Monday, October 26, 2015

Close Your Eyes and Jump

Tomorrow will be my last Monday as an 8th grade science teacher. 

Thursday will be my last day with 8th grade students.

Friday will be my last day at the middle school.

I can speak honestly here. [I mean, I can pretty much do whatever I choose since it's my blog.] 

I am scared. 

After 18 years of teaching, I am not scared about teaching. [Some of you might think different.  If my teaching scares you can keep that to yourself.] 

I am scared of the things I am not sure about...
  • Where is the diet Sundrop? [Like is there just one button or is there like a whole line of buttons for diet Sundrop or am I going to have to resort to bringing my own for the fridge?]
  • Where is the bathroom? [Seriously. Where is the bathroom?  I am over 40. I've had 4 kids. Enough said.]
  • Is there coffee or do I need to follow BYOC? [Bring your own coffee people...keep up!]
  • Where do I park? 
  • How do I get to my classroom? [SERIOUS concern here.]
  • People move jobs every day.  I will survive. [Or I will at least pretend like I know what I'm doing. I mean, if I end up at the playground every day, trying to find the restroom or diet Sundrop or my classroom it will be ok. I hope. I like playgrounds.]

Mostly, I'm scared of leaving.

I work with some seriously awesome people who handle middle schoolers with so much grace and compassion that it is amazing. I am so very blessed to have spent time with people that have a heart for teaching.

Trust me when I say that it truly takes a very special person to teach middle school. 

Seriously. Middle school teachers must be crazy have a true heart for teaching because there is no one single logical explanation for why anyone [in their right mind] would put up with some of the "stuff" that middle schoolers can throw [sometimes literally] at you, on a daily basis.

My hat is off to teachers everywhere. Teaching is a tough job. Middle school teaching is a true calling because it is tough on a whole different wacky, crazy in and day out.

In my tenure as a middle school teacher, I have been surrounded by many people who heeded the call to teach the deranged and unstable middle schoolers.

These are some of the very best teachers I have ever seen. 

They have to be tough. Even when it hurts. [And believe me when I say that the old saying that "it hurts me more than it hurts you" is often true when you dole out discipline in middle school.]

They have to be fair. Even when the other side doesn't get it. [More times than not the other side truly does not see any fault in throwing food across the cafeteria or kissing that soul-mate in the stairway.]

They have to be compassionate. Even when the compassion is NOT being returned. Or considered. Or even in the realm of possibility.

They have to show endurance. Even when the gas gauge is on E and it is only 8:30am on a Monday morning. 

They have to be able to multi-task. Even when it's lunch. [And thanks to portable email, sometimes even in the bathroom. Oh that just me? Sorry. Too much information.]

What an adventure it has been for me.  

I landed at the middle school sort of by default.  
I wanted a change. 
My favorite coach was going to be the head softball coach at the high school so we would be moving. 
I needed to start over.

Just as God always does He provided me with people in my path to guide me. I could never adequately thank KMMS enough for all they have done to help me be a better teacher.  I am not nearly the middle school teacher that I see in many of them.  

My hope for my soon-to-be former co-workers is very simple...just keep jumping.

Close your eyes and jump. 

Every single day.

More than anything, teaching of any kind requires taking a daily jump. 

In middle school I think it takes a good jump and a huge leap of faith.

Faith that the kid that sits with his head down, on the daily, will raise his hand and answer a question.

Faith that first block or fourth block or that meeting that you dread will go smoothly.

Faith that the lesson or the new concept or that huge technology project you have planned will be embraced by all most of your students.

Faith that the students who only eat when they come to school will be able to make it through the long, four day weekend.

Faith that God's grace and mercy, that has been shown to you more than once [or twice or ten times] will also be evident in your interactions with those around you.

Faith that each new day will be a good day.

Thank you for being willing to jump, sometimes hour by hour, for the students you are impacting. Changing lives is not an easy job but you are doing just that...even when you can't see it. 

Thank you for helping me learn to jump. 

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Saturday, October 10, 2015


I have never, ever claimed that my kids are perfect.  Never. I won't start now. 

I have said..

  • they are good kids.
  • my kids love the Lord.
  • for the most part, they try to keep themselves out of trouble. [Well, the first three do.  Gabe looks for trouble. He loves trouble. Trouble is his best friend sometimes.]

But, they are still humans....with faults and selfish behaviors and irritating habits [that all come from their dad].

And like me and you and everyone that I have ever encountered in my life, they make mistakes.

Some are just minor
Some are not.

Just like me and you and everyone else in the world.

I can promise you that we expect integrity, honesty, and good character from all four of them.

We are not perfect parents. [Seriously, that may come as a shock to some of you.]

I tend to see things through mom goggles. [My kids and my favorite coach tend to tell me that a lot.  I see nothing wrong with looking on the sunny side....]  

I especially view my own children through these said goggles.  I don't want to think they might make a mistake that would hurt them.

But because we are all human, they do some monumentally stupid things.  

And the goggles have to come off. [And, according to them, the smoke flies from my ears, my voice changes, and I speak in rapid spurts of "mom talk".  I don't see it.  I don't think it happens.]

One thing I have learned in this career of being Ma is that all situations are not the same. 
Some call for hugs and tears. [Sometimes a little from me and a lot from one of them or vice versa.]
Some call for lots of "I told you so". [As a parent there are some small victories in mistakes.]
Some call for moments to count to 10...alone. [Or 20. Or 100.]
And some just call for brutal honesty. [That's when you step on the mom goggles and smash them to bits.]

Yet they all have one thing in common....grace.

Honestly, I would not be the person I am today if my mom and dad hadn't done a little of all of those as I was growing up. But I certainly wouldn't be me without lots and lots and LOTS of grace.  Many times [in the past and the present], I didn't [don't] get the punishment I deserve when I've screwed [screw] up.

None of us do.

In a conversation with one of the Shorties the other night, my favorite coach and I tried to stress the importance of sincere humility. 

Not haughty humility that allows a person to get what they want and reeks of insincerity.  

True, on your face, asking-God-first-then-those-whom-you-have-wronged, honest, sincere humility to ask forgiveness for hurting others.

And yes, there are going to be LOTS of people that won't understand and will do whatever they can possibly do to pick you apart, to kick you while you are down, and to throw stones. [And, yes, this Ma got a little upset when a Tweet relating to this matter by a person who only knows how to throw punches came her way...something to the effect of "116 and all, dang" as in reference to Romans 1:16 which is used by one of my children on social media quite frequently. And this Ma had to consider the source and remind herself of what people do when they forget that grace has been afforded to them.  And she had to be gracious. You have to practice what you preach or the words are just that...words.  However, it doesn't hurt to just hit the block on some folks that want to be mean.  If I am doing what God is asking then I have to extend grace. I don't have to read mean girl Tweets.] In the end, the only thing that matters is that you are in line with God.  The world doesn't have to like has nothing for believers anyway.

We have a God who loves us for us.
He wants the best for us even when we fall short...and we will fall short.
He meets us where we are and takes us where we never thought we could go.

And, in our time of need and always, when we don't deserve it,  we will find His grace.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Dear Taylor Swift

*Here is another fabulous post by my sweet girl Molly.*

Dear Taylor Swift,
I am writing this to you as an avid Swiftie. My fandom began around the age of 11 with your release of “Tim McGraw”, but this newfound interest in your music did not become quite as deep until I bought your first album and heard the first of what would be many favorite T.Swizzle jams, “Stay Beautiful.” I became more of a fan with the release of your second album (and to every true Swiftie, the best album) Fearless. Oh my goodness, this one was-in the words of my brother-“straight fire.” I remember myself and one of my best friends proclaiming “Fifteen” as our freshman year anthem, and I remember singing, rather jamming to, “Forever and Always” about a billion times until I no longer had a voice. At this point in the Swift journey I did not think that you could get any better, and then…you released your third album, Speak Now. This one was a little different from the other two, but nonetheless still amazing. Another one of my friends and I used to sing songs from this album everyday in P.E., at the top of our lungs, once it was released. We knew every word to every song and the album order the second day it was out. “Sparks Fly” was one song that proved you were a lyrical genius, “Enchanted” had every girl fist pumping (especially at the epic build up that comes after the first verse in the song…yes), and last but not least, Speak Now contained the very first “Taylor Swift Ballad,” “Dear John,” which no one can actually sing and sound even remotely pleasant, but that doesn’t mean we don’t all still try! I also experienced my first concert with Speak Now and it was amazing, as in no words to truly explain, so I’ll leave it at that. I remember clearly the day that Red was released. I was a junior in high school, and just happened to be on a field trip that day. I remember getting on YouTube and searching all the new songs, listening to as many 30-second samples as I could find, then tweeting the lyrics…I wish I could say I am ashamed of that, but I’m not. Red was awesome. This one claims a top spot, just under Fearless, and contains some of my all-time favorite T.Swizzle jams. Just to name a few: “Treacherous,” the song that is a perfect lyrical description of each of our lives at one point or another; “WANEGBT,” the song with that one line that everyone knows the words to; “State of Grace (Acoustic Version),” a million times yes; “Holy Ground,” because of all of the “oooays” (BGVs are my favorite); and the second “Taylor Swift Ballad,” “All Too Well,” the ultimate emotional roller coaster song that will have you needing a nap after one listen. I traveled to Nashville… to see you perform Red…on the last night of your tour…with my best friends…it was so worth the drive. Finally, in my first year of college, you released your fifth album, 1989. This was a weird one, but in a good way. I watched the telecast that you held the day you released “Shake it Off,” then proceeded to have a dance party with myself. I annoyed my roommate when you released “Out of the Woods,” because I could not get over how deep that song was, and played it over and over again. When the full album was finally released, I listened to it on repeat for weeks on end, including a entire weekend in Chapel Hill where one night myself and three of my best friends cranked the stereo in the car to its fullest potential just to hear “Bad Blood” (and just FYI, the song was awesome before you asked that one guy to rap for you, just saying). I do have to say that “All You Had to Do Was Stay” still remains as one of my favorites from this album, and it may or may not be because of the weird “STAY” in every chorus. I am excited to say that I will be seeing you again in concert a few weeks from now, in Atlanta, and I am sure I won’t be disappointed. To sum up this rather lengthy first part, I am the ultimate fan. I know every word to every song that you have ever released, including the bonus songs. I say this ashamedly, but I also know the order of each song on each album…we’ve all got skeletons in the closet, okay?! As I transition into the next part of this post, I do so as a fan who has been there every step of the way, and through every Taylor Swift phase, so here we go.

I want to first thank you for not being a Miley Cyrus, or a Lindsey Lohan and for staying rather loyal to who you are throughout the years. Almost-20-year-old me appreciates that, but 11-year-old me is a little hurt. I tried not to listen to the critics, or rather, people much wiser than me, when they said things about this last album. They’re just songs, right? It’s Taylor Swift!!! I said that, I believed that, and I refused to move off of any obligation I held to being one of your biggest fans. Naturally, I ignored mostly all of the negative because I did not want to believe that it could be true. Yeah, okay, you are not swinging (naked) on a huge ball and chain while licking a sledgehammer, or leaving rehab for the billionth time, and you definitely have not boasted about kissing another girl…and liking it. But, I had to face reality when the music video to “Wildest Dreams” came out. Girl, you insinuate a few risqué things in this song, and they are portrayed, briefly, in the video. Do not get me wrong, as much as I hate to admit it, the song is super catchy. However, when I ride in the car with my 11-year-old sister, another avid Swifite, and we listen to this album, I find myself always skipping over this song. I hate that. I hate that while it is only one song, it is still on the album, and is still talking about something that Taylor Swift would never talk about, or at least the Fearless-phase Taylor Swift. Why am I so hurt by this? I mean, it isn’t a big deal, right? But then I go back to sweet 6th grade Emma and it becomes a huge deal. Here I am feeling like you are dancing on the edge of what sells, and what is true to you, that makes me sad.

So, I write this in love, and I write this still remaining one of your biggest fans. I also write this in no way shaming you, or banning your music, or not still promising to jam to each song that you have released and will release in the future. I guess what I am trying to say is that I hope you remember your curly-headed phase, and I hope you remember all the little girls who have grown into bigger girls and have remained faithful Swifties through it all. Don’t forget where it all started, before you had to appeal to a fallen world, and a warped image of what society says is the “norm.” My 11-year-old self thanks you for the image you have portrayed as I have grown up, and my almost 20-year-old self asks you to remember it-

“stay, stay, stay. I’ve been loving you for quite some time, time, time…”



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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Hard and Holy

I took my girls to see War Room on Saturday. 

We laughed. [At the movie and when a woman fell on us trying to get out of the row.  I don't care who you are, when its dark and you hold a stranger's fanny in your hand, you laugh because its all you can do.]

I cried. [Molly cried a little bit but I cried like a straight baby.]

The whole movie got me thinking about the above quote by Ann Voskamp [hand lettering by none other than Molly].  

Hard and Holy.

In the movie [I won't spoil it for those of you who haven't seen it yet] the main character, Elizabeth, figures out that saving her family has less to do with her and more to do with God's grace and mercy.  

She vows to fight...
for her family.
for her marriage.
for herself.

Hard and Holy.

At the end of the movie [again, I am not spoiling it for anyone] a powerful scene depicts another main character, Miss Clara, on her knees, praying for God to raise up a nation of believers. She is praying in ernest and out loud.

Hard and Holy.

What if I, as a Christian woman, began to really pray for the things that really matter in my life?  What if I stop spending my time learning about make up techniques [which I have recently become obsessed with since old age and gravity are hitting me like a TON of wrinkly bricks], pinning [some useful but mostly not so useful...I have over 6500 things pinned...holy cow] stuff on Pinterest, and trolling Facebook [which is the biggest waste of time in human existence...well besides The Bachelor and middle school drama]?  What could I do with that time? That effort? 

Hard and Holy.

I can focus on the things that will matter for eternity.

2 Chronicles 7:14 says, "If my people who are called by name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

I am ashamed to say that my prayer life is sort of like Emma's room...stuff is all over the place.  I have a journal [that my favorite coach and assistant principal bought me] but I rarely use it [my only excuse is that I am lazy]. I pray but not as I should pray.  I allow everything else to get in the way...mostly me.  

Hard and Holy.

There are enough people out there giving advice [and political rants and TMI and sharing drama] on social media.  There are enough women spending time tearing other women down with gossip and whispers and judgement.  There are enough men that aren't stepping up to be the Spiritual leaders in their family [thank goodness I was raised by one and am married to one].  

Hard and Holy.

Pray without ceasing. 
I Thessalonians 5:17

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us form all unrighteousness. 
I John 1:9

Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: you have enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy on me, and hear my prayer. 
Psalms 4:1

Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. 
Psalm 118:5

Let us all rise up for what is Hard and Holy.

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