great discussion :)


Little things

During my plan period today I walked into the office and was greeted by one of the custodians who was putting together a new desk chair.

"You owe me for this" he muttered.

"Owe you for what? That's not my chair...I didn't order one," I replied.

From behind the secretary's desk I heard a giggle and then she said, "Your husband's looking out for you!" Apparently a few weeks ago he had gone into the office to order a new one for me....what a nice gesture :)

It seems like such a lame thing to be excited about, but my old chair really was undesirable. The arm rests were at two different heights, the back was so flat that I had to put a pillow on the chair so I could sit comfortably, and the lovely maroon cotton fabric always rubbed off onto my black dress pants. I had thought about ordering a new chair, but since it was my first year I didn't want to make a fuss out of it.

This really did make my day...it proves to me that the little things in life can really have quite an impact....thanks for looking out for me, Nate!

October snow

So this October we've already had two major snow storms out here. The first one was the weekend that Nate hosted All State auditions and we received a hefty 17 inches. Last Thursday night we got about 10 inches which was enough to have a snow day the next day! Luckily, Sampson loves the snow--he spent about an hour running (or hopping) around :)

I took this photo of Sampson waiting to come in, notice the snow clumped to his legs...it took forever to get that out of his fur!

This is a video of Sampson catching snowballs :)


Pumpkin Carving

Since we have moved out to Ogallala, Nate and I have had a difficult time taking a break from our jobs and allowing ourselves time to relax and invest in other people. This year we have many new, young people in our area so we've tried to make it a point to be social :) It seems so lame, but being social really does boost our morale! So, this weekend we put school work and homework aside to hang out with friends.

On Friday night we went over to Scott and Analisa King's house to carve pumpkins with a few other people. I used to teach with Scott last year at PCHS and he and his wife just recently moved to Ogallala. Believe it or not, this was only the second time I've carved a pumpkin! We had a great time hanging out...thanks Scott and Analisa for inviting us!

All of our pumpkins together:

This is a picture of the pumpkin Nate and I tag-teamed:

Scott took all of the pictures you see on this post and has posted several more to a temporary website--click here to view them.


Finding a moment of peace

It’s late on a Monday night. I’ve already put in about twelve hours of work, two hours of homework, and I’ve managed to squeeze in a few hours of family time. Some Mondays I wake up and wonder, will I make it another week?

Life seemed much easier when we lived in bigger cities like Kearney and Lincoln. I wasn’t constantly grading essays, filling out the endless amount of paperwork that comes along with teaching, and I certainly wasn’t up until all hours of the night worrying about how I could teach more effectively. Though I was newly married, finishing school, and working as much as my schedule allowed, I managed to have more time and less worries. Ever since we’ve moved out to this small southwestern Nebraska town I’ve felt bombarded. I wonder how this can be. The town really is peaceful. Everything shuts down at five-thirty. There are only two options for grocery shopping. And I only have a short half-mile jaunt to my spot where I can sit and look out over hills covered in uncultivated grasses. I remember the first time I found this place. I had had a terrible day of school and was feeling like a worthless teacher. So I grabbed my dog, laced up my sneakers, and took off down the gravel road that runs near my house. I had never run that hilly road before, and though it was unfamiliar, I kept running until I reached the top. I leaned over to rest my hands on my knees so I could catch my breath. After a few seconds, I stood up straight and was greeted with the most beautiful view. I was looking out over the northern outskirts of Ogallala where hills roll and grasses sway calmly below a pink-orange sky. I stood there, looking out over the town for what seemed like hours. After awhile, I noticed that my breathing became slow and regular and I was aware that my chest was rising and falling in a natural rhythm. I looked down at my dog that had also grown peaceful during our time on the hill. He lay on the gravel road with his eyes closed, but his head was held up like he was meditating, the breeze blowing through his scruffy Terrier beard. As the sun sank below the hills, we turned to head back home and I felt a sense of peace come over me. It was the kind of peace that you feel only when you know you’ve experienced something beautiful and rare. I think it was then that I realized that even though my new life out here was going to be a whirlwind, I was okay.

As I head to bed and prepare for a busy week filled with choir concerts, meetings, football games, volleyball games, concession stand attending, homework, and the weekly “come to Jesus moments” we teachers seem to have with our students, I feel calm knowing that I have a place where I can go and breathe. I can run to the top of that hill and forget about all of my responsibilities even if it is only for ten minutes.


Cooperative Learning

Now that it is my 2nd year teaching I feel like I can try some new things in my classroom. This year I've hit the ground running with a few new teaching tools; one of them is cooperative learning. I have to give my sister in-law, Amy Nebesniak, credit for this because she is a guru on this teaching method, and I became interested in it after reading her thesis a few years ago. In fact, I did my EQUIP presentation over this in the Nebraska Writing Project (NeWP) this summer. In a few weeks I will be conducting an inservice with late elementary teachers on how to implement cooperative learning into the writing classroom, so this blog posting will serve as my brainstorming for planning for the inservice.

I am no expert on this method, but I'm trying to use it as much as possible in my English 9 classes. During the third week of school I went ahead and put my students into mixed ability teams, I tried to make sure each group had a high-level learner, two medium-level learners, and one low-level learner. I also tried to create teams so that each team had a mix of males and females. Once the teams were established I had the teams do a teambuilding activity. For this particular one students took some time to get to know one another first. I should have given the students interview questions for this activity, but I wasn't thinking that far in advanced! After that, they came up with a team name and created a team Wordle (stolen from an NeWP participant- Holly Mains) that displayed their team name, their individual names, and charecteristics of their team. The kids had a blast doing it and the Wordles served as great decorations for my classroom.

While in these teams, the students worked on composing a This I Believe essay (another idea from the NeWP that Louisville teacher Paula Anderson uses). I used NPR's This I Believe curriculum and incorporated cooperative learning alongside. For example, when discussing introductions, conclusions, and juicy details the students worked in jigsaw groups so each group member became an expert on that particular part of the essay. This worked really well because each student knew that he/she was responsible for learning enough about a specific part of the essay so that he/she could go back to the team and teach it to his/her teammates. Another benefit to this was that all students were actively engaged. Had I done this the traditional way where I had converted the readings into a powerpoint for students to follow along with, I would've had a few students snoozing simply because there would've been little to no interaction.

During the course of the This I Believe unit, students grouped their desks together to work in teams. When students had questions while writing, they consulted their writing groups. Convincing students to direct their questions to their writing teams was no easy task because they have been conditioned to ask the teacher when they have questions. However, I want my students to feel comfortable asking questions of one another, so I encouraged them to ask their writing teams. This does not mean that I never answered a question. However, I did instruct students to first ask their writing team and if they still couldn't come up with an answer that the team could ask me the question. Eventually, the writing teams became interdependent.

In order to emphasize writing as a process, we completed three drafts of our TIB essays and each draft needed a new author's note. The author's notes aloud students to articulate what they liked about their essay and what they needed help with. Each draft received a writing workshop from the team. We structured the read and feed process just like the process we used for writing group time during the NeWP:

1. One student is the designated time cop for the day. This person makes sure that each person gets 5-10 minutes in the workshop.
2. One student reads his/her essay and author's note aloud without apologizing.
3. Each teammember points out one positive aspect of the student's essay (a warm fuzzie) and one thing the writer could do better--we talked about a variety of methods to give constructive feedback...many students used, "If this were my essay I would do ______________ instead of ____________." Some students also chose to take notes and
4. The writer thanks his/her team for their feedback.

As I floated around the room I noticed that students were quick to share warm fuzzies and hesitant to give constructive-feedback or to point out spots that needed improvement which is exactly what I expected. After each workshop we reviewed how we could give good feedback and why we want good feedback. The more times we did this writing workshop thing, the better students got at it. At the end of the entire unit, students turned in three drafts of their This I Believe essay and a podcast of their essay that they also received feedback on from their teams. For the most part, the read and feed paid off. Many students made adequate revisions and ended up scoring pretty high on the essay.

Now, everything was not all a bed of roses. I had one class of ten students that resisted working in teams. The class dynamic is interesting to start out with, but the teamwork thing just was not appealing to this group of students...in fact, many of them refused to even participate. I stuck it out to the end of the unit, but I am going to cool it on cooperative learning with these kiddos for awhile. I do appreciate cooperative learning and feel like it has a lot to offer, but I need to figure out what works best for this class first.

During our daily writing time I had students review the unit. I asked them three questions:
1. What did you learn during this unit?
2. Did you enjoy this unit? Why or why not?
3. How did your teams work out?

Here is some feedback I received from students:

"I liked it, I got help and encouragment."--C.B

"I learned that having other people read your essay before you hand it in helps." --K.B

"I liked discussing our essays and hearing others." -C.E (many studnets appreciated reading and listening to one another's essays because it gave them something to relate to).

"I did enjoy this assignment because I love writing and working with groups. I enjoyed writing on the computer and doing a podcast. It was nice to write about what we wanted to write about. I learned how to open up with my group and also how to listen to others. I liked working with a group because I don't usually work in groups because I like working alone. I've just always been an independent person and to work in groups was something new and fun." --J.G

"I loved working in my group because they kept their feedback positive, but at the same time they told me some things I needed to work on and improve. It is always ood to hear feedback from someone your own age!" --C.V.

"People were very specific of what they did like, which is good. But when it came to where you would say something ithey needed to work on, no one was very specific. We would just say things like, 'you could describe things more.' But we wouldn't say what specifically they needed to describe more. I think we did tha tjust because it was our first day reading the others' work. I think that no one wanted to hurt anyone's feelings. But I think that the more we are in these groups, the easier it will be to help the others on specific things." --J.P

I also took notes on what I thought we could improve on based on student evaluation of their writing groups:
1. More time needs to be designated to writing groups
2. Some students were either too quiet or were not focused
3. Some students felt judged
4. Some students wished they had received stronger feedback
5. More communication
6. More enthusiasm for workshops
7. Work on listening sills
8. No laptops allowed (we are a 1:1 school) during group time because they become a distraction

I am setting up new teams this weekend and we will begin this process again while discussing the 6 Traits of Writing. We'll see how these teams work!


In response to "So This Is Nebraska"

Today in my English 9 classes we journaled in response to Ted Kooser's poem "So This Is Nebraska." I used the poem as a springboard to talking about our place--Ogallala, Nebraska. I try to journal with the kids, so here is what I wrote:

"I hate this place," a student declared after we read "So This Is Nebraska" by Ted Kooser. How do I get my students to love this place where rolling hills and bluffs exist--this place where cactus and sunflowers line 10th Street? I love this place and its people. I love the small hardware store that smells of sawdust and nails. I love walking into Hokes Cafe, the bell on the door ringing as it slams shut, where as soon as you walk into the restaurant heads turn to see who has just come in. I love Friday night football games and Thursday night volleyball where people from town gather no matter their differences, no matter what their opinion is on the school bond. When I think of my place I think of cowboy boots and jet skis. I think of the skatepark that sits in the middle of town--an oddity for a town just barely over 5,000 that is dominated by spurs and chaps. Yet it's a beautiful sight to see kids skating in this town--it reminds me of the youth--the people who can make this town great if they only try.


Place Conscious Teaching Musings

I intended to be in bed by 8:00 tonight, but here I am...sitting up in bed at 10:00, blogging while listening to Wilco (I swear, EVERYTHING is better with Wilco).

I started on my reading assignments for my Place Conscious Teaching course tonight; I read "Place Conscious Education, Rural Schools, and the Nebraska Writing Project's Rural Voices, Country Schools Team" by Dr. Robert Brooke (my prof. for this course). After reading through it, I have so many thoughts running through my head. So I'm going to try and get them all out in hopes that I can sleep a bit:

1. As a teacher I have a strong desire for my students to be engaged and motivated to succeed in my class--I want them to want to succeed. I want them to think critically and to not be passive learners. I want to captivate them...Dr. Brooke writes, "Learning and writing and citizenship are richer when they are tied to and flow from local culture." Based on this quote, I think this place conscious thing is my ticket to engaging my students. I am convinced that, in order to make my class (which is a required class) relevant to my students, it must be tied to the local.

2. Curriculum is "ideas and practices that the learner retains and can use (Brooke 6)" and "[u]nless acquired information is used by students to construct understanding about the world as it currently exists for them, the time spent in acquisition will have been wasted (Theobald)." Wouldn't it be nice if every teacher/administrator/curriculum coordinator had this notion of curriculum?

3. Since I've started this class a few weeks ago I've been pondering what I could do in my classroom with place conscious education, but I've had a tough time identifying anything because I haven't been quite clear on what place conscious education is or what it looks like. Well folks, Dr. Brooke has saved the day. In his introduction to Rural Voices he points out five issues (as identified by Toni Haas and Paul Nachtigal in their pamphlet Place Value) that a place conscious curriculum should address:

(*I say students just because I am thinking of the classes I teach, but I see a place conscious approach to education helping me understand the community I live in as well).
  • Ecology- In order to live well in a community, students* must have an understanding of the biology of our region. Students must understand how that biology connects to other facets of the community (local industry, agriculture, and other bio. issues that concern our community).
  • Government- Participating in a community requires students to have an understanding of the local government and the ways our community makes decisions (city council, school board, economic development committees, etc). This understanding is best gained by participating in local government; by being invested in local issues.
  • Livelihood- Students need to have an understanding of what people "do" in our community. They need to be aware of what career options are available and what experience is necessary in order to make a sustainable livelihood out of these careers.
  • Spirituality- According to Haas and Nachtigal, this refers to "a person's way of understanding the connections and relationships that form a life, whether or not that understanding is based in any given institutionalized religion" (Brooke 12). Students should have an understanding of how people in our community have formed and continue to form connections. This could lead to studies of heritage or to connections people have with the land...this concept is still difficult for me to comprehend.
  • Community values- This could take many forms. Basically, from Dr. Brooke's introduction I have gathered that students need to understand "who their community is and why it is that way" (12) which would require a study on heritage, values, history, and contemporary culture as well as encouraging a vision for the future that includes the community. Encouraging an investment in community values will teach students to be able to "act effectively in and with the community" (12).
Though this is all appealing to me, it is also a bit frightening. Embracing a curriculum like this would require me to make a commitment to the community of Ogallala. I have not been one who favors "settling down" and for the past five years I have been migrating. I've lived in Columbus, Kearney, Lincoln, and Ogallala and have worked in all of the communities previously listed as well as Gibbon, Holdrege, Elm Creek, and Grant. My adult life has not required me to put down roots. However, if I am going to incorporate place conscious teaching into my classes then I will need to be invested in my community. I think it is a step I am willing to take, but I am quite certain it will be a bit of an emotional struggle for my nomadic personality.


Mapping out where I'm from- high school and college


So I know I've already touched on Columbus, but I felt like I needed to write more. Although middle school was rough for me (lots of fights, kicked out of classes, nearly suspended from school, grounded quite frequently, etc.), high school was not so bad.

Four days before my first day of high school I was hit by a car. I was already sporting a hot pink cast on my left wrist that I gained from playing softball and was set to get the cast off the next day. A friend of mine and I were walking across the street en route to a boys house (stupid boys) when a car going about thirty-five mph hit us. My friend walked away from the accident with a sprained knee. I wasn't so lucky. I suffered a busted shoulder, several head injuries, and had a severe case of road rash on my left leg. As a result, I spent four days in the hospital, two of which were in the ICU. As terrible as the accident was, I do think it wised me up.

Throughout high school I felt confined and I think it was due to my place. I felt like the town was too small for my large personality (I had several hair colors...red, purple, pink, black, bleach blonde and gauged ears). As a high school senior I spent many afternoons and evenings leaning up against my favorite tree at Pawnee Park (I couldn't find a decent link to attach here...sorry!) playing guitar, reading Kerouac novels, and dreaming about living in larger places. I don't know if I ever really appreciated Columbus...I sometimes wish I was more connected to this place.

Kearney- Part I

In August of 2004 I moved to Kearney to attend UNK with grandiose plans of becoming an actress. UNK was my second college choice, my first was Nebraska Wesleyan. But UNK was more affordable. I quickly fell in love with Kearney. It had a small town feel (28,000) but had all the amenities of a larger community. I fit in quickly on campus and involved myself with the Navigators where I led worship on Thursday nights. I also sang in two choirs at UNK: a large concert choir and another smaller chamber choir (choir is where I met my husband). After about five majors, during my sophomore year of college, I transferred to UNL. My husband and I had wanted to to live in Lincoln--The Land of Opportunity. So tearfully, I said good-bye to Kearney and headed east down I-80.


Moving to Lincoln was an exciting time. When I was in high school I had spent many weekends in the Lincoln/Omaha area attending concerts or visiting friends, so I felt like I was moving into a familiar place, but there was still an air of excitement. We loved living in Lincoln, but it ended up being a short stay for us. At the time, my husband was searching for his first teaching job and had no luck in the Lincoln area. In fact, he ended up getting a job in Elm Creek which is 15 miles west of Kearney. The move back to Kearney was for the better. I did not really enjoy my time at UNL. Though I loved living in Lincoln, I just didn't feel like UNL was a good fit for me...I felt foreign the entire semester. Being a transfer was difficult, everyone else I met had already carved their place at UNL, they were settled in and I felt like a wanderer.

Kearney- Part II

After my husband and I got married in July of 2006, we moved back to Kearney and I started up at UNK again this time as a Language Arts Ed. major. I wasn't sure that we would find a place in Kearney again, but we did. I fell in love with the town even more. I loved the apple orchard in Riverdale (about 6 miles northwest of Kearney), Cotton Mill park and the Oldfather Prairie trail where my husband moutnain biked and I ran, and my favorite coffee spot- Barista's Daily Grind. I loved seeing the Sandhill Cranes that stopped in the Kearney/Gibbon area or at Rowe Sanctuary every year--these cranes would fill up the field behind our duplex....if you haven't ever seen the cranes in this area, you ought to...it's a beautiful sight. I loved the rock garden at Harmon Park and I loved visiting MONA to look at the art and to listen to poets and author's read excerpts from their books in the main gallery, their voices echoing off the marble floors. I loved the downtown area that houses wine festivals, live music, an awesome used book store, several antique/thrift stores, and the occasional poetry reading. I felt at home in Kearney, in fact I oftentimes find myself telling people that I am from Kearney. Kearney is a beautiful town that will always hold a special place in my heart. We will be passing through on Friday as we travel to Lincoln, so I will try and take a few photos of my favorite spots to post on my blog.


Student I Am From poems

This semester I am teaching a section of English 12 that only has two students :) It is a new section and students didn't know about it until the first day of classes this school year, so I'm hoping to have more students enroll next semester! But until then I am enjoying having a small class...it's easier to get to know the students and I can offer them a more personalized education. On the first day of class last week all three of us wrote "I Am From" poems...these are from my two girls:

I Am From

I am from Cheryl and William.
From Ogallala and Lake McConaughy.
From small community and sandy hills.
I am from home cooking eaters, Chinese eaters, stroganoff and manicotti eaters.
I’m from politeness, kindness, love, and hospitality.
From a hair artist and telephone technician.
I am from “Be yourself even though its hard” and “Be kind to all, even your enemies”
I’m from no-abortion-no-homosexuality Baptists.
From all-me only child and only grandchild.
From no retiring, lifetime workaholics that I’m nothing alike.
From writing fantasy novels, reading Inkheart, and silver ford focus.
I am from then intense love of animals and expressing oneself in song.
From kittens, dogs, and anything else small and huggable.
From the love of working as a waitress and helping people.
I’m from the passion of singing and choir.
From blue roses and day lilies.
From shopping for clothes and shoes.
From meteorology, performing, and astronomy.
I am from finding all the constellations in the star lit sky to looking at the moon in a telescope.
From watching cartoons on Saturday morning and going to youth group on Wednesday.
From Cornelia Funke, Obert Skye, J.K. Rowling, and D.J. MacHale.
My own passion of expression through my art and my love for life.


I Am From

I am from Ron and Theresa
From the small town homeliness of beautiful Ogallala Nebraska
From where children are taught young “you will never have anything unless you are willing to go for it”
From where you see the red white in blue not just on the streets but in the people you see everyday
From where everyone knows your past your present and sometimes your future
From where you can’t get away for who you are and where you come from
I am from deer hunters and car racers
From lawful men and intellectual woman
From conductors and rail workers
From happiness, love and, togetherness
Form families both large and small
From hope, heartbreak and, loss
From “everything will always happen for a reason, you just got to live through it pumpkin” and “be strong no one can make you stop fighting but your own self, it’s all up to you”
From the crucifix and Christ
From water to blood
From bread to body
From virgin to mother
From lemonade stands, fun at the lake, and fishin’ at the ponds
From cornfields, bonfires, and cowtippin’
From sisterly love and horrible arguments
From proud father of a young soldier son
From the old and the new, from the great and the true
From strict but always right caring hands
From tears laughter and loads of confusion
From boots and spurs, farmers and ranchers
From responsibility, respect, and honest
From the golden rule and country grammar
From where a real man opens your doors and pulls out your chair
From home where you will always find a loving heart and a warm embrace, because living here we are just one big disfunctional but beautiful family, all together all for one, one for all, Ogallala Nebraska.


Mapping out where I'm from- childhood

Reading through this week's reading assignments and viewing other Place Conscious blogs made me think about the places I have lived. I decided that I would describe a little about each place that I have lived because I really do feel that these places have shaped me into the person I am now. I wish I had pictures for some of these places, but unfortunately my family is not big into pictures. So words will have to do :)

Omaha, Columbus, and Milford

I was born in Omaha, Nebraska and lived all over eastern Nebraska and in a small Iowa town during the first two years of my life. After my parents divorced my mom and I moved back to her home town, Columbus, Nebraska. She asked her parents for help, but they lovingly told her she was on her own. They believed in tough love, and it worked. My mom found a modest apartment she could afford, landed a job waitressing at Pizza Hut, and invested in a sturdy bike that was equipped with a baby seat. This is how I got to and from daycare every day, on the back of a bike. My mom is one tough cookie and I respect her for forging her own path after my biological dad left. When I was three or four my mom married her high school sweetheart, my step-dad (who I refer to as my dad) who had just returned from the Army. We then moved to Milford, Nebraska and lived on campus at Southeast Community College so my dad could go to school. Soon after, my brother was born. I don't remember much about Milford, but I do remember that there were other families who lived on campus. We had a swing set in the backyard that all of the kids played on in the evenings while our dads either went to work or did homework. I remember that my parents went to the food pantry every now and then because we were dirt broke. It seems like these were some of the toughest years in my parents' lives, yet my dad talks about this place more than any other place we've ever lived.

When I entered Kindergarten we moved to Crete, Nebraska where my mom worked at Region V with mentally and developmentally disabled adults. My dad commuted to Lincoln to work at Appleton and my brother and I went to school at St. James Elementary, a small Catholic school. We lived in an old, Victorian style home that was a block from the city pool. The house was so old that on our deed there was no year listed; instead, where the year would be listed it simply said "old." The house was quite the "gem" when we moved in. Their was no electricity in the upstairs, the basement was unfinished, the kitchen and bathroom were in serious need of repair, and the dining room had bare wires sticking out in some places. Fortunately my dad is a handy man. He wired the upstairs (although he never got to my brother's room!), completley flipped the kitchen and bathroom, remodled my bedroom, started on my brother's room, and fixed up the dining room. It seemed like this house was in constant disarray, at one point my mom had no kitchen sink and she had to wash the dishes in the bathtub! I loved this house. It had a spiral staircase, french doors leading into the living room that housed an antique up-right piano, a gigantic yard, a clawfoot bathtub (before the rennovation), and my bedroom was the best: an attic-looking room equipped with two large built in bookcases that housed every single Babysitter's Club book available to man-kind and two small windows that I often sat in front of reading the night away. I would have loved to stay in Crete for my entire life. We ened up moving to Columbus the summer before I started 7th grade (years are fuzzy for me). My brother and I were devestated. The day I moved I was supposed to meet my best-friend, Kevin, to say good-bye. Kevin was so sad that he wrote me a letter and gave it to a mutual friend to give to me. I remember sitting in the backseat watching out the back window, tears running down my face hoping that Kevin would run down the block. My brother was only in 1st or 2nd grade but had a terrible time with the move. It actually ended up being a pretty traumatic event for him. The rest of elementary school was a rocky road...he was made fun of a lot and turned to fighting these hooligans which led him to be suspended quite frequently.

My family moved here to be closer to my grandparents (I suppose new jobs played a role in this move as well!). My dad accepted a job working at one of the many factories in town working as a supervisor and my mom found a job working at a place similar to Region V. Columbus was a large adjustment for us. We went from a town of 5,000 to a town of 20,000. Looking back on our move and our time in Columbus, I am beginning to realize that it was more of a rough transition for my brother and I than we probably realized at the time. Like I said earlier, he didn't fit in in this new place and thus turned to fighting to stick up for himself. I was no angel child either. I found a few friends, but got in more trouble than when we lived in Crete. I talked like crazy in my classes and drove my teachers nuts. I also had quite the attitude, this put me in the principal's office more times than my parents would have liked. 7th grade was also my first fist-fight and my first experience with alcohol. Luckily, by about my freshman/sophomore year of high school, I straightened up and turned out to be a pretty good kid. It's funny how much a place can affect or change a person. I'm sure when we first moved to Columbus, my parents probably wondered if they had made the right decision simply because of the drastic turns my brother and I took.


I Am From poem

Here is the latest copy of my I Am From poem. I have written several copies over the years, but sadly, have not saved any of them! Have no fear, this one is saved :) My English 12 students have also crafted an I Am From poem....I will try to post these tomorrow!

I Am From

I am from Jan and Mitch, Dave and Pat, Bunk and Jeanette, Elaine and Don—a family tree that looks more like a knotty forest due to divorce.

I am from eastern Nebraska, where the Platte and the Loup house barefoot children splashing through shallow waters and where sunbathers occupy sandbars.

I am from do as your told and don’t be afraid to rattle their cages—you don’t want them to forget who you are. I’m from a home where we were free to speak our minds but encouraged to be sensitive while doing it.

I am from garden-fresh tomatoes with every summer meal, from radishes dipped in salt, from creamed cucumbers and breaded pork-chops. From meals of corn on-the-cob and watermelon. From brown sugar and cinnamon Pop-Tarts and three at a time popsicles.

I’m from lakewater, four-wheelers, and wild sunflowers. From sand in our hair and bathing suits hanging on the cabin’s deck, water slowly dripping onto the weathered wood.

I am from Husker football on Saturdays, mom screaming at the TV and Grandpa Kinzer’s laugh ringing loud above the announcer’s voice.

I am from blue-collar workers who value education and a good red beer. From occasional church-goers to fire and brimstone pulpit preachers.

I am from The Beatles, Alan Jackson, and 38 Special. From Reader’s Digests on the backs of toilets and Nebraska Life on coffee tables.

Though I keep these values, I am now stomping out my own path in a classroom filled with ninth grade students in the Cowboy Capital of Nebraska—my life before me like an open highway, my right hand on the steering wheel and my left out the window grasping for whatever comes my way.


A little about me...

This fall I am taking a course through UNL called Place Conscious Teaching. One of the course requirements is to create and maintain a blog, so to save me a step or two I figured I would just use the blog I already have established!

A little about me and where I come from:

My name is Danielle Helzer and I am a 23 year-old English teacher, wife of three years, daughter, sister, aunt, and volunteer. My husband and I live in Ogallala, Nebraska with our two year old Cairn Terrier, Sampson.

New jobs brought us from Kearney out to the Cowboy Capitol a year ago. Previously we had lived in Kearney, Nebraska where I was attending UNK and substitute teaching at Gibbon Public Schools and Elm Creek Public School and my husband was in his second year teaching K-12 Vocal Music at Elm Creek Public School. Around our second year of marriage, I had joked around with my husband about moving out to western Nebraska. Being very family oriented, he had always said that he wouldn't move further west than Kearney...but here I sit in my newly finished basement in Ogallala, Nebraska!

To make a long story short, friends of ours were moving to Ogallala and had mentioned to us that the Vocal Music position at OHS was open. My husband, wanting to transition to a larger school, applied for the job in March 2008. As soon as he sent out his application I began looking for possible jobs. However, I had not yet complete my student teaching experience. In fact, I had just recently been assigned to student teach in Minden, NE. Nonetheless, the day after Nate sent off his application I attended the educator's employment fair at UNK and dropped off my resume to every booth whose representing school was in a 45 mile radius of Ogallala. Luckily, the principal from Perkins County High School in Grant, NE just happened to be looking to fill an English opening. Later that week my husband and I were making the two hour trek to interview for jobs. A day later we were offered positions. I remember getting "the phone call"...it was during one of my classes and when the principal offered me the job I danced up and down the halls of Thomas Hall (the English dept. at UNK).

Last year proved to be a rough year for me. Because I had not yet student taught, my first semester at PCHS was spent "student teaching"...basically I taught almost all of the classes I was assigned to while my cooperating teacher (a full-time sub and retired History teacher) got paid to supervise me. I had a massive load: Creative Writing, English 11, Practical English 9-12, Journalism, Yearbook and the asst. speech coach. In December I finished my student teaching experience, graduated, and began collecting a pay check! Though I enjoyed my time at PCHS, the class load quickly wore me out and I turned in my letter of resignation in March. I was blessed enough to be offered a job at Ogallala High School teaching English 9, Reading, and one section of English 12. Needless to say, I quickly accepted!

This year has been much better. I am enjoying teaching in the same town I live in and love teaching at the same school as my husband. I've gone from a small, rural, upper-middle class farming community to a larger district with a high percentage of free and reduced lunch and much more diversity. I'm still getting used to all of these changes, but they are welcomed and keep my job interesting.

Though I often long for big-city-life, over the past year I have grown to love this place. I love the movie theater that also houses a coffee shop. I love hearing the sounds of roosters' crows filtering through our bedroom window in the early morning hours. I love running the town's trail that winds through hills and is littered with cactus and yucca plants. I love seeing students at the grocery store. I look forward to Summer Indian Rendezvous every September where downtown is cluttered with food vendors, live performers, pep rallies, and other festivities. And I love visiting Arthur Bay to watch sunsets at Lake Mac. Many of my friends are occupying urban areas, but I am happy right here in Ogallala.

Tomorrow I will post my I Am From poem as well as a few of my students' I Am From poems that they have been crafting over the past few days!


New poem

I wrote this poem in response to an article that appeared in the 6/15 edition of the Journal Star titled “Mooove over: Cows battle to be leader.” The article detailed a story about a tradition of cow fighting that takes place in Switzerland for a certain period of time in the summer and into fall where herds battle each other until one cow remains. This cow is crowned queen. Apparently this is a spectator event where people actually watch this thing go down. One line that struck me is “Natural leaders distinguish themselves in battle, where strength and determination are key.” This caused me to think: We humans encounter this type of power struggle on many levels. I’m not sure if it’s right, but it happens…just like this cow-quarrel. This poem is still a work in progress.

Locking Horns

I read a newspaper article today about cows in Switzerland
Battling to become the queen
9,000 feet above their familiar territory
They lock horns and fight until one winner is declared
While wine-sipping villagers sit by and watch
Claiming the act is humane
When the battle is over the village celebrates
And the cows are pampered with strings of petunias
As they are paraded down village streets
Led by the queen
This tradition that is hundreds of years old
Reminds me of our own struggle
I think we are all in a fight
A fight to survive, a fight for power, a fight to be noticed
And it seems like we are quarreling for an audience
People who have already declared their place in this world
Whether by just or unjust means
Who sip on wine and watch as races fall and rise
And in the end we are paraded through streets
Led by the queen
With all the pomp that a Swiss cow receives


NeWP: Week 1

My first week in the Nebraska Writing Project is over and I am about to begin my second week. I can honestly say that I enjoy this program. There are 18 people total, three facilitators and 15 Nebraska teachers ranging from 1st grade to college professors. Here is a typical day in the NeWP:

1. Free-write for 10 minutes
2. Meet with our permanent small groups to share a new piece of writing and receive feedback
(1 hr.)--this is probably one of my favorite parts. I truly enjoy reading writing from my group members and receiving helpful feedback to better myself as a writer.
3. One of the class members presents their EQUIP for 90 minutes. This is a project that we develop based on expertise we may have with a certain topic/issue (E), questions we may have about education or any other pertinent issue (QU), inquiry into an issue/topic (I), or problems we see or may have in our classrooms (P). I have to be honest, at first I was extremely intimidated and scared of this portion of the program. But after participating in the first week of EQUIPs and starting research on my own EQUIP, I am excited.
4. We usually break for lunch around 1 or 1:30
5. Afternoons are dedicated either to guest speakers who are experts on writing and teaching, time with small groups to inquire about professional development topics (I just finised reading "Writing to Change the World" by Lincoln author Mary Pipher), or writing time to respond to people or to post on the National Writing Project's E-Anthology (an on-line forum for all NWP participants to write and respond).

It counts as six hours towards my master's degree, but I see it as so much more than a requirement. I have already learned so much and have met many great people, it seems that Nebraska is full of great people :)

Until next time,

Fun at Branched Oak Lake

Last night Nate and I went to Branched Oak Lake near Malcolm with Amy, Pat, and Denelle to start a campfire and eat brats and s'mores...we ate way too much and had a great time :)

Havelock Charity Run

Above: Hannah, Celeste, Cassidee, and I reenacting our run :)
Below: The girls posing for a quick photo
During our first weekend in Lincoln Nate and I ran in the 3k race of the Havelock Charity Run. We formed a team with a few of our friends from high school and ended up earning $75 to donate to the Friendship Home of Lincoln, a shelter for women and children of domestic abuse where Hannah works full-time. It was a great time and we are planning to run it next year, hopefully the 10k :)


Fun with Denelle

These are some photos we took on Photo Both with our niece Denelle...she loves the goofy, or as she pronounces it "doofy" pictures :)



It's about 10:15 and I just got home from a run. I'm stinky, sweaty, and my legs throb. I ran on my own which ended up getting me lost...and it started raining as soon as I realized that I had no clue where I was. Coming to this realization, I quickly found the nearest street sign that read Beal St. I thought I was on Burt (which is where I wanted to end up). My glasses were quickly being speckled with rain drops, so I picked up the pace and headed up a well-lit street hoping to find someone outside. I had been running for about a block (it really seemed like longer!) when I finally found a guy working in his garage. He kindly directed me back on my course and it turns out I wasn't far off, I was back at the Nebesniaks within 7 short blocks.

Though tonight's running experience wasn't exactly the greatest, I will hit the road again this week. I can't help it. Running is just about the only activity that can clear my mind. I can start running with a headful of issues, but by the time I'm two minutes into it, I have forgotten everything. I tried to pay attention tonight to what I thought about while running and it was more difficult than I thought. I couldn't keep my mind focused on one thing. I drifted back and forth from thinking about the classes I'm currently taking to how I've developed as a person and I even imagined what my life would be like if I had or hadn't made certain choices. Running gives me the time to slow my life down and just let my mind wander. I value that.

I'm not a great runner. My mile time is nothing to brag about and I've never run farther than 3.5 miles, but I'm okay with that. Whenever I return home from a run, I always feel good, even if I am stinky, sweaty, soaked from the rain, and flustered because I got lost.


Masters Classes

Above: Nate getting a jump-start on one of his classes
Below: Our room that Amy and Pat kindly loaned to us for the next five weeks

As many people don't realize, teachers do not often get a typical summer vacation. Instead of going on elaborate vacations, many teachers use the summer to start on graduate or doctoral classes. So...Nate and I figured we would jump on that bandwagon. Nate is taking nine graduate hours in the course of five weeks that will apply to his masters degree in music education and I am taking six hours through the Nebraska Writing Project that will apply to my masters degree in English with an emphasis in education all at UNL. We start classes on Monday and are so excited...we even bought new pens, highlighters, notebooks, etc!

So, we are currently living in Lincoln where we are shacking up with Amy, Pat, Denelle, Miles (St. Bernard), and the unidentified Baby Nebesniak (Amy is pregnant :). We are VERY excited to be living in the same town (the same house!) with family. When we arrived here yesterday, Denelle showed us to our room. She said, "This is where you can sleep" (pointing to the bed), "and you can check your email right here" (pointing to the computer). It was so cute :) We love living out in the boonies, but really miss being so close to our family so it will be a much needed change of pace.

We are so blessed to have family who are willing to help us out so much. Thanks Nebesniak clan!!!


Worlds Apart

I had some free time to play guitar today...actually, I should really make more time to do it. I usually end up finding great Christian songs that lead me into a fantastic time of worship. God is so great...and I don't acknowledge that enough. This is a popular Jars of Clay songs, one of my favorites actually, and I realized that it is fairly easy to play. So, I've played it several times today to try and master it...Nate is probably sick of hearing it. But as I played it, I just was led to examine my life. And I realized that I can identify with many of these lyrics...I highlighted these in orange :) I have come to a point where I realize that I am at fault. Because I have not gotten what I want from God, I have a hard time believing. As I go back and read that last sentence I realize how selfish it is. It's so awful...but my faith has faltered because I have not received the desired results...I've questioned God, I've asked Him over and over...why? Why can't you just give me this one thing that I want more than anything else? I've cried, I've been sad and angry at God. And now I'm ashamed. I'm ashamed that I would question the will of God. The lyric "It takes all I am to believe / In the mercy that covers me" describes perfectly what I'm feeling...it takes everything I have to believe in the perfection of God's will and in His grace and mercy on selfish sinners like me. What I need and what I believe have become worlds apart (just like in the song). So I need divine intervention...I need God to take my world apart.

Here's a link to the song: http://www.playlist.com/searchbeta/tracks#worlds%20apart%2C%20jars%20of%20clay

Just click on the play button to hear it...

"Worlds Apart"
Jars of Clay

I am the only one to blame for this
Somehow it all ends up the same
Soaring on the wings of selfish pride
I flew too high and like Icarus I collide
With a world I try so hard to leave behind
To rid myself of all but love
to give and die

To turn away and not become
Another nail to pierce the skin of one who loves
more deeply than the oceans,
more abundant than the tears
Of a world embracing every heartache

Can I be the one to sacrifice
Or grip the spear and watch the blood and water flow

To love you - take my world apart
To need you - I am on my knees
To love you - take my world apart
To need you - broken on my knees

All said and done I stand alone
Amongst remains of a life I should not own
It takes all I am to believe
In the mercy that covers me

Did you really have to die for me?
All I am for all you are
Because what I need and what I believe are worlds apart

I look beyond the empty cross
forgetting what my life has cost
and wipe away the crimson stains
and dull the nails that still remain
More and more I need you now,
I owe you more each passing hour
the battle between grace and pride
I gave up not so long ago
So steal my heart and take the pain
and wash the feet and cleanse my pride
take the selfish, take the weak,
and all the things I cannot hide
take the beauty, take my tears
the sin-soaked heart and make it yours
take my world all apart
take it now, take it now
and serve the ones that I despise
speak the words I can't deny
watch the world I used to love
fall to dust and thrown away
I look beyond the empty cross
forgetting what my life has cost
so wipe away the crimson stains
and dull the nails that still remain
so steal my heart and take the pain
take the selfish, take the weak
and all the things I cannot hide
take the beauty, take my tears
take my world apart, take my world apart
I pray, I pray, I pray
take my world apart