Quick update

It's been a long time since I've posted...I'm a bad blogger lately.

So, here are a few quick updates:
  • School is in full swing...I've learned all my kids' names now, and the essays are rolling in. This weekend I'll be neck-deep in grading Literacy Narratives and Honoring our Ancestors essays....I'm not sure how I feel about grading essays yet!
  • We're moving into an apartment this Friday! We have someone renting our home in Ogallala with the intent to buy. Our friends (the Yosts) have been so gracious to us, and have let us live in their house since June...I'm sure they're ready to have their home back. We are excited to get into our own space as well and we're hoping it will help us fall into a better routine.
  • I'm trying to maintain a running schedule despite my crazy work schedule...in the next few months I'll be running the Dirty Girl Mud Run in Lincoln and the Market to Market Relay that goes from Omaha to Lincoln. Though it's been tough to fit running into my day, I'm working hard to log miles because I feel like it's the only time I get to think...and I'm just addicted the feeling of tired legs.
  • We've found two churches that we both seem to like, so we're getting close to picking our church home. They are both small churches that seem to have a great community feel to them.
I am ready to settle into a routine that has some sense of predictability. Tonight I'm really homesick for Ogallala. I'm missing all of our great friends and our students. Moving has been a lot tougher on me than I thought it would be, but day by day it's getting easier, and Omaha is really starting to grow on me.

Sorry for the fragmented thoughts. I'm hoping to have a little more time to write something more substantial next week after we get moved and I get all those essays graded!


A new year

This week marked the end of summer for us, which is good because this summer seemed to be long and trying. We both started meetings at our new schools---Nate will teach high school choir at Omaha Burke and I will teach English 11 College Prep, English 12 College Prep, and Dual Credit Composition at Gretna High School to a little over 100 kids (my biggest load yet!). I also have the great privilege this year of helping facilitate some staff development for middle school teachers in my new district through the Nebraska Writing Project. I think it will be a great way to get to know more people.

I'll admit though, I was not particularly excited to start a new school year. All of the junk that's gone on in our lives in the past two months has overshadowed the excitement of starting a great, new job. But after a few days of learning about my new district, my excitement is growing. Of course, I'm anxious. I always worry that I won't "fit in" to my new environment---that my teaching colleagues will find me incompetent or that I won't know how to connect with my new students. And though it was time to leave Ogallala Public Schools, I miss my kids. I always loved the first day of school because it was fun to reconnect with kids and see how they changed over the summer. I feel like Nate and I had some great relationships with kids and families in Ogallala that took a few years to build. While it's cool to have the chance to start fresh again, I do miss the familiarity of Ogallala. I'm sure with time we'll build that familiarity in our new schools. For know it's just a bit uncomfortable. But at the start of each year, I always tell my students that if they remain in their comfort zones, then there is no room for growth...I guess it's time to put my words in action.

Today I have a break from meetings. It is my last day of summer. I slept in until 6 and took advantage of the 55 degree weather by squeezing in a morning run before I drove Nate to work (one of our vehicles broke down yesterday). I plan to spend my last day of summer cleaning, responding to emails that have been neglected all week, working on course documents, and I might squeeze in a trip to Barnes and Noble to spend a gift a card I won at our new teacher meetings. Tonight we're headed back to Ogallala to spend time with some of the greatest people we've ever known. I'm looking forward to a bit of downtime with the familiar before we run full force into the unfamiliar.


Responding to Calamities

Author's note: This post is long, I'm sure, a little rambly and incoherent, and it takes on a bit of a Bible-thumping nature. But it is genuine and writing it has helped me process through some major faith-issues. Many of you know about the struggles we're enduring right now---a recent failed house-selling experience (we "sold" it last week and then our buyer's loan fell through yesterday after we put a deposit down on an apartment), a tumultuous adoption journey, anxiety of starting new jobs. So this morning I found it fitting to read through the book of Job to figure out where to go from this hole of desperation and hopelessness we've fallen into. And after a few hours of reading, I feel pretty convicted that my faith is shallow. I feel like I sometimes give a persona on this space that I am this faithful person who is unshaken in the face of trouble. But as I read about Job and his response to calamities as well as God's response to Job, I realize how surface level my faith is.

Early in the book of Job we read about an encounter between God and Satan where they talk about Job and how blameless he is. Satan then challenges God and says, "'Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!'" (Job 1:9-11). God responds by allowing Satan to to test Job but draws a line at harming Job physically. Soon Job is hammered by messengers who bring all this bad news: his livestock is stolen and killed, his hired hands destroyed, and all of his children are killed. His response is: "'I came naked from my mother's womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!'" (Job 1: 21) It's always amazed me that Job's first response is to recognize the absolute authority of God and praise Him.

Later on Job's health is afflicted and he's covered with sores. His wife encourages Job to curse God so that he can die and just be put out of his misery. Job is not shaken. He responds to her with, "'You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?'" (Job 2:10).

Eventually Job is overwhelmed and starts asking the question we all ask when crap is thrown at us: Why? Why me? Passionately Job cries out, "'I cry to you, O God, but you don't answer. I stand before you, but you don't even look. You have become cruel toward me. You use your power to persecute me. You threw me into the whirlwind and destroy me in the storm...So I looked for good, but evil came instead. I waited for the light, but darkness fell. My heart is troubled and restless. Days of suffering torment me. I walk in gloom, without sunlight...'" (Job 30: 16-22, 26-28). My current state doesn't even touch the depths of Job's suffering, but still, I feel like I can relate to Job's many cries.

Continuing in the book of Job, some of his friends give nuggets of good advice that is buried amongst advice that is irrelevant to Job's situation. His friends all maintain that Job must be suffering because of some past sins he committed---but we know from earlier in the book that God stated Job was a blameless man, so we know that this wisdom is not applicable to Job. Eventually his friend, Elihu, pipes in and in chapter 32 he points out that maybe Job isn't suffering because of some past sin, but maybe Job was sinning in his suffering. Job had become so focused on his trials and on figuring out why God would allow them, that he became a bit self-righteous, like he was above this suffering. In all of this Job forgot that God, the creator of the universe, is good and ordains all things and has vision. Throughout some of these intense life trials Nate and I have endured, my trust in God sometimes is dependent in WHAT He is doing, not in who He is. I become so fixated on figuring out the reason behind these struggles and what I can do to fix them...my focus, then, is on me. Not on God.

Eventually God interjects in Job's situation and for two chapters he hammers Job with a barrage of questions impossible for humans to answer but not impossible for God to answer, in order to humble him and remind him that He is bigger than Job. God concludes with one question: "'Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God's critic, but do you have the answers?'" (Job 40:2) But God must have known Job wasn't quite humbled enough, so He continues his questions for another two chapters. Eventually Job cracks...again. But this time he's really driven to his knees in repentance for his arrogance in questioning God (Job 42: 1-6).

My first inclination in all of my struggles has not been to praise God...and I've found it difficult to truly accept these struggles. Sure, I've been driven to my knees in prayer---but when I reflect on my prayer I feel like it's been selfish in nature. I may have uttered in my prayers that God is sovereign and authoritative and whatever He brings, I'll accept....but in my heart I've added something like a P.S. to my prayers that goes something like this: But God, I really want this baby, or We need for our house to sell. While I think it's alright to ask God for specifics, I think we first have to be okay with trusting God for who He is and not trusting in merely what He can do for us. And in order to get to this point, I think we have to be driven to our knees and made uncomfortable even to the point of pain where we have no other option but to see God for who He is.

Job's story ends with restoration. God blesses Job tenfold, and we are told that Job lives a long, full life. Our stories may not all end with restoration in this lifetime, though. That would be too easy and wouldn't allow for total submission and reliance on God. However---God does promise that He "...causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). We might not see restoration here on earth, but as believers we are guaranteed eternal life. That promise is far sweeter than the blessing of a child, selling my house, or success in my career. That's what I want to chase after with all my being. Today I spent time facedown in prayer confessing my arrogance and self-righteousness to think that I should be immune to trials. I can't do it on my own, but I want to rely on God for who He is and not what blessings He will give me. It's not going to be an easy journey...