A lot of his stuff sticks with me, but this one really hit home with me today. I don't like confrontation (who does?!). When hard times come, I tend to act like I don't care and then fill my life with a million things in order to keep my mind busy so I don't have to deal with the difficult things. Eventually though---I crash. The crashing isn't the worst part. Actually what's worse is surveying the damage (like Don mentions in his post) after the crash. The end of a year tends to make a person reflective, and lately I can't help but reflect on the damage I've caused to my relationships with friends, family, and my husband. I feel like I've been sitting on broken glass staring at mangled steel for the last few weeks. Honestly, I don't even know how to begin to clean this mess. I just know I have to get up off the glass shards because they hurt too much.
- Salvation. I am overwhelmed by the gospel message and am thankful for those in my life who have aided in deepening my faith.
- Stable finances. We've been blessed with a sense of frugality and have in turn been able to give to our church and missions, save money, pay for graduate school for both of us without taking out loans, and take a few trips here and there.
- A healthy marriage. Our relationship is certainly not perfect, but over the past five years we've grown as a couple and have learned more about what it means to have an Agape kind of love.
- Fulfilling jobs. Working with kids every day is maddening but is the most rewarding experience I've ever had.
- Supportive and loving family and friends. We can count on our families for just about anything, and we consider some of our friends to be family. I can't imagine going through life without these people.
A few days ago I started reading Hal Higdon's Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide (4th ed.). I needed to read something to give my mind a break from thesis work and to prep me for the marathon. To be honest, I've been pretty nervous about it lately. For the past week questions have been flying through my mind: Can my body even handle the impending beating it's sure to receive during training? How will I manage teaching, writing my thesis, and training for a marathon? Am I disciplined enough in my eating habits to prepare my body for averaging 30-40 miles a week?
It may seem shallow, but my biggest apprehension this week is swapping the speed I've gained over the past 6 months for stronger endurance. This weekend I logged ten miles--6 on Saturday and 4 today. And though my run Saturday sucked (a dizzy spell forced me to stop for a few minutes at mile 4 to gather my wits), my run today felt good, but I couldn't help being a bit disappointed at the 8:07/mile pace that showed up on my Garmin at the end of the run. Up until Thanksgiving I ran my 4-4.5 milers at 7:45/mile and earned a PR during the Turkey Trot 5k: 23:21. So, to see an 8:07 pace hurt the 'ole ego just a hair.
The more I read, the more I learn that a first-time marathoner's goal should be simply to finish. I think this will be difficult for me because I like running fast, and my ego likes seeing low times. But if I want to accomplish my goal of running 26.2 miles, my training will need to slow down due to the massive amount of miles I'll be logging. My ego will simply have to be set aside until after May 6th....
For now, I guess I'll focus more on miles than on speed. My training officially starts on December 27th...scary! Until then, I'll continue to run simply to enjoy myself. On another note...I am in the market for new running shoes to swap in with my winter training shoe (my current racing flat already has seen between 540-600 miles). Any suggestions for a durable marathon shoe?
I am so guilty of this. Perfection runs deep in my blood. For as long as I can remember I've worked to be the best in whatever I do. In elementary school I devoted my free time to becoming the best gymnast; a few years down the line in high school, I spent hours at the track hurdling. This devotion eventually led to major injuries and burnout. By middle school, I was done being a gymnast. I had enough. My senior year of high school I tore a muscle in my hip and decided against surgery (because a large part of me was simply exhausted and wanted a break), ending my dreams of running collegiate track. Now my perfectionism has seeped into teaching. I've overwhelmed myself with trying to be the best in my career. And though I believe it's healthy to have personal drive, I fear that my anal mentality will be what drives me out of the teaching profession.
That last sentence segues nicely into this next tip. It's so hard not to desire to be everything to all 90 of my students. I want to reach EVERY kid. I know it's not realistic, but somehow I can't bring myself to come to grips with that fact. I also want to be regarded highly by my colleagues and peers; I want people to be able to come to me when they need help. But just between you and me, I'm tired of trying to be everything to everyone. My husband often gets what's left of me at the end of a week (which isn't much!). That's not fair to him.
Despite the self-help nature of the post, these two tips give me something to chew on as I wind down one semester and begin to gear up for another....
In this section of Philippians, Paul writes about all the good stuff he's done:
Paul certainly has a reason to boast and think pretty highly of himself. Like Paul, I feel like believers--especially longtime believers--slip into this mentality. We think about all the good stuff we've done whether it's mission's work; being raised in a Christian home; being a moral person who makes good decisions and is involved in all the right activities; our regular attendance at youth group, church, Sunday school, or FCA...etc. When we think about all of the good stuff we've done, we tend to think all these things make us righteous and better in God's eyes. But immediately after Paul lists his credentials that really are incredible and would impress the socks of both his spiritual and non-spiritual friends--he writes:
And this is the tough part that begs a response from us as Christ followers. Are we willing to suffer and share in Christ's death so that we can experience the same renewing power that raised Christ from the dead? My life is pretty cushy right now. I've got a good job, a loving family, believing friends, stable finances. I'm not suffering right now. And lets face it, nobody wants to suffer. But if I'm going to take my belief in God one step further and call myself a Christ follower, then my life should look radically different than the world. Paul writes that he WANTS to suffer and share in Christs bloody death on the cross. This makes me stop and think: What am I willing to give up and count as garbage (even if it causes painful suffering) in order to gain Christ?
That's why I'm happy to share the link to Bob's blog: The Journey To India. In February, Bob will travel to rural parts of India where his team will help provide free medical services, work to strengthen the local church, and share the gospel with non-believers. Check out his blog if you're interested in learning more about God's work in India through Bob. And if you're the praying kind, send up a few for him. I know he and his wife both have apprehensions about this trip. Pray that they would abandon worry, pray about everything, and offer thanks to the work God is already doing (Philippians 4:6). Pray they'd both experience the kind of peace Paul talks about in Philippians 4:7. And don't forget to check out Bob's blog!
I think it's some cruel, unwritten rule that caseworkers not answer the phone whenever prospective adoptive parents call. I left a message and tried to go about the last period of the day, working haphazardly, my mind wondering to all the possibilities that lay ahead.
The bell rang at 3:05 and students filed into my room for Extended School Day...I meandered around the room, explaining problems, giving make-up quizzes, answering questions, settling students in. At 3:15 my phone buzzed. The caller ID read "Unavailable." I answered--despite the fact seven students were watching me. The caseworker began to spell out the details, and I tried to tune out the seven rowdy kids and focus instead on her words. Using flailing arm movements, I tried hushing the kids...and failed. I asked the case worker if she would please hang on, ran into my co-worker's classroom next door, and blurted out (in front of another teacher and a student), "It's the agency...please cover my class!" Within a matter of seconds I was scribbling down two pages of medical history, trying to get every detail down.
From there, everything's a blur.
The caseworker called to ask if she could share our profile with a couple whose baby was due December 24th. The couple seemed like a great fit for us, but the baby had major medical issues. Originally we marked we were alright with these issues, but it's protocol (and a good one at that) for the agency to inform prospective adoptive parents of these situations prior to handing out profiles to birth parents. It was decision time. We had the chance to take a risk and share our profile with this couple or not. Saying yes meant the possibility of having a child by Christmas...allowing me to fulfill my dream of being a mom and of giving kitschy Grandma and Grandpa coffee mugs to my parents as Christmas gifts. But it also meant parenting a child (our first child) with major medical issues that we knew only a little about. Saying no meant we go back to waiting...something I'm terrible at.
Last night Nate and I prayed, cried, prayed more, read Bible passages, cried, talked, prayed, and cried...until 12 AM when we made our decision. We prayed after we made our decision and held each other tightly until sleep came.
This morning I showered and readied for work in a daze. During my quiet time this morning, I cried and prayed that God would make me strong in my weakness (Paul's prayer in 2 Corinthians 12), that our decision would bring Him glory.
It's back to waiting for us. Another Christmas spent childless.
I started my first period class this morning while choking back tears, the insides of my cheeks raw from biting them in order to keep from crying. Recognizing my somber, unstable demeanor, my students settled in quickly and focused the entire period. I'm glad I stuck out the day at school--no matter how maddening my job can be, I love my students. The day was easier to get through because of them. When I got home from work, there was a package in the mailbox from my mom containing a card and a book of encouraging Bible verses (though we did not share yesterday's events until now), and an early Christmas package of goodies from Trader Joe's from our good friends, Micah and Amee. It's funny how God works...He used the people we love in our lives to bring us joy and comfort at just the right time.
While the past 24 hours have been frustrating, confusing, exhausting, etc---I feel a strange sense of peace tonight. Maybe it's because I have no more tears left to shed, but I suspect this peace has more to do with God and less to do with me.
Today we ran in the cold, snowy, and extremely slick Jingle Bell Run in North Platte...
I had all intentions of keeping today's run relaxed, so I left my Garmin in the car and told Nate I'd run with him. About one mile in to the race I spotted two women 400 yards ahead of me in ridiculous looking tutus. I can't let those tutus beat me, I thought. I told Nate and Kristin (another Ogallalan running with us today) that I had to beat the tutus. So I gradually picked up the pace, slowly gaining ground on the tulle-adorned women. I thought my competitive drive would stop when I passed the tutus, but it didn't. Soon, two runners, who had reached the turn-around point and were on their last mile and a half, passed me going the opposite direction towards the finish line while I still hadn't reached the turn-around. It drove me crazy, so I kept running, picking up the pace with every step, trying not to slip on the icy roads. All I could think about was passing the person in front of me. I'd pass one person and focus my eyes on the next. When I crossed the finish line I was winded and expected to feel satisfied. I had, after all, ran a decent race despite the elements and had done a nice job of pacing myself without my Garmin. But I didn't feel that satisfaction. I came out of the chute and walked back towards the road, looking for my running partners I started the race with: Nate and Kristin. When I saw them coming around the last corner, I felt terrible for letting my competitive streak win out over my original commitment to run with my husband.
This isn't the first time I've done this to Nate--I've left him behind on long runs in town and during several road races. I think what I struggle with the most is the conflict I have between wanting to run competitively and desiring the same companionship we had when we began our running journey. It's hard for me to accept that we're at two different levels. I need to learn to curb my competitive nature once in a while and simply run with my husband, not ahead of him. I'm hoping marathon training will teach me this because I know I will not be able to run more than 6 miles at my usual pace, and I will need a running companion to keep me accountable for squeezing in long runs. As a great man (my husband) once said, Running isn't always about PR's--sometimes it's about sharing the road with the others.
Here's a basic outline for my thesis (modeled after the National Writing Project's Monograph Series):
a. Research surrounding the problem
b. The problem in my own classroom
a. Research surrounding the solution
b. What I did to address the problem
III. Student work/community feedbackBy the time I go back to school after Christmas break, I need to have the three highlighted sections finished. Which means my Fridays-Sundays and probably all of my holiday break will be filled with reading and writing. Yikes. Yikes. Yikes. My class project and data collection will take place from January-March. Because the preliminary copy of my thesis is due to my committee the first week of June, I'll devote March-May to more writing. My oral exams will be during the last week of June then it's revising and filling out paperwork until July.
I am excited to write, research, and dive into academic work again (I do actually like doing this work...it's just the juggle of everything that's overwhelming) but am afraid of failing....and of the emotional meltdowns that are sure to come along the way.
So for now, it's to the books for me...
As of now I'm looking forward to the distance. I need time to re-group, and eliminating the distraction of Facebook is (I think) just what I need at the moment. So I guess I'm back to an antiquated form of communication: email.
Then I flipped over to Romans 7 and 8 and read about Paul's struggle with sin (7:14-8-3). For some reason I always take comfort in reading about Paul's war with sin--the battle between right and wrong. It makes me feel human. Paul was an incredible warrior for God who is a testament of His matchless grace, and even he struggled with sin. Our struggle with sin is a war; Paul states:
As long as I'm on this earth, I will battle against sin. It's a consequence of Adam and Eve's decision back in the garden. But...there is hope. I can take comfort in knowing that (though I don't deserve it) because I've made a decision to follow Christ, I am redeemed. In the moment of struggle I can reflect on God's sacrifice and go boldly and with intentionality to Him in prayer for assistance in helping me to make right decisions.
I spent Friday in Lincoln because my husband received the Nebraska Choral Directors Association Young Choral Director of the Year award! A good friend of mine from high school and her dad (both are choir teachers) nominated him for the award and worked to gather all the letters of recommendation which I'm sure is time consuming work. I truly believe Nate is deserving of this award. He works tirelessly to place his students first in his job--politics are not a priority for him and furthering his career takes a backseat to doing what's best for his students. He doesn't get a lot of recognition for his job, and I think he has sometimes felt undervalued. But he is amazing! Here's a short list of what he he's done in his six short years of teaching:
- Directed a K-12 choir program in Elm Creek for two years and a 6-12 choir program (with jazz choir, show choir, and musical) in Ogallala for four years
- Was a clinician for a middle school music festival in Colorado last year and will be a clinician at two honor choirs this winter
- Has had several students selected for the All State choir (too many to count!)
- Took two groups of students to Chicago to perform at various locations
- Is currently serving as the high school Repertoire and Standards Chair for NCDA and has become active in the organization this year...he is very concerned about supporting young teachers in particular, and does a great job of blogging and maintaining their Facebook page encouraging and promoting intellectual conversations.
- Almost completed a Master's Degree in Music Education
I'm a terrible wife and forgot my camera at home, but my mom was there to snap photos as was Nate's entire family. So, as I get them, I'll post them :)
This morning I watched an amazing Ted Talks video (see below) where Natalie Warne, a 20 year old, shares her journey of catching the activism bug at the age of 17 which caused her to devote the next few years of her life working as an intern for the organization Invisible Children. Natalie refers to the people she worked with along the way as " Anonymous Extraordinaries," people who work to make a difference without want of recognition for their actions. I've decided to start my unit with this video clip. After discussing the concept of activism, I'll allow students to brainstorm local people and agencies who are "Local Anonymous Extraordinaries." Students may struggle with this, especially if they or their families are not connected to the community. So, I'll have to come up with my own list as a way to spark discussion. Once we've generated a pretty good list, I'd like for students then to interview these people who are quietly, yet passionately making a difference right here in our own community and then create a journalistic style piece of writing featuring said activist. My plan is to model this off a few different projects. The first is the Foxfire Project, popular in the 60s and 70s in Appalachia in which students recorded stories told by their elders. The second is from Central City native, Wright Morris, who used photography and writing to capture the essence of local places. So in addition to writing, students will candidly photograph these people and/or their work. If all goes as planned, I'll set up a class blog for students to post their pictures and compositions so we have a giant collection of "Local Anonymous Extraordinaries." I'd like the blog to be linked to our school's webpage and the city's webpage as a way to promote the good work our citizens do.
After this portion of the project is completed, students will launch into Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" and our study of the Civil Rights Movement in order to introduce them to Dr. King's four steps for non-violent direct action (which are awesome, practical steps to follow when trying to spark change). Then, my favorite part of the unit: students will choose a local issue to research and support. Students will be required to act on an issue that is important them. In the end, students will create a visual presentation that includes background information about their cause, an overview of what they did to help and photos to prove it, vocabulary they learned along the way, and they'll end with what they learned in this journey. These will be presented to community members during our Social Action Project Night that students organize.
Nonetheless, on Friday night I utilized some free time at The Mill to throw myself headlong into researching. Place consciousness and social action are topics I've studied throughout my Master's program, so fortunately I have an adequate grasp on the concepts and have read many of the major pieces written about the topics. But tonight I began Gregory Smith and David Sobel's book Place-And Community-Based Education in Schools. I confess--I'm a total geek and love reading books about pedagogy. I'm two chapters in and have already begun to scribble down ideas. Since school started I've been grappling with how to merge place consciousness with social action. I've treated the two as separate two entities for the past two years. In an attempt to make my social action unit more effective, I want to merge the two. So the next post will outline my idea (it's tentative, and I need feedback on if this is really getting students to think locally and appreciate the local before they move to make change)......
On Facebook tonight I saw a post about a local craft show this weekend where a former student of mine (Jordan) is selling some of her cute handmade items. I clicked on the link and it took me to her blog.
I browsed through a few posts and closed the page swelling with pride. I'm thrilled to see one of my students pursuing her passions and writing about it! As a writing teacher I try to instill a love and passion for writing in my students. I know I won't convert everyone. But when I see students using writing to pursue passions, I can't help but smile...and then write about it :)
Check out Jordan's blog to see her products; just in time for the holidays!
I was 16--a junior in high school, leaving my friend Alex's house in Dan's Aerostar van. We had time to kill before my 11:00 curfew, so we sat in his van and listened to "The Sound of Silence." Part way through the song I sat back with my head resting on the car seat, eyes closed, letting the music surround me. Later that year a friend and I took a road trip to Lincoln to visit Homer's Music Store downtown. We found the Simon and Garfunkel greatest hits, but neither of us had enough money to buy the album ourselves. So we did the only sensible thing: we pooled our money together to buy the album, and we shared it. A year later her dad died, and at his funeral my friend made sure the funeral home played "Bridge Over Troubled Water" though the cheap, crackly speakers didn't do the song justice.
My first "real" concert was a Rilo Kiley concert at Sokol Hall in Omaha. While visiting Homers in the Old Market earlier that year (notice a trend?!), one of the shop employees handed me Rilo Kiley's CD, The Execution of All Things. I fell in love and bought every album after that. When I found out that Jenny Lewis and her band were playing at Sokol, I loaded up my Taurus with three friends, bought enough Clove cigarettes to last us the weekend and had a beautiful evening dancing, singing, and smoking. That night we all crashed on a friend's dorm room floor and left the next morning with smoke in our hair and memories in our head, our feet still tapping to Rilo Kiley songs.
And tonight I feel 16 again. As I dig through a friend's Spotify playlists, I find myself resting my head on the back of my couch, my eyes closed as I let the music surround me.
Something in me changed this year. I spent most of the summer and all fall running with our XC team and training for the Market to Market, so my times, form, training habits, and endurance have all improved tremendously. And this year, for the first time, I've truly enjoyed running. Sometimes, the thought of going on a run after work is what gets me through my day. Pushing myself each day to reach a new goal is invigorating. But on Thursday morning I set out at 6:00 AM in below 30 degree weather to run 3.5 miles, and it felt terrible. My legs felt heavy and my arm movements choppy with all my cold weather gear. My lungs burned and snot dripped down my numb face. My fingers burned from the cold air despite the gloves covering them. My stomach screamed for food, and the further I ran, the more I pissed off I grew. I kept checking my pace on my Garmin to find myself running an 8:09 pace--almost 10-15 seconds slower than my typical pace for that distance. And in my mind I kept thinking, "If you can't handle this, you can't handle a marathon." The thought played over and over in my head--the whole 3.5 miles. For the first time since June, I questioned my decision to run the full. Thursday was a real blow to my confidence.
But today as I read through some of Matthew and Romans, I'm having a change of heart. Lately I've been contemplating a lot about Christ's sacrifice. I can't imagine how difficult it would've been for him to live here on Earth---a perfect being surrounded by imperfect people, many who doubted Him and eventually crucified Him. And as I contemplate this, the more I am convinced that I have to follow through with running the full-marathon. I am confident that it will be one the most difficult tasks I have ever completed. Juggling my marriage, teaching, writing my thesis, planning two youth writing festivals, and whatever else comes my way will be insane. Abandoning sugary, processed foods and cutting my caffeine intake will not be easy. Oh and winter running will blow. Treadmills are my worst enemy, and if my run on Thursday is any indicator of how my body handles cold weather--then I'll be in for a rude awakening during the winter months of training. But...putting my comforts aside to honor God with my abilities is more important. After my run on Thursday I read Matthew 16, and these verses stuck out to me: "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it'" (Matt. 16:24-25). I know Jesus is referring to pledging our entire lives to Christ, and I don't mean to take the verse out of context, but I feel like this will be my verse for training for this beast. My goal is not to run the marathon in record-breaking time or to beat anyone, it's simply to honor God with my body. I want to push myself to new limits where I will be forced to rely on Christ as my only source of strength (Phil. 4:13).
This year's race is on May 6th, and I'll start training in January. I'll post updates here not because I think any of you want to read about it! But more as a way to chronicle and work through the journey for myself. Finally, if anyone out there has training tips to share, don't withhold them. This is uncharted territory for me, so I'm open to suggestions :)
The holidays are fast approaching, and while I love this time of year, it's also one of the most difficult times. Three Thanksgiving's ago I had my first "baby breakdown." I remember it clearly: Nate ran to Wal-Mart in Grand Island. When he came back, he reported that his best friend from high school and his wife, who had just married a few months earlier, were expecting their first child. I don't remember my immediate reaction. But I do remember a little later I left my mother in-law's house and drove aimlessly around the neighborhood. I eventually parked the Jeep a few blocks down, outside of the old Engleman Elementary School. I leaned my forehead on the steering wheel and cried, letting the tears fall on my helpless hands resting in my lap. Jon Foreman sang through my speakers, "So I'm not sure why it always flows downhill / Why broken cisterns never could stay filled / I've spent ten years singing gravity away / But the water keeps on falling from the sky" (full lyrics and video embedded below).
So for that reason, Thanksgiving has made me anxious. Celebrating the holidays with Nate's family is sometimes tough as we are the only childless couple of the bunch. Playing with other kids often breaks my heart as I am reminded that we don't have kids and may never have this blessing. I know it seems selfish. I can't explain it...if you've been through this, you know what it's like. It's gut-wrenching. The kind of feeling that closes off your throat and makes it hard to breathe.
I'm nervous to travel back to Columbus for Christmas. My entire extended family will be celebrating together, this time with my cousin's new, beautiful baby boy. I fear running into my two best friends from high school. Celeste now has a five month old baby, Joshua, and Hannah will have a new baby by then. Contact with these two girls--my first best friends--has really taken a dive lately. It's crazy how impacting infertility has been on all areas of my life.
I have about two weeks to prepare my heart for the holidays and brace myself to withstand a storm of emotions.
I'll close with the song I alluded to earlier. It's a good one. Very mellow with beautiful lyrics.
Why broken cisterns never could stay filled
I've spent ten years singing gravity away
But the water keeps on falling from the sky
And here tonight while the stars are blacking out
With every hope and dream I've ever had in doubt
I've spent ten years trying to sing these doubts away
But the water keeps on falling from my eyes
And heaven knows, heaven knows
I tried to find a cure for the pain
Oh my Lord! To suffer like you do
It would be a lie to run away
So blood is fire pulsing through our veins
We're either writers or fools behind the reigns
I've spent ten years trying to sing it all way
But the water keeps on falling from my tries
And heaven knows, heaven knows
I tried to find a cure for the pain
Oh my Lord! To suffer like you do
It would be a lie to run away
A lie to run
It would be a lie
It would be a lie to run away
It keeps on falling
Water keeps on falling from my eyes
And heaven knows, heaven knows
I tried to find a cure for the pain
Oh my Lord! To suffer like you do
It would be a lie to run away
So I went. And now that I'm home and had the chance to take a warm shower and eat something other than carbs, I can look back on the event with a clear mind. I am ashamed of my selfish attitude going into the weekend. It was beautiful to watch that many high school students come together and worship. On our way home, we asked the kids what they learned, and hearing what God taught them was worth the lack of sleep and any awkwardness I felt. Throughout the short time I was pushed closer to God through worship, the speakers, fellowship with other coaches, and time to spend in the word and reading more of Crazy Love. And here's what I've learned:
Lately I don't crave God like I should. I want to be crazy for Jesus like I was when I first was saved. I want to be madly in love with Him. I want to love Him more than I love my husband, more than I love my job, more than I love my students. I want the kind of craving for God written about in Psalm 63:
Then, being the pragmatic person I am, I asked myself--how can I have this desire for God? God heard my thoughts because I was reading in Crazy Love tonight and in it, Frances Chan references James 4:8. I flipped to James 4 in my Bible and found three stars (I always draw three stars next to pivotal passages) etched in pencil next to James 4:7-10:
Tonight as my husband and I walked the streets of Ogallala and took time to catch up with each other, I was in tears as I lamented over how far I've drifted from God since I've become a teacher. Fortunately, God is gracious (Ephesians 2:4-5)....
I am anxious to "come close to God so that God will come close to [me]." I want to have an intimacy with the God who created us, the God who sent his son to die a bloody death "as an offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ" (2 Cor. 5:21). And to do this, my priorities have to shift and sacrifices need to be made. Here's what I'll be working on for an indefinite amount of time. Please hold me accountable; check in on me to see if I'm sticking to this:
- Spending more quality time in the Word--my goal is to saturate myself in the gospel for the rest of the semester.
- Cutting out alcohol from my life. I don't drink a lot; I'll have a beer or a glass of wine with my meal once a month because I like the taste. But, there are times when I've given into temptations to drink more than I should. And, it's not glorifying to God, so why do it?
- Cutting back hours spent on my job. I think this will be the toughest challenge for me. For the past four years I've invested my life into my career...it's been my focus and my center and has pulled me away from Christ. Cutting back may mean maximizing my time more at school. It may mean assigning less essays. I'm still trying to figure out how to implement this one...if you have any ideas, pass them my way :)
I love running, but I hate feeling like I'm getting nowhere when running. Of course I'm not referring to literal running this time...
This week of teaching has been incredibly frustrating. Actually, this year has been my most challenging year so far. I feel like I finally have a decent grasp on the content I'm teaching, and I've got some cool units and lessons worked out. But I seem to be running and going nowhere. I'm trying to lead my kids to improvement, growth, etc. and some of them are running right with me, while others are following close behind. But many are back at the starting line and don't seem to have budged. This is usually how it works in education---but I'm a little nervous about...actually, I'm terrified at the high number of kids I still have on the starting line at week 12 of the school year. Yesterday I sat at my desk during my plan period with my head in my shaking hands and tears streaming onto my keyboard...all out of frustration. I don't know what to do to motivate some of my students. I've tried positivity, engaging lessons, pep-talks, mixing up the content of my class, heart to hearts, personal letters, group work, solo work, projects, quizzes, lectures, grades....it's only November, and I've already used up my best tricks. I know I can't reach every kid (though I'm going to try), but I honestly feel like I'm failing as a teacher.
I love teaching, but this year I'm struggling to be positive as I head to work. I'm exhausted by one in the afternoon and my body aches by seven in the evening. By eight I want to be in bed. I usually experience this feeling for a short time in February, not November. It worries me. I don't know if I need a change of venue or a change of career. I pray each night God would give me a joyful demeanor and patience as I prepare for the next day, but it's hard to maintain this past noon. I'm not sure how much longer I can keep pouring energy into kids with no return, no gains, not even a glimmer to tell me they're "getting it."
An old friend of mine from high school emailed me today. I haven't heard from her in quite awhile, but she wanted to check in to let me know that she's fervently praying for our adoption process. I'm not going to lie, it was nice to hear it. I'm a little surprised I'm even typing this because for some reason lately, people have been catching me all over town, in school, at XC meets, etc. and have asked about our adoption progress. I know people mean well, but it's awkward when this happens because we have nothing to tell. But for some reason, the email I received today didn't bother me. Maybe it's because it was from an old friend who, at one time, also struggled with trying to conceive. But I think the reason it didn't bother me is she wasn't asking for any information or updates. She was simply emailing to let me know that she has been praying for us....
My throat is tightening as I grit my teeth and bite my bottom lip in an unsuccessful attempt to fight back tears. I've missed rejoicing with my best friend as she welcomed her first baby into the world this last summer. My relationship with my other best friend pretty much fell off the face of the earth with the announcement of her pregnancy nearly nine months ago. My house feels empty and quiet--the spot in our kitchen where I planned to place a high chair is now a resting place for dirty towels waiting to be taken to the laundry room. As the holidays approach and we make plans to visit family, I grow nervous thinking about meeting my cousin's new beautiful baby boy and the emotional response I might have to it all. I am still deeply affected by our infertility and tonight it's catching up with me, catching me off guard.
I'm still learning the ins and outs of the sport and of coaching in general. Since I started teaching four years ago, I've wanted to ease my way into coaching athletics, but with my Language Arts background--I was quickly pigeonholed into the speech and drama department. So when the head coach approached me two years about helping him out, I didn't think twice about saying yes. I feel blessed to be able to work alongside and learn from a Christian coach who is focused on developing runners who are focused on simply doing their best to honor God with their talents and abilities. I'm grateful for the opportunity to run with kids and get to know them on a new level. I love watching kids push themselves. Back in September, one of our 7th grade runners who finished the race in the back of the pack approached me afterwards with tears in her eyes and said, "I'm so proud of myself, Mrs. Helzer--I didn't walk at all this race...I did my best!" I gave her a hug and told her I was proud of her, too--and she started crying right there on the golf course because she was so happy. It was a sweet moment that I don't think I'll ever forget...all because she pushed herself to do her best.
I don't always know what to say to kids as they're running at meets (run faster just seems too obvious); I can't diagnose the reason behind kids' aches and pains (I knew I should've taken Anatomy...), and I haven't quite figured out how to develop the "perfect" workout schedule ("go run" probably isn't specific enough). But I do know that I've enjoyed my time as an assistant and am hoping to have more years ahead of me to learn and develop as a coach.
If you're the praying type--here are a few requests as we head to the state meet:
- Pray that our kids would be focused not on winning but on simply doing their best and staying focused on what truly matters.
- We have a few kids who are hurting this week (shin splints, sore muscles, etc), so pray for relief from the pain and that they may remain injury free so they can run their best.
- Am I an effective teacher?
- Am I doing enough to honor God with my life?
- Is my marriage all it can be?
- Am I eating balanced meals? (This seems stupid, but I seriously worry about this every day!)
- Am I bad wife because my house is messy?
- What if we are never placed with a baby?
- Will I ever earn my Master's?
- Where will we be a year from now?
- Will I have time to run today?
"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4: 6-7).
We need to replace worry with prayer---not just self-centered prayer, but also prayer that offers thanks for what we have. God promises that the results of this will be an extraordinary peace. And ultimately, for those of us who struggle with worry, that's what we want...peace.
I've never been very good at memorizing scripture. But Philippians 4:6-7 are two verses that I'm going to commit to memory this week so I can begin to kick this nasty habit.
Today Dan posted this link on his facebook page: Rediscovering Columbus: Students take second look at discovery of New World - Omaha.com. The article features his Ralston students teaching elementary school students about a very important aspect of Columbus Day. Take a gander at it. Then rest easy knowing there are phenomenal teachers in our own state who are inspiring kids and forming them into critical, just citizens.
Morning: During my quiet time I found myself drawn to John 3:30--"He must become greater; I must become less." I kept thinking about how selfish I have been lately--striving for worldly success and accolades within my career enough that I've made God second in my life. I prayed this morning that I would make much of God this week, that I would focus less on myself and more on God.
Lunch: At FCA, Shane (our leader), preached on why we were made: to bring glory to God. He focused on Isaiah 43: 7 "...everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made." We can't do anything to make God look better--He's already perfect, but we can do our best to magnify Him and make much of Him.
Evening: I wasted my time reading stupid crap on Facebook, checking my school email, etc. I knew I should take advantage of the down time to study God's word more...but I didn't. I made a decision to just push God off....again. Finally when I settled in for bed, I cracked open Crazy Love, the book Nate and I are currently reading. And here's what jumped out to me tonight:
For too long to even count the number of weeks or months I've shoved God off because of the "magnitude of my responsibilities;" my life has reeked of arrogance. Sure, I've read my Bible, done the obligatory quiet time, attended church, prayed a few times a day---but when I compare the amount of time and effort I put into my job to the amount of time and effort I put into my walk with God, into fulfilling my purpose to bring glory to Him--I am embarrassed and ashamed.
Chan emphasizes the point Shane made at lunch today:
85 teachers from 24 different states submitted work for consideration, so I feel incredibly blessed to have my piece selected. The next step will be to work with the editors to make my piece even better and ready for publication. I am thrilled about this experience, but this has not been an effort all my own. My summer writing group, a few close friends, my blog readers (I originally posted my essay on the blog awhile back), and of course...my husband, all provided feedback to me as I drafted the essay...so if any of you are reading this, thank you!
Here were some highlights:
1. Hanging out with chill people all day long. We had never met Tyler and Nolan; Tim and Analisa were acquaintances before, but we got to know them much better yesterday; we knew Ryan pretty well, but got to know a new side of him, and Lena is an old friend who we haven't talked with in quite some time. Despite being sweaty, tired, and hot--the day flew by because we enjoyed ourselves so much.
2. Watching everyone push themselves to new limits. Some of us ran two legs of the relay, some ran three--but we all pushed it. After Nolan's two runs he said those were the hardest runs he'd ever done. Ryan (who is not a runner and signed up for our team on a whim) pushed himself to the point of puking during his last leg; and as Lena handed the baton to Tyler at our last exchange point, the sheer look of determination on her face was enough to scare anyone away! Nate came across his first exchange point after his 5.41 leg looking like a million bucks; Tyler, Analisa, and Tim (who are all experienced runners) ran excellent splits, pushing themselves to pass as many teams as possible. I earned two new PR's running my first 4.68 hilly run at an 8:08 pace, and my last 2.66 flat run at a 7:54 pace. It was so awesome to cheer on one another throughout the day and witness a new level of accomplishment for each person.
Nate and Ryan are actually in the background of this news clip (Market to Market Relay - the Race from Omaha to Lincoln) if you're interested :) Here's a few photos from the event:
I've been studying Hebrews, one of my favorite books of the Bible. I've studied it a few times, but this time has been different since I'm in a newer Bible, still void of my scribblings, highlightings, and musings. It's allowed me to look at Hebrews in a new light. Today I studied Hebrews 11 which contains a run-down of the faith greats. This has always been the portion of Hebrews I've keyed in on the most--the stories of Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, etc. But today found myself underlining and starring different verses. Here's what jumped out at me today:
Here's another set of verses that jumped out at me today:
My unsettled soul is a result of more than just stress. God's teaching me some tough lessons this week that have shaken me up a bit. It'll take time, diligence, and prayer to struggle through these in order to become all that God wants me to be.
It's not necessarily that I feel the need to be number one at everything I do. I have so many interests and so many things I want to invest in, but I can't possibly do my best (which is what I feel God wants us to do) at everything. I confess that I have placed my job first--way above my spiritual walk and my relationship with Nate. I've been a terrible friend and family member. I know there has to be a lifestyle change before bringing a child into our home, and since I don't know when that day will be, I feel the need to prep myself now. But what compromises do I make? There are obviously a few responsibilities and commitments that will stay: my relationship with Christ and my marriage. But how do I decide which role to cut back on?
I'm at an overwhelming crossroad in life...it's not the first time and it certainly won't be the last. So, I'll continue to eat bacon. Just kidding. Actually, I think the first thing I must do is take a break...with my husband. All week I've been running and working, leaving Nate to do sink fulls of dishes. As much as it kills me to walk away from the 160 ungraded quizzes, 26 ungraded notebooks, unfinished lesson plans and projects, I will do that tonight. Tomorrow I'll hit the road running (literally since we have Saturday practice) at 6:30. I'm hoping a new day will help put things into perspective for me.
Our journal prompt today was: give three reasons why you want to go on living your life. After I translated it for him, he wrote, The three reasons I want to live my life are my mother, my father, and my siblings. He came up and showed me and I wrote, hermoso (which Google Translate tells me is Spanish for 'beautiful') on his page. While my other students took a quiz over figurative language, I asked him to write his story. He typed it up so diligently on Google Translate and then would bring me the paragraphs translated into broken English. My heart swelled today as I read his work and listened to him try and speak in English. I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it would be to walk in his shoes, everyone around you speaking a foreign language all day long.
Before this I was frustrated about having this student in class. I was mad that our district doesn't have any services to offer him, I was tired of trying to adapt everything I do for him and then make accommodations and modifications for ten other students as well. I had a bad attitude. But today it faded. Today during journaling time I played Brandon Heath's song, "Give Me Your Eyes." The chorus really has stuck with as I reflect on my minor breakthrough with this student:
"Give me your eyes for just one second / Give me your eyes so I can see / Everything that I keep missing / Give me your love for humanity"Teaching is exhausting. But this song is a great reminder of how to redirect my crabbiness and try to see situations and people the way God sees them.