Friday, September 25, 2015

Well, I've Been Afraid of Changing

Change is the only constant - Heraclitus

[Now I don't always go around quoting Greek philosophers but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.]

I have been a classroom teacher for 18 years.  

I went from 1st grade to 5th grade in my first year of teaching.  I moved classrooms three times at my second school.  In fact, in my first 7 years of teaching, I either moved schools or classrooms every year. I moved from 5th to 4th then back to 5th then back to 4th then back to 5th [and that involved moving classrooms]

In the 2006-2007 school year, I had my first experience where I questioned why I was teaching at all. [Some of you that have had me might still be asking that question.]  I was pregnant with child number four. [Incidentally, we did stop drinking all tap water in 2006.] I was one year into a three year graduate program. [I guess having 3 kids, a full time job, being pregnant, having a husband that worked and coached an hour away wasn't enough.] Around Halloween, the wheels fell off. 

The list was given to me. The list that included every single 5th grader teacher in the county, along with their scores. 

My name was at the bottom. [In golf, the low score is really good. Not so good in this case.] I would love to say that some help was offered or that anything positive was even said to me or about me during this encounter. But...that's in the past.  I have learned that every single encounter is orchestrated by God. Take an opportunity to learn from every situation - good or bad.

In that one instant, I felt like I had two choices [as Andy Mineo would say]: Make moves or make excuses. 

I chose to move. 
I moved on being a better reading teacher.
I moved on learning to let things go [well, almost].
I moved on soaking up knowledge and ideas from graduate school.

And after another year in 5th grade, I moved on.

Since 2008, I have been an 8th grade science teacher. 

I've often said that teaching 8th grade was much like teaching 5th grade - the kids act the same but they are just taller. [Well, some of them.]

I have enjoyed teaching middle school. [Well, most of the time.] 

Here are a few things I've learned along the way:

  • 8th graders are funny. [Sometimes good funny and sometimes not-so-good funny.]
  • Many middle schoolers just want to belong [not unlike most human beings...a few of you just don't care] and they want you to notice them. A few kids gain that attention negatively.
  • It is mandatory that a you pick your battles carefully. Every single mole hill does not have to become a mountain. [I have learned that the hard way.] 
  • Love what you teach and kids will love it too. Move, dance, be silly, listen to 80s Pandora [that's just good teaching], and laugh. [A lot.]
  • Learn. To. Let. It. Go. Bad days. Terrible lessons. Hurt feelings. Things beyond your control. [This is the one I am still working on.  I let things eat at me because I never want anyone to be disappointed in me.]
  • The middle school is a loud place.  Get used to it.
  • Be consistent. Many of them may not remember a pencil or that you asked them to study for a vocabulary quiz but they will remember you promised them a sucker for being good [that one time].
Teaching in middle school has been an extraordinarily wild ride.

I have made some incredibly wonderful friends. Friends that have laughed with me and cried with me. Friends that have loved my children and loved me when I couldn't love myself. Friends that have encouraged and energized me to be a better teacher and a better person.

I have been blessed to teach some amazing students that taught me so much about life.  Many times, middle schoolers do not want anyone to see the inside yet they don't realize how transparent they are at this awkward age. My heart aches for the issues and things that kids, so young, are expected to just accept. Yet, through some struggles, a lot of tears, many walks to and from lunch, and just through general conversation, some amazing children have been in my life.

I would not trade anything for my time as an 8th grade science teacher. Not one thing.  

I am leaving middle school. 

An opportunity to go back to my roots and be with elementary children found its way to me. [I know that God does not deal in luck and chance.] When I left 5th grade to come to the middle school it wasn't just about moving because Craig was here but more about getting out of a situation. Again, I won't go into much detail but I knew that staying was not ever going to change the mindset and perception of me.  

This time, I am leaving for an opportunity I've always wanted.
Not running away from something terrible. 
Not looking to get out because I know it is time.

[Just a side note: Please do not question my loyalty to my job or this community. Do not mistake my taking an opportunity to do something different for any kind of "leaving for greener grass". That will be all I'll say about folks who cannot do their own jobs well because they are too tired from being busy bodies.]
I am going to be a reading teacher.

This opportunity is just a God send and something I have prayed about for a few years. God has closed so many doors to jobs I pursued in the last few years. 

This door was wide open. 

And I am super excited. 

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Broken Hope

The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. 
Psalm 34:18


That was the word that came to mind when I came back to this bench in Hammonds Park on Saturday.

A few minutes before, I'd been sitting and talking with a young man [he was 27]. He lived just down the road from the park and was attending the block party we were helping with on Saturday.  

He and I talked about kids [he had one son] and jobs. When I asked him what he did for a living he sort of laughed and said, "I deliver liquor. It's not exactly a great job but it pays the bills."  He told me he'd lived in Brooklyn Park all of his life. 
He wanted to travel.
He wanted to leave.
He wanted to do more with his life. For his wife. For his son. For himself. 

We talked for a few minutes more then he said, "I have a lot of demons I'm trying to get rid of you know." 

At that moment, the air thick with regrets from the past, he mumbled from a cigarette filled mouth, "I need Jesus."

I invited him to the church service [] on Sunday. 

"I'm not so sure I belong in church. I just need Jesus."

My pounding heart came from my desire for God to just help me open up this door by making some sort of connection with him.  I didn't want to be viewed as this Southern Baptist who came with her church to "save" [judge, condemn, scold, etc.]  all of these "sinners" in this broken, desperate city. I didn't want to be cliché. 

[God, I know you are in the midst of all of this and that YOU are the reason we are here. Please give me the words to let this young man know that Jesus is here and available and wants him.]

"I mean, I came because I got this flyer on my door [our group distributed flyers on Friday to a row of seven streets] and my kids loves to play with other kids. I'm just not really sure I belong in a church. I might go back and drink a beer this afternoon. I don't know...I'm just not sure."

God was beckoning me, here on a broken bench, to speak to this brother who needed to hear that there was a hope out there and it could be found.

"All of us here. In this park. Today. We ALL need Jesus. At church, we find that others can support us in our struggles to find Him.  He will meet us where we are, no matter where that might be."

[God, I'm not sure if I said the right things.  Could I get some sort of sign?  Like a skywriter or the wink of a passing squirrel? Anything?]

"I might have to try that out.  I mean, I think my kid would enjoy it and we could do that as a family. I might.  I will see."

Thank you God for allowing me to cross paths with this young man.  He has been on my mind, continuously, since Saturday. I don't know his heart but I will never forget his face.  I pray, that one day, he finds the hope that I know only You can bring to him.

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs in the kingdom of heaven. 
Matthew 5:3

Saturday was her birthday.  She turned 40.

There wasn't anyone at home to buy her a cake but her five children wanted her to be able to celebrate her birthday.  

She was going to go to the store on her way home and get herself a cake and some candles so her kids could celebrate. 
And have cake. 

The pastor's wife surprised her with a cake. And candles.  We sang happy birthday.

There was not a dry eye in the circle of people.

But there was one very ecstatic seven year old boy that could not stop grinning, ear to ear, as he told his mom, "Happy birthday!" over and over and over again.

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
Acts 20:24

Paul was speaking to the church at Macedonia about continuing the work of the Lord, even after he was gone. He reminded them to consider the trials and afflictions [wolves] they would face as opportunities to further God's kingdom. He stressed to them they were the "overseers" of the gospel, commanded by the Holy Spirit, to take care of their flock.

Life Church Baltimore had their first church service this past Sunday. 

Ken and his family are overseeing their community to further God's kingdom. They frequently pick up trash. They hold a youth Bible study. They have life groups around the community. They invest in the lives of these people, many of whom carry banners of





Yet, Sunday, one banner was higher than the others...

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10

My plea to God, for Ken, his family, and Life Church of Baltimore, is that very soon they are looking for a bigger building to house the folks that want to know about Jesus. The fire has been ignited and God's people must continue to breathe life into this place of hope for this community.  

On Friday, as we distributed flyers to this community, the group I was with missed a Dead End sign [not surprising]. We'd run out of flyers but decided we would at least walk to the end of the street and just verbally give out the info to anyone we encountered.

God orchestrates every single encounter in our lives.

We walked past a house with several folks in the yard. One of the group members walked over to share the church information with them but immediately beckoned for us to join. We found out that a little over 16 hours earlier this family had lost a son [grandson, brother, friend, child] to murder. His body was discovered along a wooded path, riddled with several bullet holes.

What do you say to a mother who will be bury her son after senseless violence? 
Nothing. There are no words of comfort. None of us had any clue what she was feeling at that exact moment. 

One of the ladies from our group immediately sprang to action, "Can we pray with you?"  And we prayed, through tears and sadness, with a family that felt hopeless. 

Had we not missed the Dead End, sign then we might have never had this encounter. 

God was reminding us [me] that with Him, there are no dead ends....only life.
And hope.

My heart aches for this family. There was no mention of the young man, other than he was 21 and his name was Michael. 

There is a desperate need for that hope, found only in Christ, in so many places. We see them on the news or down the street or half-way around the world or in the people that live in our own houses.  As a people of a God, we [I] can no longer turn our [my] heads and hope that someone else reaches out. 

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Harlots and Handlettering

I love to write things about my children [because they are hilarious and witty and they make my heart so happy] but I try not to share too many personal family things. [I mean, we've got to have some decorum...or at least pretend like we do.]  

Parenting is an extraordinarily awesome responsibility but.....
HOLY COW!  It is the hardest job I've EVER had. [And dad, if you are reading, I know you are saying something like, "Well you'd know since you've had A LOT of jobs."  I just couldn't decide on a good job so I had to try them all.] 

In the past few months I have been reminded of how a parent's heart can feel as if it is being ripped out and trampled while watching a child deal with life's lowest moments.

Even when you know that the issues being faced are just part of growing up.

Especially when you know there is not one single thing that can be done to make your child feel any better.

In those moments, where it feels as if the tipping point is close and the final landing is far off the course we intended, God will send us a peace to accept the place we land.  

Molly and I attended a handlettering class this past Sunday at a whimsical art studio in Mt. Holly, A Place to Land. [Emma and Gabe began taking art classes there two weeks ago so we decided to attend a class for adults.]The women that lead the class use their creative skills to spread the gospel through art. 

Have you ever had an encounter or experience with someone and you were just left thanking God that your paths crossed? That was me on Sunday.

Our theme for the night was bravery. 

Enter Rahab.  
A Biblical heroine. 
A woman protecting her family. 
A harlot. [Prostitute, lady of the night, etc.]

She faithfully hid the Israelite spies, under flax, in her house.  She dutifully sent the soldiers from Jericho on a wild good chase after she insisted the spies had fled the city.  She most graciously asked for God to spare her and her family when the Israelites came in to Jericho.  She listened when the spies told her to tie the red rope to her door and to gather her family in her house. 

Rahab.  A woman who sold herself for money [probably for her family] was spared the wrath of destruction when Joshua and his army took Jericho. 

God will bless us. 



Anyone who asks in His name.

Even a harlot.

Even a girl, feeling like the world is against her, can find herself if she believes that she is brave enough to step out.

Like Rahab, who stepped out onto her roof, hid the spies, and saved her family

She who is BRAVE is FREE.

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