Sunday, August 20, 2017

New Job

So, I started a new job this month.  That’s pretty crazy considering that I was at my last job for 17.5 years and I always joked that I could be the poster child for my job.  I loved *almost* every aspect of it.  I’ve kept pretty quiet the job change.  There’s so much in my heart and head to say…I’ve struggled for months now on how to put it all in to words.  In all honesty, the struggle continues, but I am breaking my silence to tell you some things I have learned thus far.

For all of you non-teachers out there here is a quick lesson on a business aspect of the teaching world.  Basically since the dawning of time if a teacher transfers school districts they can only take 7 years of experience with them – this translates into a salary issue as teachers get cost of living raises with each year they have taught.  And this translates into the fact that for the most part, after 7 years of teaching – teachers stay put because the alternative is a huge deduction in salary.  This year a couple of school districts in my city changed the game by saying they would honor ALL years of service to any teacher looking to move school districts.  Was I looking?  Not necessarily…but the idea of working closer to my daughters kept gnawing at me.  And, I’m not gonna lie – last year was a Really. Difficult. Year. Change was tantalizing.

I decided to apply just to see what would happen.  I received a call about an interview before I had even submitted my application for review.  I was driving on the highway and immediately burst in to tears.  The thought of this possible change made me run the gamut of emotions.  I didn’t even know if I wanted this.  It was terrifying.  How could I leave all my work friends?  People I’ve fostered friendships with for 17 years?!  How could I leave the kids in the neighborhood where I was teaching?  I’ve had former student’s kids for goodness sake.  Didn’t they need me?  Would a job change make me a sellout?  My mind was full of questions.

At the time all of this was happening I was reading an autobiography by Steven Curtis Chapman.  He is a person of faith I have great admiration for – he has lived through many mountains and valleys throughout his career and seemed to always remain a person of integrity.  Something he said in his book really resonated with me.  He posed the question, “How do I know if the step I am considering taking is a step God wants me take?”  Good question.  How many of us have also asked this question!  I was currently asking myself this very question, amongst many others.  One of his mentors answered him by saying something to the effect of, “When opportunity presents itself, you move forward. You move forward until a door closes and changes your direction.”  I decided to take that advice.  I was going to continue to move forward until a door was closed.

The thing is, I have always had a unique perspective on my job.  I’m not a missionary in the traditional sense, but I’ve always considered my job to be equivalent to a missionary.  I honestly believe as Christ followers we are all missionaries regardless of our jobs.  Our job in life is to shine the light of Christ and God’s love to whomever we encounter.  And whether you are religious or not – I think we as human beings can all agree that we often are the only light/good/happy/positive force that those around us may interact with that day.  There is a lot of darkness/adversity/hate/ugliness in the world.  Needless to say I take my job as someone shaping young minds very seriously.  I want my students to feel loved and safe and I want them to remember me as a kind person who loved them and inspired them to do their best.  (OMG full disclosure – I cannot even type this without crying and I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I actually teared up in my interview when discussing this.  I figured at that point everyone in the room deemed me as a crazy person.)  Whatever they thought of me, I ended up getting a job.

I have wrestled with God most of the summer.  I spent many days asking myself “What have I done?”  It certainly has been a season filled with bittersweet days.  Like I said, I loved my job.  I loved my school.  I loved my coworkers.  I loved my students.  It was painful to leave.  It still is painful.  I miss my people. J  But in the midst of my wrestling, God revealed a very clear vision to me.  As much as I miss so many things about my “old” job, I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  Most times being obedient to His calling is hard.  And we all know change is hard.  Change. Is. So. Hard. 

But the Lord is gracious and kind and has allowed me a few priceless gems during my transition.  When I asked, “Who will love the kids if I go?”  He answered me with a couple of new staff members that I know share similar views to myself on loving those kids.  He gave me a passionate new boss whose vision aligns parallel with mine.  And a team of grade level cohorts with common vision on many levels. 

I’m enjoying my students.  They too need to be loved.  And I feel like I was specifically brought here to love them and inspire them and show kindness to them.  And although I still grieve the closing of the previous chapter of my life, I am trying to rest in this chapter and realize I will stay here until I am called elsewhere.

Philippians 1:6 – “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Sunday, January 11, 2015

2014 - Year in Review

I'm not much for New Year's resolutions, but each year I choose some character trait, quality, or practice to focus on for the year.  I've done this now for almost 20 years believe it or not and I've focused on such things as love, hope, Bible reading, integrity,'s a long list.  2014 was a year dedicated to prayer. 

Let me begin by saying that 2014 was a hell of a year.  I suppose prayer was a good thing to choose knowing how difficult the year proved.  It was a year filled with struggle and heartbreak, trials and tribulations, disappointments and many many tears.  It certainly holds as a top contender for hardest year ever.  I was not sad to see 2014 walk out of my life forever. 

If there is one thing I have learned this past year, its that when tribulations come, it is easy to find yourself on your knees crying out to God.  This was not the picture I had in mind last January.  I anticipated a year of waking up a little earlier to commune with the Creator - listening and contemplating.  I was not prepared for the long hard ride.

I was reminded of some Truths over the past 12 months.  God is always with me; I am not alone.  God is more powerful than any circumstance I am drowning in.  God knows how all the puzzle pieces of life fit together.  I do not, and that's okay.  I can trust that He is in control.  I am surrounded by amazing people that love and support me (A special shout out and thanks to the members of my small group who sat next to me so patiently as I often cried myself through our weekly study - they are truly a blessing from God and very dear to my heart). 

I also became more intentional with my prayers - see my "7 Sacred Pauses" post for more.  I began reading how people prayed in the Bible and mimicking many of those prayers - specifically the persistent widow.  Part of me is still in that phase of not relenting - asking God over and over and hoping that my persistence pays off.  I have always been so impressed of people that have prayed for someone or something for years and years and years.  I often wonder how they continue without losing hope...which leads me to 2015.

As I contemplated what to concentrate on this year, the verse that kept coming to mind was Mark 9:24.  The verse reads, "...I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"  The context is a story of a father bringing his tortured son to Jesus for healing.  The father says "If you can do anything to help him, take pity on us..." And Jesus responds, "If you can?! Everything is possible for one who believes."

I have entered 2015 hopeful that it is going to be a good year.  Hope is a terrifying thing for a realist/pessimist.  I know I know - all you optimists out there don't understand, but it's true.  So maybe my theme for the year is a bit ambiguous.  How does hope relate to "I believe, help my unbelief"?  I'm anticipating a year of God revealing Himself to me in new and exciting ways.  I am focusing on faithfully believing in God's power and promises and humbly asking for aid to overcome my unbelief.

Tell me, what are you searching for in 2015?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ears to hear...

These words have been on my mind a lot lately.  Two months ago my daughter contracted some sort of rare virus that ended up attacking her left ear and leaving her significantly impaired.  We have been told by several professionals that nothing can be done.  However, yesterday we saw a specialist from in LA.  This doctor said that there is a possibility of her regaining some of her hearing with a heavy round of steroid treatments.  She was honest and said we should not get our hopes up, but, we are giving it a go...

It is so difficult when there is something wrong with your child.  As parents, we want to fix all their hurts and give them the best life possible.  And we grasp at straws when there is nothing we can do.  We pray, plead, beg, & tarry over and over again on their behalf.  We search for answers.

Something God has taught me this year is that although we only see time linearly and understand it through our perspective of here and now, He sees the time continuum and how all the pieces will fit beautifully together years down the road.  He sees the final masterpiece of our lives and all we see are two pieces that don't even fit together.

We've struggled with how to communicate to a 7 year old that we think she is perfect just the way she is - hearing or not, yet we continue to drag her to medical appointments and through tests that possibly make her feel less.  Is she seeing or believing a mixed message?  When the doctor says "nothing can be done" and she sees our faces fall despite how hard we are trying to keep a poker face - what does she think?  Does she think, "I am less?"  We desperately hope not.

So, last night I had a pretty amazing conversation with my daughter.  It was something we both needed to hear.  I credit only God for any wisdom or encouragement that came out of it, but feel a deep desire to share it with you.  It went like this:

"You know, I absolutely, 100% believe that God can heal you.  I've seen Him heal people before and I have no doubt in my mind that He can heal you too.  I pray every day that He will decide to use you as an example of a miraculous healing...but that may not be His story for your life.  He may choose to not heal you and use you as an example of someone who overcame great things in spite of adversity.  He may want you to become someone of great strength that goes on to make the world better in spite of something bad that happened to them.  I just don't know what His story is for you.  But we have to trust that He knows what's best for you.  He sees your whole life and we only see right now."

This lead us to a great discussion of some heroes that overcame great struggles and contributed wonderful things to our world.  We talked about Helen Keller and Martin Luther King Jr., and how maybe her name could be on a list of heroes too.  It was cathartic for both of us I think.  We both felt better after, more settled.

So, where am I now?  Well...I'm still praying, pleading, begging, and tarrying incessantly to God to heal her, to use her as a vessel of His healing powers.  And I won't stop doing that.  But, if God chooses a different route for my sweet one, we will be okay.  And we will know that she is meant to accomplish great things.

Would you join me in prayer?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Seven Sacred Pauses

I've spent much of the past year reading, contemplating, and researching topics regarding living a simpler, more intentional life.  In the midst of all that reading I came upon something that has been penetrating my heart for about a month now.  It is the idea of intentional prayer several times throughout the day.  The purpose is two-fold: to commune more deeply with God Almighty and to hinder the much too common reality at the end of the day -- "Where did my day go?  What do I have to show for it?"  Have you been there?  I have spent too many days sinking in to my bed at night just to wake up and repeat again and again and again feeling like a robot with no off switch. 

So, I'm going to embark on something this upcoming school year.  I can't stake claim to the idea - it's not mine.  I totally stole it from others who are older and wiser and more published.  But I have adapted it to fit my own life as a working mama and public school teacher.  My hope and prayer is that this will become a ritual for me that will make my days more purposeful and inspired.

Here's the gist:
Seven specific times a day I stop and pray.  Each prayer has a theme.  If I have time I read a specific passage in the Bible (also stolen from others mind you).  My timeline doesn't follow the original prayer schedule - I tailored it to fit my workday.  I also wrote out specific prayers so that if my brain is fried I have something to read and meditate on in spite of myself. 

I'm posting my prayers and findings below.  If you deem them interesting or feasible for your life feel free to copy, paste, and print them for yourself or others.  If you know me, ask me sometime how its going.  It will keep me accountable.  I'm excited to see what God has to reveal to me through this!

Seven Sacred Pauses

1.     The Awakening Hour (5:45 a.m.)
Reading: Psalm 19, 95, 147

Prayer: This day is Yours, Jesus. Awaken love in my heart so that I am a vessel of light today.

Insight: A time to remember God’s goodness and begin the day in glory. “What needs to rise in me today? Do I need to awaken to joy? Forgiveness? Should I pray for resurrection of love in my heart for my spouse and children? Ask for a dawning in my soul”

We begin a new day where our lives can become a living praise. It is a time to celebrate.  A time to celebrate reform, healing, transformation.

2.     The Blessing Hour (10:00 – recess)
Reading: Psalm 67, 84, 121

Prayer: Lord, help me to approach my work mindfully with love in my heart.  Grant me creativity, composure, inspiration, and love as I continue in my workday.  May Your love be evident to my students and all those I interact with today.  Stir my soul and inspire me to do good work.  Help me to be intentional in my words and actions and show me how to inspire and bless others. 

Insight: This mid-morning pause has two emphases.   Mindfulness of the Spirit’s abiding presence and the sacredness of our hands and work.

It is a time to invite the Spirit to stir our souls. “This pause can redirect our morning trajectory from efficient to inspired.”  We invite a deeper connection before the day gets away from us.

3.     The Hour of Illumination (Beginning of lunch break)
Reading: Psalm 24, 33, 34

Prayer: Oh Lord, Your light is beautiful.  You are the perfect example of a servant.  As I finish my workday, help me to serve those around me.  The day has already been filled with many challenges.  Search my heart and teach me new things as the day continues.  Give me a teachable spirit, eyes to see and ears to hear your Truth.  Grant me peace and  remind me that I am a vessel being used by You to reveal Your beauty and light to those in my realm of influence.

Insight: At midday, the brightest moment of the day, we recommit to being a light.   We pledge to serve, practice peace, give hope to the hopeless and provide light in the darkness. We ask the Spirit to send light, to open our hearts, to change deception to truth, despair to hope, hate to love. We search ourselves and ask for light where we are harboring anger, unforgiveness, and bitterness. We pray to bring joy to a dark world and offer our hands and words as agents of change and justice.

4.     The Wisdom Hour (2:00 p.m.)
Reading: Psalm 71, 90, 138

Prayer: Forgive me Lord for my failings.  Place wise people around me and let me learn from them.  Take away my anxiety, bitterness, anger, and frustration and renew my soul.  As I reflect upon my workday grant me perspective for the day, the week, the school year, and the years to come.  Show me how and where to improve myself and give me obedience to follow through.  Release any darkness in me and cover me with your grace.

Insight: At midafternoon we embrace the themes of surrender, forgiveness and wisdom.  We recognize the impermanence of life and acknowledge that all things are passing. This hour we pray for wisdom to help us live fully. With such wisdom we could live more courageously, compassionately, free from bitterness and anxiety. We ask for perspective of the short, fleeting day, the short passing life, release our grudges, offer our gifts and embrace our time on earth.

5.     The Twilight Hour (3:00ish - the drive home)
Reading: Psalm 34, 139, 145

Prayer: Lord God, calm my heart and mind.  As I journey home to my family bring peace into my soul.  Remind me of the many blessings in my life and help me to recall specific joys of today. As I arrive home to my family help me to leave my work day behind me and fully enjoy the time You have given me with my family.  Shower me with grace as I may walk into a busy and chaotic home.  And please Lord, keep me mindful of the wonderful blessings I have in my children and spouse.

Insight: Also called vespers, the theme of this hour is gratitude and serenity. This hour provides a chance to calm our minds. We invite God’s peace as we transition from our work day into dinner time and evening.  We ask ourselves what the greatest blessing of the day was?  What was a lovely accomplishment?  What can I lay to rest until tomorrow? Who do I need to make peace with?

A major focus of the twilight hour is gratitude.  We practice being thankful of our blessings, of the season of life we are in.  Even when this hour may typically be frenzied, we say ‘thank you’. “We say thank you for tomorrow, a perfect landing spot for unfinished tasks.  We say thank you for hands to labor and love with and ask for grace for the work of the approaching evening.”

6.     The Great Silence (children’s bedtime)
Reading: Psalm 23, 91, 134.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for today.  Place your shield of protection over us all tonight.  Bless and keep my little ones.  Surround them with angels to guard against hurt, cruelty, and loss of innocence.  Help us all to live a life mindful of You and Your ways.  *Include specific prayers for family and friends here.*  Grant us rest Lord so that we can begin tomorrow renewed and ready to accomplish what You have set before us.

Insight: A prayer to conclude the day.  It begins with a gentle evaluation of the day, a beautiful prayer to do with children, a spouse or a friend.  The focus is on awareness, weaknesses, strengths and accomplishments of the day. “We learn to live with more integrity and obedience than the day before, as together in prayer we examine the day.”

We pray for protection of darkness, for our children to be sheltered under God’s wings, for chains to be broken in areas we are stuck.  We intervene for those who are suffering sick, lost and hurting.

We welcome the darkness as well, a time to heal and restore our minds and bodies. It is time to let go of the day and enter into silence.

7.     The Night Watch (10:00/bedtime)
Reading: Psalm 42, 63, 119:145-152

Prayer: God, my heart is heavy just thinking about all the suffering in the world.  Please Lord, ease the pain of those suffering in the midst of poverty and injustice.  Grant courage and endurance to those going through difficult times.  Restore these people in mighty ways and reveal Your love for them. 

Insight: Also called vigils, this pause occurs around midnight. This is a deep prayer, interceding, keeping a vigil with Christ who never sleeps and guards us in our darkest hours.  We advocate for others that are suffering, abandoned, oppressed and lonely.  If you sponsor a child in poverty this is a good moment to bring them before the Lord.  “Perhaps some night when you get up to pray, something will turn over in someone’s heart and find its voice all because of your small prayer.  Perhaps our very waiting in the darkness gives some struggling unknown pilgrim in the hour’s hope.”

This is a moment spent in silence to shoulder the suffering.