Wednesday, July 18, 2018

love, fear and the big adventure


























When I was a little girl, life felt wide open. I loved it.
It was a big adventure.
I felt big enough to take it on.
And I wanted in...on all of it.
I mean all of it.

I was an explorer.
A bug catcher.
A wanderer.
An escape artist.
I frequently got lost in stores (and panicked when I couldn't find my mom.)
I was a risk taker.
A rule breaker.
(I was also, on occasion, a bully, a petty thief and a liar, but we'll address those issues later.)

I was a wonder-er.
A talker.
A philosopher.
A poet.
A short story writer.
An illustrator.
A scholar.
I asked a lot of "why" and "how" questions.
It rarely bothered me if I didn't get answers.

I lived life to the full.
I deplored naps.
I was an adventurer.
A chaser of lightening bugs.
A runner who took on all the boys in PE.
And I planned a surprise wedding for the cutest one.
(My plan was to say, "Surprise! We are getting married!" on the day of. I had guts.)

I was a dreamer.

And then fear killed my soul.
And by fear, I mean junior high.
High school wasn't much better.

The adventure got scary.
Decisions were weighty.
Goals were unreachable.
Some of the people I met? Super mean.

Those fear-riddled years re-shaped my understanding of myself.
I took less risks.
I followed the rules.
I stopped catching bugs...because...EW.
I turned inward with my dreams.
I stopped planning surprise weddings. (Scott appreciates this.)
I put limits on my hopes.
I played it safe.
I kept quiet.
I let what others thought of me...tell me who I was.

Life closed in on me.
I grew up.

And I got small.

Smaller hopes.
Smaller dreams.
Smaller me.

I had cracked the door open to fear and doubt.
And I got scared.

Fear.
Such a small word. Such an enormous impact.

Fear balls us up in the corner.
It cramps our style.
It cripples our hearts.
It gets us alone with our thoughts and leaves us there.

This is what I have found in my dealings with fear....
Fear will take up any and all space that you give it in your life.
It will fill up the fissures of your heart.
It will occupy the nooks and crannies of your thoughts.
It will overflow every area of your body, soul and spirit...if you let it.

I know this because I have lived it.
It is not great.

But here is what I have also found....so will love.

So will Jesus.

When you crack open the door to Jesus and His love?
It is a different story.

Because He....is fear-less.

He is the Joy Whisperer. The Life Bringer. The Mercy Giver. The Heart Healer.

Jesus is the One who can throw open the door to my life and...yours...and fill us with light.
It is His presence alone...His love...that shatters fear.

Love.
Such a small word. Such an enormous impact.

The more we throw ourselves into Him and His love...we have fear on the run.
The more He occupies the fissures in our hearts and nooks and crannies of our thoughts....
the more life seems wide open.
I think this is mostly because....we are not alone.

His light and love are constantly breaking off chunks of our fear and chucking them into eternity.
He is constantly shooting stars of hope and beams of endless grace into our darkness.
The darkness can't stand Him. He is the Bright and Morning Star.

His words calm the chatter of anxiety and regret.
His power emboldens the faint of heart and gives strength to the weary.
His voice thunders across the universe, shouting down the years at us,

"Don't be afraid! Do you hear me? I AM RIGHT HERE!"

Jesus is the Savior Who flings open cell doors and sets the captives free.
Every. Single. Captive.

He is the Debt Payer Who pays for our biggest mistakes
and the Redeemer Who turns our worst downfalls into our best victories.
He is the Breath of Heaven Who gives us wings to soar and songs to sing.

He restores our crushed hopes and He heals our deepest wounds.

He backhands fear and conquers death.

He is peace and gentleness
and justice and hope and mercy
and grace and goodness and forgiveness...
all wrapped into One.

He is The Way. The Truth. The Life.
The Big Adventure.
And I want in...on all of it.
Don't you?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

PTSSD...otherwise known as post-teaching-summer-sofa-disorder


























Last fall, when I decided to teach, I thought, "It is going to be great to have summer off!"
Then I taught. For a whole school year.
And now I am realizing,

Even when you are not teaching....because summer is here....
YOU ARE STILL THINKING ABOUT TEACHING.
What in the world?

I am pretty sure this year has actually re-wired my brain.

All of my thought processes are still being filtered through a teacher-y lens.
BING- my eyes are flying open at 6 am of their own accord.
I have been waking up a little scared and breathless, 
wondering if I forgot to grade something and nervous that I am actually missing class.

As I lay in bed, with the sun barely peaking through the clouds, I have to talk myself down and say,
"Sue...it's summer. Relax. RELAX!!!!!" 
(when you yell at yourself in your brain...it is the opposite of relaxing.)

Even though I want to read great fiction -
I can't stop thinking about the new grammar textbooks that I will have next year.
And the motivational self-help book I ordered.
And the summer reading that next year's class will be reading.
And what kind of theme should I go with for Lit next year?
The real question is....should I start lesson planning now?

Should I start pre-labeling files and sorting vocab worksheets
and reviewing classroom management principles
and reading up on Shakespeare's young adult life in preparation for next spring
when I take the class through Midsummer Night's Dream?
Should I? SHOULD I?

Mercy days.
That is what my Grandma Blakeley used to say when things got wild.

I do need some days full of mercy and calming ointments and maybe a spa right about now.

Because a strange juxtaposition has taken place.
While my brain may be on teacher auto-pilot,
hashing out the inner-workings of next year,
my legs have stopped working.

They have gone on strike.

All I can do is lay on the couch 
and watch British mysteries and drink seltzer with lime.
And munch on tiny squares of dark chocolate.

My brain is all-in for keeping up the growing and learning and re-org and tight scheduling.
My body? Not so much.

It has given notice.
Post-teaching-summer-sofa-disorder has taken me down.
My limbs are in full rebellion.
The only thing that they will allow me to do is sink deep into
the sofa cushions and snuggle under a throw blanket.

I have decided to go with it.
I'll start lesson planning in July.

For now....if you have need of me...you know where to find me.
I will be on the couch.



Saturday, June 2, 2018

let's talk about my tight pants




















You guys.
I completed my first year of teaching just two days ago.
I know.
I can't believe it either.

Mostly because of how tight my pants are.
These could be possible titles for my next book.

Crazy Tight: The Story of My Pants
or
Cheese, Chocolate & Chips: A Recipe for Life's Tightest Pants
or
A Year in the Life of a Newly Minted Middle School Teacher: How I Ate My Feelings

This has been a year of change.
A year of leaping out of my comfort zone.
Being stretched. Being challenged. Being uncertain.

My pants tell the tale of this past year:
2 different house moves.
A career shift.
Working full time outside the home.
Mom grief
(feeling like I missing out on my own kids lives by working full time outside the home)
Mom guilt
(feeling like I chose to miss out on my kids' lives by working full time outside the home)
Mental, physical and emotional exhaustion. (daily)
Drive-thru dinners. (almost daily)
My inability to leave the couch after 6:30 pm.
My sister, Jenny, leaving the state. (I miss her like crazy)
My friend, Jo, leaving our school to go out and change the world. (I will miss her like crazy)
Crying jags (my people keep leaving)
Waking up at 4:30...most mornings...not on purpose.
A 4-month-long sinus infection. (Ew.)
Grading papers (this is no joke, ya'll)
Mothering teenagers (also...not a joke)

I think I gained about a pound a month.
Hence, the tightest pants. Even tighter than Jimmy Fallon's.
You may be wondering, "Why the tight pants, Sue?"
I will tell you why.
Because if I feel out of control and tired and undone every single day...
I will be eating chocolate every single day during my prep period.
That is a given.

My pants tell the story of how I felt this year:
Uncomfortable in my own skin.

Life has a way of doing this to us.
Have you noticed?
When you think you have something locked in -
like your job or your marriage or your health or your purpose in life?
You don't.
It changes.
It shifts.
So you have to change and shift.

Some of us find that exhilarating.
The rest of us eat entire bags of Baby Belle cheeses from Costco.

Scott has been a rock.
Encouraging me...EVERY DAY. Cheering me on. Loving me in spite of my wildness.

And in the middle of all my crazy I have found an unlikely connection with my students...

I found that when I was looking into the glorious faces of my middleschoolers
with all their joy and angst and Lord of the Flies survival skills at work,
I wanted to say...

"I feel exactly like you feel right now! Weird. Ungainly. Uncertain. Not sure what
is exactly going down with all the hormones. Life feels wild."

But then, because of all my years...
and all the days that Jesus has worked in my life,
all the changes and shifting that He has wrought in me through the years.
I also wanted to encourage them...

"This is a cuckoo crazy season of life. But YOU?
You are going to be okay.
You may not feel great about yourself or how you are doing right now.
You may be struggling and hurting and longing for a different life.
But the good stuff is coming. It really is.
All the joy and hope and peace and lack of acne?
Right around the corner. Just give it a couple years. I have been there. I know."

And I do know.

This is not my first rodeo.
It won't be my last.
(note: I have never been in a real rodeo but the metaphor felt right...or is that a simile? Never mind.)

So I am giving myself the same talk I would give my middleschoolers.
"Sue, your pants may be crazy tight...but you are going to be okay.
The good stuff is coming. It really is.
All the joy and hope and peace and roomier pants?
Right around the corner. Just give it a couple of years.
(My teacher friends tell me that year #3 of teaching is magical...like the aligning of the planets.)

If you see me fast walking around my neighborhood, pumping my arms like Rocky Balboa,
know that I am not going down this tight pants road without a fight.

But also know that I have two months off (can I get an amen and a double hallelujah???)
to date Scott,
to connect with my boys,
to visit family and eat bok choy...instead of chips and salsa.
And I have two months for Jesus lift me up, set me to rights and restore my soul.
Another shift. Another change. A new season all together.

Even with tight pants.