Confession

Ha! See what I did there? I lured ya’ll in thinking this post would be about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when, in fact, it’s not. That’ll be a post for another time. But for right now… I have a confession to make.

Sometimes… I’m not really sure I’m supposed to be an elementary school teacher. A teacher, yes. An elementary school teacher? Well, let’s just say that I occasionally have my doubts.

Take today for instance. I was in my classroom unpacking, repacking, hanging up, taking down, rearranging, changing, and giving the place a complete overhaul in preparation for the upcoming school year. I enjoy doing it. I really do. It’s probably one of the best parts of being a teacher – figuring out what’s going to capture a kiddo’s eye and attention, deciding how best to tap into their potential just by figuring out a layout that’s conducive to learning, determining how to make the space warm, welcoming and intriguing at the same time.

So, there I was, combing through a never-ending pile of posters, when I came across a “Word of the Week” hanging chart. And I thought, “Hm… I guess I could use that for vocabulary words…” and I set it aside. Then, I came across a gigantic cross I had made a few years back to help the kiddos keep track of how they were growing in virtue as a class. And that’s when I had my “Eureka!” moment.

I looked over at my “Scripture Verse of the Week” poster and tore it down. No. This whole “delving into the scriptures” thing I’d been wanting to do was getting a complete overhaul. Our “Word of the Week” was going to come from the Word of God. I would highlight a vocabulary word from scripture every week, and tie it into a reading that they could look up and find in their Bibles and then memorize. So, not only would we be learning vocabulary words, we would be getting familiar with our Bibles, and learning how to decipher what exactly the scripture was telling us. THEN, using the gigantic cross, we would look for ways in which others were exemplifying the vocabulary word and begin to fill in the cross with those examples of virtue. So, for instance, the word we’re starting with is “Strive”. So, I copied down Matthew 6:33, (“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”), and opened the Bible to that page where I highlighted the passage. This will be the scripture verse they memorize. Then, during their first week of school, the kiddos will look for ways in which their classmates are “striving” for righteousness, and we’ll fill in the cross with these examples.

I got so stinking excited, I couldn’t go home until I finished this new project. I was so excited, I may have been tingling all over. I was so excited that I may have been blathering on about it to anyone who would listen to me.

And that’s when it hit me. Nothing in the realm of teaching gets me this excited unless it’s about teaching the faith. It doesn’t matter what subject we’re talking about… math, science, social studies, literature… nothing gets me as excited as the Christian faith. Put me in the middle of a staff meeting where we discuss how to implement more rigorous standards and I hit the snooze button. Put me in the middle of a staff meeting where we discuss changing our religion curriculum, or implementing active participation at Mass and I am WIDE awake and completely unable to shut up.

I’ve seen how people look at me when I start talking about teaching the faith. Usually there’s a moment of recognition and this realization of, “Wow. She’s really passionate about this…”, but it quickly fades into slight confusion and boredom because they don’t share that same passion. But other times, when you find someone as passionate about this stuff as you are, you see the moment of recognition morph into the same joyful giddiness that’s written all over your face and it turns into the BEST CONVERSATION EVER.

That’s where I get tripped up. My passion for the faith is way bigger than my passion for teaching. I actually said to my sister tonight (in jest, but maybe there was a teeny, tiny, minuscule part of me that kinda, sorta meant it…), “I really don’t care if they know their multiplication facts or can spell as long as they know how much Jesus loves them and wants a relationship with them.” And then I instantly felt guilty because no elementary school teacher should say something like that! I mean… OF COURSE I want them to learn their multiplication facts and have a decent mastery of spelling but… I just really, REALLY want them to learn about the Christian faith.

You guys… I haven’t told many people this… but before I went back to school to get my teaching license, I was this close to going back to school for a degree in theology and possibly going to seminary. But the thought of being a pastor made me laugh, (and now that I’m a Catholic, it’s just that much more funny). To be honest, I’m crazy jealous of the job that pastors and youth ministers and religious education directors and missionaries have. I mean, they get to talk about and teach about and learn about Jesus ALL DAY LONG. Does it GET any better than that?! That’s like, my dream job, peeps. And if I wasn’t up to my eye balls in so much student loan debt that I have no possible means of paying off, you can bet your sweet bippy I’d be heading back to school for a theology degree.

*sigh*

But alas, that is not in the cards… for now. Maybe when I’m ninety. For now, I’ll continue being a good steward of the faith in the classroom, and wait eagerly for those religion lessons to come around every week, and discuss with the kiddos with as much passion and zeal as is containable the aspects of the faith throughout the school day. I guess that will just be the cherry on top of an otherwise awesome job.

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Growing Up

I know, I know, I know.

I haven’t posted in like… forever. (Actually, I HAVE posted… I just didn’t publish what I wrote. So there. Because I’m sneaky like that…) But, in my defense, I totally have a job I’m preparing for and WAY too much work to do in my classroom and WAY too many workshops to attend to justify spending any time dinking around on here…

Until, of course, I do.

Ahem.

ANYHOODLES… let me get you caught up.

I finally finished up my last day of the “Summer Child Care Gig” on Wednesday. And that’s when the weirdness started happening

I gave all the kiddos a gift…

I gave all the kiddos a hug….

I did not account for the fact that two-thirds of the kiddos were going to get emotional at my departure. And when the eleven year old started talking to me with tears in his eyes, asking why I couldn’t stay to watch them open their gifts…

I nearly ran out of that house on account of the ever-growing lump that had taken up residence in my throat.

And then I fought back tears the entire drive home.

Um…

WHAT.

For all the grey hairs I have accumulated, and all the times I cried over misbehaviors; for all the times I pulled my hair out, and bargained with God to just let it end; for all the times I ran home to barricade myself in my apartment JUST to get some peace and quiet… It never once occurred to me that all the struggles and trials I had to go through with these monkeys actually made me FOND of them… I actually had learned to LOVE them throughout the course of this crazy experiment.

And you want to hear the REALLY crazy thing? I. Have. Grown. Oh, my good grief, how I have grown. As a teacher, as a woman, as a Christian. They challenged me and stretched me and pushed me out of my comfort zone in ways I never thought possible… and… and… I can’t believe I’m going to say this… They made me a better person.

I have more patience and compassion. I have a greater understanding of how children think and work and feel and deal with things. I have more grace, more mercy, and more love than I did just three short months ago. I discovered how hugely difficult and yet hugely rewarding raising kids can be. I also realized how much I want to do that whole “Mom” thing people refer to so often.

But most of all, I learned the following:

  • Kids don’t know what they want to eat until you’ve made the exact opposite of what they thought they wanted. You make pancakes, suddenly they want Ramen noodles. You make Ramen noodles, suddenly they want sandwiches. You make sandwiches, suddenly they want pizza. You know what? The kitchen is closed. You eat what I make.
  • Asking kids to pick up their socks (or underwear or shoes or backpacks) is the equivalent of child abuse in their eyes.
  • Never EVER go through the drive-through until you have thoroughly prepared your order and rehearsed it 16 times over so they’re absolutely SURE that what they say they want is actually what they want. Otherwise it’s mass chaos and shouting as you try to place an order. (My apologies to everyone at McDonald’s and Dairy Queen. I did my best.)

⦁ Welcome to McDonald’s. May I take your order?
⦁ Yes, can I get two chicken nugget Happy Meals, one-
⦁ No! I don’t want that! I want-
⦁ You JUST SAID –
⦁ But SO and SO is getting that and I want –
*Prolonged silence*
⦁ Um…. I want…
⦁ Honey, you need to hurry. They’re waiting for us.
⦁ Um… I don’t know, what do I want?!
⦁ A CHICKEN NUGGET HAPPY MEAL?!?!
⦁ No…
⦁ I’m sorry can you give us a minute – OR FIFTY-TWO WHILE WE GET OUR DUCKS IN A ROW?!

  • Never wake up a sleeping child for ANYTHING. Not for music lessons or golf lessons or swimming lessons. Don’t. Do. It. Pretty much just don’t schedule ANYTHING for summer mornings unless you want to face the wrath of an overly tired child ALL DAY LONG.
  • If you want to get kids out of the house at a certain time, you have to start getting them ready 2 hours in advance. I made the mistake of assuming one hour was enough time. ONE HOUR IS NEVER ENOUGH TIME to find missing shoes, put on clothes, brush teeth, eat breakfast, and run back and forth to the neighbor’s house 16 times before leaving. And if you think it is, then you didn’t account for the fact that you will inevitably be running BACK to the house halfway to your destination because they forgot their blanket, book, or favorite water bottle. (And if you think you can avoid turning back for those things, prepare for the meltdown that is about to ensue.)
  • Don’t bother planning ahead. Kids have the attention span of gnats. As soon as you make a decision about one activity, they’re off and running to a completely different activity. (Sometimes, just to spite their siblings… or their babysitter… whichever one they’re gunning for that day.) As soon as everyone is packed up for the beach, they throw their things down and take off running to play “War” with the neighbors. It’s inevitable. That’s why I never knew what was happening on a daily basis.
  • The pee will never fall where it is supposed to. Ever. Don’t even fight that battle. It’s just not worth it. Just carry Clorox with you everywhere. (My apologies to anyone whose bathroom we may have used…)

I know what you’re thinking. You’re all, “Well, those aren’t the MOST important things you learned this summer, are they?” Oh, but they are. Because learning these things also taught me not to sweat the small stuff, that structure isn’t everything, and sometimes, flying by the seat of one’s pants is what makes life so enjoyable. If we can’t laugh at the screw-ups and the messes and the frustrations, we’re going to be pretty miserable in this life. So just take it in stride. It’s all part of growing up.

The Petulant Child and You

As an educator, child care-giver, and human being, I know all too well about the petulant child.

It’s not all that unusual to be yelled at.

Or screamed at.

To witness objects being hurled across the room…

At your head.

To try to break up shoving matches and choke-holds.

To attempt a “voice of reason” in the midst of tantrums.

To have doors slammed in your face.

To be the recipient of rude, snarky comments.

To be argued with until you simply stop talking out of sheer exhaustion.

To walk on eggshells all day long so as to not “poke the bear”.

I’ve seen moms, dads, grandparents, siblings, teachers, pastors, and tutors freeze in fear at the appearance of a petulant child because it’s a very delicate dance to correct a child while de-escalating a situation. You come on too strong and they explode. You don’t come on strong enough and they walk all over you. It’s basically like dealing with a ticking time bomb.

batman

In children’s defense… kids DO have a lot to deal with these days, and sometimes their minds and bodies just aren’t equipped yet to handle it. Lack of sleep, hunger, busy schedules,uncertainty, overwhelming expectations… sometimes the kiddos simply don’t know how to handle everything going on within them and in the world around them and they just explode. It happens. It’s not always excusable, but it happens.

I was having one particularly challenging week this past year that I simply didn’t know how to deal with. Children were exploding all around me. One was hungry, another was overly tired, this one’s cat had just died, that one’s parents were fighting… you name it, and they were dealing with it and so…

hedgehog

Clearly, I am the hedgehog in this scenario…

That evening, I sat down and just cried. I didn’t even want to pray about it. I was too exhausted and fed up and SAD that I was failing in every possible way with these children. But because we need to pray the most when we feel like praying the least, I figured I could at least share all this with the Lord.

So, I made the sign of the cross, sat there in silence for a moment, and launched in with a wail of, “Lord… you can’t make me go back tomorrow!” And then I exploded.

I may not have thrown anything or put anyone in a choke-hold, but there was a great wailing and gnashing of teeth, and maybe some questions and accusations being hurled about…

What do you want from me?!

Why won’t you help me?!

Why do the children hate me?!

I don’t know what else to do!

HEEEEELLLLLLPPPPPP MEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

So much so, that by the next morning I woke up with a swollen face and such a sense of shame and embarrassment about the explosion that I quickly confessed it and asked forgiveness. (I know God is a “big boy” and He can certainly handle our explosions, but still… Get it together, woman.)

And so, I got up, washed my face, and immediately started praying for guidance, help and wisdom for the day ahead. I told the Lord that I didn’t know what else to do, so I needed Him to take over completely.  I was out of ideas. This was his ballgame.

As I was driving to work, coming over the crest of a hill, the Lord spoke to me. In so many words, He suggested that I was overly tired and in dire need of some quality rest.

That’s when I burst out laughing.

Sleep? SLEEP?! OVERLY TIRED?!

YES! Yes, I was suffering from lack of sleep and sheer exhaustion! Yes, that was partially why I had exploded the night before! And how many times had the children in my care exploded for the exact same reason?!

I could complain and wail and be all, “Woe is me” to the Lord all I wanted… but in that scenario? I was the petulant child! The overly-tired, demanding, whiny, bratty child who couldn’t keep it together anymore and instead exploded in a safe place where I would be forgiven and loved and consoled. And if the Lord could be patient, long-suffering, and kind to me in the face of my explosion, then with His help, I could and should extend the same grace to the children in my care. Because, with God, we’re all petulant children sometimes. But He doesn’t give up on us. He doesn’t throw up His hands in exasperation and walk away saying, “That’s it. I’m done.” No, He continues to love us and guide us and direct us and correct us… explosion after explosion after explosion.

And ever since then, God has given me more grace and more patience with the kiddos in my care than I ever thought possible. Because now I can see myself in them. We are all the petulant child sometimes.

 

Be still

You guys… I can’t even tell you how many times I have wanted to randomly burst into tears this past week.

At the grocery store.

While driving.

During dinner.

When checking the mail.

It’s ridiculous. There’s this simmering goop just stuck in my chest cavity, threatening to come up at a moment’s notice. Suddenly I understand why kids throw things across the room and shout ridiculous insults at anyone in their path just before bursting into tears.

You wanna know why?

Lack. Of. Sleep.

I don’t sleep anymore.

Well, I do. But I sleep poorly.

I wake up about 10 times every night either shrieking in terror or lying there in panic-stricken anxiety knowing that I just can’t do it all. And yet I lie there chiding myself for not being able to do it all. Because if I wasn’t able to do it all, then why did I promise to do it all for every Tom, Dick and Harry that crosses my path? Why didn’t I just stop talking? Why was I trying to make everyone happy? What was I trying to prove?

Of course.

Sure.

You bet.

No problem.

I would love that.

Yes, let’s do that.

I’ve got it covered.

And you know what? I don’t have it covered.

Not. Even. Close.

I used to think it was a pride thing with me. You know, prove to everyone that I have everything together and then they’ll really be impressed? But it recently occurred to me that for the most part… I don’t care enough about what other people think of me to try to impress them. As much as I appreciate making a good impression, my main objective is not to impress people. I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and I’m okay with that.

The more I thought about it… the more I realized… I’m trying to be everything to everyone. I’m trying to meet the needs of dozens of people, and putting the burden of making them happy on myself. Not because I have something to prove, but because I’m not okay when other people aren’t okay.

I can’t tell you how much I fret over people feeling lonely, or sad, or left out, or forgotten, or overlooked, or overwhelmed, or not supported, or discouraged, or disappointed, or frustrated. When I see that, I feel for them so deeply, that I absolutely HAVE to swoop in and help out.

  • I can’t say no to that opportunity because it might disappoint the students.
  • I can’t not help out with that situation because that friend may not feel supported.
  • I can’t not say yes to every visit, coffee date, or lunch get together because that family member or friend might be feeling lonely or forgotten.
  • I can’t not agree to help out with this mission, because look at how overwhelmed that coworker already is!

I don’t know at what point I started thinking I was God, but clearly there’s a bit of a pride problem there if I think I can fix everyone’s problems and be everyone’s everything all the time. But changing my thinking on that feels impossible. Because every time I say, “No.” and decide to take a step back… I chide myself over my selfishness. Because what if my “yes” meant that I was going to be that ONE word of encouragement that a person needed to hear, or that I was going to be the ONE smile that person saw all day, or that I was going to be the ONE way that person was going to experience the light of Christ in their lives? I mean… what if? Saying no is just another missed opportunity, is it not?

I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. As a little girl, when I would walk down the street and see someone who looked unhappy, I would immediately pray for them to know of God’s love and their value in God’s eyes. I still do this today. In the ten minute drive from home to work, I can find dozens of people to pray for. I didn’t actually realize this wasn’t something everyone did until a couple years ago.

I realize how dumb that all sounds. I mean, it’s ridiculous to think that a human being’s one chance for a joy-filled day or opportunity to hear the gospel lies squarely on my shoulders… but I always think I can do more… and should do more. And then whenever I try to do more, I end up wanting to burst into tears at random because I’m trying to do too much and burning the candle at both ends. And it becomes a vicious cycle.

I’m not God. I know that. His glorification in this world is not dependent on my “Yes”. (Except for those times when maybe it is… ) But I need to trust Him enough to know that when He does need me to act… when that person needs to see Him in me… He’ll let me know. He doesn’t expect me to run around like a mad woman trying to meet the needs of the masses. Maybe I just need to be the light to that one person every day. And He’ll let me know.

In the meantime, I need to rest. Rest enough to listen to His leading; Rest enough to be able to discern His promptings; Rest enough the reestablish that trust that He’ll put me where He needs me, when He needs me and for whom He needs me. Because if I’m too busy running around trying to solve problems, I may just miss out on those opportunities when He really needs my yes.

 

The Rest of the Story

Bloggity Peeps…

I added another page to this here blog.

And my reasons for this are two-fold.

  1. I get a lot of questions about why and how I became Catholic.
  2. This journey to becoming Catholic has been so incredible, that I can’t stand not sharing the whole story. Because I’ve never told anyone the whole story. And in order to see the big picture of my faith journey, I need to be able to share the whole story.

So, I’ll be updating this page from time to time with additional snippets of information about my journey to the Catholic church. Which should be kind of fun and interesting… especially for me. Because I’ve never written out the whole story in chronological order… and to see how the Lord has worked this amazing story… and taken scraps of my life and woven them together into this fascinating tapestry of a faith journey… well, it should be a lot of fun to see how it all comes together.

Maybe you’re asking the wrong question

When I was a pre-teen, a certain quote by former President John F. Kennedy, turned my entire understanding of my faith on its head. Which was weird because the quote had nothing to do with God… or religion… or faith. But, being the creative thinker I was, I was bound to put my own twist on it.

It’s one of his best known quotes and it’s pretty straight-forward. From his inaugural address on January 20th, 1961, the president put forth the following challenge:

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

I think it was the play on words that caught my ear, but more than that, it made me stop and think about something bigger than myself. And so I tucked that quote away for a rainy day when it would actually be applicable to my life.

It wasn’t until I was older that the profundity of this quote actually came into play in my own life. One day, while reflecting on my relationship with the Lord, it was this quote that popped into my head… but with a twist. Suddenly, that quote correlated to my relationship with the Lord.

“Ask not what your Lord and Savior can do for you – ask what you can do for your Lord and Savior,” was my thought.

Now there’s a really important part of this to understand. And it is as follows:

God doesn’t need us.

He doesn’t need me and He doesn’t need you either. I’m sorry. I’m sure you’re all very good, shiny, happy people… but God still doesn’t need you. He doesn’t need your worship. Or your generosity. Or your kindness. God doesn’t NEED anything. He is God.

However, our God is a relational God, and because we are created in His image, we are a relational people. Just like we desire relationship with one another, God also desires relationship with us. He doesn’t need it, but He desires it.

Now let me ask you a question…

How’s your relationship with Santa Claus?

What’s that? You don’t have a relationship with Santa Claus? Because he’s not real?

Okay, well the fact that the dude doesn’t exist aside… who would actually NEED to have a relationship with Santa Claus? The dude just gives you stuff. Sure, sometimes you write him a letter to make sure he knows exactly what it is you want, and sometimes you give him cookies… but cookies and a list does not a relationship make. (Sorry to break it to all you Santa enthusiasts out there…)

But how many of us treat our relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ like we would a relationship with Santa Claus?

How many of us only talk to God when we have a problem or a favor to ask?

The rest of the time our relationship with Him is put on the back burner.

We never talk to Him… unless it’s to ask for something.

We never visit His house.

We’re never generous with our time, talent or treasure… because… well, He doesn’t need our stuff and doesn’t expect it.

We never apologize or ask forgiveness when we’ve done damage to our relationship with Him.

Basically, we treat our Lord and Savior like Santa Claus.

He’s just there to give us stuff.

“God doesn’t want anything from me. I’m unworthy. But He blesses me in spite of it. He loves me just as I am.”

Okay. Yes. True. Absolutely.

But again… what kind of a relationship is that?

How many real-life relationships would thrive under such conditions?

If we never talked to them?

If we never shared with them?

If we never went and visited their homes and spent time with them?

If we never apologized and asked forgiveness when we screwed up?

If we never gave anything in return, but simply took everything we could from them?

How would that relationship fare? The fact of the matter is… it wouldn’t. It would fail miserably. One friend giving everything while the other simply used them when it was convenient?

Kinda makes you look at your relationship with the Lord differently, doesn’t it?

We’re so busy asking for something from God, that we never pause to ask, “Lord, what are You asking of me? In what capacity can I serve You? In what ways do I need to improve my relationship with You? What can I do to glorify Your name and further Your kingdom?”

Maybe, just maybe… we’re asking the Lord all the wrong questions.

Or maybe we’re afraid to ask the right ones.