Thursday, February 28, 2013

52 Lists

Ali Edwards posted something on her blog about a 52 lists project. The original project is here.

I LOVE this idea! I look forward to checking out the new list every week. I have a journal I am using just for this and I am adding things to each list a couple times a week as I think of new additions.

For example, week one was "Words that Touch Your Soul." Here are some words from my list.

"Today you will be with me in paradise."

Well, you get the idea. I'd love to hear if you decide to work on these lists, too! And thanks to Moorea for this project!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


I am wrestling with a problem. It's left me feeling sick and stressed.

I had a rough week last week with my after school students. I started the year with great intentions and plans, but as the year has gone on and I have gotten more tired and more busy, I've not brought the same level of planning and intention to the program.

That in itself tells me I need to plan more long term so that I have plans outlined and in place when things get busy or I start to wear down. A month's worth of plans isn't going to be long enough.

The students have also gotten more unruly as we have gone on. I don't know if it is because they are getting older and pursuing their own agendas (more talking - and flirting - and less working) or if it is because I haven't stayed as strict as I was in the beginning. Maybe it is a combination of both. Whatever the cause, it's time to reign things back in.

This is something I do on a volunteer basis. These are afternoons I could be working on all those library things that can't get finished during the school day. Or they could be days when I get to leave school right when the day closes. And for 4 years I've been happy to use my afternoons for this group. But lately that joy has been replaced by dread. When the students leave, I feel like I have been in a battle - that I have been policing students rather than teaching them.

This week we will be resetting the expectations and the boundaries for this program. I did a little of it with my older group last week and they worked really well. I have hope that I can say the same for the younger group after this week.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Living Water

The pastor's sermon on Sunday was about the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 and her conversation with Jesus. This is when Jesus basically says a person can come to that physical well every day for a little water or can tap into Living Water that is available from Christ.

In my sermon notes I wrote, "Do I live like I have access to an abundant supply of living water? Or do I live at a deficit - feeling dry and empty and used up? How does that get changed? How do I turn on the faucet? Is it awareness? Closeness? Asking for it? Am I content to keep living dry with only a cup here and there? Or am I ready to live at a different level of spiritual hydration?"

I am hopeful that my daily practice of devotional and Bible reading will help me move towards this abundance. There's too much of the school year left for me to be this weary - I need an infusion of energy. I want to finish this school year well - and there's a lot of work to do if I'm going to be able to take a real break this summer and refresh before next year. I am longing for the abundance of Living Water.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Each Day Is a Gift

In church on Sunday, we watched a video at the start of service. I latched on to a concept at the beginning and I couldn't let it go (and missed the point of the rest of the video).

The speaker said each day was a gift - there's no guarantee of tomorrow. Not a new concept, really, but it hit me in a new way this week.

Do I wake up in the morning, thinking of the day as a gift? an opportunity?

No. When I wake up, I think of how many more days there are until the weekend. I think about how exhausted I am. I don't feel gratitude; I feel weary.

How might my attitude and my outlook be different if I viewed each day as a gift? If I woke up and thought, "I have 16 hours of opportunities ahead of me. How can I best use them to love my family and love my students? How can I best use them to honor Christ?"

I'd like to say that this change in outlook will revolutionize my life immediately, but I know me. It's going to take some practice to change how I think about each new day when I wake up in the morning. But I am encouraged to give this re-frame a try.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Grief Revisited

Recently I have begun to wonder if my son was missing his grandfather more than usual. Dad would come up in conversation with my son in ways that I wasn't expecting. We were talking about going to a certain restaurant for Valentine's Day and my son mentioned the "next big celebration" there, and I had NO idea what he was talking about. Turned out, he was remembering how we celebrated Dad's birthday there last year. For me, that was a one time thing, but for him, apparently, it was supposed to be an annual event. At a school event, we were talking to another parent about a project the kids did in 2nd grade. When it came up, I had a fleeting thought that I had missed that project because I was home taking care of Dad. When the conversation turned to my son he said, "That was a bad day." Then I remembered that it was the day Dad died and that after the presentation at school, my husband had delivered the news.

I wasn't expecting this level of grief from my son after almost two years. I know that Dad's absence is something I am aware of every day, but the ache of it has lessened bit by bit over time. I thought I was the only one still missing him at that depth. But once I recognized the cues, I decided to address it head on. After school one day we came home, snuggled on the bed with the photo book I made after Dad died, and I asked him if he was missing Grandpa.

He dissolved into tears, throwing his arms around me. I was crushed to know he was hurting so badly.

I probably need to do a better job of talking about Dad, and talking about missing him, so my son has more regular opportunities to acknowledge his loss. I am hoping our chat helped siphon off some of the grief that he seemed to be bottling up lately. On a positive note, I think this shows the kind of person my father was and the impact he made on his grandson, considering he lived several hours away from us. I hope his impact will linger as my son gets older.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Philippians 4:12-13

Since I settled on "contentment" for my word for 2013, I had to do something with this passage of scripture when I read something that pointed out that 4:13, which people quote all the time, really relates to the verses before it where Paul talks about learning to be content with his life, not matter what. That's what I am yearning for - contentment.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

What Do You Love?

I've been reading the book Quitter by Jon Acuff recently. It's about moving from your day job to your dream job in a well-thought out way - figuring out what that dream job is, taking steps to get there that still allow you to take care of your responsibilities to your family, etc.

One of the questions he asks is, "What do I love enough to do for free?"

I like this question - You can look at it as "what do I love in my current job?" or "what do I love?" in general. For me, it was a good exercise in highlighting all the parts of my job I enjoy. It got me thinking about how I would design my work or my schedule to maximize the parts I love. It also has the potential to help me deal better with the parts I don't like - doing THIS allows me to do THAT.

So, in honor of Valentine's Day today, think about your life - your work, your hobbies, your passions.

What do you love enough to do it for free? Or in my favorite variation - if you won the lottery and didn't HAVE to work, how would you invest your time?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


The writing-well is dry these days, at least if I'm going to write about something other than books. So, today I'm just going to share a quote I found in my devotional reading last week.

I am using the Bible in One Year app and they quoted Elizabeth Kubler-Ross last week:

"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within."

Good stuff, right? This winter has felt really "dark." It's not even been a "bad" winter per se, but I find myself struggling to get out of bed and to feel motivated to do much of anything outside my own space or my own head. I'm not sure if it is just a "normal" seasonal low - something I've not consciously dealt with before - or if it is a delayed grief - a low-energy season because we kept such a frantic pace for a couple years. I feel like I have to work more to stoke that light from within right now. I'm really counting on that groundhog business being right this year - I am hoping that some signs of spring will help me perk up some time soon.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Making Peace at Home

I have this love/hate relationship with my house. It's small, but it's ours. It doesn't take much, though, to get me started on a list of its flaws.

My husband developed the flu at the first of the year (the kind of flu NOT covered by the shot), so my son and I waged war on the germs by cleaning the house from top to bottom. I was thrilled with how clean things looked and felt. I wanted things to stay this way, so we've started a weekly cleaning routine, trying to stay on top of clutter and piles and to take care of some areas where we've done some renovations lately that we want to keep nice. We each have our tasks from dusting and mopping the floors to cleaning crumbs off the stove top to dusting and vacuuming.

I've also tried to tackle larger projects in smaller bits. Instead of trying to do everything in one Saturday (making everyone grumpy about losing the whole day and failing to get everything done anyway), I'm trying to pick one piece and assign it to a week. Like this past weekend, my son and I worked on his closet, emptying my stuff out of it to open up space for his stuff as he has gotten older, and moving his stuff into it. Is his room perfect? Hardly! But we are a little bit closer. Next weekend, the extra task is mine and mine alone - the boys can have the day off after we finish our regular cleaning routine.

After a month of this, I noticed something I didn't expect.

It's made me more grateful for our home.

It feels like a privilege to care for it week after week. It feels like OURS when we work on making it look nice together.  I am hoping our weekly care and cleaning as well as future improvement projects will help me continue to make peace with our small house - to see it as a gift to use for our family and to show hospitality to others.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Know Jesus

Last week during morning devotions, one of the teacher's shared a passage in Luke 7. There was a Pharisee named Simon who knew all the rules for his faith and all the rules for his culture, but he did not treat Jesus as he should have if he recognized who He was. Then there was a "sinful woman" who probably didn't know any of the things Simon did, but she acted out of love for Jesus.  Then the teacher asked us: Are we teaching kids to know about Jesus or to know Jesus?

That's a pretty significant question!

But even bigger is HOW do you teach the difference? It's easy to share stories about Jesus. Knowing Jesus is harder - more personal.

I talked to my son about this after school that day. He could explain the difference between knowing Jesus and knowing about Jesus, but he had a harder time coming up with ways to know Jesus better.

So, how do you do it? How do you teach your kids to KNOW Jesus, rather than just know about Him?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Fight the Funk

I have been fighting a funk this month. I don't quite know where it comes from - it usually sneaks up on me - but it has been happening more often lately. I think some is probably the weather. January in the Midwest is cold and can be grey and dreary. I am longing for spring and for sunshine and warmth.

Some of it feels like "burnout," too. And it's really far too early for that. I just had a three day weekend and a two week break not long ago. There's too much school year left to feel burned out in January. But the feelings are reminding me of the frantic, manic pace I kept last year as I tried to hide from grief. I worked almost all summer and didn't truly rest between school years - and this after a summer of funeral and estate business which was also draining.

The first thing that has helped the funk is coming across a Bible verse I already knew (in song form) - "Why so downcast, O my soul? Put your hope in God." When I notice the funk, I am trying to keep that in my head - change my focus from the bad mood to hope in God.

The other thing that helped, strangely enough, was cleaning out a file cabinet. For a year and a half now I have had a completely full file cabinet in the library work room full of materials from the last 13 years. I was so tired of prepping new books for the library, I didn't even want to think about them. But I remembered that I have this file cabinet that needs attention. It is easily tackled in small chunks of time (and I often have just that available to me) and any progress is better than no progress.

I was able to go through two file drawers and whittle them down to one so I could move some things out of my desk.

I know I'm going to have to go through things again - there are all sorts of lesson plan ideas that need to be reviewed and evaluated to see if I can use them - but it feels great to make progress on something that has been waiting for attention for a long time.

The other thing that made me happy about this task is that I was thinking it would be something I could only tackle over summer break - and I don't want to work this summer if I can help it. Now I can make some progress during the school year. Any time I can bring order out of a bit of chaos, I feel better about life in general!