Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mental Ping Pong

My brain is the type that never turns off, not even when I'm exhausted and desperately willing it to just shut up for ten seconds so I can drop off to sleep.  I can lie awake for hours going over what happened that day, what's going to happen the next day, or some thing or other I wish I'd done differently.  During the day, as I work out whatever's going on around me, I have a steady soundtrack of music going, which is great if it's good music, but is absolute murder if I get, say, Hey Paula stuck on a loop. 
With all this rumination, it comes as no surprise that I often think about work.  If you've read my past blogs, or see me on at least an intermittent basis, you know I've been working as a part-time substitute teacher after one year of working as a fifth grade teacher.  My reasons for going part-time were based on strong feelings of shortchanging my children, my husband, and my  home:  all of which I felt needed to be my priority. 
I still feel that way, and I know my prayerful decision was the right one.  Yet, the "Educator" mindset has never left.  I spend quite a lot of time on websites like Pinterest, looking for things to use in the classroom, and better ways to teach each subject.  I look for ways to integrate technology into the classroom, and literature and projects to make History come alive. 
On top of that, there are positions at my school that are opening up;  full time positions teaching a variety of grades, all students I have come to know and love as a substitute teacher.  I see friends applying for these jobs and...
I'm jealous.
A little voice in my head says, "It's been a year.  Your kids are older.  You know what to expect now.  Just jump back into teaching!"  And I want to listen to that voice SO badly.  Teaching is, without question, my calling. 
But then I remember the incredible amounts of time I put into it last year.  I think about the changes I saw in my own children as they felt they had to compete with my thirty-eight students for my attention.  I remember how tense I was all the time, and how kind and patient my husband had to be just to attempt to get me to relax.  And I think about the changes that have come in our district, just in the past year, and how I gave a little sigh of relief that I wouldn't have to jump through all the extra hoops I've seen my colleagues struggling with this year.
And this...
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31
Difficult as it is, I need to set aside my desire to go back now, and be patient to see how things progress in God's timing.  I can't help but think of Sarah, and how she messed things up by insisting Abraham have a child with Hagar - all because she couldn't stand to wait for God any  longer.  I need to trust that God will show me exactly when He wants me to go back to teaching and, based the promise in the verse above, I trust that He will keep me from feeling overwhelmed and anxious.  He keeps His promises.

Monday, March 18, 2013

When the Yes Man says no.


Who among us doesn't love a nice compliment?  Words and actions that express affirmation are powerful things, and they speak to the core of who we are:
"You are right."  
"What you're doing is good." 
"You are valued." 
"You are valuable." 
Sincere praises are worth a great deal.  The trick is to seek sincerity above flattery, and learn to discern between the two - both in receiving praise and giving praise.
Sometimes, in order to keep a friendship intact, we choose to overlook the things we dislike about a person and focus on the good.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, so long as the things you overlook don't truly matter, in the grand scheme of things.  An obsession with 90s boy bands, though certainly disturbing, can be set aside without much of an issue. 
But what if you've been overlooking things that do matter?
Look, I readily admit to not being perfect.  I have moral and ethical dilemmas, just like everyone else.  If I ever behave in a manner that is inconsistent with my faith, the last thing that's going to help me is a Yes Man.  It would certainly be easy to ignore the things I do that don't jive with what scripture says, just to preserve a friendship.  After all, who wants to be the bad guy? 
It is hard to hold fellow Christians accountable for behavior inconsistent with biblical teaching, especially if that fellow Christian is a good friend you would give a great deal not to hurt.  It is a sucky situation all around. 
But sometimes you have to step out of the Yes Man shoes, take a deep breath, and prayerfully, gently, lovingly, speak Truth.  
Open rebuke is better than hidden love.
Proverbs 27:5
Know that sometimes your loving rebuke will be thrown violently back at you.  Truth cuts to the quick, straight through the blanket of false happiness and comfort that accompanies self-deception desperately attempting to ward off guilt.  Sometimes lashing out is easier than introspection and change. 
But worse than the awful feeling of being rejected for speaking Truth is the feeling of a Yes Man, ignoring the white elephant in the room to keep things pleasant and light, while the elephant is slowly crushing the life out of the person who brought it in.
Sometimes the Yes Man has to say no.
  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Psalm 19:14

Monday, March 4, 2013


I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Sitting in my  living room, I am mere minutes away from the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, the utterly transparent waters of the Smith River, and the damp solitude of the towering Redwoods.  This is a place to which people come to retire, to enjoy the most peaceful years of their lives among nature's finest displays.
 There are times I hate it here. 
It rains.  A LOT.  Granted, I am used to this, having grown up in a neighboring county with very similar weather, but I've always detested the rain, and the drippy blanket of fog that always seems to hover until lunchtime, even on our sunniest days.  Most of the time, the skies are a milky gray color, puddling over any hint of blue.  And it's cold.  Lap blankets and thick sweaters are kept close at hand until at least June, maybe later, depending upon our unpredictable weather patterns.
It's more than just the weather, though.  Each year it seems like the crime rate here climbs higher and higher.  Things that made the news of record once in a great while have now become commonplace.  The rampant use of meth is apparent in the sallow-faced, rail-thin people stumbling around the supermarkets and sidewalks in town. 
This place is depressing.  It is difficult to see the beauty around me when I feel invisible tendrils of something nefarious slowly winding around me.  Even today, the muddled watercolor gray skies seem to have leaked their colorlessness over everything, leaving the sometimes vibrant greens and golds of my yard looking lifeless and dull. 
I want to go somewhere else, somewhere bright and warm and cheerful for once.  I want to see the sun more than three months of a good year.  I want to go somewhere alive.

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