I just sent an email out to the people on my email updates list. If you’re interested in the next steps for me in this journey, read more here. (Spoiler alert…it involves a bit longer at Faith Academy.:)
I’ve been running for over three months now. That’s a record for me!
Oh, I’ve run before. But now, thanks to my good friends and co-workers Wendy and Evangeline, I get up at 4:40am every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning. We run together (and separately, all at our own paces and with personal goals) at school. We run while the stars disappear, while the sky is painted pink and purple, while the breezes blow cool air, and while just the guards are there, turning off the lights one by one.
Because we run, I run. Because Wendy and Evangeline are there, I get up and go.
(Getting more coffee pods on a girls’ morning out with Evangeline and Wendy)
Because Wendy and Evangeline are there, my runs are redeemed.
You may or may not know this, but I’ve spend a large portion of my life (well over half at this point) worrying about how I look. By the time I started college, that looked like a super-limited wardrobe (neutrals, anyone?) so no one would look at me. Depending on the time, the stress of life in general, and all manner of other variables, it also meant controlling my food and exercise to manage my appearance.
For the most part, I got frustration and emptiness in pursuit of this “ideal.” What I didn’t realize at the time, though, was that I also lost the joys of these good gifts: food and exercise. By grasping for control, I unwittingly gave up the chance to really taste and see God’s goodness in delicious food, the community of the table, and a body that is capable of moving, sweating, and getting stronger.
While I wouldn’t say that those concerns are forever gone, I find delight in the redemption of these gifts. The discipline of exercising in community (with running and with some strength building- shout out to the FB groups and Marla for inviting me!) has transformed it from a fear-based reaction to a healthy habit. Instead of working out because I’m worried and trying to control something, anything, I can work out because it’s good for me. Many mornings, I even enjoy it. (And when I don’t enjoy the exercise, I do enjoy the company. Yay for friends!)
There was a time when I despaired of being able to eat or exercise in freedom. The journey is definitely one step at a time, but I think I’m ready to run.
So…I was writing my Christmas letter (it was due yesterday for publishing and mailing so don’t think I’m ahead of the game!). I was sitting by Cameron. I was trying some stream-of-consciousness warmups for my brain before writing a document worth mailing out.
Here’s what I have:
“Ho! Ho! Ho! Have a jolly good year!” That’s what Cameron Henderson (“emphasis Henderson”), my sixth-grade friend recommended I write to you. I am staying with him and his brother Tristan this week as their parents are out of the country. We are having a grand time in our second hour of dinner…apparently eating chicken is hard work.
In reality, it is a gift to have family away from my family on that side of the ocean. Sometimes, that means Tuesday night dinners. Sometimes, it means guardianship during international trips. Often, it involves trying a new dessert recipe Marla has concocted. Yum!
So dear letter recipients, this text will not arrive in your inbox or mailbox come December. If you’re not on the mailing list but want to get these amazing letters (ha!), shoot me an email. 🙂 You never know what you’re gonna get!
Your students are writing Choose Your Own Adventure stories regularly, setting them in Ancient Egypt (your social studies unit) and around the world. Do you carry on with your plan to teach informational writing? Go to page 3. Or do you research CYOA writing, find some resources, recruit help, and try out a mini unit on the form for a few weeks? Go to page 7.
My life is on page 7. 🙂 All of my kids have been writing Choose Your Own Adventure stories for the last week. Many of them have been exploring this form of writing for weeks during Work on Writing (student choice writing) time. As we finished the first quarter and I conferred with a student who was trying the form without really knowing what she was doing (but trying it because everyone else was!), I decided to try a bit of emergent curriculum with my kiddos. When I asked if they were interested in taking a few weeks to work on CYOA as a class, they cheered.
This is a growth edge for me as a teacher in several ways: teaching a form that I’ve never taught, teaching a complicated version of the genre before we have worked with fiction at all, making a last minute change from the informational writing for which I had just done an on-demand assessment. But I’m so glad I did.
The buzz in the room this week, the constant requests to take their writing to merienda (recess) and lunch to keep working on it, and the joy in planning their writing (a formerly hated part of the writing process for most of my kids) make it worth the risk. I decided on a few goals for the class in this mini unit (genuinely plan their writing in advance and see the value in a plan, transfer strategies from personal narratives to fantasy and realistic fiction writing) and the kids have their personal goals as authors. Next week, we’ll try some creative publishing methods (YouTube videos that are linked and Google presentations) with the help of another teacher.
The big reminders for me, though, has been the importance of presence and responsiveness in my teaching. It’s a basic lesson, right? Respond to your kids. See where they are, and build on that. But it can be hard to flex and easy to stick with a plan. This surprise unit only happened because I set down a plan and saw through the eyes of my kids for a moment. If my kiddo who knew very little about writing a CYOA was willing to take a risk try it out, shouldn’t I be willing to teach her?
I’m not saying that scrapping your plans is the best choice for every teacher, class, and subject. In this case, though, it was the best choice for me and my class. When the next chance arises to try something new, build on the energy and excitement of my class for learning and trying new things, and set aside a good plan to do it, hopefully I will choose another adventure. Feel free to share your own stories of adventurous teaching and living!
My car needs some serious fixes…she made it to school in 2nd gear yesterday (in part because I couldn’t shift out of 2nd gear).
My new name, according to my cell phone service provider, is Kendra. I got to spend some quality time with a few different customer service reps when my SIM card just. quit. working. after a service call to fix my phone data.
I quit using my iPad keyboard a minute ago because it is going crazy and typing 14 of each letter.
I’ve spent quite awhile listening to the hold notices from Cebu Pacific Airlines while on hold…using up all of my cell phone load this morning. Then, their feedback form on the website wouldn’t work. (In case you were wondering, all Cebu flights to and from Kuala Lumpur will be through the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. FYI. )
I realize, though, that none of these things are a huge deal. I have a car, a cell phone, an iPad with a keyboard, and a flight to change. On a worldwide scale, this puts me in the pretty-well-off camp.
So I can either get irritated with myself for being frustrated with these small inconveniences (my first choice, in this case), or recognize a lesson here. I say that I trust God. But when it comes down to it (and especially when I don’t feel great), I trust just as much in a functional car, cell phone, and customer service to fix issues quickly.
When the functional bit ends, my mood easily changes, too. I quickly forget about the lasting, healthy pieces of my life. I have so many amazing, steady, gracious people in my life. Given a choice between tech and people, I’ll choose people.
Even aside from that, the most important, more steadying, most gracious relationship in my life has not changed. He has listened to my vented frustration, reminded me of what’s really important, and shined a bit of the light of eternity to reveal how flimsy my trust in stuff really is.
Life goes on, in this case, and I’m ready to embrace a fresh gratitude..even if I’m still laughing about my new name.
“God is on my side…” “Don’t worry- with God on your side, you’ve got it made!” “God is for you, not against you!”
These encouragements and others along the same lines grate on me. Songs celebrate how God is ostensibly for us. I get the sense that I should feel great when I finish singing such songs- that superhero confidence should fill me. After all, who wants to fight against God?
But what brought lingering questions when I was younger now brings incredulity. So many people say that God is on their side and do unspeakable things. Certainly, saying that God is for you doesn’t mean that He actually approves of your actions.
I’m coming to a different understanding of this idea, though, and finding some veritable encouragement in the process.*
Let’s pretend for a moment that we have no qualms with the statement, “God is for you.” What would it really mean?
Does it mean that God approves of what you do no matter what because you are special? (I hope not!)
Does it mean that God will go to bat for you, hit your home run, and run the bases for you? (maybe…but don’t expect too many more sports metaphors!)
Does it mean that God is sovereign, knowing what is best for you and the rest of the world that He loves deeply, and will act out of His inherent, unchangeable goodness? (I think we’re getting closer…)
When the idea of God-for-us is blanket comfort, we risk making our own ideas into personal idols. What we imagine as ideal becomes the box for God to work within, and He is unenthused about humanly-designed boxes.
What if God-for-us became less of a get out of jail free card and more of a humbling realization that the God of the universe wants what is best for us?
I see Jesus, working on behalf of the broken people around him. The challenge and joy of being part of His body is evident: giving and receiving grace in brokenness because He makes wholeness possible. Because He is for us, I sit humbled. I have fewer plans for Him to back and open hands for Him to fill.
*This reflects my own changes in thinking over the last ten years, not an accusation or indictment of anyone else. Most likely, everyone else has been living this reality and I’m just late to the party. :)*
sunrise reflecting off pothole puddles
rain in waves
camera flashes across the sky
beauty does come in small spaces
pain makes even wide spaces feel tiny
and grace pushes back the walls,
fears spoken release some of their power
and quiet community
says, “You’re not alone.”
and this is grace:
an invitation to be beautiful
even before you recognize it
(Thanks to Sara Groves, again, for her well-penned words. This time they’re from “Add to the Beauty.”)
I always feel better when the self-portraits go up.
I guess that’s what happens when you continue traditions.
Or maybe, they’re just darling.
In any case, this year’s Back to School event is over, the self-portraits are up, the routines inside and out of the classroom are almost set, and two weeks of school are finished.
There’s something special about the first day of school, but there’s also a sweetness about the day in, day out rhythm of life.
A white plastic chair.
These were the things of my spiritual growth today. I’m writing now because, well, if I don’t, I won’t. My blogging track record this summer is abysmal, and the only way that will change is by posting asap. So here goes.
There are a few physical activities that I really, truly, enjoy. (I enjoy the endorphin rush from others, but the actual activity? Depends on the day.) Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is one of those for me. My parents and sister bought paddle boards before I returned to this home, and I’ve spent hours on the water in the last 6 weeks.
Today, I decided to try some stretches on the board. After a few simple poses, I decided to try one involving standing on one foot. Several attempts and perhaps a total of 5 seconds of success, I was suddenly plunging into the warmish water of the lake and reaching for the board- floating away- and my sunglasses- still on my face!
There’s more work to do. I tried several more times with increasing success, and I’m currently sitting by the lake and drying out while I type. There’s still a week of vacation for working on it!
Why is this spiritual development, though?
1. All of life, in my mind, is spiritual. So what I learn on a paddle board has application beyond the water.
2. “Focus” and “breathe” were the directions I needed to find success in my pose today. I needed to focus on something outside of myself to find my balance. The white plastic chair became that focus point for me. When I looked at the board, my paddle, or my feet, I lost my balance. When I tensed up and held my breath, my muscles started to shake the tiniest bit. The tiniest bit of a quiver doesn’t help you balance! When I breathed deeply and relaxed, everything got easier. Not easy, mind you- easier!
3. I need the same lesson on and off the water. Focusing on myself is natural and entirely unhelpful. Tensing up is my m.o. in life…it never bears good fruit.
Implementation of said lessons is forthcoming…and unknown. I’m so thankful for Holy Spirit, Who graciously shows me how to make space for His work and does the heavy lifting.
May the monoblock/white plastic chairs I see in the rest of life remind me of this truth!
even in the ocean, snorkeling,
to notice the details,
the movement of sunlight
the movement of plants
if you keep swimming,
you’re sure to miss
some of the sweetness
even in life, moving,
to see the fingerprints
the change of attitude
in a heart
the change of perspective
in a mind
if I’m never still
I’m sure to miss
some of the delight
He is God.