My assignment

Several weeks ago I jokingly said to a young blogging friend of ours, “If I could get paid to blog I would be all set!”  He mentioned that actually people do get paid to blog and that if I could get Google ads and increase my readership I could actually make an income through my writing.

Intriguing.  However, since my blog is mostly me musing about my own rather ordinary life, I am pretty shocked when anyone else reads it, let alone when someone comments that it spoke to them, let alone when I get over 100 views in one day (that happened this week!).  There’s something pure about doing this because I want to, and not because I’m getting paid to do it. And actually, it’s not just that I want to, I’m still pretty compelled to write this blog almost every day, even after 107 posts!  I keep thinking I will run out of things to say, but you know, life keeps happening and God keeps showing up.  So, I keep writing.

About a month or so ago, I was bored one day and I started looking at what you need to do to get Google ads.  Step one, purchase your domain name.  Ok, so for $24 I purchased the domain name kristinsnextchapter.com.  As soon as I did that Word Press said they would be in contact with me when I had enough activity to warrant them giving me ads.  Sigh.  I figure I have to have 1000 views or so each day before that happens. My visions of living in my pajamas started fading fast.

But this morning when I checked my messages, a friend commented that she saw ads on my blog when she read it last night.  What?!  And, guys, they weren’t the sort of ads that I would endorse.  Nothing scandalous, to be sure, but not something I would select if given a choice.  Now, I have gone to my domain through several channels this morning and I do not see any ads.  Do you see ads?

Way back in July I started this blog because I had a lot of words inside of me that were pressing to get out. I was anxious about this move to Michigan and not knowing what I would be doing here.  For the past three and a half months, this blog has been the vehicle through which I have processed thoughts of transition, joy, frustration, happiness, fatigue, peace, loss, and hope.  I can’t place a value on how much it has meant to me to have the freedom and time to write every day.  I can’t tell you what I would pay for the kind of encouragement your feedback has given me.  This blog has been a priceless gift to me.

So, the thought that it might have been tarnished by ads was like an ink spot on a favorite white blouse.  Dear Word Press, don’t mess up my favorite blouse!

Ah, child, I gave you the blouse.  Keep wearing it.  It’s from me. If someone spills ink on it, I’ll use that, too.  I’ll let you know when it’s time to put on a different blouse. 

Yesterday all the gals from our Bible study sat together at the funeral for our friend’s husband. He had been diagnosed in 1997 with Alzheimer’s.  She had joyfully — amazingly joyfully — cared for him all these years, especially the last five.  She held his hand, prayed with him, sang to him, lifted him, dressed him, and was fully devoted to his care.  You should’ve seen her beam as she walked into and, later, out of the sanctuary accompanied by bagpipe music. The service was a celebration of life and, let me tell you, she was not going to miss out on the celebration of knowing that her husband was no longer suffering. Someone asked her if she will get back to the pottery that she loves to do now that she won’t be caring for her husband.  She smiled and said, “I don’t know; I’m waiting for my next assignment.”

Right now, ads or no ads,  this is my assignment.

Colossians 3:23

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,

as working for the Lord, not for human masters.

Rescued by Grace

Born and raised in a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran Church, I didn’t grow up hearing testimonies.  We walked into church reverently, sat quietly on a wooden pew, tried to behave through the sermon, sang the liturgy and all the hymns, and shook the pastor’s hand on the way out.  It sounds rather non-emotional and stark, but still today if I hear that old liturgy or any of the old hymns I feel as though I have gone home and peace floods my soul.

But testimonies?  No.  The only person who spoke in church was the pastor.

So imagine my intrigue over the years when I attended church with friends — Nazarene, Assembly of God, Church of Christ, Church of God in Christ, Missionary Baptist — where others not only read the Scripture, but burst out of the pew from time to time to share a ‘testimony’.  I am sure my eyes were wide the first time I saw someone stand before the congregation declaring how God had rescued him from whatever peril he had been chasing, but over the years I have experienced a variety of forms of worship and not much surprises me any more.

God’s pretty amazing.  He shows up in a very formal Wisconsin Synod worship service, and He shows up in lot of other places, too!  And, get this, they aren’t all church.  He meets us wherever we we have need.

Years ago someone challenged me to write out my testimony.  I did.  I have misplaced it over the years, but I remember I titled it ‘Rescued by Grace’.  So, this morning when I was reading the last lesson in my Bible study workbook and the topic was ‘grace’, I was reminded of the different places that God has shown up in my life. So, kids, buckle up, I’m bursting from my pew.

The first time that I am aware of being Rescued by Grace was the day I was born.  My mother is only 5’2″ and I, her largest baby at 8 lbs. 13 oz., was trapped in the birth canal.  The doctor in the delivery room didn’t know how to get me out, but if I have the story right, it just so happened (you might read that as ‘it came to pass’) that a specialist was at the small community hospital in rural Michigan.  He swooped in and delivered me with forceps.  Rescued by Grace.

While I was in elementary school, my dad was a traveling salesman (not like Harold Hill, although his name is Harold, he was a respectable hardware salesman).  He was gone a lot and my mother also worked part-time.  I needed a safe place to play after school, and there was a family at the end of our street who had a daughter my age.  Her mother worked from home caring for her disabled husband and specially challenged adult daughter.  Almost every day after school I went to this house as though it were my own.  If money changed hands, I never knew about it.  What I knew is that I was safe and loved unconditionally.  I could be a real pistol to my friend and also to her mother, but they hung in there and loved me unfailingly. Rescued by Grace.

As a young adolescent, recently tossed about by my parents’ divorce and subsequent remarriages, I found stability through my confirmation classes.  It’s true.  It was the late 1970s and my pastor was fresh from the seminary.  He convinced me through his comments in class and in my confirmation workbook (which I still have) that I was called by God. So later, when I found myself distracted and hurting on a detour that landed me at a large university, I was able to hear that call myself and get back on the path to professional church work by transferring to a small Lutheran college.  Rescued by Grace.

Now, by the time I transferred I had a full-blown eating disorder.  But, God had placed me in a very small place where I could not go unnoticed.  In fact, every day when I dropped by the nurse’s office to weigh myself, she engaged me in conversation, not about my weight, but about my life.  So a year after I transferred, when I walked into her office and said, “I can’t do this any more,” she lifted up a card that had been sitting on her desk for who knows how long and, with me, called the eating disorders clinic and got me an appointment the next day.  Rescued by Grace.

I mean it goes on and on.  I see that I am now at over 700 words and I am not sure how much longer you will read.  But surely you have seen through this blog how the rescuing continues.  I was soldiering on in St. Louis over the past several years, trying to hold my life together “by myself, thank you very much” (the toddler comes out from time to time) and God swooped in.  A friend sent a note pointing out a position that truly is perfect for my husband. She didn’t have to, but she listened to the prodding of the Spirit and was a small cog in the wheel that was planning to Rescue me by Grace once again.

I’m probably going to have to turn this one into a book because as I write the situations keep popping into my head.  Our God is relentless in pursuing us, kids.  He doesn’t care how stubborn you are.  He doesn’t care if your church doesn’t share testimonies publicly.  He is going to keep coming after you, waiting for the day that you will turn and run to Him.

Luke 15: 20

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him.

Music

A video is circulating on Facebook that shows a young man sitting quietly at  baseball game when Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” begins to blast from the speakers.  The music pulls him out of his seat and he is transformed into an exuberant happiness machine — moving among those seated around him, touching them and hugging them.  The people are not troubled by this, as you might expect.  The music has transformed them, too — they are touched by the young man’s happiness and willing to be part of his experience.

Music transforms us. 

I’ve always loved riding in the car with my daughter.  Something about moving along the highway, windows down and radio blaring, frees her from her stresses.  She sings loudly and passionately with everything from  Queen to Billy Joel to Young the Giant to David Crowder to The Black Keys.  For a while, she kept a cowboy hat in the back seat so that she could pop it on her head when she drove to signify this freedom from life’s troubles and pure abandonment to the music.

Music frees us. 

This morning at Bible study, one of our ladies came in weeping as she announced that a close friend has just a short time to live.  Many shared their condolences.  Later, as we closed our time together, we had a corporate prayer as we always do.  Women took turns lifting their praises, thanks, concerns, and requests.  The time was winding to a close when the woman whose friend is dying said, “forgive me, a song just came to me.”  She began to sing and several around the table hummed along, joining her in worship.

Music consoles us. 

Also at Bible study this morning was a woman whose husband left his life with Alzheimer’s last week to start his life in Heaven.  She was beaming when she entered the room.  She had labored with him for five hard years and was so relieved that his battle was over. She pulled a folded paper from her purse that she had found this morning in her husband’s Bible — it noted the date and time when he had accepted Jesus as his Savior.  She said, “Isn’t that wonderful?!”  She asked us if we would join her tomorrow at her husband’s funeral.  “Won’t it be fun?!”  she exclaimed.

I knew what she was talking about because she attended the funeral for my dear friend just a few weeks ago.  I happened to catch her out of the corner of my eye as the praise music played.  I knew that at the time her husband was at home with hospice workers, but I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that from looking at her.  As she sang the songs, her hands were raised and her smile was wide.  I know she is looking forward to experiencing that again tomorrow.

Music transports us. 

Yesterday morning I attended a chapel service commemorating Veteran’s Day.  A few dozen veterans, some from World War II, some from Korea and Vietnam, some from the Gulf Wars, and some just starting their service, were seated near the front of the huge sanctuary.  The choir sang “O, Beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain…”  As they sang verse after verse, I began to hear the voices of those seated around me –men and women in uniforms, jackets, and vests, denoting their service — began to sing along.  At first it was quiet, but it built, unashamedly — that song of unity.

Music unites us. 

It’s a gift, isn’t it.  We don’t need it, surely.  It’s an unnecessary blessing that breathes life into us, refreshes us, and inspires us.  Thank you, God, for music.

Psalm 96:1

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.

Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.

Thank you

Military roots run deep in this family.

My father-in-law enlisted in the Army in the mid 1950s, and stayed in the Reserves until his retirement.

My father enlisted in Marines in the late 1950s and served his tour in California. His brothers all served, too.

My brother-in-law attended West Point in the early 1980s and served in Germany before he became a Reservist. He later re-activated and did two tours in the Middle East, worked in the Pentagon, and retired just recently.  He now works for FEMA, continuing to serve our country.

My husband enlisted in the Army ROTC at Central Michigan University in the early 1980s. He served as a reservist until we were married in 1990.

My sister enlisted in the Navy in the mid 1980s and served as a recruiter until her retirement.  She also now works for the federal government.

My nephew enlisted in the Air Force ROTC when he began his studies at MIT. He is now an officer and an aeronautical engineer working for the USAF.

It came as no surprise two and a half years ago when our son told us he was enlisting in the Army.  He has been wearing fatigues since he was 18 months old.  He and his dad (and certainly his sisters) spent hours on the floor setting up little plastic green Army guys in intricate patterns.  He was awe-struck by his uncle — his uniform and his huge responsibilities.  And, he always knew the serious calling that the military was — the willingness to lay it all down for people you love and for people you don’t even know.  He knew that signing on the line was agreeing to that.

So did all the others, and they still agreed to it.  Every one of them.

Countless men and women have signed on the line.  They have agreed to wear the uniform day in and day out.  They have agreed to years of minimal pay, mediocre food, long hours, and looming danger to protect people they love and people they have never met.

They get a few perks.  This past weekend our son got four days off from work.  He got to run a 10-mile race for his battalion with a team of fifteen other guys. They get camaraderie — buddies they will have for the rest of their lives.  They get world travel — our son went for three weeks to South Africa on a training mission. They get world class training — in everything from navigation to first aid to strategy to firearms.

They also have the daily risk, even when they are just training, that someone won’t make it.  They train hard to be in the top physical condition so that they will be able to withstand extreme circumstances.  They learn to jump out of aircraft in the dark of night so that they can land in territory where they have never walked. They practice firing weapons so that they can with speed and accuracy take out an enemy.

They do a lot of things that you and I would rather not know about.  And they do them willingly to protect us at risk of their own lives.

For this we take one day each year, today, to say thank you.

So, thank you.  We are proud of you and of your sacrifice.

John 15:13

Greater love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

faulty filtering

I am writing a different way this morning – drafting on Microsoft Word. I returned from a weekend trip to find that our Internet is not working. So, in a little bit, if it is still down, I will drag my laptop to the library to connect and post this.

Drafting on Microsoft after months of blogging directly through WordPress is like using a typewriter after having a computer. Ok, not really. Actually there is really no difference other than my perception. I am still hitting the same keys on the same laptop, but it looks different! My screen is the blank document of Word instead of the ‘live’ page of my blog. Ultimately you won’t notice any difference – I will cut and paste this onto my blog and you will read it, or not. You wouldn’t even know I was on Word right now if I didn’t tell you. But by now you know, I HAVE GOT TO TELL YOU! I have to say EVERYTHING! I don’t know why, I have a horrible time holding anything back.

As a matter of fact, last night I met some new people. First of all let me say that Friday and Saturday I drove to Cincinnati and back, attended my daughter-in-law’s baby shower, stayed up late watching Michigan State lose to Ohio State, went to church, then out to lunch, took my mother back to Lansing, and then, and then, at 7:00pm I went out with my husband to meet new people.

I never do very well holding back my opinion about anything, but when I am tired, and you know I was tired, my filter is very weak. By the grace of God, I didn’t say anything that was particularly offensive, but I have a feeling that these people got to know me better in two hours than I may have originally preferred.

You know how in polite conversation people ask you things like “So, what do you do?” “How many children do you have?” “How do you like Ann Arbor?” Then, in response, we have polite answers like “I am a teacher.” “We have four children.” “I love Ann Arbor.” These types of answers keep the conversation moving forward and don’t cause anyone to look at you like you have three eyes.

Well, I think I may have said some things that suggested I have three eyes. Don’t get me wrong; the people we met were lovely. In fact, one of them told a story that had me laughing so hard I practically stopped breathing (which is, by the way, one of my favorite things to do). But several times in conversation I noticed the others looking at me immediately after I spoke with an expression like, “Did she really just say that out loud?” Each time it happened I tried to rewind my words and replay them in my head to see why what I had said had had that effect, but for the life of me, I couldn’t do it. The conversation kept moving forward, (thankfully!), and I wasn’t able to attend to both the moving forward and the rewinding. So, I honestly don’t know what I said.

Now, my husband was sitting right next to me, so if it was really bad, he would’ve said something to me either right there, or on the way home. He didn’t. We both recalled the funny story and laughed again. So, I at least know that I wasn’t offensive in any way. Phew!

My sister-in-law teaches fourth grade. She says in her sweet fourth-grade-teacher voice, “Not everything that pops into your head has to come out of your mouth. It is good to use a filter.” Trust me, I filter. (Again, thankfully!) But I am definitely a truth-teller. Sometimes filtering and truth-telling are in opposition to one another.

I don’t lie. I can’t. I used to. A lot. All my lies are gone.

All I have left is the truth. So, filter I must. And in order to filter,I need grace.

It seems that my gracefulness is more abundant when I am well-rested. So, rest I must.

Resting too much makes me bored. Driving to baby showers and watching late-night football is fun! I like to have fun!

Having fun makes me tired. Being tired causes faulty filtering. Out comes the truth, not necessarily gracefully.

Oy vey.

The good news is that these new friends all hugged us at the end of the evening and said “nice to finally meet you!” So perhaps in my limited gracefulness, their grace was abundant. Perhaps they were able to ‘overlook a multitude of sins’ for me. I will have to remember to go and do likewise.

I Peter 4:8

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly,

Since love covers a multitude of sins.

Burden bearing

“I don’t want to bother you with my issues.”

Ever said that?

I mean, who wants to share their troubles with the people around them?  Do you really want to hear about my health issues, or my financial difficulty, or my stress at work?  I am sure you have enough problems of your own.  You don’t need me dragging you further into the gutter.

Haven’t you said these things inside your head?  Or even out loud?

Surely we’ve been taught from our childhood, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  We are supposed to smile, say nice things, and put the best construction on everything.  Right?

Yes, and…then there’s the Bible.

Galatians 6:2

Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Here’s the thing, I don’t mind carrying your burdens, but I really don’t want you carrying mine.  Right? I mean we all want to rush to the rescue when a friend is in the hospital, or lost a parent, or needs help moving, but we really don’t want to invite anyone in to help us when the basement floods, or our kids are sick, or (gasp) we can’t do everything that we used to be able to do.

But Paul, in Galatians, says, to bear one another’s burdens.  That implies reciprocity.

I think I have established through this blog that I have most of my life been pretty self-sufficient.  I can do it myself, thank you very much.  I don’t need anyone’s help.  I kick butts and take names and God help you if you get in my way.  Notice I said ‘most’ of my life.  For the past couple of years I have been learning a new way.

Last May, at the very end of our school year, as a result of medications I had been taking, I contracted ocular herpes.  Yes, herpes. In my eyes.  (My teenaged daughter who drove me to the eye doctor got a kick out of that.)  Let me just say here that it is miserable.  Other than the itching, burning, and aching of my eyes, they were extremely sensitive to light, so I could not drive for a few days.   During that time, we were having end of year faculty meetings and a faculty luncheon at a restaurant a bit of a distance from the school and from my house.  My daughter dropped me off at school in the morning, but I needed a ride to the restaurant and then from the restaurant to my eye doctor and from the eye doctor to my house, which happened to be in the opposite direction of anyone I worked with.

So, self-sufficient me decided to ask my friend, who lives with severe rheumatoid arthritis, if I could ride with her to the luncheon and then if she would drop me at my eye doctor which was not terribly far out of her way.  She said that would be fine.  I then figured out how I could take public transportation from the eye doctor to my house.  I had done this before, it was no big deal, and it allowed me to be self-sufficient.

But, after the luncheon, my friend took me to the eye doctor and insisted on staying with me and driving me home afterward.  I didn’t want to burden her.  By that time in the day, I knew that we both needed some rest and this would add an hour or more to her day, and to her driving.  But she said to me, “this is something I can do.”  And although it was admitting that I couldn’t do everything by myself, I knew at that moment that I was allowing her into my need.

After the decision to ‘allow her’ to help me, I was so thankful that she was there.  She sat and had coffee with me before my appointment time, and even helped me select the glasses that I now wear.  She drove me to my front door and then headed home.

It was a small thing, driving me home, wasn’t it?  Not really.  It was a big thing for me.  It was a symbol.  It was my admission that I need others, and in that need, I am blessed.  And, you know, I think she was blessed, too.

I know that I am blessed when others allow me into their mess, allow me to walk with them for a minute or a mile, allow me to shoulder part of the burden.  Why would I deprive someone else of joining me in mine?  Mostly because I’m a proud butt-kickin’, name-takin’ soldier.  Or, I was.  Anybody can change.

John 15:13

Greater love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

The power of the positive call

On Tuesday night, at the Washtenaw County Courthouse, I sat for over seven hours in a conference room with two young men — Rick and Christopher.  They had been hired by the Associated Press to report the vote count, just like I had been hired by Reuters. These guys were old pros, I was the rookie.  They had done this job all through undergrad and were now in law school and pharmacy school, respectively.  They each had to get up for 8:50 class the next morning, but were glad to stay up late phoning in results because AP pays them ‘a ridiculous amount of money’.

You can’t sit in a room with two others for that long without having a little bit of banter going back and forth, even if you are making phone calls or entering data into an app. (Isn’t it cute that the young guys had to call in their data and the middle aged woman got to use her app?) We all had our Mac books open and were watching the screens for updated counts.  We were also clicking on news websites to see how the media were reporting the results.

One of the guys observed that the media only reports the bad stuff that politicians do.  He asked, what would it be like if every day at the end of the day, someone announced only your mistakes and none of your accomplishments?

Today in Ann Arbor, a middle aged woman slept in very late, stayed in her pajamas until mid afternoon, didn’t comb her hair at all, forgot to feed the dog, left dirty dishes in the sink, and ignored a call from a friend. 

Wow.  What a loser. I would prefer the following:

Today in Ann Arbor, a lovely wife and mother enjoyed a luxurious morning of rest, was greeted by her loving golden retriever, shared lunch with her husband, enjoyed a work out at the local gym, and made delicious black bean nachos for dinner. 

I asked the guys what would happen if at the end of each day the news media reported all the cool things that the president and his ‘buddies’ accomplished?  One of them quickly replied, “We would turn the channel.”

Can you imagine it?

Today in Washington, for the two thousandth day in a row, the president arrived in the oval office, dressed and pressed, at six a.m.  He led his staff meeting, gave a press conference, met with a foreign dignitary, and consulted with the joint chiefs, all before his noon lunch meeting with the secretary of education. 

Instead we get carefully constructed sound bytes meant, quite frankly, to draw viewers and increase ratings. Almost without exception, they are framed as bad news.  And, hey, we’re human. We can’t turn away when we see the collision on the side of the road.

And then, fueled on negativity, we rush out into our circles of people and  share ‘that horrible thing’ that we just saw on the the television.  “Did you hear…”

What would happen if we just as enthusiastically ran to our people and shared the good stuff that we see?  Well, first we would have to notice the good stuff, which might mean that we have to turn off the negativity for a moment. We might have to actually demand more of our media and insist that they report the good things that are happening in our nation.

Educators learned a long time ago the power of the positive call.  Imagine you are sitting down to dinner with your family, asking everyone, “how was your day?” when the phone rings.  “Hello, Mrs. Smith, this is Mrs. Rathje from Junior’s high school.  I just wanted to let you know that Junior arrived to class early today and straightened all the desks for me before everyone else arrived.  That really started my day off well and I just wanted to let you know what a fine young man you have.”

Did you smile when you glanced over at Junior who was sitting looking at his plate of meatloaf and mashed potatoes?  Did you walk back to the table, look Junior in the eyes, and say “That was your teacher, she said you made her day today.”  Did you see Junior look up, meet your eyes, and smile sheepishly? Did you see him sit up straighter when you beamed at him?  Did you hear him start to tell some details about his day?

It took the teacher time to make that phone call, but first it took a decision to notice the kid who was doing something right in addition to the one who was doing something wrong.  It’s easy to get consumed with putting out fires and noticing the troublemaker in the crowd.  In fact, some kids cause trouble just to get noticed.

It takes a mature, seasoned teacher to notice Junior in the back of the room doing what he is supposed to be doing for the two thousandth day in a row.  It takes a counter-cultural move to focus on him, to publicly praise him, and to celebrate his consistency with the people who care about him.

It’s not as exciting to report on what is going well, but it’s much more productive.  It draws people together instead of putting them at odds.  It breeds a spirit of celebration rather than cynicism.  It inspires a shared, “Go, team!” rather than a divisive, “You suck!”

I am not suggesting that we turn a blind eye to corruption or to real problems in the world. I’m just saying it might be nice to give the good and the bad equal time.

Ephesians 4:29

Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful

for building other up according to their needs,

that it may benefit those who listen.

Changing

I got home at 2:30 am today. That’s a real time.  I left the Washtenaw County Courthouse around 2:15 and drove through a mostly abandoned Ann Arbor, past the medical center, and the VA.  I was less than a mile from home, near Gallup Park, when I thought, “Oh, I better watch for deer—” and as I said it,  one appeared, as my son would say, “at eleven o’clock.”  I stopped in the middle of the road, met eyes with the critter, and nodded for him to go ahead and cross.  I swear he nodded back and then sprang across the road in front of me.

After over seven hours of chatting with the two agents from the Associated Press, entering tallies into my iPhone app, and playing countless rounds of CandyCrush (yes, I re-installed that dumb game on my phone!), I was not quite ready for sleep.  So I plunked down on the couch and read.

A friend recently loaned me a book called, Still Alice, which chronicles the life of a woman about my age who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.  It is told from her point of view from before the diagnosis until she no longer recognizes the people in her family or even herself. I read and I cried.  I’m not sure what touched me more, her sense of loss, or the ways that her family learned to love and care for her as she became something that she had never been.

Around 4:30am, with only about thirteen pages left, I decided I was too drained to finish the book, so I crawled into bed and knocked out.  I woke up of my own volition around 11.  Chester may have been willing me awake, because when I stirred, he leapt to his feet and pleaded with me to take him outside.  Apparently I understand deer and golden retrievers.

I took him out, went back to the couch, tried some more to conquer Candy Crush and pushed away thoughts of eating, making tea, blogging, and working out. I wasn’t sure I would do much at all today.  My body ached and I was tired. I didn’t feel hungry and I wasn’t even really interested in tea.  Maybe I would just lose the day to couch-dom.

I hadn’t been in my position long when the front door opened.  My husband entered and found me looking, I’m sure, pathetic in my jammies with a glazed look on my face.  “I thought you might be up.  Can I make you some lunch?”

“I guess I should eat something.”

“Can I make you some tea, too?”

“I’ll come join you in the kitchen.  Maybe if I washed the dishes my hands would feel better.”

He sautéed onions and spinach in butter and stirred in scrambled eggs, just how I like them.  I washed dishes and told him about my night downtown.  We ate and laughed together and by the time he left I was ready to go back to my book, to think about driving to the gym, and to sit for a few minutes at my computer to blog.

It’s not lost on me — the connection I am making between my life and the book.  I am a someone I have never been.  Sometimes I don’t recognize myself.  Yet, I have a husband, and children, who are learning new ways to love and support me.

Oh, and I think I am learning to talk to animals.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

for His compassions never fail.

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Sign me up!

Whew!  I had a close call yesterday.  I asked the administrator, during my interview when she hoped the position would start, she said, “Monday,” and I almost said, “Sign me up!”

It’s a good thing I have all of you as witnesses to my commitment of January 5.  Because when I said, “My initial plan was to not return to work until January…”  she said, “That’s fine!  We will still need you in January.”  It’s also a good thing that I have mentioned the need to only work part-time, because when she said, “It’s Monday through Thursday 8:00-3:30,” I was able to sputter, “that’s a little bit more than I was planning on.” Her response? “How does 8:30 – 1:30 sound?”

And I haven’t even told you the exciting stuff.

The school was started by a group of individuals who did a study that revealed a college graduation rate of 12% among the residents of the south Ypsilanti area where the school is located.  This is in stark contrast to the 84% college graduation rate on the other side of Michigan Avenue where Eastern Michigan University is located.  It’s first goal was credit recovery, but quickly shifted to high school completion.  The school uses an online platform combined with project-based learning.  The halls are decorated with project plans and completed projects — among them a three-dimensional replica of Fort Michilimackinac and a comparison/contrast of Twelfth Night and 10 Things I Hate About You. 

The head administrator and the principal explained the fluidity of the curriculum to meet the needs of students who might be the first in their families to graduate.  The administrator said, “What the students need more than anything is someone who believes they can do it.”  When I asked, “So, what might my role be, would I need to come in on day one with a plan?”  She answered, “They will let you know what they need.  They want this. They will put you to work.”

So let me get this straight —  the students, many of whom are over 17, come to school voluntarily, follow their own plan for high school completion, enlist the help of school personnel to make that happen, and display virtually no behaviors unbecoming of students?  Because they know that the teachers believe they can do it and are working to make it happen?

Sign me up.

Now, perhaps I am looking through rose-colored glasses.  Perhaps I am not seeing the school’s weaknesses.  Maybe it is not all that they say it is.  There is only one way to find out.

Sign me up.

I mean, after all, it’s not a contract.  I would only be a paraprofessional.  If I don’t like it I can leave.  Right?

Let me be clear, here.  I have not actually been offered a position, but I think it’s mine if I want it. Listen to this:  I might be getting paid to encourage students to finish their high school diplomas — students who really want to finish their high school diplomas.  I am also being paid, by the way, to read and respond to a master’s thesis on cheating in educational settings.  And today, remember, I am going to be paid to report election results.

Remember last week when I was worried about finances and I climbed up onto my Dad’s lap to talk to Him about it?  See what He’s doing?

Yeah, I see it, too.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,

according to His power that is at work within us,

to Him be the glory.

Ephesians 3:20

Monday Mess

My head is everywhere this morning.   I can’t quite hold a single thought captive.  I imagine this is what it is like to have ADHD — rapid fire ideas that bear no resemblance to one another.  I have been up for almost two hours and have not yet had one shred of continuity.

In fact, during my Bible study, I got up to order a replacement tray for the microwave — ours spontaneously broke in two over the weekend.  I got back to my study for a moment then remembered that I needed to message my doctor.  Got up to do that, then sat back down to 2 Thessalonians only to realize that my feet were cold and I probably needed socks.  While I was up getting socks, I checked and responded to a couple of emails.

If you give a mouse a cookie…

I think the problem is that my routine is slightly altered today.  You know how it is when you change one thing.  You decide to buy your coffee on the road instead of brewing a pot at home.  This means that you don’t go into the kitchen before your shower, so you don’t see your medicine sitting on the countertop.   Halfway through your makeup routine, you remember that you haven’t taken your medicine, so you stop applying your mascara and go to the kitchen.  While you are in the kitchen, you grab a snack to take to work, walk to the front room to find your purse, and before you know it, you’re sitting in your car in your slip with mascara on one eye.

So, I got out of bed, fed the dog, brewed some tea, mixed my smoothie, then broke my routine and wrote an email to my former colleagues.  That was the beginning of mayhem.  A few people responded which sent me down nostalgia lane, but the thought of an interview later today got me considering my wardrobe.  I noticed a bill I have to attend to today, and remembered I also want to spend an hour or two on an editing project.  I started and interrupted and restarted and interrupted and restarted and finally finished my Bible study and lit the candle on my desk.  I shuffled some papers around and then had to go to the bathroom.

Do you see what I mean?

So now, instead of sitting at my desk to blog, I am on the futon, which means I can’t really see out the window.  Chester, who usually sits under my desk warming my feet, keeps looking at me like I’ve lost my mind.  But that would imply that I knew where it was to begin with!!

It’s going to be an interesting day.  I think I’d better make a checklist:

  • finish blog
  • attend to previously mentioned bill
  • work on editing project
  • blow out candle
  • shower
  • dress for interview
  • swing by library
  • go to interview
  • drive to gym
  • workout
  • drive home
  • eat
  • sleep

With this kind of start to the day, I think I better just take a few minutes and pray — that God would put things in the proper order, that He would direct my steps, that He would focus me when I get behind the steering wheel today, and that He would allow me to attend to the people who cross my path.  I’m kind of a mess today; thankfully, He is not.  He knows the craziness in my head; He will order the details of my day.

Phew!

Isaiah 26:3

You keep [her] in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you,

because [she] trusts in you.