Rest.

How do you view rest?

I often view rest as that inevitable step that follows me running myself into the ground. I sometimes view rest as an inconvenience (“I could be doing x, y, and z, but instead I’m tired and my body is forcing me to rest”).

Maybe you view rest as a solace, a recharge, a regular part of your routine. Jesus invites us to rest and not as a “you are weak–take a break” sort of thing. Why is it so hard for me and maybe some of you to grasp that rest does not equal weakness, failure, or wasted time?

Even my devotionals are often done “on the go” during my commute to work. I find that I “fit” prayer into my day. When it comes to sitting still, I’m often distracted and frustrated because of all of the other things I “SHOULD” be doing with those moments.

I’m going through Beth Guckenberger’s Reckless Faith: A 40 Day Journey to Saying Yes with my small group right now, and her first devotional day has so many good things to say about saying yes to STILL. I want to make it a goal to find more stillness, more acceptance of my need to rest, and more restful moments with Jesus. I would love to hear how you are able to find rest and stillness throughout your day! Have you been able to move from judgement of your need to rest into making time for this each day?

A Letter to My Students

A letter to my students:

Thank you for who you are. Thank you for pushing me to be better Every. Single. Day. You challenge me, you encourage me, and you teach me something every day. Thank you for showing up for me on the days I struggle to show up for you. The way you put aside yourselves to rally around one another inspires me.

This week has been a tough week for my students and for me. We have cried together and fought with one another…but we have also laughed together and lifted one another up. I never thought I would work with students who made me FEEL as much as you do. In the moments that I want to completely give up, you remind me why I’m here in the first place.

Thank you for being honest with me when something I do hurts you. Thank you for forgiving me when I admit my mistakes. Thank you for advocating for yourself and pushing me to work harder to help you succeed. Thank you for understanding my mistakes and encouraging me to try again.

I love you with my whole heart and want nothing more than for you to succeed.

Falling

I was walking my dog tonight after my second day of teaching in my own classroom. While I have been through student teaching, and I served as the Director of Christian Education for a small church for a year, having my own classroom and being with the kiddos all day is extremely different.

So while walking my dog around a local park, I watched a little girl trying to learn how to ride a bike with her dad in tow. She must have fallen at least a dozen times while I walked around the trail at the park. Every time she fell, her dad smiled at her and didn’t even have to say anything to her before she got back up, grabbed her bike, and tried again. She took some really rough falls, but with her dad there to cheer her on, she believed none of those falls should stop her from trying again.

The last two days have been a roller coaster of well-behaved kids and extremely squirrely kids, proud moments and frustrated moments, and feelings of confidence alongside feelings of doubt and failure. Tonight, though, as I watched this little girl refuse to let anything stop her from achieving a goal, I thought about how lucky I am to have the opportunity to show up every day to work alongside and learn with my students.

This year, I hope to be resilient. I hope to be excited to try new things, gracious with myself and my students when things may fail, and willing to get back up and try again the next opportunity. I hope to be unafraid to fall and fall hard. I know not every moment will feel like a success, and I know not every lesson will go as planned; but I hope that people like my mentor teacher, colleagues, and friends and family will smile at me without having to say a word as I dust myself off and prepare to give it my all once again.

Ice Cubes

My dog loves ice cubes. This is probably not a novel concept if you own a dog, however, it’s something that has recently been at the forefront of my thought. What a weird thing to ruminate on, right? Maybe. If I started introducing myself to people by telling them that I LOVE ice cubes, they would probably have some judgments and maybe even some reservations. (I don’t LOVE ice cubes by the way, but if I sat here long enough I’m sure I could think of something I do love but am ashamed or embarrassed to talk about with other people.)

 

I want to start this year off with an intentionality to love the little things and to put forth an image of myself that is honest and authentic. Instead of painting a picture of myself and my life that I’m “okay” with people seeing, I want to be transparent and authentic in a way I haven’t been able to do before.

Sure, people know that I love the color purple, a good baby laugh (meaning an infant, not a tiny giggle emitted in the presence of sophisticated company), every dog I’ve ever seen, South Dakota, and so on and so forth. People know these things about me after spending mere hours with me, but how many people know the real me? How many people know that I am terrified to drive in the snow because of a car accident that broke my collar bone and gave me a concussion that kept me out of school for two weeks? How many people know that stepping outside of my comfort zone and letting my nail tech paint my nails purple gives me REAL anxiety? How many people know that I am terrified I’m doing all of this work and taking out all of these loans to become a teacher only to find out that I’m not “cut out for it” or that I may not like it?

I’m not saying it’s necessarily someone else’s fault that they wouldn’t know these things about me, as I certainly could discuss all of this with someone and choose not to. However, as a teacher, a woman, or just a human in the society in which I live etc., I feel a real double standard in the expectations people have of the way I present myself to the world. As teachers, we’re taught to be authentic but not TOO authentic with our students. As in, we should definitely be approachable and friendly, but we need to be careful to not allow our students to take advantage of us, get too close to us, or think of us as a friend instead of *insert the hundreds of ways we might define teachers here*. As a woman/human in the society in which I live, I have people telling me to live authentically and unashamedly be who I am, but at the same times there are some serious undertones that we all need to acknowledge. I.e. We should share how we feel and not be afraid to disclose personal information as long as it doesn’t make anyone uncomfortable. Feelings such as joy and excitement are totally fine and acceptable, but don’t make people feel weird by confronting them with anxiety or anger. Even sadness.

Anyway, I don’t have a perfect ending to this post, other than to say that I want to start living as authentically me. Unashamed, broken, flawed, and beautiful me.

Thanks for following along on this weird, hard, and awesome journey with me.

These moments.

We live in a constant state of preparation. Preparing for the next thing. The next paper due in school. The next deadline at work. The next meeting on the calendar. The next event to shuttle the kids to. The next vacation. The next holiday. The next gift we have to buy. The next, the next, the next…

What about now? Image result for moments

This has been heavy on my heart lately as I’ve started my first full time, real life, real world adult job. I would now be considered, by most peoples’ standards, a fully functioning adult. I’m making car payments, paying off my student loans, going to my office every day, looking to buy a house, walking my dog at night, setting up retirement accounts…but I’m still looking to the next thing.

In a way, I think this can be good. This gives us hope when we feel stagnant. When days blur together, I can look forward a few months and think about that exciting life event. I can think about that wedding I’m in this summer, or my friend’s upcoming due date. If we feel complacent in our relationship with God or with a friend, we can remind ourselves that relationships have ups and downs.

At the same time, though, I feel like I’m losing out on the now. I feel as if my parents, teachers, friends, and self have conditioned me to never be content and to constantly strive for more. This is not to say that I place blame on them or fault them for my current stress or lack of ability to enjoy or fully experience my current situation, however, I see myself and so many people around me so busy and ready for the next thing that we completely forget to stop and take a moment. I personally forget to take a moment to look up at the shapes of the clouds, or to hear the way the leaves rustle gently in the wind. I forget to take a moment to look over at the wide-eyed infant currently sitting in a car seat at the table next to mine, where I’m buried in lesson plans and children’s Bibles. While I’m anxiously looking toward my next deadline, this rosy-cheeked, joyful little boy is sniffing the air as the door opens and the smell of slightly charred coffee grounds wafts toward us. He’s looking up as birds fly past enjoying the sunlight and happily communicating with one another. He’s noticing the napkin floating gently across the pavement with the breeze. He’s kicking his feet and observing the way the car seat rocks with his movement.

I wish I could go back to this.

I’d love to tie this all together and put a nice little bow on it. I would love to make a perfect plan (or a list because if you’ve ever read one of my posts, you know I love a good list). I would love to understand exactly how I got here, brainstorm how I can continue to strive for excellence yet begin again to appreciate the current moment, write it all down, and then do it. I’d like a perfect equation (but in words because I’m not a math person). I’m not there yet. I think this, though, is the perfect place. Sitting right here at the coffee shop, surrounded by lesson planning material, thinking about the students I’m privileged to talk about God with each week, and at the same time being reminded by this bright-eyed innocent little human that the little things matter and it’s important to notice them. Right now, I’m going to take a moment to appreciate the smells, the sounds, the anticipation, the frustration…and the current moment. This moment in its fullness is so beautiful.

Thanks, God.

 Image obtained from Greater Good Science Center (University of Berkeley, CA)

Perfection.

Confession: It’s been too long since I posted (over a year…). I don’t think this because I believe that anyone really relies on these posts for anything, or even that I really need to be blogging. However, I currently have 9 drafted blog posts just sitting idle. Most of them are nearly finished, with a few being in beginning stages. The problem lies in my desire to achieve perfection before I share with anyone.

For anyone who knows me, it’s fairly obvious that I am very much a “Type A” personality, I strive for success, I am very determined once I have made a decision about what I want, etc. However, my definition of success is so elevated that it is often unattainable. Back a few posts, I wrote about how much I hate to be vulnerable. Wow. How true. I don’t want anyone to see me fall apart, I don’t want anyone to know when I have not done my best work on an assignment or exam, and I certainly don’t want anyone reading anything that I don’t deem “perfect.”

This yearning for perfection is often praised by others as a positive character trait. I.e. “You’re so motivated!” “You’re so driven!” “You work so hard!” Right. This can be true, but my desire for perfection and unwillingness to be authentic with others has been crippling this year. In the past 12 months, I’ve applied for dozens of jobs, graduated from college, started graduate school, took a break from graduate school, began pursuing my teaching license (5 more classes! Let’s go!), and went back to applying for more jobs. This year has been full of what I would generally deem as “failures,” meaning I didn’t finish something I started or I changed my mind. This is not the picture perfect image I want people to see when they look at me…however, this is me. I change my mind. I take chances and start things I may not finish immediately (or ever).

These last 12 months have without a doubt been the most challenging of my life. I’ve cried more, laughed more, and learned more than ever before. I’m learning about myself and about others. About authenticity and small ways in which I can let go of crippling perfectionism.

You didn’t think I could return to blogging without my infamous lists, did you? Here are some of the ways in which I am currently working to let go:

  1. HONESTY. I’ve begun responding honestly when someone asks me how I’m doing. I think one of the worst trends in communication is this exchange: “Hey! How are you?” “Good! How are you?” “Good! See ya around.” “See ya.”
    ………….generally this entire exchange is uttered in a matter of seconds as two people pass one another on the sidewalk, in the hallway, on the way out of the restroom…and this encourages us to continue on in the facade that everything is fine (neither good nor bad, really) and discourages genuine communication and relationship-building. Instead, let’s pause for a second and take the opportunity to self-assess and consider how we are actually doing, giving the other person the same opportunity as well.
  2. CRYING. Ugh. I hate crying. So much. The red face, the snotty nose, the “crying hangover (i.e. post-cry headache),” the vulnerability…it’s all bad.
    Unless it’s not all bad. I used to roll my eyes when someone tried to tell me how cathartic crying could be. I’m still working on this, but I’m getting somewhere. I feel authentic, genuine, and human when I cry.
  3. BLOGGING. I used to keep a great journal, but in the midst of all of these crazy life changes and transitions, it’s fallen by the wayside completely. As much as I love sitting down and writing pen-and-paper, typing is so much faster. I’ve decided to make a conscious decision to return to blogging as a way of sharing my experiences, thoughts, etc. and pushing myself to actually sit down occasionally and consider where I’m coming from, where I am currently, and where I’d like to head.

I’ve been sitting here trying to come up with the perfect concluding paragraph. So now seems like a good time to practice this whole “letting go of perfection” thing and just end here. Be blessed, friends. And be imperfect. It’s beautiful.blog-photos

Image obtained from ninjasamurai.com

 

Technology.

Technology is such an awesome gift! SOMETIMES.

If you know me, you know that I wish it were realistic for me to throw away my Smartphone and quit being “on call” for the hundreds of people who have my phone number. Many people have heard me rant MANY TIMES about how much I wish I could go back to a time before technology and live there. Over the past few weeks, no surprise at all, I have had some incredibly irritating experiences with technology. Not by way of me fighting to understand something (although that happens, too), but rather by way of me competing with a Smartphone or computer for someone’s attention during a conversation. This is by no means a new experience for me, but for the first time, I’m thinking about how this affects God.

Despite the fact that I so often become irritated by something those around me do, I rarely take the time to be introspective and consider the ways I mirror their behavior in my relationship with God. Yesterday I began to think about the fact that, if I am angered enough to end a conversation with someone due to their attention being on a text message or a *insert social media here* post, I should probably quit doing the same to God. How often do I turn on the TV or scroll through my Facebook timeline when I haven’t taken the time to say anything to God yet that day? Far more often than I’d like to admit to myself or to you.

If I am this irritated, frustrated, hurt, etc. by someone dividing their attention between me and a piece of technology, I cannot imagine how much this hurts God. God knows the number of hairs I have on my head. He cares about the things I don’t want to bother my roommate or my dad or my grandma with. His heart breaks for me. Yet I constantly divide my attention between Him and a plethora of other meaningless things. How important is it, really, that I see this Instagram post or that tweet? Do I really need to watch that episode of that show I couldn’t really care much less about? How are these things really feeding me in any way? I sometimes convince myself that it’s important to keep up with my friends through social media and that God wants us to have good relationships with others, etc. However, shouldn’t I hear about my best friend getting engaged or my cousin getting a new job in some platform beyond social media? Instead, I should probably spend those “wasted” 60 minutes each day talking to God, turning my eyes to Him, and listening to what He has to say.

I’m not sure how much technology really hinders your ability to engage in meaningful relationships with others, but I’m finding it encroaching on my relationships more each day. I think for me, it’s important that I use this frustration to remind me to spend more time with my creator, my Father, my Savior. After all, that’s probably far more productive than continuing to be angry at those I love, right?

Vulnerability

So if you know me at all, there’s a 99% chance that you’re aware of my issues with being vulnerable. I hate it to my core. It’s no fun, I don’t feel better after crying in front of anyone (or by myself for that matter), and talking about my feelings freaks me out a lot. But I have to be honest. In the midst of pouring into my wonderful students at a Christian school, taking on a huge leadership role in campus ministries here, leading worship, discussing faith and theology in my spare time, and now taking on another spiritual leadership role on campus, I lost sight of how little I had left to pour. I realize that I have left myself with mere drops when I am surrounded by oceans.

This weekend, at a training retreat for this new spiritual leadership role, I heard myself speaking to younger college students about being sure to take time for ourselves. I spoke about how important it was to keep tabs on our own spiritual health in order to ensure that we can take care of others. We talked about partaking in worship experiences that we are not leading, talking to others about where we’re at, doing our own devotional studies, etc. and I nodded along like I had this all under control. The truth is–at that moment, I realized how empty I was.

It’s been a long time since I genuinely attended a function for a reason other than needing to be there for others. If I’m not required to coral volunteers, speak, lead worship, or be of some “vital importance” at the event, I’m probably not there. However, each attendee IS of vital importance. I have lost sight of the fact that I do not always need to be standing up front or running around behind the scenes getting things together. I do not always need to have a leadership role to be important. So after a weird night of thinking this through, I asked God for some help.

SIDE NOTE: God and I have been through some tough stuff. This was a huge step for me to really put my faith in God and His ability to come through for me. Which again is so ridiculous considering the types of things I’ve been blogging about, writing about in my journal, and singing about while leading worship.

Regardless, though, I hit one of those moments in my life that brought me to my knees. Again…vulnerability is a thing I hate a lot. So God spoke during this rare moment that I was open to it. And I listened. I then asked God what the next step was. “So. I’ve admitted the issue. But what do I do? I can’t just quit serving these people and being in these positions.” My eyes met the clock on the wall in my living room and I realized that a worship service on campus was starting in 15 minutes. I hadn’t attended this service or meeting of students for almost a year and knew I would have no responsibilities. The thought of going back to this service has scared me–probably for that very reason. I would have to stand before God and worry about myself instead of others. That terrified me. So I got up, put my shoes and coat on (and also a scarf, hat, and huge gloves because the wind chill was CRAZY) and left. And God sure showed up. God showed up in a way that reminded me of the fact that He was always right next to me and all I had to do was turn my eyes to Him.

So. So what? The meaning behind this whole pretty sappy story is that I was vulnerable for the first time in awhile. In that vulnerability, I finally allowed myself to hear from God. It was awesome.

I’m sure I’ll have more to write about this later, but right now I just need to spend some time with Jesus and allow myself to be poured into that I might overflow with His love to those around me. I can finally see the vast oceans I’m surrounded by and I am so excited to jump in.

Finding Direction.

 

It seems to me that, with each new year, comes a refreshed need for direction in our lives. Where do we seek this direction? Rather, where can we find reliable direction?

Whether this need for direction stems from a desire to lose weight, to get your finances in check, to meet the love of your life, to be the BEST YOU, etc., it’s worth talking about. The new year is typically a very popular time to work on setting new goals and beginning a sort of “reinventing” process that may or may not last into February. Regardless, humans are wandering around looking for some sort of guidance in all of this. So. Where do we go?

Ourselves. We often turn inward and do some “soul-searching” when we’re unsure of what to do next. This can be extremely helpful, as it’s great to get in touch with ourselves and really focus in on what we need this year. However, we risk becoming a little too focused on ourselves and losing sight of those around us, the bigger, picture, or even ourselves 10 years down the road.

Society. Duh. We can’t escape society, no matter how hard we try. We look to advertisements–which, by the way, you are not the only one setting new goals this year. Those companies renting billboards, airing commercials, printing ads in the newspaper, etc. are also aware of this cultural phenomenon. You’d best believe they’re playing into your newly found interest in weight loss, nutrition, academia, etc.–Anyway. Society tells you that your goal should be _______________ and you just run with it! You may even find some solid guidance from these advertisements. Example: 10 Easy Steps to Happiness! or 15 Fat-Busting Foods YOU Need More of in 2016!

Loved ones. Maybe your mother mentioned something about your love life over Christmas dinner. Maybe your cousin slimmed down and the whole family oggled over his transformation. Maybe your best friend just bought a house with her husband and you’re looking at your tiny apartment wondering how to get out. Our loved ones have a HUGE impact on our direction. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing!

I could go down the list of places we can find our direction, guidance, meaning, purpose, etc. all day. But I know where I SHOULD be seeking these things.

GOD. Why would I not choose to look to the creator of the universe, the maker of my being, the Alpha, Omega, the Heavenly Father…for all things? Well, because it’s not always easy. God could put me on a path that I really do not wish to follow. He could tell me that when I graduate in May, He has plans for me in another country and I have to leave my friends and family behind. He could tell me that He wants me to take that low-paying job instead of the more substantial income because I can serve His people better that way. He could tell me that my perfect position isn’t available yet and I need to wait it out while working in retail. If I, however, choose my direction, I can be comfortable. I can feel successful. I can feel independent. I can get the paycheck I want. I can be close to the people I want to be close to.

It’s REALLY difficult to put my trust somewhere other than myself. Which is absolutely crazy considering the fact that I trust in God to keep gravity in check every day when I step out of bed. Why, then, would I have such trouble trusting Him to lead me in 2016?

All I know is that each day is a new chance to put my trust in God. Each day is a chance to ask for His forgiveness for not trusting Him yesterday, and to ask for His help in trusting Him more today.

What will 2016 bring? Well, I’ll graduate college. And that’s terrifying. Where will I work? Where will I live? What will I wear? Who will my friends be? What will I eat? WHO KNOWS? God knows.

 

Turning the Page…

HA! Get it? Turning the page! I’m an English teacher!

All jokes aside…I’ve been trying to write this blog post for weeks. My last day with my students is tomorrow. Woah. That can’t be right. It’s still September, isn’t it?

I seriously never thought these kids could mean so much to me. I’ve been a tutor, a camp counselor, a Sunday School teacher, a mentor, a Bible study leader, and have done three other field experiences…and never in my life has a group of students meant this much to me. That’s certainly not to discount my other students, but this group is so special and has blessed me beyond belief.

So. To my students:

Thank you for trusting me. Thank you for respecting me. Thank you for allowing me to “practice” on you. Thank you for allowing me to stand up in front of you each day and make countless mistakes. Thank you for encouraging me. Thank you for reassuring me that I am, in fact, cut out for teaching. Thank you for admiring me. Thank you for being difficult sometimes, as it allowed me to learn some classroom management. Thank you for laughing at my stupid jokes. Thank you for humbling me. Thank you for respecting me. Thank you for reminding me that I can be your teacher and your friend. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for showing me Jesus each and every day. Thank you for asking me questions. Thank you for teaching me some really hard lessons. Thank you for giving me your time. Thank you for being vulnerable with me. Thank you for being ridiculous. Thank you for helping me learn more about myself. Thank you for telling me that I make a difference in your life. Thank you for your patience as I learn with you. Thank you for trying to convince me that I’m both youthful and an adult at the same time. Thank you for coming to me for advice. Thank you for welcoming me into your classroom. Thank you for letting me be a part of your world for a time. Thank you for begging me not to leave you. Thank you for spending this absolutely unforgettable semester with me.

I cannot believe it’s over. In all honesty, as tiring as this semester has been, I cannot image what the next few weeks will be like as I come to realization that it really is over. I can assure you that I will think of you often-and be praying for you each time you cross my mind. I thank God for all of the blessings you have given to me this year, and I know you will continue to bless all those around you. You have a beautiful heart, and an unbelievable ability to demonstrate God’s love to others.

Rest assured that this is not the end of your book or mine. This is simply us turning a new page. On the next page, wonderful experiences abound. You, your classmates, and your teachers have so much more to learn, to share, and to experience together. You have more beautiful people to meet, and more love to share with the world. You have decisions to make and places to travel. You have difficult lessons to learn and people to hold your hand as you learn them.

Go forward confidently and with purpose. Continue to welcome others into your life. Keep showing Jesus to the world. Know that you are so very loved.

Most importantly, Thank you for teaching me far more than I could ever teach you. You have truly changed my life.