6/29/10

Great new song

This song came across my Pandora station today while I was writing, and it was one that made me stop and look up the lyrics. The melody is beautiful and the lyrics are insightful. There is no music video created by the band for this particular song, but I did find this video on YouTube. Enjoy!




video

6/28/10

Platte River State Park

























































This Saturday I was reminded how important it is to take in the simple pleasures of life. First, my husband took the time to make me whole wheat blueberry pancakes topped with fresh strawberries and blueberries along with turkey bacon and coffee. If you know me at all, you know that this is my kind of meal! We took our time waking up and even watched the movie "Once" (more to come about this movie later) before we decided to venture east to Platte River State Park near Louisville, Nebraska. It was hot, muggy, and the mosquitoes were terrible---but the park was breathtaking. We hiked for a few hours pausing to snap a few photos along the way. We made sure to wade in the creek and later came head to head with two rather large deer. Despite my body being covered in mosquito bites, I loved every minute of this small trip. I am constantly amazed at how much Nebraska has to offer. This park is certainly one of those hidden gems.

This small day trip was so enjoyable and reminds me of how important it is
to take time to do this. My husband and I both devote so much time our jobs--too much time--it's our goal to strike a better balance next school year, to take more one day trips like this one!

6/23/10

I Love Technology

For the past three weeks I've been taking a Nebraska Writing Project course that is all about incorporating technology into the writing classroom. We've evaluated the effectiveness of technology, have been introduced to cool tools, and have had time to develop projects we can take back to our own classes. My focus for this institute was Google. I love Google. Next year my 12th grade students will be using Gmail, iGoogle, Google Docs/Presentations, and Google Sites. If you aren't familiar with these free Google services, I'd seriously recommend checking them out.

If you're interested--here are a few of my favorite tools from the Tech. Institute (they're ALL free):
  • Jing--a website that allows you to create a video of onscreen action (like a tutorial...how to use Google Docs for example) and record your voice
  • Evernote--this is an amazing place to store and organize notes, reminders, pictures, whatever--it has a great searching system. I've even taken pictures from my phone of things I want to remember (covers of books, notes on the whiteboard in a class, etc) and emailed them to my Evernote account
  • Remember The Milk--an electronic To-Do list. You can enter a task, give it a due date, and write a memo about it. You can also use it to create calendars and other cool things. I've placed this app on my iGoogle site (which is set as my homepage) so I can constantly see what things I need to do.

Learning To Love


The image on the left is the word Agape in Greek. Nate and I have been talking about getting tattoos for months now--and this is what I would want on my left wrist if I could bring myself to spend the money. We also have this word engraved on our wedding bands. Agape is an unconditional love, an active love, one that seeks to edify others...it's the kind of love God has for mankind.

Lately I've really been thinking about this term, Agape, and the concept of love. A friend and I had a great conversation last night about how hard it is to love some people. We both described people who just annoy us by the things they do (or don't do), the things they say, the way they look, how they talk, the shoes they wear, etc. But our conversation slowly moved into how important it is to love even those who annoy us the most. It's hard and completely contrary to human nature and what the world or society would have us do.

Last night and tonight I started digging into scripture to find some sort of insight to help me love those who are hard to love. My friend led me to Romans 5:8:

"But God showed us his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." Now this is an obvious display of love and a perfect picture of loving those who drive us crazy. I am a flawed person who screws up a lot...I can't imagine how hard it is at times for my husband, friends, and family to love me. This verse is a real kick in the face--God gave up His son, and Christ gave up His life for me--even though I annoy Him with my sins.

Tonight I read a few chapters in 1 John and the following verses jumped out:

"Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth...." (1 John 4:18-19).

It's so important for use to demonstrate love--to be active in our love. It's a good testament of what we believe--Christians have a bad rep because we don't do a good job of loving people. We tend to be selective in who we love. I can think of many times where people probably thought I was a huge hypocrite for proclaiming to be a Christ follower and then treating someone like crap five minutes later.

But...I keep coming back to this idea of how hard it is to actually do this. It's so easy to slip into a mindset of revenge when someone has wronged us. It's easy to ignore those who annoy us. But we've got to find a way to love. We won't ever have a perfect love, but we can strive for it. We can use Jesus as a model, study scripture to find out how to love, pray for strength and wisdom, talk with others about our struggles, and get it tattooed on our bodies so we have a constant reminder (that suggestion is a joke...kind of :) to love even the unlovable.

6/19/10

Struggling to Comprehend Faith

Nate and I were downtown in Lincoln at the Coffee House the other night working on homework when we overheard a conversation happening behind us from two unbelievers--they talked about why they don't necessarily believe God exists..sort of their confusions I guess you could say. They also were upset that most Christians they talked to couldn't tell them why they believed in God. They would say something like, "Well..I just do.." This kept me up until about one that morning. I wanted to be able to tell people exactly why I believe in God. From talking with Nate and two of my best friends (Celeste and Hannah) and reading Romans--this is what I've come up with:

Sometimes I think I need to completely understand my faith--this is the academic side of me. But the more I come to know Jesus, the more complicated faith gets. God is so huge that he is incomprehensible to man--this is tough for me. I don't like not being able to explain myself fluently and poignantly...I'm used to being able to do this! But--the mystery of God is what keeps us coming back--if we had Him figured out, if we knew everything there was to know about Him then we would grow bored and our faith would be lackluster. God's mystery keeps us in a constant state of wonder...and a constant state of struggle. This is the messy side of faith. When God does something we don't like or brings us discomfort--we long for answers. Sometimes we even demand them. When we don't get them--we can respond in two ways: we can give up out of frustration and turn away, or we can choose to accept it (doesn't mean we have to be immediately happy about it) and learn from whatever God is doing. These points of questioning, of struggling in our faith are valuable. If you are struggling in your faith right now, try using it as an opportunity to learn about Him. Turn to the Bible what does it say about struggle? I've posted a few verses that deal with suffering...feel free to check them out:
  • The entire book of Job (this has been a pivotal text in helping me through my struggles)
  • James 1:2-4
  • Ephesians 5:7-8
So why do I believe in God? It's tough to articulate, but I believe in Him because I heard how awesome He is from some great friends of mine. I saw the joy these people had--their lives weren't perfect, they all struggled and had flaws--but they were joyous and from talking with them, it was because of God. I was at a rough point in my life and I wanted to experience that similar type of joy. I also knew that I was a sinner and couldn't do anything to earn my faith. I knew eternal life in heaven was offered to those who believe in Him, so I wanted that too. A friend told me I could have all of this if I was willing to follow Jesus. I'm not going to lie, it seemed like a daunting task (my previous lifestyle wasn't too commendable). But--if you want something badly enough, you go after it. So I did. I told my friend that I wanted to believe in Jesus and I wanted to follow Him. So I prayed that my sins--all the crappy and awful things I had done before--would be forgiven and told God that I wanted to follow Him. Ever since, I have felt a sort of connection with Him. Because of that, I read the Bible, pray, go to church etc. Now---I don't always feel a connection with Him. I don't always read my bible, go to church etc...in fact--tonight is the first time I've picked up my Bible in about a week. There are times where my faith feels bland, dried up, like something is missing. But as soon as I take time to really meet with Him--to talk with Him, it starts to get a little better. I am also humbled that God would call me (someone who screws up pretty frequently) as one of his people. Since I've been trying to life my life for God (loving people, being kind, telling people about Him, basically following the example for living He set out in the Bible), I have experienced joy that is sort of unexplainable.

So I don't know if that makes sense to you or not. Feel free to ask questions if you have any!

6/16/10

A List of My Favorites

A List Of My Favorites
(In no particular order...)

A mug full of black coffee made from carefully roasted beans from The Mill, Meadowlark, or The Coffee House to rouse my senses early in the morning

Well-crafted words--song lyrics, quotes from a novel, an advertisement or poetry--that jump out and beg for me to write them down

The passion I see in my husband when he conducts his choirs

The musty smell and yellowed pages of used books--they are like long lost friends, each one bringing me comfort and wonder

Wholesome and hearty foods: black bean casserole, asparagus and prosciutto pizza, macaroni and cheese, whole wheat peanut butter cookies--each recipe tweaked with my own flair

Conversations with friends that last hours long even though it may have been weeks or even months since we last talked

A classroom full of energetic students--their bustle and insight makes me smile

The snooze button on my alarm that is kind enough to allow me ten extra minutes of sleep each morning

Open windows and a house full of fresh air that always seems to slow my breathing and turn the most unpleasant of tasks into something manageable

A sleek MacBook Pro and the compactness of an iPod Touch--two devices that would be hard to live without

Sunday morning church service that always seems to put life into perspective

A hard run in the cool spring air that causes my lungs to burn

The first thunderstorm of the spring season--the lightening the brightens the dark sky, the deafening thunder the reminds me of how small I really am, and the rain that cools the earth

Nebraska--Chimney Rock, Lincoln's Hay Market, Wild Cat Hills, Loup City's chalk mines, The Dismal River, desolate, winding highways in the Sandhills, Lake McConaughy, and all the other gems in this great state left for me to uncover

Finding a good deal--it's a high that stays with me for weeks

Natural beauty that can be found in landscapes, weather patterns and genuine people--the kind of beauty that makes you stop thinking about whatever is racing through your brain and simply captivates you

Late night writing--the glow of my laptop screen and the insight that doesn't always come to me during the day

My dog, Sampson, who will always come sit next to me when I'm crying and stay by my side until the tears are gone

Family dinners and laughing over the same ten stories we tell every time we're all together

Skirts and the feeling of femininity they bring to me

Reading books in the sunshine--the multi-sensory experience of warm rays on my shoulders and thoughtful phrases giving me new insights

Spending time with my nieces and nephew who always seem to teach me to appreciate the little things in life

My home--the permanent coffee smell it has, the red, brown, turquoise, gray, tan, and green walls, the original hardwood floors still in great condition from when the house was built in the 1950s, the retro green kitchen counter tops, and the feeling of comfort it brings whenever I come inside and the longing I feel for it when I'm away

6/15/10

A day with Deni and Kael

A little over a week ago we had the opportunity to spend an entire day with our niece Denelle who is four and our nephew Kael who is nine months. Because we live so far away we don't get to see the little boogers as often as we'd like, so it was awesome to spend a full day with them.

In the afternoon we went to the park behind their house. After Deni played for awhile she ran up to me and said, "Aunt Elle, remember last year when we collected pine cones here? Can we do it again?" I couldn't believe she remembered that! So...we collected pine cones :)

This little guy is so smiley nearly all of the time! You just can't help but love him!

I love this photo of Nate and Deni--she was walking him to the park :)

6/8/10

Adjustments

Summertime is an interesting period of time for me. During the school year I run full speed teaching, coaching, directing and leading. I almost never allow myself time to reflect. When summer hits and classes get into full swing I all of a sudden am expected to reflect on what works and doesn't work in my classroom and...to write. Though I am always excited for this time of pondering, I find myself avoiding it.

I sat down to write today and instead surfed the internet. Then I picked up the Journal Star and read a few articles. Finally I opened my computer but found myself drawn instead to opening my facebook account. In hopes of sparking my creativity, I went on a walk at 10:00 PM with my husband. We made small talk about how our classes went, made plans for the rest of the week, talked about our students, and then I finally asked him what he thought I should write about for tonight's writing--"Write about adjustments," he said.

"What do you mean?" I asked...knowing darn well what he meant.

"Well, write about how summers are a huge adjustment for you. All year long we live in a small, slow-paced town, then we pack up and move to a larger city on the opposite end of the state for six weeks."

Trying to sound nonchalant about the entire situation I shrugged my shoulders, shoved my hands deep into my pants pockets and replied, "It's not that big of a deal. I mean we live a pretty fast-paced life being teachers and all...we're always going you know." When we arrived back at our temporary summer home, I told my husband I was going to write and instead I filed my nails---please understand that I hardly ever file my nails. Finally after two hours of avoidance--I opened up a blank document and began the process.

The truth is, the summers really are an adjustment period for me. A few weeks before we move here I can feel the excitement growing inside me and I begin daydreaming of all I will do during my eastern Nebraska retreat. But as I begin packing the day before, that excitement turns to remorse as I grow sentimental about leaving my house, the lake and small town life. All of a sudden I am thrust into living in a house that is not my own--onto a crowded street with cars zipping by--into a classroom with people I don't really know. On top of all of this, I find myself having to bring a piece of writing to class each day.

I don't realize how much I value the familiar until summer. I hate to admit it because I like people to think that I'm a laid back, go-with-the-flow type of person-- but tonight I find myself feeling a little displaced and unsettled. It is causing me to think about how I often don't appreciate what I have. It's very easy for me to slip into a negative mood about living and teaching in western Nebraska--we don't have an abundance of coffee shops, department stores, cute boutiques, opportunities for academic growth, booming farmer's markets and live music. Tonight I'm thinking about what we do have in our small and somewhat isolated area of the state--breathtaking sunsets, genuine and good-natured people, mom and pop shops, bluegrass music, Friday night football games, and if you look deep enough--a pride that often runs generations deep--and tonight I am missing all of it.