Sunday, October 30, 2016

THE DANCE WITH DOUBT (A TEACHER'S LIFE)

Maybe I'm speaking MOSTLY to the teachers now because their kind is who I know.  They are the life I've grown up in. They are the people I have become. They are the people my heart has learned to beat to, but it may be true, you feel more like a teacher than you know.


Teachers sometimes live in the cesspool of doubt...doubt that they are believed...doubt that they are heard...doubt that they are valued...doubt that they are enough.  


On more than one occasion through my teaching years (and admittedly it has been me on many),  a co-teacher has taken her precious time to come to my room, sighing or maybe crying, seeking grace to erase the sludge of sick thinking about herself that quickly accumulated in the pit of her soul. 


Whether she related a story in fury or declared it in defeat, her eyes showed that vulnerability that comes with over striving and being overwhelmed and overloaded.


Maybe it's the pressure of the expectations of five days for eight hours a day (plus the work at home at night) that she fill the roles to be the perfect mom,  mentor, doctor, disciplinarian, entertainer, preacher, and teacher to twenty-five or more students and their families.

And just like that cesspool, this doubt needs to be cleared, because the sickness drains out if not.  It leaks toxic and becomes vulnerable to the roots of doubt expanding until her soul system fails.


Have you danced with doubt in your life?


Our soul doubt needs to be frequently emptied because the cost of maintaining our soul is staggering if this is ignored.

The shadow of doubt accumulating in the muck of the mess must be cast out if we don't want her broken and collapsing. 

It's tough to be brave when confronted with brutal words of doubt.


While we can't remove others words from miring the doubt that contaminates our soul, we can saturate our soul with the words of grace. 

Teachers and all who feel like them at times, I can tell you that our soul tells us the truth. We are not enough. 

---WE ARE NOT ENOUGH---

We are not enough for any situation we will face. We are inherently riddled with mistakes, become short sighted, miss the obvious, try hard in many of the wrong places, judge others and ourselves by unbelievable standards, and work hard at working hard often to no avail, wishing others would notice our efforts.

AND THEN GRACE...
Grace percolates and our weaknesses are forgiven and perfected.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" (2Cor. 12:9)




Teachers need to speak words of grace and forgiveness every day to themselves. 

We cannot be stifled by the truth that we are not enough because the truth is what our soul has believed all along--- we are not enough!  


Yet, the freeing and deeper truth is that God will work through those weaknesses to accomplish His purpose.   

Our days of doubt serve to remind us of our need to clear the accumulated mire. Walk down the hallways and seek out those who will remind you for Whom you work and of the successes you've been afforded. 

When those days in teaching come (and they will) that you find yourself reviled and faced with reproach, and you cannot restrain harsh words being flung at you or replaying in your head, and you have no recourse, and you need to be rescued, may you be reminded that grace delivers you.

He continues to work in you in order to strengthen your work to fulfill purposes beyond your understanding.


"You have to say 
I am forgiven 
again and again 
until it becomes 
the story you believe 
about yourself."
--Cheryl Strayed













Tuesday, August 9, 2016

FIGURING OUT THIS GRANDPARENT LOVE


"There's nothing like it."
"You will love it."
"You will fall in love like never before."

Those are words others used to describe grandparenting to me before I became one. 

I've been pondering how to describe why this grandparenting is like no other love. It took me a year to be able to pen words that seemed to make sense about this love, this grandparent love.  It is a different glimpse at love.


I can't say it's stronger. I can't say it's fiercer. 

It's all I was for my kids and something more, and yet it's all I couldn't be for my kids. It's the best of me for her: my moments, my thoughts, my inclinations. 

It's the ethereal majestic of life. It's the unexplainable captured by the heart's eye. It's gifts of fast forward moments watching  a world of wonder unfold. It's being renewed to the miracle of the gift of life. 


It's being drawn toward  awe in a simple pleasure.

It's purpose and passion magnified without parent pressure.


It's flawless: seeing the shine, not the smudge; the sugar, not the sour.



It's the humble trust to comfort. It's working to the truth through the tantrum: silencing the pain by bandaging the hurt, hugging the sorrow, and rocking to a calm together.







It's seeing beyond the veil, seeing wonder in each new step, praising the fail because it started with a try.







It's stepping beyond the clutter of life, the mess, the dirt, the troubles to rest in middle of right now joy and dance with whatever balance and rhythm you have.







It's slowing the storm of life to a pace of breathing.



It's discovering joy from being greeted with a smile, kiss, and hug for simply walking through the door. 




It's seeing the hope in a future.




For every story my musing metaphors represent, this grandparent love is my openhearted surrender to a divine journey of seeing with a tender heart.



Wednesday, June 1, 2016

WHEN WE SPRAY TOXIC!

THIS WAS A MISTAKE. 

ALL ACROSS THE YARD THERE WAS A RECORDING OF EACH MISSTEP.  EVERY STEP TAKEN, THE TWISTS AND TURNS, ENGRAVED IN DEAD BROWN GRASS. THE POISON TRAIPSED A TRAIL OF SURPRISING DISTANCE.

It was a slow acting herbicide meant to kill the grass but not the surrounding flowers. It seeped invisible into the fertile flower ground. At the spot it was sprayed, the intention was to kill the invading grass. 

We spray toxic each day--spittle of slow acting invasive words and actions meant to seek a sense of control or herald our own agendas, but instead kill invisible dreams, cripple the growth of love, suffer hearts and minds to growth. 

 Creating careless ruin. 

Oh, the heroic potential of humanity.

There really is no standing still; every day is consciously and unconsciously an overwhelming, choice-laden footprint trek.

red marks on the student's page or "good first try"
Oh, the heroic potential of humanity.

blaming others for pain or understanding the effects of loss
Oh, the heroic potential of humanity.

condemning parents or patient explanations
Oh, the heroic potential of humanity.

screaming in the faces of police or building communities
Oh, the heroic potential of humanity.

shattering sound byte charges or driven to seek truth 
Oh, the heroic potential of humanity.

defining others by mistakes or seeing an opportunity for change
Oh, the heroic potential of humanity.

being crushed by Alzheimer's effects or singing your mom into heaven with each remaining heartbeat
Oh, the heroic potential of humanity.

seeing the worst in a friend and choosing to lead them to their best
Oh, the heroic potential of humanity.

Just in the living, we make our mark on this earth and its inhabitants.  With every conversation, communication, interaction, written word, and song that we wash over others, through every exchange we change the atmosphere around us. 

Modern literature and movies pronounce it: "She walks lightly upon the earth. She knows the truth: we're as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it."--John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Unmistakably, we won't get through life unscathed by our choices.

Oh, the heroic potential of humanity.  Breath it in.  It's GRACE.

Modern music sings of it this story of our lives in Colton Dixon's Through it All    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91KliTa1ksY
I have won and I have lost 
I got it right sometimes
But sometimes I did not
Life's been a journey
I've seen joy, I've seen regret...

Where will the scales balance at the end of your day, your year, your lifetime, your generation to show you got it right sometimes or will you live in the anguish of regret.  Will you resonant the forgiveness of God or continue to build retaliations for recriminations against you.


WILL THERE BE RESISTANCE TO REVERE GOD'S JOURNEY OF GRACE OR WILL WE ALLOW THE GRASS TO REGROW GREEN, GROWING OVER THE EVIDENCE OF OUR MISTREADING ON THE EARTH. 

BENEATH IT ALL, A RESIDUE MAY REMAIN, BUT GRACE ALLEVIATES THE PAIN, THE TOXIC, THE RESIDUE OF OUR SORROW AND SHAME.

Keeping Score is a toxic rant...keep Grace!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

5 THINGS MOM TAUGHT ME

When you realize your youngest (and only child of three still at home) will turn 21 in weeks and move out in a couple months, you reflect on your mother role. Well, at moments, it's sheer panic or wonder concerning what I have taught them about life.

Endless times through these years of growing my own children,  moments of my childhood replayed in my head, revealing the secrets of my mom's wisdom as she experienced life with us.  There's a lot of life I learned from doing life with my mom that I didn't think I had learned until it began to rattle around in my own mind, mouth, and behaviors as I lived life with my own children.

These are merely five of many lessons I've learned from living life with my mom.

1. LISTEN INTENTIONALLY:

My mom would make us listen to HER music on vacation trips: Harry Chapin, Elvis, Roberta Flack, Diana Ross. I listened to every style of music, but the worst were classical and country.  Hours of highway droned by to the melancholy lyrics of "Cats in the Cradle"  and to silly vocal drama creations of "30,000 Thousand Pounds of Bananas."  Torture always ensued, and I never wanted to be able to sleep in a car more than when my mom put on classical music and told us to be quiet to detect all the instruments used in the song.

Important messages and details
 are told through the story of our 
lives, but we have to listen 
intentionally to recognize them.

2. KEEP PUSHING BACK THE DARK:
My parents are the proprietors of "Bellerive Gardens" their home and haven of floral art whose majesty many have come to view when it's on display. My parents consistently did the backbreaking work of potting, digging, or moving the dark soil to create new flower beds, plant seedlings, or enrich the soil with nutrients. All of the faithful dirty work became the eventual tapestry. I always wondered how they envisioned such an awesome array of color when staring at the initial black soil beds,  ,

There are difficult seasons that you must work through in order to create the beauty you imagine. 


3. SOMEONE NEEDS THE LIGHT 
YOU HAVE:
We went to Hilton Head, South Carolina, many times as I grew up.  The late night walk on the beach with only the moon shimmering off the water definitely subconsciously introduced me to romanticism: these moments were awe filled aesthetic experiences. Yet, a young child that dark created more imaginary horror. Each kid wanted his own flashlight in hand to light the way and avoid stepping on all the jellyfish splayed across the beach. However, only one random person was given charge of one flashlight. At any given time, someone was always asking to have the light shined to see something or step safely.

Live life in community with others. Sharing what you have is as necessary for you as it is for them.


4. HAVE YOUR OWN NAME:
My dad fondly named himself Mr. Wonderful  and proceeded to embroider this title on nearly 20 shirts of various colors, just in case someone were to forget his name or he needed something to talk to new people about (which he never does).  Let's not get started on why he named himself this. He is more than happy to list those off for you. Through the years, many people have mistakenly thus dubbed my mom Mrs. Wonderful. However, she ever so politely amends the error by explaining that her name is certainly not Mrs. Wonderful, a mere addendum to my dad, but rather Saint Rose. She proudly and clearly explains that she should have her very own identity (and probably cape with a huge "S" on it).

You are not someone's shadow. 
Stitch your own name on the earth and make it a healing grace.


5. YOUR ART IS ART:
I am not an artist.  I am not an artist.  I am not an artist.  For years, this reel ran in my head and actually quite often out loud, and for years when my mom heard me she would assert that I was an artist. Most often, I just chalked her words up to motherly encouragement.  You know...I create those items only a mother could gawk at and love. But for years, I shallowly defined art as pictures, paintings, sculptures, and drawings instead that which creates a passion in another. One day, my mom asked me to write the note inside a card we were sending to someone "because you do such a nice job" she said.  It was then that I realized that words were my art, and when she tells me that what I have written has drawn her to tears, I believe her again that I am an artist.

Creating is essential because art is creating that which expresses the important ideas and imaginings of the soul, and in so doing creates a million ways for us to see something anew.



So the childhood saying goes, monkey see, monkey do. Mother's live out loud; we only pray the life we live is translated into life lessons our kids can pass on. I've already heard a few lessons my kids have learned from me, but that's another blog entry..



Monday, May 23, 2016

CONFESSIONS FROM A TEACHER TO A GRADUATE

It's graduation time. I received 5 cards to the same party for 8 kids. I had no clue who sent me two of the invitations because they came with no name, but I was fairly certain who HADN'T invited me because I was pretty sure he could have cared less because of our last exchange.


I know that student behaviors are a form of communication. I know that the  best communication with students is accomplished through mutual respect, those times each person is being seen, heard, and listened to with care.

Here's the tough honesty.  Some days as a teacher,  I understand what students are relating, but some days I do not. Some days, I have the wherewithal to delve deeper, but some days my strength fails me. Some days, I patiently ponder and watch for the non-verbals, and some days I walk right into a power struggle. Some days I choose to bless, and some days I run ahead with my authority.  

And even on those days when I think I've tried my best, the communication can break down. These are the disheartening days because students' feelings do matter to me; maintaining mutual respect is important to me; creating a climate of being heard is vital to the relationship I have with students.

And on one such morning with a prior high school student of mine now senior,  a quick exchange suddenly became that train wreck of communication. One sentence from me of "Hey, pick that up" as I walked out my classroom door seeing bottles of hand sanitizer  sliding across the hallway floor started a crashing exchange. 

My mind reeled in the disrespect postured back at me. As the cars of this train seemed to careen together, I quickly replayed his stare, tone, and response, "I didn't do it." I wasn't sure what he heard in my simple request to respond in his way. The banter to end the battle backfired until I attempted to end the struggle with "Careful, I will  have to issue a detention" to which to save face at the authority card I had thrown he showed little care.  

Just place a big FAIL above my head for this one. I really didn't want to issue a detention.  I hadn't tried to single him out.  I just wanted someone to put things back where they belonged. What should have been a quick easy-going, simple exchange became so much more.  

For me, this is the stuff of teaching nightmares. How does that student see me now?  What have I lead that student to believe about me? A relationship of mutual respect lies in pieces.


And that's how I left it. No detention. I  just walked away. I walked back to my room surprised, frustrated, and disappointed from the struggle. Frustrated with me and frustrated with him, wondering what just happened.   FAILURE.

Until I walked into this by invitation only graduation party and saw my name under HIS list of invitees. 

What followed was the needed reminder of a lesson I try to teach others: FINISH WELL. He came up to me at his party in front of his peers and hugged me, told me he was glad I came to his party, and apologized for being disrespectful. His genuineness brought tears to my eyes because I knew I had not rectified this relationship.  I let it hang in the balance as if it had not mattered when clearly I was sorry about its state every day I saw him in the hallway.  I told myself he probably didn't care.  I assumed he clearly wanted nothing but distance from me. 

What had been broken was simply repaired, and he INITIATED it. He humbly filled the chasm we both sensed between us. I have great regard for his plain spoken admission of HIS part. 

But this is my plain spoken admission of MY part. This is my apology for not being my best for him that day! I apologize that I saw you, but I did not try to understand why you chose your words. This is my apology for not making it right after that! This my apology for not coming back to you and saying my lingering frustration out loud, "YOU MATTER TO ME, COME ON, LET'S GET THIS RIGHT!"

He is going on to college to become a policeman, and I cannot be prouder of the man he is becoming. He showed that "I'm sorry" for the past is the best move toward a better future. He offered humility through adversity, something all policemen need to extend every day.  He showed me that our relationship being finished well mattered.  

He showed that the only true power a man possesses to change the world are the words he chooses to speak life back into people.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

IT'S WHAT I DO


I witnessed that blank stare, quiet cavern of thought barred behind eyes whose floodgates waterfalled over a heavy heart today.

Walking through a crowded hall of elementary students one student stood zombie still as if lost. I am not sure what made me stop to seek his eyes, but with a tilt I confirmed his lifeless stare at his locker as if it scared him to touch it.  

I knew it to be untrue before I asked, but still I suggested, "What's wrong; are you tired?"   With the shake of his head, he resigned the honest truth as it washed across his face. With a closer whisper "Home?" from my mouth and simple arm around his shoulder, his eyes lifted to mine as if we held a secret.  It felt daring to clarify with more, "Did you have a rough morning at home?  With mom?"  With the nod of his head, I witnessed the tears he guarded behind glassy eyes rain down his face. In a quick exchange, I released this one jailed behind his emotions, "It will be okay; I will pray peace for you today."  

During lunch, I asked how his morning went.  He looked up with eyes no longer somber slumbered. "It was good," came his quick reply.  And as I smiled to walk away before his peers could question, he added with a genuine smile as bold as a hug,  "Thank you for praying."

Besides the teaching and discipline, we offer life and hope in our hallways.