Goals for 2013

It's hard to believe we're wrapping up 2012 and welcoming in 2013. Like many people, for the past month I've been thinking about how to make the most out of 2013. One of my favorite writers, Don Miller, writes about making new year resolutions; he writes, "Goals work much better when they're set within a narrative context. Frodo would not have gone on his journey unless the fate of Middle Earth depended on it. [...] Without a narrative context, we have little motivation to become different people than we are." When we think of our lives as stories, and when we're deliberate in creating our stories--then perhaps we can set specific goals that will help us live out the best story possible.

I think most people I've met want to live meaningful lives that tell good stories. To be honest, I don't quite know what story I want to tell with my life. I couldn't map out a plot for you because my plot line would be messy and confusing. And I'm not sure it's healthy to write our own stories and determine our own endings. I do know this: I want to tell a story that is filled with passion for God, love for others, that is messy with conflict because, let's face it...we learn the most from conflict. I want to tell a story that doesn't hold back and offers moments for quiet reflection. When I think of my life in this context, these goals come to mind:

1. Memorize one Bible verse a week. I feel like this goal would help me to connect with God on a more intimate level because it requires daily practice. During my marathon training last year, I used my long runs as times to practice memorizing scripture and it helped pull me through some difficult runs.

2. I want to keep running because it offers that quiet reflection that I feel is necessary in living well. But I want to branch out and have at least one social run a week so I can use that time to connect with someone new. This goal will be a stretch for me. I had a great running partner in Ogallala, and I find myself comparing every running partner with Kristin! The older I get, the more introverted I become; it's way easier to live in solitude. But there is something to be said for a few close friends. I'm still a little fuzzy on how to implement this goal since my social skills are a bit rusty....but for now I'm planning on reactivating my Facebook account (gasp!) so I can seek out a few runners I know. I've got a few races on the list for 2013. I'm planning on running the Rock the Parkway half marathon in Kansas City this April for sure. I'm still debating between signing up for the Chicago Marathon--it's incredibly expensive, and Nate is busy that weekend, so I'd be on my own. If I don't do that race, I'm looking at running a half in the Black Hills with Kristin in June and then possibly either the full marathon here in Omaha this coming September or the 30 mile Market to Market solo run (I'm still not sure how I'll do with high mileage training during the summer months...).

3. Work less. I'm struggling with how to articulate this more specifically. I love teaching English, but I don't want this to be the most important part of my life. The more I work, the more I start to resent teaching. My career won't be sustainable if I go at the pace I've been running for the past five years. I want to take time each week to talk with my husband without a computer on my lap, to read whatever I want to read, to cook, to write, and to play guitar. This goal has been one of mine each year since I've started teaching, and I always seem to fail at it. I'm going to need lots of help with this one...


Responding to trouble

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the little guy we almost adopted this last summer. I thought I had moved on, but about a month ago I received a plethora of pregnancy announcements (which really haven't bothered me all that much lately), and these opened up old wounds. During our life group Bible study a few weeks ago, I confessed to the women in my group that I hadn't really taken time to grieve this. It all fell through the first week of school, one of the busiest weeks for a teacher. I know some people probably think it's ridiculous that I'm still affected by this loss of a child that wasn't even really ours. I can't say I know what losing a child is like, but this hole I feel is pretty terrible.

This week we had to travel unexpectedly to Columbus for my aunt's funeral. She was only 55 and was healthy; she died in her sleep. It's always hard to say goodbye to someone you're not ready to say goodbye to...I can't imagine how difficult it's been for the families of the 26 killed in Newtown, CT. Nevertheless...on the way to Columbus, Nate and I finally had a chance to have a long talk about adoption, our family, and what to do next.

We talked about how hard it's been for me to get over our failed placement, and how hard it's been for Nate to grow older and still remain childless. We talked about praying and how we both feel uncomfortable asking God for children even though we know God knows our desires. We talked about considering fostering children. And we cried a little as we talked.

This morning I spent some time studying the Bible. I finally got around to reading a Bible study a friend sent me called, "When God Says 'No'...Pray." There have been very few times I've actually asked God to make us parents, but that request has been in my heart for nearly seven years (as long as Nate and I have been married). Ever since we've started our adoption journey a year and a half ago, a few people have said things like, "You'll become parents; God will give you that desire." But lately I'm left wondering (again) if maybe God has shut that door. Maybe God has said no this prayer of ours.

The study I read mentioned a dream that went unfulfilled for David, an incredible servant of God who, though he had a few slip-ups here and there, remains one of the faith greats in the Bible. David dreamed of building an incredible temple for God, but God told him no. David didn't respond with weeping, a bout of depression, or anger. Instead, his response was worship (1 Chronicles 29:10-19) realizing that all comes from God--even our unfulfilled dreams.

Sometimes I wonder why I haven't walked away from God. Early in our struggle with infertility, I considered it. This morning I read the end of John 6, and in it many people desert Jesus because He spoke hard truths. At one point Jesus turned to the 12 he called to follow Him and asked, "'Are you also going to leave?'" But Peter bluntly replies, "'Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy  One of God'" (John 6:66-69). I haven't walked away from God because I know what it's like to be without Him. It's a hopeless, empty feeling that left me always searching and groping but never finding. I haven't walked away from God because I believe in the promise God's given us.

In times of desperation, in times of sorrow, in times of questioning, in times of unmet desires, we have to believe that God is at work. I'm not as good as David; I don't always respond with worship, but maybe someday later in my life I will.

Snow days

On Wednesday afternoon the snow began falling, and the kids at school began praying for a snow day. By 4:00 the snow was coming down pretty hard. It ended up taking me 1 hour and 45 minutes to get home (normally it's a 25-30 minute drive). I took a different route to avoid the after school traffic in Gretna, but when I got on the interstate, there were two accidents, so I got off on the 144th street exit which ended up being a horrible idea. Apparently 144th street at 4:30 is the road everyone in Omaha takes to get home. Not only was traffic terrible, the roads were awful. Thus, I spent nearly two hours in the car on Wednesday night. Fortunately, all the Metro area schools were cancelled on Thursday. Gretna received a whopping 10 inches of snow, while most of Omaha received 8-9 inches.

Yesterday the snow was drifted around the cars in our apartment parking lot and many cars were stuck haphazardly throughout the lot, so we couldn't leave. We spent the morning drinking coffee, grading papers, and watching my favorite Christmas movie: It's a Wonderful Life by the fire. Nate scooped the apartment sidewalk and helped a few people dig out their cars since our complex didn't get plowed until late afternoon. We ventured out to Target later to pick up a few gifts for a family we are buying for through our church (luckily we have one all wheel drive vehicle because many cars were stuck throughout 144th street), and we spent the evening wrapping those presents and watching Charlie Brown cartoons while drinking hot chocolate with candy canes as stirrers. Cliche snow day :)

I was blessed enough to receive a second snow day today! This morning I spent some good time reading the Bible and praying, I caught up on some much needed apartment cleaning, and later today I will continue chipping away at the pile of end of semester essays and projects, read, play guitar, and spend some time writing. I can't wait.


Random updates

Since my blogging activity has been sporadic lately, here's a few random updates and accompanying photos:

  • Our jobs are busy...nothing new. But they have been going well for us. I've rekindled my love affair with American literature in teaching my English 11 CP course. In our unit on transcendentalists, I hijacked a project that a colleague and friend created to accompany Thoreau's Walden. The activity required the kids to go outside and read, write, and reflect. It was wonderful; the kids begged for more. We just finished The Scarlet Letter, and now we're embarking on Whitman and Dickinson. I purchased a t-shirt with Whitman's face on it for the occasion. I'm wearing it tomorrow :) Nate's schedule picked up in the last few weeks with musical auditions and extra holiday performances. Here's a few photos of their last performance at Joslyn Art Museum: 
  • I mentioned in a few older posts that my district blessed me with a trip to Vegas for the NCTE and NWP conventions. I received an award at NCTE, and at the breakfast where they gave me the award, Ernest Morrell, was the featured speaker. He's the incoming president for NCTE and author of several insightful articles and books about literacy and teaching. It was exciting to be able to stand next to him...nerdy, I know! The book one of my essays was featured in, What Teaching Means, was also the topic of a session at NWP. The editors (teachers from here in Omaha) and a few of the authors all met for dinner one night. It was great meeting these people whose words have had such an impact on me. Here's a photo from our dinner: 
  • To celebrate Thanksgiving, Nate's family initiated our first-ever ugly sweater mandate. Nate went all out for the day, buying a women's cardigan, a nice turtleneck, a pair of loafers, and he shaved a creepy moustache. He was a hit, and I think it will more than likely be a tradition we carry over from year to year: 

That's about all we've been up to! We have two more weeks of madness before break. We are looking forward to some time away with family and friends!

Life without Facebook..it really does exist!

A little over a year ago I said goodbye to Facebook. I was over-stimulated, had lost my ability to manage my time well, and my thinking had become muddled. When I took a step back to examine the cause of these things, I came to realize just how much time I wasted on Facebook. I felt as if I had lost my ability to use social networking correctly. So, on a whim, I deactivated my account.

At first I was nervous that my relationships with people would be comprimised without Facebook. A year prior, a few friends and I had maintained a weekly email swap on the site, but that communication died out long before I ditched my account. Sure, I felt out of the loop with some folks, but without Facebook, I came to realize that my "relationships" on Facebook were shallow and never moved beyond virtual correspondence. Now, some folks may see these "realtionships" as genuine. But for me to feel like a relationship is genuine, I need face to face interaction. I need to spend time physically talking with people so I can observe the story they tell with their eyes and their body language. It helps me to understand people better. It feels more intimate and more real.

Over the summer a colleague and I chatted about Facebook, and she admitted that it changed the way she thought; she felt like, at times, it had turned her into a more self-absorbed person. She shared that she sometimes caught herself thinking about what she should post as her status and what those updates would imply about her. I could relate; social networking allows us to be whoever we want to be, even if that means we're posing as someone we're not. Our conversation moved towards times in our lives when we should've been enjoying a moment, but instead, we let that moment pass us by as we debated over what to share on Facebook in regards to that moment. For example, I know I missed out on genuine conversations with my husband as we road tripped to the Pacific Northwest a few summers ago because I was busy posting about the trip on Facebook.

It's funny how much social networking consumed my thinking. I was so connected with other people and their posts, that I felt like I couldn't generate an original thought that was truly my own and not a derivative of someone else's. I do value learning from others, and I value the collaboration and sharing that can come from social networking, but I had simply let it take over my thinking.

I feel refreshed and centered now that I've been able to take a step back from the constant flow of information. The other night my husband and I chatted about how hard it's been to connect with people here in Omaha. I mentioned that I have some old friends from high school who now live here, and that it would be nice to possibly get together with one or two of them. I haven't talked with many of these people since I deactivated my account. I know Facebook would make initiating communication easier. I lamented to him that I haven't been able to find a running partner to replace Kristin. "Maybe it's time you joined Facebook again," he said. Honestly, I knew that was coming. It's been something I've contemplated for a few months now, but I've resisted it in part because I kind of like swimming against the crowd, but I appreciate the silence and freedom I've had since being away. I know it's a matter of balance. I do feel like I'm struggling with that concept lately as I've let my job consume my life this semester; perhaps Facebook would offer a bit of a reprieve. It's funny, awhile back a friend recommended I read Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture, and I've put off buying it simply because I've let gading become an excuse for not reading. But today I bought the book.

I'm going to give this Facebook debacle some thought and prayer this week; I guess we'll see where I feel led.