Category Archives: embrace

Blessing the Teacher

Several months ago, I read words by Tracy Johnson on Red Tent Living. She wrote about blessing the manager in her, and I immediately thought of the teacher in me and how difficult it is to bless her.

As a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. One brother, eight years younger than me, called me teacher before he called me by my name. I vividly remember playing school using a chalkboard set up in the smallest room of our duplex, my classroom for a season. That chalkboard was the best toy, and I was always the teacher.

Having six younger siblings, five of whom were alive by the time I was ten, offered plenty of opportunities to hone my craft. Having a father who was a Christian school teacher, offered plenty of opportunities to troll around to various classrooms at the end of each school year hoarding papers and teaching supplies that were going to be thrown in the trash.

I assembled leftover classroom worksheets into booklets, stapling them together. These were used to teach and entertain siblings on long summer car rides to Michigan. Old lesson plan or grade books with used pages torn out were treasured finds. If there was still a seating chart template in the back, I would spend hours arranging and rearranging imaginary students into rows.

I drew pictures of classrooms. The items on the teacher’s desk, the assignments written on the chalkboard, the wall decorations, all were fastidiously detailed. Sometimes I wish I still had one or two of them. Then I wonder if it is better to have them in my memory. I am curious if that is why I am intent on saving samples of my children’s work.

The dream of growing up and becoming a teacher was rooted deep inside of me. There was a time when it felt hopeful and sweet. I taught a little girl to read when I was sixteen and loved planning enrichment activities for the small group of day camp students that I worked with that summer. Then something changed.

The dream and desire became a demand. I remember when the joy of teaching was replaced by duty and the expectation to teach. I remember feeling choices slip away and panic set in. I remember trying my best to push the window of other opportunities open, only to have it slam shut and lock.

I remember feeling betrayed by the teacher in me. Why did she have to be so good at what she did? Why did she always say this is what she wanted to be? What if there were other things, too?

The teacher, ever efficient, stepped up and took over, pushing the other parts aside. She took care of business and rose to the occasion. She went to school, studied, and worked hard. She loved each student that came through her room and saw to it that she cared for them in the best possible way.

I appreciate her for that. I appreciate her ability to connect with students, to care for them, and to make learning fun. I appreciate her stepping up and doing what needed to be done. Most of all, I am grateful to have grown into a place where I can truly bless her and her gifts.

The teacher is a part of me, but she is not all of me. Still, she is pretty amazing, and I have grown to love and appreciate her. Her presence is a gift of grace in my life.

Friendship Friday ~ Cousin Day

Yesterday was a special day. It had been written on a calendar block, cleared of all else. We spent all day with the Boston little boy cousins and their amazing parents.

My anxiety about having little people around for the day was alleviated quickly when this little one walked in, grabbed a recorder, and began playing while his brother accompanied him on the piano.

recorder

Uncle B patiently listened to Little Mae tell all about King’s Dominion adventures using her map of the park.

Mae and Uncle B

My baby and my sister’s baby smiled at each other a lot, which was a huge milestone for anyone who knows my baby and her thoughts about babies.

Baby B

Baby B won her over.

Mae and baby

Meanwhile, lots of creating happened. The cry of Guys, Guys! Look over here! caught my attention. I looked to see this little one with his airplane.

airplane

My much younger sister was caught wearing my perpetual mothering face in this picture. I so know the feeling.

mothering face

With everything happening at once, there were problems to solve, like the one of figuring out how to find all of the pieces and get this track to stick to the green board. Daddy to the rescue on that one! Problem solved.

track

It was sweet for my littles to get an opportunity to experience the life of their big siblings. Here Coco gets to feel like her big sisters when the littles were being born, holding a babe in arms.

Coco and baby

And these eyes and little chewing mouth. I could not get enough of them.

chewdalee chew

And this snuggly sleeper. I might have cried a little.

sleepy baby

Of course, a day with littles (or bigs for that matter) is not complete without some down time with a screen and a cuddly blanket.

screen time

This day was so full, pictures don’t do it justice. I finally had to put down the phone and just be in it, because everything was so much to take in.

I want to remember the moments of sweetness like a two-and-a-half-year-old cousin wandering into the TV room with his bowl of shredded cheese and climbing up next to Kirk and asking questions about Minecraft. My thirteen-year-old’s patient response and offer of letting him play reminded me of how Caleb treated his little brother, and my heart swelled.

I want to remember the conversations with my brother and sister that felt natural and relaxed and made us forget that we live hundreds of miles apart and that this doesn’t happen every day. Moments of falling asleep on the couch or walking out into the yard or playing UNO Attack (thanks, B!!!!) felt like they happen every day.

And dinner time. Oh, the dinner table.

I want to remember shopping with my sister and planning our meal like it’s the most normal thing in the world, all while talking about everything. I want to remember cooking and being together and living life.

I want to remember what it was like to have a full dinner table and the littles getting to be the bigs and experiencing the noise and cries and trauma of food touching other food or too much ketchup coming out of the bottle or corn on the cob rolling onto the wrong place on the plate. Our table was full and loud and fun.

Our day was full and loud and fun.

My body, mind, and soul felt full and tired and happy and sad and grateful, so very grateful.

sister selfie

At the end of the day when, Sister Selfie! was called, here is what we got. Sister selfie, plus one. I am old enough to be this girl’s mom, so I could technically be a grandma. Technically. Not yet.

For now I relish being auntie to this precious little one and his brothers and will hold so many special memories close to my heart.

It was a very good day.

This Cup

She arrives home from school with a sunny face. I accept her offer of tea brought to my room where I have been holed-up sick today. Lemongrass green tea has just enough caffeine to take the edge off of a headache and just enough lemongrass to soothe angry intestines.

She is growing up. Tonight is her first middle school musical, and she is on stage crew. I am proud of her initiative and drive. She grasped this opportunity on her own. Her wings are growing at breakneck speed, and she eagerly strains to try them out at every opportunity.

I’m grateful for big brothers to send to the opening performance for support. I am grateful that Roo got to see the show on Tuesday as part of a school trip. I am grateful that her dad can go tomorrow night, and I can go on Saturday.

I am grateful that her face lit up when I mentioned going along for pizza afterwards with the cast for Saturday’s cast party. Her face doesn’t always light up at the idea of having me close, but sometimes it does.

I am grateful for the cute outfits her dad helped her to find earlier this week. She looks grown-up in the best of ways as she changes into dark patterned leggings and a black shirt and comes to hug me goodbye.

I love her. Today I can actually feel the love. It’s big. I am grateful.

I’m grateful for the words and music of Sara Groves and Ellie Holcomb from the song This Cup on Sara’s latest album, Floodplain.

What if my whole world falls apart?
What if my life could be different?
What if I sat right here and took you in without the fear
and loved you whole
without the flight and didn’t try to pass
this cup?

I often struggle with my cup. Struggle to take it and embrace it and delight in it. Struggle to love and be present in the hard. That’s no secret. But in this moment with tea at the right temperature and a heart full of gratefulness for a girl growing up, I lift this chipped, imperfect, coffee cup filled with tea and love.

tea

Glorious Light

Even in darkness, there’s glorious light, found in the standing with, pouring out, stepping into, coming alongside.

In places of pain, redemption is close, found in the welcoming of heartache and tears and embracing the task of bringing together the blessed ones. The mourners.

So don’t hide your light or keep yourself small. Call attention to the wick and beckon the flame.

candle

Shine your light and embrace your glory in the darkest of times.

Death will not have the final say.

Double-Digit-Day’s End

The end of this day finds me in an unexpected place.

I wrote about single-digit days here, and tried to savor the moments before this time that I knew was coming. Double digits are here and rolled in with a bang.

First, coffee with a friend. That part was relaxing as we sat in my corner and processed life.

Next, beginning the school enrollment process. That part was stressful. Enrollment started at 1, and I hit up the middle school first, only to find that we are districted for the other middle school. Even though my son managed to get enrolled at, and spent a year attending, this wrong school last year.

So. . .

I circled back to the elementary school to get another child all set up. Bingo. It worked.

Still. . .

There was much anxiety from the child who thought she would be at a certain middle school only to find that she wouldn’t.

And. . .

What to do about the child who just spent a year at the school he wasn’t supposed to attend?

So. . .

I took the anxious child to check out the new middle school without committing. We walked around and asked questions and had wonderful people help us.

We came home to day’s end with me feeling no further ahead than I was this morning.

But. . .

It will all work out and be as it is supposed to be this year.

Even if. . .

I have five children in five different schools.

This is our family, and I will embrace its uniqueness.

Heart of Worship

This Sunday was an unexpected worship team week. My decision to attend community worship on Wednesday led to being asked if I was available, and I was.

Due to the unpredictability of August and the ending of stay-home summer days and transition into back to work and school, I didn’t schedule a Sunday this month. It worked out anyway.

Singing today felt like a gift. I always believe that God assembles just the right team for each Sunday, and this week was no exception. It was just what God ordained in his being worthy of worship just because and in spite of ourselves.

I have been in a hard place this summer. There was a Sunday a few weeks ago that was just rough. I sat through the singing scribbling away in my journal with tears streaming down my cheeks. What I was writing isn’t what you might think had you witnessed the moment.

Here is a glimpse into my heart that Sunday. It was not a heart of worship. It was one of cold stone.

These tears are not sad or repentant. They are angry and trapped and very stuck as we sit in a row in church as a messed-up, dysfunctional family. I am bumped into, banged, touched, annoyed. So as singing of depths of mercy goes on around me, my heart hardens further as I drift away from the very thing that is supposed to anchor me.

Have you really forgotten, Father? Because I remember every day my sins and shortcomings and pain. I am so very tired. I feel crushed. Very tired. Lost.

Poured out completely.

These are just motions that I am going through, and not very good ones at that. Please help my unbelief that you are with me. Show me that you are close.

You don’t always give us an easy path, but you give us exactly what we need. I hear the pastor pray these words and add them to the page.

What are you doing, God? I am uncomfortable and can’t feel my arms, yet, you are at work, and I need to let you just work it out.

Please work it out, Father.

God came close, reached down, and pulled me up from the mire. Not because of but because.

Because he loves me, he gives me exactly what I need. Even the very hard.

He met me in the very hard, breathed life into my heart, and nudged me onward.

This Sunday I was able to receive the gift of leading worship with the team, knowing that it was all about the one who is worthy and the freedom I have to embrace the gift that is music. I was able to lead with a heart of worship.

And it was glorious.

O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. Psalm 30:2

Breakfast Tray

Thursday dawned a surprise snow day

And with it came a breakfast tray

And littles who promised it wasn’t a bribe

From the second half of my native tribe

For extra media or episodes

But just because they loved me so

And the food prepared was rather good

It tasted just as breakfast should

And this mom felt lots of love

For her precious treasures from above.

Shalom.