It's catching up with me again...

Author's Note: My thoughts are fragmented tonight resulting in a post that doesn't seem to have any unity. I'm okay with that, though...I guess I just needed to get some stuff off my chest.

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....


I haven't thought about our adoption too much. I pray for the process just about every day, but it's been awhile since I've sat down and really thought about it. But last night as I was laying next to my husband, my mind drifted to the subject I've pushed out of my mind for the last three months. I wondered if at that moment any birth moms were reading over profile letters grappling with their decision. And the thought broke my heart. I cannot imagine how difficult of a decision it would be to make an adoption plan for a child...


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.


State Bound

Last week at our district XC meet our our girls' team came in 3rd while our boys seized 1st place; their finishes were enough to earn both teams a spot at state. It's been quite a few years since we've fielded an entire girls' team and even longer since both teams qualified for state. I am extremely proud of our kids and feel blessed to have the chance to take 15 awesome kids to state on Friday.

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.


Kicking Bad Habits: Worry

I have loads of bad habits. Among many, I floss my teeth in the living room, leave half-drank mugs of coffee all over my house and classroom, let the dishes pile up to an overwhelming amount, and sometimes my mouth gets out of control. But the one bad habit I have that's beginning to get in the way of me and God is my constant worry. In short, I am a fretter. I always have been, but the habit seems to be growing worse and worse as I grow older and add to my responsibilities. Here's my list of daily worries:
  • 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?
Many of us are held captive by worry. It keeps us up at night, drives us to do crazy things, and ultimately pushes us farther away from God. Really, when you get right down to the core of worry---you'll find that it's a selfish act.

"'That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life--whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn't life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? So don't worry about these things, saying, 'What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?' These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today'" (Matthew 6:25-34).

I've read this passage many, many times--but it's amazing how quickly I can forget it. The bolded parts stick out to me today. My worry implies two things: that I have little faith and that my thoughts are the same as unbelievers' thoughts. If I am a believer--then I should trust and have faith that God will take care of my needs exactly like He needs to. That doesn't mean I should just kick back and quit trying---as a Christ-follower I have a responsibility to live in a way that honors God, so I should do my best in my walk with Him, my relationships, and my job. It's really easy to tell someone to quit worrying because God commands it. But worry is a bad habit--and breaking bad habits often means we have to replace the bad habit with something productive. So what do we replace worry with?

"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.


A Different Side of Columbus Day

I am inspired by the many great teachers I've learned from, taught alongside, or learned with. One of these is Ralston High School teacher and Nebraska Writing Project Co-Director, Dan Boster. Dan teaches high school English and is also pursuing a PhD from UNL. He works tirelessly to provide students with a just, diverse, critical, socially relevant curriculum and pours just as much energy into teachers with his work in the Writing Project. I'm also amazed at how he involved he seems to be with his family--when I talk to Dan, I can tell his family means more to him than his job...I respect and admire that.

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.


A Slave to Selfishness

Today I've been convicted of my arrogance; it seems I am a slave to selfishness and it's keeping me up late tonight as I wrestle with where to go from here. Here's a summary of my convictions throughout the day:

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:

"When I am consumed by my problems--stressed out about my life, my family, and my job-- I actually convey the belief that I think the circumstances are more important than God's command to always rejoice [Phil. 4:4]. In other words, that I have a 'right' to disobey God because the magnitude of my responsibilities" (Chan).

And a little later Chan writes,"Both worry and stress reek of arrogance."

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:
"The point of your life is to point to Him. Whatever you are doing, God wants to be glorified, because this whole thing is His. It is His movie, His world, His gift." [Isaiah 43:7, 1 Cor. 10:31]

So...I've got some decisions to make, some changes that need to happen. This isn't going to be a walk in the park....but it has to be done; I've wasted too much time being arrogant. It's time to quit living for myself and start living to make much of Him.


In the Works: Youth Writing Festivals

I am blessed to serve on the Advisory Board for the Nebraska Writing Project. This year one of our projects for the board is organizing and planning two writing festivals for students in grades 7-12. Another teacher from Elkhorn South and I have agreed to spear-head the project. We're having a festival at Elkhorn South in March and one at UNK in April to give students from all across the state an opportunity to surround themselves with other writers and immerse themselves in writing they don't normally get to do at school: screenwriting, science-fiction, performance poetry, photography and writing, writing marathons, etc. and to learn about opportunities to publish their work and have a chance to share their writing at our closing open mic. I have to tell you...this is a ton of work! But...I am PUMPED to be able to do this. I've been emailing people like crazy today about leading breakout sessions and helping with the event. This is such an incredible opportunity for Nebraska students, AND it's a great way to promote the good work the Nebraska Writing Project does to other teachers. In a few weeks I'll be creating a website for the event and designing t-shirts for students to purchase. Be watching for updates...and if you're interested in helping out, shoot me an e-mail :)


"What Teaching Means: Stories From America's Classrooms"

The title of this post is the title of the book in which one of my essays will be published! The book will be published by the Rogue Faculty Press located in Omaha and will feature essays by 39 teachers representing 17 different states. Its release date is April 2012.

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!


Market to Market

We are home from a successful run at this year's Market to Market Relay. This was our first time running the race, and our team was a hodge-podge of people who hadn't all met before. Many of our teammates met one another in the van yesterday morning at 6:45 when we started. I have to say---I was a bit nervous about finishing in a decent time, being in a van for people we hardly know for 10+ hours, not puking while running, etc. But...it was a GREAT time. We finished the race in 10 hours and 25 minutes---a little over an hour faster than our projected finish time; we ran at an 8:19/mile pace for the entire race. And we finished 123 out of 250 teams!

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:

These are before and after shots of Ryan...I'm sure you can guess which is which! Ryan did not train much for the event, but he did an awesome job with some brutal runs. His sense of humor was great for our team!

Our team: The Undecideds
Tyler, Tim, Analisa, Ryan, Lena, Nolan, Me, Nate