For my students

To my former students,

On Friday I went back to the school where I taught for nine years. And I got to see, once again, the faces of so many young people whom I hold fondly in my heart. I wish I could say something heartfelt and true about each and every one of you. But I could never find the words that are adequate to express my affection for you individually or collectively.

Young people often make the mistake of assuming that they have no real impact on their teachers. Not true. Regardless of what the gradebook ever said, I could never feel good about a class if I felt like I didn’t have a positive connection with them. I could never not take it personally. Maybe that’s why I took it so hard when I couldn’t reach a difficult student. That’s why your goodwill, your cooperation, your willingness to play and learn along meant so much to me. You let me do something I loved. To those of you who let me do it without complaining or judging… you gave a priceless gift for which I will always be grateful.

Some of these people may not think that I am talking about them.So, let me be clear to any who may happen to read this. If I saw you face to face on Friday, know this: You are beautiful. You are amazing. You are a powerful light in this world. And I am honored and humbled to be a part of your lives for the short time we spent together. There are a few whom I didn’t get to see, but I trust that you know that this is for you as well.

To you seniors, I can not wait to see what you will do next. I believe in you. I pray for you. I hope that all good things come to you in their time and season.

Please, for goodness sake, keep in touch.

And one last thing — Jedis > ninjas, no contest.

Much love to all of you!

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30 Posts of Truth: Something I like about myself

This meme is WAYYY old, but I still want to do it. And since I need to get back into the habit of writing every day, I might just try to do the next 28 posts in 28 days.

My answer to this one came pretty easily, and I hope it rings true to those of you who know me. I hold on to friends. There is a certain threshold in my heart that once people cross it, they can never ever go back. No matter how far this person drifts or how long it has been, I keep people in my heart–always. Some people might call this sentimentality, and while I agree that I am prone to being sentimental about my friends, this is something more. I will do whatever I can to honor not only the friendships I have, but also the friendships that I had.

It pains me to let people go, even when it is so obvious that it’s for the best. But when that does happen, I try to separate what caused the friendship to end from what created the friendship in the first place, then I try not to trample on the good stuff. I always hope for reunion and reconciliation while learning from my mistakes.

Some people drift simply because life and its demands dictate that we spend our valuable minutes elsewhere and so friendships don’t necessarily end, they just fade. Those friendships that have the possibility of reblooming with a little time and TLC is why I love Facebook. It has been such a blessing to be able to reunite or at least stay in touch with so many people I never intended to loose track of, but did. It gives me joy just to be in minimal contact with old friends… keeping tabs… not in a creepy or gossipy sense, but because my heart is built that way. Simply put, if you mattered to me then, you matter to me now.

Lots of people have crossed that threshold. But there are a select few whom I will not, never ever, allow to drift.  Maybe I should say here that I hope they’d never want to. But seriously, you’d have to shoot me dead and sever my arm from my corpse for me to (metaphorically, of course) ever let them go. These people are my tribe. I think they know who they are. As I reflect on this, a few might not realize they they are–which means I need to make some phone calls. But seriously, I find these people if I have to. (Again, not creepy at all, right?) This tribe is not exclusive. It can definitely grow, and I am very happy enough to say that I have people in my life now who, I believe, would be there for me through thick and thin, and would let me be there for them like these special few have over the years.

I know that I am not a perfect friend, but I try to be the best one I can be. Even those who know me best might be surprised at the depth of feeling I carry because (as talkative and open as I can be) I have a hard time telling them. And, seriously, God has put some truly exceptional people in my path and so I’d be crazy not to feel that way. I am truly One Lucky Girl to be able to share life with them. All of them.

I guess, to put it in simply, and I’ve said this before: Once I love somebody, I never ever stop.

Moments of grace.

2011 has been off to a rather interesting start. We have had something like eight snow days in the first six weeks of this year, and I firmly believe this has been by God’s design. This extra time at home has given me more time with my kids, and more time for reflection. I’ve been able to think more about where I’m heading in terms of family and career rather than run the gauntlet of my typical week.

Good things are happening. I have a new church home and I love it. I love their approach to missions and their focus on reaching out to the homeless and the “invisible” suffering and the marginalized right here in our own communities as well as supporting an orphanage in Mexico. The teaching is Biblical, but something that I can chew on throughout the week and keeps me wanting to go back for more. I’ve been able to connect with a small Bible study group. And, it is no small thing that my husband and kids seem to enjoy it, too. That, truly, is an answer to prayer.

Our long-term goal of getting a larger home is finally close enough that we can start talking about them in terms of “next year” rather than in terms of “hopefully,” “maybe,” or “the three-year plan.” Of course, even if we are able to purchase a new home next year, it is still a hopefully, barring any unpleasant or unforeseen circumstances. But, even if we cannot, it feels good to know that we are moving in the right direction in terms of financial stability.

These last six weeks, I’ve been able to do more “heart”work and soul-searching and trying to make sure that my motivations are good and God-honoring as it pertains to my goals and desires. I truly believe that God is going to bless us in the months ahead…I just have to be sure that remain patient and obedient with His timing, and to faithfully continue the work He has given me to the best of my ability. 2011 has had some real moments of grace and clarity and peace, for which I am extremely grateful.

December Views-Day 15: 10 ways I would pass my time if I were a Navy wife

To continue with my efforts to give Michelle some Christmas cheer, I present you with how [un]productive I would be if I were a Navy Wife.

Ten things I would do to pass the time if John were serving overseas:

10. A LOT LESS LAUNDRY, THAT’S FOR DANG SURE.

9. Watch a lot of Food Network and Bravo television.

8. Write a lot of angsty poetry.

7.  Cut my shower time in half by never having to shave my legs.

6. Spend very little time cooking, which is NOT a good thing.

5. Redecorate.

4. Not sleep well.

3. Start talking to myself (more).

2. Probably adopt a cat, and maybe keep the dog.

1. Increase my cell phone minutes because somebody’s gonna have to listen to me.

I think it’s pretty obvious that I’d suck at being a Navy Wife, but I sure do appreciate all of you who are who do it so well.

December Views-Day 12: Oh, Christmas tree!

I have found a new church home, and, boy, has it ever done my heart good. During the regular morning service, they played a video of a Random Act of Culture… a group of people who blended into a crowded food court at a mall and took the patrons by surprise with a powerful performance of the Halleluia Chorus. And because music just gets to me, because seeing people do something brave and share their God-given talent makes me all goosebumpy inside, yours truly here wept like a baby. It was so powerful and beautiful. That was the first crack in my stress-induced shell. It was a much needed and very welcome break.

Then last night I went to an evening Advent service.  The sanctuary was candle lit, the music was wonderful, and the Spirit was there with peace and a quiet kind of joy that can only be described as, well, divine. The stress just melted away, and now I can finally feel the Christmas spirit creeping in despite a rather terrifying pile of papers to grade, tests to write and administer, and a daunting to-do list. I’m going to try very hard not to let the stress creep back in. None of it matters half so much as the happiness and health of my family and my heart’s peace.

So, as we head into this final gauntlet of Holiday preparations, I wish your heart the very thing mine has most sorely needed–peace.

 

joy and grace list

So Karen wants to know what fills her readers’ lives with joy and grace. I’m happy to oblige.

exercising my 80s pop music trivia knowledge;

sharing good stories, good books, and good discourse with my students;

spending sun-drenched afternoons with my kids;

wearing tennis shoes to work;

feeling sexy in just-the-right-fit jeans and a comfy sweater;

wearing my dark-brown hair messy;

laughing at my husband’s threats of deviant behavior at very inappropriate times;

engaging in loooooong conversations with ooooooold friends;

exploring old houses; studying the turning of leaves;

sitting on the front porch and listening to the wind;

breathing deep the smell of rain;

whispering in the dark;

moon gazing;

sipping loose-leaf tea;

kissing;

driving or walking with my camera and my ipod;

listening to my 4 year-old sing her made-up songs;

turning on the dishwasher;

having my Saturday morning coffee in the back yard;

learning;

exchanging quotes from Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail and Napoleon Dynamite with my students;

bedtime prayers;

dancing like a fool;

roasting marshmallows;

walking the aisles at libraries in search for the oldest volumes I can possibly find and perusing the titles;

counting my blessings;

baking cornbread;

having impromptu neighborhood get-togethers;

looking someone deep in the eyes and smiling;

reaching out–reaching out—and connecting.

How about you? What fills your life with joy?

This is huge, peeps.

So, tonight I’ve been tinkering around on the computer playing with my webcam for the first time ever. I wanted to take a self portrait in order to participate in this group in an effort to show my mad love and support for this lady and her awesome project.

Part of the assignment for the self portrait was to state what makes me different. Hmmmm… I’ve kind of covered my difficulty with this question before. So I did some finger tapping, some looking around the room (newly painted, I might add), and freaked myself out amused myself by watching myself in the web cam while I pondered the question.What makes me different? What makes me beautiful?

Well, we’re all beautiful and remarkable in some way. I honestly believe that. But I’m pretty sure that whatever is remarkable about me is probably true of at least a few hundred other people walking the planet, so I should just pick something that is true, if not wholly unique, so I can go to sleep already.

Then it came to me.

My different.

My beautiful.

For the first time in my life, I am not afraid of failing. In fact, for the first time in my life, I can’t really think of anything that I am afraid of. (This, of course, exempts things that a reasonable person should fear like someone/thing harming my children, catastrophic sickness or unexpected loss of employment, and jumping insects that will gnaw my face off.)

In all seriousness, though, this was such a major revelation for me. Huge. Life changing. I’ve been sitting here making a mental list of all the things I’ve been avoiding or afraid to do. Some of these things are difficult, and I’ve avoided them for years out of fear of confrontation, fear of failure, fear of having someone be mad at me, losing a friend, you name it. Tonight I find myself looking at this list and thinking, Okay, I can do these things. And whatever the outcome is, I will be better for having done them.

A year and a half ago, that would not have been possible. Fear of failure was just about all I felt.  In the last year and a half I’ve made some fairly significant changes, and I’ve been growing in this direction. I have been bolder. I have spoken up and stepped out more. I know I’ve made mistakes, but the idea of making a mistake or failing doesn’t fill me with fear anymore. I don’t know when that happened, but it feels wonderful.

Lord, I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow.